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Remembering Fanny, the Matriarch of our family of artists

Today we celebrate the birthday of the matriarch of our Family of artists, Fanny Y. Cory.

Fanny was born October 18, 1887, in Waukegan, IL. She endured many hardships growing up, including the death of her mother and beloved sister, Agnes, from tuberculosis. By her late teens and early twenties she had become one of the leading illustrators in New York City, a profession dominated by men.

She married a Montana cowboy, Fred Cooney. Fred and Fanny raised their three children on their 400 acre ranch next to Lake Sewell (Canyon Ferry Lake), close to Helena, Montana.

To put her three children through college, Fanny took up cartooning. Her daily strip “Sunnysayings”, published by King Features Syndicate in newspapers throughout America for 35 years, was beloved by young and old alike. Besides Sunnysayings, she also illustrated, and sometimes wrote, “Little Miss Muffet” which was King Syndicate’s answer to “Little Orphan Annie.”

You can learn more about her life as an illustrator and cartoonist here.

Fanny had an incredible imagination. She was also a wonderful gardener. Those two things came together in the imaginary world of fairies. During her years in Montana she began a series of watercolor paintings of fairies which after her death was published as the “Fairy Alphabet.” She considered her Fairy Alphabet her greatest artistic achievement. Fanny painted twenty six watercolors of fairies and wrote rhymes for each letter of the alphabet. These watercolors are now stored for preservation in the archive of the Montana museum of history. They are compiled today in her popular “Fairy Alphabet.” Because of copyright, we can’t show the original illustrations. But this “Dancing Daffodil” painting was not used in the series. It shows the soft watercolor and brilliant imagination Fanny had.

In 1952, Fanny moved from her 400 acre ranch near Helena, Montana, to a small cottage on Camano Island perched on a cliff overlooking Saratoga passage and the Olympic mountains to the west. She called the beach below “Montana Beach.” Her cottage was just across the road and down a long driveway from “Sea Crest Farm”, the farm on Camano where my mother, Ann, grew up.

Fanny welcomed her beloved grandchildren into her home, including my mom, Ann. She formed the “Grunt and Groan Art Club” where each member was encouraged to paint a painting every week, and they often painted together at her cottage.

Fanny continued to paint fairies into her 80’s. Even though her eyesight was failing and hand was a little shaky, they are charming.

Fanny also painted a little watercolor every day, a scene from her window, looking out over the water.

And every day into her 80’s Fanny did pushups and sit ups and read a chapter from the Bible. At night she kissed the picture of her beloved sister Agnes that sat on her dresser.

Fanny passed away on July 28th, 1972, at her daughter Sayre’s home in Stanwood, WA. But her creative gifts, her imagination, and her zest for life live on in her family of artists and creatives.

This October, Sunnyshore Studio is celebrating the life and legacy of Fanny Y. Cory by releasing the second season of “Fairy Sightings”. This short videos were shot at the home of Betty Dorotik, just a few hundred feet south of the cottage where Fanny lived. Here’s one of those videos from Season Two:

If you’d like to learn more about Fanny’s story you can check out this documentary I made in 2017.

My son, Julian and I, spent a couple days of vacation in Montana. Visiting the sights and shooting footage. His middle name is “Cory” named after his famous great-great-grandmother Fanny Y. Cory.

Release Announcement of Queen of Montana Beach: the story of artist Fanny Y. Cory.

Sunnyshore Studio announces the release of Toni McCarty’s biography of artist Fanny Y. Cory, Queen of Montana Beach.

In this fast-paced, engaging, captivating biography you will discover Fanny Y. Cory, one of the top illustrators and cartoonists in the twentieth century. You will watch her overcome great sadness and bring smiles to people across America. There is something in this book for everyone! Artists will be inspired by her artistic career, motivated by the desire to provide for her family. History buffs will enjoy snapshots of New York City at the turn of the century, life on a ranch in Montana during the years of the Great Depression, and life on Camano Island in the 1950’s and 60’s. And people who love children will be delighted at a woman who captured them in all of their innocence and whimsy.

You can purchase a copy at our Studio or our online store:



On Fanny Y. Cory’s taste for fine clothes and hunting and turning in the manuscript two days early.

My great-grandmother made it big in New York City in her early twenties, even though her mother had died when she was ten, her formal education had ended in the eight grade, and she had to support her sister who had contracted tuberculosis (and at times her father as well).

In digging into her life I’ve been surprised by how regularly she was written about in the NY Times and other large newspapers. I’ve also noticed from her photographs that she enjoyed dressing nice. Even though she lived for fifty years on a ranch in Montana, with no indoor plumbing or running water, she carried herself with grace and elegance, and liked nice clothes as these pictures testify.

FYC, dressed in fur trimmed winter coat, hat, gloves

She also loved the wild, going on long camping trips, spending days fishing, and hunting too. I hear she was quite a shot. Here is a picture of Fanny Y. a hunting party at the ranch (she is second from the left).

Ted, FYC and unknowns, hunters

And here is a picture of Fanny with a deer she’s shot.


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Her story is of a remarkable woman who overcame great odds, motivated by a a deep love for her family and a remarkable gift of art.

And I’m thrilled to share that I turned in the cover and content of her biography to the printer TWO DAYS ahead of schedule. The wonderful, fast-paced, engaging biography of Fanny Y. Cory will be released on Saturday, October 14th at Sunnyshore Studio.

Queen Cover - FINAL

The Queen of Montana Beach Team: Interviews with Toni McCarty (author), Sharilyn Stachler (editor), Jacob Dorsey (layout), and Jason Dorsey (graphic design).

Enjoy these interviews with the “dream team” that brought Toni McCarty’s wonderfully researched and written biography Queen of Montana Beach: The story of artist Fanny Y. Cory to completed form. It will be released on Saturday, October 14th at Sunnyshore Studio, Camano Island, WA.

Interview with Toni McCarty, Author


Sunnyshore Studio: Toni, how does it feel for you to have Queen of Montana Beach about to be released in a few months?

Toni: It’s the fulfillment of a dream to have Fanny Cory’s intriguing life story available to today’s readers.

Sunnyshore Studio: In our shooting of the documentary of Fanny’s life, I came to the conclusion that her story is worth telling. In your own words, why do you think that is?

Toni: Cory was one of the most sought after and highest paid illustrators in the Golden Age of illustration. However, when she moved to Montana to marry rancher Fred Cooney—and to raise three children—she fell out of contact with publishers back east. Eventually hard times fell on the ranch, forcing her to find a new way to support the family. She came up with the idea of creating cartoons and comic strips and soon became one of the first women to succeed in the male dominated field. She was nationally syndicated until her retirement in 1957.

Always devoted to family, she valued her role as mother above her worldly achievements. Her strong spirit and sunny disposition served her loved ones well–and pulled her through her own personal tragedies. Fanny Cory claimed, “There’s nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it.”

Sunnyshore Studio: How was it for you to work with Sharilyn as editor? Tell us something about the editing process you worked with Sharilyn on?

Toni: Working with Sharilyn was a dynamic and rewarding experience. Her strong skills and infinite patience helped recover “lost” chapters and wayward citations, and her thoughtful suggestions were certainly appreciated.

Sunnyshore Studio: How do you feel about the “look” of Queen of Montana Beach now that you’ve seen it in its final form?

Toni: I was thrilled with the look of the book when I saw the handsome layout created by Jason Dorsey (with help from his son Jacob.) Fanny Cory, an accomplished artist herself, would surely be pleased with the final product—and she’d be extremely proud of her great-grandson for bringing her story to life!

Interview with Sharilyn Stachler, editor


Sunnyshore Studio: Sharilyn, tell us something about yourself? Who are you, and how did you get started as an editor?

Sharilyn: I am a reader! I taught myself to read before kindergarten ever started, and have been reading ever since.  I love words that evoke images in fresh ways, and I love beautiful language.  A few years ago I offered to help a friend by editing blog posts for her business.  Then her husband started a publishing company and, when he needed more editors, I was delighted to become part of that team. As an editor, I love to organize and order words, while keeping the author’s voice intact.  I was privileged to help Jason publish a pair of art books recently, and he asked me to help with Queen of Montana Beach.   

Sunnyshore Studio: You played a pretty big role in giving Jason the “green light” to do the book. He trusts your opinion, and when you said it was a good story and worth being published he decided to move forward with the project. Why did you think the book should be published?

Sharilyn: While any manuscript is rough on the first read-through, it doesn’t take long to get a feel for the ideas and the language being offered.  Toni’s narrative voice is lively and engaging, and I knew it would be an interesting and appealing read.  And of course, who better to publish the story of Fanny Y. Cory than her great-grandson, Jason, and Sunnyshore Studio.

 Sunnyshore Studio: How would you describe this book? Why does it matter? Why are you excited about it being published?

 Sharilyn: The more I read this book—and as editor, I’ve read it many times!—the more I admire Fanny Y. Cory.  She was an amazing person who lived with intention.  And through it all, she had fun.  Whether Fanny inspires you to live better, yourself, as she does me, or you simply enjoy reading about her storied life, you will not have wasted your time reading Queen of Montana Beach.

 Sunnyshore Studio: What was it like working with Toni and Jason on this project?

 Sharilyn: Jason is fun to work with on any project.  He has so many ideas, with so much enthusiasm and energy to throw behind all of them.  I am truly flattered by his confidence in my work; when we faced some hiccups on this project he simply said, “Then I’ll just trust you.” And Toni gave me a huge amount of trust as well.  It’s a painful thing to let somebody alter your hard work! She was amenable to almost any change I suggested, and quick to respond to anything I asked of her. In the end, I think we’ve created a book that anyone will thoroughly enjoy reading.

Interview with Jacob Dorsey, Graphic Design

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Sunnyshore Studio: Jacob, tell us a little about yourself.

Jacob: My name is Jacob Dorsey, oldest son of Jason and Jenny Dorsey and great great grandson of Fanny Y. Cory.

Sunnyshore Studio: How did you get involved in this project? Was it planned or spontaneous?

Jacob: Near the middle of August, I took a vacation from schoolwork and my summer job during a week and a half vacation in Redmond Washington once my summer class ended. Originally, the book was of secondary concern to me, as my father wanted me to work on an animated logo for Sunnyshore Studio. This changed, however, once he asked me to do some of the technical grunt-work of copying over the 34 chapters from the final draft of FYC’s biography.

Sunnyshore Studio: What did your dad – Jason – ask you to do on the Queen of Montana Beach?

Jacob: The finer details of arranging the chapter number in the correct location, changing the style to drop capital for the first letter of each chapter, and making sure that the font was uniform in style were also part of my contributions to the book.

Sunnyshore Studio: Jacob, what did you enjoy about this project? What do you have to say about Fanny Y. Cory?

Jacob: I have heard tales of FYC throughout the years, most vivid of which are her marriage and of how she went door to door to different publishing companies in New York looking for illustrating work, and I especially enjoyed learning new bits and pieces about her life as I read through a few of the chapters.

Interview with Jason Dorsey, Artistic Director

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Sunnyshore Studio: How did Sunnyshore Studio decide to work on this project?

Jason Dorsey: In the winter of 2017, my wife Jenny suggested that Sunnyshore Studio do a show to honor the artistic legacy of my great grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory. I began to look at dates for that show, and noticed that her birthday was in October (October 17th). I figured out that October 2017 would be the 140th anniversary of Fanny’s birth and we decided to do a show then.

I had heard about Toni McCarty and her book on my great-grandmother. So I contacted her and asked if she would be interested in letting me read it to see if Sunnyshore Studio would be interested in publishing it. She sent me her draft, I read the first few chapters and liked it a lot, but wanted a real professional’s opinion so I sent it on to Sharilyn. Sharilyn said that it was a great story that would have a wide appeal, so I was sold on the project from that point on.

Sunnyshore Studio: What has been most enjoyable about the project.

Jason: It’s been fascinating for me to get to real dive into Fanny’s life. I knew some of the stories but I had no idea. I mean, this woman was being written up in the gossip column of the New York Times and other major newspapers regularly. I had no idea how famous she was, nationally and even internationally. But what I enjoyed most was being able to see some of myself in her. It was like discovering a part of my story.

Sunnyshore Studio: What do you see of Fanny in you?

Jason: Her determination, and she was very results oriented, fast-paced, a mover and a shaker, but all the time she had a deep love for her family and a loyalty to her friends and loved ones. I hope that these things, to some degree, are characteristics of my life too.

Sunnyshore Studio: What was hardest about the project.

Jason: It was super great working with Toni and Sharilyn. They are both amazing and did a great deal of work without me in the loop at all. What was most challenging for me was just creating the basic design of the book and the cover graphic. I know my family paid a price for the stress I was under. But at the end of the day, it was just a joy, a pure joy to be part of this project.

Introducing Toni McCarty and her book Queen of Montana Beach

Sunnyshore Studio is thrilled to announce it’s next book project Queen of Montana Beach written by Toni McCarty. It tells the story of the matriarch of our family of artists, Fanny Y. Cory. It is scheduled to be released Saturday October 14th. The release of Queen of Montana Beach will correspond with a documentary on the life of Fanny Y. Cory and a Sunnyshore Studio art show of her illustrations, art and cartoons.

Toni has researched and written a very readable, very entertaining story. We caught up with her to get to know her better and to find out what inspired her to write Queen of Montana Beach: the story of Fanny Y. Cory. 

Sunnyshore Studio: Toni, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got started in writing.

Toni: I live in Santa Barbara, California with my husband Seymour Weisberg and I have three grown children, Rhonda, Aaron and Phillip.

After studying teaching at Washington State University and the University of Washington, I dropped out of school and started my family. In the mid-seventies I returned to school, obtaining a degree in Filmstudies from University of California at Santa Barbara and later a law degree from Santa Barbara College of Law.

Most of the writing I’ve done has been for performance, from musical comedy to film scripts, even to puppet shows.  In fact, it was as a puppeteer for the City of Minneapolis that I gathered material for a book published by Delacorte Press in 1981, The Skull in the Snow, illustrated by Katherine Colville.  It was written as a folktale book with strong female heroines.  Now in Fanny Cory we have a real life heroine.

Sunnyshore Studio: How did you discover F.Y. Cory?

Toni: By luck I picked up Trina Robbins book The Great Women Cartoonists and there she was.  I was immediately fascinated with her story and intrigued with her art.  I went to the website hosted by Fanny’s grandson Robert Dodson to learn more. It was the beginning.

Sunnyshore Studio: What drew you to her story?

Toni: The quality of her art spoke to me and made me wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before.  Then when I learned of her tragedies as well as her triumphs, I thought her story should be told and that her art be shared with others.  Her vibrant personality and unfailing humor attracted me, as did  her vivid imagination and her undying perseverance. As a mother myself, I was amazed at all she accomplished while devotedly raising three children.

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Sunnyshore Studio: How would you describe F.Y. Cory?

Toni: Raised in poverty, Fanny Cory became a well-known illustrator in the early years of the twentieth century, appearing in the top magazines of the day, and illustrating the works of authors such as L .Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll.  She was one of the few women artists in her day to make it a man’s world.  Living  on an isolated ranch by a lake in Montana, she raised three children with her husband Fred Cooney.

When contracts began to fall off, and hard times hit the ranch, Fanny had to come up with something new.  Her efforts paid off; she became one of the first woman cartoonists, and continued to be syndicated until she retired at age  79.

Known to have a sunny disposition and an infectious laugh, Fanny did suffer from depression more than once. But her optimistic nature won out.  And although she devoted herself to her family above all else, she still kept her art alive.

 Sunnyshore Studio: Is there a message to your biography of F.Y. Cory? If so, what is it?

Toni: The message: Fanny Cory was an extraordinary artist and she deserves to be recognized.

Sunnyshore Studio: Tell us the history behind writing this story? When did you begin? How did you do the research? Etc.

Toni: As I researched her story, I got the idea it would make a good one-woman theatre piece.  I wrote to Bob Dodgson for permission and he kindly gave me the go-ahead.  But as I got deeper into it, it seemed that a book would b a better vehicle for displaying her art, and I changed my goal.

Though researching online brought more material, I knew the most important sources would be her family.   In 2006 I met Sayre Dodgson, Fanny’s daughter, and Fanny’s grandchildren, Margaret Day, Robert Dodgson, Ann Cory Dorsey and Buddy Dodgson in Sayre’s home in Stanwood, Washington.  After interviews with them, my husband and I traveled to Helena, Montana, to speak with Fanny’s son Bob Cooney and his wife Carol.  (I was extremely fortunate to meet both Sayre and Bob before they passed away.) While in Helena, I did research at the Montana Historical Society Museum and was  helped by Kirby Lambert to copy some of her correspondence.   The family also provided correspondence and access to her personal papers including notes for an autobiography, in addition to both audio and video recordings.  As I typed each chapter. I shared it with Fanny’s grandchildren for their comments which were very helpful and encouraging.

Sunnyshore Studio: How does it feel to have Queen of Montana Beach about to be published.

Toni: I feel gratified that Fanny Cory will be introduced to new fans.

F Y Cory

Queen of Montana Beach by Toni McCarty

Book release and signing on Saturday, October 14th at Sunnyshore Studio’s art show and documentary release that celebrates the life and cultural legacy of Fanny Y. Cory.

2803 S. E. Camano Drive, Camano Island, WA 98282

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