Mule Train Mail
by Craig Brown
Mule Train Mail by Craig Brown Brown, Craig.  (2009)  Mule Train Mail. Charlesbridge.

For more information about this book and curriculum connections, locate the October 2009 issue of Library Sparks for the "In the Spotlight" column featuring  Mule Train Mail.
Details about the art in this book (step-by-step).

Craig Brown begins his illustrative work with a high grade of Strathmore paper, which he coats with gesso—a preparation of plaster of Paris and glue, and establishes a texture for the painting. Once the gesso is dried, Brown sands the surface to reduce the roughness enough to allow the application of color layers.  In place of the dots which he once used to create the illustration’s shapes and forms, he now used lines—lines transferred from a detailed pencil drawing onto the gessoed paper using custom made transfer paper. For Mule Train Mail, Brown created a brown transfer paper using brown chalk and tissue paper.

Once the brown lines of the sketch are transferred, Brown proceeds to add the colors using pastels and colored pencil. He builds the layers of color from light to dark and then back again to create the highlights and purple shadows. Erasers are used to take away or lighten the color in strategic places. The pastel sticks do not ever touch the illustration, instead, the artist holds the pastels in one hand and rubs his finger across the pastel to put the color on his finger tip which he then uses to layer the color onto the drawing. His fingers become his brushes, allowing the artist finite control of the application. Color is applied on top of color until just the right combination of shading and intensity is achieved. Colored pencils are used to add details.

About the Havasupai Indian Tribe and the Village of Supai

The Havasupai Tribe has lived in the Grand Canyon area since the beginning of their history. However, as cattlemen moved into the southwest and invaded the area, the Havasupai were restricted to smaller and smaller areas. In 1882, the United States Government restricted tribal members to 518 acres. In 1906, the tribe had suffered epidemics and there were only 106 members.

The small village of Supai is the capitol of the reservation. For hundreds of years the village, which sits on the western edge of the national park, deep into the valley, has been very isolated and remote. In the past, members of the Havasupai tribe were hunters and gatherers. As their land area decreased, they became more dependent on other income. The Havasupai turned to tourism in the 1960s, and gradually became more and more successful until in this decade, during the summers, over 500 tourists visit each day—25,000 per year.
And, in 1973, the Federal government agreed to restore 250,000 acres of land to the tribe. The tribe had grown to 406 members.

It took almost a century for the tribe to achieve restoration of their land. The life style in the village is still very traditional in other ways but modern amenities are enjoyed: air-conditioning, satellite dishes for communication, computers. Children play on swing sets and go to school much like other children in the United States.

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