I believe in dreams. And so do Vincent and Celestial Noot (pronounced Note).
Vincent grew up in the Netherlands; Celestial in Utah. Vincent had three siblings; Celestial eight.
“It’s not easy to get noticed in a large family,” Celestial said. “Sometimes I felt there wasn’t enough attention to go around.” Celestial often helped her parents by watching the younger children, and although all her siblings seemed to blend together, there were a lot of fun times being part of a big family. “But I didn’t always get to do my own thing,” she added.
In Vincent’s family, individuality was encouraged, and Vincent loved art. As a kid, he spent hours searching the action-filled pages of Where’s Waldo?. He wished there were more of these hardbacks out there. Even as a youngster, Vincent dreamed of creating a search book, with his own drawings, his own characters, his own story.
Vincent’s parents witnessed their son’s talent. When he was old enough to attend a university, they supported his decision to study art in Belgium. There he learned to fine-tune and layer his work and make it pop on the page. After school, he moved back to the Netherlands and met a daycare owner who wanted some unique cartoon characters that captured her vision of caring for young children. The artwork had to stand out and distinguish her business from all the other childcare centers in the vicinity. Vincent created characters that the owner featured on posters, pamphlets, board games, and even her website.
“It felt great to see my cartoons being used,” Vincent said. “And because people liked my artwork, my confidence grew.” Yet he still dreamed of designing a search book. Until he met Celestial Angell (her true maiden name), it hadn’t happened.
Several years ago, Vincent went to Utah to visit family. An aunt took him to a young-adult function at her church. And that is where, unexpectedly, Vincent met his future bride. They courted off and on (long-distance much of the time) for a couple years. Once, while visiting the Netherlands, they rode a merry-go-round with Vincent’s niece and nephew. Another time they ordered a foot-long hotdog, then unable to determine how to eat the huge thing, they lifted it together, each taking a bite from the opposite end–until their mouths met in the middle.
“It was like the spaghetti scene in Lady And The Tramp,” the thirty-one-year-old young man said, chuckling from the memory. “Celestial is really the person who ultimately inspired me.” Vincent explained how his youthful idea became a colorful children’s thirty-six-page storybook, with twelve search pages, at the insistence of his wife. “We’ve spent hundreds of hours and over a year on this project.”
“Vincent is able to capture lovely little moments of innocence in a child,” Celestial said, her twenty-year-old voice laced with pride. “I believe in him.” Her excitement grew as she talked about how they incorporated several of their own dating scenes in this first book: Find The Cutes – Playtime, the ride on the merry-go-round, eating the long hotdog, and a kiss in a public swimming pool when a nearby child squealed “ewwww.” The mom has brunette hair, like her; the dad is blonde like Vincent. And although they don’t have children yet, they hope to some day.
So what are their goals for this picture book?
“We wanted it to be fun and loving, and for the family to be large enough to have a little chaos in their lives,” Celestial said, sharing the time they lost (and eventually found) Celestial’s little brother on the subway (a storyline that may show up in a future book in the series). They wanted each Cutes’ child to have a unique personality that was nurtured by the parents. Celestial shared the difficulty they experienced in coming up with the perfect last name for their characters. “We tried out lots of possibilities, but when Cutes was said out loud, we knew that was the one.”
Celestial co-teaches in a southern Utah university preschool. She took the prototype to her classroom and read it to the students. After, the kids congregated around the pages trying to find the Cutes’ kid they most identified with. At the end of the class, the kids begged over and over excitedly, “Please bring back the book tomorrow!”
The biggest surprise for these two dreamers? The couple shared Find The Cutes – Playtime with several of their young relatives who have special needs. One sat down and searched for hours. “It was a great feeling to see how my little brother was so into our book,” Celestial said, explaining that her sibling had been diagnosed with autism.
Find The Cutes – Playtime focuses on family. “One of my favorite storylines is when the Cutes sit around the dining room table talking about his/her favorite thing from the previous pages,” Celestial said. “We were trying to support eating dinner together–as a family–and I think Vincent’s drawings capture their evening ritual perfectly.”
Yet some dreams won’t come true on their own. Some dreams are expensive. Besides this first book, Vincent and Celestial have nine others planned in the series. From the initial response, they believe children will be drawn to the Cutes family. “And one of the big differences between our book and let’s say, “Where’s Waldo?” Vincent said. “Is an answer page. As a kid, I felt frustrated if I couldn’t find him.” After exhausting all efforts, he wished there’d been a cheat sheet to help him out. “So there’s an answer page in the back of our book.”
Vincent and Celestial believe in the series and the possibility of its possibilities. That is why they started a Kickstarter Project. If you haven’t heard of this amazing website, it is place where artists and musicians and writers and filmmakers can feature their venture in hopes others will love it too and pledge (as little as one dollar) in order to make the project a reality. A recent success was the Veronica Mars film campaign. Veronica Mars was a successful television show with lots of fans that were devastated when the series was cancelled. A script for a feature film was written, but Warner Brothers passed on the option. A Kickstarter campaign launched, and the project reached its goal in less than ten hours. It ultimately accumulated over $5.7 million to create a film–and now Veronica Mars will open this Friday in theaters.
However, that kind of Kickstarter success is rare. Although many projects are fully funded, just as many will never see their vision become a reality.
So what happens if the campaign is not fully funded? The pledge is not charged until the requested goal is reached. It’s an all or nothing crusade. As an incentive to pledge, many campaigns offer some sort of reward for larger contributions. The Kickstarter site says, “It’s about more than money. It’s people making something together.”
Maybe you have a dream and haven’t quite realized it yet. Or maybe you like to help other people reach theirs. If you would like to know more about Vincent and Celestial Noot’s Kickstarter campaign, click here. And if you can spare a little something to help make their dream a reality, I know they’d appreciate it. Even a buck would help.
Part of the reason I decided to write about this couple and their project is because I believe in Kickstarter and the way it helps some people achieve their dreams. I also believe in art, and paying it forward. If I were doing a Kickstarter project, I’d appreciate any help I could get. Besides, when Lindsey was a child, she loved the Where’s Waldo? series, but I think she would’ve liked this book even better. There are lots of children on the pages and Lindsey loves anything to do with kids, colors, and cartoonish type characters. This type of book would have engaged her for quite some time. Let’s hope they reach their goal, and one more Kickstarter dream comes true.