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Untangling The Knots Of Life Through Faith and Art

by Lauren Edmundson | June 2, 2022

It’s not every day that a student takes off a semester to promote a new book. But that’s exactly what Sessions College student Marissa Sasscer is doing this summer, as she takes leave to promote a new illustrated children’s book entitled “Our Lady Undoer of Knots” published in May 2022.

For many lllustration majors, illustrating a children’s book is a major career goal, so our Academic Coordinator Lauren Edmundson interviewed Marissa to find out more about the project.

Q: Marissa, it’s an amazing opportunity to illustrate and publish a book! Can you tell us how the book deal got started?

The author Sylvia Dorham and I have actually collaborated on a few other projects in the past. I think Our Lady Undoer of Knots is our fourth project together. Our first project was a workbook entitled Avoiding the Octopus: A Family Guide to Standing Strong Against Human Trafficking, which introduces to pre-teens the topic of human trafficking and how to avoid it. Aside from illustrating, I also did some layout work with Sylvia for another book entitled A First Responder’s Guide to Human Trafficking.

So when she approached me with this new childrens’ book, I was excited to work with her again.

Q: Who is “Our Lady Undoer of Knots”? What is the book about, and was the faith-based subject matter meaningful to you?

The book introduces young children (about age 7) to the Catholic Marian devotion of Our Lady Undoer of Knots. The devotion is illustrated with an image of Mary untying the knots in a long, tangled white ribbon. The idea is that the problems of our everyday life can be symbolized by these stubborn knots. They can be presented to Mary, who unties them by presenting our problems to Jesus.

The book is basically about a little boy who learns to approach Mary in this way. The whole book is written in rhyme, which I think is very sweet.

The subject matter means a lot to me personally. I’m a devout Catholic, and this happens to be one of my favorite Marian devotions. Many problems I face certainly feel like stubborn knots that I just can’t untangle on my own, and the idea that there’s someone I can turn to with these is very comforting.

Q: What was it like collaborating with a writer and what did you learn from that experience?

Collaborating with a writer is similar to working on art/design projects here at Sessions. The author provided a Word document with the text for each page, as well as some notes for the illustrations. Then, in this case, I had to reference the original image of ‘Our Lady Undoer of Knots’, which is a painting by Johann Georg Schmidtner in Augsburg, Germany.

For some of the illustrations, I had a list of design goals that I had to achieve, and had to create a vision with that criteria as its base.

I originally completed the concept art for Our Lady Undoer of Knots in 2019, but then stepped down from the project. In 2020, I completed my Undergraduate Certificate in Illustration at Sessions. That program in particular taught me many skills I needed for this project, such as deeper knowledge of Color Theory, Design and Composition, Digital Illustration, and Commercial Illustration.

I also learned the importance of planning when illustrating a children’s book. The flow of each page into another, the composition of each page, and how the text is broken up among the pages, has to be crafted with as much intentionality as the actual drawings. I drew the whole book in tiny thumbnails many times before I even made the dummy book or final illustrations. It really helped to work out problems with the flow of the book.

Q: What are you expecting to do during your book tour?

So far, I’ve been having book signings at different events and venues. My most recent one was at Artfest, a local music and artisan festival. The author is still in the process of scheduling book signings as well as acquiring booths at different Catholic Homeschooling Conferences.  It is a bit challenging though as many people are still reticent due to the Covid pandemic. But I will post updates on the campaign on my Instagram account.

Q: You’re currently working towards an Associate’s Degree in Illustration. Why did you choose to study illustration and what are your future plans?

I’ve always been a visual communicator. I’m told that I learned to draw before I could talk. When I was three, my mom would staple folded paper together to make ‘books’, and I would create stories in them by “illustrating” them. And as I grew up, I always loved drawing and visual storytelling. So, I feel that Illustration is something that I’ve always wanted and always tried to do my whole life.

My primary goal as an illustrator is to illustrate children’s books, so I’m extremely thankful for this recent project. Further down the road, I think I would want to expand to different tiers of audience, such as middle graders or even young adults.

I really enjoyed working on this project, and hope to illustrate more children’s books in the future. I was recently asked to do the concept art for another children’s book idea, so later on that could become another project. I’m very excited!

For more information about Marissa Sasscer projects, visit her Instagram page. For more information about Our Lady Undoer of Knots, visit the Our Lady Undoer of Knots publishers page. Information about TANBooks, can be found on the TANBooks website. For more information about illustration majors at Sessions College, visit https://www.sessions.edu/online-degrees/illustration/.

Lauren Edmundson is the Academic Coordinator at Sessions College. Lauren is an artist, educator, and former middle-school teacher with a passion for everything art-related. Outside of work, Lauren likes to take care of her plants and hang out with her bird.