NATCHITOCHES – A Northwestern State University art student used her talents as an illustrator to produce a children’s coloring book for Briarwood, the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve near Saline. Courtney Hawkins of Gonzales spent many hours creating the book as a service-learning project for the Caroline Dormon Foundation. The 20-page book will be released during Briarwood’s annual picnic on April 6. Hawkins collaborated with Chris Evans, a gifted education teacher at NSU Middle Lab School, who wrote the narrative.
“It's been fun making it and I'm so happy it’s done,” Hawkins said. Professor of Art Michael Yankowski introduced Hawkins to the project after he was approached by Marion Bienvenu, past president and member of the board of directors of the Caroline Dormon Foundation, about creating a book.
“I had been looking at student sketch books and noticed the quality of Courtney’s work,” Yankowski said. “Her style seemed perfect for the job and she has a good hand. When I asked if she was interested she jumped at the chance, knowing there was no financial or class credit reward. It was simply an opportunity to produce something worthwhile. She has the hopes of becoming a book illustrator so the connection was both serendipitous and fortuitous.”
Bienvenu had seen other coloring books and wanted to develop one focusing on Briarwood that parents or grandparents could pick up for their children. She was pleased with Hawkins’ work.
“She is very talented and so enthusiastic. She did a great job,” Bienvenu said.
Hawkins is a senior who will graduate in December after presenting a final exhibition this fall. Illustrating the coloring book gave Hawkins experience working with a publisher, a writer and a printer. Daphne Hines at Impressions by Dunagan oversaw printing the book.
Evans said the narrative for the book developed from her readings of the Caroline Dormon biography, “The Gift of the Wild Things.” She and Courtney both visited Briarwood and talked with Briarwood curators Jessie and Richard Johnson. The coloring book narrative describes Dormon and her siblings as children and their experiences in nature, Evans said.
“We sat together to brainstorm and write the narrative together and we revised it a number of times while Courtney worked on the pictures,” Evans said. “We got directives from Marion Bienvenu and Michael Yankowski as we went.”
It’s the first time either has been published.
“It’s a bit of a shock to see my name in print,” Evans said.
Briarwood is the former home of Dormon, a naturalist and horticulturist who made significant contributions to conservation in Louisiana. She was a writer, preservationist, botanist, ornithologist and historian who was instrumental in establishing Kisatchie National Forest, among other public and private projects. Briarwood is located at 216 Caroline Dormon Road near Saline and is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. on Sundays in March, April, May, August and November. Conservationists and horticulturists from all over the world travel to Briarwood to walk down forest trails, to savor the beauty of the Louisiana iris bog, to admire the reflection pool and to enjoy the most complete botanical and wildlife sanctuary in Louisiana.
Tickets for the April 6 picnic and fund raiser are $50 for adults, but children will be admitted free of charge and will receive a copy of the coloring book. For more information, call (318) 576-3379.