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30 September 2015

My walk to school

Our flat is one mile from my studio at the College of Art, so every day I take a little hike across town...a very pleasant little hike. Out the door I immediately go up a hill, which gets my heart pumping and warms me up quickly. From there I can choose two main directions - to go east or go west. Either way, I have to get around the castle. (You don't want to go over that hill, that is masochistic.) I tend to go west more often that east, as North Bridge can get pretty crowded, and I've gotten nailed on a few occasions - ouch! SO! At the top of the hill, I usually head through St. Andrews Square.
A very good friend of mine is the Green Man. He tells me when I can cross a street or not. Although, I have to admit, there is a very fun game here I like to call Road Pizza Pong. That is, trying to cross without the Green Man's help. I've gotten quite good at it. Still, I'm awfully fond of this guy:
From there, I cut down Rose Street.
This is a charming street that runs parallel to Princes Street - the big mall-like tourist draw. It's quieter, there aren't as many vehicles, and all the sweet restaurants and pubs are setting up for the day. I pass the french patisserie which makes this gluten free girl want to cry.
I swear, I must past at least two dozen pubs every day. I really should count.

Much of Rose Street is covered in banners. I don't know why, but they're always there. Along with the Rose crests in the pavement. On my way home, there are often street performers here too, which is lovely. But that's for another post. This is my walk TO school...
Where I cut south from Rose varies, but I like this road because it's cut off from traffic. The day I took these pictures, there was also a flower vendor.
I cross Prince's Street where I can either go down into the garden (knowing there will be stairs on the other side)
or cut down Lothian. Always in my view is the castle. And double decker buses - lots of those. (I almost forgot to include that - could it be I already take them for granted? Gads.)
And other random beautifulness.
Oh, there's that castle again.
This is already so many photos and there's so much more to share - like the random spotting of men in kilts, the sound of bagpipes, a graduation going on at the Traverse Theatre. There's also the normal city stuff like beggars, dog poop, crowds that don't make room for you - you have to stay on your toes. But all this takes me around to the little street that cuts up to the college.
I can take about a dozen different routes, but this is a good one and they all take me to my destination, where my day begins!
The University of Edinburgh College of Art, Evolution House, where all us postgrads hang out on the third floor. Joy!

29 September 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - Fox Reads

     One of my classmates, Michal Szewczyk, is an amazing photographer. He shared some awesome photos of a fox, which I adored. So, I have a fox for you today! Add your own title - Aesop's Fables, Fox and Hound magazine? Your choice!
     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 six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

28 September 2015

Dinner Out - Scottish Style

I've taken to sharing pictures of my meals on Facebook. I don't mean to be so cliché, but truly, the food here is amazing! And Stan (the cook in our family) has hooked us in with the foodie community, so we've been learning about all the hidden gems in town. Not that good food is hard to find. There are no less than FIVE Michelin starred restaurants in Edinburgh alone. To put that in perspective for you - I believe there are 173 Michelin-starred restaurants in the entire USA.
     On the first night of school, we attended a Scran Salon (basically just a bunch of folks talking about food) over in Fountainbridge near the end of the canal (or the head of it, I'm not sure). It's a fun social gathering and we've been making nice friends through this group - and broadening our horizons.



     Afterwards, we went to dinner at what has become my favorite Italian restaurant, Bar Italia. Gaspar already recognizes us and gives me a big kiss on each cheek. What's not to love? Fresh seafood with gluten free pasta - to die for!
     The other night we attended a tasting dinner for one of our new favorite restaurants, the Apiary with two local food critics - the stars of Lunch Quest. The food there is SO inventive and delicious, we passed the plates around so everybody could try everything. (Duck and veal - although they had lovely veggie options too.)

     But last night, Stan blew them all out of the water (ha!) with Under the Stairs. It was just a short walk from the end of my first week at the College of Art, past Grassmarket and down a side street. It truly is under the stairs with very little signage. I don't know how he ever found it, but people do. We were only able to eat if we promised to be done by 8:00 when our table was reserved (and there was nothing else available). So, we had celebratory drinks in the lounge, then moved to our sweet little table.
     Surrounded by rock walls, I felt like I was in an ancient tavern. And then the food arrived...
     All I can say is...OMG. If you know me well, you know I used to make bread. It made me feel like the ghosts of all past bread makers were watching over my shoulder. It made me feel connected, like this meal did.
     For starters we had cauliflower with tahini sauce and pickled, roasted chestnuts - WHAT? Delicious. For dinner, I had the venison. Don't judge, people eat every sort of meat here, as they've done for thousands of years. I am embracing the local culture (except for gluten, which I just can't do.)
     With every bite, I was thrust back into what must have been past lives for me. I felt layers of fabric around my legs from my thick skirts. I felt the sting of a warm fire on a cold night, leaves under my feat and my backside cold against a fallen log. I enjoyed the bounty of the day's hunt as I smelled wet leaves and tinder. I tasted Mead and heard the clinks of metal mugs. I don't know how to explain it. Is it some sort of synethsesia? I didn't know food could trigger such thoughts. The meal made me feel connected to thousands of years of history and stories. It was probably the best of my life. No lie.
     But eventually our plates were empty, we were full. And the table was no longer ours. So we walked out into the cool night for our leisurely walk home. Edinburgh loves to play with colored lights, so this was our view. Because, why not?

27 September 2015

Pen & Paper, Craig Fazier

This intimate portrait video is drawn from a conversation between distinguished illustrator/designer Craig Frazier and Chris Harrold, Creative Director of Mohawk. This short reveals some of Frazier's thought process behind his sketches, providing a unique insight into his creative process. Click on the image to go watch the video.

26 September 2015

Illustration Challenge #18

Try to draw something in a completely different style from how you usually do. If you draw tightly, draw LOOSE! If you draw sketchy, draw with long continuous lines. Get the idea?

24 September 2015

Jill Esbaum's ELWOOD BIGFOOT - Guest Post


by Jill Esbaum

      Bigfoot wasn’t a Thing when I was a kid. That’s probably good, since my family did a lot of camping in remote forests in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Even during our summer, “explore-America” vacations, we always stayed overnight in National Parks, National Forests, etc. There were often bear sightings nearby, but bigfoot? Nope. The only thing I really worried about were vampirous ticks.
      Now, of course, bigfoot is hot. And the idea intrigues me. I mean, what if…? Three years ago I watched a few episodes of Finding Bigfoot, and something started to bother me about reported sightings: Most people claimed to have seen “a” bigfoot. I searched the internet (who knew there were so many sites devoted to bigfoot encounters?), and found the same thing.
      “…saw a manlike creature on an island in a bog. Tracks seen … deep snow conditions and temperatures no human could survive.”
      “…this creature … was covered in dark brown fur and was 6-7 ft tall. It had a broad nose with little hair on its forehead or cheeks.”
      “…We were scared. I had worked as a wilderness guide, and this was nothing that I had ever seen before. It walked on 2 feet and stood AT LEAST 7 feet tall.”
      Hmm. If bigfoot were real, wouldn’t life be a little lonely? Once that thought entered my head, I had to write about a desperately lonely bigfoot.
      In ELWOOD BIGFOOT, Elwood longs to befriend his neighborhood birdies. Unfortunately, he’s so BIG and BOISTEROUS that he has trouble convincing them he’s harmless. He knocks himself out trying, though (sometimes literally). Does he learn what it takes to make friends? Eventually, yes. But easy, it ain’t. And because he’s had to work so hard to succeed, Elwood finds these new friendships all the sweeter.
      My Sterling editor found the perfect illustrator in Nate Wragg. Type Nate Wragg into Google images, and you’ll see that he’s a bigfoot guy from way back. Lucky Elwood!
      Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions for this post.

1. How did you get into children’s book illustration?
      I actually kind of fell into it several years back when I was working on the Pixar Film Ratatouille. I was developing an artistic look of our characters from the film for marketing purposes, and they thought the artistic style might be something to consider for a book. Long story short, they decided the style I created would be great for a hard cover cooking/rhyming/counting book Disney was publishing for the film, and so I went ahead and illustrated the book. After that great experience, illustrating picture books was something I hoped to continue doing, and started to pursue.

2. As a non-illustrator, I’m always interested in how an artist goes about devising the physical layout of a story to control pacing. What was your biggest challenge in story boarding Elwood Bigfoot?
      I always try to focus on how the illustrations can support the story, and tell the story without words. I really try to identify with the key ideas that are in the writing, and try to bring visuals to those first. It's always fun to play with page turns to reveal punchlines to jokes, or unexpected turns in the story, so I always try to spot those opportunities as well.

3. Do you have multiple projects going at once? Could you tell us what’s coming next?
      Yeah, I have a few projects that are slated to come out soon. "Monster Trucks" written by Anika Denise; and "10 Little Ninjas" written by Miranda Paul are the ones that are coming down the line next.

Other books illustrated by Nate:

You can learn more about Nate on his blog: http://n8wragg.blogspot.com

      Please check out my website (www.jillesbaum.com) for a free, downloadable (and adorable) Elwood Bigfoot Activity Kit.
      And if you love picture books, please visit my group blog, Picture Book Builders (www.picturebookbuilders.com), where a group of picture book authors/illustrators blog twice weekly about our favorite topic.

      Jill Esbaum is the author of many picture books. In addition to Elwood Bigfoot: Wanted: Birdie Friends!, she wrote I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, which won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite award. Also in print are I Hatched! (Dial, 2014), Tom’s Tweet (Knopf), and Stanza (HMHarcourt). In the publishing pipeline are Teeny Tiny Toady (Sterling, 2016), and If a T Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party (Sterling, 2016). She also enjoys writing nonfiction books for National Geographic. Her latest is Animal Groups, featuring the stunning photography of Frans Lanting. Jill lives on a farm in Iowa. Jill’s recent books:
Illustrations reprinted with permission from Elwood Bigfoot ©2015 by Jill Esbaum Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Nate Wragg.

23 September 2015

My new desk

One of the advantages to being a slightly older student is knowing when and how to make things work for you. I've already had meetings with my Illustration professors to learn how to best take advantage of the opportunities available to me at the University of Edinburgh. One small part of that is where I'll be spending most of my time - at my new desk.
     I asked permission to go ahead and claim a spot in the studio space I'll be sharing with fellow Illustration MFAs and Design MAs. The studio was a bit crude when I first got there, they hadn't finished preparing the space (it's a new one for the department), but I could see what would be important to me.
     I chose a desk at an end, in a corner, where I can keep my picture books without anybody tripping over them, with a little bit of wall space, room to spread out, and a view. OMG, the views.
      In one direction, I'm looking down a road that leads to the castle.
In the other, I'm looking down a road that leads to the Grass Market - both are exceptional. Note: That is indeed the castle above the office-looking building.
And I'm already pulling some serious hours. We've already got two homework assignments and I still have my other book stuff going on.
But what I love most is my classmates. To my left is Mahmoud from Quatar. In front of me is Catherine from Chile. Two over is Michael from Poland. Across the way is Thor from Canton. Etc., etc. As our program director said on the first day - the undergrads are usually from the UK, but the Postgrads are usually from all over the world. He wasn't kidding!

22 September 2015

Coloring Page Tuesday - Back To School!

     I know most of you are already in school, but for me, school started YESTERDAY! I'm not telling you how long it's been since I was a student, but I am SO EXCITED!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

21 September 2015

Campus Tour

During Freshers Week, I took advantage of a Campus Tour. Well, the George Square Campus Tour - a small part considering the campus sprawls over the entire city of Edinburgh. It was very helpful and I saw some lovely eye candy along the way.
I don't remember what building this was, but please notice the blue sky. All this talk of bad weather has been just that. I'm convinced Scottish people are all storytellers, and we all know how storytellers like to embellish things. Let's hope I think that two months from now.
     At any rate, George Square is gorgeous, with a large green space in the center surrounded by the very new library and row upon row of very old town homes which are now the centers for various studies and disciplines on campus.
In fact, Sir Walter Scott lived in one of them for a time, and you can actually stay in his old apartment.
Beyond the square, we also saw the medical building.
And here's the law school. If I graduated from here, I'd believe I was worth $350/hour too.
This was the library in the religious studies building.
What I haven't yet shared is a photo of the very modern and enormous main library and the myriad of buildings around campus. But stay posted, I'll get there...

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