TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles
Alexandra Day is the pseudonym for Sandra Louise Woodward Darling. She was born in 1941 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a large and close-knit family. Many of her relatives were artistically inclined. Painting was a popular family recreation, and almost every family excursion included one or more easels and a variety of sketch pads, chalks, paints, and pencils. Her parents made sure her home was always well supplied with those things necessary for creation, repair, and transformation. If Sandra wanted something – a kite, a strawberry pie, a prom dress, or a tree house – she was encouraged to believe that with a little ingenuity and application (and help, if necessary) she could make it.
For four years the Woodwards lived on a hundred-acre farm in Kentucky. Here young Sandra grew especially fond of riding and training horses, and became a dog owner for the first time. Living in the country also provided plenty of time for reading. She loved many classic children's books, from Der Struwwelpeter to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to Winnie-the-Pooh, all within reach from her father's childhood library of fantastic adventures and beautifully illustrated volumes.
After completing a degree in English at Swarthmore College and living for a time in New York City, Sandra visited San Diego, California, where she met her future husband, Harold Darling. In 1967 they were married and, in the course of the next six years, had four children: Sacheverell, Rabindranath Tagore, Lafcadio Hearn, and Christina Rossetti, all named after distinguished writers of the past.
In 1970 Sandra and Harold established the Green Tiger Press, their own publishing company. They began by producing postcards featuring fine illustrations from their growing library of antiquarian books, but soon were making note cards, calendars, posters, and bookmarks as well. They wanted these images of the past to be cherished and not forgotten.
The Green Tiger Press published its first book in 1972, and three years later the Darlings purchased their own printing press. Design and production became Sandra's area of expertise and played a valuable role in her future work as an illustrator. "The more one knows about the creation of a book,"Darling has commented, "the better one is able to conceive it correctly." She illustrated her first book in 1983: The Teddy Bears' Picnic, a popular children's song by Jimmy Kennedy.
That same year, Harold and Sandra were visiting Zurich, Switzerland, when they came across a volume of old German picture sheets, one of which featured a poodle playing with a baby who was supposed to be taking a nap. This image proved the inspiration for Good Dog, Carl, which successfully began what would become an increasingly popular picture-book series. The Darlings' own dog, a Rottweiler named Toby, was the model for the book's main character. Since then, two other Darling Rottweilers have posed as Carl in the seven sequels: the late Arambarri, who was named for one of the Darlings' favorite jai alai players; and Zabala, who currently moonlights as an Our Best Friend therapy dog, visiting hospitals to cheer patients.
In 1986 the Darlings sold the Green Tiger Press and refocused their business on book packaging for other publishers. The result was and remains the Blue Lantern Studio, established in San Diego and moved, in 1993, to Seattle, Washington, where the Darlings now make their home. The heart of the company is their ten-thousand-book library, primarily filled with illustrated children's books; this provides the inspiration in some way for all their projects.
Meanwhile, Sandra Darling continues to illustrate children's books as Alexandra Day. About her work she says: "I think that one of the reasons my illustrations have appealed to people is that they can sense my sincerity. I know that marvels exist which are just outside our ordinary experience, but that at any moment we may turn a corner and encounter one of them. Children also believe this, and because they and I have this conviction in common, we, as creator and audience, make good partners."