Spring Semester - Week #1

We're off and running into the 2nd semester here at Winthrop University and it has been one insanely busy start! Even so, I feel like I have a much better handle on things this term, although I'm certainly not completely sorted as yet. I have a great group of kids (my students are always 'my kids' no matter their ages), which makes even the hard parts all worth it.
      This semester I'm teaching a drawing class...
I have 14 students in this one, so it's pretty cozy. But I've had many of these students before, so we already have an easy rapport going. Most of them are sophomores, so they are most definitely 'my kids' with all that entails. I love them silly, but still have to push them to push themselves.
I'm also teaching 'The Costumed Figure.'
This is a painting class that begins with quite a few fabric studies. Later in the semester we'll have costumed models with themes like 'The Friendship 9', 'Sci-Fi', and 'Mythology'. My friend, Vicky Alvear Shecter is going to come up and give a lecture to prepare the students for that one - that will be awesome as she's an expert in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology!
This is a nice, small class with juniors who are past their portfolio reviews and now solidly into their illustration major. So, I'll have them until they graduate. And what a lucky teacher I am - this is one GREAT group of kids!
I'm also teaching a computer media class called 'Narrative and Editorial' for this same group of students. Computer lab photos aren't as fun, but I'll get some soon. And we're doing some super-groovy projects this term which I can't wait to share with you!
     Meanwhile, an amazing speaker series is already underway. I already shared Liv's TOUCHSTONES talk. Well, Design Department colleague Jesse Weser gave a great talk on Thursday about her practice. I'll share more on that soon as it deserves a post of its own.
We also had our semester faculty meeting in which ten of us gave Pecha Kucha talks. You may recall I learned about these when I first got to the University of Edinburgh. The theme is ten slides, ten minutes, ten speakers: 10x10x10. As this was my first time to address most of the Winthrop faculty, I mainly introduced myself and talked about some of the most defining moments and activities in my life.
And I showed them all my books, of course.
Other speakers included colleague and visual designer Mikale Kwiatkowski; Fine Arts and temporary Design Chair, and my boss, Karen Oremus; performance artist Stephanie Sutton; theater costumer Janet Gray; and the chair of the music department, trumpet player Elisa Catherine Koehler; along with dancers, more musicians, and artists. It's so inspiring to be surrounded by such forward-thinking and talented people. We all feel lucky to have found this home that encourages us to explore new ways to translate our world and gives us the opportunity to share our vision with a new generation. All good and off we go!

Abigail Halpin's FORT-BUILDING TIME

The author of the new FORT-BUILDING TIME, Megan Wagner Lloyd recently interviewed the illustrator, Abigail Halpin about her process working on the book, which I'm happy to share with you today! Take it away Megan!

Megan: I'm pretty sure I'm the luckiest picture book author ever--to have not just one, but two books illustrated by Abigail Halpin! Abigail is supremely talented, kind, and insightful. I was thrilled to be able to ask her more about her process, interests, and inspirations. Read on! Megan: How did illustrating Fort-Building Time connect back with your childhood? Did you build a lot of forts as a kid?
Abigail:
The first time I read the manuscript for Fort-Building Time I was instantly transported back to my childhood. Growing up, my sisters and I spent hours outdoors riding bikes and building forts. And we even made snow forts, just like the one pictured in Fort-Building Time.
Megan: Something I love about your illustrations for Fort-Building Time is that they feature a group of kids exploring and working together. When I was a kid I was always toting my next-youngest sister around, so I especially liked the inclusion of a younger sibling in the group. Why did you choose to center the illustrations on a group as opposed to one or two main characters?
Abigail:
One thing I kept coming back to when sketching was the question of what fort building means. I think in a way, forts are a child's way of affirming home and creating a place of belonging. A fort is where you bring your stuffed animals and your friends, where you hide your treasures and read your books: essentially, it's a home, a place where you feel protected and affirmed. Because of that, I focused on the idea of how when we find community, we want to bring other people into that circle. So I began the book with the one girl, motioning the other to follow her. And from there, they began to add and grow, all finding a place together. The more the merrier!

Megan: What creatively inspires you?
Abigail:
In no particular order: Tasha Tudor, used bookstores, embroidery, Eric Ravilious, Eastern European folk art, song lyrics, old photographs and always, nature.


Megan: What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Any fall-ish reading recommendations for us?
Abigail:
Classics, non-fiction, graphic novels and mysteries are my favorites. As far as fall-ish reading, I've been a huge fan of John Bellairs's Johnny Dixon mysteries since I was a tween --they're wonderfully eerie, the perfect sort of fall reading.
Megan: Aside from drawing and illustrating, how do you enjoy spending your time?
Abigail:
I participate in local vintage events, things like Tweed Rides, Suffragette reenactments and 1920's themed picnics. It's the closest I'll get to time travel in this lifetime (unless I stumble on a TARDIS).
Megan: Can you share what you are working on at present?
Abigail:
I’m working on illustrating a middle grade book.
Megan: Last question: along with building forts, Fort-Building Time celebrates the four seasons. Do you have a favorite season?
Abigail:
Spring!
Megan: Thank you, Abigail! Be sure to check out her website, her blog, and her Instagram!
Hi All! e popping in here. I had two more questions - one for Megan and one for Abigail...
Megan, how has your experience been to have illustrators working on your stories?

Megan: As to how it feels to have an illustrator illustrate my writing, I have had amazing experiences with that so far in my career. I've loved seeing the ways the illustrators have chosen to interpret and expand upon my words. It's always illuminating seeing how they strengthen the themes and add to the story. It can feel kind of scary, because the writing is so personal and what if I hate the artwork? But so far I have had great experiences and I always try to write in a way that leaves a lot of space for the illustrator. I want them to bring their own creative vision to the table and to be open to their insights.

e: Great! And Abigail - I always ask this question... 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?
Abigail:
I think what makes art magical (Heart Art) is when the illustrator enters deeply into the story and falls in love with the characters inside. When an artist makes that personal connection with the characters, it comes through in the illustrations and there's a different dimension that it brings to the work. It isn't just an assignment: it's a chance to bring to life the story of a friend.

e: Lovely! Thanks guys!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Meditating Moose

     May 2020 bring you peace, clarity, and wellness! Meditate on these things. 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."
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Touchstones

It's the first day of Spring semester and the university has kicked off with a series of talks by fairly new faculty in the Department of Design and Fine Arts.
The first talk was by Michelle "Liv" Livek Garner who talked about her project "Touchstones."
The project was in response to several problems going on at the University of Missouri—racial tension was only one of the challenges. But tensions had gotten so bad, students were afraid to leave their dorm rooms.
In response, Liv and her students came up with what, on the outside, appeared to be a simple project, but on the inside meant something much bigger.
      The point of the project was to give people a pretty little item meant to be given away, preferably to a stranger. It was meant to create connection, two people, two strangers, looking each other in the eye acknowledging 'I see you.'
Such a simple act, but such a healing one.
     The project, called a social practice, was such a hit, Liv was invited to present the project in New York to hundreds of teachers looking for ideas on how to engage their own students.
     On its third iteration, Liv brought the project to Winthrop, where she added a QR code.
When you scan the QR code, it takes you to a website with a series of questions, anonymous, friendly questions that spread joy, outreach, and love.
All those questions are creating data that will somehow turn into an evolution of the Touchstones project. Liv doesn't know what it will look like yet, but it's simmering in her head, and it will be exciting to see what she comes up with next!
In the meantime, be looking for these pretty little stones, or make some of your own and pass them on. This is a social movement of kindness, acknowledgement, and connection.

Search and Rescue

I love this thread on twitter: @Andy_Doe says, "This week, my firstborn asked me to teach him photoshop, which means we now have a lot of famous paintings with search and rescue vehicles added to them. Click the image to see the collection on Twitter. Fabulous!

Kenneth Kraegel's WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON

I just love the detail in Kenneth Kraegel's new WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON. He stopped by to talk about it...
e: Hi Kenneth! What was your creative process/medium for Wild Honey from the Moon, can you walk us through it?
Kenneth:
The illustrations were done with ink and watercolor on Arches 140# cold press paper.
For each illustration I drew a number of rough, full-size sketches, slowly zeroing in on the right composition. When my art-director and I were both happy with the composition, I would draw a final detailed sketch, working out all the remaining problems. Using a light box I traced the sketch onto watercolor paper. Then I drew over the pencil with a technical pen, erased the pencil lines, and painted. I paint lightly at first, so that as I add more layers I can get the colors and value where I want them to be.
I am a self-taught artist and somehow did not know about light boxes for the first book that I made. Now, every time I use it, I feel so cool!
e: What was your path to publication?
Kenneth:
At first I just sent links to my portfolio website to all kinds of agents and editors. Then I started going to SCBWI conferences and writing and illustrating new stories. It was important to spend some time creating a body of decent work.
Eventually I had a dummy for a book that was far better than anything I had submitted before and my portfolio had also improved quite a bit and was getting some notice. I sent the dummy to an agent I had been in touch with and she agreed to represent me. She sent the dummy to a dozen or so editors. An editor at Candlewick bought it. Many books later, I am still with the same editor. My art director has been with me since my second book. I really enjoy working with them, we have formed a nice team.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Wild Honey from the Moon?
Kenneth:
I didn’t realize it at the time, but after the story was finished I saw that the book was really about my wife as a new mother. Our son was very young when I first wrote the story and I was fascinated by the new side of my wife that surfaced when he was born. I really admired her new strength and devotion and it found its way into Mother Shrew’s character.
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?
Kenneth:
I think of artists, any type of artist, as having a heightened sense of emotion. When they direct that sensitivity into a piece of art in a way that is true, that is when when you get the magic. It isn’t easy to do, but artists are internally very driven to create, so we keep at it until we get it right, until it comes out true.
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
Kenneth:
I have tried a few different things, but had to admit I am not great at keeping things up. Right now I am just focusing on keeping my blog and Facebook up to date. I have a good relationship with my publisher, so I send them proposals and enough of the them are acquired that I stay fairly busy.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Kenneth:
It can be really exciting when a story starts to take shape. The same is true of an illustration - it is exhilarating when a piece starts coming together. The most challenging part for me is coming up with stories that I find compelling.
e: Is there something in particular about Wild Honey from the Moon you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Kenneth:
Well, there are a few little things that I hid in the illustrations that I hope readers find. The book is about the force of parental love, I hope that resonates with some people. It is a beautiful thing.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Kenneth:
Wild Honey from the Moon was a dream project for me. I loved working on something big - I spent a year on the illustrations. I have a board book coming out in 2020 and another larger picture book after that. I have lots of ideas that are jostling for a position in the queue.
   
e: Can't wait to see them!
WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON. Copyright © 2019 by Kenneth Kraegel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.