Mr. Quindlen’s Class Q & A: Supplies with STEAM

Kate/ April 25, 2018/ art, blog, children's books, illustration

Part the third, in which I begin with section B of Ethan’s 2-part question: What supplies do you use?

The simple answer can be found on the credit pages of my books: The illustrations were created with aqua crayon and pastels on sanded paper. Or aqua crayon, watercolor, ink and sanded paper. Something like that.

The real, full answer is: I use a lot of stuff. My illustrator’s toolkit is chock-full of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math). Not everything I use to make my paintings can be found in an art supply store. Some of it is invisible to the naked eye.

I took some video and photos of the visible elements in my illustration toolkit. This will lead nicely into my answer for section A: How do you make your paintings? While I splice these images together for you, please enjoy my favorite illustration tool for Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight…


Whenever I can, I work from life, or in plein air, which is french for “outside in the fresh air, under the glaring sun and thick humidity or in the rain or sleet. Above I’m using a sketch pad, aqua crayons, and some scrap paper to do some quick sketches of the actual nest where the real Belle was born, on Lake Tashmoo in Martha’s Vineyard. When working outside my goal is to get a feeling for the landscape, the atmosphere, the sounds and the smells of my subject’s environment. For The Secret Life of the Red Fox by Laurence Pringle, I spent a lot of time in the fields and woods near my home in Pennsylvania. For The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat (Pringle, Boyds Mills Press 9/11/2018) I spent warm summer evenings bat-watching outside my studio. They move so fast! I also visited a wild bat rehab, and poked about some old barns for reference.

Realistically, we can’t spend all our time outdoors in glorious Martha’s Vineyard or wandering around the woods (although I do try). So we use the tools at our disposal, including Technology. While working on my illustrations, I cast YouTube videos of my subjects onto a large TV monitor to observe and study an animal’s behavior in the wild. Science!

Listed in the order in which the birds returned to their nesting grounds this spring, the nest cam links below allow citizen-scientists to watch ospreys pair bonding, mating, laying eggs, incubation, fishing, hatching, feeding, helicoptering, and fledging… reeeeallly close. It can almost feel like you’re in the nest with them.

I dare you to play these all at the same time with the sound on.

Savannah, Georgia – featuring TWO ITTY BITTY OSPREY CHICKLETS!* (*Not the scientific name)


Boulder, Colorado – I once lived near here


Chesapeake Bay – I have seen this nest in person!


Charlo, Montana – A spectacular view. Lots of Canada geese neighbors.


Hog Island, Maine – Rachel and Steve are perhaps the most popular of all osprey nesters. Multiple camera views!

Pretty wild, huh?

Each of these cams is also available to toggle through at I highly recommend Explore for its additional educational content such as satellite maps, message boards with citizen-scientists, and occasional interviews with #reallivingscientists, like the author of Belle’s Journey, Rob Bierregaard.

To be continued…

Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight will be released by Charlesbridge on May 15, 2018. Pre-order it now to receive it on Belle’s Book Birthday!

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About Kate

Kate Garchinsky illustrates and writes children’s books and educational media in her studio in the woodlands near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her debut picture book, The Secret Life of the Red Fox, written by acclaimed wildlife author, Laurence Pringle, received a starred review from School Library Journal. Kate Garchinsky received a grant from the Eckelberry Fellowship at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she has been researching and illustrating extinction stories about North American birds such as the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet. Prior to creating children’s books, Kate designed lots of fun things like toys, birdbaths and trail maps. She lives with her husband Brian, Julia and Spencer the cats, and her one-eyed beagle, Maggie May. Kate recently signed on to illustrate two more “Secret Life” narrative non-fiction picture books with Boyds Mills Press—The Secret Life the Little Brown Bat (2018) and The Secret Life of the Skunk (2019). While drawing foxes and bats, Kate also began work on Belle’s Journey, a middle-grade non-fiction chapter book by ornithologist and osprey expert, Rob Bierregaard (Charlesbridge 2018). Get to know more about Kate Garchinsky at (aka