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31 January 2017

I'm With Her

I don't usually talk politics on my blog, but this one ties into art methodology too. So, I will share...

     In a recent demonstration in Edinburgh, I made a sign sharing my patriotic declaration that "I'm With Her" - as in Lady Liberty and the words she stands for. Here at the University of Edinburgh College of Art, one of the things I've learned is how much more powerful art can be when emotion is truly tied into the creative process. In this piece, I used paint leftover from a 1st semester project, on poster board that was laying around the illustration studio unused. The tape is for an upcoming project, and the dowel rod was from the art supply store. I created it quickly, blocking in the dark shadows and using pure blue in the areas that receive highlights on our dear Lady Liberty. The message is one I've felt for a long time, not just in this recent dispute. I don't like borders and I embrace the vibrancy people from different cultures add to my life. This is deeply emotional to me.
     The poster was a hit and got some remarkable press in Edinburgh and the UK. Here is the cover of the evening news. Classmate, Karin Eremia is to my left, and Lydia behind.

Here is The Scotsman. Click the image to go to the article on the news website (I don't know how long that will be archived).

Here is The Times - Scotland, forwarded from a friend.

Here is the BBC - click the image and scroll down for this one.

Again, the Edinburgh evening news - click the image to go to the article.

And here is Stan's facebook post.

Lots of people took photos of my poster and I've received a few requests to purchase it. So I have obliged... A portion of all Lady Liberty sales will go to the ACLU. The rest will help fund this art student's very expensive education. Purchase the image in my Society6 store (Click the banner below.) Society6 will ship items to the UK.

OR at Zazzle, which has simple posters and t-shirt options available in the US:

AND at ETSY where you can download the PDF to make your own sign:

Coloring Page Tuesday - Mice and Men

     I've been having fun thinking of new ways to look at books - as objects we not only read, but perhaps interact with in a new way. 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 over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. 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.

29 January 2017

Biro Pen Discovery!?

A Biro pen is the UK equivalent of a BIC pen in the states. I used to prefer them in college when taking notes. Partly because I filled the margins of my papers with wee sketches and a BIC pen can offer a range of line density from a light touch to opaque. In fact, it was somebody commenting on those wee sketches that made me ever think of pen and ink as a real medium for me.
     Fast forward quite a bit to my MFA... I've invested in dip pens and bottles of India Ink to create a lovely black line. (And it truly is lovely.) But it's slow and the ink can glob. I may still use this method in the future, but it's not an easy media.
     Then on Friday, illustrator Chris Mould came to the uni for a lecture and one-on-ones. Chris continues a lovely pen and ink tradition with the influences of Ralph Steadman, Ronald Searle and Albrecht Durer. I was lucky enough to get a one-on-one with him. First thing I asked is what pen does he use? His answer? A freakin' BIRO! That's it! On cartridge paper most of the time! OMG.
     Suddenly, it's like I have permission to go back to that most humble of art supplies, to drawing with a pen in nearly the same fashion that I draw with a pencil (which I adore). And VOILA! Two pages and several hours later I am once again in love with the most simple tool - the Biro, which costs all of 35p.

Video: Ira Glass - "The Gap"

More words of wisdon from Ira Glass about creation - "The Gap." Click the image to watch at BrainPickings.

26 January 2017

Maral Sassouni's THE GREEN UMBRELLA


Q&A with Maral Sassouni

e: What was your path to publication?
Maral:
After about 20 years working as an editorial illustrator, my focus turned to children’s publishing. I became more and more enchanted with the pictures books I saw in the libraries and bookshops in Paris. Soon I began to frequent book fairs, at Montreuil (near Paris) then elsewhere in France… and finally —inevitably — ending up at the Bologna Book Fair.
      I’d always wanted to tell stories with pictures, but had much to learn about visual narrative. Luckily at Bologna I met Monica Monachesi (art director and curator extraordinaire) who pointed me in the direction of Sarmède in Northern Italy. Workshops are held there on all aspects of children’s illustration, as well as printmaking, painting and so on. Founded by the Stepan Zavrel (brilliant Czech illustrator and a great favorite of mine), it’s full of talented artists and incredible generous teachers (I was taught by Svjetlan Junakovich and Linda Wolfsgruber both of whom are nominees for the Anderson awards!).
      As a result, I had work in exhibits that were all over Italy and Europe, new portfolio pieces I could show at book fairs and publishing houses, and the beginnings of some picture book dummies.
      I completed the text and color illustrations for one of those dummies (Crocodile Shoes) and sent it to competitions (3x3, Nami and Society of Illustrators), where it did very well. But I still hadn’t a clue about how to approach publishers in the US. Cue: the SCBWI Conference.

e: How did winning the SCBWI Portfolio Show change things for you?
Maral:
To put it into context, the 2013 SCBWI Conference was the first time I’d ever been to ANY SCBWI event EVER. I went expecting nothing more than advice and feedback. But to my utter surprise, I won the Portfolio Showcase Award, and that has really changed EVERYTHING for me. Here’s what happened:
      I met the person who later became my editor at North South Books. She offered me a contract some months later. The book I did with them is The Green Umbrella, to be released in Feb 2017.
      The portfolio grand prize included a free trip to New York, with many meetings at publishing houses arranged for me by SCBWI (along with a few more meetings I managed to arrange on my own) so I ended up going to lots of rendez-vous with art directors, editors, and agents. I learned so much, and above all it was the start of a conversation that continues to this day!
      I met illustrators and authors at the conference who have become good friends— I’m in constant touch with them: we talk shop, we pool our information and chat throughout the year. Every so often there’s a “Lost Weekend” where we meet, most recently in New Orleans last May.
      Things didn’t end there, of course. I continue to be a member of SCBWI. The second year I went to the summer conference, I found my agent, Jen Rofé (of Andrea Brown Literary Agency). I’ll stay involved with SCBWI whenever I can because there’s still so much to learn…

e: What is your medium?
Maral:
It’s a mix of cut paper collage and painting. I use oil paint, acrylics, and inks, and occasionally color pencil. The characters are generally created separately, like little paper puppets, which I then glue to the painted/collaged setting, along with any foreground elements. I use Photoshop (when necessary) to digitally assemble hand-made collage elements and occasionally add some sparkle and glow where needed.

e: Can you walk us through your process?
Maral:
  After the publisher approves the sketches (including the character design) I get started on the preliminaries. It begins with choosing colors for the whole book, and deciding on textures. This has to be done first, because I create the paper I use for collaging. So I do a series of color studies in acrylics, like this:

     It takes a good bit of trial and error. Once the color decisions have been made, then I create the papers. First I make monoprints (big enough for full bleed double spread artwork). I make other kinds of colored paper as well— including layers of rough brushstrokes; salt into wet acrylics; sponge textures; sandpapering; scribbles; stamping (with just about anything that comes to hand: straws, chopsticks, bubble wrap, and so on). Then it’s just a matter of which colors/textures can be put together harmoniously. I keep them in folders organized by color (so I can just reach for the color I need…).


     I don’t transfer the drawing onto the watercolor paper because it will soon be covered by layers of collage. I trace the drawing onto a large piece of tracing paper or vellum (with trim, bleed, gutter, and text areas) and tape that into place. I use this vellum flap to position the collage pieces correctly later on.
      I use Arches Hot Press watercolor paper (140 lb). I draw on the trim line, the bleed line and marks for the gutter lightly in pencil. Then I soak, stretch and staple the paper onto the board. When it dries, I paint a background color, typically the sky or the ground.
      Then I’m ready to collage. I usually begin with the setting— the houses and the street, for example


     I approach each setting differently. The houses are on a pale blue monoprint, with the details (doors and windows) added in color pencil. I collaged each roof, separately.. And the shadows were in an oil paint glaze (a dab of Prussian blue and plenty of Liquin). I hold the pieces in position with putty (easy to reposition!!). I don’t glue anything down until the end.

     Then I create the characters. This is the fun part, and really important to get it right (in terms of body language and facial expression) — I sometimes have to do several versions and pick the best one! It all begins with a simple line drawing of the character in pencil…

     Then I take the line drawing and sort of explode it! Using the light box I draw it again such that all the body parts etc are separately drawn. It’s not as complicated as it sounds — you just end up with a page with the head, 2 arms, 2 legs, a dress and 2 boots, for the example above. I retrace them to the prepared color paper. I paint the face and a few details in acrylics, then cut the pieces out and glue them together.

     These mice were scanned separately and placed into the composition digitally…

…but normally the characters are glued into the setting that I collaged previously.



     Once all the elements (setting, characters and props) are in position, I glue them down. I use a good glue stick or matte medium. There are a few final touches to add— things like shadows and reflections on the wet pavements and puddle-splashes. Those are usually done in an oil glaze.
      Occasionally there’s some “post-production” in photoshop after the artwork is scanned. For instance, the raindrops were added digitally for all the scenes in the rainy town, and a few hand made elements were collaged digitally (like those mice).
      So my process is a mix of very methodical and intuitive. The preliminaries and assembly can be minute and laborious, but they also leave a lot of freedom for late-breaking inspirations that you glue on unexpectedly. Et voilà!!

e: Were there special challenges on this book?
Maral:
I had the usual challenges of every first-time picture book illustrator:
     Firstly character consistency throughout the book.
     Secondly, continuity (consistent with all the details from page to page. It’s harder than you might think!).
      Aside from those challenges, the particular ones in this book were
1. The five characters in this book came in a very wide range of sizes— they went from hedgehog up to elephant! That much difference in the dimensions of the characters posed a big challenge in terms of composition. They were interacting with each other: there had to be eye contact. And it had to work in all other ways.

2. I had to create a contrast between the two realities — the everyday world (the elephant in the rainy city, meeting one animal after another) and the world of imagination and adventure as described by each animal.
      So I created a contrast in two ways… I did it with my use of color (a cool monochromatic palette in the rainy town, vs. warm and vivid colors in the imagination/adventure scenes). And I also did it with composition, alternating between spots layouts (for the rainy scenes) and full bleed double spread (for the imaginative interludes). Again, it took a good bit of experimentation to find what worked best.

e: Thanks so much Maral, and congratulations!

25 January 2017

Happy Rabbie Burns Night!

Who is Rabbie Burns, you ask? From Scotland.org:
Robert Burns, Scotland’s national Bard, came from humble origins and in his short life (he died at 37) wrote a great number of poems, and collected and preserved many traditional Scottish songs. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire on 25 January, 1759 to poor tenant farmers, and was the oldest of seven. He wrote his first love poems at the age of 15, largely to impress girls, and his interest both in poetic expression and women never left him. In fact, in his short life he fathered 12 children, nine of them with his wife, Jean Armour.
      He was immensely proud of his Scottishness and of his working-class roots – both of which are keystones of his poetry. When he was 25, his father died, and he and his brother took over the running of the farm, without much success. He was about to move abroad to seek his fortune, but changed his mind after his first volume of poetry was published, gaining him a degree of financial success and an influential fan base in Edinburgh.
      After the money from the book ran out, he got a job as a customs officer, and, inspired by the thinking behind the French Revolution, began to explore more deeply the concepts of social inequality. Many of his new poems explored the disparity between rich and poor. A good example of this is A Man’s A Man for a’ That. It wasn’t just Burns’ opinions about the divide between rich and poor that gave his poetry a powerful appeal around the world: he explored everything that resonates with the human condition. Love (see A Red, Red Rose), desire, human foibles and hypocrisy (see Holy Willy’s Prayer) and the natural world (see Composed in Spring) were all subjects that he absorbed and interpreted, and that is why he is still deeply admired across the planet.

24 January 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Goldilocks

     So, was Goldilocks a sweet little thing, or should she have been arrested for breaking and entering? I love looking at stories a different way! 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 over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. 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.

ALA Youth Media Awards!

Of course, ALA's awards banquet moves to Atlanta... after I've left - PAH! At any rate, I was able to watch via live stream which has become a fun annual tradition of mine. I was so pleased by some of the key wins. Spot on for the Caldecott, RADIANT CHILD:

And I was thrilled for my friends Candice and Eric for the Sibert win for SQUID:

And after recent comments about John Lewis, *ahem*, it was gratifying to see MARCH take home no less than FOUR AWARDS!

And my friend Greg Christie won yet another Coretta Scott King Award honor for illustrating THE BOOK ITCH: FREEDOM, TRUTH & HARLEM'S GREATEST BOOKSTORE - well earned!
      Betsy Bird gives a great wrap-up of the day's events - CLICK HERE. For all the awards, go to the ALA website. I love what one twitterer said, "Today is about celebrating books that win shiny stickers. Every other day is about celebrating ALL the great books written for kids." YUP.

23 January 2017

Yes, Sushi!

Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun... I'd been meaning to try Yes, Sushi, but somehow hadn't made it there yet. I suppose the universe was waiting for our friend Connie to show us how it's done. This restaurant isn't that far from our flat here in Edinburgh.

Yes, Sushi is famous for their Steam Pots. Ever had one of these before? First, you order the mix of veggies, meats, and broths you'd like. Then you make dipping sauces at a do-it-yourself set-up. Then you gape as the feast arrives.

A steam pot is placed on a burner in the center of the table, with large compartments containing various broths like clear broth or special Japanese broth, etc. It's boiling hot and you place the items from your platter into the water to cook it. We ordered beef, crabs (shell and all), prawns, tofu, rice noodles, spinach and bok choy, chicken, and, and... Oh - and you order sushi rolls to go with it - as much as you want!

OMG - it was wonderful! But I am never eating again. This was not a feast for the timid, but it was so, so good!

22 January 2017

VIDEO: Giant Ant

Check out this great Slack promotional animated film at Communication Arts, "Spaceship." Click the image to watch on their website.

19 January 2017

Diana Mayo's YAWNING YOGA


YAWNING YOGA
Interview with Diana Mayo

e: What is your medium?
Diana:
I work mostly with acrylic paints, sometimes with a lot of water, so they act more like watercolour paints, but building up with a number of layers. I also add pencil colours, some cutout collage, graphite pencil and finally I scan the image and tidy it all up using Photoshop!

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?
Diana:
Gosh! That’s tricky to answer! However, art that I consider “Heart Art” would have me transfixed into a moment, wanting to be within the image, soaking up the textures, colours, lines of the image. The magic comes from an artist’s ability to be true to themselves when drawing and making, not being too conscious of what they think other people may want, and trusting their instinct to know when something is ‘finished’. So, listening and believing in their own voice, whether that be “fashionable” or not, being original, whilst still retaining good draughtsmanship, material technique and answering the brief as requested. It’s hard to be “magical”!

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Diana:
I enjoy expressing myself through colour and pattern, trying to think of an original way to show an idea that’s still understood by an audience. I find lack of time is sometimes challenging, and having to come with a good idea when a deadline is too restrictive.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Diana:
I hope that readers will take enjoyment from both learning about yoga through the text and diagrams, but also will enjoy relaxing with the book and soaking up the pictures’ atmospheres for their own sakes.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Diana:
I think my dream project would be to write and illustrate a book based on some small part of my own children’s ongoing childhood.

e: Thanks Diana! Check out her groovy studio...

17 January 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Book-eating Bear

     There's more than one way to enjoy a good book. What do you suppose the title of this one is? The Three Bears maybe? 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 over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. 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.

15 January 2017

VIDEO: Nicolette Jones on Non-fiction Picture Books

Nicolette Jones is the children's book reviewer for The Sunday Times out of London and a powerful force for good in the children's book community. I was lucky enough to get a portfolio review with her last year through Picture Hooks. Recently, she recorded a series of videos on picture books and their creators. You can view the first one about non-fiction titles on The Sunday Times website - click here or the image below to go watch.

14 January 2017

Little Pickle Press now an Imprint at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

I'm thrilled by the good news that the publisher of my historical fiction A BIRD ON WATER STREET, Little Pickle Press, will now be an imprint of Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky in the capable hands of my friend, Editor Kelly Barrales-Saylor. What does this mean? A letter at the Little Pickle website from owner Rana Diorio says,
"The partnership with Sourcebooks not only validates all that we’ve accomplished but also gives us the benefit of an “800-lb. gorilla”—with a dedicated sales force covering the trade, as well as schools and libraries, and gift and specialty markets—to further our interests. Our powerful partner will now be the driving force behind our legacy business, leveraging strong industry relationships to place our stories in the hands of more children..."
      The main company has been renamed to March 4th to broaden its impact in various marketplaces. CLICK HERE to read the public announcement.
      So, what does this mean to me? It means my book will now have a more powerful marketing team and force behind it, getting it into the hands of more readers. I am thrilled about that! I also happen to be a long-time fan of Sourcebooks and am very proud to now be associated!

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