Illustration Friday, Theme: Flavor

I drew this weird dude eons ago - not sure exactly what he is really. This weeks theme can be so widely interpreted, "flavor." Hmmm. So, here's my weird dude enjoying the flavor of his soda.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Surprise

This is an illustration from "The Prince's Diary" written by Renee Ting for Shen's Books. I had fun posing to get her gesture just right.

Sea Monkeys - the team

I was contacted recently by the Mom of a "Lego First Competition" student. This is an "Odyssey of the Mind" type organization and her son and his team had to create an under sea robot. They wanted to call themselves the "Sea Monkeys." When the Mom googled the term, she found my art. I was honored to have my art adorn their t-shirts as they competed and won 4th place against several older students! They sent pictures too - so great.
Here is the team with their medals:

And here are the back of their shirts with my Sea Monkeys illustrations:

Too, too groovy.

Imagine It!

     I had the pleasure of reading "The Prince's Diary" at the Imagine It! Children's Museum of Atlanta this past Saturday. What a great place. The museum is featuring Arthur right now, along with a focus on literacy. All of the activities circled around these themes, and the kids were having a blast.
     I had my storytime in the "purple room." The museum is basically a large warehouse space chocked full of movable walls and displays, so it's rather loud. I had to wear a headset while reading - that was odd.
     Most exciting to me, I made a dummy of "Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese" and read that for the first time (it comes out in the Spring from MacAdam/Cage). It went over great! It's a fun rhyming story right in line with the age group I usually get at these types of things (young, young), and they ate it up. I can't wait to dive into marketing Glitter Girl when it's released.
     We also read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" with sound effects. Had no idea it was such a noisy story? Try it sometime. The museum provided jingles and jangles and clappers, the kids loved it.
     Funny ditty, on the way to the museum, a 30 foot tall Emo suddenly floated across the road in front of us. Turned out they were having a parade downtown - we had no idea. It did create some issues getting to the museum, as several roads were closed. Luckily my husband knows downtown like the back of his hand. And in our navigating, I also saw a giant Power Puff Girl and a parade of llamas!

Illustration Friday, Theme: Blue

Well this week's theme is "Blue" and I have the perfect thing. This is a scene from my story "The Big Blue Oops!" Lou is trying to find something to clean her world - which has turned completely blue!!

Hey Y'all, thanks for all the nice comments recently. I'm always amazed anybody has time to see my postings - Illustration Friday has grown so big! I really appreciate your thoughts.

illustration Friday, Theme: Small

Well, I've posted several images from "Teacup" - but this is the cover - the key to it all. Never published, it's about an itty bitty dog who wants to see the great big world.

My Aunt "R"

     I attended my Aunt Arlene's funeral in Baltimore this past Wednesday. She had lymphoma cancer and passed at age 57 after four years of fighting.
     I remember her as my "Crazy Aunt." She was the coolest adult I knew as a kid. She knew all the words to the whopper song. You know the one, "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce . . ." I remember her screaming as she drove through intersections, just to freak us kids out. Mostly, I remember laughing whenever she was around - which was never enough. Funny the things that stick with you.
     She lived in Baltimore surrounded by family. Here is a picture of her with my cousin (her daughter) Khaki at her wedding shower this past June.

Luckily, R was here to share Khaki's beautiful day. All of the southern Oberholtzer's headed north for the occassion too. It was a joyful day full of smiles and laughter.
     I wish geography hadn't kept us so far apart. I wanted . . . want to spend more time with all of the "Baltimore O's," but especially R. Distance can be cruel sometimes, but cancer is worse. R fought against it bravely and, of course, with humor.
     I love her, and will miss her. She was a beautiful lady, inside and out.

illustration Friday, Theme: Free

I'm late posting this week - more on that later (or above?). Anyhow - this week's theme is "free" - which is what this turkey wishes he was . . .
Happy Turkey Day Y'all.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Strength

This is appropriate considering I'm already hearing Christmas music when I shop. Gaads. Did this Santa for a freelance job recently. This is Santa after he's been pumping the irons. Is it time for the iconic image to be updated?

Illustration Friday, Theme: night

Created this a while back for a poem I wrote called "Storm":

A storm came to visit.
Tap, tap, pitter pat, the rain danced on my window.

Rat, tat, titter tat, the rain drummed on the roof
—clitter, clatter, clang, and washed through the gutters.

Pound, pound, pitter pound, the rain beat harder down and down
—on the driveway, on the walk, on the doorstep where I sit on sunny days.

Swoosh, woosh, shreeee, the wind blew through the trees
and made spooky shadows sway on my walls.

I closed my eyes, I squeezed them tight,
but there would be no sleep tonight.

The sky rumbled, and it tumbled.
It rolled with surging sounds.

CLAP! CRACK! flashed the lightning.

BOOM! BANG! crashed the thunder.

I hid under my covers, my dog and cat did too,
as lighting clapped and thunder smacked and echoed in my room.

What if it never stops, Mama?
What if it’s here to stay?

Boom! Bang! went the thunder
—this time farther away.

Drip, drop, drippy drop, the rain slowed to a drizzle.

Everything grew quiet, and all the night sounds waited.
We curled up in my bed, it felt so safe and warm.

We closed our eyes and finally slept—we made it through the storm.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Broken

This is an illustration from "The Big Blue Oops" - another of my projects along the way that never saw the light of day.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Remote

Missed last week because of the move. This is an illustration for a chapter book I have with my agent right now, "A Bird On Water Street." Definitely the feeling of remoteness.

Well, we're IN!!

We are in our new home!! Man, moving is not fun. No way around it. But it went smoothly enough if you take into account little sleep and beat up bodies. We had to buy mostly new furniture as everything else was completely worn out/eaten by dogs/50 years old. That's been fun. Every time the doorbell rings, it's like Christmas. So, we're pulling it together and our new home is turning out to be Very comfortable. It flows well. The neighbors have already been super nice. And there's a walking trail just outside the neighborhood that leads to the track of our local middle school - fantastic. So glad to be here and starting to settle in. :)

Illustration Friday, Theme: Lost

Again with an image from "Teacup" - although this one didn't make it into the final dummy. I've always loved ths image though. He is so small and alone. Yes, there are cows, but they're big and dumb. Ahh, but somebody is watching - keeping an eye out for our little fuzzy hero . . . hm. Makum me happy.

Martini Flats

Well, hubbie has a blog again. I get to peek into his brain another way now:, named for our new house. As with our current home, "Moonshine Lodge," the new house also has an alcoholic theme. The plan is to get a flag with a martini on it - if it's waving, come on by for cocktail hour. :)

SCBWI-Carolinas Conference

     Was this past weekend. Wow. What a well-done and educational event. I gave a talk on "The Nuts and Bolts of Illustrating Children's Books" on Friday, along with giving four portfolio reviews. They went very well, and I got to see some wonderful talent. I also talked about "Two for One: The Illustrator as Writer" on Saturday. That was a much less tangible subject to cover, but the group really participated and I felt like it ended up being a highly worthwhile discussion. Hope everybody enjoyed everything as much as I did.
     Of course, the best part was I finally met one of my critique buddies, Karen Lee, face to face. We talk almost every day, and yet we'd never met. The internet is so strange that way - but wonderful too. She was just as awesome and easy to talk to in person as she is online. Check out her wonderful art at her website: Karen Lee.
     We got to spend some great time with Donna German, Editor of Sylvan Dell Publishing. If you aren't familiar with them, check them out. I was so impressed with their dedication to high quality work and fair contracts for all involved. Expect to hear a lot more from this house, and especially to enjoy "One Odd Day" (illustrated by Karen Lee) when it comes out in October of 2006.
     We also spent some good time with Mark McVeigh, Senior Editor of Dutton Children's Books. What a genuinely nice guy. He was very honest about the business, even the bad parts, which was extremely helpful to everyone. And just to have the viewpoint of someone so experienced in the business was worth the trip all by itself.
     So, all said, it was a thoroughly enjoyable event. If you have the chance to attend next year, I highly recommend it. SCBWI-Carolinas is top notch.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Escape

I wish I had time to create something new for this week. I've got this great idea for a mouse as Bacchus - escaping via wine and partying. Oh well, with the move and all the craziness right now, there's just no way.

Moving . . .

I guess I may as well announce it - Stan and I are moving. Our offer was approved on a new house in Atlanta. So, we leave the mountains . . . Gotta say, I'm so looking forward to good restaurants and being around people again. This has been an incredible launching pad for my children's book career - but I'm ready to return to civilization.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Roots

I drew this a while back - a gnome village built into the roots of a huge tree. I pass several trees that look move-in ready for a gnome family every day. Wish one day I'd walk by and notice a little door, or a window . . .

Thanks for all the great comments! I've uploaded a larger version so you can see the details - just click on the image. - MY hosting company!

Turns out the main servers for my hosting company were located in downtown New Orleans. Not only did the servers go down, but one of the guys there stayed in his office and kept a blog of what was going on outside. You may have heard about him in the news, reporters were constantly contacting him. Amazingly, my website and my blog were down for only a day and a half! I am so impressed that they were able to get things rerouted (not sure what they did really) in such a short time, and in circumstances I can't even begin to imagine. I didn't expect to be back up and running any time soon, and I was willing to wait. DirectNIC has been a great hosting company. This is the first and only time they have gone down in the several years I've been with them. No, they don't support higher programming languages for bells and whistles (part of why they are SO inexpensive), but I've been very pleased with my site using basic HTML and some javascript. I tell ya, they were good before, but they've just gained a customer for life.

Teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School

This weekend. I'm about to leave actually. I've got to set up my classroom and familiarize myself with campus. John C. Campbell is a great place, kind of like camp for adults. I'm teaching "beginning drawing" this weekend. Then I teach a week long class in "intermediate drawing" in November. This will be a nice segue, and two of my friends have signed up - so it should be a lot of fun.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Dreams

Well, pooie. "DreamBoat" would have been perfect for this week's theme. But I think this one fits too. Gotta wonder, is the little one awake? Sleepcrawling? Hmm.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Reflection

Well, reflection can either be something reflected on a mirrored surface, or the process of thinking back on things. I think this covers both.

illustration Friday, Theme: Wisdom

Well, she may be more appropriate at Halloween, but she fits this week's theme! Actually created her in stages over about ten years. Pencil sketch sat in a box for most of those years. I applied color about three years ago, mostly with colored pencil. Hm. Maybe I'll take her into digital next . . .

FAITHLESS - OT from kids books!

     So, this is Completely off topic from children's publishing, but a good friend of mine, Karin Slaughter, has a new book coming out, FAITHLESS.Karin Slaughter (perfect name) is the mystery (gory) crime author giving Patricia Cornwall a run for her money (I think she's better). She just hit #2 on the London Times Best Seller List, and has gained quite the following in the USA.
     FAITHLESSis the latest book in her “Grant County” series. I had the good fortune to read the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). Without giving anything away, I will tell you it kept me tense, guessing and even more curious about her complex characters, especially the tormented cop, Lena.
     As with her entire series, BLINDSIGHTED,KISSCUT,A FAINT COLD FEAR,INDELIBLE,and now FAITHLESS,start reading early on a day when you have nothing to do, it's light out, and you're not alone. I made the mistake of reading her first book, BLINDSIGHTED,when Stan was out of town. There I was at 11:00 at night, it was dark out, I couldn't put the book down until I finished reading it, and then . . . I couldn't move.
     FAITHLESSalso wouldn’t let me go, although I had the good sense to make sure Stan was around this time. I love a book that you know will hold you until it’s finished - it’s like a mini (gory) vacation. Ha!
     I highly recommend Karin’s books if you are looking for something good to read waaay outside the children’s book genre.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Empty

I actually drew this a Long time ago when I was first starting on this journey of children's books. His name is Yamy.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Aging

Ouch. This week's theme is aging. Nah, not me. I'm not doing that. No bags or droops here. No way.

Publishers Weekly - Glitter Girl

Very cool blurb about GLITTER GIRL AND THE CRAZY CHEESE in the July 18, Publishers Weekly online magazine:

"Silly Salutations for the Season" (by Staff)
     As is our custom, we were on the lookout for books that for one reason or another caught our attention-and made us chuckle. In the spirit of fun, we announce the following awards.
     Book Most Likely to Make Kids Living South of Alaska Grateful for the Climate: Recess at 20 Below by Cindi Lou Aillaud (Graphic Arts Center/Alaska Northwest Books).
     Picture Book Most Likely to Encourage Youngsters to Gobble Down Lunch-Fast: Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese by Frank Hollon, illus. by Elizabeth Dulemba, in which the cheese in a sandwich springs to life and dashes out the door. (MacAdam/Cage)
. . . .

Obviously Glitter Girl made a very good showing at BEA.
Glitter Girl, with credits, is also listed under MacAdam/Cage in the July print edition of Publishers Weekly. Happiness!
Although I do have to mention, they hit printer problems and the entire children's catalogue is being held for a Spring release now. Hope the momentum keeps up until then!

The Tour de France

Off topic from children's books, but a big part of my life right now. The TV is relegated to the tour for the month of July every year because my hubbie is a former cyclist and loves to follow the Tour de France, or Tour day France as Bob Roll likes to say. Anyhow, hubbie found this great panoramic shot of the cyclists today: Click and scroll around for a 360° view.

July 30th: Have to add a foot note to this. 1 - I also love the Tour because I am a complete Francophile and love everything French. (I was an exchange student long, long ago.) 2 - The wonderful creator of this photograph emailed me thanks for posting the link. All of his work is truly amazing - he says he trains flies to take the photos. I believe it. Scroll around. I can't figure out how he took most of these beautiful images:

Illustration Friday, Theme: Tranquility

Well, I didn't have anything to fit the themes the last two weeks, and didn't have time to create anything new. Luckily, this week's theme is perfect to show my latest illustration, "Dream Boat." This is my typical style created with pencil sketches scanned into Photoshop, where I apply flat color, and then render in Painter.

New Functionality at

Well, I finally did something I was avoiding since the creation of my website. I use a very basic hosting company (uber cheap), so I don't have any of the bells and whistles that PHP, CGI, ASP, etc can allow. So my portfolio page has been a simple inset frame set-up. Bad thing about that was I couldn't put comments on each illustration unless it was part of the art (which I really didn't want to do). I kept thinking there had to be a way without making an html page for every piece of art, and well, there really isn't. So that's what I did, created html pages for every piece. So now, when you click on a thumbnail, it opens a "bigger" view of the art which when clicked opens an even larger view on its own page with comments. I probably have too much work showing in my portfolio, so it was no simple task. Anyhow, check it out at: I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Oh, and if you have scrollbars in the initial larger view, please let me know. I tried to avoid them, and don't see them on any of our systems here at the house, but I really thought that would be an issue. I'm surprised it hasn't been . . . so far.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Metropolitan

Well this is about as close as I ever get to drawing anything metropolitan. It's funny, a friend and I were talking about how sometimes our "styles" are defined by what we don't enjoy drawing - therefore you rarely see them in our art. Not saying I wouldn't give it a go if there was a need, it's just not what I seem naturally inclined towards. Hm.

i used to believe

Have some time to waste? Check out this adorable site of things we believed as kids:
i used to believe
Too funny.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Black and White

Interesting theme this week. Of course, it could be interpreted as "black and white art," of which I have plenty. But I'll use it as an opportunity to show this piece. This is colored pencil on matt board from a photo we took on our honeymoon in Africa. This is a young Masai boy with his puppy. The first thing to know is, all animals love my husband. He has a catnip and rawhide aura or something. All animals love him, except for this puppy . . . who had never seen a white person before. He barked at my husband like he'd seen a ghost.

Barry Cunningham

     The editor who discovered Harry Potter.
     He was recently interviewed in an article for Fortune Magazine, "How I Make Decisions." Anastasia Suen turned me onto this in her mighty fine blog. The quote so entirely nails the purpose of children's literature, I want it somewhere where I can find it easily:

     "I choose books purely based on what I believe children will react to. If you carry the child within you, that's what works. You need a real ability to feel the hope, wonder, burning sense of injustice, fear, or rage of childhood—an unfettered mind that still dreams, that goes with the truth of story. I absolutely bet on my confidence in what children will like." - Barry Cunningham

Illustration Friday, Theme: Summer

     Well, we had a wedding this past weekend, and I'm only just now catching up. So Illustration Friday is now Illustration Tuesday for me.
     This is a banner I created for downtown Chattanooga, TN several years ago. I believe they still use them. So if you're ever there and see my flags hanging all over town, let me know!

I am a Digital Artist

Well, too funny. Shortly after writing my last entry about digital art - a call for articles for/from illustrators was announced at SCBWI. So, I've combined my feelings with a bit of the history of digital art and my method (which is in my FAQs section of my website) into an article for "The Bulletin: Painting with Pixels." I've just heard that they will be bumping another article to fit mine into the next issue because it is exactly the kind of information they had in mind. Very cool.

illustration Friday, Theme: Digital

Okay, this may seem like a loose interpretation of "digital" at first glance, but this is one of the first pieces I did completely digitally. For decades I tried to find my medium: watercolors, colored pencils, markers, acrylics, you name it. How could I have known it just hadn't been invented yet? Yes, Painter came out probably ten years ago - but it wasn't until my Mac G5 that I felt I had a system that could truly handle that behemoth. So, once I started to get the hang of it, I swear to you, wings sprouted out of my back. Can I tell you what a relief it is to finally be able to express myself and get close to what I actually have in my head? I can finally achieve the translucency, saturation, and texture I've been striving for. Digital IS my medium - what a relief. Now I can just create.

Oh, btw, this is Fugel Nugel.

Random Happenings of Happiness

I had a huge crowd for story-time again today - I'm sad it was my last one for now. Since so many of the kids were in school during my first story-times, today I skipped a theme and just read some of my favorites. Once again, DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS by Mo Willems was the biggest hit. At the end we sang the Bumble Bee song - by the second verse an older gentleman in the back was singing along the loudest. Gotta love it.

My book signing yesterday at the Mountain Scholar Bookstore was a complete success! If only they all went so well. I had a carpet full of kids to read THE PRINCE'S DIARY to. They loved looking for the mice I hid throughout the book. We sold scaads of books and I signed, signed, signed. What a great day.

I bought a new drawing pad too (small enough to draw while watching TV). Had to draw a flying pig don't ya know. Gotta draw flying pigs.

Illustration Friday, Theme: Envy

Wow, Friday snuck by me this week. I did this illustration quite a while ago for a story I wrote . . . which will probably never see the light of day: "Penny's Pink Opinion." This illustration has worked hard for me though. This is the piece that got me the "Featured Artist" gig several months back on the SCBWI website.

Star Wars Episode III

     Just got back from seeing "Revenge of the Sith." Parts of the movie were very, VERY good. It was incredibly complex. Foreshadowing was done very well. There was no black and white - lots of grey, lots of mistakes made by "people" on all sides. The case for Anakin turning to the dark side WAS made - his confusion was palpable.His visions twisted tragically. The scene where he is so horribly disfigured is disturbing - truly - but is also wonderfully done.
     However, parts of the movie didn't work. Unfortunately, some of those parts were key to the believability of the story. The scene where Anakin finally does go to the dark side was woefully underdone and unbelievable. The absolute, complete, and sudden change is too radical. He doesn't evolve into it, he is suddenly there. I didn't buy it. The time they should have spent making that scene more believable was wasted in a way too long battle scene between Obi-Wan and Anakin. Yes, that was pivitol too, but not nearly as important.
     Then there were the little bugs, like Padmé giving birth to full grown babies (I'm talking, long out of the womb sized babies), when she is hardly five or six months pregnant.
     The thing I found most amusing were the obvious references to the Bush administration: "If you are not with me, you are my enemy"; "So this is how liberty dies. With applause." Supposedly George Lucas wrote the lines long before he'd ever heard of George Bush. It's downright disturbing how well they fit as political satire.
     So, overall, I'm torn. I thought this one was MUCH better than I & II, and it prepared wonderfully for the original, or number IV, which of course I'm dying to go back and watch. Did it really first come out in 1977? Gese, I'm getting old. It did not wow my socks off, which I was hoping it would do.
     See it. Do see it. But don't set your expectations too high.

Storytime - Dragons, Dinosaurs, and Monsters

Wow. So I had 30 kids and 17 adults show up for story-time yesterday. What a crowd! Can't tell that school is out - ha. My "theme" was Dragons, Dinosaurs, and Monsters. I read several poems from THE DRAGONS ARE SINGING TONIGHT by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis, RAISING DRAGONS by Jerdine Nolen and Elise Primavera (had to reduce down some of the text in a few areas on that one - but what a great story), BUS-A-SAURUS BOP by Diane Z. Shore and David Clark was a HUGE hit, THE LAST BASSELOPE by Berkeley Breathed (again, I had to reduce down the text), OT: MRS. BIDDLEBOX by Linda Smith and Marla Frazee, and HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOOD NIGHT & HOW DO DINOSAURS GET WELL SOON? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. I also handed out coloring pages of a dragon I'd drawn (which you can download for coloring by clicking on the image above). It went very well, and the kids had a blast. Since I'm now getting a slightly older crowd from school being out, I may forego a theme next week and just read some favorites. It will be my last story-time for now. :-(

Illustration Friday, Theme: Aquatic

I'm not sure I'm going to have time to take this all the way, so I'm posting it at this stage. I've wanted to draw Sea Monkeys for a while actually, so here's a great excuse. If I am able to render it fully, I'll post as it progresses.

Update: Okay, I was able to render it, so here is the final result.
I drew the sketch with pencil, scanned it in, laid in flat color in Photoshop, and rendered it in Painter. I then pulled it back into Photoshop for adjustments. I'm really trying to experiment with adding pattern and texture and downloaded a whole bunch of new brushes for Photoshop. I have to say, I'm not real excited about my options. Anyone know of a resource for brushes that make good (large) patterns?

Later: it occurred to me that I need to look into the "pattern nozzle" - I think that's what it's called. That might be what I need. Hm.

Storytime Yesterday

     Yesterday's theme was "Animals" - leaning towards the more exotic. I read GIRAFFES CAN'T DANCE by Giles Andreae, MRS. CHICKEN AND THE HUNGRY CROCODILE by Won-Ldy Paye, I, CROCODILE by Fred Marcelllino, CAT YOU BETTER COME HOME by Garrison Keillor, and here was the big surprise - SKIPPYJON JONES by Judy Schachner. All of the books received smiles and intense interest, although I didn't get as much out loud laughter. The fun thing is, the kids are starting to know me and trust me. They've usually been several feet away, scattered on the carpet. Yesterday, they were all bunched up together at my feet. That was very cool.
     But, for the big surprise. I had the library order in SKIPPYJON JONES because it looked interesting. Well the book is HILARIOUS! I read it several times out loud just to myself because it had me laughing so hard. I was worried it wouldn't make sense to the kids, it jumps around a bit, and the alliteration is to die for. Truly I'm not sure they did follow it, but the text is so fun (not easy) to read, and the rhythm SO great (and of course, you have to use a spanish accent) - it ended up being their favortie book that day.
     Skippyjon Jones is a Siamese Cat who thinks he is a Chihuahua. He ends up in a spanish speaking world where he must save a whole bunch of other chihuahua's from a giant bumlebee who has eaten all their beans. Everything rhymes with "ito." Here is an example:
     "¡Ay, caramba! Who goes there?" asked Skippyjon Jones.
     "We go by the name of Los Chimichangos," growled Don Diego, the biggest of the small ones. "Who are you?"
     "I am El Skippito, the great sword fighter," said Skippyjon Jones.
     Then the smallest of the small ones spoke up.
     "Why the maskito, dude?" asked Poquito Tito.
     "I go incognito," said Skippito . . . etc.
     I'm telling you, it's difficult to read out loud, but if you can nail it, it is hilarious!!

Illustration Friday, Theme: Nourishment

This is an illustration from GLITTER GIRL AND THE CRAZY CHEESE written by Frank Hollon. It will be released by MacAdam/Cage Publishers this Fall. It's one child's challenge to find "nourishment" when the cheese on her sandwich gets up and starts walking around! It's a cute story. :)

Dreams of Space

      This is a very cool site my hubbie found: DREAMS OF SPACE.
       The site talks about the post WWII era when all eyes were on space travel. A flurry of literature for children was inspired by the possibilities of space travel and moon colonization. This website links to illustrations and book covers on the subject. It's interesting from several viewpoints. The art itself is often created using color plates with a very limited palette. The palette itself is interesting, lots of oranges, aquas, and blacks. And of course the subject matter which is sometimes somewhat comical. If you have some time to kill, have fun looking through everything.
      My favorite, though, is the quote by my hero Carl Sagan: "The visions we offer our children shape the future. It matters what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps."
      I hear ya Carl!

The Jack Tales

      I came across a book in my collection recently: THE JACK TALES, Folk Tales From The Southern Appalachians Collected And Retold By Richard Chase.
      First some background: I live in the Southern Appalachians. One of the draws to this area was the incredible culture that developed, uninfluenced, in these mountains due to its incredible isolation. There is a strong Celtic/English influence here which shows up in many places. For instance, instead of Y'all, people here say Yu'uns. People play dulcimers and blue grass, and they tell the Jack Tales.
      I did my exit show in Graphic Design on the National Storytelling Convention in Jonesborough, TN. There, Ray Hicks, declared a national treasure by President Reagan, told the Jack Tales. (Another good article on Ray Hicks is HERE.) His accent was so thick and his verbiage so ancient, he was hard to understand. But he was a joy to watch as he sat in his overalls, rolling cigarettes, cracking himself up. Unfortunately we lost Mr. Hicks several years ago, but there is an irony here. Most of the Jack Tales collected by Mr. Chase were gathered in Boone, NC, home to Ray Hicks.
      Imagine my surprise when I came across THE JACK TALES in my collection, signed by my grandparents, "With love to Elizabeth, Christmas 1975, from Gameo & Pop Pop." My Grandparents have both long since left this world.
      It would seem there were some powerful forces putting me on this path of storyteller, long before I actually stepped into the journey. It's a bizarre foreshadowing.

      Okay, so all that covered, why do I mention this? This past Tuesday, I read EPOSSUMONDAS by Coleen Salley to the kids during Storytime at my local library. I immediately recognized the structure of one of the Jack Tales, "Jack and the King's Girl." I think it's wonderfully appropriate that an obviously southern story should have roots in Appalachian lore, and I never would have recognized the influence if it hadn't been for Jack weaving in and out of my life for so many years. In honor, I have named the protagonist in my latest project "Jack."
      By the way, I've noticed that THE JACK TALES was reprinted in 2003 by Houghton Mifflin. I highly recommend it.

Hobbit Hall!

I will be at Hobbit Hall in historic Roswell, GA this Saturday at 10:00 am, signing copies of THE PRINCE'S DIARY written by Renee Ting (illustrated by Yours Truly) for Shen's Books. I'm so excited. Hobbit Hall is a fantastic children's bookstore. For more information, call: 770-587-0907.

Storytime at my Library

I am fill in storyteller for the month of May at my local library. What a great thing. School's not out yet, so I have lots of young ones, average ages are 2 - 6. Last week the theme was "Acting Out." That went over Great. I read a poem from Peter Sis' THE DRAGONS ARE SINGING TONIGHT (beautiful book if you haven't seen it), EXCUSE ME! by Lisa Kopelke, NO, DAVID! by David Shannon, THE MONSTER WHO ATE MY PEAS by Danny Schnitzlein (one of my favorites to read to kids), KNUFFLE BUNNY and DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS by Mo Willems (the man is a genius), WHEN SOPHIE GETS REALLY REALLY ANGRY by Molly Bang, and OLIVIA by Ian Falconer. What a great theme. I actually could have read a dozen more.

Tomorrow, my theme will be Farm Life (and creatures therein and abouts). Again, I've got quite the stack of books: Some funny songs from TAKE ME OUT OF THE BATHTUB AND OTHER SILLY DILLY SONGS by Alan Katz, MUNCHA, MUNCHA, MUNCHA by Candace Fleming, THE STORY OF FROG BELLY RAT BONE by Timothy Basil Ering (this would maybe fit with "Urban Living" too), MISS SPIDER'S TEA PARTY by David Kirk, CLICK, CLACK, MOO, COWS THAT TYPE by Doreen Cronin (that's a given, isn't it?), TINKA by Rainy Dohaney, PIGSTY by Mark Teague, EPOSSUMONDAS by Coleen Salley, and Maybe JOSEPHA by Jim McGugan, and THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS by Jon Scieszka.

I also have two coloring pages to hand out, a cow and a pig. I hope the kids have fun, I know I will!

Observations on Children's Writing and Illustrating

I’ve been busy creating some new pieces for my portfolio pages, and preparing for Story-time at my local library. I will be the stand in for the month of May. All of this has me doing quite a bit of research. I read almost every picture book I own, a considerable amount, to select ones that read well to a young group. I pulled out my Picture-Book 2004, and went through it with a fine toothed comb to come up with ideas for coloring pages - and I’m learning some new things.

From my reading, I’m learning there are some noticeable themes in children’s books. Yes, we all know about fairies and good-night books, but I’ve been surprised to find some not so obvious themes: Acting Out, Dinosaurs, Dragons, Farm Life (usually from the animals’ point of view), Urban life, Dogs and Cats, Wild Animals, Holidays, Bed time, Bath time, and Dreams. I’m also realizing there are holes in some of these categories. For instance, there aren’t enough books about aliens or pirates. I try to fill in with songs and poems, even storytelling, for my Story-time program. But I really have to stretch to keep on theme in some areas.

Before I talk about my art research let me mention, I do feel like I’ve gone through a growth period recently with my art. It always seems to work like that . . . you cruise along with your skills on a flat plain for several months or even years, when suddenly *zwooop* - up you go to a new plain of skills. The neat thing to me is, suddenly, I feel like I’m looking at art through new eyes. I’m noticing things I didn’t notice even 6 months ago.

So I was searching for ideas, to draw new coloring pages for the kids, by devouring my Picture-Book 2004. What jumped out at me here though, was something I didn’t expect: nuances in illustration skills. Sometimes, an artist can really draw, but doesn’t handle their medium well. Or the detail level is wonderful, but without contrast, creating no depth. Sometimes they can’t draw at all, but they are wonderful designers and have amazing creative ideas. And sometimes an artist will draw wonderfully in black and white, but lose it when they get to color. I concluded there are talents underlying the umbrella talent of illustrator - some are: drawing ability, color understanding, medium proficiency, saturation, proportion, and design comprehension. The ones I really love are the illustrators who excel in all of these areas.

Saturation, or lack of saturation, especially, was perhaps my biggest surprise. Many styles and mediums, by their nature, allow lots of paper show through - watercolor and colored pencils for example. This can work, but sometimes it doesn’t. I think a wash of color before rendering can help in so many areas. A tiny example: the light allowed to show in the foreground of a piece, cannot be the same light allowed to show in the background of a piece. Otherwise there is no delineation between the two - no depth.

This has been such a valuable exercise, I think I’ll try to do this every 6 months or so, as it seems I still have new lessons to learn even when I look at things I’ve already seen. Training the eye to really see, isn’t that what being an illustrator is all about?

Illustration Friday, Theme: Ambition

Or lack thereof. As it happens, this illustration I just finished is a perfect fit for the theme this week. I call it "Bored Queen."

If you would like to see my illustration method, I walk through the process of creating "Bored Queen" in my frequently asked questions section of my website: This illustration took me about two days.