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Sunday, July 28, 2013


The sky, the stars, the sparkling jewel-strewn sea
These are a few things valuable to me.
The laugh, the cry, the pangful song
Keep me engaged, string me along.
Colors, sounds, smells, the world upon my skin
moving through time with a skip, an ooze or a spin.
I love it all, this place this space, presenting to my face.
I take my hippo soul, my clunking drain and look for the grace.
Agy Wilson 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Magic Moccasins

I did a little side job this week for a friend's short story. I thought I'd post the in-progress for the cover, because I was quite pleased with the way it came out (that happens but rarely). I will also post a small detail from the other illustration. I hope it sells well for him. He's trying to get back home, and I'm being selfish. I want his herbal books to become available.

  and the snippet:

Friday, July 26, 2013

The view from here, REVIEW FRIDAY

Robot Rumpus
Sean Taylor
Illustrated by Ross Collins
Andersen Press, USA, distributed by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2013

I have loved Ross Collins style since seeing it in a friend's book The Three Grumpies (was actually just talking about this and robots with a friend. Wonder if Ross will only take titles that has something that will rhyme with BUMP in it, sorry, silly thought for the day). His style is humorous, surprising and reminds me of Bill Hoest, whom I love as well. So I was already predisposed to the book. But reading the rhyming stanzas, though alone I laughed a couple of times out loud. I know a lot of children who enjoy having their funny bones tickled and this is the book with wiggly fingers, robotic or otherwise.

Other books by Sean Taylor: The World Champion of Staying Awake (illustrated by Jimmy Liao); When a Monster is Born (illustrated by Nick Sharratt); Robomop (illustrated by Edel Rodriguez); Huck Runs Amuck (illustrated by Peter Reynolds); Boing (illustrated by Bruce Ingman); The Grizzly Bear with Frizzly Hair (illustrated by Hannah Shaw)

Other books by Ross Collins: The Music of Zombies: The Fifth Tale from the Five Kingdoms (Tales from the Five Kingdoms) (author Vivian French); Dear Vampa; When I Woke Up I Was a Hippopotamus (author Tom Macrae); Medusa Jones; Beetle Blast (S.W.I.T.C.H.) (author Ali Sparkes)

Jack and the Hungry Giant: Eat Right with My Plate
Loreen Leedy
Holiday House, 2013

The book starts off as the traditional tale of Jack's beanstalk adventures, but veers off into good manners and healthful eating.  The cast of characters are engaging and a little quazy, it's a romp through the food groups and good choices. The illustrations are active and kid friendly and this is a book easily read by a child on his or her own, as well as with an adult. It's a great introduction nutrition and climbing beanstalks-- should the opportunity arise. So to speak.

Other books by Loreen Leedy: Crazy Like a Fox: A Simile Story; Follow the Money!; The Great Graph Contest; Seeing Symmetry; Subtraction Action: Look at MY Book: How Kids Can Write & Illustrate Terrific Books.

The Very Inappropriate Word
Jim Tobin
illustrated by Dave Coverly
Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, LTD, 2013

Michael is a child after my own heart, a collector of words. Some of his observations on words are quite wonderful and easily capture one of the things I love about them. But when he finds an inappropriate word some quite different consequences follow. The illustrations fit the book like *$()%@)$# glove! A humorous and quiet exploration of words and their power, most definitely from the child's perspective. I truly loved this book, and can't wait to read it to my grandson, a collector of sounds as well as words.

Other books by Jim Tobin: Sue MacDonald Had a Book (illustrated by Dave Coverly)
Other books by Dave Coverly: SpeedBump (three books); How to get a Monkey Into Harvard (author Charles Monagan);

You Go First
Mercer Mayer
Tommy Nelson, registered trademark of Thomas Nelson 2013

Little Critters meets Inspired Kids, Mercer takes a biblical quotation and makes it come to life. In this book the quote is "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" Matthew 7:12 from The International Chidren's Bible. A larger lesson than "just" for Christians, the story isn't priggish or pedantic or hit you over the head. The story closely mimics a child's real desire to be first and explores the idea in a gentle way. I have always loved Mercer Mayer's two styles of drawing, and Little Critters are so fun and appealing.

Other works by Mercer Mayer:The New Baby; Just Me and My Dad; a slew of Little Critter books; Me and My Little Brain (Great Brain, Book 3) (author John D. Fitzgerald); Frog Where are You? Boy, Dog, Frog); The Bravest Knight; East of the Sun and West of the Moon (I love this book)

Crafty Chloe: Dress-up, Mess-up
Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Heather Ross
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon and Schuster, 2013

Chloe may be crafty but she has a dilemma. She promised two different things to her best friends at the same time. going through the process of resolving the dilemma, in creative way is a reassuring way for kids to see resolution is not always a clear path. I love that a part of Chloe's wrestle isn't just pleasing her friends, Leo and Emma, or even Grandma, but herself. And she does a great job of it. There was a delicacy to Heather's drawings that kept Chloe grounded.

Other books by Kelly DiPucchio: The Sandwich Swap (Coauthor Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah, illustrated by Tricia Tusa); Grace for President (illustrated by LeUyen Pham); Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet (illustrated by Bob Shea); Zombie in Love (illustrated by Scott Campbell); Sipping Spiders through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters (illustrated by Gris Grimly)

Other books by Heather Ross:  the Ivy Honeysuckle books (author Candice Ransom); Heather Ross Prints: 50+ Designs and 20 Prints to Get You Started (co author John Gruen); What Happened on Fox Street (Mo Wren) (author Tricia Springstubb)

Coloring page...

so speaking to the fabulous Kara at the Walker Memorial who had actually printed out the coloring page, she said there were a few issues to printing it. What she did and I suggest (sorry, I don't have a printer hooked up at the time or I would have pre-worked it out for you!) is to save to your computer, resize to suit and then print off. The advantage of such a thing too, is you can print of as many as you want, and resize as you want. Hope this helps if there's been any issues. I had fun doing this. I slightly went over my imposed limit (it was almost three instead of two hours). Anyhow for the dog and kitten lovers...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Readings, Bloggings and REVIEWING...

I sometimes feel like I'm going in twenty directions at a time. Make that twenty five! I reviewed Stephanie Lisa Tara's lovely book I'll Follow The Moon on blog talk (and she credited me with helping her achieve #1 in edownloads in her category-- WONDERFUL!). Still learning Photoshop, nearly finished with Will Terry and Jake Parker's FABULOUS Visual Storytelling course (final critique to do), and I can see an improvement in my work, ALREADY and I'm STOKED.

I'm blogging regularly on eblog, and slowly building my readership. Reviewing books every week, adding a coloring page, and writing about my process of thinking, illustrating and writing.

I'm often also wondering if I should be Tumbling, Twitting, Wordpressing, Behancing, and Pinteresting and wondering further, when I'm supposed to have the TIME, lol, because I still write and illustrate BOOKS and make images for my various online stores (new venture is offering my images as downloads for people to put on their own favorite things, for dollars, on Etsy). Anyhow, I neglect this. But received another wonderfully nice review on Nana's Gift and thought I'd share here. Especially as I have no idea where to post reviews of my books...

In a related question. I'm thinking of publishing the blog I write on Eblog to my Goodreads, Tumblr and Wordpress accounts. I know different people catch different posts. Would it be offensive, or good sharing practices/marketing (how do you know who I am and what I do without the blog?) Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts here or on FB or through my Eblog,, I'll be publishing this post there as well.

ANYHOW, (and a mighty wooohoooo!) via Michael Strickland and the Young People's Pavilion:

In this heartwarming, touching, and beautifully written picture book by Agy Wilson, Darlee Sims is left at Nana's for the weekend and at first is not happy with it. But having fun with Nana, Pasha and Honey, Darlee learns about her family, and best of all herself. With wonderful illustrations that have a hand-drawn look, Nana's Gift offers a timeless message about intergenerational family relationships.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The dream kanji colored...

Coloring page, something different!

I got the Photoshop up and running WITH pen sensitivity. I'm excited, though this doesn't look like much now. It's going to take some time to master it, but when I do, watch out, I hope my work will be something to see! Anyhow, I did this in honor of my horse loving friends, and I hope they'll take a look, print it off, like it, whatever rocks their horse! The point to these is to not spend more than two hours on them, so I will be doing a lot more as I feel a bit rusty!

Feel free to comment, and let me know if you DO print it off, how it works out, (and feel free to share the finished product with me here on on facebook!)

REVIEWS!!!!! Friends-ala-pal-ooza!

My friend and children's librarian Nina Sachs has been holding F&Gs (fold and gathers for not in the know, they're used for corrections and advanced reviews) for me and I scored big time (two boxes full). I confess I picked out my friends (and some of them were Christmas and Halloween books, which I can't wait to review, but want to be a bit more timely about) and will review all 2013 books. Next week I will mix it up because it's great to see the new stuff, but there are so many WONDERFUL books, I want to keep interspersing the young and the old, because it's all GOOD!

You're Wearing That to School?!
Lynn Plourde
illustrated by Sue Cornelison
Disney/Hyperion Books, 2013

The illustrations are fun and delightful and remind me a little of Felicia Bond's adorable drawings.
I love the joy and whimsy of the main character Penelope (she's a hippo after my own heart as well as having a similar fashion sense) as well as the worry and caution of her best friend Tiny (he's the kind of conscience I have)! Plourde expresses so well the angst and concerns of a first day of school in a lively manner. I love the ending of this book as well!

other books by Lynn Plourde: Lost Trail: 9 Days Alone in the Wilderness (Donn Fendler co-author, Ben Bishop, illustrator); Thank you Granpa (Jason Cockroft, illustrator); Wild Child (Greg Couch, illustrator); Only Cows Allowed (Rebecca Harrison Reed, illustrator); Dino Pets Go To School (Gideon Kendall, illustrator); Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud (John Schoenherr, illustrator)

other books by Sue Cornelison: Bitty Baby Brave (Kirby Larson, author); Sofia's Dream (Land Wilson, author); We Share (Monica Bradford, author); Paulo's Wall (Rachelle Desimone, author); Tales of Beauty (L.L. Owens, author)

A Day in the Deep
Kevin Kurtz
illustrated by Erin E. Hunter

Sylvan Dell Publishers, 2013

For the burgeoning scientist or oceanographer, wonderful for homeschoolers this was such a fun read. The book comes with four pages of activities as well as more free activities online. Told in rhyme, it's a fairly quick read that journey's lower and lower to the depths of the ocean, descending all the way to 5,000 feet. The introduction to bioluminescence and the effects of being under pressure, the strange creatures adapting to their surroundings will intrigue kids, no doubt. I enjoyed Hunters illustrations, as the creatures could have been more fearsome, but her deft handling of light and color/contrast, it was a much safer journey than in the cage shown. I learned lots of new things, so I'm caught up on a few days of one of my life's goals: to learn something new everyday.

Other books by Kevin Kurtz: A Day in the Salt Marsh (Consie Powell, illustrator); A Day on the Mountain (E.E. Hunter, illustrator); Mortimer and the Powerful Sword

Other books by Erin E. Hunter: The Great Divide (Suzanne Slade, author); The Plateau: Voices of the Earth (Maureen Dudley, author); Warriors, Omen of the Stars #1 and 2

Bugs in my Hair!
David Shannon
Blue Sky Press, imprint of Scholastic, 2013

There seems to be a plethora of exclamation points in titles. This one is deserved (and from one of the original punctuationists!)Told with Shannon's signature humor and illustrations, it subdues the "ick" factor enough to move the story along. A common problem that receives scant attention, it's informative, funny, interesting, and best of all, defuses the "shame" of being a lousy person! A great service, this book, though I'm still itching, just like Mom!

Other books by David Shannon: No, David!; A Bad Case of Stripes; Too Many Toys; Jangles: a Big Fish Story; Alice the Fairy; The Rain Came Down; Good Boy, Fergus!

Community Soup
Alma Fullerton
Pajama Press, 2013

Kioni has a herd of goats  that goEVERYWHERE, like Mary and her lamb and are quite mischievous! It certainly makes soup day, when everyone should be collecting vegetables more of a challenge. Fullerton masterfully runs through the paces and emotions of tracking down the pesky, calico haired goats, her illustrations colorful and very tactile. Very different and visually appealing with her mixture of painted and reference materials, cloth and cut outs, I really liked the feel of the illustrations. And a recipe (and yes, I will be trying it, and I'm very biased as I love recipes in children's books!

Other books by Alma Fullerton: A Good Trade (Karen Patkau, illustrator); Libertad; In the Garage; Walking on Glass; Burn

Who Goes There?
Karma Wilson
illustrated by Anna Currey
Margaret McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster, 2013

Wilson is best known for her impeccable rhyme, and though this is a mixture of prose and rhyme, it still reads easily as a poem. Louis Mouse loves his home and is settling in for the winter, when an ominous Scritch, Scratch, tap, tap, tap, intrudes. I really love the BeatrixPotter-y feeling to Currey's illustrations, and the refrain just begs to be repeated by young listeners.

Other books by Karma Wilson: Bear Snores On (Jane Chapman, illustrator);  Bear Gives Thanks (Jane Chapman, illustrator); Bear Wants More (Jane Chapman, illustrator); The Cow Loves Cookies (Marcellus Hall, illustrator); Baby Cakes (Sam Williams, illustrator); A Frog in the Bog (Joan Rankin, illustrator); Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo (Doug Cushman, illustrator)

Other books by Anna Currey: When the World was Waiting For You (Gillian Shields, author); The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions (Donna Jo Napoli, author); Dancing Magic (Silverlake Fairy School) (Elizabeth Lindsay, author);  Chick 'n' Pug (Jennifer Sattler, author); A Babysitter for Billy Bear (Miriam Moss, author)

Hey Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band
Anne Rockwell
illustrated by Colin Bootman
Carolhoda books, a division of Lerner books, 2013

I don't know if the bias is because it's an inspirational time, inspirational subject, or because it's similar in feel in my w-i-p, but I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK. I was not aware of some of the pre-history of jazz, and this story is wonderful history and read. I thought I'd filled my learning quota with the other books, but I learned a lot from this book as well. Great connections to music, giving, integrity, it recounts the story of Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins, an orphan himself, taking on the plight of orphans at turn of the century South Carolina. His giving resulted in hope, self-sufficiency and a new art form. I had never made the connection for instance between The Charleston, and with one of the original mash ups, African and band music born from repurposed Civil War instruments. Just WONDERFUL.

Other books by Anne Rockwell: Thanksgiving Day (Liz Rockwell, illustrator); Three Bears and Fifteen Other Stories; Big George: How a Shy Boy Became President Washington; In Our House; My Flowers are Growing; 100 School Days (Lizzy Rockwell, illustrator); The Gollywhopper Egg; Clouds (A Read-and-Find-Science book- Stage One) (Frane Lessac, illustrator)

Other books by Colin BootmanIn My Momma's Kitchen (Jerdine Nolan, author); Grandma's Pride (Golden Kite Honors) (Becky Birtha, author); Dad, Jackie and Me (Myron Uhlberg, author); Don't Say Ain't (Irene Smalls, author); A Storm Called Katrina (Myron Uhlberg, author)

Hopefully I'll have all my programs up and running by Monday, so will resume coloring pages. I'm sharing a bunch of my kanji designs which you can find at After Midnight Art Stamps (I think they still make them, but there's other images of mine there! Have a wonderful weekend all!

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm the new NEXT BIG THING blog!

The Next Big Thing blog tour

My thanks to Linda Stanek for tagging me in The Next Big Thing blog tour! This blog tour began in Australia and features authors' and illustrators' current book projects. I really enjoyed her answers to these questions and hope I don't bore anyone to tears with mine.... Here we go.

1) What is the working title of your next book?
The two books I'm working on are: Duke Day for Annie and Sara, Leclere. I hope to have them out relatively the same time (within a month or so of each other).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Sara is a midgrade, and who knew my childhood is considered historical fiction. Okay, not all of it. However when talking with some writer friends about some of the inspirations for characters, some of the people who'd inspired my character Teedie was Ann and her family. In talking about Ann's childhood, most of my friends' hit me over the head with a wet noodle telling me I was missing one of the stories right in front of me (yah, I'm smart that way). I reconnected with Ann who was living at the Barron Center in Portland because her disease had progressed to the bed-ridden stage. She was still a ray of sunshine, inspiring, a positive energy in the face of any adversity. After talking to Ann, she was thrilled with the idea, and helped me until she passed away from multiple sclerosis. I've written extensively about this whole process here on this blog, so you can scroll if you'd like to learn a bit more.

3) What genre does your book fall under? 
Sara is a historical midgrade fiction, for a slightly older or advanced reader. Annie is a historical faction picture book. It's based upon a real person, some real events in a real place. But because of the nature of it all (Old Orchard's face would sometimes change a few times a year from fires and natural disasters' for instance) there is a little artistic license.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hadn't thought about this one, lol, though I guess there are picture books made into movies (Polar Express and Hugo Cabret). I thought I was pretty good to sketch out my characters in my midgrade, they're real people and live in a real, though totally fabricated town, in my head.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
Sara is a coming of age story as she struggles with all the problems a thirteen year old girl can have in such a tumultuous time, including wanting her sour grandmother's approval and how to keep the kitten she's attached to. In Duke Day, it's about a young girl anticipating and getting ready for a famous visitor in an active family and charming sea side town, in Maine.

6) Who is publishing your book?
After years of the traditional route, I've decided to go the self-publishing route. The works have had a lot of editorial input, won scholarships and had good reader response, and I won't put it out unless it's the best I can do right now. 

7) How long did it take you to create the illustrations?
The short answer is a few months. The truthful answer is a lifetime, and a number of years specifically. I needed to master Photoshop enough to make work I was comfortable with, and I'm looking for a specific feeling, that I've finally nailed. I also just finished a wonderful online course with Will Terry and Jake Parker, I know will benefit this and any future books on Visual Storytelling, so I'm stoked!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Ellington is not a Street (Ntozake Shange, author, Kadir Nelson, illustrator)  I love and look at Kadir Nelson and Floyd Cooper's work a lot, so though I can in no way compare mine to theirs, they did help inspire me. Or Duke Ellington: the Piano Prince and his Orchestra by Andrea and Brian Pinkney

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For Sara it was thinking how many mixed messages and conflations kids nowadays have to deal with. And though the times were very different, I realized I had pretty much the same challenges, perhaps this could be a way to relate history to the present, something I think needs to happen a lot more. We didn't get here all of a sudden. Knowing history helps us make more considered choices, I think. And the similar thought with Annie. The real Ann Cummings Searcy was a friend and an inspiration. She came from an accomplished family. Her grandfather was Shurtleff Emerson, the famous abolitionist and relative to Ralph Waldo. Duke had asked her to be a singer in his group, and her mother decided that wasn't the safest move for a lovely young woman, no matter how kind Mr. Ellington was, and instead she became the first state certified teacher in the Maine. Her brother was a well-known and respected local Republican and teacher in Scarborough, Maine and has a bit of highway named for him. He was a life long friend of Ed Muskie.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
I wrote the book in what I call syncopated rhyme which I hope is successful, in honor of Duke Ellingtion's signature style. Old Orchard Beach is not only a beautiful ocean side town, it's fun to see other times, I think, and this is an important bit of history that's not often reported on, the entrepreneurship of people like Ann's mom Rose Cummings.

I also hope people check out my first book, Nana's Gift!

Thanks again, Linda for tagging me!  Up next the wonderful Lisa Kopelke, author of Excuse Me! and Tissue Please! and A Younger Brother's Survival Guide!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Viewed and reviewed.... and a slothful coloring page!

Friday again! The weeks are passing too quickly! I'm changing it up a bit and putting the coloring page first and then my reviews. If you download, I hope you'll take the time to tell me how it prints and what you like! This week's coloring page is for my daughter Dominique who loves sloths (and Kara the assistant children's librarian at Walker Memorial Library, who also loves them, and yes, penguins are coming, perhaps a few times!). The inspiration for the page came directly from my friend Nadine Hays' albums (personal and professional), she wrote Happier than a Billionaire and its sequel.

Now to the reviews!

Mary Walker Wears the Pants
Cheryl Harness
illustrated by Carlo Molinari
Albert Whitman & Company, 2013

Fascinating story of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (b. 1832) one of the first female doctors and a Civil War hero. The writing is engaging, and this is more of a picture story book than a picture book, so would be for an older reader. The one pet peeve I had, and it's more of a personal thing (and perhaps because I've worked as a nurse), sometimes, the profession of doctor seems to be held in a higher esteem by the author than nursing, which denigrates the accomplishments of Barton, Dix and Alcott. They are DIFFERENT professions, and both are necessary. That being said, the story kept me interested and I loved the character, delicacy and arrangement of Molinari's illustrations.

Books by Cheryl Harness: Thomas Jefferson; They're Off!:The Story of the Pony Express; Ye Olde Weird But True: 300 Outrageous Facts from History; Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women; The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail; The Remarkable Ben Franklin; Abe Lincoln Goes to Washington: 1837-1865
Books by Carlo Molinari: How to Draw the Coolest and Most Creative Tattoo Art (Velocity: Drawing, retold by Mike Nash); Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol: The Classic Christmas Tale Retold with Magical Surprises (Martin Gould, adapter, Chris Gould co-illustrator); Come Vento Nelle Risaie (in Italian)

The Mighty Lalouche
Matthew Olshan
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House Children's Books, 2013

I come from a family of book lovers and pugilists (not to mention French, lol) so I was already inclined to like this book. It was fun in a nostalgic way, and though a work of fiction it was born of a love of the era and in fact. The odd thing about this story, it's about fighting for what you love without violence, and despite the subject matter. The illustrations are charming, I love Blackall's style delicate, old-timey watercolor cut out illustrations  they have a distinct flavor perfectly reflective of the text and story. And she mixes it all up with humor. A reluctant reader might like this book as well.

Books by Matthew Olshan: Finn; Marshlands: A Novel; Flown Sky
Books by Sophie Blackall: Ivy and Bean books (Annie Barrows, author); Ruby's Wish (Shirin Kim, author); Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-- Detectives, Extraordinaire! (Polly Horvath, author); Wombat and Walkabout (Carol Diggory Shields, author); Big Red Lollipop (Rukhsana Khan, author);Missed Connections: Love Lost and Found; Pecan Baby (Jacqueline Woodson, author); Edwin Speaks Up (April Stevens, author); Meet Wild Boars (Meg Rosoff, author)

The Beginner's Guide to Running Away From Home
Jennifer Larue Huget
illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House Children's Books, 2013

I have a policy of only reviewing books I like. The reason is two fold. I know how hard it is to write and illustrate a book, so I don't want to be the one to dash someone's work or dreams-- there's enough out there to do that. Also I really don't like wasting my time on the negatives at this point. I nearly didn't review this book. The illustrations were very different. But by the fourth page, I was hooked. The illustrations are handbuilt studio sets interspersed with graphite drawings. Some of it very exaggerated, some feels "real". A bit disconcerting. Yet it goes with the voice of the book, the angst of the beleaguered middle-child, not named, who gives some of the best tips about running away, since I ran away (to the end of the drive, much as Huget's children) when I was six. The family feels like the family, and I found myself giggling.

Books by Jennifer Larue Huget: How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps (Edward Koren, illustrator); The Best Birthday Party Ever (LeUyen Pham, illustrator); Thanks a LOT, Emily Post (Alexandra Boiger, illustrator)
Books by Red Nose Studio: Here Comes the Garbage Barage! (Jonah Winter, author); The Look Book (Chris Sickels, author)

Scorpions! Strange and Wonderful
Laurence Pringle
illustrated by Meryl Henderson

Another book I almost passed on. Not because it wasn't good, though, but I'd already reviewed a picture story book, and frankly, I wanted to draw! But seeing as The Beginner's Guide was a surprise, I figured I could at least take a look. I was hooked. I learned things I didn't know (Scorpions are born alive and a part of the arachnid family), and just LOVED the illustrations. If I hadn't set my mind on how I was going to work my w-i-p, I would be trying to do similar... Henderson's work is just gorgeous. For any science buff, eccentric kid (that would be me), this is a little bit more of a read, but I'm glad I took the time!

Books by Laurence Pringle: Dog of Discovery: A Newfoundland's Adventures with Lewis and Clark; American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Cornelius Van Wright, illustrator, Ying Hwa Hu, illustrator); Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: the Story of Evolution (Steve Jenkins, illustrator, Jerry A. Coyne, foreward); Crows! Strange and Wonderful (Bob Marstall, illustrator); Alligators! (Meryl Henderson, illustrator)
Books by Meryl Henderson: Milton Hershey, Young Chocolatier (Childhood of Famous Americans) (M.M. Boch, author); Bats! Strange and Wonderful (Laurence Pringle, author)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Make like a baby and head out!

Crude joke that always made me laugh as a kid. But it's so appropriate for this post. I FEEL like a baby with lots of the processes, whether it's playing with Photoshop or learning the various social media (something a creative artist needs to do in order to get their work out). There was a time to say anything about my art or writing was to be considered "arrogant, and full of myself" but how do people know to support you, unless you share that with them, so I'm now in the uncomfortable mode of figuring out how to share my work without being too full of myself, because it's always been a bit of an "either or" for me. Anyhow, now that I'm beginning to blog consistently, I'd been brainstorming how to increase content. (one idea is asking some of my writing and illustrating friends about their process or studio-- something I'm nosy about, as well as likes, what do you think? Are you nosy about that stuff to? If so I want to think up some of the less asked questions and those that wouldn't take a long time or thought to respond to as most are very busy!). One idea was to take some of the things my friends love and have photos of, as well as my interests and combine them for my coloring pages. This week will be my daughter's love of sloths and my friend Nadine Hays photos from where she lives (she's the author of Happier Than a Billionaire). Next week is either turtles or horses, that kind of thing.

Anyhow, I'd promised to change the header out every few months, and wanted to keep that promise. It forces me to create new content, and means I'm practicing at becoming quicker at producing finished art. The wonderful class that I'm taking from the School of Visual Storytelling is winding down, and this is one of the assignments (way to go! three tiered multitasking!), though I added the book, because it fits the storyline of a distracted protag and my blog.

So a little bit of the process:

Now if I wasn't under a time constraint, what I should have done is a FEW versions of this. I could have made the silhouettes of the dog and perhaps the girl's face a little stronger, and that may have had a better impact. But I set the time limit on the header pieces at 5-7 hours. The first few may end up being rough, but I hope and suspect they will get better as I do more.  When I used to work with colored pencils I worked in a grisaille fashion. That's laying the values in then laying the color on top. I work that way in Photoshop as well:

I'm trying more and more to lay the color in properly. Part of the problem is my programs aren't properly loaded, and the old computer I'm working on won't let me uninstall and reinstall anything, and it's not mine. This may or may not become a moot point next week, if MY old computer is fixed. But for now, one really shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Next came the color. I'd been thinking of the spread for Annie I'm working on and will blog when it's finished, probably part one this week, the second part next week as I'll be redoing it to see if what I see in my head, I've figured how to render it) and thought I'd see if I could make it work in this piece. I could not. Hence next weeks's post and redo...

I could see room for improvements, and will make those changes and change out the bottom part of my banner to reflect the new character of the piece, as well as the fact that I write AND illustrate, though I'm tending to concentrate on the art process for now in my blogging. Expect to put it up sometimes today, either before or after my last heartbreaking class with Will and Jake. It was such a wonderful thing. I learned a great deal from the process, some of which most definitely will follow through in my work...

Check out my new header! And notice my new logo! A suggestion from Jake Parker, which I think is a great one, as I do a few different things. I had fun!

Monday, July 8, 2013

On genius, daemons and amusing muses (reprint from my Facebook oped)

When I was a kid and people talked about my "gifts"  as if I were a monkey savant. Rarely was there praise for what I did, because it was a gift after all, and not something I'd actually worked for and no one wanted it "going to my head". Agnes could sing, could draw, do all manner of things in a surprising manner (so much so that if I was too "good" at it they took it away because it was "unnatural"). The adults deliberately praised other's abilities and rarely heard about my own, again that "swelled head." 

There were tons of missed opportunities, and nurturing any talents I had was lackdaisickle at best. I worked hard, and if I wanted my "gifts" to grow, I was the one that invested in the money, time and effort. On this side of the fence, precious little was given to me, because the other side of the fence had stacked the deck, so it seemed.

To say I was a pissed off kid and young adult would be an understatement.

There were many other dark and dire sitiuations in my life that made my art a necessary tool to survival. But you wouldn't know that by my art. My truths and realities and thoughts and feelings were far too large or far too underground for me to instill into anything my hands created. 

I detested the dank and dirty, the moldy and decaying of life, I wanted only to reflect the glowing and the affirming. I wanted--- want to only uplift, move on, move forward, do well, seek approval, BE LOVED.

As I grew up upon moving out, I wrestled with the idea of my art(s) being other than myself or being so totally me, that was how I defined myself. (Motherhood and my art, that's me, I dunno if I'll ever be able to see myself differently). I was able to acknowledge that often times it DOES feel like something other than me. 

A case in point for a project I hope to bring to fruition this year. Duke Day for Annie.

A life-time in the making. A friendship, lots of conversations, admiration, I sat with Ann when she sang at Deli One often times, and later, my young daughters and I would visit her at the Barron's Center. Talking about another project (Sara LeClere, my midgrade novel, yep still in progress) I was chatting on a message board with friends about the sources for the characters and was talking about Ann and her family and how they'd informed my character Teedie and her family. A few pointed out that there most definitely a book in Ann's story. The more I thought about it, the more I realized they were right.

I interviewed her, took notes, drew some drawings. Motherhood, the loss of my mother and bunches of other things interfered. 

Besides, what qualified me to tell her story? I mean yeah, I loved and intimately knew Old Orchard Beach. I knew, loved and understood Annie.  I wasn't black though (yet we shared white and Native American roots), I hadn't lived during the Depression (but  I could SEE it, FEEL it, from lots of conversations with my grandmother and others of her generation). And I wasn't a REAL writer. 

Was I?

I went to work as a seasonal in hopes of being hired permanently (nope) at L.L. Beans. I ran into someone who knew Ann too, had worked at Deli One. Decided to bring in the working dummy to show him (he'd been an English Major way back when). I brought it in and showed him and he said "Yes it is sad, she died."I'd lost touch with her and had no idea. She'd died two days prior and her obituary was in the paper that day. I could feel myself get progressively sick from that moment on. By the time I got home I was massively ill. Within a day I was delirious with fever. I dunno if it was guilt or what. I remember though just being totally preoccupied with the fact that Ann had died and I hadn't known about it. And the lack of momentum of this project. Realize also I very rarely get a fever, but if I do, I should seek medical care (nope, didn't). Sometime, somewhere in the middle of the delirium a crystal thought, feeling, SOMETHING came to me. It was my story to tell, and Hillel echoed in my ears "If not me, then WHO?"  

Then the first line came to me "Sun's up, Out of bed!"

The fever broke shortly after that and I've been working on it since. I dream or zone a lot of my work and ideas. So I DO work hard, but I also think this is a gift.

I've always been fearful people would find me a fraud. I don't know if that came from the fact that people treat me like a savant (I guess my outer demeanor and appearance is a weird reconcile to what they think of my work). Or whatever this thing that has been with me my whole life would decide to abandon me and I'm alone. I lost my singing voice (though I sing out of spite sometimes still). I see all kinds of things and usually differently, so it's been a strange wobbly line, this life of mine and I didn't know if I wanted to forget about it, or just embrace the difficult, the challenge, the fear or what I am-- different. Hence all this posts about embracing the fear. Yup, I decided.

Some have liked me BECAUSE of my gifts. My husband's first thoughts when I told him I sang and drew was "SURE, ya do!"  He said he was pleasantly surprised because I actually did what I said I did. Of course there's been no money in it, and in this economy, that's a hard sell for a hard working man. The addendum to this post has been the marriage hasn't survived, and the double dog dare is to not let anger run my life. I've not been as successful at that one as I'd like to be.

But a friend just shared a clip from TED (I'll share it here too), and it was a little more of the transformation I hope to achieve at this point in my life. I'd been RESENTFUL of my muse, genius, daemon. I'd not honored that part of my soul, that aperture if it's not a part of me, then what let's that in, AT ALL. I've been so fearful and driven to try to find a way out of our dire financial straits I've just chased my bushy tail around in ever tightening circles. I've allowed other people to belittle me to the point where, even now, I struggle with not feeling a failure and worthless, when that isn't even MINE. I've always known I'm not, but have surrounded myself with poison fruit so I've never strayed far from the tether upon my neck, the making of pretty things.

Except my life has been far too rich for that. There are times I've been in the mire. Stood in the manure. Mucked through the decay. You can't have beauty without ALL of the experience. I've been derisive of "pretty" because it has little meaning. But beauty is something we can all see, accept, acknowledge and it actually has meaning to us. 

Listening to Elisabeth Gilbert speak opened up something. Perhaps I am able to do the things I do not only because I'm remarkable, but because I see the remarkable in ALL that I see. And perhaps that is my purpose. Perhaps the genie that has fled, whether it's of me or out of me, will come and stand next to my heart if I start telling my truth and let the feelings shine. And perhaps if that works, that is my purpose. I've met so many who cloud their glow as I have done. It's sad when one loves thugs and browbeaters, because if they have the upperhand you WILL be beaten down if you stay. But if thugs and browbeaters learn to love themselves, then perhaps they can become the shining heros they were meant to be. For now, I've turned down the path of the road less taken, and my muse accompanies me, more and more often.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trepidation Sunday

I had been hoping to be knee deep in my book so it could be published by September. That deadline may still happen if I sit down and keep at it, but it may be slightly later. There is a fine line between acquiring skills, doing the research and taking the time to do your best work, and procrastinating.

One would think that weren't true, unless you realize somethings are just so big. There are about a ten projects in various stages, but after Nana's Gift, this is the oldest and most dear.

It's genesis was when I was a young grrl,  when I used to visit with Ann. She was inspirational in ways I have a hard time describing. I could call her "bubbly", but you might infer "frivolous" and perhaps it's a fine distinction, but she truly was effervescent. It was so hard to be depressed around her. When I would go to Deli One, I literally would have a dollar to my name to spend, but loved listening to the music (and had a bit of a crush on the jazz bass player), and it was the only social time I had, as I was in art school, dealing with family problems and working full-time, that covered my expenses. I would nurse one cup of tea, and sitting with Ann gave me cover or I would have been thrown out, but the restaurant did institute a one refill of hot water because of me.

Years later visiting The Barron Center, because Ann's multiple sclerosis had developed to the point she was bed ridden, she hadn't changed from the woman who shared her music and stories. There were times I'd go in, and she would be blind. The nature of the disease, she didn't know if she'd ever get her sight back. She was still Ann, the effervescent, the drop of sunshine. She spoke of how a town she taught school in, wrote a petition to not sell her a house because of the color of her skin, and how one grateful student's parent sold her the home she came to live in. She talked of how her brother had to go out of state (not Eddie, he was the only one to not go to college, but that was because he didn't want to, but Emerson, who has a strip of highway named after him in Scarborough, Maine). When he was friends with Ed Muskie, he had a bit of coverage, but when the University found out he was tutoring Muskie, the made the rule "no coloreds" could play the piano. She dealt with a life time of these attitudes, gracefully, full of humor, not letting anyone define her, so what chance did a stupid disease have?

And how do you honor someone like that? I spent a good portion of my time feeling not worthy. I'm a wicked whiner, sometimes. What I saw and heard in my head, I didn't really have the skill to accommodate. But I couldn't let it go. She was MY friend. Old Orchard Beach is one of MY favorite places, I know this place, people, history it's what I daydream about, all those lovely stories (remember all the other projects, lol).

The divide was so far apart.

The first line popped into my head though from a dream and I began writing. After she'd passed, more of the book "popped" in my head. A conversation with a couple of experts and their comments that I knew more about it than they did, further bolstered me. I didn't want it all to be lost.

After that I created a dummy. This is the original drawing from the dummy of the spread I'm working on now:

There was a lot of rewriting, some editorial comment and near misses, I stopped drawing and put it away, not sure what I wanted to do. Then I learned Photoshop and decided I could self publish.

I chose this spread as the first, there were few changes to be made, it was designed how I wanted it to appear. Also, the one that follows it should help me get into the "continuity" swing of things.

There are quite a few challenges for me with this book. It's a work of fiction and fact, so the facts have to be correct and the fiction plausible. And Ann is no longer here to corroborate. Old Orchard Beach changed from year to year, so getting a picture of what it actually looked like at the time was a challenge as well, and there's only one photo reference of Ann with Eddie. It is important to me, the character actually reflect her, in body and in spirit. Some of the editorial comment wanted more to do with Duke, but you know she didn't reminisce about that as much, other than the singing  and him taking her on the rides. I won't manufacture what she didn't tell me. Another challenge, my life has fallen apart in the last few years, so piecing together what I have is even harder as some of it is scattered, and the means to get from here to there or even work on it has become a hurdle.

This is actually a history of people and my friend, I believe was an important part of that history, though she would probably denoue it. I will get this done (and hopefully all my other projects, daunting and wonderful in their own way), but realize I feel unworthy every step of the way. I fear I will spend my heart and soul on this, my desperation of situation my shine through instead what I want to: What it is to be a kid looking forward and embracing the possibilities and problems of her life. People will notice the book and then I will not only be the one thinking I'm unworthy of the project. Or worse, people won't notice at all.

But the words, "if not me, then who?" keeps ringing in my ears.

So, I waited for this class (that was a good choice, this will be a much better book for it.). I played with some of the angles per the lesson on perspective, trying to make it more dramatic (why do I want to say DRAW-MATIC, lol, I have such a punny brain!). It still didn't work.

I have the challenge of designing a book that can be printed so the spreads read together and well. But also the spreads can be divided in half and the book still reads well, in the e-format. I think I've mostly done this on the piece, especially in light of the spread/two pages to follow it. I realized I was putting off FINISHING IT. I decided I would write about it (accountability!) and then FINISH IT. I will share the next few incarnations and the finished piece in the next blog post. I shall embrace my freakin' fear, and I hope the love and honor I feel comes through the work. Wish me the best!