Wednesday, December 11, 2013

PiBoIdMo 2013: Mission Accomplished

I finished PiboIdMo 2013! Yay! Complete with over fifty ideas....probably half of which are tossable, but it's still comforting to know that I can pull ideas out of the old cranium. Even if they're so ridiculous only myself and one other person might find them funny or plausible. Now comes the hard part. This is the third year I've participated and have yet to complete a manuscript based on these ideas. My task this week is to whittle down the best 3-5 ideas of this year and possibly revisit the last two years.

Easy right? Not so much for Miss Lack-of-Attention-Span/Don't-I-Have Laundry-to-Attend-to? I usually have little problem coming up with ideas (some wobbly as mentioned), but fleshing them out, that's what separates the men from the boys or the senoras from the senoritas. Something like that. 

Doodle of the day: leaning brain

The other thing one notices after having done PiBoIdMo for the third year is how one's brain leans in a certain direction. I tend toward listing things: craziest inventions, ABC or 123 books, dogs around the world etc. Or, completely wacky stuff (Princess Dentist) or children who are outcast for some reason (Fussy Eddie, Nerdy Betsy). Or if I'm desperate enough, I just take an existing story and try to rework it. Just look at Cinderella....that's been done a trillion times. Not by me....yet.

So, fellow PiBoIdMo'ers or People on the Path toward Righteous Writing and Illustration (henceforth known as POPRWI), take faith in knowing that we're all stumbling along. Some in a direct and focused fashion. Others get up, race along, fall off the edge of an embankment, push off the ground, brush off the dust and hobble toward the finish line of publication. (Which as we all know is never truly a finish line. It's a process and as long as we know we're not alone, all is well.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

All things Sendak

Maurice has been on my mind lately. Through another blog, I became aware of "Sendakifying" wherein some illustrators took a scene from a Sendak book and used the style of another illustrator. How cool I thought, I'll try it. Well, it's harder than it looks. (Maybe it depends on who you're blending with Sendak.... hey I like the sound of that: Blending with Sendak, could be a whole new workshop/trend etc.) I chose Garth Williams, because he's another illustrator who's been on my mind as of late. I got a cool copy of "The Rescuers" by Margery Sharp and was entranced by William's illustrations. 

So, who better than to try than Mr. Williams (especially since no one had yet Sendakified him)? It's kind of a psychological as well as technical journey, trying to get inside the head of two illustrators simultaneously. Some people have done an amazing job. Check out Sendak's "BumbleArdy" in the style of Richard Scarry (another fave)..... just hilarious!
Here's a small work-in-progress-- my version of "The Wild Things" a la Garth Williams:

Not well-known fact: Sendak along with his brother Jack wanted to design toys.

And yet another interesting Sendak-related tidbit: "Where the Wild Things Are" was originally "Where the Wild Horses Are" and this blog entry describes how it evolved. I love seeing the behind-the-scenes evolution of a particular book or illustration.
Note to self: get a copy of "The Art of Maurice Sendak"!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

More PiBoIdMo

I love this PiBoIdMo process. It really drags the creativity out of me and I enjoy sharing the journey with the other participants. In addition to Tara's website there's a Facebook group wherein people share all sorts of info and news: getting signed by an agent, not being able to come up with an idea, getting an idea and discovering it's already been written, links to articles which are inspirational etc. Two links I've found helpful are one about doodling and one about remembering what it's like to be a child when we write.

My own crazy doodles

The doodle link goes to a TED talk given by Sunni Brown who reminds us that doodling is seen as subversive and pointless by society and yet it's one of the most sophisticated ways to come up with ideas. The other link is a blog post by literary agent, Sally Apokedak, who reminds us that kids aren't interested in topics that obsess adults.

Both of these ideas are simple and yet profound.

---Keep doodling (it's okay, in fact you SHOULD be doodling.... get a prescription from your doctor).
---Never forget what it feels like to be a kid. Read this poem and you'll agree.

Poem by Mary Ann Hoberman Illus. by Marylin Hafner

Friday, November 1, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board with PiBoIdMo

Literally, it's true. I'm back to the drawing board. Although in small increments and not really at the board. Since mine is in the basement minus a leg bracket I can't seem to locate. I am however, back in the saddle... very part time.

Yours truly at old drawing board circa 1992

Household things break, children need tending to, regular work intervenes. You name it, there's excuses up the wazoo as to why I am blog-absent.

But PiBoIdMo beckons. In case you've been hiding under a kidlit rock, Tara Lazar hosts a month-long extravaganza for picture book authors wherein we all get to scratch our proverbial heads and curse at the paper. Really though, in the past two years I have come up with some nuggets for picture books during this sacred November ritual. Hard to believe that there's ideas still rattling around up there, but with the assistance and inspiration of one's fellow writers/illustrators many an idea floats to the top. How many become picture books? Ten percent? Who knows. But it definitely gets the creative juices going and that, my friends, is how I hope to revive my terminal case of creativitis.

If you've never heard of Tara Lazar, she also has a blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). Please stop by and check her out Even if you're not going to join PiBoIdMo, it's fun just to lurk.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Journaling and Danny Gregory

Whenever I get in a creative slump, (which happens to be now!) I reread "The Creative License" by Danny Gregory. For some reason his work really "resonates"* with me. He's a guy who has to work for a living (in advertising) and manages to take the carpe diem approach to art. Just do it... a little each day. Observe. Nothing has to be good. Just do it. So, in my birthday month I now will devote a small chunk of my day to get off the media and do art. Simple art with a pen or pencil. Just record. If I manage to write also, that's bonus points.

If anything comes out of this journal that's worth sharing I will do so.
In the meantime, I'll share a quote from Danny Gregory that addresses why people are enthusiastic at the beginning of art journals and lose energy as time goes by:
"Why? Often it's because you are disappointed with your drawings. You may say you don't have the time, forgot your book, grew bored. But it's really because you aren't that impressed with your drawing skill. You haven't made something that looks like art."
The true purpose of doing journals according to Danny is "To celebrate your life. No matter how small or mundane or redundant. each drawing and little essay you write to commemorate an event or an object or a place makes it all the more special."
In other words, it doesn't have to "look like art". As long as we can accept that, the journals keep on going.

In case you haven't heard of Danny Gregory, here are some of his books:

 His most recent is "A Kiss Before You Go" a diary about life after his wife's recent passing. Which is sad, but shows how Danny's journal is such an important part of his life and how he experiences/records his world.


 Check out this interview with Danny Gregory and his website when you get a chance!

*I don't like this word, but I can't think of anything more appriopriate!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Celebrity children's books

Due to my back being thrown out and having illustrator's block, 
I'm hereby reporting on junky internet news:
Here we go again. Another celebrity pens or co-pens a children's book and everyone needs to rush out and buy it. Or maybe only the curious. Or huge fans of said celebrity. Or people who just like to watch cash fly out of their pockets.
Dennis Rodman, basketball fashionista himself has a book out entitled, "Dennis the wild bull" which he co-wrote with Dustin Warburton and illustrated by Dan Monroe. The bull stomps to the beat of his own drummer, so we know it's loosely(!) based on his own persona. Perhaps there's a positive message to be had out of this book.....wear outrageous clothing and piercings's all good (just joking :-)).
Which got me to thinking: has anyone surveyed celebrity kid books and listed the good, bad and ugly? 
Sure enough, in 2010 Library Journal had an article on just that subject which was a follow-up from the blog posting on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

It seems as though Madonna was a top winner amongst the baddies, along with Gloria Estefan, Jeff Foxworthy and Jay Leno. Just goes to show you that even money and fame can't guarantee a solid performance in the kidlit world.


Monday, January 21, 2013

One-Star Amazon Reviews

This week's posting is prompted by a hilarious online article: One-Star Amazon Reviews of Beloved Children's Books. Just goes to show that even the classics get panned and you can't please everyone.

Here's a couple of samples:
Goodnight Moon:
"If you want to bring up your children to love God or at least acknowledge the existence of things that are not part of the physical world, things such as love, spirituality, truth, etc. I think you'll find the page which says 'goodnight nobody' a bit jarring....."

Where the Wild Things Are:
"I cannot believe this book is a best seller. Max, the protagonist, is a wild, rude, annoying, little snot-nosed monster. The last thing I want is for my child to model her behavior after him! My daughter received this as a gift and it is now in the trash because I could not bring myself to give it away to another child."

This got me to thinking: what other classic children's books have been "dissed" by one star on Amazon? Oh yes Virginia, there are more!

Green Eggs and Ham:
"This book is SOOOOOOOO annoying! What's the deal with all the rhyming? That got on my last nerve. I can't believe this book is a children's "classic". This book does for childrens' books what Jim Jones did for children's drinks (kool-aid, that is). If you want a GREAT children's book, try "Atlas Shrugged" the pop-up book by Ayn Rand."

Blueberries for Sal:
"I don't understand the positive reviews here or the caldecott award. The sketchings are artistically done, true, but in a way an adult can appreciate intellectually; they don't really evoke emotion. The story is a yawner."

Harold and the Purple Crayon:
"Harold's messy adventures have resulted in a lot of pain and suffering in my household. Purple crayon everywhere. You could say the blame falls on me for leaving purple crayons in easily accessible areas of the house, but I prefer to blame a children's book. Harold seems to be a stand up little fellow, but I shant be purchasing any more Harold adventures that involve colored paraffin wax."

Snowy Day:
"My wife bought this book for our 9month old son. He doesn't understand it but likes to hear stories. I won't read this to him any longer. Simply put this book is strange and doesn't have any redeeming value as children's literature. I honestly found it to be a little creepy."

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel:
"The steam-shovel is personified enough in the book, and at the age I was introduced to this book, I had a fuzzier concept of animate vs inanimate. The ending... living forever in a basement, immobile, was hellish. I cried in horror at the steam-shovel's fate. While I wouldn't recommend this book to any child, I would be especially cautious if the child has demonstrated any interest in construction machinery."

Ferdinand the Bull:
"I bought this for my 4 year old son because my husband said it was his favorite book growing up. Well, this book was only one of his many problems from childhood. First of all, it speaks of the violence brought on a bull in a bull-fight (not appropriate for young kids in my opinion). The worst part, however, is the ineptitude of Ferdinand. He is a big, strong bull not at all interested in being what he is. He is lazy and just wants to look at flowers. He is a waste. I cannot fathom how anyone finds the story endearing..."

Okay, I made my point. Nearly all the books I looked up had at least one person who couldn't fathom the book, found it boring, illustrations amateur, politically offensive etc. It's actually kind of funny when you see all these one-star ratings in a collection. It's an almost addictive research process...endearing and weirdly amusing!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Illustration Friday

In honor of Illustration Friday I'm posting today, even though I'm usually a Monday/Tuesday blogger. But that's okay since I missed this week! And I'm trying to get back into sketching regularly, so this works for me.
This past week's topic on Illustration Friday was "Ocean", and I have an older piece that I thought I'd share.
 My style has evolved since this piece was done, from watercolor to gouache and/or acrylic.Though I was never comfortable using watercolor, I was somewhat happy with this piece. It was for an assignment at RISD and the text involved a boy being afraid of the ocean. Images immediately came to mind and this is one of them.

Starting today on Illustration Friday, the topic is "Myth". That might be harder, since I don't typically do myth... but hey, there's a first time for everything!