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19 April 2018

Jessica Warrick's HAMMER AND NAILS

I perked up when HAMMER AND NAILS hit my radar. First, what a clever take on the words. Second, I adore the dad in this story! He embraces his little girl and all the feminine she loves to be, and he's man enough to be part of that! It's published by Flashlight Press, written by Josh Bledsoe, and illustrated by Jessica Warrick, who is here today...
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Jessica:
My process has evolved over the years and has become something very satisfying for me. It is semi digital; part traditional watercolor and part Photoshop color.
      I begin with a digital sketch. I used to do this with a Wacom tablet on my laptop, but have recently made the move to an ipad and ipencil combo. I like sketching digitally because there are so many fantastic tools available that allow me to resize, reshape, erase with ease...and I love using a perspective grid too.
      So I draw up a super light sketch, and print that out onto thin watercolor paper using my epson printer so the ink is waterproof. I then go over my lines with a drawing pencil. I add in more details at this stage. I then apply a black wash of watercolor to the drawing. I use only black because I'm just going for texture and a little bit of tone. Anything that needs to be super dark in the painting will be added in later, digitally.
      I scan the drawing and go nuts in Photoshop. I modify my base texture layer quite a bit to really make the darks stand out more. I add opaque color to the above layers but also make use of layer properties to retain a nice warm, golden undertone.
      I like this process because there's just enough variety to keep me interested...I can always work on something in the traditional drawing stage if I'm burnt out on computer stuff, and visa versa. And no matter how many digital tools I've played around with, nothing can compare with the perfect errors you get with traditional pencil and watercolor. It really gives me the vintagey look I'm going for.
e: I especially adore the dad in Hammer and Nails. What was your inspiration for him?
Jessica:
Thanks! I like him too. I really wanted to emphasize the clunkiness of a big manly dude...
There was a hilarious character from the old Ren and Stimpy show that has always lodged itself in my psyche. He was a prison inmate who ate only meat sandwiches (with meat bread), was super tough and didn't know his own strength, but had a really soft side that just wanted to be loved. I adored the juxtaposition of this concept, and think he might have been a subconscious source of inspiration for the Dad:)
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Jessica:
At the beginning of my career I sent out postcards to publishers and regularly emailed art directors. But now, to be honest, I don't do much. For the most part, I adhere to a build it and they will come mentality. I like to post images of projects I am most passionate about on Instagram and Facebook. I was surprised to find that a large publisher had been stalking me on Instagram for awhile, waiting to give me a project because they liked my style and sense of humor. I do enjoy sharing my work on social media because it keeps me going...I need the positive feedback, and it helps me feel I am staying consistent. And the bringing in the business part is a bonus.
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?
Jessica:
Heart art is something you feel connected to when creating it. You bring authenticity to it. Anytime you are authentic, you will connect with others. Viewers sense the authentic energy when they look at it, and will naturally relate to it. They don't even have to like it, but they will feel something real. That's what we all yearn for.
      I feel good when I make art I am passionate about. I love people. So drawing characters based on people I have observed really makes me feel connected to human beings, and that gets me excited. I know that my viewers have observed those same details in themselves or others, and knowing that inspires me so much.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Hammer and Nails?
Jessica:
Well, you will likely have to ask the author about that!
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Jessica:
Being a fulltime creator is extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. For me its personal development. When I feel aligned, my art comes together. If I'm stressed out, not focused, haven't rested enough, worrying about something, I will battle with my art and the end result will look uninspired. I also strive to improve constantly, so there are periods of uncomfortable change with no clear vision of what's to come, just trust that following my intuition will lead to a breakthrough. And it always does. And then things get really really fun. And then eventually uncomfortable again. And on and on:)
e: Is there something in particular about Hammer and Nails you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Jessica:
I hope people will embrace the message of challenging one's own identity from this book. I don't think people realize just how malleable and dynamic they are by nature. Too often we become fixed in how we view ourselves; what we like, what we think we are capable of, what's possible for us...I love that both characters in this story challenge themselves by stepping into each others worlds. I feel when we open ourselves up to that kind of uncertainty, we open ourselves up to so many more possibilities, and a whole hell of a lot more fun.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Jessica:
I'm working on a variety of projects right now. One is a picture book for adults. It's something I've always wanted to do. The story line is completely child inappropriate but still incorporates the fantasy and playful elements that kids books have. Think drunk alien.

e: Ha! Thanks for dropping by, Jessica!

17 April 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Polar Opposites

     For Earth Day, I give you a polar bear from the north pole and a penguin from the south pole, because from top to bottom we love our world! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
Become a Patron!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, 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.

16 April 2018

VIDEO: Love Yourself: The Anti-Bullying Song

Wow. This dad created a fantastic song/rap/mantra for his daughters when they complained of being bullied at school, and it's a song every child (and adult) should learn, internalize and grow up with! Click the image to read the full story and hear the song on the Good News Network.

15 April 2018

VIDEO: Two Snails Set Off

Longing for spring? You've got to watch this brilliant French animated short, of 'bugs' telling snails to embrace the season. Click the image to watch on the Good News Network.

14 April 2018

Earth Day 2018!

Earth Day is coming on April 22nd! You have just enough time to purchase my Earth Day products in my Earth Day Zazzle Store for your local pick-up team! I also have lots of free Earth Day coloring pages for you to share - CLICK HERE or the image to see the entire collection!
Check out Jane Goodall's Roots n' Shoots organisation for more Earth Day ideas!
And learn more about Earth Day at http://www.earthday.org/.

12 April 2018

Julia Patton and Samantha Berger's SNAIL MAIL

I flipped when I saw the cover for SNAIL MAIL (from Running Press Kids)! I mean, it's pure genius, right!? Why had noone thought of this as a picture book before??? And then I saw that it was illustrated by my good friend, Julia Patton. OMG - of course! She looped in the brilliant author, Samantha Berger, and I have them both here for you today - woohoo!
e: Samantha, tell me about the original inspiration and concept!
Samantha:
I happen to be someone who is madly, wildly, passionately-passionate about handwriting. I've always believed handwriting was something that's all our own, like our fingerprint, our retina scan, our voice--something that naturally makes us US! Handwriting is like someone's voice, written down.
      And it's truly meaningful to me, in my own life, that I can STILL SEE the actual original handwriting of the greatest heroes and sheroes of my lifetime - the people who I have looked up to forever - the people who live in my cellular memory and DNA - and have helped me become me. It gives me CHILLS when I see Jim Henson's handwritten scripts and notes about the Muppets and Sesame Street. (I am writing stuff for Sesame Street International right now!)
      It fills my HEART when I see Charlotte Zolotow's and Maurice Sendak's handwritten letters and edits. (I keep all my correspondence with my editors while making a book!)
      It sings to my SOUL when I see Sondheim's original lyric brainstorms (I could break into some Sweeney Todd right this minute!)
      What a gift that we can still SEE the thought process, the ideas taking shape, the voice springing to life on the page.
      And in America, where handwriting is going extinct, writing with a pen is becoming a lost art, and learning to write in cursive is being eliminated from school curriculums, it was meaningful for me to create a book that celebrated handwriting in all its ink-blazing glory.
      And then there's the letter writing thing.
      As miraculous, instantaneous, gratifying and downright cool texting, emailing, ichatting, Skyping, Facetiming, and Social Media-ifying can be (and it CAN BE!) there is something extra special about sending letters and packages the old fashioned way, that sometimes just can't be captured by technology.
      Those things can be found in the pages of Snail Mail and in Julia's brilliant illustrations.
      Things like letters to Santa Claus and Birthday Cards, and postcards.
      Things like letters from a pen pal across the world.
      Things like Brown Paper Packages tied up with strings (which I actually received from Julia once!)
      There is nothing in the world like this.
      So Snail Mail is also a love letter...to LETTERS!
     Finally -- I've been all over the world, and I think Julia has too, and there is NOWHERE as vast and diverse and wonderfully vastly diverse as the United States of America.
      I want to celebrate that diversity!
      We are different from state to state and in every landscape and in every time zone.
      We are different in every background and every story that brought us here.
      We are different in every state bird, flower, anthem, sports team and history.
      BUT WE ARE UNITED AND STRONGER AS ONE.
      We are a true melting pot and that is one of the best things about this country.
      Slow down to see where you live and where you may travel.
      Discover everything you didn't know about each place, and what makes it uniquely IT.
      Do whatever you can to make it a kinder place - because we are so fortunate to call this place home.

e: I agree!
Julia, what is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Julia:
As manuscripts go, getting Samantha’s first draft was an illustrators dream come true. I could visualise every word and instinctively feel a connection with not only the narrative but the protagonists. I could see Samantha in every word, feel her passion and her vision, and to illuminate this was just an incredible experience. Lucky me. Here are some ‘under construction’ and 'before and after’ images for you….

e: Samantha, what do you hope readers will come away with from Snail Mail?
Samantha:
Write stuff down with a pen! You'll be so happy to see your handwriting one day!
      You'll be happy to see someone you love's handwriting also.
      Use a waterproof, archival pen (so it doesn't fade away over time or bleed) and write on one side of the paper so it doesn't leak through.
      Just ask Simpson's creator Matt Groening. He'd say the same thing. In fact, I got this advice from him.

e: Samantha, what would be your dream project?
Samantha:
Collaborate and make books with people you LOVE, like Julia.
      and always respect the snail.
      Especially the ones who wear pink Speedo bathing suits!

e: Julia, what are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Julia:
Samantha and I are in top-secret talks as we work on a new collaborative book. We’re enjoying throwing lots of ideas around. Watch this space…

e: I will!
So, 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?
Julia:
What makes me revisit an illustration is the attention to detail, the tiny things you missed on the first few readings. I deliberately create lots of tiny additions to keep all ages of audience engaged as it’s often that different age siblings/groups of children are present at a reading. I have read picture books to my own children before they could speak and conversely, they have re-read their favourite picture books innumerable times once they were older and firmly into chapter books. Picture books offer so much so to many at many different times of peoples lives. I have my own collection of picture books as an adult I drool over for their sophisticated palate or sensitivity of a certain narrative. I’m utterly delighted in the new emergence of all the cross-over genres, from picture books to graphic novels to chapter books and non-fiction. The once unbreakable rules and boundaries are being challenged with much more emphasis upon representing our unique and breaking diversity which is well overdue. I believe Heart Art speaks in different vocabularies to each individual. A beautiful book can physically stop you in your tracks or the manuscript can metaphorically pull at your heartstrings with it’s quiet but revolutionary voice. Picture books are now being utilised as tools to assist classroom discussions of important global and political issues, also they are powerful enough to help a child understand their innermost feelings when a loved one passes. Picture books begin adventures, fantasies, hopes, dreams and most importantly conversations...

e: I SO AGREE!! Can't wait to have you both back for the secret project reveal!
     

11 April 2018

Book Art

I was in one of my favorite stores in Edinburgh the other day when I came across this fantastic wall art. It's not art in books, it's books as art! The books were housed in old bureau drawers mounted as shelves, and they were dealt with in every which way. Truly brilliant and beautiful! Not much to say, I'll just share:





10 April 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Girl and Her Monster

     Didn't all of us dream of having a big furry friend when we were young? I know I did! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
Become a Patron!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, 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.

09 April 2018

Buy My Original Art on Etsy - Stag Beetle Princess

This week the original pen and ink drawing of "Stag Beetle Princess" from my Marginal Creatures collection is available in my Etsy Shop. Click the image to go to my store.
Also...

to download the image as an exclusive Patron giveaway!

08 April 2018

Bologna 2018 was for ILLUSTRATORS

Bologna has been making a concerted effort to elevate illustrators in the field of children's books and this year's Book Fair really did a good job. First, the Best Illustrated Children's Books from the New York Times will be awarded at the fair from now on. For its debut, the NYT kicked off with a keynote address by my friend, Leonard Marcus. I couldn't miss the chance to hear him talk and to say 'hello'. He's such a sweet man and gave me a big hug. He also gave a fantastic talk about the history of picture book illustration. Oh, to know what he knows!
His keynote was followed by a panel of former judges of the NYT's list - Caldecott winner Brian Floca (who I had a lovely talk with on the bus afterwards), Steven Guarnaccia (Associate Professor of Illustration at Parsons), Maria Russo (Children's Book Editor, NYT), Leonard, and Paul Zelinsky (also a friend—I sat with his wife, Deborah). I suspect this was a highlight of the show as the room was packed!
     Afterwards, I wandered to The Illustrators' Survival Corner where the fair hosted advice and illustrator talks from portfolios...
to Chris Riddell. (Click the image below to watch on FB.)
And, of course, there were the shows. Good lord, the shows! I didn't even see all of them. But of those I saw, I had some favorites.
ChenZexin

Gianni De Conno

Ines Huni

and Xu Kayiyun

It's a huge honor to be featured at the fair as submissions average around 3,000 every year. But even for those who aren't featured, illustrators can make great connections at the fair. There are the portfolio surgeries, which I really took advantage of this year. There are the illustrator walls where you put tabs on your art for people to tear off and look you up later, or where you can scatter your postcards around liberally. Women have the added advantage of networking while waiting in line for the bathrooms. (I'm not kidding - I made a great connection there!)
     Having been overwhelmed by the fair in 2016, I was glad to go back and handle it a different way this time. I was more laid back, less frenzied, didn't try to see it all, brought my lunch, and had a fantastic and valuable experience.
     Add to that, the mystery doors across the street from my Airbnb were open on my last day there. I was able to peek inside as I waited for my taxi. OMG - THIS has been across the street the whole time?
Bologna is always full of surprises. I can't wait to go back and see what it looks like in 2020!!! Cross my fingers!!!

All of my Bologna 2018 Links:
Bologna 2018 - The arrival
Bologna 2018 - Day 1
Bologna and Hollins University Outreach
Bologna 2018 - Illustrators’ Dinner
Bologna 2018 - Walking around
Bologna 2018 - A Publisher’s Dinner
Bologna 2018 was for Illustrators

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