Category Archives: Art

Creating the art for SEA HORSE, RUN!

Student Art Inspired by “Sea Horse, run!”


Mrs. Daniel’s 4th grade class at Nolan Elementary in Signal Mountain, Tennessee gave me a wonderful set of pictures based on my books. Here is a sample of their work from “Sea Horse, run!”.

Keegan drew the above picture of Sea Horse. His question on the back of the picture reads: “How did sea horse hear coral, a plant, singing to him?”

Great question, Keegan! Coral is not a plant. Coral looks like a plant, but she is actually a group of tiny animals. A choir or chorus is an organized group of singers, and since Coral is an organized cluster of tiny animals, I thought she ought to sing like a choir.

Learn more about why Coral sings in the story by reading Coral as Greek Chorus or click on a question below to learn more about corals:

What is a coral polyp?
How do polyps eat?
How are corals named?
Why are corals important to sea horses?
Do coral polyps have eyes?

Preslee likes my jellyfish. I like Preslee’s jellies (above), too!

Nick also drew jellies (above). Nick asks, “Why did you pick jellyfish for the dedication page?”

Jellyfish are a symbol for acceptance, so the appearance of jellyfish before the story even begins foreshadows or predicts that acceptance will be an important theme in the story. The poor Sea Dragon is misunderstood! Sea Horse learns to ignore gossip and accept Sea Dragon for who he really is.




My latest video demonstrates how I created my character, Ribbon, for “Sea Horse, run!”. It takes 6 minutes to view, but it’s worth it. You’ll see real ribboned sea dragons at the Minnesota Aquarium as well as the step-by-step process I use to draw, paint, cut out, and design a character for the book. As an added bonus, I’ll show you exactly where I hid Ribbon on every page in the story.

Ribbon is a ribboned sea dragon. Specimens are usually greenish-yellow like the sea grasses they hide in. Ribboned sea dragons are found in waters northwest of Australia. They can grow to be about one foot in length. Ribboned sea dragons are more tropical than their southern relatives, the leafy and weedy sea dragons.

     Weedy Sea Dragon     

Sea dragons are classified in the family Syngnathidae (pronounced sin-NATH-ih-dee). Every animal in this family is a fish. Syngnathdae is Greek for “fused jaws” because the mouths of fish in this family do not open or close. About 330 species of Syngnathidae have been classified. At least thirty-seven species are sea horses, three species are sea dragons, and the rest are pipehorses or pipefishes.

Bony Fish

Butterfly Fish

Butterfly Fish like to swim in pairs.

Several people have asked how I selected the fish for “Sea Horse, run!”. With thousands of fish species to choose from, I had to narrow my options. In the beginning I found the choices overwhelming, then I decided to pick fish named for animals in my previous books. In Tiny Snail the reader meets Mr. Squirrel and Miss Butterfly, so I chose a squirrel fish and butterfly fish.

Squirrel Fish    

In my third picture book, Polliwog’s best friend is Perch. I chose two different perch for “Sea Horse, run!”: the pearl perch and gurnard perch. Since Polliwog is about a tadpole who doesn’t know she’s turning into a frog, I had to include a frog fish, too!

Pearl Perch    Common Gurnard Perch    Frog Fish

Pipefish are related to sea horses and sea dragons, and pipefish are the most abundant fish found in the sea horse family, Syngnathidae, meaning ‘fish with fused jaws.’ I saw the Moorish idol in several aquariums, and the sea anemones in the story needed a few clown fish for company. Plus many children can easily identify both the Moorish idol and clown fish because they are prominent characters in the classic Pixar film, Finding Nemo.

Clown Fish     Pipefish     Moorish Idol Fish

So far, most of the fish I chose for the book swim alone or in small schools, but coral reefs are home to great numbers of fish that swim in large schools. I needed at least one schooling fish that moved in large numbers, and I chose the pomfret.

Pomfret FishThere are many species of pomfrets that live in oceans around the world. The largest pomfret species lives in the Atlantic Ocean, but my pomfrets are from the eastern coast of Australia. In real life this Australian pomfret is a tiny fish only one inch in length, but my pomfrets look much larger.

Additional bony fish in “Sea Horse, run!” include the sea horse, leafy sea dragon, weedy sea dragon, ribboned sea dragon, and eel. The shark is also a fish, but sharks are not a ‘bony fish’ because they do not have bones.

More Reef Animals


Starfish and jellyfish are not really fish. Starfish are ECHINODERMS. Jellyfish are related to CORALS, and shrimp are CRUSTACEANS. Turtles are REPTILES.

Art copyright 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson.

Mollusk Gallery


Mollusks include snails, slugs, clams, squid, cuttlefish, and octopi. The majority of mollusks live in the water. Mollusks are organized into several classes. The largest class is GASTROPODA with more than 65,000 species of snails and slugs.

Art copyright 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson.

Fish Gallery


Sharks, eels, sea horses, and sea dragons are all FISH!

With over 31,000 species, this is the most diverse group of vertebrates (animals with spines).

Art copyright 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson.

Corals Gallery


Most corals have many polyps that live in clusters called ‘colonies.’ Polyps are tiny animals that use their tentacles to capture food. (See Hard Tree Corals. Most of the corals pictured here are not feeding.) Some polyps live alone. The Mushroom Coral is a large, single polyp. The type of polyp determines the size and shape of the colony. Polyps may also have hard or soft skeletons. When polyps with hard skeletons die, their tiny bones create a rock called ‘limestone.’ Coral reefs are made of limestone or the crushed bones of many, many millions of polyps!

Art copyright 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson.