OLIVER by Birgitta Sif - GIVEAWAY!

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to OLIVER and his creator, Birgitta Sif. Oliver is a charming and memorable character who plays in his imagination all - the - time.
      Boy, can I relate to this kid! I also lived in my head as a child, happy to draw for hours and hours without another sole around. I was perfectly happy with whatever stories were going on in my own head ... most of the time.
      I asked Birgitta, who lives in London, about her new book.

Q. Hi Birgitta, Congratulations on OLIVER! Were you also a child who lived in your imagination?
A. Yes, absolutely! I still do. :)

Q. I love that his friends are puppets and stuffies. Mine all had personalities. I'm betting yours did too? Did any of them make it into the book?
A. None of my stuffed animals make an appearance in OLIVER. But I included some of my little girl, Soley's, stuffed animals. Soley and I spend a lot of time having tea parties and playing forts with them. They are a big part of our lives, with lots of personalities. We even have a lot of cute tiny cloth mice with striped cardigans and cowboy hats, those are our favorite. However, in my next book, my favourite cloth doll (now Soley’s) that I’ve had since I was 3 years old does make an appearance. :)

Q. I'm intrigued by the greys and washed out colors in OLIVER. What is your illustration style and what drove you to make the color choices you did?
A. For OLIVER, I worked in pencil. It’s my favourite tool, I feel like it’s where all my ideas start and makes my characters and places come alive. Kind of like my own personal magic wand that fits right in my pocket. After I’ve drawn everything, I scan and colour digitally in Photoshop. Although, colouring in Photoshop is dangerous for me, there are endless amount of options. :) For OLIVER, colour played a big role. Oliver was always in green, Olivia always in Red and everyone else in a gray blue colour. And the overall colours were muted, with the pink sky when they finally notice each other.
     It's a subtle story, which I felt needed subtle colour. Bright colours would have given the book a different feeling.

Q. You also have a wonderful sense of architecture. I wonder if growing up in Iceland influenced your setting?
A. Yeah, I think my background has influenced the places in my stories! Although, we lived in so many countries growing up that I don't know where the houses in OLIVER are from! :) But I sure do love houses and architecture. In Iceland there are so many colourful ones. We lived in an old yellow corrugated iron house, on the 3rd floor. The attic was the playroom and when we moved in, there was a secret tiny side room there that had been covered up and we found old diaries! As a kid, this place was amazing.

Q. You've had a wonderful education to get into children's books, first with a BFA from Cornell in New York, and then with a masters in Children's Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art in the UK. You've been all over! What kept you moving about so much and where do you consider home? How did all that influence Oliver's story?
A. Yeah, we moved a lot. Growing up I switched schools almost every year or every other year, mostly for my parents schooling, then work. I think in a lot of ways OLIVER is based on my story. Feeling different whether it’s in a new place or whatever it is, it can be challenging. But in moving so much, I am now lucky to have friends all over the world. You ask, “where do I consider home”, well, that's a tough question. But simply, I’d say “Home” is where my partner, Thor, and beautiful daughter are. It doesn't matter much were you are, I believe that it’s the company that you keep. And they sure are great company!! :)

Q. This is your debut picture book (congratulations!). Can you describe your path to publication?
A. I worked for a little while in New York with some great publishing houses. I worked with teams there designing children's books. From there, I decided to get my MA from Cambridge School of Art. I was incredibly thrilled when Walker Books approached me at my graduation show about making OLIVER into a picture book. I feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to work with them. And now I am currently working on my next book with them.

Thanks for stopping by dulemba.com!! And y'all check out this sweet interview with Birgitta:

OLIVER. Copyright © 2012 by Birgitta Sif. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

One of my lucky commenters will win a free copy of OLIVER! (Must live in the continental US to win. Winning and review copy provided by the publisher.)
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Illustrators' Day Wrap-Up

This was our first year to combine our SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day with our annual Springmingle conference and I have to admit, it was a complete success! The Century Marriott is lovely, a definite notch up on the woosie scale. Our speakers were fantastic: Chad Beckerman, Abrams Creative Director; Dianne Hess, Scholastic Executive Editor; Mark Braught, Illustrator Mentor; and Will Terry, who wowed everybody's socks off with his insightful presentation!

     Chad definitely sold me on Instagram. Apparently he finds artists there sometimes. How's that for a new and innovative way to search for talent?

     Will gave us a quick history of how the business has changed over the last decade or so, and where he believes it's going. Truly - he is an entertaining and great speaker. I wish I could fly to Utah and take his class. His talk was one of the best I've ever heard.
     Dianne went over illustration advertising postcards and websites, giving us a peek into what jumps out to a publisher - invaluable! As was the portfolio reviews session.
     At only 2 minutes per portfolio, it goes quickly, but everybody's work gets seen, and the commentary is a learning experience for everybody.

     The results of Mark's mentoring project were also outstanding! The 12 folks who signed up early enough to work with Mark definitely ended up with some new portfolio pieces! (Click the photo to see it larger.)
     I have to say, the quality level of the portfolios shown during Illustrators' Day gets better and better every year. Along with our Scholarship Winner, Denise Plauché, we had Lori Nichols who has won two runner-ups at the SCBWI National conference portfolio shows, and Heather Lund, the SCAD student who provided our wonderful signage (above).
     The Cocktail Party (sign by Brian Prince) was a hit as well. As I expected, the visitor list was small for our first year, but I have a feeling word is going to spread about this one. (I kept getting emails from folks saying "I want to come!") It was such a great opportunity to mingle and talk shop. All while admiring attendee portfolios and the example portfolios Stuart Shapiro brought from Binders Art Supply to show attendees the sort of options they have.
     Thanks again to Binders for generously hosting the Cocktail Party. I think it was definitely worth their time, as well as ours. I look forward to this becoming an Atlanta industry event! (CLICK HERE to put yourself on the invite list for next year!)
     Be looking for announcements about next year's Illustrators' Day in November or December of this year. This has become an event you don't want to miss!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Ant Chef!

     I'm a lucky woman, I know it. My husband is a fabulous cook. And while he's great at grilling during the warmer months, its his soups in the thick of winter that feed my soul.
     How about you? Do you cook, or have a fabulous chef in your home?
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

     Click the cover to learn about my newest picture book - Lula's Brew. She's a witch who would rather be a famous chef!


Katherine Applegate and her husband, Michael Grant, have created a wonderful story which I enjoyed as an audiobook (read by Jenna Lamia and Holter Graham) thanks to their publisher, Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan).
     It was no surprise that I'd love this story, considering Katherine just won the Newbery for her book THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. She's an amazing writer, as is her husband. (Think Animorphs, Gone, BZRK, etc.)
     Eve (Evening) is the daughter of a brilliant and secretive medical researcher. When Eve nearly loses her leg in an accident, her mother whisks her off to recover at the research center. There she meets Solo, a mysterious boy who lives at the research center. To keep her busy, Eve's mother has her design the perfect boy (Adam) using a new software program. But it soon becomes clear that the program is no game...
     There's a great interview of the two authors at The Horn Book: Two and one-half questions for Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant.
     I must admit, of the audiobooks I receive, I rarely recommend them. That's why it gives me great pleasure to highly recommend this one!

SCBWI Springmingle!

As I mentioned yesterday, this weekend is our SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Southern Breeze region (Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi) Spring conference.
     Along with our speakers for Illustrators' Day, we also have Nikki Grimes (poet), Jill Corcoran (agent), Katherine Jacobs (editor), Carmen Deedy (author), and Beck McDowell (author). Wowsa!
     And here is yet another wonderful poster for the event created by Heather Lund, SCAD Atlanta student.

2013 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day

Today I'm off to the Century Marriott Hotel to host our 2013 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day! (I'm the Illustrator Coordinator for our Southern Breeze SCBWI region.) This is the first year we will be coinciding with Springmingle, our weekend-long regional conference. So, needless to say, it's going to be a crazy, but FUN, weekend!
     I'm excited about our line-up: Chad Beckerman, Creative Director at Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet; Dianne Hess, Executive Editor at Scholastic and Blue Sky Press; Will Terry, illustrator and innovator; and Mark Braught, illustrator and mentor. CLICK HERE to see the entire line-up and schedule.
     Even better - this year we're hosting an ILlustrators' Day Cocktail Party to take place at the end of our sessions - hosted by Binders Art Supply! Local Art Directors are welcome to stop by to view our attendee portfolios. (Seriously, if you'd like an invite, just email me at elizabeth at dulemba dot com.) We're still building our invite list, so it will be small this year, but I think this will catch on quickly.
     We also got some help this year from students at SCAD Atlanta who did our awesome signage. How sweet are these?
     Be looking for a wrap-up of the event after I come up for air!

Russian Illustrator Francesca Yarbusova - GIVEAWAY!

Today I have a special treat for you. The publicist, Jennifer B., at ACC Distribution recently got in touch with me. This Spring they are launching several books from overseas on our US shores. (UK too.) Three of the titles are illustrated by Russian artist, animated film art director, and illustrator, Francesca Yarbusova. While she has won many awards in Russia, she may be new to many of us here on the other side of the globe. Let's remedy that, because her work is GORGEOUS!!!
     First let's look at HEDGEHOG IN THE FOG written by Sergey Kozlov and Yuri Norstein (her husband). While it reads like a translated book (a little clunky and non-sensical at times) the imagery will suck you in. Owl, bat, horse and snail all appear and disappear into the foggy night. And whatever that creature is in the river, we may never know, but it saves dear Hedgehog who is finally able to join his friend Bear to drink tea and watch the stars. This one line translated beautifully:
"[The Moon] hung over the roof, right behind the chimney. The stars to the right of the chimney belonged to Bear. The stars to the left were Hedgehog's."
     How sweet is that!?

     Next is MISHMASH by Korney Chukovsky who was also a translator, so this one reads fine. Laugh-out-loud fine as all the barnyard animals decide to make the sounds of the other animals instead of their own. Francesca's brush work really shines in this book, as the figures stand out against the white ground. The images remind me of work by the great artists of the early Golden Books: Gustaff Tenggren's; Garth Williams; and Tibor Gergely.

     Finally, my favorite. THE FOX AND THE HARE by Vladimir Dal. This is a Russian folk-tale, a little like a cross between "The Three Little Pigs" and "Little Red Riding Hood" although nobody eats that cute little bunny. (Not sure why - or the Rooster, for that matter.) Again, the artwork shines with a folksy feeling and borders that pull you into the scene. They remind me of a modern-day illustrator's work, Julie Paschkis. This to me is how beautiful picture books can be. CLICK HERE to see more of Ms. Yarbusova's work.

     Each of these titles is cloth-bound and beautifully produced and ACC is willing to give one copy away to THREE of my commenters. How generous! So be sure to enter below... (Must live in the continental US to win.) a Rafflecopter giveaway

Milk + Bookies

Milk + Bookies is a non-profit which helps put together birthday parties, class projects, and events for kids to donate picture books to other kids who may not have any. What a very cool idea!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Curious Kitty

     What do you suppose this curious cat is reading? Looks like he's up to something to me!! I haven't done a reading coloring page for you in a while - so here's my fuzzy fix!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...
     Click the covers to learn about my picture book, Soap, soap, soap and Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón.

Judy Blume - Tiger Eyes!

I just got back (Sunday) from seeing Judy Blume's TIGER EYES on the big screen... AND JUDY BLUME herself! The preview was hosted by the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and both Judy and her son, fellow Director/Writer/Producer Lawrence Blume, spoke and answered questions afterwards.
     I went with author Terra McVoy. Sadly, it was so crowded, we couldn't sit together (although we had a great time talking to and from), but we both ended up pretty close to the front. I was in the second row and got to ask the first question - Does she cry when she writes stories like that? Simple answer was, "YES! That's how I know a story is working!"
     Judy's, *ahem*, Ms. Blume's work had such an impact on me when FOREVER was floating around my 6th grade classroom, it was profound to be able to see her in person. She overflows with the emotions she puts on a page, and she is teeny - teeny-tiny, skinny little thing. And so sincere, her son too. Their answers to people's questions were so interesting, I wish they could have talked for much longer than they did.
     I'm so glad I was able to see Judy in person. I never met Garth Williams, I never met Maurice Sendak. I never met Dr. Seuss. But I've sort of met Ms. Blume and that is a big feather in my cap!
     CLICK HERE to learn more about TIGER EYES and like its facebook page. And CLICK HERE to read a great wrap-up article about the event by CNN.

Quote of the Day - Stephen Cope

I came across this quote at Justine Musk's "Tribal Writer." She writes great posts about feeding your inner creativity and power. This particular post was called "Dating Advice" (which I'm not looking for, I'm happily married). But it spoke way beyond dating - to being true and kind to yourself.
     This quote from Stephen Cope's THE GREAT WORK OF YOUR LIFE, in which he's talking about work, really stood out to me:
“…the power of nonattachment. Give yourself entirely to your work, yes. But let go of the outcome. Be alike in success and defeat...
     “...clinging to outcome has a pernicious effect on performance,” Cope writes. Clinging (or grasping) of any kind disturbs the mind. And this disturbed mind, then, is not really fully present to the task at hand. It is forever leaning forward into the next moment – …..Grasping, it turns out, is just another form of doubt. ….The mind that is constantly evaluating – “How am I doing?” or “How am I measuring up?” or “Am I winning or losing?” – is the divided mind.”
     Because truly, how many of us writers are guilty of this? As it turns out, it may be one of our greatest obstacles.

The Cybils Award Announcement!

The Cybils - Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards - have been announced at the Cybils website - CLICK HERE. I love this award because they often-times choose books that weren't on people's radar. This year is no exception. The category winners are:

    Book Apps: DRAGON BRUSH by Small Planet Digital

   Fiction Picture Books: A HOME FOR BIRD by Philip C. Stead, Roaring Brook

   Non-fiction Picture Books: MRS. HARKNESS AND THE PANDA by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Knopf BFYR

   Easy Readers: A TRIP TO THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD WITH MOUSE by Frank Viva, Toon Books (love them!)

   Early Chapter Books: SADIE AND RATZ by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Ann James, Candlewick Press

   Poetry: BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS by Laura Purdie Salas (who I interviewed HERE), illustrated by Josee Bisaillon, Clarion Books

   Graphic Novels: GIANTS BEWARE! by jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado, 1st Second Books

   Fantasy & Science Fiction: THE FALSE PRINCE: BOOK 1 OF THE ASCENDANCE TRILOGY by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic

   Middle Grade Fiction: WONDER by R.J.Palacio, Knopf BFYR

   Nonfiction Books: BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD - AND STEAL - THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON by Steve Sheinkin, Flash Point (This one has won just about every award out there - I HAVE to read this!)

   Graphic Novels: FRIENDS WITH BOYS by FAith Erin Hicks, 1st Second Books

   Fantasy & Science Fiction: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman, Random House BFYR (I read this one and totally approve)

   Young Adult Fiction: ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by Jesse Andrews, Amulet

Go to the Cybils website to read blurbs about each book - and put them on your reading list!

Happy Valentines Day GIVEAWAY!

     Today I get to share TWO, yes TWO wonderful board books about LOVE. They are TIME FOR A HUG written by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green and illustrated by David Walker, and PIGS IN LOVE written by Teddy Slater and illustrated by Aaron Boyd. Each will give you a great big Awwwww! And two of my lucky commenters will win one - so comment below!

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International Book Giveaway Day!

Celebrate Valentine's Day with International Book Giving Day! What better way to say "I love you" to everybody, then to give them books? The website suggest giving books to friends and loved ones, leaving them in a waiting room or lobby, and donating them around the world. Click the logo above to learn more.
They even have a groovy poster by Priya Kuriyan!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Hugging Koalas

     Hugging koalas! Can you think of a fuzzier, squishier, sweeter love than that? HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...

     Learn more about my fun picture book Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese - click the cover.

Hollins University - Picture Book Design!!!!!!

BIG NEWS! I'll be co-teacher of Picture Book Design at Hollins University's Certificate in Children's Book Illustration this summer in Roanoke, Virginia! I'll be co-teaching with the amazingly talented Ruth Sanderson. It's a six-week program in the luscious hills of Virginia, hanging out with fellow children's book passionistas. Can you imagine a more creative environment?
     Registration is open NOW - click the banner to learn more!

A Quiet Look - How to become a children's book...

illustrator in one (not so easy) step. Wow.

A Quiet Look - How to become a children's book illustrator in one (not so easy) step from mike kerr on Vimeo.

If you're not familiar with her, Renata Liwska (randmcollective.com) illustrated the New York Times Bestselling books THE QUIET BOOK and THE LOUD BOOK, etc. Yeah, I'm a fan.

Kirby Larson's HATTIE EVER AFTER - giveaway!!!

We are lucky readers indeed! Kirby Larson couldn't get Hattie out of her head (or her fan mail) after her 2007 Newbery Honor for HATTIE BIG SKY. We wanted to know what happened to that brave and daring girl after her claim didn't work out. And now we know - she heads to San Francisco to be a reporter in HATTIE EVER AFTER.
     You will love this book - as much or more than you loved the first one. The language/vernacular is so charming and spot on, the reader is right there with Hattie as she pays a dime for a grilled cheese sandwich at the local diner, or takes a plane ride in an open cockpit.
     Truly, Kirby is such a talented writer - I can't wait for you to read her latest. And I am honored to have her visit dulemba.com today!

Q. Why did you decide to write a second novel about Hattie?
A. My readers twisted my arm! I got so many emails and letters from readers who wanted to know what happened next, that I began to wonder myself. It took a few years to find the right story to tell, however.

Q. The language really placed me in the time period. How did you nail the lingo of the time so well?
A. I read as much as I can that was written in a particular time period -- journals, diaries, letters, newspapers and even novels -- to help me feel comfortable with the vernacular of a time. I also rely on the Oxford English Dictionary to make sure a word/phrase was actually in use during the time period I'm writing about. I also rely on resources such as A Dictionary of American Proverbs for local flavor.

Q. I love that Hattie is a career girl, when women really weren't. Her gumption and spirit is strong and endearing - much like you m'dear. Do you feel that Hattie is at all auto-biographical? Or at least similar to you in spirit?
A. I think Hattie and I are similar in two big ways: we take big leaps and we are terminal optimists. I can't count the number of times I've said yes to something without being sure I could really do that thing, much like Hattie setting out to prove up on a homestead claim. And I try to live my life as if there will be happy endings (somewhere!) and I think Hattie does, too. However, the person I have in my mind's eye when I'm writing Hattie is my maternal grandmother, Lois Thomas Wright Brown, who raised 4 daughters all on her own during the Depression and never let anything stop her. (This is Kirby's Grandma at age 14).

Q. The messages in HATTIE EVER AFTER are so profound. She wants to know who she IS before she weds and becomes somebody other people think she should be. Such an independent mind for the age! How do you think the time period reflects Hattie's verve?
A. When so many men went off to war in WWI, women had to step up -- whether it was running the family farm or business, or helping out for the war effort. When the men came back, not all the women were ready to go back to the kitchen. Though Hattie wasn't a flapper, that is a familiar cultural phenomenon that illustrates that women were ready to "bust loose" and do things previously thought unconventional or even scandalous. Honestly, no matter the time period, there have always been girls and young women who have bucked the norm.

Q. How did winning the Newbery Honor for HATTIE BIG SKY change your career and the way you write?
A. Winning the honor opened so many doors. I was actually un-agented at that point; the silver medal provided access to agents who would never have looked at me otherwise. I found a terrific agent in Jill Grinberg, who has saved me from myself dozens of time. The honor has changed the way I write in that I now am aware that I have readers out there and, sometimes, the pressure not to disappoint is overwhelming. At the same time, I am still the stubborn, ornery, determined writer I've always been, looking for an engaging way to bring the stories that speak to me to life.

Q. I always ask... what was your path to publication?
A. Do you have a couple of hours?! The short version: I always loved to write, but never dreamed of pursuing it as a career. Then I read Ming Lo Moves the Mountain by Arnold Lobel and something clicked in me. I wanted to do that! I spent 3 years writing really, really, REALLY bad manuscripts about Sammy Squirrel and Billy Beaver before finding SCBWI, fabulous and honest writing friends and, ultimately, my way to publication. My first book, pubbed in 1994, was a chapter book, inspired by Patricia Reilly Giff's Polk Street School series. I even typed out two of her books to get a feel for the pacing, etc. of that wonderful, wonderful genre. By 1997, I had 5 books published/sold (including 2 I'd ghost written) and then I had a seven year drought. NOTHING got accepted. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Then, in 2000, I heard a story about my great-grandmother homesteading in Montana and, without one bit of encouragement from the universe, set about to capture that story. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q. You left just enough of a window that I could see Hattie having yet another adventure (Alaska, perhaps?). Any plans for a third Hattie?
A. NO! Not to be rude -- and I adore Hattie-- but it's time to move on and write about other "Hatties."

And I can't wait to read whatever comes next! Thanks for stopping by, Kirby!

(Review and award copies provided by the publisher - must live in the continental US to win.)
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Kirby is on her official blog tour for HATTIE EVER AFTER. Go visit her at:
2/1 Sharp Read
2/4 KidsReads.com
2/5 Read, Write, and Reflect
2/6 Nerdy Book Club
2/7 Elizabeth O. Dulemba
2/7 IRA Engage
2/8 A Dream Within a Dream
2/11 My Brain on Books
2/12 Kirkus Reviews

The 10 Most Beautiful Kindergartens in the World

Here are images of the ten most beautiful kindergartens in the world. Wowsa. Every child deserves such awesome learning environments! (Click here or the image above to go see them all.)
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Sleeping Bears

     Zzzzzz. Bears sleep through the winter. Mmmm. Not a bad idea.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...
Learn about proper parenting language and the power of choice in, Ready for Bed! , Ready for the Day!, and Ready to Play! - click the covers!

More Oliver Jeffers - because I'm a fan...

You have to check out this positively charming video about award-winning children's book creator, Oliver Jeffers:

Some of Oliver's titles you may recognize are:
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

Happy Groundhog Day!

I'm all the way up at The Essex in Vermont at the Kindling Words conference. Think the groundhog will see his shadow up here?
Click the image to download and color.

What did Van Gogh look like?

Well, we sort of know from his famous self-portraits. But photographer Tadao Cern has truly brought Van Gogh to life:

Here's the work in progress:

Revealing The Truth from Tadao Cern on Vimeo.

Check out Tadeo's video "Blow Job" while you're at his sight. Pretty groovy work.