Central Valley, CA, US
Santa Barbara, CA, US
Watch this video interview with Don Wood.
I was born and raised on a farm in the great Central Valley of California. It is one of the most fertile farming areas in the country. We raised peaches, sweet potatoes, almonds, grapes, and oranges. My father ran the farm, and my mother was a very popular elementary teacher at a small rural school nearby.
There was always a lot of work to do growing up on a farm. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I had forty acres of potatoes to take care of by myself (that's a lot of potatoes). My brother, half-brother, and I were doing a man's work by the time we were 12. During the summer, that often meant 12- to 16-hour shifts, seven days per week. Once, when I was a teenager, I remember working 26 hours straight. We were paid wages for our work and were expected to pay for own clothes and entertainment, and eventually, cars and college educations.
In the sixth grade, I decided to be an artist. My father was worried about my decision, and I endured some tough pressure to pursue other careers (such as architecture). Luckily my other brothers wanted to run the farm, so my decision did not endanger the family business.
Since summer was so busy, winter was my time to draw. I could never find pieces of paper big enough. In those days, the laundry came wrapped in light-brown crinkle paper. One day my mother had an idea. She ironed the crinkles out of the paper and gave it to me. At last! A giant piece of paper! It covered the entire kitchen table. From then on, laundry day was art day.
I loved sports as a child, and I still do. When I was younger, I played lots of football. Now that I live in Santa Barbara on the coast of Southern California, many of the sports I love involve the beach or the ocean. I enjoy sailing, beach volleyball, swimming, and snorkeling; and recently my son, who is an excellent surfer, taught me to surf. In the winter, Audrey and I like to camp in the deserts and go snow-shoeing in the mountains.
I attended college at the University of California at Santa Barbara and did graduate work in art at the California College of Arts and Crafts. I met Audrey at Berkeley while I was studying there, and six months later, we were married. After our son Bruce was born, Audrey began to write children's picture books. I was illustrating magazines at the time, and it seemed natural for me to illustrate one of her books. I illustrated Moonflute, and I enjoyed it so much I have been illustrating children's picture books ever since.