(Pictured above: Jamie Petree '98, Sr. Rosemary Loomis, OP '69, and Taylor Petree '20)
Taylor Petree is still a couple of years away from earning her Art Education degree from Ohio Dominican, but she has already achieved something that very few college students can claim: she’s a published illustrator.
“Not only did I not think I would be a published illustrator before graduating, I didn't think I would ever be one,” Petree said.
She also would never have guessed that her first venture into illustration art would occur alongside an ODU alumna. Sister Rosemary Loomis, OP, a Dominican Sister of Peace and 1969 ODU graduate with a degree in Elementary Education, has spent the past nine months writing children’s books that address a variety of sensitive topics. Many of these topics, such as grief, loss and perseverance come from her experience in ministry, including her role as a member of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.
“These books are filled with cultural and social situations many children have already or will eventually encounter,” Sr. Loomis said. “They are stories to be discussed by adults and children together, and are great conversation points for all.”
In the fall of 2017, she completed a manuscript of her book, “Henry’s Hope,” which tells the story of a Walrus, Henry, who experiences the sudden loss of his father at the hands of tusk hunters.
With the manuscript completed, she reached out to Dr. Janette Knowles, director of ODU’s Art department, to see if there were any students who would be interested in creating illustrations to be featured in the book. Knowles immediately reached out to Petree, who just as quickly agreed to the project.
“I wanted to collaborate with an ODU student,” Sr. Loomis said. “The Dominican Sisters of Peace founded ODU in 1911 and have been a presence ever since. Being an ODU graduate myself made the connection even stronger.”
This project involved more than just a simple sketch or two. “Henry’s Hope” required Petree to create 19 different full-page illustrations, each of which would take between 10-15 hours – and countless colored pencils – to complete. As readers make their way through the book, they’ll notice that the illustrations gradually become less dark and gloomy, and more bright and colorful, which is intentional to reflect the emotional lift of Henry as he grieves and learns how to cope with the loss of his father.
“Talking through our visions and agreeing to the final art was a challenge for both of us,” Sr. Loomis said. “A child psychiatrist told me that the art fits the story perfectly. I couldn’t be more impressed or more pleased with the outcome.”
On July 17, their hard work paid off when they received the first shipment of copies of “Henry’s Hope.”
“It was hard to picture the final product while working on this project, but once it was finished, it was such an amazing feeling,” Petree said.
The book has been received well by readers. To date, nearly 500 copies have been sold to individuals in 26 states and multiple countries, including Jamaica, Zambia and Kenya.
“I had no idea what would happen with this story. It is truly humbling,” Sr. Loomis said.
The initial plan was for Petree to illustrate a second book, “Mr. Irvin’s Eggs,” Which was published this past October and takes place in a homeless shelter. However, Petree quickly realized that, between being a full-time student and working full time, she didn’t have the time to tackle a second book. However, she knew someone who was interested in helping: her mother.
Jamie Petree, a 1998 ODU graduate with a business degree, who also happens to be a lifelong art enthusiast, says this project allowed her to pursue her passion, strengthen her relationship with her daughter, and reconnect with her alma mater.
“With my daughter as a student, I feel a renewed connection to ODU through the eyes of a proud parent, watching my child flourish in the same nurturing environment I once did,” Jamie said. “I feel truly blessed to have such an incredible opportunity to work alongside my daughter, and to represent the past, present and future of ODU.”
Work for them isn’t about to slow down. Sr. Loomis has two more books due to be published in the coming months as part of – as she refers to it – “God’s Project.”
“The titles for three of the books were given, I believe, by God,” Sr. Loomis said. “These were certainly not my idea. I thought that, if God gave me the titles, God would give me the stories. The rest is history.”
Donations have covered 100 percent of the costs associated with publishing, copywriting and printing. The books, which were published through an independent publisher to keep expenses down, cost between $10 and $15 each. All proceeds go toward future books.
“This project has really helped me realize the impact ODU has on its students,” Taylor said. “This experience not only has impacted me as an artist but also as a person. Knowing that my illustrations will help people and bring them joy and a sense of peace is amazing to me. Art is definitely my greatest gift, and to be able to use it to make a difference in others’ lives truly makes me happy.”
“Sr. Rosemary has been a true blessing in my life, and has become an admirable mentor and friend,” Jamie said. “It's amazing what three generations of Ohio Dominican students can do when they put their minds to it.”
“It has been an amazing grace to meet and work with Jamie and Taylor on their illustrations,” Sr. Loomis said. “Our collaboration is a testament to the vitality and spirit of ODU.”
For more information on the books and to learn how you can order a copy, click here to visit "Sister Rosie's Books" Facebook page.