Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wrapping it Up

The last few weeks have seen the finishing of some things. Finished PiBoIdMo for 2015. Good to have some more ideas added to the roster. Some are worth pursuing. Others, well...let's just let them stew in their own juices so to speak.

I also finished the Tomie de Paola project. Got lots of good feedback from my fellow artists. Glad I completed it, though it was close this year. Had some struggles figuring out the color scheme and what I wanted the style to be. (This is ongoing, no surprise there). I don't seem to have a huge problem with composition or creating the characters, it's just getting the final look that sends me over the edge. At any rate, the important thing is to complete it and just keep on completing things (manuscripts, art projects etc) regardless of whether or not the final is what you imagined. I'm hoping that the more this is done, the less it feels like pulling teeth. The ultimate goal of course, is to someday get paid for this obsession. Meanwhile I just keep reading those picture books, getting projects done and brainstorming, doodling.

Tomie de Paola project: Little Red Riding Hood

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Once again, I'm participating in PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) hosted by the indefatigable Tara Lazar. This is possibly my fourth year, but hey, who's counting? I look forward to daily posts of wisdom (some by people I know, such as Josh Funk) and of course, prize giveaways. But prize winning or no, the biggest prize of the event is just allowing myself the month of November to dive into the zaniness that is picture books. Just saying "It's okay, let the dust bunnies fly. Write and doodle more. That's what matters." is a breath of fresh air. Somehow it's more permissible when hundreds of others are doing the same thing. Kind of a boycott of adulthood (within reason, wink and nod). November is my "Let it flow" month. Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn't but at least I tried!

In addition to that event, there's the annual SCBWI Tomie dePaola contest. So picture book folks who write and illustrate have a lot on their plates in the month of November. I took a couple of years off from this contest, but thought I'd sharpen my pencil once again and jump in.

Not to mention all the other local events going on before the end of the year: Mary Blair exhibit at the Eric Carle, Illustrator exhibit and auction for the Bacon Free Library in Natick, and the Children's Book Tree exhibit at the Concord Family Museum. I think my head might explode!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Meeting my hero(ine), Melissa Sweet

So, I had a great weekend going to see Melissa Sweet's studio sale last Saturday. At first I was going to go, then I couldn't find (decently priced) lodging, then at the 11th hour I found lodging so whoopee, I was going!

I hadn't been up the coast of Maine in a while, so it was a real treat to see the ocean, trees and rural sights. The Rockport/Camden area is gorgeous and if it weren't for the endless winters I'd be living there right now. (Still thinking there's a way around all that snow... 2 months somewhere south perhaps).

Anyway, the venue, Union Hall was a lovely historic brick building with wood floors and to-die-for views of the harbor. My kids and husband went for a walk to the harbor while I perused the art and got up the nerve to speak to Melissa. I shouldn't have feared anything, because she's so down-to-earth nice. It felt like I had known her in a previous life/on another planet kind-of-thing.

I bought some art, a book and a special "Floating Fairy" which will serve as a mascot in my now cramped, but someday-to-be-expanded studio.

I'm still pinching myself on the whole experience!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Three books, three friends

I am fortunate to know three people in the kidlit world who have been published in the last few months. My friend Brook Gideon just got her illustrations published in Azalea Unschooled by Liz Kleinman. The folks at Islandport Press loved her whimsical watercolors and asked her to illustrate this chapter book. Looks great!

My other RISD art buddy, Walter Silva, is one of the featured artists in The Big Book of Mod Podge. Several of his decoupage projects are in the book. Walter took illustration classes with us at RISD and has an Etsy shop for all the great decor items he's created.

Also having a publishing "birthday" is Josh Funk, the leader of our picture book critique group at the Writer's Loft in Sherborn. Josh has several books in the pipeline. The one just published is Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, a whimsical rhyming journey of two breakfast treats as they fight for the last drop of maple syrup.

 All three of these people are dedicated to their craft, be it writing and/or illustrating. They have all given me hours of helpful feedback on writing and art. And they are nice people as well! I'm proud to say I know them....check out their work!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

NESCBWI conference 2015

So much to say, where to begin?
I had a great time at the conference this year, learning new things, meeting new people, seeing familiar faces and great artwork.
This time around, I took workshops in both illustration and writing for picture books. It made for a more well-rounded experience for me. Also, I got to hear about the creation of I Don't Like Koala, which I saw first-hand at work the following Tuesday. Very synchronicity-like or something of that nature.
It wasn't a perfect event, I managed to leave the map light on in my car, hence draining the battery. And I didn't get a critique on my illustration at First Look. Oh, well...But I went with the expectation of learning and enjoying and I definitely did both of those things.
All the speakers (that I happened to hear) were great. Dan Santat, Kwame Alexander and Marv Terban were full of personality, vitality and pearls of wisdom. Though I only heard the last 20 minutes of her speech, Jo Knowles was very touching and had me choking up.
Now, I just need to put those inspirational words into action and get a dummy created/sent out!
Here's my submission for the Illustration Challenge this year with some in-progress shots as well:

Initial stages of "Don't worry I fixed it."
Alien and pet character study
Pencil rough
Finished piece

Monday, March 9, 2015

William Steig

 I’m just discovering William Steig. I didn’t read his books when I was a kid, because his books didn't gain popularity until the 70's. All I knew about him was that he wrote “Shrek”. But there’s definitely more to him than that.

Two favorites of mine are "Spinky Sulks" and "Doctor DeSoto".

In "Spinky Sulks", he really captures the essence of a kid who feels the world is slighting him and decides to withdraw. I’ve read that some people don’t like the book because Spinky’s family bends over backwards to placate him. But hey, this is real life. Also, I think writers sometimes want to paint a picture of children at their best and we all know that isn’t childhood. As if to satisfy the readers who are annoyed, the ending has a rewarding (but not forced) conclusion.

In "Doctor DeSoto", I love the world that Steig creates: this dental practice belonging to the mouse DeSoto and his wife/assistant. Doctor DeSoto wants to help others, but he’s confronted with the fox who poses a threat to the dentist, yet needs his tooth extracted. I just love the soul searching, yet whimsical tone of the book. In the end, the fox is helped but the Doctor and his wife are safe from being eaten.

There’s something that reminds me of Roald Dahl with Steig. He admits that children have bad days, and that there’s whimsy and also danger in the world but things can be worked out. It’s something to aspire to as a writer (and illustrator).

Interesting facts about Steig: he didn’t start writing kids books until he was in his 60’s, he never graduated from college, and he was good at water polo.

There’s a great obit on Steig from the New Yorker that seems to distill his essence:

Another factoid about Steig: he hated public speaking. Here’s a letter he wrote after receiving the Caldecott in 1970 for “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

NESCBWI 2015 Spring Conference

Well, I done did it. Signed up for the conference this year after an art drought, which is still lingering but nonetheless, I'm dragging myself through it.

It's exciting to think about the Illustration Challenge, networking with kidlit folks and learning new things. Not to mention a two-day getaway. Can't remember the last time I used my suitcase (okay, no need to pull out the hankies yet...).

This year will be a little different in that I have my foot in two camps: as illustrator and writer. Having gone to the Writer's Loft a few times, I am slowly learning to carve out stories. This is not to say I know what I am doing, but I am starting down the road. Nor have I abandoned the illustration world, but I am looking at it (and myself) with different eyes. It ought to be interesting.