Tony DiTerlizzi Exhibit and Winthrop University!

Remember when I shared Stan's and my adventure to see the Tony DiTerlizzi exhibit at The Mint Museum in Charlotte? Well, it was all in preparation for the field trip I put together for our Winthrop students to see the exhibit and hear a talk from the man himself!
     The field trip was originally inspired by Lecturer Tom Gardner, who sent me an email with a poster advertising the exhibit. I've known Tony for years, so got in touch with Jon Stuhlman, Senior Curator of American Art at The Mint to see what we could arrange. Happily, it all worked out swimmingly well. So, on a beautiful Friday morning, 52 students from Winthrop headed north to Charlotte. They arrived in groups...

After signing in, putting their backpacks behind the front desk (wish I'd gotten a photo of that - HA!), and getting 'Mint' stickers, they headed to the exhibit. They wandered around for a bit, then I asked Tony a bit about his process.

Students were shy at first, but they warmed up and started asking questions of their own.
Then we headed into the auditorium where Tony gave a fantastic talk - just for Winthrop students. He began with a video of himself at his own undergraduate senior show. WOW. Talk about making his journey relatable! He was one of them!
He talked about the tools of the trade needed for a successful career as an illustrator, "Pencil, paper, pen, paint, pixels . . . and patience." He talked about his struggle and all the rejections he received. He talked about his breakthroughs, discovering that while he was a very good artist, if his characters were just standing there, there was no story - nothing for the viewer to engage with. He said his ten years of illustrating for Dungeons and Dragons made him the artist he is today because he learned about world-building, and showing adventures, and artifacts, and all those interesting things that make a visual story. I especially liked when he said, "Don't just steal from your heroes, steal from their parents. (and their grandparents)" What he meant was, when you find an artist who inspires you, find out who inspired them.
Some of Tony's influences are Norman Rockwell, Brian Froud and Alan Lee (Faeries especially - Terri Windling did a great write-up on this creative duo and Brian's wife Wendy, who also played a large part, HERE), who were inspired by Arthur Rackham and John Bauer, who was inspired by Hieronymous Bosch.
     He discussed how an illustrator can make themselves stand out against the range of already established artists out there. Truly, everything he said validated what we've been telling our students already, and seemed to truly resonate. They listened intently and LEARNED!
Tony was a HIT!

After the talk, students swarmed around Tony to get their photos taken with him and ask more questions - he was wonderful with them - patient, informative, and inspiring.
Before they all scattered, I got a group shot with some of the students with Tony, Me and Jon.
Then we all went off for a BBQ feast at McCoy's Smokehouse and Saloon (who handled our large crowd so well!)
     Many thanks to Tony and Jon and Tom for making this amazing opportunity possible for our students. Events like this can change a life, and isn't that what it's all about?!
#artswinthrop #designwinthrop

The SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities

Stan and I attended the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities Event the other evening. They are celebrating their 20th anniversary and are going all over the state of South Carolina to spread the news of their good works and the need for arts in the community (preaching to the choir!). In Rock Hill that meant a gathering at the Center for the Arts in downtown with a very inspiring slide show, cocktails, and a speech by Nichole Maple, one of the first graduates from the school.
I went in my official new role as the Illustration Professor at Winthrop. Certainly, we'd like SCBSAH students to consider studying at Winthrop, and I made several strong connections. Most notably, I spoke with the President of the school, Dr. Cedric Adderley about arranging a visit for his students to come check out the university.
He asked for several of my business cards to share. I also spoke with Stephen Cox, the lawyer who helped arrange the event in Rock Hill and who has had some strong influence over the direction of the town's growth (i.e. the strong push for the arts).
He is very good friends with the Mayor and said ‘you should come by’. I hope to! Meanwhile, Stan and I mingled and met many other very nice neighbors who we hope to get to know better.
All said, we had a lovely time, and I loved learning more about the Governor’s School. It is quite impressive and their students and administration seem to be a talented and inspired bunch!

Drawing Outside on a Pretty Day

I have so much fun with my figure drawing class - it's a tight little group of students who are game to try any of the challenges I throw at them. The other day we were working on noses. So, after a quick lecture in the classroom, we headed out to the Hardin Garden to draw with natural light.
I talked about the Hardin Family Garden after my original trip to Winthrop. I had visions of one day having class outside in this very spot. And now, it's come true!
The garden is right behind the art building (McLaurin and Rutledge) and it is an oasis.
It has several fountains and sculptures.
You can see one of the waterfalls behind the students as they worked (the water is coming down between the brick pillars.
When we began, I had students break into pairs. Here are Hannah and Noel...
and Joy and Dani...
and Sierra and Josh...
and Michael and Nic.
They switched up when it came time to draw noses in profile view.
I wandered around and looked at student works offering suggestions, I even modeled a few times so they could draw an older nose - HA!. But overall, it was such a relaxing class, it hardly felt like teaching—more like a picnic. How lovely!
#artswinthrop #designwinthrop

Laura Vaccaro Seeger's WHY?

What an honor to have Laura Vaccaro Seeger, New York Times best-selling author and illustrator and a 2-time winner of the Caldecott Honor Award, here today to tell us about her newest book, WHY? I asked her some questions about it...
e: What was your creative process/medium for WHY?, can you walk us through it?
For the writing, this book developed slowly over time. It began with a germ of an idea that I wrote in my journal. From the beginning, I was intrigued with the idea of writing a story about questions that you never actually hear. As with many of my books, if that little germ keeps catching my eye as I peruse my journal, or if I continue to ruminate about it, I’ll know it’s something that’s worth exploring.
      As for the art, I’ve created books with all kinds of art styles including acrylic paints, oil paints, collage, India inks, and flat color, but never watercolor paints until now. With each of my books, it is the text that dictates the art style for me. WHY? was created with layers of watercolor paint and pencil. I then made a huge stack of “splotch” paintings by flinging black ink from sopping wet gigantic brushes at a whole bunch of papers.

Then, I scanned the original watercolor paintings as well as the “ink-splotched” papers into the computer, selected the shapes that the splotches made, and used those shapes to lighten or darken certain areas of the paintings. This added a very organic grittiness to the paintings.

e: What was your path to publication and how did winning Caldecott Honors change your career?
My path to publication was quite unconventional. I’d spent over ten years as an artist and animator in the network television business, creating and producing animated show openings for NBC and ABC in New York City. But I’d always wanted to make picture books, and after cold-calling the president of a major publisher (at home, no less), and inadvertently waking him up at 6am (I didn’t realize that his assistant had given me his home number in California), I was so fortunate that instead of hanging up on me, he recommended that I send my work to him and call back a few weeks later. So, after mistakenly waking him up for a second time (I know, I know, I’m “some piece of work” as I’ve so often been told), he suggested I meet with his vice president at the time, Neal Porter. The rest is history. Neal and I are now working on our 19th book together!
      As for the Caldecott Honors, I think they’ve made a huge difference in my career. For one thing, they ensure that the books will stay in print for a long, long time. It’s also such a widely respected and well-known award, so it is truly an amazing honor, indeed. The fact that it is awarded by librarians is incredibly meaningful, because it confirms that the books resonate and communicate successfully with children (and adults alike). And, for me anyway, it is the recognition and reassurance that many of us artists yearn for. I think, underneath, we are a very vulnerable bunch. I also think that the moment an artist becomes overly confident is the moment they stop growing, so as difficult as it can be at times, that vulnerability is necessary. These awards have meant so much to me for so many reasons!
e: WOW! That is quite the story! And congratulations on the awards! Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of WHY?
With every book, I find that it’s usually a single thing that propels me through the often year-long (or more) process of creating the book. With WHY?, it was the challenge of making a book which contains a myriad questions, but you never actually hear the questions, they can only be determined by the answers and the illustrations. So, that presented a wonderful artistic challenge because I had to make sure that the illustrations made it absolutely clear what the questions are. And in some cases there can be multiple questions for each answer, which is wonderful because one thing I always try to do with all of my books is to leave plenty of room for discussion, imagination, and curiosity.
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?
My approach to bookmaking is to distill whatever it is that I’m trying to say down to its absolute essence. I think, if done sincerely, the art ends up being full of heart.

e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you anymore)?
I have a website ( which I try to update regularly. I also have a Facebook page as well as a Twitter account, but I only use them professionally, and these days, I only post about new books, book tours, events, reviews, interviews, etc. I used to visit Facebook and Twitter more often, but lately I find it’s been a source of great frustration, though that may be a topic for an entirely different discussion!

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I adore having a blank canvas at the start of each book. That is at once both my favorite part of the process and the most challenging. I love the very beginning of the process when all the work happens in my head and I can think about what the book can be. Neal and I often play the “what if” game as we explore all the possibilities for which direction the book can go.
      I also love the process of seeing the writing and art come together. And the organic experience of squeezing paint from the tube and swirling it around on the palette and making those first brushstrokes. Really, the entire process is both fun and challenging!
      A big challenge is to continually reach out of my comfort zone in terms of art style and writing, and to constantly make sure that no matter what, the books are not didactic in any way and always respect the reader, no matter their age.

e: Is there something in particular about WHY? you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I’d love for readers to embrace their curiosity and to know that sometimes we simply do not have all the answers and that’s okay!
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Right now I’m working on the final book in a trilogy. I’ve done GREEN which explores the many shades of green in our world and encourages an appreciation of our environment, and BLUE which is an exploration of the color blue in terms of loyalty, sadness, and loss. Now I’m working on RED which will look at the color red through the lens of conflict, anger, and love.
e: I can't wait to see it! Hope to have you back soon. :)