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#12 Women Artists: Denise Fleming

By June 17, 2018May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

Denise Fleming’s art is truly a marvel. Her unique process of dyed paper pulp paintings brings lush rich color, warm glowing images, and a variety of textures, depth, and shapes found in no other picture book art.

Here is her process.



Fleming’s books have garnered a multitude of awards from a Caldecott Honor for In A Small, Small Pond (1993 Holt)


“Denise Fleming has followed her award-winning book, In the Tall, Tall Grass (Holt), with a glimpse into another ecosystem. Employing the same method of pouring colored cotton pulp through hand-cut stencils, she creates eye-catching compositions in which bold, vibrant forms are superimposed on a watery blue-green palette. The rhymed text consists of three or four words, primarily verbs, printed large on each page and arranged so that they seem to move along with the images. Herons lash and lunge, whirligigs circle and swirl, and swallows sweep, swoop, and scoop in alliterative harmony…Belying the adjectives in the title, this large attractive book is open and expansive; and it discloses more information than might appear at first glance, though the art alone is excuse enough for repeated visits.” –Horn Book

Mamma Cat Has Three Kittens

It is not only the pictures but Denise Fleming’s storytelling and developmentally perfect language choices that identify her titles as award winning. I would be hard-pressed to select my favorite read-aloud book for preschoolers. Mama Cat Has Three Kittens (Holt,1998) would be in my top ten.

The Everything Book

now available in a board book edition is the perfect gift to every new parent.

It is an compendium of early childhood concepts. I still regret leaving the signed framed poster of from the book at Bank Street.

#100 Women Artists


Is her 2018 title debuting a new technique.  This Is the Nest That Robin Built (Beach Lane, March 2018). Kirkus review calls an “avian revision of a classic rhyme,” and that would be “This Is the House That Jack Built,” the popular cumulative rhyme. Here we meet the animals — squirrel, dog, horse, pig, mouse, and more — who, in one way or another, contribute to a nest (made of twigs, string, straw, mud, weeds, and grass) that a robin builds for her fledglings. (From the blog Seven Impossible Things)  


These are the NESTLINGS, tufted and pink, that cracked the eggs, brittle and blue, that lay on the grass, fresh and sweet, that cushions the weeds, dotted with seeds, that bind the mud, soft not soupy, that plasters the straw, rough and tough, that covers the string, long and strong, that wraps round the twigs, not too big, that anchor the nest that Robin built.”

From an interview at Writing For Kids (While Raising Them) by Tara Lazar, Fleming describes her new technique 

“I have been illustrating my books with pulp painting for over 25 years. While I love paper making, I felt it was time for a change for several reasons. The small company where I bought my pulp had changed hands and the new pulp was causing me problems. The board I used for stencils was no longer available. I had tried substitutes but none worked as well for detail and some were difficult to cut. Then, there were the hours of standing bent over the paper vat which was affecting my health. These were all a part of my decision to experiment with new techniques.

Gelatin printing and foam printing along with collage were the techniques that really interested me. These provided more freedom and the ability to create more detail, which is difficult with paper making. I also felt I needed a bit of reinvention. I have been around for a long time, I wanted readers to take a second look at my art. I am fascinated with printmaking. Before I created books I studied printmaking, mostly etching, lithos and mono-prints. I am excited to try new styles and techniques in upcoming books.”



#100 Women Artists

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