Sophomore Dinton Law (’26) Shares New Children’s Book

March 5, 2024

If you attended the Valentine’s Day Art Market hosted at Hardie this year, you may have found yourself pausing at the table of Sophomore Illustration student Dinton Law’s table. Amid Dinton’s stickers and illustrations was a stack of hardback children’s books titled Elephants Are Not Artists. Your eyes did not deceive you, the sophomore illustration student already has a children’s book illustration under their belt before even completing degree. In fact, Dinton had done this illustration work before even starting their degree.

Elephants Are Not Artists is written by William Hart, an employee of the Phoenix Zoo who was inspired to write the book by the zoo’s real-life painting elephant named Ruby. The book follows the fictionalized Ruby as she happily ignores other animals’ insistence that she is the wrong kind of animal to be making art. The story is about cheerful persistence in one’s artmaking even in the face of doubts. Sometimes Dinton is still a little shocked that they got to help tell it.

“Sometimes I barely remember making it but then I have a moment where I realize ‘Oh, I drew that. It’s being sold and published and people have it in their homes.’”

It happened like this: Dinton’s mother is one of the cofounders of Lawley Publishing and one day while Dinton was still in high school they happened to see the unillustrated proposal among Lawley’s many other submissions. Dinton’s mother shared the pitch and then they were hooked.

“I just fell in love with the story. So, I drew up some rough ideas of the characters.”

The ‘rough ideas’ were sufficient for William, who selected Dinton’s proposed illustration above the other proposals. So Dinton found themselves, in their last year or so of high school, suddenly under contract to illustrate a children’s book.

“When I first went out to lunch to meet William we went through the script together. I asked him what ideas he had [for the illustrations] and I showed him more of the ideas I’d sketched out based on the script. I was able to make some suggestions he wouldn’t have considered otherwise; there were definitely a lot of ideas coming from both sides. It was his overall vision and I got down in the little details.”

Asked for an example of the “little details” Dinton was excited to bring to the book, Dinton had one immediately.

“One of my favorite details in the book is that after each animal comes by and is mean to [Ruby, the painting elephant], she starts drawing that animal afterwards in the dirt. There’s also a scene where a family is asking about the elephant, and that’s an illustration of William’s husband and child.”

The whole publishing process—from illustration to production—offered Dinton some on-the-job professional training that still influences their art practice.

“I feel like it was a good first step in the door of what the real industry is like. Something like a training round in a sense, a chance to learn the process. Learning to accept criticism and seeing other people’s perspectives and providing my own feedback. Bringing something to life collaboratively.”

Now two years out from the project, Dinton credits the product with instilling a certain amount of artistic confidence; teaching them that professional book illustration is something they can do even if that’s not necessarily their long term creative goal.

“Obviously Illustration is still my concentration, but being in college has opened a lot of new doors and I’ve found a lot of new ways of creating. I still find myself gravitating towards childlike wonder in stories. And characters, colors, movement all of that. It’s still very much a part of my work.

“[Illustrating the book] showed me that people will enjoy my art. As an artist, you always worry no one is going to enjoy your work. But being able to throw something out there and have people enjoy it? It really opens your eyes like, ‘Hey, this could really mean something.’”

This particular piece of Dinton’s work already means something to a number of families. Anyone interested in getting their own copy of Elephants Are Not Artists can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from Lawley Publishing.