Bill Thomson Illustration

Dedication to Karate Hour
Artist and educator Bill Thomson always wanted to illustrate a children's book. However, illustrating a children's book was the furthest thing from his mind when his father suddenly died of a heart attack on January 5, 2003. Thomson was devastated by the loss of his role model and best friend. A former competitive runner, Thomson decided that he would train for and run a marathon later that year in his father's honor- one of the few things he had never done during his earlier running career. His father was an avid sports fan who took great pleasure in all his sons' athletic accomplishments and this seemed a perfect tribute.

A week later, Thomson, along with his brother, played in a basketball game for a team their father had sponsored. During the game, Thomson suffered a severe knee injury tearing his ACL and MCL ligaments requiring reconstructive knee surgery. Thomson would run no marathons in 2003. With a broken heart and a broken body, it seemed that Thomson could not do something special to honor his father's memory.

Things changed when he received a call a month later from Anahid Hamparian, a Marshall Cavendish Children's Books art director, who was interested in his work. Thomson couldn't help but feel that his father had something to do with the call. He had been an illustrator for twenty years, but never worked in the specialized area of children's literature. Thomson had often told his father that he hoped to illustrate children's books after learning more about the market from his teaching colleagues at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford.

After some discussion, the art director sent him a manuscript for a karate story but needed to see a sample illustration before committing to an inexperienced children's book artist. Thomson's son, who everyone always said looks like his grandfather, served as the model for the sample illustration. The publisher was pleased with the illustration and Thomson was awarded a contract for his first children's book, Karate Hour, to be published by Marshall Cavendish.

Before beginning work on the Karate Hour project, Thomson needed to undergo knee surgery and the accompanying physical therapy. Thomson had delayed his knee surgery until his classes were completed in May. The interior art needed to be completed by mid November- a relatively quick deadline for a children's book project. Thomson began working in June once he could bend his knee to sit at his drawing board. The artist worked tirelessly to complete the illustrations on time in what became his artistic marathon. The publisher was very pleased with his work.

Thomson still needed to create a cover illustration. He also had to create an additional illustration and do some minor technical revisions after a karate expert reviewed the interior art. Thomson received approval to begin the final work on the book in early December. The publisher needed the work as soon as possible and asked him to deliver the art on the first Monday in January after the art director returned from her holiday vacation.

On the cold afternoon of Monday, January 5, 2004, exactly one year after his father had died, Thomson stopped to say a prayer at his father's grave. He was on his way home from delivering the final art for Karate Hour, a book he dedicated to his dad.

This book is dedicated to my dad, William S. Thomson. Although our time together was far too short, his love and influence will last a lifetime.
      - Bill Thomson, Dedication from Karate Hour



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