Artist to visit Plum elementary schools

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Vicki Dziewulski gathers useful information whenever she attends state library association conferences.

When Dziewulski, librarian for Adlai, Holiday Park and Regency Park elementary buildings in the Plum School District, attended a presentation by illustrator and author John Manders, she instantly thought of asking him to visit with Plum students.

Manders, 55, has local ties. He is a 1979 graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and lives in Venango County.

“I sent him a quick email, and he responded,” Dziewulski said.

Manders is scheduled to visit students in the five Plum elementary schools May 8, 9 and 10.

Manders, a Syracuse, N.Y. native, said his parents encouraged his artistic talent from the time he was a child.

“I've always been a drawer — from when I was a baby,” Manders said.

Manders' parents sent him to Saturday art classes at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse.

“I had great teachers all through school,” Manders said.

“I drew everything from hot rods to monsters.”

Manders' first job was producing camera-ready art for a printer in New York.

He also took courses at the School of Visual Arts and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where he studied children's illustration, animation and life drawing.

Manders' drawings began running in children's books and magazines. To date, his work has been featured in more than 30 books and magazines including Highlights and American Girl.

His illustrations also have been shown at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh gallery and the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.

He also has written and illustrated a book, “The Really Awful Musicians.”

Manders began leading presentations at conferences and schools about a decade ago.

In addition to Pennsylvania, Manders has been to schools in Arkansas, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia.

“I read a story and paint a picture for the younger kids,” Manders said.

Manders also dresses in costume for the school programs.

He gives older children a step-by-step overview of the creative process involved in illustrating.

“It's fun,” Manders said. “You get immediate feedback from the children.”

Manders said the program gives children a look at a career they typically don't get exposed to when they are thinking about what they might want to do in life.

“Kids don't encounter someone who creates children's books,” Manders said. “I'm extra lucky. I get to do what I really love.”

Manders plans to donate an illustration to each school.

Dziewulski looks forward to Manders' visit.

“The children have been feverishly reading John Manders tales of awful musicians and pirate bunnies, and they cannot wait to have him visit our schools,” Dziewulski said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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