BY CHRISTY JANSSENS
There was a whale on the beach.
For many people, encountering this scene in a dream could be forgettable. For Bobbi M. Wright, it was a sign that became the catalyst for her new children’s book The Princess and the Whale.
“I’m somewhat of a believer that your dreams are trying to tell you something,” said Wright.
On the book’s website, she tells the story. “In early 2014,” she writes, “just prior to a massive life changing event, I had a vivid dream of walking on the beach and seeing this huge whale breaching out of the dark waters in front of the most incredible moon. We looked eye to eye and I noticed her gullet was full. In that weird way that only dreams possess, I was not only myself walking on the beach, but I was the whale too.”
“A month after that, my marriage fell apart,” Wright said. “I took [the dream] to mean that it was the universe’s way of telling me that I was going to be okay.”
The dream was so vivid that it stuck with her. “The only way to get it out of my head was to paint it,” she said. So, in 2015, she created a visual representation of the dream.
“Early in 2016,” Wright writes on the website, “a story that I had written for my oldest daughter Hannah when she was 7 and struggling to understand where God was after experiencing a bullying episode that forever changed how she viewed the world, showed up after being lost for several years. Reading the story again for the first time after so long, I raised my head and found myself staring at my painting. The similarity was shocking and I realized that I needed to get it into book format.”
To create the book, though, the story needed an illustrator. Enter Yasmin Pehlvi, a student in the joint Digital Enterprise Management program between Sheridan and the University of Toronto Mississauga.
“I’ve actually known Bobbi for a few years,” Pehlvi said in an email. “She shared with me that she was planning on publishing a children’s book and when she asked if I would do the illustrations I had to say yes! I read the story and absolutely loved the magic within it.”
All of the artwork in the book was created digitally. “I began digitally painting a little over a year ago,” Pehlvi said. “I had a few months to become familiar with digital art before illustrating The Princess And The Whale, which was my first big digital art project.”
“The premise of the story is that we all get stuck somehow at different points in life,” said Wright. “There are a couple of different choices. You can choose to be afraid. We all have those voices we listen to. But we have the choice to let go of that and choose to be brave instead.”
Wright attended Sheridan College years ago in the musical theatre program but dropped out when she realized it wasn’t for her. She never finished a formal education. “Sometimes when that happens,” she said, “you don’t always think of yourself as good enough or smart enough. And sometimes these big life events happen and it causes you to dig deep and find out what you really love.”
The publishing journey was a learning curve for both. Wright described it as “a crash course in business,” while Pehlvi said she had to learn balance between work, school and illustrating the book.
However, the final product was worth it.
“The night Bobbi and I each got to see and hold the physical copy of The Princess And The Whale for the first time was absolutely incredible,” said Pehlvi. “It’s one thing seeing your art through your laptop screen on a regular basis while working on it, but seeing it as a real book, it’s such a warm and wonderful feeling, it’s difficult to describe.”
Their advice for other creatives getting started in their field?
“Take every single opportunity you can to get out there in the field,” Pehlvi said. “Give yourself the confidence to try new projects and find the time to pursue your passion, whether it be full-time, part-time or even as a hobby. You’ll be happier if you keep in touch with the things you love doing.”
“Take critique with a grain of salt. If it is something that stirs your heart, go for it,” said Wright. “Nobody does everything perfect. Making mistakes only highlights the path of where you go next.”