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A Lesson in Greatness🌿

Dear Friends,

I have often wondered what it means to be great. I mean, really great. Is it being famous? For a long time, I admit I thought that being famous was one way to become great. The older I get, however, the more I see the cycle of people attaining what they think will make them great, make them happy, only to see them a few years later, wondering, “What the **@#$* happened?!!” Fame and celebrity are false trails on the path to self-fulfillment. As an artist and a writer, this has been, and continues to be a hard lesson for me: to turn away from outcome—the book sales, the income, the visions of celebrity—and create for the sake of creating.

In other words, doing it for love.

Last year, I had the opportunity to illustrate Don Gutteridge’s beautiful fable, The Perilous Journey of Gavin the Great. Don was mid-80’s, an accomplished poet and author, and still going strong. He had previously published the story without illustrations, but wanted to share an illustrated version. Don cared deeply about the characters and story of Gavin and with his poetic renderings, that care and love shone through the words and (I hope!) illuminated the illustrations. It was never going to be a blockbuster—Hollywood had not come calling—but that didn’t seem to matter to Don at all. The story itself meant something, and Don wanted to share it.

On the day the finished book came back from the printers, Don died from complications from Covid. The story he had laboured over, the story he had loved and had illustrated, would never be held in his own hands, only the hands of others.

His death made me ask: what does it mean to be great? Does it mean to give of one’s whole self, rejecting the corrosive what’s-in-it-for-me mentality that pervades our culture and that poisons true creativity? Does it mean sharing one’s unique ways and gifts with the world, generously, lovingly? If so, Don was great.

Don may not have been on the New York Time’s bestseller list, but he’s on my list of people who have inspired me. Not only did he do art for love’s sake, but he graciously allowed me, as the illustrator, full rein on my creative interpretation of Gavin. Don gave me the space to fall in love with his characters, with their foibles and courage, and with their tenacity to carry on, no matter what (and when you're in the arts, carrying on no matter what, is essential!).

Next month I will share some of the illustrations that Don so graciously praised, and which seemed to delight him. In the meantime, here’s to you, Don. Thanks for the life lessons in how to be a great human being.

I wish you all love and creativity, and the joy that comes when we learn to live our lives in true greatness.


To buy Don's book from the publisher, Wet Ink Books, click here.

To order it through your local bookstore or online:

Title: The Perilous Journey of Gavin the Great

*ISBN: 978-1-989786-99-4 – Softcover

*Please note that in order to receive the illustrated version of Gavin the Great, you will need the ISBN number above.


“In The Perilous Journey of Gavin the Great Illustrated Edition, Gutteridge has written a timely tale that celebrates the power of courage, perseverance, family, friendship, and camaraderie. The pacing is measured, and the worldbuilding is cleverly wrought and inviting. Sensible and tenacious, Gavin is wholly likable, and so are his companion creatures. Bolstered by A. T. Balsara’s black-and-white illustrations, this delightful fantasy truly stands out. A must-have for libraries shelves.”

-- The Prairies Book Reviews

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