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Monday, January 23, 2017

Yes, Sushi!

Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun... I'd been meaning to try Yes, Sushi, but somehow hadn't made it there yet. I suppose the universe was waiting for our friend Connie to show us how it's done. This restaurant isn't that far from our flat here in Edinburgh.

Yes, Sushi is famous for their Steam Pots. Ever had one of these before? First, you order the mix of veggies, meats, and broths you'd like. Then you make dipping sauces at a do-it-yourself set-up. Then you gape as the feast arrives.

A steam pot is placed on a burner in the center of the table, with large compartments containing various broths like clear broth or special Japanese broth, etc. It's boiling hot and you place the items from your platter into the water to cook it. We ordered beef, crabs (shell and all), prawns, tofu, rice noodles, spinach and bok choy, chicken, and, and... Oh - and you order sushi rolls to go with it - as much as you want!

OMG - it was wonderful! But I am never eating again. This was not a feast for the timid, but it was so, so good!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

VIDEO: Giant Ant

Check out this great Slack promotional animated film at Communication Arts, "Spaceship." Click the image to watch on their website.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Diana Mayo's YAWNING YOGA


YAWNING YOGA
Interview with Diana Mayo

e: What is your medium?
Diana:
I work mostly with acrylic paints, sometimes with a lot of water, so they act more like watercolour paints, but building up with a number of layers. I also add pencil colours, some cutout collage, graphite pencil and finally I scan the image and tidy it all up using Photoshop!

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Diana:
Gosh! That’s tricky to answer! However, art that I consider “Heart Art” would have me transfixed into a moment, wanting to be within the image, soaking up the textures, colours, lines of the image. The magic comes from an artist’s ability to be true to themselves when drawing and making, not being too conscious of what they think other people may want, and trusting their instinct to know when something is ‘finished’. So, listening and believing in their own voice, whether that be “fashionable” or not, being original, whilst still retaining good draughtsmanship, material technique and answering the brief as requested. It’s hard to be “magical”!

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Diana:
I enjoy expressing myself through colour and pattern, trying to think of an original way to show an idea that’s still understood by an audience. I find lack of time is sometimes challenging, and having to come with a good idea when a deadline is too restrictive.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Diana:
I hope that readers will take enjoyment from both learning about yoga through the text and diagrams, but also will enjoy relaxing with the book and soaking up the pictures’ atmospheres for their own sakes.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Diana:
I think my dream project would be to write and illustrate a book based on some small part of my own children’s ongoing childhood.

e: Thanks Diana! Check out her groovy studio...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Book-eating Bear

     There's more than one way to enjoy a good book. What do you suppose the title of this one is? The Three Bears maybe? CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. 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.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

VIDEO: Nicolette Jones on Non-fiction Picture Books

Nicolette Jones is the children's book reviewer for The Sunday Times out of London and a powerful force for good in the children's book community. I was lucky enough to get a portfolio review with her last year through Picture Hooks. Recently, she recorded a series of videos on picture books and their creators. You can view the first one about non-fiction titles on The Sunday Times website - click here or the image below to go watch.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Little Pickle Press now an Imprint at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

I'm thrilled by the good news that the publisher of my historical fiction A BIRD ON WATER STREET, Little Pickle Press, will now be an imprint of Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky in the capable hands of my friend, Editor Kelly Barrales-Saylor. What does this mean? A letter at the Little Pickle website from owner Rana Diorio says,
"The partnership with Sourcebooks not only validates all that we’ve accomplished but also gives us the benefit of an “800-lb. gorilla”—with a dedicated sales force covering the trade, as well as schools and libraries, and gift and specialty markets—to further our interests. Our powerful partner will now be the driving force behind our legacy business, leveraging strong industry relationships to place our stories in the hands of more children..."
      The main company has been renamed to March 4th to broaden its impact in various marketplaces. CLICK HERE to read the public announcement.
      So, what does this mean to me? It means my book will now have a more powerful marketing team and force behind it, getting it into the hands of more readers. I am thrilled about that! I also happen to be a long-time fan of Sourcebooks and am very proud to now be associated!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sav Akyuz's I AM BEAR


Interview with Sav Akyuz
Illustrator of I AM BEAR

e: Hi Sav! What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Sav:
I spend a lot of time thinking about the look and feel of the characters and the world they live in. I try not to force the process and, usually, ideas come to me at the most peculiar and unexpected times, such as when I’m mowing the lawn or having lunch - actually, I do find that I work better on a full stomach, like the old adage goes. I don’t always think or solve problems with a pencil and a sketchbook; I like to visualise things in my head (a large cavernous thing on top of my shoulders which occasionally churns out good ideas) as that’s a place where I can create at lightning speed. It’s only after I’ve imagined a few cool things that I start the process of trying out different styles but typically end up right back where I started. It’s a painstaking process I have to go through to see if I can come up with something different to what I had initially imagined. Once I’ve got a look I’m happy with, I storyboard the book. I am a storyboard artist by day and it’s this experience which really helps to get the visual storytelling right - or, at least, to a place which I think is good storytelling. I find that once the storyboard is in place, the rest happens quite quickly.

e: What is your medium?
Sav:
I work digitally using a digital pen and tablet with various software. This is mainly because I was set up like this as storyboard artist and sort of fell into illustration. I wasn’t geared up with, nor did I have the space for, traditional media; in fact, apart from a pencil, I hadn’t touched traditional media for many years. After some initial thought (more thinking) and with a deadline looming for my first book, I had to just get on with it. Working digitally is quite a natural process for me but, for some of my upcoming books, I have managed to complement it with some traditional methods - like spray paint and stencils. At the beginning, I thought ‘digital’ was a bit of a dirty word in the world of children’s book illustration, sometimes hesitating when people asked me how I worked… but I soon got over it.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Sav:
This is a really tough question but I’ll give it my best shot, whilst being slightly vague and open-ended so that it could be interpreted as really cool and I know what I’m talking about. If I were saying it out loud, it would be one of those statements with the intonation of a question because, really, I have no idea what I’m talking about. However, I think the answer could well be in your definition ‘Heart Art’. For an illustration to be magical it has to come from the heart and appeal to the heart. That could be through beauty, comedy, simplicity or even tragedy, and I think that the appeal comes from the idea behind what you are trying to say in that moment. For me, the idea is the most important thing in creativity. It could be as simple as a single dot on a page or even a completely blank page which, in the wider context, could be precisely what is needed and provides that moment of magic.

e: What is your favourite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Sav:
To answer both questions… it’s coming up with good ideas. I’ve already mentioned that ideas are magic but they are also the backbone of anything creative and there’s nothing better than coming up with a really cool idea and, these days, there are no barriers to being able to share your cool ideas with the world in some form. I get so excited when I’ve had a cool idea. I remember so vividly the moment I came up with the idea for ‘I am Bear’ and was so excited about it even though I was certain that nobody else would find it remotely interesting or funny. I still find it hard to believe that it’s become so popular but I do believe that’s because there are good ideas on every page. Other challenging things for me are; people not liking my amazing ideas and, my enemy, colour. I’m pretty much self taught as I have had no formal painting training or education, so I really struggle with colour.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Sav:
I’m working on the hilarious sequel to ‘I am Bear’ with my good friend, Ben Bailey Smith. The idea behind the book took a while to get right. We went through a variety of ideas and scribbles but, eventually, had to take a step back and not think about it too much. Several months later it came to us in a flash, much like the first book, and everyone is super excited about it. I’m thankful to already be living a dream by having my books published but if I really had to put it out there, I’d say having Bear come to life on the big (or small) screen would pretty much be my dream project.

e: Thanks Sav!

Text ©2016 Ben Bailey Smith
Illustrations ©2016 Sav Akyuz
From "I Am Bear" by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz, reproduced with kind permission of Walker Books Ltd, London SE11 5HJ

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Book Window

     It can never be said too much... a book is a window to the world! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to 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 over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. 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.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

VIDEO: Storytime Online's STREGA NONA

Do you know about Storytime Online? Famous actors read wonderful books to us and they recently added Tomie dePaola's STREGA NONA, read by Mary Steenburgen. Click the image to go watch on their website, then look around on their site for more!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Lovely Day in Porty

I actually had a ton of work to do over holiday break, but completed it on Friday. So Stan and I went to Portobello Beach to relax on Saturday. It was quite a mild winter day - so nice. We walked along the boardwalk...

And watched dogs joyously running and chasing and digging with complete abandon. (Although not in these pictures, they were everywhere!

I've shared Porty with you before, so I tried to look for new things to share, like this lovely sign which embraced the idea of Porty perfectly.

We had lunch at the Espy - our fave. Walked some more. Then ended up at the Dalriada again, where we were entertained by one of their regulars. He's really good.

I had hot chocolate and we enjoyed the coal-burning fire (that's what's in the buckets). We debated if the screen was to keep out the dogs or the children, or both. Since there was a wedding party going on next door, there were lots of kids running around with nearly as much abandon as the dogs. Although, I daresay the dogs were better behaved for the most part! :)

It was all good. Everybody was so relaxed and the pub was filled with the awesome sounds of happy life. People sang, because that's what they do here. There's nothing like Porty to knock your blood pressure down a few notches. And on the way out, I spotted another glove on a fence - a red gate this time.

I still record these and have an awesome and building collection. I may have to turn it into a social project this spring. Hm!
     At any rate, it was just what we needed! So, so nice.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Friday Links List - 6 January 2017

From Brightly: 17 Picture Books Not to Be Missed in 2017

From Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes at SLJ: Top 10 Circulated Picture Books of 2016

From SLJ: In Memorium - authors and illustrators we lost in 2016

From Wales Online: A university wants to hire a £60l-a-year 'Professor of Storytelling' - very cool!!!!

From Brightly: Rad Women Your Girls (and Boys!) Should Read About - while I wish this article was titled "all children should read about" I still think it's important.

From Muddy Colors: AD Access: How Do You Get Access to Art Directors?

From PinkNews: Following homophobia row, children's magazine features same-sex parents for the first time (!!! YAY!!!)

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Laura Freeman's and Deborah Blumenthal's FANCY PARTY GOWNS

The story behind the story:
How FANCY PARTY GOWNS,
The Story of Ann Cole Lowe,
became a book.

Author Deborah Blumenthal and illustrator Laura Freeman
interview each other about the book and more.

Laura: Deborah, tell us a little about how the book came to be.
Deborah:
I'm always hunting for story ideas – when I'm reading newspapers and magazines, when I'm talking to people, when I'm walking down the street, or just sitting in a coffee shop overhearing other people's conversations. In the case of this book, I was going through my Facebook feed when I came upon a post that my friend Jackie W put up. She often puts up posts about politics, important causes, and sometimes women in history. I read her post about Ann Cole Lowe, the woman who designed Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown, perhaps the most photographed dress in history, and I was intrigued.
     I hadn't heard anything about Ann and I thought that maybe it was just me. Surely history buffs and feminist historians would know about her, but that wasn't the case. It turned out the reason Ann failed to get the recognition she deserved was that she was African-American and she was perpetually battling prejudice, despite her gifts as a couture designer, and the demand for her work.
      The more I looked into Ann's life, the more her story gripped me. Her mother ran a business in Alabama making fancy dresses for society women, but when Ann was only 16, her mother died. Ann already knew how to sew, so she took over her mother's business. In fact, Ann's whole life was about embracing challenges and doing the work she loved.
      When she was commissioned to make not only the wedding gown for Jacqueline Bouvier's marriage to Senator John F. Kennedy, but also all the dresses for the wedding party, Ann finished the job in time, but ten days before the wedding, ten of the sixteen gowns were damaged by a flood in Ann's workroom. Ann bought more fabric and hired people to help, and she completed the job, losing money instead of earning it.

Laura, tell us a little bit about what drew you to the project, and what challenges you faced bringing the story to life.
Laura:
I had never heard of Ann either but when I learned of her I was immediately drawn to her story. My Dad's sister; my Aunt Theresa, suffered similar injustices in the same time period. She also lived in Alabama and worked as a seamstress. She also created beautiful dresses for the white women in her town and was taken advantage of and underpaid for her hard work and talents.
      I could find very few photos of Ann, none of her as a young woman or child but I noticed how her high cheekbones resembled my sisters and I ended up using my sister as a model in many of the spreads.

Laura: This is a book about high fashion. Have you worked in that world?
Deborah:
Not unless wearing fancy jeans qualifies. More seriously, while high fashion is part of the theme of this book, the bigger story is about a woman who pursued the work she loved, despite the struggles she endured along the way.
     I will say, though, that anyone looking at pictures of Ann – and there were very few I could find - can tell she dressed in an elegant, understated, effortless way, and I think that's typical of most style icons (except maybe for standouts like Iris Apfel, -who create winning looks by piling on the accessories and going over the top).

Laura: I'm not a fashionista, but I did work in the fashion industry for ten years as an in house illustrator at Polo/Ralph Lauren. Although I do appreciate fashion, (who doesn't like to look good!) I was probably the only artist in the mens design department who was more interested in children's books than in fashion.
     That said, my time at Polo definitely added to my illustrations for this book, especially the endpapers with the swatches (above). And Polo was where and why I started using Photoshop, which is how I create all my illustrations. I had sooo much fun with the patterns and saturated colors. Ann's gowns were so lovely, they definitely inspired me!
Laura: Tell us more about what you hope readers will be inspired by in this book.
Deborah:
Well, of course follow your dreams and do work you love. But I'd love to see the book inspire kids to leave their computers and do things like learn to sew or embroider, do lacework or beading. There are so many rewarding, artistic pursuits. Enough with the video games!

Laura: I love that Ann knew her own worth and didn't let other people define her. In spite of adversity she knew she had what it took. She worked hard to reach her goals and never gave up.

e: Hi guys, Elizabeth popping in here! What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again? 
Laura: Expressions, body position, color, placement on the page, all these things translate to emotion for the viewer. I catch myself making the same expression as the character I'm drawing. I like to think that if I feel it when I'm making the art, the viewer will feel it too.
e: Thanks!
Laura: Going from serious to frivolous - Deborah, what kind of clothes do you wear to work, and where do you shop?
Deborah:
Jeans and t-shirts in warm weather, jeans and sweaters in the winter, with a well-cut blazer. Most important for me is that clothes fit well. And since I'm tall, pants have to be long enough! I do most of my shopping online. I'm a big J Crew fan.

Laura:
Ha! I work at home so depending on my deadline and mood you might catch me in pajamas and robe but more often than not, depending on the weather, it's jeans and a sweater or or yoga pants and a t-shirt. I definitely like to be comfortable! Occasionally, I do like to dress up but it's rare that I get to.

e: Thank you both!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Screen Printed Pillows

I didn't get the chance to share this with you before... remember all that hand-screen printing I was doing?

Well, I had them made into pillows for my summative assessment. Nessie looks like this on the front.
And it's a lovely wool tartan on the back.
The pig from my Animal Alphabet project turned into a pillow that looks like this on the front,
and this on the back.
Several more are coming including a Hairy Coo.

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