Artist explores new territory as he finds his inner child

Bill Steidel poses with his new children's book, “Whose Move,” at his gallery in Cannon Beach.

Bill Steidel, 88, is well-known for his art, but that isn’t all he does. Culminating a decades-long work in progress, Steidel released his first published children’s book this fall titled “Whose Move.”

The book is a story about a boy and dragon, acompanied and enhanced by Steidel’s illustrations.

“The stories have been around for years and years,” he said.

Steidel has drawn since he was in elementary school. His third-grade teacher would let him in class, where he’d focus on fairy tale themes. A junior high teacher encouraged him to enter contests he won consecutive years and went on to encourage him to go to college for art, which he did at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

His parents were academicians. Many in his family, including siblings, became educators.

“All of a sudden out pops a child that doesn’t want to do anything but draw pictures,” he said. “They told me they didn’t know what to do with me.”

But they “backed me up” when he chose a different path.

After college, he illustrated his first book with Simon and Schuster. Eventually, with “itchy feet,” he ended up out west for the long-haul, including a short stint at Disney, and used his GI Bill to go back to school.

He was “scared to death” of his English course. It wasn’t his strong subject in high school. His first assignment was a composition. With encouragement from his wife, he used his art with words to tell the tale. The spelling was atrocious, his teacher told him, but the story was good.

He used his storytelling skills to calm a bus full of unruly children during his time as a bus driver. He’d tried songs first and got the kids singing along, but received complaints from parents about the noise.

Then he began telling the stories. He told one that stretched on and on with cliff-hangers. It lasted eight months and enthralled the youth.

“Everything leads up to this book,” he said.

Steidel dedicated his book to those who waited for it.

“Whose Move” is about an orphan named Timothy who lives in a desolate village plagued by a dragon. It comes annually during harvest time and destroys everything.

Eventually the villagers send the orphan out in suit of armor to face the beast. Timothy challenges it to a game of tic-tac-toe that he wins, sending the dragon away.

Every year they play the game, Timothy winning each time, making the village one of the nicest in the kingdom. Then the dragon finally wins.

Readers interested in finding out what happens next can find “Whose Move” at Steidel’s Art, Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

There are a limited 100 hardbacks signed with a special hand drawing inside.

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