For the last 15 years, I've written stories about my cartoon characters. I wanted to create a Young Adult series of books which there was educational content associated with it. Originally, I had thought of doing something with a diverse group of super heroes but didn't know what would make them differetn from every other super heroe group seen in comic books and television. When I first concieved the Gesso Squad series I was still in graduate school, hunched over a computer screen while typing up a art lesson plan. When the lightbulb appeared above my head in the library, my characters danced around inside my head in a parade of colors.
The name of the group Gesso Squad sort of arrived in the same manner as the concept for the series, this time, it didn't happen in a library. My sketchbook sat in my lap as I drew the original five characters. As I wrote out possible group names, I went through a list of 26. I read the list again and read each name while looking at my characters. I ended up doing this twice until I landed on #16 which was Gesso Squad. It seemed to fit their individual personalities and retained an element of art terminology which I felt was vital to the series.
At the time I began writing out lesson plans for each chapter I decided early on to research artists & scientists whom I had no previous knowledge of. This ruled out what I cosidered to be artists most people already know about: Jacob Lawrence, Michaelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera. I do take time to mention Paul Gaugin, the post impressionist painter, in Chapter 11.
As part of my own teaching philosopy, I feel it is important to mention the artists mentioned above, but to also include all the others from various regions of the world. In addition to teaching interdisciplinary subjects in a fun way which the students can relate to the work being presented. If they are able to make a connection to the work in anyway, they, I believe retain the information much longer. Gesso Squad & The Stone of the Sun is the first in three books which discuss various artists, scientists and cultures from around the world.
The first chapter is available to read here: http://www.gessosquad.com The rest of the book will be out in February 2011.