A happy Eskimo child hides in the closet peeking out from under her mother’s parka, a Native dancer moving to the century-old music of a walrus drum or a hot tub full of friends on a snowy winter evening are just a few of the images Barbara Lavallee has offered in her popular watercolors. Lavallee, a native of Davenport, Iowa, grew up in Wisconsin and received a degree in art from Illinois Wesleyan University. After teaching art in Arizona on a Navajo Indian Reservation, she took a position at Mount Edgecumbe native school in Sitka, Alaska in 1970.
Now living in downtown Anchorage, Lavallee paints prolifically with many originals reproduced into limited edition prints. In addition, she has also become nationally known as an illustrator of children’s books. In collaboration with author Vicki Cobb, Lavallee has traveled to exotic locales like Brazil, Peru, Austrailia and Japan to bring back images protrayed in the “Imagine Living Here” series of books. Additionally, she illustrated Snow Child for Scholastic Press and the award winning Mama, Do You Love Me? for which she received the coveted 1991 Golden Kite Award for the Society of Children’s Book Writers for excellence in illustration.
Lavallee is known for her happy people. People working, playing and living with smiles on their faces. Her watercolors portray whimsical, stylized characters in vibrant colors reflecting her interest in people. “I prefer to portray the magnificance of man... his joy and humor, his tenacity, his ability to overcome,” she says. A single mother, Barbara credits her two sons, Chip and Mark, with adding immensely to the wealth of experiences and memories from which she derives a lot of the humor found in her characters. “They also shared the roller coaster ride of Mom making a living as a freelance artist.” Lavallee can’t imagine her life without painting. “I want people to have fun. If people look and smile, then I feel the art is a success.”