In the Loop
Friends and Giving : Feb 18, 2016

UF scholarship sponsor collaborates with football player turned children’s book writer

By Bailey Benningfield

Dennis Campay collaborated with Georgia football player and author Malcolm Mitchell to provide artwork for a new children’s book titled The Magician’s Hat, an imaginative story which discusses the magical role that books play in exploring dreams and developing creativity.

Malcom Mitchell discovered Campay’s work through mutual friends, who are art collectors and major supporters of philanthropic work. Mitchell contacted Campay to do the artwork in his book, a request which Campay turned down four times out of concern for his lack of experience in making art for children’s books.

“Because my wife is a University of Florida alumni, when I finally agreed to meet with Malcom, a Georgia player, I was standing on tenuous ground,” jokes Campay. But Mitchell’s sweet personality won Campay over, and the two have become close friends.

Campay contributed twenty-three final pictures for the book but speculates that with all of his completed drawings, he could have filled three children’s books. For Campay, one of the most challenging parts of creating art for The Magician’s Hat was using simple shapes for children.

“I based the main character, David, on myself in high school. I was very tall and wore big glasses,” says Campay. He focused on creating simple faces and bodies for his characters, ones that children could easily enjoy.

“The success of the book has been really awe-inspiring because it’s touched so many kids’ lives,” says Campay. He has enjoyed reading to and speaking with children because they know him as Dennis Campay, the children’s book artist, rather than Dennis Campay, the fine artist.

The book has not only changed the lives of children, but also the life of Campay himself. Creating art for children has “loosened him up” and made his art more whimsical, childlike and primitive, qualities which Campay values for their sincerity and authenticity.

Royalties from the book will benefit Malcom Mitchell’s foundation, Read with Malcom, as well as the Dennis and Colette Studio Art Scholarship which provides scholarships to students in the School of Art and Art History.

Campay began his artistic journey at the age of 42 after receiving his BFA from the Atlanta College of Art. His paintings have been featured in the permanent collections of a number of museums including the Harn Museum of Art, and his work is currently on display in the College of the Arts Dean’s Collection. Dennis and his wife Colette Campay generously provide scholarships to UF students majoring in Studio Art.