David Opie is a friend from the Picture Book Artists Association, and you've seen his books here before, HERE and HERE. But perhaps none more stunning than his newest book, ALL THE BIRDS IN THE WORLD, that is getting rave reviews! Welcome back, David!
e: What was your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Sure, here’s my process: I start out with a tight pencil drawing on Bristol board. I then scan it and bring it into Photoshop, where I’ll drop in scanned (traditional) textures for the background. I’ll assign them a color using Hue/Saturation (with the “Colorized” box checked). That gives me a good textured base to build on. I set the Layer Blending Mode for the drawing Layer to “Multiply,” and I start blocking in all the major shapes. After everything’s blocked-in, I’ll start rendering with my custom Brushes. By the end, my pencil drawing gets pretty much covered up, but it’s an important step in the process. For this book, I created a bunch of Brushes to render all those feathers. I’ve been bouncing back-and-forth between working traditionally and digitally, and I think I may have finally found the right balance.

e: What was your path to publication?
Oh jeez, how far do you want me to go back? I’ve been writing and submitting stories for years and years, but this is my debut as author. The path for this book was pretty basic: I wrote the story, illustrated it, designed a layout, and added a few color pieces. I made a list of agents from ones I’ve met at conferences, plus a couple who represented acquaintances. One agent responded that he liked the information and presentation in my proposal. He offered to help craft the proposal and sell the book. He had some very insightful, constructive feedback, including changing the title. My original working title was “Birds of Many Colors.”
      I revamped the proposal and my agent submitted it to a bunch of publishers. We got some interest, but nothing quite panned out. A couple publishers wanted editorial changes that I didn’t agree with, so we kept going. We eventually found the right publisher. I knew it was a perfect fit when I read the editor’s note expressing interest; she clearly understood exactly what I was going for in the book. The biggest change was in the art: At the publisher’s suggestion, I switched from my original pen-and-ink and watercolor sample illustrations to a digital style and fully painted in the backgrounds. I had originally only painted in light watercolor washes for the skies, but I like the richer backgrounds in the final product. I am happy to report that the book has already received wonderful starred reviews from Kirkus and ALA’s “Booklist.”
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
The main source of inspiration for this book is my love of birds, but the ingredient that made the idea really gel was the concept of inclusion. The book starts out, “All birds have feathers. All birds have wings. All birds have beaks. But birds come in many colors.” I was really drawn to the notion that there was this huge range of diversity among birds, but that they were all alike in so many ways; that, in spite of the different colors of their plumage, they were still part of the same “feathered family.” I immediately thought of using a kiwi as the “guide character” to have an emotional arc throughout the book. As soon as I gathered my kiwi photo reference and starting sketching the little bird, I thought, “yep, this can work.” And, yes, I was using birds as a metaphor for us humans.
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 think “Heart Art” would have to make the viewer feel something, perhaps a tug on the heartstrings. I illustrate a lot of stories about animals, and I want the observer to feel empathy for the animal characters. I gave Kiwi a little bit of personality, and I made the character pretty small on most of the spreads, except the last one, in which Kiwi finally gets attention and finds a place in the “feathered family” of birds. So, Kiwi feels small and excluded at first, and then a sense of belonging at the end. I hope the viewer experiences those emotions, too.
      And, in trying to get the reader to want to continually return to the story, I tried to add lots of detail and texture to the illustrations to make them rich and vibrant, to hold the viewer’s eye. And birds are such great subjects to paint! Another bit of visual magic I tried to conjure up was in making the birds seem alive. Although I wanted to make the birds realistic, I imagined them having thoughts and personalities. I added a few interactions among the birds, like between the giant ostrich and the hummingbird, and I always added a tiny highlight in their eyes—I consider that the “spark” that gives them life.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I do a couple mailings a year, plus I’m on social media (Instagram and Twitter), and I have a portfolio website. I also attend a few conferences a year. At least, I used to.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My favorite part is spending time doing what I love: drawing and painting. I’m also enjoying being able to develop some of my own ideas. It’s challenging trying to make a living doing this, and everything in the book-making process takes so darned long.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I know I mentioned this in my answer about the creation of this story, but, on the surface, this book is about birds. Below the surface, I was exploring the idea of inclusion, which is an important theme for us to contemplate, especially in these times of such divisiveness. We humans, like birds, are so much more alike than we are different.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am very excited to report that I am already under contract to create a follow-up book about fish, so I kinda’ feel like I’m living the dream! And I’m finding out that fish are every bit as interesting as birds!
e: Fabulous! I can't wait to see it!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Flying High

     I made this little guy for an animation recently. He's flying high above all the craziness 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
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.

WU Undergraduate Scholarship & Creative Activity

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of this year's Winthrop University Undergraduate Scholarship & Creative Activity illustrated and designed by student Erin Jones. Click the image to open the publication in a new window.
Our "Get Out the Vote" mural project is on page 77, and our "Treehouse Project" is on page 79. Illustration student Maggie Feltman-Ruiz's thesis project, DisGUYsed, is discussed on page 44; Elizabeth Shepard's thesis project, Unhinged, is discussed on page 45; JJ Jacobsen's thesis project, Wild Apparel is on page 57; and Alexis Simmons' thesis project, Death Bakes Pies, is on page 58. But keep scrolling! There are all sorts of interesting projects done by students all over the Winthrop campus. As for my illustration students, I'm so proud!

Per the announcement: Please also visit our SOURCE 2020 site on Digital Commons. Here, we have posted all abstracts for projects that students had planned to present or perform at SOURCE (the Sixth Annual Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors). We also invited students to upload additional files related to their abstracts—narrated presentations, posters, written papers, videos, etc. I’ve attached a “schedule” of SOURCE projects, in case you’d like to plan your browsing.

Fresh Produce and a recipe!

One thing we have not been hurting for during this Covid lock-down is good food. Supply chains in our area have remained strong (THANK YOU to our delivery people and grocery store workers!), and the grocery stores have remained well stocked with fresh produce. Add to that, we recently joined the Catawba Fresh Market and picked up our first selection this week from the drop off station just up the street (we walked there). This was the gorgeous haul from local farms.
We also got eggs - such beautiful eggs! I mean, look at those colors!
Stan washed everything thoroughly.
And being the wonderful chef that he is, he turned it into this amazing meal of roasted veggies, salad with home-made vinaigrette, and hard-baked eggs.
It tasted as good as it looks, an absolute feast for the taste-buds! I asked Stan how he did it...
Preheat the oven to 375°. This will take about an hour and ten minutes baking time.

Beets: Cut the ends off the beets, but don't peel them. Rub them with salt and extra virgin olive oil. Then individually wrap them in foil and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet in a 375° oven for 1 hour, ten minutes. Unwrap beets, and carefully peel them with the edge of a spoon (they will be HOT), then chop into bite-sized pieces.

Veggies: Peel and chop the veggies (in this case turnips and sweet potatoes) into bite-sized pieces, but leave the carrots whole if they're pretty ones like these. Coat in olive oil and salt, a little chopped, fresh rosemary and thyme. Spread in a baking pan and cook (no parchment paper) at 375° for an hour and ten minutes, turning the veg regularly.

Eggs: At some point during the baking, put the eggs on the baking sheet or the baking pan (doesn't matter which) for fifteen to twenty minutes. Then place in ice-water until ready to peel and serve.

Vinaigrette: Take apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, brown mustard, salt/pepper, the remaining rosemary and thyme, and whisk them together in the bottom of your salad bowl, then build the salad on top and mix well.

There is nothing like fresh from the farm to bring out natural flavors. Enjoy!

PhD Research Talks at the University of Glasgow

You may recall when I gave a talk on my PhD Research to date at the University of Glasgow... well, these talks have continued even during Covid, although now, they're on Zoom. My former office-mate and friend Rebecca gave her talk this past week. Her main research question is, "How do north Karnatakans [India] in resource-poor contexts engage in the project of school development governance and how do they reinterpret child rights discourses?"
Rebecca has visited India twice to gather her research, under two very different circumstances/conditions. It was fascinating to hear about her trips. It was also illuminating to hear how the educational system works in India. People with any sort of means send their children to private institutions. In the public school system, teachers are considered government employees, hired for life. That, and other complications, can lead to apathetic teachers in less than ideal teaching environments, which led to this slide with a cartoon about the system and how hard it can be for poorer students to get ahead (click the image to see it larger).
It's a truly fascinating study, and lots of us showed up to support Rebecca, who is one of the nicest people I know on this planet. With permission, here we all are.
There are so many countries and time zones represented here... Scotland, England, Canada, USA, Lebanon, Eritrea, China, and some others I don't know about (I didn't recognize everyone, but think Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Germany might also have been represented). I woke up early to attend at 7:00am US time, but participants in China were attending in the evening. We all came together to love and support our friend, who did a bang up job! We're proud of you and proud to know you, Rebecca!

Friday Links List and Illustrators' Treehouse News - 24 April 2020

From PW: Federal Appeals Court Declares Literacy a Constitutional Right "Effectively every interaction between a citizen and her government depends on literacy," the court held.

From Romper: 10 Soothing Children's Books That Adults Should Read, Too

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: A Side Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Reading Got a Lot Harder

From The New York Times: As Amazon Rises, So Does the Opposition and the Jeff Bezos feature the article refers to is here at PBS's Frontline: Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

From PW: Rallying Around #BooksAreEssential
Authors Guild Finds Writers Are Losing Significant Income
Q & A with Deborah Wiles on her new book Kent State
Coronavirus Updates: Impact on Children's Books
Agents Weigh Whether to Submit Projects During the Pandemic
Survey of Independent Bookstores Shows Coronavirus Toll
Indie Bookstore Partners with Nonprofit to Give Hundreds of Books to Atlanta Youth My old bookstore - Little Shop of Stories!
Riordans to Match Up to $100,000 in Donations to #SaveIndieBookstores
[Publishers] Working from Home

From The Dispatch: Columbus library board approves staff furloughs - LOVE your LIBRARIANS and BOOKSTORES right now!!!

From Libro.fm: #ShopBookstoresNow


From The Bookseller: Scholastic UK to publish new series by Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen (I have a copy and hope to have a feature for you soon!)

From Library Journal: 8 Great Libraries for Your Zoom Background

From SLJ: Social-Emotional Support in the New World of Distance Learning

From Penguin UK: Philip Pullman: 'It's All Got to Change' The Covid-19 crisis should lead to a radical reform of our political system, argues the author of His Dark Materials.

From SCBWI: If you're a member, it's time to vote for the Crystal Kite Member Choice Award!

From PodBean: Listen to The Land of Counterpane (1885) by Robert Louis Stevenson - the perfect isolation poem

From SLJs 100 Scope Notes: Books on Film: Katherine Paterson Documentary

From Claudia Mills: The Only Way I Have Ever Gotten a Book Idea

From InsideHook: Thanks to Bookshop, There Is No Reason to Buy Books on Amazon Anymore - Independent bookstores, and booksellers, get a lifeline just when they need it most

From Bustle: Listen To Suzanne Collins Read An Exclusive Excerpt From 'The Hunger Games' Prequel


Bologna Children's Book Fair ILLUSTRATORS' WALL is OPEN to everyone this year!!! Sign up and submit your work for the world to see!

Lilla Rogers of Make Art That Sells is giving away a FREE online business class for freelance illustrators! MATS MBA (MONEY BADASS)

From The New York Times: Keep Calm and Draw Together With assists from Shepard Fairey and Maira Kalman, graphic designers and illustrators are creating striking visual messages of safety and gratitude.
also mentioned in the article...
From Amplifier: Global Open Call for Art (ends May 8th), and VOTE on your favorites!

From Muddy Colors: Greg Manchess on 10 THINGS…PAINTING PORTRAITS
#LetsDrawMonsters Creature Design Challenge with Justin Gerard - there is an incredible demo video by Annie Stegg Gerard working in oils in there that you don't want to miss!

From PW: The Fanatic: Graphic Novel Newsletter

From CBS News: Artist Kadir Nelson's evocative response to the pandemic

From The Art Room Plant: Hazel Terry does it again - Inflatables - Learn how to make these adorable toys!

From CommArts: The 61st Illustration Annual is now available and you can view the winner's gallery ONLINE! (Great way to follow trends.) Purchase a copy to view the entire edition online or in print.

From Kyle T. Webster: Drawing Tutorials for Students

Do you know about Webtoons? If not, I'll bet a young person in your life does!

From PW: Artist Relief Reports First Round of Emergency Grants, Survey Results "Artists report an average loss of about $27,103 in income." Yup.

From The University of Glasgow: Wellbeing resources to help you through the lockdown

SemiSweet is making healthcare-themed sugar cookies to celebrate our heroes!

From the NYT: The Clarity That Comes With Hard Times - "My worries over small things recede in a crisis."

Joseph Elliott's THE GOOD HAWK

Inspired by hiking across Scotland and working with challenged kids, Joseph Elliott stops by today to tell us about his new novel, The Good Hawk...

As with many authors, my road to publication was a long one. I studied English Literature at university, and have harboured an ambition to write a novel for as long as I can remember, but for about a decade, writing fiction was nothing more than an occasional hobby.

Then I broke my foot. Playing football. A much more dangerous sport than anyone had led me to believe… It was a nasty break that refused to heal and ultimately required an operation, meaning I was on and off crutches for the best part of two years. There were long periods where I was confined to my grotty little basement flat in east London with nothing to do but sit with my leg raised with a computer on my lap, so I thought to myself: now is the time.
I spent the next couple of years compiling all the scraps I had written previously, pulling them into some sort of cohesive narrative, and then editing it until I was ready to submit it to agents. I worked incredibly hard, and am still extremely proud of the novel, but it never got me the representation I sought. Over the course of the following year, I had three full manuscript requests, and the feedback was the same every time: your writing is good, but your demographic is confusing. And they had a point. I’d written an adult, genre-bending, magic-realism, dystopian, family-saga fantasy. Of course it wasn’t going to sell.

Most agents I submitted to I never heard back from, and the waiting started to drive me crazy. In fact, it was the waiting that then prompted me to write The Good Hawk, because I needed something to distract me from the infinite silence and constant threat of rejection.

Building on what I’d learnt from the first book, I decided to pick a genre and stick to it. I was writing YA fantasy. Or so I thought. When it came to selling the book, most publishers told me I’d written something that wasn’t quite MG and wasn’t quite YA – it was somewhere in between. I could have kicked myself. (Not too hard; didn’t want to break my foot again). Luckily, Walker Books liked it enough to buy it all the same, with the provision that some parts may need to be written down to make them suitable for a younger audience. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
It took me about two years to write the book, fitting in odd days here and there in between acting jobs and working as a teaching assistant at a school for children with additional needs. When I submitted to agents this time around, it was a completely different story. Within a week I had three manuscript requests, and by the end of the week that followed I’d signed with the phenomenal Claire Wilson at Rogers, Coleridge and White. I couldn’t believe it. One of the first things Claire asked me was whether I’d written anything previously, and when I told her about my first novel, she said she could tell. In her opinion, most of the best authors have at least one “practice novel” hidden in a drawer somewhere.

Claire has a reputation for being one of the best children’s agents in the country, and it didn’t take me long to discover why. With her astute notes and guidance, I did another pretty hefty edit before we felt it was ready to submit to publishers. The next week was one of the most surreal of my life. I was abroad on holiday and every day I had conference calls with different publishers both in the UK and the US. So there I was, in my swim shorts, cocktail in hand, having life-changing conversations with people from opposite sides of the world. I signed with Walker US and Walker UK in their first join acquisition and have never looked back. I benefitted from having not one, but two of the best editors in the business, who were equally passionate about both the book and its characters; it would not be the book it is today without their wisdom and support.

My book has now been out in the world for about two months and the support it has received has been totally overwhelming. I’ll never forget the moment I found out it had been reviewed in the New York Times. Never in a million years was I expecting that. I was beaming for days.

My publishing journey has been long and at times it has been tough, but holding the finished book in my hands makes all those hardships fall away. I am extremely proud to have published one of the first books for children featuring a heroine with Down syndrome and I hope that Agatha will be an inspiration to many for generations to come.

Watch this short interview hosted by Walker Books, Joseph's UK publisher (the cover is different there):

And Joseph shares a short outtake from the book...

Coloring Page Tuesday - Earth Day 2020

     This Earth Day, it seems the Earth has been getting a bit of a break from us humans. Let's not forget how clear the Earth has become, when we return to a new normal. Click the image to open the full-sized coloring page.
CLICK HERE for more EARTH-DAY 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
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.

Christopher Denise teaching at Hollins University!

I am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to announce that Christopher Denise will be teaching our media class in the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating and Certificate in Children's Book Illustration programs at Hollins University this summer. Denise is well-known for his Redwall illustrations and books such as Baking Day at Grandma's, Bunny in the Middle, and Groundhug Day.
Even better news - Hollins will be online this summer which makes the program more accessible to anyone who has dreamed about pursuing their passion to create children's books! So, come learn from our outstanding faculty, including this master of illustration...

Get a Graduate Degree in Children's Books!
It's time to register for the Certificate in Children's Book Illustration, the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating, the Master of Arts in Children's Literature, or the Children's Literature MFA programs at Hollins University. CLICK HERE to read more about it!
Artwork © Christopher Denise

The Science of Happiness

UC Berkeley is once again offering their "Science of Happiness" course and you can audit it for FREE. Per the website:
This eight-week course explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life through science and practice. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from the latest research, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives. The course is divided into eight one-week segments, with an additional week in the middle for a midterm and an extra week at the end for a final exam, though students have six months to complete the material at their own pace if they wish.
Check out the trailer on the Berkley website, click the image below.

Virtual Earth Day!

This coming week we celebrate Earth Week/Day... from home! We've already made such a difference on our planet as a result of staying it home, but there's more we can do. Winthrop University came up with daily activities to do to help celebrate:

Friday Links List and Illustrators' Treehouse News - 17 April 2020

From Anne R. Allen's Blog: Why it’s so Tough to Write Now: Tips for Dealing with Our Collective Grief

From Book Bub: 10 New Book Adaptations You Can Stream Right Now

From Brightly: Helping Your Kids Find Healthy Coping Skills and Wash Your Hands! 10 Books to Help Kids Understand Germs

From WeGrowMedia: Anxiety, Writing, and Sharing

From Refinery 29: The Gilded Ones Author Namina Forna Could Be The Toni Morrison Of YA Fantasy

My friend Russell Jones has a new collection of poetry out called Cocoon

From Fantasy at Glasgow: F(r)fiction - A fine art and literature collection is accepting submissions!

From On The Bookshelf: Coronavirus STAY AT HOME bookshelf (Read the titles!)


From SLJs 100 Scope Notes: Free Download: Coronavirus: A Book for Children

Did you see FirstSecond's Comic Relief Festival for and by graphic novel creators? It streamed free on their FB page and a recording will be shared soon - check their website!

From Publishers Weekly: The Fanatic (their graphic novel newsletter) - you should subscribe!

Or enjoy the At Home Comic Con

Introducing our newest faculty member at Hollins University, Christopher Denise! He has some great work-in-progress videos at his website!

From Ashley Wolff (also co-faculty at Hollins University): A Mural to Celebrate Books and East Tennessee

From Muddy Colors:
Guess the Artist "With the help of a lot of artists, we produced this series of time-lapse videos for the recent Spectrum Awards show. We’ve collected them all here for you, including a few new ones that couldn’t squeeze into the show. See if you can guess the artist before the end of the video!" FANTASTIC!!!
Ron Lemon on Finding Focus and Staying Creative/Productive
Introducing The Muse Award
Tommy Arnold: An Interview with Brian Stelfreeze!
Imaginary Landscapes
Greg Ruth on So Now What?

From The NYT: A Rube Goldberg Hand-Washing Contraption? The Race Is On The cartoonist’s granddaughter is holding a bar-of-soap competition that encourages families to work collaboratively. Video submissions are due May 31.

From The Good News Network: Friday Funnies: Look Inside This Mini Art Gallery That a Bored Couple in Quarantine Made for Their Pet Gerbils (With the Mousa Lisa, and Vermeer's Mouse with the Pearl Earring...LOL!)

From The Good News Network: Mom Has Been Bringing Joy to Neighbors By Drawing Amusing Chalk Cartoons on Her Sidewalk

From Adobe Spark: Creative Things to Do While Physical Distancing

From the Art Room Plant: Brian Rae

From CommArts: Kindness will Keep Us Together campaign

From Random House: RH Graphic - their graphic novel newsletter - subscribe for free!

Have you found John Krasinski's SOME GOOD NEWS yet? It's worth your time!