"I started my career as an artist at 9", says Gloria Kamen, Bethesda resident, book illustrator and theater sketcher.

"On the street in front of my house in Brooklyn, New York, I drew elaborate pictures in chalk, which the rain regularly washed away. In despair, I turned to working on paper -- mostly blank cardboards from inside silk stocking or shirt boxes from my father's lingerie shop."

Kamen's high school art teacher encouraged her to continue her studies. After completing art school at Pratt in New York, she drew "Batman and Robin and The Shadow for a comic book mill," sketched on every vacation trip -- even her honeymoon -- and illustrated more than 25 books.

In 1957, the year she moved to the Washington area, Kamen illustrated Betty Crocker's "Girls and Boys Cookbook" and more recently has illustrated the books, "The White House Children" and "The Children of Mount Vernon."

"Mount Vernon historians had to authenticate each drawing," said Kamen. "In some cases, I had to simplify some of the detail to fit the period of George Washington's step-grandchildren. The trick was to imagine what kinds of things kids would be doing around the plantation."

Her current projects include the writing and illustrating of a book entitled "Fiorello," based on the life of the late mayor of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia, slated for publication this fall by Atheneum Press. Readers of the Weekend section of The Washington Post can see Kamen's black-and-white theater sketches done at rehearsals for Folger Theater, Arena Stage or Eisenhower Theatre productions. "I like to capture the essence of a play in one shot, a montage or mixture, to create a mood that you can't get from a photograph," said Kamen