Islander artist finds inspiration everywhere

Mercer Island High School grad illustrates fourth children’s book.

Kirk Parrish is the illustrator for the new children’s book

Kirk Parrish is the illustrator for the new children’s book

A boy named Frederick on a distant island becomes the friend of a lone tree growing pepperoni sausages on a pink, sandy beach. Coconut and mango trees ridicule the tree for being different, and the boy travels the world to find another tree like it. But the tree is unique, and the boy returns years later to open a pizza parlor on the beach.

This is the story of “The Pepperoni Palm Tree,” illustrated by Kirk Parrish and written by Jason Killian Meath and his fourth-grade son, Aidan Meath. The book was released earlier this month by Fuze Publishing, LLC.

Parrish was chosen to be the book’s illustrator when the publishers and writers of the book found his online art gallery at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A long series of emails and phone calls ensued.

A 2002 graduate of Mercer Island High School, Parrish attended the graphics animation program at Bellevue College and studied children’s book literature and illustrations at the University of Washington.

“Doing that is what introduced me to this new world of individuals and like-minded people that have the same passion for storytelling as myself,” said Parrish, who describes his artistic style as animated. His other illustrated books include “The Camel’s Shadow,” “King Midas and the Golden Touch: A Greek Myth” and “Neptune and Minerva: A Roman Myth.”

“If I’m telling a story over a series of illustrations, I’ll always start off by storyboarding each individual page,” Parrish said. “This helps me find the correct flow and rhythm without sacrificing a lot of time. For me, storyboarding is always the hardest part because you’re laying down the foundation for the entire story, and it’s not all that different from writing a book. From there it’s all about refining, refining and refining.”

Parrish grew up on Mercer Island. His favorite illustrated book, as a kid, was Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” and anything by Chris Van Allsburg.

In school, Parrish was the student who never paid attention — always sketching monsters in his notebook.

For his sketches, he uses a blue or red Prismacolor, Col-Erase pencil that doesn’t smear and has the right softness and line quality. First, he creates his subject’s basic shape or blueprint, then adds a new level of clarity and detail. The next step is then to ink the lines and color the image, Parrish said. He creates most of his work digitally, but also uses watercolors and acrylics.

“I try to pull inspiration from everything, whether it’s a trip to the zoo, the last film I saw, or the budding autumn colors,” he said.

“The Pepperoni Palm Tree” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit Parrish’s website at


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