Atka was an Ambassador Wolf at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. I spent many hours sketching him, always enjoying his quiet, regal presence. Atka was an amazing and unusual wolf; he enjoyed traveling and being the star of educational programs, and he was comfortable with the people who were part of his “pack.” I was not one of his pack, having made Atka’s acquaintance later in his life, but Lois Kral, who was one of the people he was close to, has written a book commemorating Atka.
Lois’ love and respect for Atka is obvious on every page of Lessons Learned from Atka. Written in verse, the book expands on Atka’s life adventures to underscore lessons taught in the Wolf Conservation Center’s educational programs. Atka traveled to New York City, Washington D.C., and many places in between. He seemed to thrive on interaction with people, and he was a fabulous ambassador for wolves, showing how social they are by nature (though not usually so social with humans).
I was honored that Lois asked me to illustrate the book, and I did so with a technique new to me. I used fountain pen ink for the page backgrounds and then painted and drew the illustrations using bleach. It was a bit nerve-wracking, with a steep learning curve, but it was also fun. The unique challenge of painting with bleach is that, unlike working with watercolor or gouache or any other medium, when one draws or paints a line with bleach, it doesn’t show up right away, as it takes a little while for the chemical reaction to cause the ink to be bleached. That was disconcerting at first, but did teach me to take my time and work slowly and carefully– a lesson I learned from Atka.