Kate Garchinsky’s first word was “bird.” Now she illustrates award-winning books about birds and other wild creatures, including The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat, The Secret Life of the Red Fox (Boyds Mills Press), and Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight (Charlesbridge). She earned her BFA in illustration at the University of the Arts, and in 2015 was awarded the Eckelberry Fellowship for nature artists at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia. During school visits and private classes, Kate brings students along on her process of using illustration to discover the wonders of science. She lives with her husband, Brian, her beagle, Maggie May, and two kitties in Edgmont, Pennsylvania. Follow Kate on her walks in the woods on Twitter and Instagram @katesnowbird.
Kate draws her inspiration from the natural world, from glacial lakes on mountaintops to dandelions crawling through cracks in the sidewalk. Before illustrating books and writing stories, she created toys for Zany Brainy and FAO, Inc., trail maps and brochures for Winter Park Ski Resort, and perfect black-and-white milkshakes at Walt’s Steaks. In her non-creative time Kate loves to play outdoors—especially in the snow. On her 45th birthday she got her first real pair of ice skates. When her knees recover from her first big fall, she will take proper skating lessons.
No matter what the weather, Kate goes birding as much as possible. She is known among her friends and family as “bird girl,” “penguin lady” and “the one who makes loud bird calls.” If you ask her kindly, she’ll speak to you in Raven, Crow, Blue Jay, Cardinal, White-Throat, Parrot, Penguin, or Gull. You might want to hold your ears.
When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more than to be friends with the birds, squirrels, and bunnies in my neighborhood. To get as close to them as possible, I’d climb my favorite tree—a red Japanese maple tree planted right in front of my house in Norwood, Pennsylvania. I’d pretend no one could see me, staying very quiet and still, hoping that just one little bird would perch on my shoulder and become my friend. It didn’t happen, but it was fun to pretend.
Art has always been an escape for me—a wonderful way to get lost in my own little world. As the big sister in a family of six kids, it wasn’t always easy to find time for myself. Going to art classes gave me the quiet space and focus I needed. Still, living in a big family was lots of fun. I learned very early how to make the littler ones laugh. I probably learned how to change their diapers before I could rollerskate or ride a bike. Unlike most of my friends, as a teenager I was still singing silly songs, making arts and crafts, watching Sesame Street and Disney movies on VHS over and over and over, and playing Chutes and Ladders. I took my youngest siblings to the playground, and read them lots of bedtime stories. Sometimes I wrote and illustrated my own. I never outgrew the best parts of being a kid. I never felt like I had to.
Now my sisters and brothers and I are all grown up, but we’re all still very young at heart. When we get together we act out our favorite scenes from those old Sesame Street episodes and sing those Disney songs. We hike through the woods with our many dogs, make angels and forts in the snow, and talk to animals, just as always. Our childhood joy connects us to one another, no matter what else happens in our lives. It’s pretty special.
My mom and dad, brothers and sisters helped shape me as an adult—one who always feels most comfortable in the company of children. I am most myself when I’m with kids. The connection I make with children through books has been the greatest gift.
American Birding Association, American Laundromat Records, Author House, Birding, BirdWatchingDaily.com, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Childcraft, Excelligence, Fitletic, The Flywheel Firm, The Highlights Foundation, John James Audubon Center, Night Kitchen Interactive, San Francisco Ballet, The Valerie Fund, Winter Park Resort.
Professional Activities & Awards
SCBWI member since 1999, PAL member since 2017
2019 Illustrator, The Secret Life of the Skunk by Laurence Pringle, Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale
2018 Illustrator, The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat by Laurence Pringle, Boyd’s Mills Press, Honesdale
2018 Illustrator, Belle’s Journey by Rob Bierregaard, Charlesbridge, Watertown
2018, Leader, Nature Writers and Illustrators Retreat at the Highlights Foundation, Honesdale
2017 Co-leader, The Art & Craft of Nature Writing & Illustration retreat with Julie Zickefoose, Laurence Pringle, and Rob Bierregaard at the Highlights Foundation, Honesdale
2017 Illustrator, The Secret Life of the Red Fox by Laurence Pringle, Boyd’s Mills Press
2014-2015 Legacy Lost & Saved: Extinct and Endangered Birds of North America exhibit, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI
2014 The Plight of the Passenger Pigeon exhibit invitation at the John James Audubon Center, Audubon, PA
2013 Author and illustrator, San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Interactive Storybook App
2013-2017 Scholarship recipient, The Highlights Foundation, Honesdale, PA
2012 Scholarship recipient, Pocono Mountain Retreat, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Eastern Pennsylvania
2012-2014 Volunteer, Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, Newark, DE
2010-2013 Freelance Art Director, Penguin Brands, Inc.
2011 Art Instructor and Exhibitor, Newark Arts Alliance, Newark, DE
2010 Gold Medal for Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies, National Parenting Publication Awards
2010 Nominee, Best Children’s Music Compilation, Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies, Independent Music Awards
2010 Seal of Excellence for Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies, Creative Child Magazine
2009 Honorable Mention, Barbara Karlin Grant Competition, Time To Fly
2007 Art Instructor, Alpine Arts Gallery, Granby, CO
2004-2013 Exhibiting Member (no_name) Art Group, Philadelphia, PA
2003-2005 Product Design Manager, FDG Design Group, Gladwyne, PA
1999-2003 Senior Packaging Designer, Zany Brainy & FAO Schwarz, King of Prussia, PA
University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
–BFA in Illustration, 1997
–Thornton Oakley Medal for Excellence in Illustration, 1997
–Barbara Merton Morrison Scholarship for Fine Art, 1992