Local artist takes on challenge of bringing dragons to life

| Josie Bungert | September 25, 2014 | 0 Comments
Jennifer Soriano, an art teacher at Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan, is the featured illustrator of the children’s book  “St. George and the Dragon” by Michael Lotti. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Jennifer Soriano, an art teacher at Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan, is the featured illustrator of the children’s book “St. George and the Dragon” by Michael Lotti. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Jennifer Soriano is a mother, artist and teacher in West St. Paul who can now add illustrator to her list of artistic triumphs, as her first illustrated book, “St. George and the Dragon,” is on the market.

Despite originally studying studio art and education at the University of Dallas, Soriano, who grew up in north Minneapolis, ultimately decided against teaching and dropped her emphasis in education her final semester in school. Then, upon returning to Minnesota, an old friend asked her to teach. She went in for an interview and told them she would teach for a year.

“And now it’s 14 years later, and I’m still teaching art,” said Soriano, of St. Joseph in West St. Paul who is married with four children.

During her many years of teaching at Trinity School at River Ridge in Eagan, Soriano has continued to take classes and participate in shows. But even with this intense involvement, Soriano was looking for someone to guide her in the direction she wanted to go, which recently led her to graduate studies.

Soriano said when you teach, it can be hard not to be a student, too. Now as a student herself, she can better relate to those she teaches.

“[It’s] good for my students to see I’m taking education seriously, and I expect them to as well,” she said.

Soriano is pursuing a master’s degree in illustration through Academy of Art University, which incidentally aligned with working on illustrating a book. “St. George and the Dragon” is a traditional, Christian story brought to life by Soriano’s elaborate illustrations.

Good friend Michael Lotti contacted her a few years ago, well before she enrolled in a master’s program. He was hoping to write a book and include her as the illustrator. On top of her commitment to helping with the art and illustrations, Soriano deeply appreciated the storyline and how she was contributing to a religious book for children.

“As a parent, it’s kind of nice to be involved in something that’s sort of ‘updating,’” Soriano said. “I like this idea of bringing a story to life, filling in this gap in a place where we are sort of lacking for children.

“You can see why kids are attracted to things outside the Church, because the quality is much better,” Soriano continued. “It would be really nice to see Christian artists to add to that quality. It’s a tougher market in one sense . . . . It would be nice to help boost that area in faith rather than bemoaning it and walking away.”

Even though the book is completed and available for purchase, Soriano’s work with illustrating books of this nature is just beginning.

“I would like the illustrations to become a bigger part of my life, slowly increasing. . . . Even if I’m not physically teaching, there’s a teaching aspect to it, which I like,” she said.

Soriano is in discussion with Lotti about another book, and she also has her own book ideas. She wants to have a similar impact that “St. George and the Dragon” did, as she believes there’s a “huge lack” of books of this nature for children growing up in the Church. She is contemplating books covering female biblical characters, or women from history — topics that provide positive role models for teenage girls.

“When we look at movies, when we look at books, there’s male characters,” Soriano said. “I feel like that’s true in many things for young women. I’d like to kind of emphasize that a little more. I’d like to do something of that nature down the road.”

These ideas will be two to three years in the making, the new illustrator said, as she is still completing her master’s degree and working on a variety of other projects. For now, Soriano has many projects to occupy her “free” time, alongside teaching, going to school and being a mom.


Read more: ‘St. George and the Dragon’: a tale for all ages


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Category: Faith and Culture