Lake Culture in South Carolina

We have a big lake near Rock Hill - Lake Wylie. It's a man-made, dammed lake. We were eager to check it out, so the other weekend, Stan and I took a pretty drive through the countryside to the only restaurant that actually sits on Lake Wylie - Papa Doc's Shore Club. We pulled up to a gravel parking lot, and the welcome awning.
Canadian Geese and Mallards littered the shore and squaked up a storm in the water.
The inlet of water on which the restaurant sits even had a gator in it! Wait. A gator, in north-central South Carolina? Stan and I debated, do they live that far north?
The restaurant actually sits on the water, so you navigate a long dock-like entrance to get in - it felt just like being at the beach!
It wasn't a super-sunny day, which was actually a good thing as that would have meant it was too hot to sit at the perfect table with the best view!
Stan and I felt like we were on a mini-vacation, so yes, that's a Piña Colada!
We watched the boats come and go from the dock on the big water side. Apparently, it's a thing to take your boat to Papa Doc's. Makes sense.
We did see some folks dragging behind boats on intertubes, and some others on paddle-boards. The benches at Papa Doc's were actually made from old water skis.
It was easy to imagine the restaurant at its hight of business. It had an outdoor bar...
and an indoor Tiki Bar!
But we were happy to be there when it was mid-day with a pretty laid-back crowd, enjoying the water, the boats, the views... Southern Lake Culture. So nice. Oh, and by the way, the gator wasn't real. ;-)

Friday Links List - 30 August 2019

Do you know about They are saving libraries and need your help!

From The Guardian: Glasgow University to pay £20m in slave trade reparations - MY university - I'm so proud!

Just making sure you are familiar with the work of Charles White

From Kidlit Artists: What do you want to do?

From Fast Company: Google has a secret design library. Here are 35 of its best books: The company’s industrial design team shares a handful of titles from its studio library, which is curated by team members.

From NPR: From Gloom To Gratitude: 8 Skills To Cultivate Joy

From The Guardian (1 year ago): Must monsters always be male? Huge gender bias revealed in children's books: A thieving duck in Peppa Pig is one of the few female villains in the 100 most popular picture books. An Observer study shows that, from hares to bears, females are mostly sidekicks

From The Mint Museum: Tony DiTerlizzi Exhibition at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina through November 3rd

From PW: A Different Look at YA Novel: A child psychiatrist and author says not all diverse teens celebrate their culture(s)

From The Bookseller: CILIP launches data project to 'turn tide' on library closures

Also from The Bookseller: PRH to match bookshop crowdfunder to give schoolchildren Greta Thunberg's book PRH to match bookshop crowdfunder to give schoolchildren Greta Thunberg's book

From Wired: This 8-Minute Galactic Primer Is the Future of AR Education: Can augmented reality help children with reading skills? Boring math lessons? Chris Milk and the team at Within believes it can.

From The Bookseller: US publishers' revenues up 6.9%

From The Atlantic Books: The Paradox of Peanuts: Charles Schulz’s kid characters are precocious, cruel, and nihilistic. They’re also among the most compelling in children’s literature.

A Winthrop graduate has a Kickstarter campaign for a new book - check it out! (Click the image below.)

Matthew Trueman's IN THE PAST

It's been a little while since Matthew Trueman's IN THE PAST was released, but that never stops me from being interested in a beautifully illustrated book. So, I'm thrilled to finally have Matthew here to talk about his process.
e: What was your creative process/medium for IN THE PAST, can you walk us through it?
One of my favorite parts of working on a book is the beginning scribble sketch stage. Reading the story or text, reading research materials, learning all about something new, looking at whatever I've chosen for inspiration and just doodling whatever comes to mind. Everything is possible, the more the better, I don't have to make any hard decisions yet. I try to keep this as much like play as I can and I don't usually work in my studio at this point. I'll sit in bed or on the back porch, I'll go for walks and hikes and bring a notebook, anything to make it feel like play and not a job. I use cheap paper because I don't want to feel any pressure to make good drawings, since these sketches are raw materials. I usually find that those first thoughtless drawings are where the real life is and I try to keep as much of that in the finished pictures as possible.
     IN THE PAST required a ton of research but I often begin sketching before doing much or any research, I want to see what the text inspires as pure fiction and fantasy. Then I do as much research as possible. I have to try to really understand the anatomy because when I feel ready I put the reference away and make everything up.

     With the paintings I usually work from thin to thick. A final illustration almost always begins with a big watery wash of some kind. I use F.W. inks, which behave a lot like watercolor but dry permanent and waterproof so you can layer whatever you want on top without disturbing the previous layer. This first wash is a big deal, it sets the tone for the whole thing. I'm always excited and nervous and hoping for interesting and surprising textures to work with or around. What ink and paper and water do on their own is always best, I try to mess with it as little as possible, the trick is controlling it just barely enough to suit the needs of the picture. Then I build up the picture with more inks, sometimes thicker paints, and finally collage stuff.

Right click the image above to view it larger.
     IN THE PAST has quite a lot of weeds collage, plants that I collect in the garden or on hikes and then glue into the paintings. I love taking a little fern from the backyard and sticking it in a painting where it can become part of a massive prehistoric jungle. Using real materials from nature makes me think of stop motion movies or puppet movies like Sesame Street and The Dark Crystal. I think of the pictures as built and assembled more than painted. I'm always trying to get a very particular mix of real and imagined, wonderful and mundane. I love in the old Muppet Movie when you see Kermit the Frog in a real swamp (or what looks like a real swamp). It isn't a particularly spectacular or dramatic swamp, it's just a swamp, which makes coming upon a live puppet frog playing the banjo or riding a bike so exciting. I sort of think of the drawn elements in my pictures as Kermit and the natural and collage elements as the workaday swamp he lives in, the balance between the two can change but I like that tension between real and unreal. That borderland is where the magic is.

Right click the image above to view it larger.
e: What was your path to publication?
I think I was the very last illustrator in the world to get started before the internet took over. I graduated from art school and did what you were supposed to do at the time which was print up 500 postcards of your best illustration and mail them out to as many strangers as possible. Sitting there for hours filling each one out and licking stamps and everything. Now that I think about it, it was pretty satisfying taking the stack of tidy postcards to the post office and physically sending them out into the world to seek my fortune. I was fortunate and met an agent from that first mailing and started doing magazine work and some advertising; I think very few of those magazines exist anymore. After a few years I did a poster for a play. That was a strange job, the art director was very happy but the star actor didn't like the way I made him look so they couldn't use it, but they did buy the painting. I'm remembering all this now for the first time in years. That assignment was larger than usual and a tight deadline and at one point after not enough sleep I had what I suppose was a panic attack and couldn't even think of which brush to pick up next, never mind what to do with it. But, I got it done, and even though they didn't use it, it led directly to an offer to illustrate a picture book with similar subject matter. You never know how things will turn out.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of IN THE PAST?
There's a dinosaur in this book named Yutyrannus, very much like a feathered T-Rex, a giant chicken with teeth. Coincidentally we were keeping chickens in the yard while I was working on this book and I watched them closely for reference. The chickens were relentless predators, moving methodically up and down the yard all day long in formation, striking lightning-fast and eating absolutely anything. Those chickens would hunt mice, which as a fellow mammal made me feel a little indignant. I realized that a chicken the size of a giraffe would be the most terrifying hunter imaginable, it's a miracle the rest of us managed to evolve at all. Plus they'd wake me up before dawn, they were merciless.

Right click the image above to view it larger.
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?
This is a big question, and if you asked it every day I'd probably have a different answer every time, and it might change depending on the type of project or story I'm working on. Recently I've been doing a series of nature and science books, and I think it's helpful that I tend to think of everything as science fiction and fantasy first and always. Dinosaurs are dragons and chickens in the backyard are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were real and they were also aliens in the sense that they evolved on a world very different from the one we live in. Back to Kermit the Frog in his swamp for a moment, seeing Kermit playing his banjo in a real swamp is wonderful, but the trees in the swamp are communicating underground with the help of fungi! Everything is magic and alien and I try to let that creep into pictures as much as possible. Of course it all begins with the text, and David's IN THE PAST poems are so evocative, the real problem is you can only get so much into the pictures and you can never fit everything in.

Right click the image above to view it larger.
     I also tend to think of everything as a character, whether a person or a dinosaur or a tree or a rock. I love experimenting with how small changes to lines around an eye or a mouth change personality, or how a soft or sharp shape changes the personality of a rock. You play with it this way and that way and suddenly if you're lucky it comes alive.
      These are things that make working on illustrations magic anyway, I hope some of it comes through to the reader.

Right click the image above to view it larger.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I don't at all, which is ridiculous. I used to in the olden days when I was doing more advertising and magazine work, but more recently I've been focusing on picture books and a few friendly publishers have been keeping me busy. But I need to get a grownup website or something up so I'm at least reachable. Thanks for tracking me down by the way.

Right click the image above to view it larger.
e: My pleasaure! What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My favorite things as a kid were, in no particular order: drawing, reading, any kind of craft project, having adventures outside and of course watching cartoons, and working on picture books combines all of that about as well as you could hope for. I get to work alone in my room like a Hobbit, I get to explore outside and collect reference and materials to use in the pictures. Sometimes, depending on the subject matter, I get to play at being a scientist or a historian. A book project takes a while, so it ends up being a kind of journal. When you learn some interesting new fact or notice an interesting rock or cloud or light effect on a walk or whatever you try to work that into the next picture. I get ideas for things to try while watching animation or playing video games with my daughter, it all goes in the book. I love having a useful place to put all the little daily epiphanies. And then, with the help of a book designer, all that time and life and sometimes messy figuring things out turns into the tidy package that is a book, a little self-contained world. I feel very romantic about books, almost anything you put between two well designed hardcovers is ennobled.
      I'd say the most difficult thing is the uncertainty of freelance life and doing this as a JOB. It can get scary sometimes. In art school it felt like risks were ok, risks were good and every picture was an adventure. Then I started working professionally and people were depending on me and there was money involved and corporations and rent to pay and failure wasn't an option and I froze up for quite a while. Most of my early professional work was coming from a fear of failure, I wasn't having any fun and I was wasting lots of energy holding on too tight. I still struggle with that sometimes. Since then I think everything I've learned or I've figured out for myself is really just unlearning all the things I felt like I should be doing and getting closer to things I used to do as a kid just for fun. I feel like I'm just starting to get there.
e: I agree! Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I love this question! A lot of life goes by while you work on a book, you have time to think a lot of things, and maybe some of that works its way into the pictures. IN THE PAST is a book of fun and beautiful poems, but it's also about beautiful worlds and creatures that don't exist anymore. It's right there in the title. I worked on IN THE PAST during and after the last big presidential election, we had fossil fuel executives and lobbyists being appointed to environmental protection agencies, national parks being opened up for commercial use, protections for endangered species being cut. It was nice to be working on a book about nature and science at the time, it felt like the right thing to be doing. One thing that really struck me while researching this book is that there have been half a dozen or so mass extinctions in the history of the planet. The meteor that ended the dinosaurs was just one of many, each time life rebooted itself and evolved from the few creatures remaining. All of the amazing creatures in this book are gone, they're in the past, we can only imagine what they looked like. Amazing creatures like tigers and elephants and polar bears and countless others could be in the past very soon, but this time it isn't because of asteroids or volcanos or anything, it's because of people. Imagining these prehistoric creatures was great fun, but let's keep elephants and tigers, etc., etc. around so future illustrators don't have to imagine them. But it's also strangely comforting to know that there have been many beautiful worlds that existed before the one we know and love, and new different worlds will exist in the future.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Well, of course, I have a stack of painting projects and ideas I hope to get around to someday, I imagine most illustrators do. In the book department, I illustrated a beautiful manuscript by Susannah Buhrman-Deever about sea otters and the kelp forest that'll be coming out soon, and I'm currently working on a book of poems about outer space that I'm very excited about. Figuring out how to represent all these different natural environments has been an education and an adventure. I love bringing a taste for fantasy and science fiction into nature and science, and at some point, it would be fun to flip that and bring what I've learned back into fantasy and SF. As I work on a prehistoric fern forest I can't help thinking that a lost little robot or a Tarzan boy would look good there under the ferns. Working on giant flying Quetzalcoatlus I kept thinking it needed a little girl riding on its back. I'm excited to keep exploring that middle ground.

e: I hope you get to do it - I'd love to see it! Come visit again soon!

Planters on my wee balcony!

Although a dear friend in Edinburgh had an allotment, I never had the time to get out to help her garden like I wanted to. (Miss you, Connie!) So, it is an absolute thrill to have plants right outside my door once more - on our wee balcony!
     Stan and I went to two garden centers over the weekend - Wilson's Nursery and The Farmers Exchange. Both were literally five minutes from our flat - so nice! And how nice to be surrounded by plants again! I recognized so many that I used to have in my yards in Atlanta and Chattanooga—where I was a certified Master Gardener if you can believe it. So, being surrounded by all those lovely plants is like visiting old friends... friends who smell wonderful and feed my soul. I couldn't stop grinning!
     You may recall my post about Karen Stock's butterflies? Well, I want to see if I can attract a few or create a stop-over on the Butterfly Highway for the Monarchs and Swallowtails on my balcony. Oh, and provide herbs for my hubby's awesome cooking. So, to begin our little urban garden, we purchased two planters, some soil, and butterfly/hummingbird-friendly plants.
     Stan caught me at work with my fingers in the dirt. :)

     I was all smiles as I planted: coleus, creeping thyme, butterfly weed, lavendar (a gift from Karen), echinacea, oregano, and celosia in the left planter.
And celosia, pink milkweed (for the Monarchs - I hope that's the right one), creeping rosemary, oregano, rainbow chard, basil, and phlox in the planter on the right.
     I also planted curly-leaf parsley seeds for the Swallowtail butterflies. (It will come up quickly, I'm sure!)
     And TA-DA! I have a garden in my life once more - how exciting!


Coloring Page Tuesday - Modern Bard

     I created this card for Ellen Kushner, author of Tremontaine and Swordspoint. If ever there was a modern bard, she's it! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages.
     Remember, I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! For instance...
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." Or MerBaby's Lullaby, out this summer with great reviews from Kirkus and PW!
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.

Lyrics on the Lawn in Rock Hill

On one of our first walks around Rock Hill, Stan and I noticed this sign for Lyrics on the Lawn at The White Home.
It's an historic home where one can learn about Rock Hill's history... or host a party. It even has its own Little Free Library.

Well, this past Friday, Stan and I made it to the party! Although storms threatened, they held off just enough to provide a lovely evening. (Gads, did I miss the sound of THUNDER while living in Scotland!) There were vendors from the weekly farmers market there.
And more food trucks. We had some awesome lobster tacos from Cousins.
     A small crowd gathered on blankets and pop-up chairs on the lawn.
I loved these blow-up thingies.
Board members had their own special place to sit.
     We spread our blanket near the front (nobody was super near the stage), so we had a great view of the band.
It's funny being back in the land of country music. Every single song mentioned a truck, or alluded to something illegal or immoral. Hm - seems ironic. Still, the tunes were good and our toes were happy.
For a while, I layed back and simply relaxed. Ahhhhh.
Of course, with the lovely weather comes heat and bugs, but I didn't mind. I have found that I HAVE to have the sound of cicadas in my life - they are my heartbeat on the outside and I feel lost without them. So, be sure, we'll do this again!