Susan Batori's WANTED! CRIMINALS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

Nonfiction takes on an exciting new twist in this creative and imaginitive new book, WANTED! CRIMINALS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, illustrated by Susan Batori. She stopped by to tell us more about it, all the way from Hungary!
e: What was your creative process/medium for WANTED! CRIMINALS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, can you walk us through it?
Susan:
Well, my creative process is the same for almost all of my books. The very first step is to search the web for reference photos for the characters of the book. This book was special because it includes non-everyday animals. These guys are not ususally found in storybooks. Then I started to draw the characters. I work in Photoshop digitally I just rarely do pencil sketches. The next step of my process is to design the pages. Things get in place at this stage. Together with the art director, we already knew that almost every page would look like an investigator's desk with mug shots, rap sheets, notes, post-its and so on. So I worked on this for a while. After the sketches were accepted there only one step left: the coloring. And tadah, the book was finished.
e: You chock each spread so full of information in such an interesting and engaging way - was the layout your idea, or your art directors? (If yours, how did you come up with it?)
Susan:
When the work starts with a publisher I always get the comp pages in pdf with the illustrations notes and with the texts. I need to know how much text will be put on the pages and how much space will remain for the illustrations. In this case the art director, Marie Bartholomew, showed me her idea about the layouts. I just added a few things: the sheriff badge, the magnifier, the pencils or the handcuffs which made the scene a little funnier. I prefer if I can design the pages but this was an amazing collaboration because Marie and her team were very open to my ideas. It was a pleasure to work together.
e: What was your path to publication?
Susan:
In 2012, I was approached by Good Illustration Agency that they would like to represent me, because they liked my portfolio which were on www.behance.com, where artist can feature their works. I was happy to say yes. There is a great connection between us and it's very good to work together. They are like my family. From then I got more and more job offers from different publishers all over the world.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of WANTED! CRIMINALS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM?
Susan:
Yes, I thought first that one of the character of the book are not a real one. I thought this was only invented by the author (Heather Tekavec) I've never heard of the Satin Bowerbird, who collects only blue things. There is always something new to learn. Haha!
image via Wikimedia Commons, © Joseph C Boone

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?
Susan:
Yeah, I know this kind of art. It comes from the heart, can be made without effort. There are no rules, limits or boundaries that are hinder into the work. I feel completely free when I create and this can be felt by the viewer. It feels like my soul is holding the pencil.
e: Oooo - I love that! "It feels like my soul is holding the pencil." Wow. How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
Susan:
I think I am extremely lucky because my agency do it for me. I have an Instagram and a Facebook account too where I can communicate with my followers and I can advertise here the books I illustrated.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Susan:
That is interesting because the favorite and the most challenging part of being a creator is the same for me. Being alone in my studio. Once I feel it is so good to work alone and another time it is the opposite. I worked as an art director earlier in a team, so I miss that a little bit but this kind of life is very magical. Oh, actually I'm not completely alone, I have a coworker, my cat, Kamilla. :)
e: Fuzzies make good employees! Is there something in particular about WANTED! CRIMINALS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Susan:
Our world is beautiful and unique with these particular and funny species and our duty is to protect them because we are richer by them. I do hope children will discover this message in the book.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Susan:
I am working on a very funny book right now. It is a story about a bear and a woodpecker. My upcoming work is about the friendship of a whale and a little penguin. My dream project? Anything which is funny and the main characters are animals. It's easy to make me happy. :)
e: Thank you, Susan, for sharing your joy! I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Susan:
Thanks again!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Butterphant!

     I wanted to give you something pretty and fanciful this week - a cross between a butterfly and an elephant: a Butterphant! Because, we could all use a little magic right now. Click the image to open the full-sized coloring page.
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
patron
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.

Happy Birthday America! Love Has No Labels

This is an important message about what we are celebrating today and what we need to be celebrating every day. Click to watch the PSA (public service announcement by the Ad Council at CommArts:

Video: Making Mouseworks

I am having so much fun making videos for you; and since Procreate records my process when I work on my iPad, I can share even the silly doodly stuff that I do just for fun! The latest is a peek inside piece inspired by one of my students (who also loves peek-inside art) - it's mousies at work. You can watch me make the image on my Youtube channel (please subscribe!).
And the artwork is also available for sale on items at Redbubble (on t-shirts, mouse pads, iPhone cases, you name it),
and of course, face masks too!

Friday Links List and Illustrators' Treehouse News - 3 July 2020


From Library Journal:
     Stacey Abrams: Libraries Must Tell the Story of America | ALA Virtual 2020
     How to Make the Most of Zoom for Every Kind of Event

From SLJ:
     7 Graphic Novels That Offer Powerful Mirrors & Windows for Teens | Summer Reading 2020
     So I Guess Now I’m Someone Who Talks About Boobs, a guest post by Laura Zimmermann (author of My Eyes Are Up Here)
     37 Picture Books That Celebrate #BlackJoy | Summer Reading 2020

From The Guardian: 'The fascists were upset': radical Austrian fairytales published in English for first time

From Myth and Moor: The sídhe and the sìth

From PW:
     2020 Virtual ALA Youth Media Awards Celebration: A Photo Essay
     United Nations Publishes Coronavirus Picture Book by Intern
     People of Color to Publishing: We’re Not Okay
     A Beacon of Light: Spotlight on Christopher Vogler
     #KidlitForMasks Spreads Awareness
     Sale of Book-Themed Masks to Benefit Binc

From the AALBC (The African American Literature Book Club): Bookstores in the United States that Specialize in Black Literature

From Shelf-Awareness:
     Happy 15th Birthday Little Shop of Stories! (my old bookstore)
     Absolutely 'Metal' Bicycle Book Deliveries in Edinburgh's Old Town
     ALA's All-Day Book Awards Celebration

From BYU: 33rd BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers, July 16—August 13, 2020

From NPR: Mermaids, Werewolves And Witches: Welcome Summer With These 6 New YA Novels

From Brightly: Julián Is a Mermaid: A Heartwarming Lesson in Identity and Unconditional Love I interviewed Jessica Love HERE.

From The New Yorker: The Unruly Genius of Joyce Carol Oates

VIDEO: The Great Realization

From BookBub: 13 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels with Shocking Twists



ILLUSTRATORS' TREEHOUSE NEWS
From Will Terry: Illustrators. Stop Starving; Start Thriving. "Discover how you can turn your art skills into your own thriving career in illustration." I know Will and am sure this is going to be fantastic!

Do you know about Thinking With Type? If you're in Graphic Design, it's worth following!

From Muddy Colors:
     ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: SULAMITH WÜLFING By Corey Godbey
     A Note of Gratitude to Milton Glaser
     JUBILANT SKYBONDER with JESPER EJSING
     How to Constructively Critique

From Picture Hooks: From Seed to Table – a Picture Hooks Competition FREE TO ENTER!

From CG Society: Pursuing a Career in Animation - Industry Deep Dive

From PW: The Fanatic - July Graphic Novel Newsletter

From Urban Sketchers: Drawing Attention - July Newsletter

From ShopMatter: Introductory Ethic for Designers GOOD!

My friend Mark Braught recently updated his website and online portfolio

From The Mazza Museum: Mazza Artist Mondays is going Monthly! Join Mazza Museum Director, Ben Sapp, Mazza staff members, and a special artist once each month via Zoom webinar! This special virtual Q&A is your opportunity to listen in to interviews with your favorite artists, ask questions of your own, and join in for a special draw-along at the end. This free, monthly event is open to everyone!

From CommArts: Everyday Experiments - I want one of THESE! A speaker with visuals!

From The Guardian:
     Tom Gauld on the new normal for shopping – cartoon
     Children’s books roundup – the best new picture books and novels

From KinderComics.org: Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and the CBLDF

Do you know about Bear Tree Media? They make icons!

Do you know about this drawing app: Tayasui Sketches Pro?

From The Art Room Plant: Natalia Shaloshvili


Do you know about Adobe Aero: Augmented reality. Now a reality. Introducing Adobe Aero, the most intuitive way to view, build, and share immersive and interactive AR experiences.



OFF TOPIC BUT INTERESTING
From Inside Higher Ed: A Dozen-Plus Ways You Can Foster Educational Equity

Maribeth Boelts and Angela Dominguez's - KAIA AND THE BEES

Did you know that you can keep bees on an urban rooftop? That's where Kaia's father keeps his bees. His daughter, Kaia wants nothing to do with them, though... well, maybe. Creators Maribeth Boelts and Angela Dominguez dropped by to talk about their new book KAIA AND THE BEES...
e: What did you do to research illustrating this book? Were you into bees before working on it? If not, have you gained a new appreciation for them?
A:
I had an appreciation for bees prior to illustrating the book. When I lived in San Francisco, I had a friend who was an urban beekeeper, and I helped her cultivate the honey a few times. My first time I could definitely relate to Kaia. Being on a rooftop surrounded by thousands of bees was frightening! Similarly to Kaia, once my fear subsided, I became fascinated with their world. These experiences are what drew me to illustrate Maribeth’s charming story.
MB: When you agreed to illustrate this story, Angela, I was so excited, not only by your prior incredible illustrating but also your experience in urban beekeeping. And you’re so right—bees can be scary, even with protective gear on and the steeliest nerves steeled. My family and I were beekeepers for years, and while the experience was so enthralling and the learning curve steep, there were definitely times when my trepidation got the best of me. Beekeeping taught me to love and respect bees and do whatever I could to protect them.



e: What was your creative process/medium? Can you walk us through it?
A:
I do all of my sketches on tracing paper in pencil. Then I move into Photoshop to clean up the sketches and plan out how the images will relate to the text. This is one of my favorite stages because this is when you’re planning out how all the images will relate to one another and the overall flow.

Once the final sketches are approved, I start on the final artwork. I used to work traditionally, but now I work half digitally and half traditionally. With all of my books, I like to incorporate a handmade element in the illustrations. I began these specific illustrations with colored pencil on illustration board, then added more digital color on top in Photoshop.
MB: So interesting, Angela! I started this story by talking to kids about their nearly universal fear of bees while on school visits. Their responses, and my own experiences with both beekeeping and the occasional fearful feelings that would arise, lead me to sit down and race through the writing of a rough draft. My first drafts are written quickly—a character, a problem, some basic bones of a beginning, middle, and end. This is the hardest stage of writing a story! Do I have enough scaffolding to start the real building?
AD: If I feel like the answer is yes, then the next stage is my very favorite. I take that messy, loose rough draft and begin to shape, cajole, and expand it into a story. It usually has way too many words when I finish, but I have enough to work with and will spend weeks, sometimes months, fine-tuning and tweaking it and making sure the text matches the illustrations.
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?
AD:
I am always drawn to artwork that has great character expressions and has energy in it, whether it’s through color, texture, composition, or a bold line. It makes the artwork feel alive.
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
AD:
I am naturally an introvert, but as an illustrator and author, it’s a must. I promote myself a few ways. First of all, I keep my website and blog updated. Second, I share good news on social media including Twitter, Instagram, and occasionally Facebook. Third, I love to visit schools and participate in events. I’m lucky to have a booking agent who handles most of these events. As of late, I’m creating videos and participating in virtual meetings. Those are a little less rewarding than the in-person events, but I love that I’m still able to talk to kids and readers of all ages.
MB: As a fellow introvert, I couldn’t agree more with the need to still promote and share news—not just of our own “book babies,” but those of other writers and illustrators, too. I do a lot of school visits, and as a former teacher, I’m perfectly comfortable and in my element in front of a group of young readers and writers. In fact, I love school visits! I also share news on my website (maribethboelts.com) and Twitter (@maribethboelts). I’ve Skyped with students for years and have created a few videos as well, but I am eager (so eager!) to work with students in person again. For Kaia and the Bees, I hired Blue Slip Media to help with promotion and will do so again as the experience was spectacular.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
AD:
I love interacting with the audience. Hearing kids’ opinions and suggestions is just so much fun. Their responses can be delightfully unexpected.
MB: I’ve been writing for children for nearly thirty years, and I love that there is still such mystery in it—why some books “catch” and make a child request repeated readings or view it as a favorite while other books receive a ho-hum. It’s that mystery, that absence of a prescription, that keeps me returning to my desk over and over again. Does this little seed of an idea have the potential to become a good book in the hands of a child?

e: Is there something in particular about Kaia and the Bees you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
AD:
There are many things that I love about Maribeth’s story. I love that Kaia and the Bees depicts overcoming fear in a realistic way. Kaia doesn’t magically become fearless; she has setbacks and at the end is still a little afraid. However, she finds her inner strength and wisdom to overcome that fear. I also love that Kaia and the Bees is inclusive. It depicts a realistic urban community and a contemporary family without being a plot point.

MB: Thank you, Angela. For many children with a fear of bees, the worst thing that can happen is a sting. I knew I had to be very honest with children and let Kaia face her fear and get stung, because facing fear doesn’t mean that the thing we’re afraid of will magically disappear. Sometimes we face a fear and our worst-case scenario actually does happen. And that’s where bravery comes in, which Kaia exhibits in a nuanced way at the end of the story.



e: What are you working on next, or what would be your dream project?
AD:
I recently wrapped up two books that I authored and illustrated that will be coming out in 2021. The first book is the third in the Stella Díaz series, Stella Díaz Dreams Big, and the second book is called I Love You, Baby Burrito. Both are published by Roaring Brook, an imprint of Macmillan. I’m working on a new picture book I wrote called Tengo Hambre and the fourth in the Stella Díaz series. I will also be illustrating another picture book this fall that I’m thrilled about. More news on that later!
MB: I love all your happy publishing news! I have a picture book coming out from Candlewick Press entitled The Purple Puffy Coat and an early reader from Random House, The Gingerbread Pup. Currently, I’m working on a middle-grade book and have a picture book manuscript being submitted.
e: Wonderful—I can't wait to see them! Thank you for a lovely chat, and I hope I can experience bees the way you both have someday!

KAIA AND THE BEES. Text copyright © 2020 by Maribeth Boelts. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Angela Dominguez. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

My Zoom Shirt

Here's how an artist's brain works... So, I was reading this article from the New York Times about how everyone these days has a "Zoom Shirt": The Video Call Is Starting. Time to Put on Your Zoom Shirt. So, I go to read the article, thinking there will be some funny images of t-shirts made to look like dress shirts for Zoom calls. No such luck. It's just people keeping a dress shirt ready to throw on for impromptu Zoom meetings. Which, of course, got me thinking... are there any t-shirts of mock dress suits to throw on for Zoom meetings? No? Well, I'd better make some! So, I did! There's just the text, black text on a color...
white text on a color...
or, the actual business attire...
Click on an image to go to that design in Redbubble. You can choose whatever color t-shirt you like, it doesn't have to be white or black. But notice the text is right up near the neckline, where it would be seen on screen? Silly, right? But fun!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Holding Peace

     We all hold the power for peace within our hands—sometimes that means actually doing something. #BlackLivesMatter. I created a video about the making of this image in Procreate, which you can see here - click the image to watch on Youtube (and please subscribe!):
Click the image to open the full-sized coloring page.
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
patron
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.