Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Children's Writer & Illustrator AGY WILSON: FROM INSECURE TO CONFIDANT

Christal Cooper      1,274 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper


Children’s writer and illustrator Agy Wilson, 56, had her first claim to fame being born premature in 1957.  She made the news in the local newspaper, with a photo of her in the incubator on the front page.   

“Because I was premature, I've always had eye problems though most people didn't realize I wore glasses from second grade. I'd lose them or "forget" them, and learned to recognize things.  There's a lot of ways to see."

       Her life in art is pretty much the same story:  she had the gift of art, but chances of her even immersing in art as career were not that good.

       Wilson is the oldest of three children and was reared in Gorham, Maine, by her father, who worked as a paper-coating engineer, and a stay-at-home mom, who worked part time jobs.  

       “I was a very sensitive kid with lots of hard knocks I survived. I found out one boy who'd been rather a poopy head on the nickname front actually had a crush on me. I incorporate a lot of that ribbing and those feelings into my work, because I don't think I was or am the only sensitive kid.”
Her first memory of drawing was when her mother told her to go draw so there would be quiet time in the house.  In fact, that was the only time her parents encouraged her and her artwork. 

       Her grandmother, however, encouraged her to draw and showed off her artwork with pride.
       Wilson credits her father for giving her the love of reading and books.  She read encyclopedias, dictionaries, and Reader Digest books. 

“One of the things I loved doing when I was a kid was copying some of the drawings of well-loved stories from the Reader's Digest.”
She then devoured comic books, science fiction, and supported her “habit” by babysitting.  She’d sty up until 4 a.m. reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and books by Andre Norton, Taylor Caldwell, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. 

“I lived inside my head a lot as a kid.  I didn't read a lot of children's books when I was young. Ironic, eh?”

It was these books and with her father's famous saying of “Look it up!” that educated her and made her into the writer she is today.   Wilson also credits her teachers and librarians for making nurturing her into the artist she is today.

       She never took art courses in high school and never even aspired to be an artist because she didn’t get the encouragement from home and the lack of art courses available.

She developed a close relationship with her high school art teacher, Ms. Sandy Gordon, who helped her develop her art portfolio.  As a result, she was accepted into art school.   

       The same year she moved out of the family home, and was on her own at the age of 19.  She changed her name from Agnes to Aggie because it felt better.

       “I hated the way people said the "g" and "n" sounds together. People made fun of the French pronunciation. Aggie was forever taken as a handle.”

       She made another name change to Agy when she hit the web.  “I liked the way Agy looked and its uniqueness.”

Wilson worked numerous jobs to make a living and to support her art:  banks, Chinese restaurants, gay disco, shoe factory, key operator, past up and layout artist, teacher, maid, and nursing assistant.  She also helped put together the art school’s library as the school was going through accreditation.

 “As much as creating things is a part of me, I’ve had to balance it with other things, and usually other things won.  I don’t mind it.  It’s most certainly given me something to write about.”

Wilson tries to do something creative every workday, even when she is not motivated, and especially when she has artist’s block. 

“You can have one day off, but don't wait for the "mood" to strike. It takes doing it and sometimes making the caca de poopoo as I call it, to get to the good stuff, to make it all seem like second nature it has to be a part of you, and that can't happen if you pick and choose to mostly set it aside.”

Wilson places her family as number one priority and makes sure she has family time – she has two daughters 23 and 14 and one grandson, 4. 

Wilson gets up in the morning, drinks coffee, checks email and Facebook, and then spends most of her time in her studio, located in her attic.

“It’s next to a window and the stairwell is to my immediate other side. It feels kind of camp-ish, and I love that. I only need my computer for my writing and illustrating and they sit on a couple of wooden tables.”

In order to function as an artist, she has coffee, which she says helps settle her brain, and listens to new age music.

“I work in all kinds of different ways.  Sometimes an image comes, sometimes the words. I get stuff in dreams, taking a walk or a shower, or just plunking away. I try to write down my gut instinct, and then I make sure it was correct. Each project is different, so it's hard to quantify it.”

She has mild dyslexia which causes her hands to go too fast and for her to read things at a very slow rate, which she describes as “Freudian slips” which she welcomes as long as they make her giggle. 

“I try to look at some of my oddities more as serendipity. Sometimes I slow it down or switch gears entirely if it's too much of a problem. The coffee helps me quite a bit with concentration and balance.”

       The toughest struggle she had to overcome in order to continue making art was the health issues that began after the birth of her second daughter, when she was 42 and the death of her mother in 2005.   At the time she was awarded two scholarships:  the SCBI picture book workshop and the Highlight’s Foundation’s Chautauqua Workshop; but due to her health issues and the death of her mother had to put all artistic pursuits aside until she discovered Photoshop and the Wacom tablet.    

“Will Terry (http://www.willterry.comgave an inexpensive course on Photoshop and Folio classes.  A friend sold me her Wacom tablet for just a little bit and I've been able to draw again. The tablet allows me a lot of control, my monitor is a good size, and I've always had decent hand/eye where drawing is concerned.”

       She found an illustrating job for the Chemical Safety Administration and the Sandy Gilmour Agency.  Her illustrations appeared on the web, USA Today, online version.  This was the boost she needed.

       “I decided I had a little bit more play and my work was worth trying to get done and out there.” 

       She’s illustrated four book covers:  Eleven From The Southside written by B.R. Stateham, Angel On My Shoulder written by Mariam Hees, The Revenge of Thelma Hill, written by Margot Finke, and Down Under Callingwritten by Margot Finke.        
She’s illustrated two children’s books:  Windows of Gold and Other Stories written by Marianne Mitchell and The Magic Moccasins written by Tim Goodblood.

She’s written and illustrated Nana’s Gift; written the short mid-grade story Room Wars; and will publish a midgrade novel, Sara LeClere, in a few months.  

“I've done a lot of things, and in many ways I've felt compelled to create, but it's only recently I felt comfortable calling myself an artist or a writer or anything like that. I
just do stuff.”


Photo 1 and Photo 33.
Agy Wilson, today.  Copyright by Agy Wilson

Photo 2.
Agy Wilson in 1957.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 3.
Agy Wilson in 1957.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 4.
Agy Wilson in 1960.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 5.
Illustration by Agy Wilson.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 6.
Readers Digest, Australia editions.  Public Domain.

Photo 7.
First edition jacket cover of Dracula by Bram Stoker.   Public Domain.

Photo 8.
Bram Stoker in 1906.  Public Domain.

Photo 9.
Taylor Caldwell.  Attributed to James Seneca.  Public Domain.

Photo 10.
Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Public Domain.

Photo 11.
Self-portrait drawing by Agy Wilson.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16.
Agy Wilson in 1975.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 17.
Self portrait of Agy Wilson by Agy Wilson.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 18.
Illustration by Agy Wilson.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 19.
Newspaper clipping of images of Agy Wilson in 1975.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 20.
Illustration by Agy Wilson.  Copyright by Agy Wilson.

Photo 21.
Jacket cover of Eleven From The Southside written by B.R. Stateham. 

Photo 22.
A cup of coffee. Attributed to Julius Schorzman.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

Photo 23.
Jacket cover of Angel On My Shoulder written by Mariam Hees.

Photo 24.
Jacket cover of The Revenge of Thelma Hill written by Margot Finke.

Photo 25.
Jacket cover of Down Under Calling written by Margot Finke.

Photo 26.
Wacom Bamboo Capture graphics tablet with supplied inductive pen.  Attributed to DragonLord.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Photo 27.
Jacket cover of Windows of Gold and Other Stories written by Marianne Mitchell

Photo 28.
Jacket cover of the Magic Moccasins written by tim Goodblood.

Photo 29.
Jacket cover of Sara LeClere written and illustrated by Agy Wilson.

Photo 30.
Jacket cover of Room Wars written and illustrated by Agy Wilson.

Photo 31.
Jacket cover of Nana’s Gift written and illustrated by Agy Wilson.

Photo 32.  
Illustrated page from Nana’s Gift, written and illustrated by Agy Wilson.


  1. Agy is such a caring person. A talented artist and a really good friend. I call her Awesome Agy Wilson, because she IS awesome - as a person and as a talent. She illustrated two of my books and I was thrilled with the results.

    Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

    1. Dear Margo,
      I'm so sorry I'm not getting back to you until now. I'm still learning all of this blog stuff and am just now responding to messages.
      Thanks so much for your comments about Agy. I've never met Agy face to face but I hope someday we will be able to.
      What books did she illustrate for you? Would you be interested in being featured on this blog?
      Blessings to you
      Chris Cooper