His Dark Materials Trilogy, Philip Pullman

I've surfaced. May I recommend that if you buy these, you buy them all at the same time – they're sold as a group on Amazon: HIS DARK MATERIALS TRILOGY: THE GOLDEN COMPASS / THE SUBTLE KNIFE / THE AMER SPYGLASS by Philip Pullman. The story does not "end" sufficiently at the end of the first two books, you will immediately want to pick up the next book to continue.

At first I wasn't crazy about his writing style - I felt very distant from the characters and the action. But the story drew me in. It is EPIC along The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars scale. In fact, I hear there are attempts in Hollywood to make it into a movie. That would be no small task. About halfway through the second book, his true purpose behind the adventures start to reveal themselves. I don't want to tell too much, as I highly recommend you read them for yourself, but it involves the very essence of everything we are, including God and religion. This is a wonderful quote from the text that may give you a hint of what's in store:

"Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit." – Philip Pullman, THE SUBTLE KNIFE.

Late Amazon Delivery

Well my Caldecott winner and honor books, and the Newbery winner I ordered are delayed. I'm not dissapointed. I'm hoping that means they pulled them all aside to put those pretty gold and silver stickers on them before they're delivered. Gotta love the stickers.

Sick Again!

Oy. At first we thought Stan had food poisoning, until I came down with it too. It's been a comical battle of "whoever feels better refills the gatorade" around here this week. Second time this winter - I am over it! Ugh. We're finally starting to come out of the fog and catch up, but I'm afraid I'm going to miss this Friday's topic: Gluttony.

I am currently devouring Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" Trilogy and will report in when I've finished the third one (almost done).

Illustration Friday, Theme: The Seasons

This is created employing an image I made for the banners that hang in downtown Chattanooga several years ago. The graphic designer in me coming out:

Caldecott/Newbery winners announced

It's so exciting to see what they choose every year. This year's winners are (drum roll please):

Newbery: KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata

Caldecott: KITTEN'S FIRST FULL MOON by Kevin Henkes

I've already ordered both from Amazon, along with the three Caldecott Honor books:

THE RED BOOK written and illustrated by Barbara Lehman

COMING ON HOME SOON illustrated by E.B. Lewis

KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY TALE, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

Once again, the majority of Caldecott winners both wrote and illustrated their books. Always an interesting observation.

The big announcement is a new award named for Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). The first winner will be announced in 2006. How wonderfully appropriate that is. ALA - American Library Association

Illustration Friday, Theme: Balance

Okay, well you all seem to post your art in blogs, which got me playing with mine again. Oddly enough, I'm enjoying using it. Here's my post for this Friday's theme: Balance.

The House of the Scorpion

I just finished reading THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer last night, and there's a reason it has so many awards on its cover. As I closed the book I wondered, "why was this book classified as a YA"? The only reason I can see is that the protagonist is young. The story speaks to so many modern issues and ideaologies - it's certainly good reading for adults as well. I was reminded a bit of THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood (not for kids). It's a scary editorial on where we as a society could end up if we keep going the direction we're going. It was a great read and somewhat disturbing. I'm sure I'll be "chewing" on it for a while (my mark of a good book).

blogger.com Support!

Wow. So I was having issues getting my archives to work. Seems I know just enough about all this to be dangerous. So I sent a help note off to blogger.com. Not only did they get back to me in a timely manner, but they fixed the problem for me! So my archives are now working. Can't ask for better support than that. :)

To the Bookstore!

Well after two days of the flu - and I mean non-stop drill in your skull flu, I'm back and almost fully functioning – woohoo! We had lunch with relatives north of Atlanta today and tied it in with errands to buy some things we just can't get up here. Have I mentioned I live in the country? I'm talking out there . . . lots of cows . . . no mailbox . . . no Starbucks!

So, one of our treats today was to hang out in a chain bookstore for a while (Barnes&Noble). Of course I b-lined for the children's section - which covers the entire back of the store. Gotta love it. Being a Saturday - it was stuffed with kids and parents. Whirligigs and whistles were going off the entire time a poor storyteller was trying to hold their attention. I browsed the displays and smiled every time I saw a friend:

Friend - a book I am incredibly familiar with, an author I am incredibly familiar with, a book written by a fellow critique group member, a book written by a fellow message boarder, a book illustrated by one of the above. It surprises me how familiar all the books end up feeling. I Love hanging out there.

I bought THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer (the cover is plastered with awards) and HIS DARK MATERIALS box set by Philip Pullman, which I have wanted forever. Two more things I can Xnay off my Amazon wish list, which is a ridiculous six pages long! I'll write my opinion when I've read them.

An Author's Guide to Children's Book Promotion

I just finished reading AN AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO CHILDREN'S BOOK PROMOTION by Susan Raab of Raab Associates. She is also the author of the "To Market" articles in the SCBWI newsletter.

There is nothing fancy about this book. It is a down and dirty guide to book promotion by a woman who does it for a living. What a fantastic resource. There's no flowery filler, just good information. Gotta love it.

My Illustration Method

I received another request asking more detailed information about my method. If anyone is actually reading this thing, here is my response:

Happy to help. I've definitely been narrowing down my method. I do the elements of my drawing with pencil and scan that into Photoshop. After arranging the elements into the composition I want, I colorize that layer to a sepia and set it to "multiply" which makes it transparent to layers below. I create a layer below that where I color in all my flat colors (it's not filling, it's on it's own layer). I then create another layer where I do my rendering. So it looks like this:

top layer - line art set on multiply (or darken if I don't want it that visible)

middle layer - for rendering (sometimes this layer completely covers the bottom layer as I like to have variation and texture in my colors)

bottom layer - flat color (don't ever delete this layer as it also makes it super easy to select certain areas you need to render)

I then pull it into Painter and save a 2nd version. Painter is still not 100% stable, and I've had it quite on me - wiping out the file I was working on. So I save back and forth between two files while working.

In Painter, I select the object I'll render on the bottom layer, move to the middle layer and render. I've found about three or four brushes I use almost exclusively: "Artist's – Impressionist" gives me a wonderfully textured look. "Oils – Smeary Round" is the biggie, and "crayons" which almost burns the color which is great for skin tones (boy do you have to set the opacity low and use light colors!). I use a few others occasionally, but those are my workhorses.

One thing I've found is Painter is lazy about keeping colors true. I've pulled files in and out of Painter where the color has totally changed on me. Photoshop is the stable program, so I always pull my files back into Photoshop and adjust my colors there, saving the final file from Photoshop (using that bottom layer to select the spots that need work).

Hope this is helpful!

Still Experimenting

So, to get the pic at the top of the sidebar - I have to plug info into my profile. Thing is, if you don't put in enough info, the Links section bumps up and crosses over it. I think it's kind of weird how the sidebar works anyhow. If I want to put anything into it, I have to put it into the coding myself. I would think there would be some automatic field where you would do that . . . the same way you post. Hm.

Anyhow, Stan says I'm procrastinating. Which I'm really not. I finished an illustration for GLITTER GIRL AND THE CRAZY CHEESE today, and I'm way ahead of schedule so far. Thing is, these last few pieces are so detailed, they're going to take more time. They already are. I really aught to go put a compress on my eyes for staring at this thing all day. I can always tell if I've been sitting here too long - I start squinting. Which I'm doing.

But this BLOG thing is kinda cool! I'm sort of siked about it. Stan's put new info on his blog too, so we keep bugging each other, "Go look at my blog!" "No, you go look at my blog!" hehe.

The Grand Experiment

Okay. I think I have this thing figured out. I'm using blogger.com to create this. In its template area, you can play with the coding, so I've adapted it to fit in with the rest of my site. Some of the text colors aren't consistent, but I was hitting conflicts with the blogs style-sheet, and the colors aren't objectionable . . . so it stays. The main thing is to see if I even use this thing. We shall see . . .

Illustration Friday

I've been participating in this cool thing called Illustration Friday lately. A new theme is posted every week and people mostly post their art to personal blogs. Here's my art for this week – theme: disaster relief:

so I'm going to try to add an image and see what happens.

Allrighty, well I'm trying this again. This time it looks to be free and I can apply my template to the coding. So, it will look like my site. Style sheet and everything. Still an experiment. I don't know how likely I'll be to come in here and talk about things online. Dreamweaver makes it so easy to upload stuff, it almost seems like it would be easier to do this by hand. But, we'll see