Christmas Parade #2

After dinner and the end of the Rock Hill Christmas Parade, we decided to follow the tail of the parade through town and back to our flat. Much to our surprise, the parade circled around and went straight down Main Street.
And even though we didn't bring any pop-up chairs with us, lots of people did, so there was a free bench right on the main drag - unheard of! So we sat down to enjoy the parade all over again!
I think my favorite float was the float boat with Rudolph pulling a waterskiing Santa behind a waterski.
The Christmas Parade was the brain child of golden-age illustrator Vernon Grant, the creator of Kellogg's Rick Crispies Snap, Crackle, and Pop! So his elves adorn downtown Rock Hill on banners and in window displays.
We truly couldn't believe our luck to enjoy the parade twice, and with such a sweet spot to sit. This is the magic of living in a small town - downtown.
We didn't even have to find a parking space as our flat was a block away. We were feeling pretty fortunate when Santa made his big appearance at the end.
Merry Christmas!
(Watch him sing on YouTube if the embed doesn't work correctly: CLICK HERE.

Christmas Parade #1

One thing we have discovered since moving to this sweet little town is that Rock Hill knows how to throw a PARTY!!
     Winthrop University's pottery department had their big sale on Friday which got everyone in a festive spirit while the bell tower's sound system played carols to prepare for the evening's festivities. The Rock Hill Christmas Parade begins on the Winthrop campus with a choral performance in front of Tillman Hall (one of my students is in the red dress on the left - hi, Joy!).
That was followed by a performance of our very own Rockettes.
And then there's the official lighting of the Christmas (Magnolia) Tree!
Meanwhile, Oakland Avenue is closed as the floats line up. It's amazing what one can do with a few twinkle lights and a dune buggy...
Or a truck trailer...
Or a trolley...
Or an inflatable rocket...
Once the parade got under way, Stan and I walked alongside it to one of our fave dining spots, Legal Remedy Brewing Company. We got a table near the street (outside) to watch the parade go by. (Next year we'll reserve one of the spots with a fire-pit and invite friends to join us!) I kept running back out to the street to get photos. For instance, BMX is a big deal here as we have a pro track just down the street.
And I was thrilled to hear and see a set of men in kilts playing bagpipes!
The end of the parade went by just as we were paying our bill and we decided that was one of the best evenings ever now that it was done... or was it?

VIDEO: Kindness Boomerang

I love this video by Life Vest Inside called "Kindness Boomerang" by "One Day" - see if it makes your day a little brighter, and maybe you'll do something kind too! Click the image to watch on the GoodNewsNetwork:

Friday Links List and Illustrators' Treehouse News - 6 December 2019

From ElectricLit: Shopping For a Boy? Give Him a Book About a Girl

From SLJ: Report: High Schoolers' Lack of Digital Literacy Skills Is "Troubling"

From PW ShelfTalker: More than one kind of Rock Star: From Mick Jagger to Susan Cooper

From The Independent: Children who own books six times more likely to read above expected level, survey finds

From SLJ: For Freedoms | Empowering Teens in Election Season

From Dr Dimitra Fimi: The Otherworld Sea Voyage of St Brendan in Modern Fantasy Literature

From The Guardian: Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019

From Nathan Bransford: Give the gift of writing!

CALA: Comic Arts Los Angeles, Dec. 7 & 8th


From The Guardian: Where the magic happens: children's illustrators open up their studios - in pictures

From CommArts: For those who just finished the collage project, check out the NEMO Science Museum campaign! also
Hush: Physical spaces become the canvas for this Brooklyn-based experience design firm's dynamic, data-driven visualizations.

From The Lemonade Illustration Agency: Portfolio Day for Illustrators, Dec 11th

From The Guardian: How life drawing helped me rediscover my capacity for empathy

From Muddy Colors: Process: The Cunning Man by Dan Dos Santos

From The Art Room Plant: More on Violeta Dabija and beautiful work by Chris Maynard

Do you know about FUTUREFONTS - 'Where Type Designers Sell Experimental Work In Progress'

The new Illustoria Story is out - learn more about it HERE

From Twitter: Over the next few weeks, students will get the chance to evaluate their professors and TAs. They're going to get it wrong. They'll be harder on women and people of color than on white men. Tenured white male faculty, in particular, should help their students understand this. 1/8

From Muddy Colors: Dealing with Color Blindness as an Artist

From SCBWI British Isles: WRITERS' MINDS Sarah McIntyre - Creator of #PicturesMeansBusiness

From Vox: An illustrated opinion piece on the use of Latinx: "You Say - Another mini comic by Terry Blas"

From SCBWI: The SCBWI BI Biennial Illustration exhibit 2019 "Pictures at Play"

Matthew Cordell's EXPLORERS

I'm thrilled to have Caldecott winner Matthew Cordell back to visit; especially after learning that he was a Winthrop University graduate in 1997 - small world, eh? Today, we're celebrating his latest book, EXPLORERS He dropped by to talk about it...
e: What was your creative process/medium for EXPLORERS, can you walk us through it?
Almost all of my work is drawn in pen and ink and colored with watercolor. I always start out with pencil sketches with the publisher, refining this way until everything is approved for final art. At which point, I print out all of my approved sketches, trim out appropriately sized sheets of 100 lb. cold press Arches watercolor paper, and begin. I always start with the pen and ink drawings, working my way from the beginning of the book to the end. For each drawing, I tape my approved sketch to the back of a sheet of watercolor paper and draw on a light table. I keep a second print out beside me, while drawing, so I can see it clearer while drawing. (It’s difficult to see details and subtleties in the sketch through the watercolor paper.) Once all the drawings are complete, I circle back and begin painting in watercolor. I always work from beginning of the book to the end. Not that it matters, really, it’s just a habit I’ve gotten into!

e: What was your path to publication?
In college, I studied graphic design and fine art [at Winthrop University!!!], intending to pursue both after graduation. And I did, with some success in both arenas. But I soon learned that I didn’t really enjoy either of those worlds. Around the time I figured that out, I was dating a school librarian/writer (Julie Halpern, who is now my wife) and she suggested since I was burning out on art and design, that maybe we could collaborate and try to get a picture book published. I hadn’t thought about children’s books since I myself was a child. And when I did think about them, it wasn’t in any cool sort of way. So, it took some convincing to get me on board. Julie shared with me some of her favorite books from when she was a kid and showed me lots of new picture books from the school library where she worked. I was blown away by how amazing the art in these books was. I had it all wrong, that picture books could not be cool. This was easily some of the coolest stuff I’d seen in years. So we put together a picture book proposal (Julie’s words, my art) and submitted it to 20 publishers. In the months that followed, the rejections began coming in. One after another, we received 19 rejections. The last one, from Houghton Mifflin, was a maybe. After months of revising the text, the maybe turned into a yes. In 2004, Toby and the Snowflakes was published. I loved the experience so much. Working with the publisher. A new (to me) audience of children and families. Work that combined my two interests (design and art), but in an environment and presentation that better suited me. After that, I worked tirelessly day and night and on weekends for 7 years (while working a full-time job at a letterpress printer) so I could make writing and illustrating my full-time, life’s work.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
The idea for EXPLORERS is based on my family’s love for museums. What I love doing the most in this world is spending time with my family. And what my family loves doing the most is visiting museums. We travel a lot and our first destination in any new place is to seek out the museums. Art museums, history museums, science museums, children’s museums… all of the above and more. I love the knowledge and culture that museums are rich with, but I also love the community of museums. People and families from all walks of life go to museums. Lots of difference races, languages, cultures, religions. It’s really enlightening and inspiring to have a shared experience with so many people who come from so many different backgrounds. So I really wanted to do a book set in a museum, and one where two families that are different from each other on surface levels, find that they have much more in common on a deeper level.

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?
I suppose we all have our own interpretation of art that is effective in this way. Personally, I’m moved by art that is unusual in some way. I’m inspired when I see something that is done in a way I haven’t seen before. Or is created in a way that isn’t traditionally successful or beautiful. Often times, when I encounter something like this, I don’t like it initially. Which… can be a good sign. Sometimes. In the context of making books, though, I think successful art is reacting or supporting or responding to successful writing. I think these “heart art” experiences that we find in books, are a perfect synergy of great text combining with great art. When this happens, I actually get goosebumps. It doesn’t happen often, so it’s really special when it does.

e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
My self-promo has evolved over the years. In the beginning of my illustration career, I really focused on compiling an up-to-date mailing list of all the editors and art directors at the publishing companies. About 4 times a year, I would mail out post cards and samples of my work. With these efforts, the work started coming in slowly. In time, I got a literary agent, Rosemary Stimola, who has been an incredible advocate for me, and really helped me to get more book work. Since then, I haven’t done the mailings as much. I have a website, and recommend every illustrator have one for herself or himself. I’ve actually had a placeholder page up for a long while now, and it’s desperately in need of an update! I also have an illustrator presence on the major social media outlets. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I think a combination of promotional efforts is what works best to get your name out and about and in the conversation.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I love making things. I love that I can start with a blank sheet of paper and in the end, I’ve left something new and unique in the world. Something that wasn’t there before. And something I can look back on and appreciate the experience in some way. It’s an amazing feeling, every time, to bring something new into the world. The most challenging thing is dealing with what happens after you share you work. In book illustration, the major elements of feedback are reviews (professional reviews and/or customer reviews) and book sales. It’s always difficult to put everything you have into something and it get lukewarm or poor reviews and/or sales. But I always try to stay focused on the creation of the work. That is something I can control. How the work is going to look and how well it’s executed. What happens when it’s out in the world for others to see and read—that’s completely out of my control. So it’s pointless to get too hung up on those things. And yet, it’s hard not to. But I do try and keep that focus going, with the love of creating the work.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
In Explorers, I tried to work in a diverse range of exhibits and world history and a diverse range of folks who are at the museum on this day. Some places that we choose to go—neighborhoods, restaurants, parks, etc—are inhabited by people who look and act a lot like ourselves. But it’s the places that draw a wider range of ethnicities and cultures that I find most stimulating. Museums have that, and that’s one of the things that makes them special. This is sort of the subtext of the story, and I hope people pick up on that.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Because publishing takes as long as it does (after illustrations are done, it can take a year or more before the book is in print), I’ve always got several projects going in various stages. A couple of months ago, I finished my first non-fiction picture book—a biography about Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers) that will be out in May of 2020. Today, I just finished the interior illustrations (still have to do a cover) for my first beginning reader chapter book. And I have two more picture books going that are in different stages of sketches. I like to try and do new things, as it keeps things exciting and fresh for me. Hence, the two new formats I’m working with. But doing new things requires a greater investment of time, as there’s a big learning curve that has to be worked out in those situations. One other thing I’ve been wanting to do for years is a young adult graphic novel. I’ve had the story and done bits and pieces of art studies over the years, but I’ve never ramped up to actually make the thing. I hope to pull it off some day.

e: I hope you do too!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Penguins on Ice

     Scotland rarely got colder than 35° or hotter than 65°. So, believe it or not, I'm not used to the cold weather in the US anymore! This was my #Inktober submission for "Freezing." CLICK HERE for more coloring pages.
     Remember, I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! For instance, I'm celebrating the new illustrated (by me) edition of A BIRD ON WATER STREET! My debut novel won me "Georgia Author of the Year!"
Booklist said it's "A book deserving of a wide readership, recommended for all libraries."
If my news and images add value to your life, won't you please
Just love this one image? Consider a one-time donation...

     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.

The Conversation Continues on the US side of the pond...

Jane Yolen popped through South Carolina over the Thanksgiving break to continue the conversations we began in Edinburgh. What a treat!
We came up with more stories, talked the biz, and shared our lives. I'm so lucky to have this generous, fabulous friend in my life. And with any luck, you'll see more books from us as a result!

My Talk

I almost forgot to tell you about this! On November 8th I gave a talk about my creative career path to interested students.
At Winthrop University, every student is required to attend a certain number of 'Cultural Events' each semester. So, while many of my students were actually there to support me and learn about my journey...
I imagine some were there for some painless cultural credits as well. Either way, it was a nice crowd, so I was flattered.
I talked about how my talent first manifested, how I developed into being an artist, and the various stages/steps of my career all the way up to where I am now. I talked about the things I did wrong/right, the struggles (think recession), the highs, the lows, and the determination/stubbornness that is necessary for a successful creative career.
It was fun to reminisce and acknowledge how much I have accomplished. I've done a good job if I do say so myself. It's been a good journey and I was happy to share!
Many thanks to my students who sent me the photos they took during my talk!

Retirement Party for David Brown

The Illustration Professor I am replacing at Winthrop University is David 'Doc' Brown. The students call him 'Doc' because of his background as a medical illustrator, and boy does he know his stuff. He is a meticulous, detail-oriented creator and put an amazing program in place for me to step into. It's been so nice to overlap with him for a semester to help me segue into my new role.
 Ironically, Doc and I met years ago when I spoke at an SCBWI Carolinas conference, so we had lots to talk about when I interviewed. He and his wife, Sally, have been so welcoming since Stan and I moved to town, it seemed only fitting that I should put together a small retirement party for him. The students were completely on board and no-one peeped about the surprise. And we did indeed surprise him when he walked in to teach his very last class.
Sally let me know his favorite cake is a carrot cake, so that's what we got him.
I meant to get a better photo of the cake before everyone dove into it, but be assured, it was very pretty (thank you, Publix).
I made a card for him (with a retiring owl tearing off its graduation robes) that everyone signed, students and faculty. It was full of warm wishes.
I also got him a book on human anatomy that a fellow University of Edinburgh graduate just released. She is also a medical illustrator (and an amazing tattoo artist), so that was a no brainer!
Fellow faculty dropped by to help celebrate. Here are Tom, Jason, and Doc.
For his last class, Doc talked about contracts, and he also talked about finding balance in life to be happy. It was a lovely tribute talk to his own happy career. Although, I know he is sincerely looking forward to his next chapter in life.
What's been very clear teaching alongside Doc all this time is how beloved he is. He is leaving very big shoes for me to fill! So, Happy Retirement, Doc, from those who love you...
May your next chapter be as special as this one has been!