Coloring Page Tuesdays - Bear Surfs

     Kowabunga dudes! It's summer - surf's up! Go catch a wave.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of 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.

Friends Visiting from Afar

One of the great things about Edinburgh is that it is a dream destination for many travelers, which means we have had a surprising number of friends come to visit us here! Our most recent visitors arrived back-to-back. First were Prescott Hill and Lisa Michaels fresh from a few days in Ireland. We went to Meze Meze for dinner on their first night in Edina - what a feast!
Prescott took over my position as Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern chapter of the SCBWI when I left Georgia. He is also famous for wearing a kilt back in Atlanta (he bought another one while visiting!), so it's been a life-long dream of his to visit Scotland. He and his wife finally made it and Stan and I had a blast showing them around Edinburgh. Here we are at dinner at Under the Stairs (one of my faves).
We also took them to the Whiski Rooms, which has become a mini-tradition for us. It's a high-end pub with a gorgeous view of the city, and if we can snag the table by the window, it's our favorite place to introduce folks to a flight of whisky (a must in Scotland). Here are Prescott and Lisa:
Ironically, the day P&L left, our friends Genetta and Greg arrived from Mississippi. Back to the Whiski Rooms!
Genetta and Greg are off in the Highlands for the week, but before they left to tour the rest of Scotland, they managed to fit a lot in. Before I caught up with them they'd already done the castle (totally worth it). Here they are at the Writer's Museum (which is not where Google Maps says it is and can be tricky to find).
We also did the Mary Kings Close tour together.
See, I knew I'd been saving that one for a reason! We did Rosslyn Chapel with P&L and the Close with G&G!
     Mary Kings Close is an old Edinburgh alleyway that has since been built over and on top of. Not much down there has changed except for the lack of light, which apparently wasn't all that different considering how closely together the buildings stood. It's a peek into what life was like here for hundreds of years, without plumbing, in horrid conditions, including the plagues. Ugg! It's very educational and definitely creepy. You can't take photos inside, but they do offer a red-light photo to purchase, which we did as a souvenir.
     The text reads:
Hidden deep beneath the Royal Mile
lies Edinburgh's deepest secret;
a warren of hidden 'closes' or streets
where real people lived,
worked and died.
For centuries they have
lain forgotten and abandoned...
...until now.
     Like I said, creepy!
     So, a week later, Genetta and Greg came back through town, after an amazing week in the Highlands. We got together one last time before they caught a sleeper train to London. First, cocktails at the Radisson and then dinner at our fave French restaurant, La Garrigue.

     I love it when friends come through. They have become my enablers to eat well and experience parts of the city we haven't discovered yet. They are also an excuse to PLAY! Happily, when I get back from Hollins this summer, we'll have lots more back-to-back folks visiting as that's the month of FRINGE. I can't wait!


Watch this great video about Brian Hotke's creative process and get a peek at his latest project, NOBODY LIKES A GOBLIN, at Paste. Click the image to go to the article.

Illustration Challenge #51

Why not give crosshatching a try? I've been experimenting with it lately and it's fun! It takes time to build up the marks, but not as much time as you'd think. My method? Create a pale pencil drawing, ink in enough of it to know where I'm going, erase the pencil, then start in with the hatching. Now, you give it a try!


Dear readers and reader’s parents, my name is Lucie Félix. I am the author of Apples and Robins, a book for children published by Chronicle Books, and I was very kindly offered a post on this blog to talk about it. I am French, I live near Paris, in a small village. We don’t have any shops, but we have a view on the Eiffel tower. I work at home.
I grew up in a tiny village, 20 houses hidden in the mountains. My friends, brothers and I spent our time doing nothing but playing freely in the wild : Swimming in the streams and the lakes, building wooden houses up the trees, inventing stories in which we were lost children on an island, hunters making their bows with hazel tree sticks... It was a time of friendship, freedom and strong connection with nature. I mention this because I believe this is why the books I create have so much to do with Playing and Nature.
Apples and Robins plays with shapes and colors, building its own rule to make a story. Creating this book was little bit like playing building blocks. I gave a try to many different tracks before choosing the one that was most solid.
What matters most to me is to make a book that involves the reader directly: the children make the story go from one step to another, by simply turning the pages. They try to guess what the shapes are going to show through the die cut. As they move forward, the images appear and the story unfolds. It is, after all, the most fundamental definition of a book: pages to be turned, to see what the next is like. I love to see their faces smiling with surprise when the ladder pops up! Surprise is essential to me. It means curiosity, and curiosity means enthusiasm for learning.
Close collaboration with Brigitte Morel, publishing editor of Grandes Personnes in Paris, has been crucial throughout. She made me realize how important the rhythm and musicality of the words are. It is also a key factor for understanding and remembering new words. I think the translation, as far as I can tell, is very good. I really like how it sounds in English.
If you are interested you can check my website at
Apples and Robins by Lucie Félix, published by Chronicle Books
CLICK HERE for more information.

The Hispaniola - sort of

Stan and I popped into the Hispaniola restaurant the other night, before seeing a performance at the Roxy. We thought we would just grab a quick bite - no big deal. We were not expecting what we found behind that door!
First of all, despite the labelling, it's not the Hispaniola anymore. It's now the sister restaurant to our favorite Italian restaurant on Lothian, Ciao Roma. They obviously took over from The Hispaniola: a Pirate Dining Experience. A what?
Yes, I said pirates. The upper floor of the restaurant looks like you're entering a pirate ship with enormous candelabras, wood everywhere, and pirates scattered about in various states of decomposition.
There was even a skeleton hanging from the ceiling.
But we were escorted down a level where the pirate theme has been replaced with a Bacchus/Dionysus theme. On the second level, we were surrounded by classical paintings, marble sculptures and this gorgeous window overhead.
Needless to say, we were completely tickled by the place and the food was just as good as the other location. Is it touristy? Yes. But gads, it was fun. And it was just more proof about one of my favorite things in Edinburgh - there are wonders behind the most unexpected doors here. Mini-Narnia's and wonderlands are tucked in all over this city. I love it when I stumble across them.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Princess Dance

     Every little girl is a princess to somebody. Celebrate it!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of 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.

Rosslyn Chapel

If you've ever read or watched Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE, then you've heard of Rosslyn Chapel. It's where the movie concludes, where they discover Sophie's lineage. And while it put the chapel solidly on the tourist map, it's actually been around for over 9,000 years.
Good friends Prescott Hill and Lisa Michaels recently came through Edinburgh, and Lisa was keen to visit the chapel. We've been saving these tourist destinations for exactly such situations so that we can enjoy them for the first time with friends.
     The bus trip down was easy peasy. We picked up the #37 from North Bridge at the whopping price of £1.60. After a relaxing hour winding through the Scottish countryside, we reached our destination.
     A tour bus also arrived about the same time, but the new visitor's center and professional guides handled the crowd beautifully. They hand out laminated fact sheets with images of key points to look for inside the chapel. No photos are allowed inside this still operational church, so do visit the website to get a peek.
     The chapel was originally supposed to be just the top portion of a much larger cross, but money ran out. Over the centuries (!!) the chapel has gone through periods of disrepair and neglect, but it somehow survived Cromwell (by becoming his stable) and nature itself when there were no windows to keep out the rain, wind and vines. In the 1800s the chapel was enclosed and a new entrance was built on. You can really see the difference in the stone. Can you imagine what it must look like during a beautiful sunset?
     Unfortunately, some of the attempts to save the chapel weren't done well. At one point, a cement slurry was painted over everything inside in an attempt to save it. But the wet environment only caused moisture to build up under the slurry, causing worse damage. It also homogenized the colors. THIS is what the colors looked like at one time - this is a grave outside the chapel.
     The book and the movie were a huge boon to the chapel, though. Visitors bring in money and the preservation of the chapel is actually ahead of schedule. Very cool as the chapel really is remarkable and lovely. It even has underfloor heating now, to keep out the damp, which makes it quite comfortable inside.
     It's also full of stories (not just The Da Vinci Code). Such as the story of the master and the apprentice... Sir William St. Clair is credited with founding the chapel in 1446. Back then, it was believed that you could buy a fast track to heaven by building a beautiful church. So, there was no lack of money or artisans. Sir William even traveled to Italy to find inspiration. There he came across a lovely, spiral column. He had a model made of it and took it back to his master craftsman. Sadly, it was beyond the man's skills. But he wasn't about to let on. He said he needed to see the column in person. While away, his apprentice figured he could create the column. So he did. He thought his master would be so pleased. He wasn't. He went into a jealous rage and hit the apprentice with a hammer, killing him instantly. Realizing what he'd done, he ran. But he was soon captured and hung for the murder. Not very church like. Hm.
     But there were more craftsmen to be had. So many, in fact, the local town of Roslin was established to house them all. There, we stopped at the Original Rosslyn Inn for lunch. Prescott had the traditional fish n' chips.
We didn't get a photo of the four of us at Rosslyn Chapel, but I do have some from their Edinburgh adventure - coming soon.

Porty on a Pretty Day

One of the things I love about Edinburgh is how quickly you can be... elsewhere. A short bus ride can export you to completely different worlds - skiing, hiking, or laying on the beach.
I've written about Portobello Beach before, but it deserves another visit. The weather has finally turned gorgeous here and we recently went looking for some Vitamin D. We found it and laid on the beautiful beach to soak it in. Happy dogs danced around us and above us flew Ultralights - hang-gliders with small engines. Can you see them?
Lunch was at the Espy - it's become our favorite beachside indulgence. And somehow we ended up with the best table in the house, with the amazing view of the boardwalk and the water beyond.
Even in this amazing city, sometimes you need a break. Porty is our favorite place to get it. Ahhhhh.

A Monster Calls

I am so looking forward to this movie. The book, by Patrick Ness, was amazing! Click the image to watch the trailer at Empire Online.

Illustration Challenge #50

Today's challenge is pen and ink. You can go fancy with a micron, or go old school with a ball-point. But give this one some time. Build up dark areas through crosshatching and make sure to create strong contrast.

Rafael Lopez's MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL - interview

I've been a fan of Rafael Lopez's work since it came on my radar several years ago, so I'm thrilled to have him on my blog celebrating his new picture book,
e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Rafael: This was the first time I had the opportunity to create a book based on my own experiences as a community muralist. I like to create mood boards where I paste imagery, textures and key words that might fuel the visual storytelling. I rode around on my bicycle and took photographs of neighborhood buildings, printed these out and put them up in my workspace. I sit with the text and begin sketching on tracing tissue, taking a long time trying to channel the spirit of my characters. It’s important to me to show a diverse group of characters because it authentically reflects the neighborhood. I also want children to see themselves on the pages of books I create. I then refine my characters into more finished sketches and begin to develop scenes for the spreads. I print these out into small books to check transitions and see how the visual structure of the story is flowing. I think making children’s books is like making a movie so I want the story to unfold, give it voice, form and viewpoint.
e: What is your medium?
Rafael: I really wanted to include the actual buildings from the East Village neighborhood where the story takes place. For this reason, Maybe Something Beautiful is a mixed media book that combines my original photography that was scanned, combined with construction paper and digital textures that I have photographed over many years. Characters were painted with acrylic on wood and for some of the background textures I used watercolor on paper.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Rafael: The illustration is a door, that readers can unlock and interpret in their own way. I want my children’s book illustrations to be conceptual, a clever interpretation of the text and not see-say where you read and see the same thing. To genuinely connect to readers I want each illustration to stand on it’s own but also work as a whole. There are many tools you can use to create a sense of wonder like color or texture but the idea always rises to the top.
e: This book is based on a real story - can you share?
Rafael: The story is based on the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California that was created by my wife and I with the community. We bought an old warehouse in what was an edgy part of town that at the time had issues with crime and blight. We worked with community members to transform the neighborhood using art that included large scale murals, painted electrical boxes, sidewalk poetry, mosaics and sculpture. I developed a style of murals that made it possible for untrained artists and children to achieve a strong result. The collective act of making art brought people together and created a sense of place that improved the community. (This is Rafael's wife, Candice, painting.)
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Rafael: The most challenging part of being a creator is encouraging clients to break away from traditional solutions and try alternative ideas and techniques.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Rafael: Everyone has unique abilities and ideas. We were originally advised that the best way to deal with crime and blight was to form a Neighborhood Watch. This was a good idea but just one approach. Through this experience I recognized the importance of using my own skills to make a difference. I also connected to others who had their own way of problem solving and brought those strengths to the collective table. I learned so much from them, am still learning and growing.

Here is Rafael's studio - click the image to see it larger in a new window.
Loved this? CLICK HERE to read Rafael's post about the illustration method he used in MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL.

The Union Canal

On the west side of Edinburgh begins the Union Canal.
This man-made waterway, a true engineering feat, flows from downtown Edinburgh all the way to Glasgow. It opened in 1822 chiefly as a way to ship fuel from the Forth & Clyde Canal. It has a small lock at Fountainbridge (Edinburgh) near Akva, a restaurant we frequent for our friend's Scran Salon (a gathering of foodies), but we'd never followed the path alongside it. The weather has turned gorgeous here, so we recently decided to go exploring.
One of the most noticeable things about the canal is the adorable canal boats. Many are available for hire, some are day trip excursion boats, and a few are actual homes. They are very steam-punk looking and I would love to live in one!
But the canal runs a long way, so you see lots of other things on the lovely walk alongside. Like the real swans who live there.
And the ducklings. I saw a muskrat or some such critter too, but he was too fast for me to get a photo.
The canal meanders by a church.
And a canoe center.
Where you can indeed rent canoes for the day. How fun—we'll have to come back for that!
Eventually, we left the path to get some lunch in Jashans Indian Restaurant. (There's a ton of Indian food in the UK.) Back to the path afterwards, we stopped at nearly every bench to soak up the sunshine. Truly, the walk back was just as lovely as the walk out, and we needed it after that enormous lunch. All said, we walked about 9 miles that day. The legs were sore, but it was worth it.