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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thoughts on this weeks COLORING PAGE

I like to think other people are enjoying my blog, but it's one of those things, it's never a certain thing. And like any creative endeavor, it must first serve the "self". I decided a coloring page is good because there are goals I've worked in. I need to be more comfortable and adept in my drawing as well as produce more work. A coloring page seemed a great way to keep myself accountable. If people liked my stuff and wanted to feed their creativity or weren't comfortable with drawing, it's my way of saying thank you. I hope they like my stuff so well they consider purchasing my images from my stores on various products or books, as it supports what I do. But if not, just seeing what I do in the vast scheme of things, still is deserving of a thank you (especially when you let me know and dialogue). But this is digressing to Monday's post.

I'm taking a FANTABULOUS, GLORIFICATORY, ULTIPRIMABARNONE THE BEST COURSE. A friend had gifted the School of Visual Storytelling's first course. Just as Will Terry's Photoshop course renewed my drawing (I couldn't see well enough to do ANYTHING, and though I had the equipment, didn't really know or understand how to use it. I think I will be learning about this particular piece for the next fifty years, but having a rudimentary knowledge was changing. I'm working again).

(Jake Parker and Will Terry are wonderful teachers. They are wonderful artists/storytellers. It's rare to find people who can do both. And they are a sheer joy to riff off of, and watch. Truthfully Monday and Wednesday nights are the highlights of my week).

It's the same with this course. I know and knew quite a bit. Some of it is embedded in me. But not KNOWING why something is done and kenning it makes my work a hit or miss at best.

I will say this. I don't believe in false modesty. I'd been rutted into not touting my own horn so I either come off as not having confidence or being so full of myself, there's hardly room for anyone else (that's an incorrect thing, I work ALONE a lot and I'm passionate, so it does get overpowering and perhaps intimidating even for me, lol, but put it in context and realize I do want to hear what others are saying, but want to hear something different inside my head. Also don't tell a thing like it's fact without being able to back up your reasoning. Sorry). Anyhow, this is long winded.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can draw. It took a lifetime to get here, don't know if it's a gift or an effort or more like a combination. I say that because it's a "nice" thing, but not everything.

Drawing in Photoshop is only BEGINNING to feel natural, and the programs and Wacom aren't working properly and I can't reseat them. So I don't know if it's ME (don't like the feel/glide of the pen on the Wacom surface) or the computer, the Wacom or a combination.

I suck at perspective. My design skills are less than mediocre, most of the time, and my coloring skills can be wonderful. Or not. Yes I can spend the next ten years muddling through that, but a CLASS with people who know their stuff, is ever so much more quicker. I still have to put in the time, but you know what, pointing me in the best direction is a great saver of all the things that aggravate me.

If you don't know what you're good at, you can't "sell" yourself. If you don't know what you need to improve, you can't do better, very much not really, because it's only a half-hearted stab at the problem(s).

So the coloring pages have become a good way to incorporate what I'm learning in class. I don't know if it's going to change what I do so much or wildly. I will have to go through the process to find this answer. Applying shaping and design concepts, line of action, proportions, leading the eye (something I knew about but didn't understand as fully as I do now, and as I say DOING something isn't the same thing, so it will take a lot of practice). I'd started the pages as a way to up my traffic, and get new people here. Selfish reasons, I need the lucre.

But now there's a real purpose to them. Not only being accountable to the commitment to DRAW, BUTT IN CHAIR. But also to speed up my process, improve it so I can work faster, more visually and show more perception. But now to incorporate all the things I'm learning in this class so it becomes second nature. That embracing your fear thing? That's the shtuff I don't do so well. In order to communicate on the level I'd like to I will have to master it.

One of the tidbits from class the other night that I got, and will become a centerpiece for ALL my work (easier said than done). When you're writing or illustrating, you want your reader to participate with you to that end. If you make it so difficult they have to THINK about it too much, you've not connected. That's not to say you can't be BUSY (think of getting lost in those I Spy books), but you must remain focused on what it is you're trying to convey. So with this long-winded explanation, the first coloring page to this end. Do let me hear about it!

Book reviews

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Wanda Gag, Caldecott Honor
University of Minnesota Press 1938, renewed 1965 Robert Janssen

A longer, more foreboding and rich telling of the story of Snow White.  The illustrations are beautiful and have an old world, wood cut (I think of Albrecht Durer) feeling, beautifully designed and executed. Reading the story it becomes apparent the ties to other stories that are embedded in our childhood conscious, from the Three pigs, to Goldilocks.

Other books by Wanda Gag: Millions of Cats (Newbery honor award, Lewis Carroll Shelf award, the oldest picture book still in print), Nothing at All (Caldecott honor), ABC Bunny (Newbery Honor)

Janell Cannon, ASPC Henry Bergh Children's Books' Award
Harcourt, 2004

Pinduli, the hungry young hyena wanders off before supper time, and gets "lessons" from a variety of animals on how to be "better".  But the story takes a surprising turn, and Pinduli ends up having the last laugh in this tale of judgment, empathy and the animal kingdom. The story stayed with me after I'd left it, and the illustrations are rendered in Cannon's singularly recognizable style. Stellaluna is one of my top all-time-loved picture books. Pinduli is giving it a run for the money.

Other books by Jannell Cannon: Stellaluna, Crickwing, Verdi, Trupp: A Fuzzhead Tale

Castaway Cats
Lisa Wheeler
Ponder Goembel, illustrator
Atheneum Books for Young Readers,
A Richard Jackson Book/Simon & Schuster, 2006

So you might notice I reviewed one of Lisa's books earlier. First, this is with a different illustrator, second I love, Love, LOVE this combo, Lisa and Ponder together make some of my favorite picture books. Third, it's my blog and so there! Sorry, had to get it out of my system. I read this book out loud at the library and it captivated not just me, but the two girls, Alexis and Vicky as I did. I told them that Lisa had shared she sometimes sits under her trees and if her writing makes her giggle she knows she's on the right course and puts it in. I giggled a few times, and told them, I bet she giggled at that one.

It's a great rollicking rhyme tale of disaster, conflict and comraderie. Wheeler's rhyme is spot on and the irony and puns have the purrrr-fect balance to Goembel's bright colorations and superb strokes.

Other books by Lisa Wheeler: Sailor Moo (Ponder Goembel, illustrator); Dino Basketball (Barry Gott, illustrator); Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum (Harriet Kasak Portfolio and Laura Huliska Beith, illustrators); Jazz Baby (R. Gregory Christie, illustrator); Mammoth on the Move (Kurt Cyrus, illustrator); Ugly Pie (Heather Solomon, illustrator); The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses (Zachariah OHora, illustrator)

Other books by Ponder Goembel: Swamp Song (Helen Ketterman, author); Hi Pizza Man! (Virginia Walter, author); Old Cricket (Lisa Wheeler, author); Dinosnores (Kelly Dipucchio, author); Give Me Wings (Lee Bennett Hopkins, author); Animal Fair (Board Buddies); Mama Mine, Mama Mine (Rita Gray, author); Good Day, Good Night (Marilyn Singer, author); Mr. Mosquito Put on His Tuxedo (Barbara Olenyik Morrow, author);

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's in a character?

I kinda sorta fibbed. I said I'd only publish one spread and the cover of Annie. But I've already shared these images, and they will change. Perhaps a lot, don't know yet. I still haven't decided the nature of the coloration to this, I love the old hand-colored postcards, but the photography, art and posters from the period are wonderful as well. And who knows, perhaps something of a  modern rather than a retro feel would be more appropriate. That will be one of the things I'll be experimenting with the next couple of weeks when I have a couple of images in the stages I want to play with it. Yet another thing to love about Photoshop, I will be able to play with those images in that way and it won't take a few months like it would have at another time in my life. Right now though, I'm nailing down the sequence and thumbnails and the characters themselves(I will share the thumbnails, and the character studies). It used to be a lot of my compositions were set in stone. I saw what I saw what I saw.

Yah a little OCD in my artistic pursuit, makes that 10,000 hours easy to devote. But it limits the real feeling of what I delivered. I could see the stilted nature, (and of course for every "mistake" I fixed, two more would crop up in the re-do). The class I'm taking is impactful in so many ways (It's Will Terry's and Jake Parkers' class on Visual Storytelling, I can HIGHLY recommend it. I'm so thankful a friend took empathy on some of the hard knocks I was having and gifted me this class. I think if I end up having success at all, for the work to stand on its own, will be because they were able to explain not only what I kinda sorta knew, but also what I didn't and why. Seeing it really brings it home). Between that and Photoshop, the changes in my work will actually be productive rather than badly recycled. The first spread of Annie, this is the computer rendering of my dummy rough:

Not too bad, but pretty boring. Not too bad because there's a lot of detail. Annie's cat was featured in a well-known children's book, by the Harlem Renaissance poet, Countee Cullen, who had visited the Old Homestead a few times (not when his father-in-law, W.E.B. Dubois did, I think it was prior to him). Countee's book, My Lives and How I Lost them, by Pumpkin Cummings gave Ann a giggle right to the end of her generous life. I think adding details to characters, whether they are explained or not (and isn't that what author's notes and study guides are for?) really enriches the whole reading, especially the biography experience. So this was one of my first visual thoughts...

Except the perspective is all off, the character stilted and not formed well,  and it wasn't nearly as exuberant as I wanted. (The last years of her life, Ann lived in the Barron Center. She had MS and it had progressed along. She was diagnosed with the disease as a young woman, was grateful it wasn't a brain tumor and never let it stop her from raising a family or teaching and singing. She didn't complain, she switched gears, she was positively one of the most positive people I've ever met. With so much to be bitter or angry about, it didn't seem to touch her, instead she sought the joyous, the thoughtful the YES in her life and others. I REALLY WANT TO CONVEY THAT IN THIS BOOK).

But it took doing it, for me to realize nope, it didn't work. I still learned a great deal about using Photoshop, the character and there were things I liked about it, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Part of the problem I had and have. I have ONE photo reference of Ann as child (and she was older than when I set the story), and my memories of what she looked like were her as a mature adult. Luckily I'm one of those people I tend to recognize people no matter what the age (though I was much, much better at that as a kid, lol, one of my favorite-drive-some-people-crazy game, recognizing people met a few times, to different times in their lives). But extrapolating that to a three dimensional form, or to a younger person, kinda sorta (get that's one of my favorite approximations?)a reverse engineer, is difficult.

Part of the challenge as well, because these are REAL people, I want and need to honor my friend and what she loved and represent as accurately as possible while serving the story, the art and the fact that I really can't KNOW a lot of this (and you wondered why I was so full of doubt! Not only that, but this story belongs to other people I think it's an important one, and even entitled it in my author's note: We Become Our Possibilities). No pressure there!

Next attempt:

Better I think! Liking the colors, still a bit odd though. I added a Freedom quilt. Ann may not have had one, but her grandfather Shurtleff Emerson was a famed abolitionist (and a relative of Ralph Waldo Emerson) who was lynched for his beliefs, and the fact he'd married a woman of black and First Nation heritage. It's how Ann came to live in Maine, her mother Rose and her mother fled here from New Orleans after the trauma of losing her father. Rose grew up in Portland and moved to Old Orchard Beach after her divorce from Ann's father. 

I'd bought a book on character development and realized the silhouette was pretty boring, and Ann was anything but boring. I tried to make her more dynamic. I also actually went into my sister's bedroom and got on my knees and LOOKED at the perspective. YUP, it was off, lol.

The next attempt

So far this is the most successful. But the class I'm taking has me thinking I need to do some other things. Besides helping me clarify what I need to do for perspective's sake and design (and color is coming up, I'm so danged excited!) but now I think after I do the two spreads I'm working on, I will take the time to do a bunch of character studies, at the very least of Annie, perhaps Eddie and Maude as well, (though I think Maude is pretty consistent. I will talk a little bit about their characterization when I share the working spread that will most likely end up in the book, here). The little bit of extra work will "work out" the problems of continuity, resemblance, expression, etc. 

 I must say I don't think I've done this yet, so I do it here. This is an important story/book for a lot of reasons. I'm having a wonderful time working on it (after the challenge of giving myself permission and admitting, as many great and wonderful artists out there, I really don't want someone else illustrating this particular book, it's such an intimate part of me, from the physical and mental. The thread between Ann and I is stronger than just a commercial effort. She truly informed my life, and I loved her and these things from an early childhood, Old Orchard Beach, history, so it's important also I do it all justice).

But this wouldn't be possible if first Ann hadn't lived and shared her remarkable life. If her daughter Judy Searcy hadn't shared the childhood photo of she and her beloved Eddie in such a generous fashion. Or if Shauni Drake-Reid hadn't shared the photo of her mom, Judy. I value your friendships, I'm so happy you want to share this with people, and most of all, that you all shared with me. Thank you.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The pas de deux part of the two fer (and a coloring page)...

This may seem off topic to a blog on art, and I've had people sometimes defriend me in the social cyber sphere because I've got opinions and share them. Okay sometimes A LOT. But that's what an artist does, I think.

Artists, whether they be into music, paint and pixels, words on a page, movement or any other expression are meant to EXPRESS. I'm arrogant enough, I want what I manifest to be worth my time in this place called Earth, so I work hard not just at that whole art thing, but the people thing as well. So this might SEEM off topic, but for me it is intrinsic to art--- especially my art. And this is from someone who is very uncomfortable with feeling and fearful of just about everything. I just work every day to get over it, sometimes more successful than others.

I've said this before, I will keep saying it, because I keep forgetting it. In order to create anything worthy of art, I embrace my fears. Sometimes I'm ham-handed in my efforts, sometimes it takes me a WHILE to get it. But anything worth creating has taken that wrangle and effort. I could say the same for my life.

This was recently brought home to me again, after another particularly brutal time, prior to these events.

I had complained of a hurt a bit ago, because I'd shown up at one of my favorite libraries and received the kind of reception I often get, and dread. In all fairness, it was bad timing, it was a hot day, there was a whirlwind of activity (which is true of most libraries nowadays and they work UNDER BUDGET, most of them are stressed, because they are a dedicated lot. Really, because of my movement around the last few years, I've visited a few libraries and I had been worried about the libraries. Now I'm worried for the librarians. The economic stresses have reached well into their structure and the full time job they used to do they must do in less than twenty hours, and still be gracious to people and meet all the public needs of their job. Usually with less staff.  So if you can, VOLUNTEER, your library will love you for it! But I digress).

In another life I might have gone off on such a thing (more likely it wouldn't have happened, we would have both been in a much better place). Instead I walked away hurt and vented a little at home and online and felt bad.

When I found an old friend volunteered at the library, I almost didn't go, but I have determined I was going to give people the opportunity to make their interaction with me about something other than appearances. And I needed to confront my fears, again. And besides, I could just ignore the offending person. Except a BUNCH of wonderful things happened. First I found my elder daughter's first teacher worked there. Then my friend came in, and I got to thank her so much for mentoring me when I really needed that beginning push. She encouraged me along the way, and I was able to give her a hug for having missed her for so long.

And that wasn't even the wonderful, WONDERFUL thing. The person who hurt my feelings came up and asked if I illustrated, I informed her that I wrote and illustrated and we'd met. Her whole demeanor sagged. She'd thought she'd recognized me, and she felt horrible for the way she'd treated me and apologized. She wanted to take the time to view the book I'd wanted to share before Nana's Gift, and the things she said more than made up for the initial hurt. I left the library bolstered, elated and mostly restored.

Except I'd not been gracious and had been extremely defensive. At first I felt exonerated and happy, I'd been right, I really was someone she would find good in and want to have around (have you noticed I love kids and books?!) But it quickly wore off and flattened. I really didn't like the way I'd dealt with her, even if it was still too raw and she'd originally been off to a bad start. Goodness knows I've done that so often. The best is when people could see my humanity and not only forgave me for it, but embraced me. I determined I would not only apologize, and explain to her how it hurt, and that what she did MATTERED. I want to know that about myself, so why not do that for someone else?

Then the truly great thing happened. It was work, hadn't planned on taking the walk, it threw a wrench in my timing, but it was exactly what I needed to do.

In the course of the apology I found we had so many things in common, I had been correct, I'd caught her not only at a bad time on that particular day, but there had been struggles on lots of levels that immediately made me glad I felt the remorse. She told me about an event, that I ended up attending and the speaker was inspirational. The speaker needed help getting her book published, and I'm happy to have met her and hope to help her in her goal.

The librarian was a fount of information, I know she'll help in some of my goals (I want to be able to get my e-books into the libraries, but it's a process, as well as get the word out about my books and efforts). I had an idea for a book I hope to work jointly on with her, because I know absolutely it's a necessary thing, and I have a feeling we'll have a great time working on it.

So what's this got to do with art? Art is about feeling, taking chances, bracing and then embracing your fears,  and then articulating all that so you can take others on a similar journey. Art is about empathy. If your life is not empathic to a certain degree-- how can you hope to make art? That doesn't mean to run out and become Mother Theresa (though we probably could use a few more like her). But it does mean, suspending judgment and ask more questions. Don't take things at FACE value (you'd not talk to me, because truth be told, the thing I hate is people who used to know me wanting to know whatever happened to me-- lack of funds and care darling-- and others dismissing me, because I've lived close to the bone and after 56 years, it shows. I don't need pity but I'll take your empathy and I will return that gift polished and shined).

Doesn't matter how fearful you are, learn and push yourself to live fearlessly, and you will be able to create something that people will respond to. It will make you an artist. I thank everyone in my life good, bad and even the indifferent (you haters, you know who you are!) because you've made me the artist I am.

For those of you who read this and are disappointed, I'm sorry.  You can see more of my work on my Facebook Fanpage or at For the others, live fearlessly (not stupidly, don't do anything that will imperil you!) but by all means let me know if and how it affects what you create.

And now for something completely different, this weeks coloring page...

Friday's posts a day lot and NOT a dollar short, it's a two-fer again...

I confess, this week's review books are all about the illustrators. I loved the illustrations and picked up the books for that. Happily, I loved the stories as well. They are all over the board as far as length and writing style go, but I think they are well worth checking out (I got them from the library, get it, get it?!)

Red Hat
Lita Judge
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013

Lita is one of my favorite illustrators, and I'm more familiar with her more realistic handling of her media (watercolor). She's equally adept at the whimsical. The story is told in nonsensical, sensitive onomatopoeia, truly expressive of the actions. It's an adventure of a purloined, not-so-gently-used red hat, humorous and basically rollicking. The illustrations are charming and fluid, the characters joyous and the simple sounds fun to act out.

Other books by Lita Judge: S is for S'Mores: A Camping Alphabet (Helen Foster, author, 2011); Red Sled (2011); Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying (2012); Mogo, the Third Warthog (Donna Jo Napoli, author, 2008); Yellowstone Moran: Painting the American West (2009); Born to be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World (2010); Pennies for Elephants (2009); One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II (2007); Ugly (Donna Jo Napoli, author 2006); How Big Were Dinosaurs (2013)

Painting the Wind: A Story of Vincent Van Gogh
Michelle Dionetti
Kevin Hawkes, illustrator
Bonnie Bash, calligrapher
Little Brown and Company, 1996

A story for an older reading, the story is fiction rooted firmly in fact. Told through Claudine the housekeeper's daughter, it starts at the beginning of the eventful visit of Paul Gaugin, and a tough period in the artist Van Gogh's life. Told with sensitivity and optimism, it strikes a wonderful balance between tragic and purpose and art and life. I have always loved Kevin Hawkes' use of colors and light, and it's exceptional in this book, reflective of Van Gogh's art, and still very much a recognizable piece by Kevin. This book is an oldie but a goodie, but a wonderful introduction to art, depression, kindness for starters for a more mature reader.

Other books by Michelle Dionetti: Coal Mine Peaches (Anita Riggio, illustrator, 1991); Mice to the Rescue! (Carol Newsom, illustrator, 1995)

Other books by Kevin Hawkes: Library Lion (Michelle Knudsen, author 2009); A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea (Michael Ian Black, author, 2010); My Little Sister Hugged an Apple (Bill Grossman, 2008); Chicken Cheeks (Michael Ian Black author, 2009); Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly (Alan Madison, 2012); Sidewalk Circus (Paul Fleischman, 2007)

Testing the Ice: a True Story about Jackie Robinson
Sharon Robinson
Kadir Nelson, illustrator
Scholastic 2009

Sharon tells a warm and intimate tale of her father, his place as a hero in her life and how his accomplishments extended far beyond what she realized. It's a wonderful intersect of the familiar with the extraordinary and an uplifting perspective on an American hero. As to Kadir Nelson's art, I find him one of the most powerful artists working today. His illustrations are monumental in feel without being heavy, too-done or stilted, great design yet still a slice of life. No one does it better.

Other books by Sharon Robinson: Promises to Keep, How Jackie Robinson Changed America (2004); Jackie Robinson, American Hero (2013);  Safe At Home (2007); Jackie's Gift (E.B. Lewis, illustrator, 2010); Slam Dunk (2009)

Other books by Kadir Nelson: We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball (2008); Dancing in the Wings (Debbie Allen, author, 2003); Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad (Ellen Levine, 2007); I Have a Dream (Martin Luther King, Jr., author, The Coretta Scott King Award 2012); Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Jane Addams Honor Book, award, 2011); Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Caldecott Honor, Carole Boston Weatherford, author, 2006); Nelson Mandela (2013); A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (Matt De la Pena, author, 2013)

Art and Max
David Wiesner
Clarion Books, 2010

I have no idea what the links between David Wiesner and me is, and I don't think I want it to stop, but I have to say, I get these great ideas, and find out he's just come out with the book (no, I did not copy dang it) and of course done it magnificently. My caveat, my work-in-progress, Whateverafter, was conceived in 2001, but it has taken me so long to develop the skills and time to render it, his Three Pigs and now Art and Max, will look like I'm derivative. Just means I'm going to have to seriously work to differentiate my great ideas from his great ideas (see I can be taught, it just takes a while).

Max wants to do what Art does, and it all goes crazy wild in the way Wiesner does it. I love his stuff, harkens to all the Chuck Jones silliness, with the delivery of  Da Vinci. Nuf Said. I. Will. Own. This. Book.

Other books by David Wiesner: Flotsam (2006); The Three Pigs (Caldecott Medal, 2001); Tuesday (Caldecott Medal, 2011); The Loathsome Dragon (Kim Kahng, author, 2005); Hurricane (2008); Sector Seven (Caldecott Honor Medal, 1999)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Acting like one of the big guys (NOT all illustrators paint)...

There are so many reasons to pursue traditional publication. Not the least of which, professional eyes on your work, who not only love the genre you're working (and presumably your work) but also knows the markets, with the tools and connections to reach them.

Many writers submit to a publisher thinking they need an illustrator, when often it hurts the chances at acceptance.

Unless you make clear the writing and illustrations can be considered together, but also apart and should be accepted as two separate submissions. Rarely do combo submissions hit and the editor/publisher wants to keep people together, more often than not, one of the two submissions are weaker. If you're an established team, if both the illustrator and writer are working at the professional level, and if you're willing to let the other person be accepted while you are not, then learn what the publisher wants and submit just your own work (if YOU are the writer, illustrator, then make sure YOUR work, ALL of it is at a professional level, because both parts reflect upon each other-- an editor once told me she was looking for the reason to say "NO").

(CAVEAT: RESEARCH PUBLISHERS.  If a publisher asks YOU for MONEY, proceed with caution. This isn't the way the business works, unless you're self-publishing; they don't have your best interests at heart, and may not be reliable. Ask others, Google is your best friend, and read the fine print. Make sure you know what you get for your money, and the publisher is known for delivering it. I will deliver this caveat every time I speak about publishing, but realize friends don't let friends drive vanity sales.)

Anyhow. Two other advantages editors have over self publishing is a wide variety of artists to choose from and editors sometimes think outside the box, as artists sometimes do. I mention this, because nearly as often as I've heard, "I wish I wrote-- I've got a children's story!" I've also heard "I wish I drew/illustrated-- I love children's stories!", and the true purpose of this post...

 Perhaps you can...

NOT all illustrators paint. I'll list some of the more unusual illustrating methods. If you're self publishing, and need an illustrator, think about the character of your work, and the skillsets of you or people you know.

Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill's Ten Mice for Tet comes immediately to mind. Not only were there two writers, but there are two illustrators: To Ngoc Trang and Pham Viet Dinh.

The collaboration was rather different in this case. First the illustrations were painted, then they were embroidered. Personally, I think the photographers should (and more than likely are in the colophon) credited, as well, because the special art projects take a certain nuance to reproduce well. The textures IN this book is AMAZING.

Or perhaps cut paper is something you enjoy playing with. My friend Denise Ortakales or Cathryn Falwell are wonderful examples of what you can do with such things (you can make calligraphy paste papers, origami papers, or any kinds of bits, what you can imagine, it can be)
And of course Lois Ehlert.  Her career has been long and starried, but each book still has a wonderful individual taste. 

Another surprise is Denise Fleming. Her art is a surprise, because though she calls her illustrations collages, and they are paintings, the paper is the art and the art is the paper. She creates her illustrations from colored paper pulp.  Her most recent book shows the technical skill and level she's come to (anyone who has made paper knows what I'm talking about), and it's a very intriguing idea:

Christine Brallier is documenting her process of illustrating a children's book in mosaic. There's sculpting, bas relief, steam punk art. I have a sculptor friend, Michael Shaughnessy who works in of all things: HAY. Just like good writing, it's not so much the topic, but the expression behind it.

I write this not because I think you need a gimmick. And most definitely, the art should reflect the text, reflect the story, and speak to your reader. However, we get trapped into ruts of thinking, and often we forget we have unhidden talents hiding in plain site. Or know others who do. This is a post to just think of the possibilities.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review Friday, and a coloring page...

An old rubberstamp reworked, still working the kinks out. If you download would you let me know how it looks either here (working on the comments problem) or Facebook. I won't post anything too risque, but I will mix up my coloring page with content not only for children, but this kind of thing as well (when I was a kid, I loved doing "fashion" drawings and made a lot of paper dolls to that end. Anyhow, please let me know if you like the coloring pages and feel free to share your results with me! Now to the reviews:

Kite Flying
Grace Lin
Alfred A. Knopf , 2002

Mei-mei and Jie-Jie make a dragon kite with their mom and dad. On a windy day a family enjoys the art of Chinese kite making, with that special added touch! This is a quickly told tale, the pieces of it rapidly coming together as fast as the hands and efforts of the family and the telling of the book itself. Lin is a master of making  illustrations of bright primary colored shapes with multi-layered patterns. The illustrations beam through the page.

Other books by Grace Lin:  Dumpling Days (a Pacy Lin novel); Ugly Vegetables; Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same; Dim Sum for Everyone; The Year of the Rat (a Pacy Lin novel); The Year of the Dog (a Pacy Lin novel); Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Newberry Honor, medal)

Peachtree Publications, 2013

Susan Stockdale also works in big graphics, though her colors are more muted, and the patterning exuberant in a different kind of way. The illustrations do nothing to tamp the beauty of the highly designed quality of the book. The characters whiz through in a simple rhyme, but there are slower activities and explanations at the end of the book that will continue to engage the curious reader. 

Other books by Susan Stockdale: Bring on the Birds; Fabulous Fishes; Carry Me, Animal Babies on the Move; Nature's Paintbrush, the Patterns and Colors Around You; Some Sleep Standing Up.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Oliver Jeffers
Philomel Books, 2006

This is a wry book with creative use of text that I don't mind at all (more often than not, books will sometimes sacrifice legibility for creativity, and that doesn't happen at all in this book). Jeffers book feels a bit like a sequential art(comic), graphic novel with great layering of textures and paint, pages, collaged into a wonderful book that for me is a bit reminiscent of Melissa Sweet or Lisa Kopelke's work-- very freeflowing painterly quality.  Henry decides to overeat his way to becoming the smartest boy in the world, which eventually backfires, but he eventually finds a  better solution.

Other books by Oliver Jeffers: The Day the Crayons Quit; Stuck; This Moose Belongs to Me; How to Catch a Star; The Heart and The Bottle; Lost and Found.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
William Joyce  and Joe Bluhm
Antheneum Books for Young Children,
Simon and Schuster, 2012

A must have for Joyce lovers, or those who loved the Oscar winning short. The warm sometimes glowing illustrations settle into the heart. Joyce is a genius at setting and character and color. The story of a lonely man who dedicates himself to the books which set him free, inspired the film, but the book's inception is no less inspirational and miraculous.  For any and all bibliophiles.

Other books by William Joyce: The Sandman (the Guardians of Childhood); The Man in the Moon(The Guardians of Childhood); A Day with Wilbur Robinson; George Shrinks (Reading Rainbow selection);  Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo (Reading Rainbow); Rolie Polie Olie;  Santa Calls.

There seems to be a real retro thing going on. So the coloring page for today was one of the old-timey rubberstamps I  had designed. Let me know how it prints out and what you think-- hope you like it!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Filling a cup, planting a garden, washing a kidlet...

So if we are buddies on Facebook, or you follow me in any way shape or form you probably know I just moved, and well, I'm a-aching all over. It took more than the usual few hours and a cup of steaming hot Joe to wake me up, because I still have a bit of sludge between the ears. Some days are like that, and it's good to just give in, and let whatever needs to heal do its magic trick.

Many people often say to me they wish they could do art. I also know people (adults even who are brave enough to admit) who love to color. It's a calming thing for them, and it's not the "stress" of having to create something whole cloth, yet satisfies their need to be creative. And yes, I think that's a creative outlet. In an effort to keep people interested in my site, draw a wide variety, I thought I'd try posting coloring pages. It's also a way to keep me drawing (and encouraging one form of it or another EVERY day) and accountable. If I know people like this and respond to it, I will continue to create them, and my other things as well. I will ask, if you decide to try my coloring pages that you leave a comment, let me know what you think of it, how well it's reproducing, etc., and any other thoughts, including things you'd like to see. No guarantees on that one, but you never know, and I'm always looking for fun stuff and ways to stretch myself.

Fluff and stuff, is what I'm doing today. This would amount to stuff, and not fluff. Fluff was frittering on FB mostly, but I did make some friends from the online class, "spoke" with a few others and that was more stuff.   I sketched out the beginnings of a coloring page, for this blog. If I get 'er done I will post later. What I decided to do was to post my Mermaid rubberstamp drawing from long ago, along with a few details from what I rerendered in Photoshop... you saw them earlier, if you're familiar with my blog, but why make you scroll if you don't have to?  I hope you enjoy (will post a few other drawings today and tomorrow for the idea of coloring, if you like).

This was the original drawing (originally for rubberstamps). If you know how to scan and share, I'd love to see what you do with her (nothing NASTY, you guys, I love my imaginary friends as well!) I will post a couple of older drawings tomorrow for coloring and a new original by weekend.
Remember to leave a comment if you decide to download, or have a particular subject or image in mind. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review a few books today, Friday

Z is for Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow Books, 2012
Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (awards)

A quick fun read, starts off as your standard abecedarian, quite descending into poor Moose trying to find his place in the alphabet. The bouyancy and attention-hogging of a young child comes through in a somewhat raucous, manner from the photo bombs of earlier letters to the tantrum of "R" onward. Even if there's a moose-like culprit in the reader's life, it's all done with such good humor, it's easy to giggle through "offending" behavior. A simple book, celebrating the child, the alphabet and friendship in a fun-affirming way--- what's not to love?

This is Kelly Bingham's premier picture book.

Other books by Paul O.Zelinsky: The Ralph Mouse Collection (Beverly Cleary, author); The Wheels on the Bus; Dear Mrs. Henshaw (Beverly Cleary, author), Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work (Justin G. Schiller, Dennis M.V. David, Leonard S. Marcus and Maurice Sendak, authors, June 11 2013), Rumpelstiltskin (Caldecott Honor), Rapunzel (Caldecott).

illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Harcourt Children's Books, 2007
Theodor Suess Geisel Award

Another speed read, Lisa Wheeler is the queen of infectious rhyme. The kind that makes you itch to say it. The book swings through the pages as the entire family passes baby around. The book reads as a song, and a dance and a game all at once ("NO, how fast can YOU say it?"). R. Gregory's illustrations are spontaneous, the use of line powerful and just as rhythmic as the words, as well as colorful. He manages to catch the feeling of retro and expressive art all at once his images, though his own had a Maira Kalman feel to them as well. This is a great  book that begs to be read again and again, so you have the time to really absorb the art. 

So they Boom-Boom-Boom
and they Hip-Hip-Hop
and the bouncin' baby boogies
with a Bop-Bop-Bop!

Paying homage to onomatopoeia, musical and art styles, and could easily find a home on many children's book shelves.

Other books (partial list) by Lisa Wheeler: Sixteen Cows (Kurt Cyrus, Illustrator), Sailor Moo (Poendor Goembel, Illustrator); Dino-Football (Barry Groner, illustrator), Dino-Basketball (Barry Gott, illustrator), Ugly Pie (Heather Solomon, illustrator)

Other books by R. Gregorie Christie: No Crystal Stair (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, author); Yesterday I had the Blues (Jeron Ashford Frame, author); Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel (Nikki Grimes, author); The Deaf Musicians (Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs, authors); Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan (Mary Williams, author. Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor); It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Don Tate, author)

illustrated by Jon Klassen

A loving, yet slightly subversive tale of hope. Annabelle lives in a dreary town and discovers a magic box of yarn. Despite any negativity, with Annabelle's generous can-do, ambitious nature the town and people are transformed. Not even an greedy archduke who loves clothing can tamp Annabelle's spirit or the magic that comes from the yarn.  The text is to the point, the story elegantly written. Klassan's illustrations beautifully complement the prose, I find the images again a bit of an homage to illustrators from a much earlier era. Children may well recognize themselves in Annabelle, and the quiet moral of the story is softly told as yarn. 

Other books by Mac Barnett: Chloe and the Lion (Adam Rex, illustrator); The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers) (Adam Rex, illustrator); Oh No!: Or How my Science Project Destroyed the World (Dan Santat, illustrator); Mustache! (Kevin Cornell, illustrator)

Other books by Jon Klassen: This is Not My Hat  (Irma S and James H Black Honor for Excellence in Children's Literature, Caldecott (Awards)); The Dark (Lemony Snicket, author); The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 1 (Maryrose Wood, author); House Held Up by Trees (Ted Kooser, author)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Syncopated rhyme, words in time...Part 2 B and C

I spoke a little bit about permission, partially as it was a big part of this and perhaps any worthy, work-in-progress' process. Am I qualified to tell the tale?

In Ann's case: I wasn't African-American, and I didn't grow up during the depression, nor in Old Orchard Beach.

On the other hand, like Hillel the Elder, "If not me, then who?" I knew and loved Ann. I know and love Old Orchard Beach. Music, check, illustration, check, words, check.... Two events happened that gave me heart to embrace this project and fully move on. First, I was working at L.L. Bean and in reminiscing about Ann with a coworker who knew here, found out she'd died a few days before. I become immensely, omygoodness sick. Looking back I probably should have gone to the hospital. But literally, in that fevered, mostly sleeping, half estate, came the first line and the push to do it.

The second, I was flagging, doing the research, finding out what sandy ground I stood on in literary, historical and I felt creative terms, and Ann was no longer around for me to talk to, let alone visit. In talking with someone who knew Ann, the place and the time, when she said to me. "Oh my! You know way more than I do about this!" a few times, I thought perhaps I was in a far better position than I'd originally thought. So IF you have something to say (especially to kids), give yourself permission. And then make it as fun as you can.

the only photo reference of Ann as a child (with her brother Eddie)

Drawing of Ann for the cover. Not decided, I'm keeping this?

Once I'd determined what the basic tempos/structure of my book was. I broke it all down into cadence/beats/stresses and syllables. Often times I'd have to brainstorm around the idea of a word (break out the THESAURUS!).  Knowing the flow of the events and story, I began to brainstorm verbs.  In picture books, adjectives are mostly (or should be, illustrations remember) superflous. The nice thing is, often verbs are far more effective short and sweet. Though with picture books throwing in a few colorful words is a wonderful thing, not only because children like the sophistication of words, but it encourages interaction with the adult. The fine line comes from whether the word is too sibylline, the difference between strenuous and sublime, if you get my drift. 

So the first version of the stanzas:

Snap towel, whip sheet!
"Quit it Eddie! Make it Neat!"
Hardly time for any fun,
Chores to do, just begun.
Maude chides Eddie
No ponies for wishes.
Riding off now, Gotta wipe the dishes!

Loved this, it reads well. And the illustrations help it out quite a bit. But would other people know what this mean (and btw, chide was one of my sublime words, if you're going to work in words, it might as well be the ones YOU'RE in love with).

There was a saying I used to love (and hear a lot from the older people in my life, and had heard it a few times more from on oldster in my life the very week I was working on this section of the book) "If wishes were horses, we'd all get a ride!" Beyond loving this saying, it really was one of the things I think about Ann, because she was an artist, and perhaps a dreamer, but she was much more of a doer than anything else, so it was more than appropriate for a story about her. But the above was clear as mud, and if adults didn't get the reference, it would be a complete muddle for kids.

so version two:

Whip towel, snap sheet!"
"Quit it Eddie, make it neat!"
Hardly time for any fun
Chores to do, we've just begun.
Maud says, "Pride should be our best guide!
Wishes aren't horses or we'd all get a ride!"
Maud chides Eddie, no rides for wishes,
Annie's galloping off now, gotta wipe the dishes!

Too long, now. The start to me is better. But there's redundancy and the beat is off. Hopefully third times' the charm (rhymes with harm, and arm and alarm, wait make sure that's not a near rhyme and it added a beat and the stress is now off, sheesh).... what I've settled on so far:

Snap towel, whip sheet,
"Quit it Eddie, make it neat!"
Hardly time for any fun, 
Chores to do, we've just begun.
Eddie wants to play, Eddie wants to go,
Mayhap sneak later into that musical show.
"If wishers were horses we'd all get a ride!"
Maude chides Eddie "Take some pride!
Do the job, mind your finishes!"
Gallop off now, Annie's got to wipe the dishes!

Longer yes, but reworked it includes a beat set up in other places. It also sets up a dynamic for later in the book, so the longer no longer bothers as there's a purpose. Even the slight redundancy about what Eddie wants is okay with me, because it has an emotional feel to me, a child's reluctance at rote, duties, mundane especially on a bright sunshin-y Duke Day!

illustration in progress...

Part 1: Do as I say, if you want to do as I do, at least a little bit...Newbie 101

A while back I wrote an article for SCBWI on "The Syns of Writing",  the title being a mash-up and pun all at once. For the longest time, I felt guilty for needing or wanting more for my creative self. I will say that a part of my writing process has been giving myself permission to create.

Taking yourself seriously brings on a whole host of thoughts.

If you write for yourself alone, there is no one or nothing other than yourself to please. But writing for publication is a totally different animal. It's a fine line between writing for a particular audience--- your audience--- and simply crafting for the crowd. I say that knowing there's a rainbow inbetween as well. To some people writing (or illustration) is a living, so taking a self-fulfilling job may be lower on the list than generating an income. Others, of the Stephen King variety their shopping list will find a loyal readership. Only YOU decide what this means to you and your pocket book.

But if you do it "fer reals", you must take it seriously. That means the discipline of working (and sometimes hacking) at it every day. It also means keep learning and preferably from the best, especially as THEY are your competition.

At least that's not as hard or as expensive as, say, becoming a doctor. A library card, time and practice is on your side. You cannot improve without investing yourself. Another great investment is finding at least one, or a few people who you trust with your creative self and opinions can tell you when you need to work on something or can beam at  what you set down. Nothing like a great critique group or beta reader to keep you honest about your work. And consider it practice at the reviews you hope to get when your work is published and people flock to view and read it.

Many people know the above, many people don't. I add this because there is a beginning to writing and it's easy to lose sight of that. I revisit lessons not nearly as well-learned and it really is a consideration to becoming conscious about your process. If I had a dime (inflation) for every time someone said "I'm thinking about writing, illustrating," I'd not monetize this account. So redundant is good (hey, Will Terry OFTEN says stuff that I "know" but for one reason or another have not fully complied. His explanations really got through when all the other,"you must do A to be B to get to C " *said in drone voice*, hadn't. So there may be a drip drip to some of the posts I share, but it's the confluence that gets the momentum and I appreciated this kind of stuff when I was starting out, even when I didn't do it).

Today I'll talk a little bit abut my present wip, and ongoing about the illustrations for this, as well as some of my design work for my online stores. Who knows? Perhaps one day they'll take off, lol (Till then I'm practicing what I preach and learning some great stuff). In a few weeks, I'll be able to write/edit my midgrade, so I will talk about longer works. I've also thought I'll illustrate this book now, and if I have the resources, ability later, this (Annie) would make a wonderful app). If I do that, I will be sharing that process, as well. I'm moving this week and starting an intensive class next week, (when it rains it pours, don't it!) So will blog twice today (another TWOFER!) plan a review or two, learn to schedule posts to post their ownselves and hopefully even if I'm offline next week and perhaps the week after, the habit of JOURNALING which really helps clarify and adds to my discipline will take root

 My next post will be my process of writing Annie and I will take one stanza and show the changes and thinking process.