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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - Piano Playing Tiger

     Did you know I used to play piano? Yup - ten years of lessons. But it's been about 15 years since I've had the chance to play. Here at Hollins, President Gray was kind enough to loan me a book of music - Clementi's Sonatinas, which I grew up playing. It was hard to find a window, but I finally did and I played Clementi for about a half hour. The truth is, I was horrible. But the good news is I didn't forget everything and enjoyed myself immensely. I wonder if I'll have access to pianos in Edinburgh?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Children's Book Characters at Hollins

Fellow Professor Ashley Wolff has created the most adorable figurines of classic children's book characters to be placed around campus during our MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs. She launched them at this year's Francelia Butler conference. They were a huge hit! Ferdinand was my fave:
Here's Ashley with Eeyore!
She also did the caterpillar from THE HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, Frog from FROG AND TOAD, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet and several others. What a charming addition to our program!

I have MORE! Ashley sent more photos along... One of our student's (Kassy Keppol) children are with her this term and they helped cut out and paint...

The results were wonderful!



These will go up every year, scattered around campus, along with our fabulous direction sign. More on that soon...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Martin Brown: Everyone Can Draw!

The illustrator of the Horrible Histories series, Martin Brown, recently gave a talk about Everyone Can Draw! at the Shetland Library. Learn about shape and expression in cartooning - great advice! Click the image to go watch at the Scottish Book Trust website.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jennifer Anderson presentation!

The Chair of the Art Department at Hollins University and an Associate Professor of Art, Jennifer D. Anderson recently talked to our students about her gorgeous cut paper work.
These amazing pieces take her upwards of 60 to 80 hours to create. I can believe it! But the results are so worth it - they are simply stunning. Even more so when their hung in such a way to create shadows on the walls behind them.
Our illustrative world is focused on creating books, so it was a nice break to hear the perspective of creating art for art's sake from this seasoned pro!

Illustrator Challenge #10

Choose a favorite image and draw a small copy of it (about 3"x5") in black and white using all the values in the value scale you created last week.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Linky List - July 24, 2015

From Nautilus: The Quest to Mimic Nature's Trickiest Colors

From The Mixed Up Files: Love for the Kidlit Community

From Houzz: Happy Birthday, Rembrandt: Peek Inside the Dutch Painter's Former House

From Travis Jonker at School Library Journal: The Wildest Children's Books of 2015

From the Scottish Book Trust: Make your own book with Chris Riddell (scroll down to the 2nd post)

One of the thrills of this business is helping friends celebrate book birthdays. Today, I am proud to announce the release of Tracey Cox's THE CHILDREN AT THE PLAYGROUND. Happy book birthday Tracey!!! Click the cover to learn more about it!

Fairytale in New York: These Homes Look Like They Belong in a Storybook

At Giuseppe Castellano's blog: On SCBWI, Advice for Authors and Illustrators

From Picture Book Builders: Kevan's Totally Self-Indulgent Post (This is my agency too, although I wasn't able to make the retreat.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Alexandria LaFaye's PRETTY OMENS - Guest Post

Today I welcome one of my colleagues at Hollins University, Alexandria LeFaye, who is celebrating a book birthday. She's here to talk about PRETTY OMENS. Take it away Alexandria...

Following the Signs: The Beginnings of Pretty Omens
by Alexandria LaFaye

      I blame boredom and Paul Janeczko for the beginning of PRETTY OMENS, my new book with Anchor and Plume press. Okay, so maybe I should say that it was really my penchant for snooping while I'm waiting for a friend (sorry) and the fact that Paul gave me permission to write a novel-in-verse.
      Here's how it happened, I was waiting for a friend to get ready so we could go to an event–probably a reading, but sadly, I can't even recall which friend it was. If you're that friend, feel free to remind me where we were headed that night. In any case, this word-loving friend had a word-a-day calendar of archaic words and had pulled off a stack of days/words to "catch" and left the stack in a bowl nearby, so I started leafing through and found "cried back" a set of words meaning to cry so hard at the death of a loved one that the dear soul is brought back from the dead.
      This folk belief is probably a response to near death experiences where someone "came back" from the brink of death only to be altered by a lack of oxygen. As I learned when I researched the belief, many people believed those who were cried back were touched by the devil. People saw death as a part of God's plan and altering that plan meant opening the person up to temptation. Often, those who came back returned different (probably a result of brain damage). In any case that idea inspired me to write a book about a girl who was cried back and then shunned by her community because they feared she was touched by the devil. She was touched all right, but by God and given the gift of prophecy. The trouble was, like Cassandra from Greek mythology, no one believed the girl when she warned them what was coming.
      I imagined that she'd draw the demons as they came to her, so they became "pretty omens."
      I tried unsuccessfully to write the book again and again. I knew I wanted it to happen in the South at the turn of the 20th century or even the roaring twenties, one of my favorite periods. Why the South? It's steeped in Christian and folk beliefs that often intertwine, and when I worked on the book I always heard Appalachian folk songs in the back of my head. Setting and premise aside, the piece never came together until I had dinner with the poet Paul Janeczko. He was about to give a reading and talk for the graduate program in children's and young adult literature (and now illustration) at Hollins University (It's a great program, check it out.)
     Paul planned to talk about his book Worlds Afire, which I love. And though it's often called a novel-in-verse, it's really a collection of poems on the same event. That night, at dinner, I told him about the trouble I was having with my book. He suggested that I give it a try as a novel-in-verse. When I asked him if he thought I could really pull that off, he said something along the lines of, "Sure, why not?"
      Why not, indeed. I sat down shortly thereafter and crafted the first poem "Moon Baby" and Cass Anne Marie Pettibone was born--literarily, of course.
      Things worked out pretty well in the end. Turns out Paul was right. I could write a novel-in-verse. Here's what he had to say about the finished product:
      "In LaFaye’s strong, fast-paced novel-in-verse, the voices of her characters ring true, the language dazzles, drawing the reader into Cass Anne’s story of love and redemption, religious intolerance, and belief."
      So the moral of this blog is never leave an author unattended in your front room and don't wait for permission to try a new form.
      Speaking of new things, you'd like to order a copy of PRETTY OMENS, please do: http://anchorandplume.bigcartel.com/product/pretty-omens. And read more about the origins of PRETTY OMENS at Goodreads.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Guest CeCe Bell!

CeCe Bell visited our students the other day at Hollins University to talk about her Newbery honor-winning and now Eisner honor-winning EL DEAFO.
Her talk was amazing honest and touching. Ruth Sanderson helped with questions. I had the pleasure of joining her for an early dinner before-hand. Happily, CeCe doesn't live far away, so we'll have both her and her husband as our visiting authors and illustrators next year. Can't wait! Meanwhile, as CeCe says...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - X-Ray Tetra

     Back to the alphabet images, I thought I'd get one of the hardest letters out of the way this week - X!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Floyd!

Every year at Hollins University, several of us road trip down to Floyd, Virginia (worth the click) for an evening of fine entertainment. Here I am with Karen Coats and Stan.
Ashley caught up with us a bit later and painted a picture of a great up-and-coming band called Big Virginia Sky.
Floyd is part farmer, part hippie, part bluegrass, part mountain - a sweet little town where all sorts of folks gather on weekends to play music. The sidewalks are set up with little insets to make room for all the groups who want to play and the folks who want to listen.
There are formal and impromptu stages scattered all around town.
Most of the folks are amateurs playing for fun. One of the best groups hangs out in front of the public bathroom.
Tourists meander from band to band enjoying the different tunes (mostly bluegrass). I counted seven bands outside that night, but I think I missed some.
Or you can go into the Country Store.
I think it's been there longer than the town. Crowds gather inside like sardines waiting for the primo bands to play.
Because these are the bands you can clog to. And the most unlikely folks get up and get stomping'! I'm pretty decent at faking it, but I'm quickly reminded how horrible I am at clogging when I try to copy the folks around me on the dance floor who know what they're doing. Ellen and Delia gave it a good try too.
That first summer trying to clog in rubber-soled shoes convinced me I needed a good pair of cowboy boots - we all wear them there: Me, Ashley, Chip and Sheree.
What a great night. It's like magic to be surrounded by friends and that much heel kicking' music!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

James Gurney's Gurney Studio

Do you know about James (Jim) Gurney's tutorial videos? There are several of them ranging from painting with oils to creating stop-motion animation like this one - Clementoons™. Click the image to go watch on YouTube.
CLICK HERE to see previews of all his tutorials, subscribe to his YouTube channel, and register to watch the entire tutorials!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Illustrator Challenge #9

Draw 10 boxes in a row - about 1"x1". The first box stays white and the last box goes as dark as you are able to get it (hopefully without embossing). Fill in the boxes in-between in a gradient from light to dark. Work slowly, build up the pencil. Keep your edges neat. Keep the value even. This is a value scale which can come in handy for all sorts of future work.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Linky List - July 17, 2015

From The Amherst Bulletin (via PW): Renaissance Man Eric Carle Museum opens new exhibit on late illustrator Fred Marcellino

From The Guardian (via PW): Top writing tips for new children's authors from top editors

From The Guardian (via PW): 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland - in pictures

From PW: Authors, Booksellers & Agents Call for DoJ to Investigate Amazon (to investigate if Amazon has a monopoly on the retail book sales business

From School Library Journal's Betsy Bird's Fuse #8: When Clothing Approximates Sexism (and other woes)

From 100 Scope Notes (at SLJ): The Newbery Title Frankenstein, Create your own Newbery title

At Horn Book: Louis Sachar Talks with Roger (Sutton)

From Authors Helping Writers (via SCBWI Belgium): The Hardest Part of Writing Good Character Arcs - and How You Can Make It Look Easy!

From Washington's Top News (via PW): Vending machines in Anacostia provide free children's books

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dennis Nolan's THE HUNTERS OF THE GREAT FOREST - Guest Post

I've had the great pleasure of getting to know Dennis Nolan each summer at Hollins University as he spends time here with fellow MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating Professor Lauren Mills. Dennis is old school, one of the golden age illustrators. He knows everybody in the business, teaches the up and coming at Hartford University, and inspires the rest of us with his impeccable skill and story-telling sensibilities. I'm thrilled to have him on today to talk about his latest picture book, the perfectly wordless THE HUNTERS OF THE GREAT FOREST. Take it away Dennis!...

      During the long process of mental wandering and rejected story ideas in my sketchbook, the idea for the Hunters of the Great Forest happened, as most of my picture books, as a complete and instantaneous thought. I scrawled it out across a single page storyboard before I lost the narrative as it played out in my mind like an animated film. The final very much resembles my very first rapidly drawn conception, yet only after many frustrating attempts at putting together a story that felt complete and rounded. Constructing the book, designing characters and architecture, deciding on the particular bird to use, experimenting with a palette of colors and whether to use pen and ink or pencil, took considerably longer than the flash of inspiration that revealed the story.
      With the storyline in place, I began the process of discovering who would populate the great forest, at first trying human like proportions, but after many versions, settling on inch high hunters composed of spheres and spindly legs that were a bit more insect like and allowed for gestures and postures that would add a humorous component to their character.
     I drew many hunters, young, old, male, female, heroic, and silly, before choosing the ones who would take the long journey into the giant trees. Keeping their personalities, costumes, colors, extra gear and weapons, distinct and unique helped to propel the action and enliven each illustration. I filled a sketchbook with designs of characters, toads, birds, ants, and mushrooms.

     I drew compositions with trees and rocks from a bird’s eye view to an ant’s eye view until I had exhausted the possibilities. And when my vision was finally taking place, I began the process of collecting reference.
     I spent hours in the woods, taking photos of tree roots, branches, and holes where nests might be built. Rocks and the muddy bank of a creek, for a rejected picture of the hunters crossing the water, were photographed from many angles.
     I built inch high hunters from wire and polymer clay and they were set among the landscape for scale helping me to envision the final images. I sculpted each hunter again in clay, at considerably larger than one inch tall, so I might understand their anatomy and proportions, but in the end had to be realized through gesture drawings and quick sketches.

     A village was built to scale using foam core and set in the sun to check perspective and shadow, drawing inspiration from storybook and cottage architecture, with quirky details to be added at the drawing stage.
     After I built the village to scale using foam core and set in the sun to check perspective and shadow, drawing inspiration from storybook and cottage architecture, with quirky details to be added at the drawing stage. The particular challenges of telling a story in pictures, without a single word of text, called for each character to project emotions which could be clearly read, as well as the building of suspense and dramatic surprises and conclusions through the use of extreme perspectives and telling details.
     All the reference was finally combined in pencil drawing that included not only all the characters and the landscape, but the values of the light and shadow as well. It was then that I experimented with the final look of the paintings, finishing a number of pages using different media and different palettes of colors. I tried black and white, sepia, full color, graphite, and colored pencil and wash before settling on pen and ink and watercolor. The choice felt right for the kind of story I was telling, with action, suspense, humor, and comical personalities.
     I used a dip pen and dark brown acrylic ink for the line work on watercolor board over my initial pencil drawing. The pencil was then erased and the entire picture received a wash of raw umber watercolor. This was followed by a wash of raw umber and ultramarine blue to take advantage of the granulating effect of the pigments. Some of the pictures required additional washes of yellow ochre or burnt sienna to set the groundwork for trees or rocks, or a blotting out of color for clouds. When all of the paintings were at the same level of finish regarding inking and background washes, I began the detail work of the hunters and their costumes, mushrooms, tree bark and rock textures, the dragonfly, toad, tufted titmouse and chipmunk, using concentrated watercolor washes and a few touches of colored pencil. The fairly unified background and the violet shadows bind the book together as the hunters move from early morning to night.
     After trying a number of fonts for the display type I decided on hand lettering that also added to the overall character of the book.

     Me: And we're fortunate to have the lovely results! THE HUNTERS OF THE GREAT FOREST feels like a classic to me along the lines of Chris Van Allsburg's JUMANJI, James Gurney's DINOTOPIA, or Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Check it out and I know you'll love it as much as I do!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ABOWS a "10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read" title!

WOOHOOOOOO!!!!
     The Georgia Center for the Book has selected the works of 24 prize-winning authors and illustrators with Georgia connections for the 2015 lists of the “Books All Georgians Should Read” and the “Books All Young Georgians Should Read.” The lists are compiled annually from nominations received throughout the year by the writers, educators, librarians, and media representatives who comprise the Georgia Center for the Book Advisory Council. The ceremony this year will mark the sixth edition of the “Books All Georgians Should Read” and the third of the “Books All Young Georgians Should Read.”
      “For the Georgia Center for the Book, the ‘Books All Georgians Should Read’ and the ‘Books All Young Georgians Should Read’ lists are a wonderful way to honor the extraordinary talent we have right here in Georgia. They give us the opportunity to inform readers across our state about the diverse body of work being produced that celebrates Georgia’s literary heritage so well,” said Joe Davich, GCB Director.
      “We are extremely proud of the 2015 lists,” he continued. “They are valuable assets for parents, teachers, librarians, and readers of all ages across the state. We believe these lists can help guide readers to some of the finest writing available.”
      The new list of “Books All Georgians Should Read” includes four works of fiction, four of non-fiction, and two collections of poetry. The list of “Books All Young Georgians Should Read” includes three picture books, 2 books for middle school readers; four books for young adults, and one graphic novel. Both 2015 lists are the result of months of discussions by the Advisory Council, which considered over 100 books by Georgians or about Georgia.

2015 Books All Young Georgians Should Read
• I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison
• Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
• Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham
• Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe: Class Pets by Susan Nees
• Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles
• Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder
A Bird on Water Street by Elizabeth Dulemba
• Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy
• All Those Broken Angels by Peter Adam Salomon
• Marc: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - Cowabunga!

     Surf into reading. Cowabunga! Grab your favorite book and get surfing this summer! A good book can take you on a great ride!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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