Julia Seal has created a picture book that is basically the story of my life! This lovely book, THE SKETCHBOOK is for all the born artists in the world. Julia stopped by to tell me more about it...
e: Is THE SKETCHBOOK an autobiography? I can relate - I was that kid too!
I didn't intend it to be autobiographical but I poured so much of myself into writing the book, that it did end up that way! It was actually only after my husband had read it for the first time and said "So it's about you?" that I realised! I was always quite shy growing up and definitely better with pictures than words. Like the girl in the story, I've found my confidence through my art.

e: Can you walk us through your process for THE SKETCHBOOK?
The idea came to me a few years ago and for a long time I was scribbling notes and playing with different storylines. I had this picture in my head of a girl running down the street with the wind swept pages of her sketchbook blowing all around her. The drawings actually came before the text! After I'd created a few images, and with a collection of rather sporadic notes scattered across many sketchbooks, the story suddenly came together in my head and I sat down and wrote the whole thing in one go!

e: It’s hard to believe this is your debut picture book. Wowsa, what a debut! What was your path to publication?
I've been drawing and writing stories ever since I can remember! In the past I've always illustrated other peoples books whilst secretly longing to write myself! After creating the text and a few sample images for THE SKETCHBOOK I sent it to my agent just in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair. After a long and nervous wait, I received an email telling me that Peter Pauper Press were interested in publishing it! Because of the time difference (America/England) I got the email about 11 o'clock at night and I was so excited I woke up the whole house to tell everyone! Peter Pauper Press and especially my editor Mara, were amazing at helping me edit the text, whilst giving me lots of freedom with the illustrations! And a year later I can't believe I have a copy of the book in my hands!

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of THE SKETCHBOOK?
The idea actually came from watching my four-year-old daughter on holiday one year. She had a tiny notepad that she would take everywhere with her. In restaurants, on the beach, in the car - she was constantly scribbling 'important' things down. She wouldn't let anyone else see! Eventually, I had a peek when she was asleep one night and the notepad was filled with the most detailed drawings alongside lines and lines of funny symbols which she thought were letters! I couldn't understand any of it but it made me smile!.. And gave me a good idea for a story!

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 love images with a magical element - pictures so full of imagination that you can't stop looking at them and the more you look the more incredible detail you see - for me that's what Heart Art is. It's the joy of being able to look at the ideas in someone else's head, they enable you to see the world in a different way.

e: How do you advertise yourself?
I'm not very good at advertising myself! I usually leave that to my agent whilst I get on with drawing! However, I have recently joined Instagram (@julia_seal_illustration) and I'm enjoying sharing my doodles and ideas on there. It's really encouraging to read everyone's comments! I've also been on a few school visits recently. It's lovely chatting with the pupils about the process of creating picturebooks and the children are always so enthusiastic!

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I'm so lucky to be able to make a living out of something I love! I'm constantly drawing and writing, whether its for work or for pleasure! I guess one of the challenges that comes from this is knowing when to stop and take a break! When your home is also you office, you can end up working all the time!

e: Is there something in particular about THE SKETCHBOOK you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I guess I want to encourage readers to have confidence in themselves and their abilities, and to share what they love!

What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Julia: I'm excited to be developing two more stories at the moment! One tackles the issue of plastics in our ocean from a child's point of view. This is something that really came to my attention after reading an article a few years ago about a whale who had died after eating more than 80 plastic bags! The other story is a more light-hearted look into overcoming funny childhood fears. It's a story I made up for my son when he was little but I have only just got around to writing it down!
e: Great - I can't wait to see them!

VIDEO: How To Make a Zine!

I recently took part in a grant project called "Creative Language Practices: Exploring Translanguaging in Pedagogical Contexts and Beyond". For it, I created several projects, including one that involved making zines. Zines are like mini-books and can be used in many different ways. A lot of artists create zines in the UK to sell at craft fairs, but they make wonderful classroom tools as well. We shot a demonstration video to go along with the project, which you can view on YouTube:
To download the diagram on how to make a zine, visit the project website HERE.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Spotty Reader

     Do you have a spotty reader in your world? Give them a book they'll love and watch them become an avid reader instead!
CLICK HERE for more coloring pages.
If you use my coloring pages often, please...

Just love this one image? Consider a one-time donation...

CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week.

     I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! For instance...
my latest picture book, Crow Not Crow - written by New York Times Best-selling author Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple.
     Kirkus calls it "a solid choice for introducing the hobby [birdwatching] to younger readers."
      Also, A Bird on Water Street is now available in Chinese!
     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.

Gifcon 2019

This past Thursday and Friday, the University of Glasgow's MLit in Fantasy program hosted its third GifCon (Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations). This conference has really taken off. There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world, so it's attracting speakers from all corners of the world. For instance, I learned about a trickster in Brazil from an American who started a publishing company in Scotland.
And I got to hear a talk on Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
Brian Attebery gave a keynote, as did Mel Gibson (not that Mel Gibson) on graphic novels.
There were panels that answered the most interesting questions.
And topics I never would have stumbled across otherwise.
I love going to these, mostly to sit and draw while speakers put interesting things in my head. Dimitra caught these photos of me drawing images for my own fantasy novel.
But the highlight was at the very end when Dr Dimitra Fimi sang an old Welsh Ballad in honor of the event. Click the image below to go listen on YouTube.
What a place to be inspired! I'm so glad I've been able to attend the first three years of this fabulous conference!

The Train from Edinburgh to Glasgow

One of the things I'll miss the most about Scotland is the train. I adore riding on trains, and I get so much done on the train between Edinburgh and Glasgow. However, the last few trips I've taken, I've simply enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. The light has been especially lovely of late. It shines on the mountains and the rolling fields, and the sheep.
It is good to be a cow in Scotland.

Horses like it too.
I always try to spot this lovely garden going by. It has a gazebo and this fun spherical thingie.
It's a lovely ride.
And then I pull into Waverly Station like this...

VIDEO: Flash Mob Wedding Proposal in Edinburgh

I feel for you guys trying to out-do this romantic proposal! From The Scotsman: "Watch: Romantic moment man proposes with flash mob on Edinburgh's Castle Street." I used to walk this street every day during my MFA. I'm sorry I missed it! Click the image to watch at The Scotsman:

Living Overseas - 12 Things I've learned...

One of the commenters on my FB thread about the new job in South Carolina asked for tips on moving overseas. I responded 'Good lord, where to start!' So I thought, perhaps this would make a good blog post. These aren't so much tips as they are 12 things I've learned:
1. People are people no matter where you go. We may have cultural or racial differences, but at the core, we are all as wonderful and imperfect as anybody else.

2. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, but sometimes it is. There are good and bad things about anywhere you live. They may be different things, but they'll probably weigh out about the same. (Unless you go somewhere truly challenging.)

3. Socialized medicine is AMAZING. I have received the BEST HEALTHCARE OF MY LIFE in Scotland, by a very, very wide margin. Socialized medicine is far superior. The reasons why are too long to list here, so that may have to be another post. But I can say that healthcare should be a human RIGHT everywhere and knowing that you are covered for life's catastrophes completely changes your quality of life. I do wish the US would get their act together on this.

4. The gulf stream is massively important, as is the threat of climate change. Scotland is as far north as Alaska. Most of the UK is as far north as Canada. It's the gulf stream that makes them feel like they are much farther south. If that weather pattern gets disrupted, this region will feel it deeply.

5. Politics are a mess everywhere right now. (Does that ever really change?) It seems like the entire world is becoming more nationalistic and scarily conservative. I don't know why. That said, there are many people in the world living in war, in terror, or living displaced. If you're reading my blog, you're probably one of the lucky ones who has a choice.

6. Brexit is perhaps even worse than the US mess right now because it will take decades to undo, whereas in the US, we hold elections that can radically change things every four years.

7. Coming off of that nationalism topic, visas are a bear. Trying to get permission to live in a foreign country, especially one that is clamping down on immigration, is extremely, extremely difficult. I hate that.

8. It is not fun to live somewhere where you can't vote to change the politics of where you live. I think of all the immigrants living in the US, who suffer because of legislation they have no power to change. That powerlessness is not funny. And the people who do have the power to vote are oftentimes the people who will be least affected by the legislation they vote for.

9. Public transportation ROCKS. To not have to own a car, to have multiple options of how to get around, these are freedoms and environmentally--friendly options that everyone should have. (It also makes drunk-driving less of a thing.)

10. Knowing that food and medicine must be proved safe before being made publicly available is a much better system than playing catch-up after food or medicine turns out to be unsafe. This system means that most of the produce in the UK is near or better quality than the organic produce you can buy in the US. Not having to worry about the toxicity of your food is a marvellous thing.

11. When you live in a tight/walkable community, where you can walk to the grocer, walk to restaurants, walk to the library, etc., you end up not needing as much stuff of your own. Your neighborhood becomes your extended home. That's a lovely feeling.

12. You probably have more invested in your home than you realize. We take so much for granted - friendships, familiarity, native knowledge (jokes, lingo, accents, etc.). It can be very fun to be somewhere where all those things are new and different, but it can also become an ongoing challenge that can get old sometimes. That said, no matter how beautiful and wonderous a new place is, you will eventually find yourself taking it for granted too. We humans just do that.

13. Let's make this a Baker's Dozen... The math of different currencies and measuring systems is challenging and fun! It's nice to finally have a feel for celsius and the metric system considering the majority of the globe is on that system rather than the US system. And one does feel especially worldly when carrying several different currencies in your wallet at the same time!
All said, living overseas has been exciting adventure for me. It's made the entire world feel more accessible. It's given me objectivity and new ways of thinking, more empathy, international awareness, and it's gifted me with friends all over the planet - making our world a much smaller and friendlier place.
     Another FB poster asked if I was going to miss Edinburgh. Of COURSE I will! How could I not? Edinburgh is a very special place and I'm so grateful to have had this experience!!!

Kelly Pousette's LITTLE THINGS

Peter Pauper Press is coming out with some truly lovely books of late. I can't wait to share LITTLE THINGS with you, illustrated by debut illustrator, Kelly Pousette. It's so charming! She stopped by to talk about it...
e: Is that all cut paper in Little Things!? Can you walk us through your process?
The majority of the illustrations in Little Things are created with paper cut pieces and set up in a diorama setting. I love the process of paper cutting and constructing dioramas, its beautiful to watch the scene take shape and develop. I start the process with an idea in mind, of how I want the end result to look. I sketch it out,

create and add colour to the individual pieces. Then I cut these pieces out using a very sharp knife–I try to cut out as much as I can, even very small and tiny details, like grasses and tiny flowers–that way I have as much flexibility as possible with placing the pieces.
Once the pieces are cut out I start to arrange them and place them in the diorama setting.
I love this part so much –well, I love all of it, but this part is magical. I love how when I create the scenes, changing one flower or footprint changes the mood of the scene. It is fascinating to me! I usually start to add lighting as I’m doing this as I want to see where the shadows will lie. And it is so enjoyable to hide tiny details within the shadows, so they are like little hidden surprises. Once the diorama is created and the lighting is how I would like it, then my husband and I work together to take the photo of the scene. We love working together as a team and I feel so grateful to be able to do this! He is an incredibly talented photographer and videographer and has an amazing eye for colour and detail. The photo is then processed in Photoshop, but only minor tweaks here and there are applied. The process is lengthily but I adore it.
e: It’s hard to believe this is your debut picture book. Wowsa, what a debut! What was your path to publication?
Thank you so much, that’s very kind of you! I’m overjoyed that it was my debut picturebook. I have an amazing agent, Abigail Samoun with Red Fox Literary. She is incredible, so supportive and tenacious! She contacted me with the manuscript and I fell in love with it immediately. I was so nervous, sending in samples, I was worried that they would decide in the end to go with a different illustrator. So when Abi sent me the contract details, I literally yelped for joy! Then I cried tears of joy, haha. I have wanted to illustrate a children’s book since I was very small so this was a dream come true. I believe though it is a result of hard work, persistence, amazing support from my husband and family, and an incredible agent who believes in what you do.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Little Things?
For me, there isn’t one unique story behind the art creation for Little Things, but a accumulation of many stories. As I created it, I was reminded of so many lovely memories of my childhood – exploring my mum’s garden, painting rocks, playing dress up with my sister, playing in our fort. I kept thinking too about my niece, Emerson. I think of her all the time anyways, but when I created the art, I kept thinking about what she would notice in the world around her. She will be seven this year and is the most incredible little human. She is constantly reminding me in her own way, to slow down, and take in what’s around me.

Click the image to view it larger in a new window.

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?
There are illustrations that I can picture with my eyes closed - they seem to nestle into my being and stay with me. I think the magic of these illustrations lies in that they connect with a part of me – maybe something from my childhood, or a memory of a place I’ve been, or even something in the not so distant past. There is a book I found once, a lovely book about a young boy who had lost his mum and is grieving with his father. The art is so beautiful, and it evokes such strong emotions. And I believe that anyone that reads this book, that looks at the art, would feel a connection with it. We have all lost someone dear and close to us, and illustrations like that, that give us comfort and communion, that to me is Heart Art. To me they are magical because they remind us of our humanness, of our connection with one another.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I am very fortunate to work with my agent Abi. She is regularly marketing my artwork and creating connections. I wouldn’t be in this place today without her. I have a portfolio and biography page on the Red Fox Literary website. I am also on Instagram, which has also been a very positive experience for me. I try to post regularly which I think is worthwhile if you are able. The community of artists and creatives on Instagram is very supportive.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I tend to be quite hard on myself and critical – which I don’t think is necessarily a negative thing. I think it pushes you to work hard and keep at something until you are happy with it. But I’m slowly learning to accept that I am human and perfection doesn’t exist. That sometimes I need to sit back and just take a break and that’s ok. But I sometimes wonder who I would be if I didn’t illustrate? It is so much a part of me. I love creating, I love the whole process – from imagining something, to sketching it, cutting out and creating a scene from it. I can’t really say if I have a favourite part, I adore the whole process.

Click the image to view it larger in a new window.

e: Is there something in particular about Little Things you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I feel so honoured to be apart of Little Things. I know that the story meant a great deal to Nick, and it does to me as well. While working on it, I felt the child-like part of my being erupting forth. I suddenly started to notice the small, little things. And I think they are things I have been taking for granted or have been moving too quickly to notice. I know that life can be so busy and demanding. But I hope if someone reads Little Things it will give them an opportunity to pause and take in the little things around them too – because those little things can give us so much joy. Knowing Little Things gave the reader joy would fill my heart to bursting point.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I recently finished illustrating a book project, which will be out in September of this year. I am just in the process of finishing up the illustrations for another new book project that I can’t share too much about yet...but I’m really excited about it so stay tuned! I will announce on my Instagram when both are available. I would love to at some point to illustrate a pop up book – those were my favourite books as a child. I would also love to eventually write and illustrate a book.
     Thank you so much Elizabeth for this wonderful opportunity! I am honoured and very excited, and greatly appreciate you taking the time to speak with me about Little Things.

e: Lovely to have you on, Kelly! I can't wait to see the new book too!