Former Cambridge-Isanti High School art teacher Betty Porter and her son Mike recently published a children’s book together.
Mike, CIHS class of 1980, wrote the story, titled Gramma and Grampa’s House in the North Woods, and Betty illustrated it with 16 watercolor paintings.
The story, told through the voice of a child, was inspired by the sights and experiences of cabin life in northern Minnesota where Betty and her husband Sam live near Park Rapids, Minn. Available locally exclusively at Sister’s Cottage near Grandy, the story comes to life through 16 of Betty’s colorful and detailed watercolors.
“It took me a while to do all the paintings,” Betty said, explaining that Mike approached her about illustrating the book shortly after he wrote it in the late 1990s. “It’s been many years. I never thought I’d get it done because it was a lot of paintings.”
Betty and her husband are retired, but they maintain active lives, so she said the watercolors would not have taken that long had she focused on them exclusively.
Betty retired from the Cambridge-Isanti School District in 1994, after 12 years teaching art in the high school and other subjects in the district, totaling over 15 years in the classroom.
Since then, she and her husband—who taught in the district from 1971 to 1992—moved to the Park Rapids area, where Betty has been able to focus on her painting. She has won several awards for her work as an active member of White Birch Artists of Park Rapids, Leech Lake Art League of Walker and the Artists of Minnesota organizations.
When painting, Betty said she starts out by sketching her idea first, and then drawing it on a sheet of watercolor paper with light lines. For watercolor paintings, she paints in layers of watercolor, from lightest to darkest.
For Gramma and Grampa’s House in the North Woods, one of the watercolors is her husband Sam in his workshop with his tools, another is a bird feeder surrounded by all kinds of birds they’ve seen over the years, while still other painting feature Grampa Sam in his garden, Gramma Betty taking a walking in the woods, Gramma and Grampa cooking fish together in the kitchen and so on.
“The last page is about leaving,” Betty said. “It reads, ‘The only thing I don’t like about going to Gramma and Grampa’s house in the woods is leaving.’”
After more than 25 years of writing in business communications, Mike decided to try his hand at something more creative and convinced his mother to illustrate his first story, which Betty said he wrote when it came to him one night.
“The official launch of the book will happen this summer, with a gallery showing of the paintings in Park Rapids, but we wanted to make it available early in the community that influenced us both so much over the years,” Mike said.
Betty and Mike chose to work with Sister’s Cottage as the local outlet for the book because of the shop’s focus on handcrafted items from local artisans.
With three children and nine grandchildren, Betty said her favorite part about illustrating and publishing a storybook is being able to share it with her grandchildren.
“I enjoy being able to do this as a gift to our grandchildren to help them remember us and to tell their children about us when we’re gone and they have more children,” she said.
About Sister’s Cottage
34567 Vickers Street NE, Cambridge, MN – 612-481-8876
Sister’s Cottage is open the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the month from April to December. Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.