Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guest Post: Battling Resistance in Illustration

Ready? Set? STOP!!!

This week's Writers Rumpus post is all about fighting the things that stop you from getting your work done. Check it out! (Thanks)


Friday, July 18, 2014

Marlo's Scissors: Spread #2

Spread #2 from Marlo's Scissors near the end of the story. Marlo has won over her Just-So neighbor and he's let her create an animal topiary in his backyard!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Marlo's Scissors


Here is a spread from a picture book dummy I am working on for the SCBWI Carolinas Dummy Challenge.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Illustration Friday: BEARD!

This week's Illustration Friday topic is BEARD. I've been listening to a fantastic audio book -- The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy. There is a powerful scene where the two young friends paint each other's faces with mud war paint. I adapted it here to use with this week's theme. An homage.

The book is about friendship, coming of age, and finding your own creative voice. It is beautifully and forcefully told, with imagery, metaphor and ideas that stay with you and inspire.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Illustration Friday: MASK!

Charlotte's friends had given her the most beautiful gift. Her costume was now perfect. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Illustration Friday: CONTRAPTION

This week's Illustration Friday challenge is CONTRAPTION!
Finally, one of Trudy's machines worked! And it was helping her friends. Best. Day. Ever.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Career Day at Wood Hill Middle School

Talking with 8th graders at Wood Hill Middle School. Screen shows a photo of the art teacher I had who inspired me to be an artist.
This past Friday, I had the opportunity to present at my niece's 8th grade Career Day at Wood Hill Middle School in Andover, MA. I presented to 3 groups of 13-14 year olds on the kinds of jobs you can have as an artist and the kinds of jobs I have as an artist.

I probably crazy over-prepared, practicing my presentation in the car and the shower and trying to pack my PowerPoint full of interesting visuals to help tell my story, but I was nervous! I don't quite remember a Career Day when I was in the 8th grade, but someone I know said that she became a graphic designer because of a presenter at Career Day. This seemed like high stakes!

I wanted to engage and inspire the kids -- any of them -- maybe especially a girl in the room who might want to be an artist but feel like drawing wasn't something she was good enough at -- to follow and find their dreams of being an artist. I presented not only on the jobs I have now as a designer and illustrator, but on what it was like to think about being an artist when I was in the 8th grade.

There are no presentation stats I can go check to see if anyone really got something from the presentation, no way of knowing if any of what I said or showed made any kind of impact, but I do know that it seemed like a good thing to have done. I now also have more of an appreciation for teachers who do this every day.

The presentation also marked a sort of place I am at in my own career. Having the opportunity to articulate and come up with a statement about my career forced me to admit I am HAVING a career and really be clear on what things I am doing, what I enjoy about it and why. It is a good exercise! I told my art story, starting when I was in the 8th grade and finished with what I do now and where I am headed. I told them that no one does art in exactly the same way that they will, and it is there for every one of them to find if they want to. (too sentimental? I hoped not)

I also got a chance to check out some student art on the walls, and inspiring meme-like postings up in the girls' bathroom. The Personal Coat of Arms assignment below was particularly cool. And the quote about doubt -- another one to tape to my drawing table.









Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Illustration Friday: TEMPTATION!

This week's Illustration Friday topic is TEMPTATION. After doing sketches of kids in candy stores, bears near forbidden pots of honey, this little sketch spoke to me most.  A drum setup! Elise couldn't wait to start smashing away!
(Not sure I did the idea justice, but, from looking at reference, I finally understand how a cymbal ends up so close to the drummer!)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

NESCBWI 14: 3 Days in Carpeted, Windowless, Kidlit Heaven!





Peter Reynolds and me and NESCBWI 14


For me, the annual New England Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators Conference has become synonymous with Spring. The forsythia blooms, and hundreds arrive in Springfield, MA hotels with manuscripts, portfolios and business cards; ready to network, get info, and get inspired.

The following is a list of my Top 10 Experiences from the 2014 NESCBWI Conference:

10. Had energizing conversations with complete strangers (or people I only know online)           
At this conference, you can walk up to almost anyone and start talking and end up in a fun and interesting place. Several people I met I found out I already knew online!  Illustrators Lisa M. Griffin and Greg Matusic and writers Hayley Barrett and Josh Funk were among the many people I connected with at the conference.

9. Attended a workshop about something that’s a little beyond where I am at.
When choosing workshops for the conference back in February, I threw in one about successful school visits with author/illustrator Marty Kelley. Have I published a book yet? No. But I plan on it! So why not sit in on a session that deals with issues beyond where I am currently at in the process? The session was full of great tips gleaned from Marty’s many attempts to corral, entertain and inform large groups of elementary school kids. (Marty's Tip: Showing an animation of a kid making arm farting noises help!)

8. Attended a workshop that’s exactly where I am at.
Workshop highights for me were a dummy workshop with R.W. Alley and a pacing workshop with Deborah Freedman and Frank Dormer. Both workshops addressed the topics I currently need to address: how to use the book format effectively to tell a story, create tension, and keep readers engaged and excited. (Deborah's Tips: USE THE GUTTER! USE THE PAGE TURN!)

7. Sat in on keynotes and panels with publishing industry rockstars

 Photo by Lindsay N. Currie   

Panels can be mini-reality checks for me. While the panelists are answering questions about the state of publishing or what kinds of projects they are likely to accept, I am flooded with the sense that THESE PEOPLE EXIST. Every day, they are looking at imagery and manuscripts from people like me. This awareness is like a ticker tape running along the bottom of the panel experience for me, giving me more information than just what is being said.


6. Took pictures with aforementioned industry rock stars (see photo of Peter Reynolds above)
                                                                                       
5. Received portfolio feedback from art directors
This is the second year I have had my portfolio critiqued by art directors from Boston area publishers. Each time and each critique has brought great feedback that pushes me to do things that maybe I thought I should be doing anyway, but needed an extra outside push to do it. (ADD TEXTURE. LEAVE ROOM FOR TEXT. MORE VARIED POINTS OF VIEW. GIVE HIERARCHY TO YOUR LINEWORK.)

4. Received portfolio feedback from fellow illustrators
More feedback that helped focus me on the things I am doing right and the things I really do need to do. 

3. Got to chill with my local critique group peeps 



I spent some quality time (morning/noon/night) with people I usually only see once a month or once every 6 months at critique groups or book readings. Here is a group that had dinner Friday night. (From left: AJ Jerrett, Nancy Goulet, Kirsti Call, Carol Ekster, Paul Czajak, a person I didn't get to meet, and Carrie Charley Brown)

2. Shared my stapler with my workshop neighbor
In the dummy workshop with R.W. Alley, we worked on cutting/taping/sketching story text and drawings. I liked the challenge and push out of my comfort zone to be working alongside fellow author/illustrators, even for an hour or two, sharing ideas verbally and non-verbally about how we approach book-making. This kind of camaraderie felt valuable and energizing.

1. Felt a sense of belonging and purpose.


The conference always gives me a sensation that I am a part of something bigger, that there are lots of people in the same pursuit and struggle. This could, of course, make me feel like ugh, there are SO many great people who are pursuing this, why should I even try? But, at this stage in the process and hopefully forever, I feel inspired. The more I learn, the more I improve, the more I work. It feels like it’s all going someplace good. Back to work! (That's me on the far left by the water pitcher. My tip: Always sit in the front row.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Illustration Friday: VOYAGE!

This week's Illustration Friday topic is VOYAGE!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Illustration Friday: REVENGE!


This week's Illustration topic is REVENGE!! Just back from a children's book conference, I am trying out some advice (use different points of view! leave room for text!) and getting back into the swing of doing Illustration Friday.

The scene is perhaps every little sister's dream come true -- Chloe finally finds a way to outsmart her strategy-minded brother!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wedding Anniversary Surprise (Shhh!!)


I just had the opportunity to do a 3-image illustration commission for a wedding anniversary gift, documenting the moments when a couple met, got engaged and were married. My client wanted the images to be black and white, in my children's book style. It was a challenge and a wonderful experience to try to get their moments right, and hard not to cry while drawing them! Such a sweet story. Their anniversary is today!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Anatomy of a Children's Book Event

To promote his new children's book, Even Monsters, author/illustrator AJ Smith put together a stellar event at Jabberwocky Bookstore in Newburyport, MA last weekend.

Watching from the stairs, I got a bird's eye view of the entire event, jam-packed with entertainment, activities, and STUFF for kids and parents. Below is a photo that explains the anatomy of a great children's book event.





1

Have a Big Picture!
AJ had a laptop and big screen so kids could watch/follow as AJ read the electronic version of his book.
He used the screen later to show drawing activities on his website.

2

Use Real Monsters!
AJ had older kids from a local theater group in Newburyport wearing painted cardboard cutouts of his book characters. In exchange for promoting their summer theater program for kids, they assisted AJ by personifying monsters from his book and handing out fun book-related Stuff to kids.

3

Pretend to Have Cooties!
Hard to see in the photo, but AJ had some orange fuzzy pom-poms that looked like the little cootie creatures from his book. While reading, AJ would periodically adhere a pom pom to himself, kids would yell, "COOTIES!" and one of his monster helpers would spray AJ with a squirt gun 'till the cootie fell off. Uproar and laughter ensued. Genius! One little boy in the audience yelled out, "My sister says I have cooties!" A monster helper came over to give him a bottle of cootie-be-gone fluid.

4

Let 'Em Draw!
After the reading, AJ had the kids volunteer to come up and draw one of the monsters from his book, which he had broken down into simple shapes and made into an activity sheet on his website. The kids were CRAZY EXCITED to come up and draw a piece of the monster -- the body! the head! the squiggly ears! -- and AJ got to promote his site and challenge kids to post their own drawings to his website. He's going to make a music video with the top 20 monster drawings at the end of the summer. Keep them engaged!!

5

Ask Tons of People!
Lots of promotion, newspaper, radio, internet coverage seemed to me to be the key to the amazing turnout at the event. AJ/Jabberwocky also cross-promoted the event with Chococoa, the bakery next door; anyone who bought a book could go there for a free whoopie pie and trading card. Everybody winning here??









After the reading: Book signing. Line of happy people and kids. Monster cutout photo booth.

Total time elapsed: 30 super-fun saturated minutes.


I left the event pretty exhilarated/exhausted. Got my free whoopie pie next door and spiked my blood sugar for a bit. Oh, and looked at AJ's framed art on display on the bakery walls. This guy did it right!!!

See more of AJ's work here: http://www.AJSmith.net

Collect some trading cards here!: http://www.evenmonsters.com/cards.html






Friday, April 4, 2014

Illustration Friday: SIZZLE

This week's Illustration Friday topic: SIZZLE!
Almost grilling season. I can remember feeling (and still do!) awe and trepidation at sizzling food on a barbecue. Fear of fire is somehow genetically part of us!! I can also remember the feeling of pride when I got to successfully flip something on the scary fire food cooker.



Friday, March 28, 2014

Writers' Rumpus Guest Post

I had the opportunity to write a guest post for the awesome Writers' Rumpus, a blog dedicated to children's literature writers and illustrators. I am posting the link to my post here, but check out the rest of the site while you are there, too! Lots of helpful tips, stories and posts to inspire and inform.

I decided to write my post about Illustration Friday, since it's been such a great tool for me in developing a children's illustration portfolio.

http://writersrumpus.com/2014/03/28/illustration-friday-a-portfolio-building-tool/


http://writersrumpus.com/2014/03/28/illustration-friday-a-portfolio-building-tool/

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Illustration Friday: RED!!

This week's Illustration Friday topic is RED! Fresh from a trip last weekend to Farm Friends in Newbury, MA to scratch some piglets.
Red's first day in the pen with the all-pink pigs was both exciting and scary. Would any of them like her?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Illustration Friday: GONE FISHING



This week's Illustration Friday theme is "GONE FISHING." Why haul all your gear down to the lake when you've got water right there in your house??!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Illustration Friday: SPARK



This week's Illustration Friday topic is SPARK! I'll come back and add some more thoughts later, but wanted to get the post in this morning.