New Albany elementary students learned recently that the journey to becoming an artist doesn't always lead you far from home.

New Albany elementary students learned recently that the journey to becoming an artist doesn't always lead you far from home.

"I think it's fabulous when schools give children this opportunity and they're excited to find out that we live in their neighborhood, just a few miles away," said artist Jeanette Canyon, who last week visited the New Albany 2-5 building with her husband and fellow artist, Christopher Canyon.

The Canyons are Columbus residents. They met at and graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design more than 20 years ago. Though they work in different mediums, they both illustrate and design children's books.

"I think it was very engaging, the way they were able to show the different mediums they use to create their art and how they use their ideas and bring them to life in a book," said Steve Lesco, dean of students at the 2-5 building.

The Canyons' visit was part of a program that annually funds author and illustrator visits to each district building, said Craig Mohre, president of the New Albany Community Foundation. The fund was created through the foundation with a gift from residents Lance and Carolyn White and is supported by the four district parent-teacher organizations and the New Albany Women's Network.

"I always think it's important for the kids to meet an author, or in this case an illustrator," said librarian Kerry Cramer. "They learn a lot about what happens, how they illustrate and how books are created. They also learn about the effort that goes into this. Usually, they don't understand the time factor but the Canyons said it takes a year for them to do one book."

The artists met with the entire student body Feb. 14 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, where they shared some of their art and Christopher Canyon's music. He was chosen a few years ago to illustrate the lyrics of the late John Denver's music, a special treat for him, he said, since the first song he learned to play on guitar was "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

"It was really special to be asked to do that project because the music meant a lot to me," he said.

After the Feb. 14 presentation, the Canyons met with groups of classes at the 2-5 building all week long to share details of how they illustrate and design books.

Jeanette Canyon demonstrated how she uses polymer clay and incorporates everyday objects in the clay to mimic patterns of life and better illustrate the books.

"Our main goal is to inspire the children and get them thinking about their own creativity," she said.

She showed the students pictures of the first easel her parents bought her and talked a little about their encouragement. She then showed them pictures of her current workspace in the Canyons' Columbus home and explained how she writes ideas in her journal before finalizing art for a book.

Christopher Canyon said he, too, sketches ideas in his journal that he can come back to when working on a book. He said writing words, singing songs and creating pictures all are ways "to express ourselves through ideas."

He said when trying to illustrate Denver's songs, he had to think about feelings, because one of the songs, "Sunshine On My Shoulders," is about the way sunshine made Denver feel. Starting with color for background, Canyon said he chose yellow, a happy color, and then tried to come up with four main characters he could use in that book. He drew a girl with a cat and a man with a mouse. Throughout the book, those characters are shown in different scenes on yellow backgrounds.

He said art provides "a wonderful way to learn about things" and told the students all the things they can learn about while researching for an art project.

"Because we design the books we make, their design and shape, we also have to think about how the words will look," he said.

Using "Sunshine On My Shoulders" as an example, he said, he tried to make the lettering look like it was on water so it would flow throughout the book.

Christopher Canyon said he works in several mediums. His first stint with watercolors was during the John Denver project.

"I think what's unique about me is the versatility in variation to my approaches," he said.

Throughout the week, the students wrote their own stories and learned some of Denver's music in their music classes, Cramer said.

During their work sessions, the students sang some of Denver's songs along with Christopher Canyon.

"The songs got the kids engaged and they enjoyed it," Lesco said.

He said the Canyons' visit helps "to get the kids excited about books and reading and inspire the kids."

Chris Briggs, 4-5 principal, agreed.

"The students have enjoyed the creative delivery of the Canyons' illustrations through music and expression," Briggs said.