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
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.

Teaching Online

I've been teaching Picture Book Design for Hollins University online this summer, and while I so miss being with everyone, I have to admit, the class is going quite well. We record everything for one student who lives in Japan - there's an advantage to online learning! She wouldn't have been able to join in otherwise!
     I've figured out a pretty good way teach from our wee apartment. I've claimed the teal chair in the corner as teaching headquarters. It keeps my footprint small so that Stan can have the rest of the apartment. We purchased a rollie desk that has become an absolute lifesaver. The recent addition is the circle clip light that helps illuminate me face-on and lessens the variations that time and weather can have on recordings. Two pair of earphones has become essential. One is a wired set that offers the best quality. The other is a wireless set of ear buds that lets me keep an ear out for a student who might need help during work-time while I'm able to freely move around.
     We work primarily in Moodle and Zoom, where I keep all of our recordings, videos, handouts, slideshows, etc. for easy access during class and after. (We use a similar program at Winthrop U called Blackboard.) Students participate in a discussion board that stretches their writing and thinking skills. I've even been using my Wacom to do quick drawing demos in Photoshop that I share via Zoom. Truly, this is all working surprisingly well and the students are bonding and doing good work - something naysayers argue can't happen in an online teaching environment. Well, I'm here to tell you it can! And I'm still getting those "A-ha!" moments from the students when they realize the impact of placement, color, depth, etc. on their art — all those elements of good design that make a final illustration work. I love it when I see those little light bulbs go off, and happily, I am face-forward for those in this environment!
     So, while I miss my students and still prefer teaching face-to-face, this has turned out to be a very good way to operate too. I imagine all future learning will be some sort of hybrid, taking advantage of the positives of online learning, because it is effective too!

VIDEO: While We Can't Hug by Eoin McLaughlin

OH! This is So simple, but so incredibly wonderful. THIS is a book for a pandemic. Click the image to watch on Vimeo:

Friday Links List and Illustrators' Treehouse News - 26 June 2020

From the University of Glasgow: The LEVERHULME FANTASY LECTURES BY PROFESSOR BRIAN ATTEBERY (2019) are now available online

From The Mary Sue: If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors

From Brightly: How to Diversify Your Child’s Bookshelves

From Shelf Awareness: Susanna Clark has a new novel out! British author Susanna Clarke won a World Fantasy Award and legions of fans with her debut novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a classic in its own time.

From Library Journal: Resources for Cultivating an Antiracist Mindset

From SLJ (School Library Journal):
     Representation Matters: Black Joy Is an Act of Resistance
     Weeding Out Racism’s Invisible Roots: Rethinking Children’s Classics | Opinion
     Police-Free Schools Advocates Earn Big Wins; Movement Has National Momentum
     Reading Alternatives to Three Problematic Classics

From PW:
     Authors’ Quarantine Stories: Carson Ellis
     Three Authors Examine Diversity in Books for Young Readers
     Upcoming YA Novel 'Ember Days' Canceled by Author

From Muddy Colors:
     What Good is Art?
     Auction Diving with Howard Lyon
     How to Constructively Critique
     Improvisational Painting with Bryan Mark Taylor

From June Newsletter interviews with industry professionals and illustrator features

From Shelf-Awareness: Building Mural in the Works for Milwaukee's Rainbow Booksellers

Shout Mouse Press is looking for illustrators!

From The House of Illustration (UK):
     Free family learning resources: illustrating the curriculum Our KS2 cross-curricular resources adapted for at-home use.
     Quentin Blake's Free Rainbow E-Cards

From SCBWI (members only):
     How Illustrators Can Supplement Their Income Art Rep by James Burns
     Publishing Nonfiction Books in the Age of Coronavirus

From The Edinburgh College of Art: Edinburgh College of Art Graduate Show - ONLINE

From Diamond Books: Moonstruck Returns

From Broadway World: Americans for the Arts Conference Shares Staggering Impact on Industry

From NYT: What is owed? If true justice and equality are ever to be achieved in the United States, the country must finally take seriously what it owes black Americans. By Nikole Hannah-Jones

From Comm Arts: Verify My Humanity campaign

From MakeIt: The simple, but meaningful, interview question this anti-racist company asks job applicants

From Like Humans and Apes, Ravens Have the Foresight to Save Up for the Future

William Ritter's THE ODDMIRE (Book 1): THE CHANGELING and (Book 2): THE UNREADY QUEEN

I am beyond thrilled to have Will Ritter, author of the YA series JACKABY, here to talk about his wonderful new mid-grade series, THE ODDMIRE. It kicks off with THE CHANGELING and I had to say this about it in my reviews:
The Oddmire is one of the best mid-grade fantasies I have read in a long time. It strikes the perfect tone between humor and fear, with just the right amount of magic. But what truly makes it sing is the tight bond between the brothers and the mother and the newly made friends - the relationships. This will leave readers wishing they were magic beings, while valuing who they are and the people who make them strong. I can't speak highly enough about this book and am giving it a rare five stars!
So, I am honored to have Will here today to tell us more about it...
Hi. I’m Will Ritter. I’m an author, a teacher, and a dad—and this is the story behind my story.
      The Oddmire is a MG series about goblins and witches and monsters—but deeper than that, it’s a story about family. It’s about learning what family means and figuring out who we are—and who we can be—within a family. Secretly, even though it is fantastical fiction, it’s also a story about my family.
      The second book in the series, The Unready Queen, has just been released. I am so excited to send it out into the world—but to explain how it came to be, I need to go back a bit.
     A few years ago, while I was still in the middle of writing the Jackaby series, my wife and I found ourselves waiting for a phone call. We already had a son—but we were waiting to find out from an adoption committee if he was going to have a brother.
      Days passed. The phone did not ring.
      I found myself thinking about how it would feel to be in his shoes—this nine-year-old kid who had been in the system for half of his life. He had already lived in three different foster homes, and he was about to get thrown into yet another new family. I kept trying to wrap my head around what it must feel like to come into a new home and not know if you really belong yet… or worse—to feel like you do belong but not know if it will all be ripped away from you tomorrow. That’s a heavy emotional place for a kid to be stuck.
      With all that weighing on my thoughts and the phone still not ringing, a scene started growing in my mind. A goblin sneaks into a house and drops off a changeling, intent on stealing a baby, but somehow it screws the whole thing up. I had written about goblins before, but this time I found myself asking new questions. Would a changeling know how magical and marvelous he truly was on the inside? As he grew, would he even know that he was a goblin? Would it matter? Would a changeling raised by humans feel deep down like he did not belong? What if he really wanted to belong?
      When the idea wouldn’t go away, I finally gave in and wrote a few quick pages about a changeling and a human, raised as twins. That very same day, we got the call. A nine-year-old kid got his forever family, and we got our second son.
      Over the years that followed, my boys got bigger, and quickly proved themselves to be the sweetest brothers (and also the most mischievous little goblins) that any parents could ask for. The story I was writing grew and expanded, too, but those themes remained rooted to its emotional core.
      The first book in the series, Changeling, was released in 2019, and by then my eldest was the same age as the twins, and my youngest was old enough to see it featured in his school’s Scholastic catalogue. They read the book before anyone else, and gave it their stamp of approval. It had already been an emotional journey by the time it hit shelves.
      Now, in The Unready Queen, my changeling is learning how to feel comfortable in his own skin, just as my sons are gradually finding how to be comfortable in theirs. The focus in this volume shifts toward Fable, one of my absolute favorite characters to write. She is delightfully blunt and naive in many ways, but this story sees her taking her first steps toward independence, including the painful realization that adults don’t always get it right—and sometimes they get it terribly wrong. Like the parents in this book, I never stop worrying about my kids—but I also never cease to be impressed by them when I give them the chance to shine.
      The Oddmire is close to my heart in so many ways. The feelings in this series are so real to me, the heartaches so visceral and the happy endings so cathartic. These books are for my kids—and for kids like them who are navigating their own wild woods right now. It’s a reminder that the path can be deep and dark, but there is also joy and magic and love to be found along the way. Always.
[Attached Image: My office. My writing gets done in many places, but this is home base. I do the bulk of my work on a laptop, but when I’m drafting early scene studies, I love to use a manual typewriter... and I’ve collected several over that last few years.]

Coloring Page Tuesday - Pretty Squirrels

     You guys are enjoying the pretty coloring pages I'm doing for you so much, I'd like to give you another one. I also created a video about the making of it 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
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.

Laura G. Retires

The professor of book making at Winthrop U, Laura Gardner recently retired. I'm sad about that as she was one of the first people to warmly welcome me to the university and help me learn the ropes. I wish we'd had more time to be actual colleagues. As is, we'll just have to be friends!

One of my other new friends, Paula, hosted a small retirement party for Laura recently. Paula makes everything perfect, and it truly was.
Once again, we gathered in her backyard and sat apart as is the new way. But it was still cozy and magical. (The photos were taken quickly and somewhat awkwardly as we tried to respect social distancing and good composition at the same time!) It was so nice to listen to Laura's friends honor her, but also reminisce on days gone by. Most of them were or are involved with Winthrop in some way, so I learned a lot of history! Mostly, I learned more about Laura and this place I now call home. And it makes me where/how my own retirement will be some day. I hope I'm able to leave a legacy as highly regarded and respected as Laura did!

Peach Hunting Bimble

Stan and I have coined a new term especially appropriate to where we now live: Peach Hunting. We are in the heart of farming country - strawberries, blackberries, watermelon, veggies, and peaches. And even though Georgia has the moniker of "Peach State," I've always felt that South Carolina peaches were the best.
It just so happens that we are surrounded by farm stands where we now live, so it is easy to spend a day bimbling from one farm stand to another in search of these golden, juicy, globes of goodness. We went to several stands for my birthday, and Saturday, we went to several more. First was Black's Peaches.
Turns out I had been to this one before when my friend Vicky visited. It was a tad more crowded this time (we wore our masks and tried to respect social distancing, although, not everyone did).
     Along with a literal truckload of peaches straight from picking...
there was tons of fresh veg.
We purchased tomatoes, peaches (of course), apple butter, and a cucumber (already eaten).
We also grabbed lunch which we ate outside at a picnic table - 'tis the season for BLTs and my new weekend addiction: Cheerwine!
From Black's, we drove to Bush-n-Vine.
This one was new to us. This is a huge, working farm.

With rows and rows of pick-your-own strawberries and ripening blackberries.
Martins keep the bugs away from the fruit.
The farm was covered in blooming zinnias and daisies.

They also had fig trees, although we'll have to return in late July when those are ripe.
All said, Peach Hunting is a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a pretty Saturday. And of course, now we get to reap the rewards with sliced peaches, roasted peaches, pureed peaches, peach smoothies, peach ice-cream, peach cobbler, peach pie, peach....

VIDEO: On Ageism and an Aging Woman's Secret Power

Agism is a growing issue in our world, and a real problem when you consider, "In less than 15 years, people aged 65 and up will outnumber those 18 and under for the first time in U.S. history. This major demographic shift presents a good opportunity for reevaluating our stereotypes and negative assumptions about getting older." As such, I love this article at NBC News, "Aging is a woman's secret power - and the data proves it" and the accompanying video on ageism. Click the image to watch and read.

VIDEO: The Gigantic Change

Climate change is real, our people, our earth needs our help. How can we help? Let this new animated video about The Gigantic Change inspire us! Click to watch at CommArts.
CLICK HERE for TheGiganticChange website.

VIDEO: "Curb Side, Baby" | What You Need to Know about NPL's Curbside Service

OMG - The Nashville Public Library has created mice rocking to "Ice, Ice, Baby" to advertise their curbside pick-up options during the Covid-19 pandemic. The rhyming is spot on! (Click to watch on Youtube.)

Friday Links List and Illustrators' Treehouse News - 19 June 2020

From BookBub: How ‘Sesame Street,’ Mr. Rogers, and ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ Changed TV Forever

From Did you see the talk between Neil Gaiman and Victoria Schwab?

From Brightly:
     Black Girl Magic: 33 Picture Books Featuring Black Female Protagonists
     Stories to Celebrate Pride Month

From NYT: Raina Telgemeier Can’t Wait to Break Bread With Her Friends Again

From The Guardian: Michael Rosen returns to Twitter after long battle with coronavirus

From Nathan Bransford: #PublishingPaidMe is just the tip of the iceberg Good commentary.

From The Edinburgh Book Festival: This year's events will be free online!

From SCBWI Carolinas: On Writing Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books by Shana Keller (might have to be a member to view)

From The Irish Post: 30-hour-long production of James Joyce's Ulysses to air today for Bloomsday

From PW:
     Q & A with Ashley Wolff
     Amistad Launches #BlackoutBestsellerList on Social Media
     L.L. McKinney Announces Juneteenth Book Festival
     #KidLit Rally for Black Lives Draws Wide Viewership
     PW Launches New School and Library Newsletter
     An Anti-Racist Graphic Novel Reading List
     Libraries Offer Access to Graphic Novels in Pandemic

From The Bookseller: McGowan and Tan awarded CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals and Two ‘extraordinary’ books exploring survival and our relationship with nature through short stories win UK’s most prestigious book awards for children and young people - from the CILIP site itself!
     James Bowen says goodbye to 'unforgettable' street cat Bob
     Publishing ‘treats pay like a dirty word’, say industry staffers

From OUP Blog: How to diversify the classics. For real.

From The New Yorker: Octavia Butler’s Prescient Vision of a Zealot Elected to “Make America Great Again”

From SLJ:
     New Jersey Becomes First State To Add Climate Change Education to K–12 State Standards
     Spotlight on Juneteenth
     10 Things To Tell My Students This Summer | Opinion

From HornBook: Our Modern Minstrelsy "In order to truly understand and tackle the challenge of diversifying the canon, it is important to contend with the difficult reality that art — of all forms, including children’s books — has historically been used to reinforce white supremacy."

From The New Yorker: Kadir Nelson’s “Say Their Names”: A closeup examination of the artist’s latest cover, in which the murder of George Floyd embodies the history of violence inflicted upon black people in America.

From The Bookseller: Adeola and Wilson-Max to discuss lack of children's publishing diversity

From CommArts: USPS “Harlem Renaissance” stamps

From The NYT: Cartoonists Tackle the Big Stuff: O.C.D., Motherhood and Too Many Books

From Muddy Colors:
     The Making of Wild Sign

From The Art Room Plant:
     Julie Liger Balair

     Zine: Mildred and Richard Loving
     Gareth Lucas
Johns Hopkins is Offering Free Online Course in Psychological First Aid

From BoingBoing: Why the Cooper Black typeface is everywhere

From TOR:
     Five Books by Latinx Authors Featuring Mythical Creatures
     TOR CON: Neil Gaiman and Victoria Schwab in discussion

From AIGA: Questioning the Canon: Diversity in Graphic Design History

From Children's June Newsletter

From The Thesis Whisperer:

From The GoodNewsNetwork:
     New Website “Pandemic of Love” Connects 132,000 People in Need of Aid With Those Who Can Help By Michael Goonan - Jun 15, 2020

From CBS News: Netflix CEO is donating $120 million to HBCUs, wants it to celebrate "great black achievement"

From Medium: White Academia: Do Better

Freya Blackwood's THE TREASURE BOX

Freya Blackwood is one of my favorite children's book illustrators, hands down. She moved onto my radar when we lived in the UK and I first saw HARRY & HOPPER.
Her new book, THE TREASURE BOX is such a different style, I didn't realize who the illustrator was at first. But I truly believe Freya is one of the bravest, most experimental, and energetic illustrators in the biz today. So, I am THRILLED to have her here today to talk about her new book, THE TREASURE BOX.
e: What was your creative process/medium for THE TREASURE BOX, can you walk us through it?
I began this book like any other – reading the manuscript, making notes, gathering reference material, making decisions in conjunction with the author and publisher, and then gradually building up an idea of what could be on each page. I like to experiment with materials to find an appropriate technique for different stories. And early on stumbled upon the idea of incorporating text as a graphic element in the illustrations. This idea was then developed further to include layers within the illustrations, like simple dioramas, adding depth to the images. The careful cutting and layering created illustrations that felt fragile.
      Each page was a bit of an experiment. And then I had to work out how to photograph the pages too.

e: It’s a pretty intense process! How long does it take you to work typically?
I typically spend about 6 months on a book.
e: What was your path to publication?
I come from a family of artists, so drawing was something I did as a child and while growing up. I was always interested in design, art and anything visual, including film making and production design. In my mid 20s after working in several different jobs, I turned back to drawing and decided to teach myself to be an illustrator. And eventually after several years of practicing and sending out samples, I received an introduction to a new publisher at Scholastic Australia who gave me my first picture book. I was extremely lucky to learn about illustration and visual literacy on the job. And I’ve worked as a picture book illustrator ever since!
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of The Treasure Box?
There is a very embarrassing story, yes! It’s got nothing to do with the actual work though. I live about four hours away from Sydney, where the designer of this book was based. So one day I drove to Sydney to show her my progress on the work. I was lucky enough to be offered a parking spot in the office building, which happened to be on the first floor of the building, accessed by a lift. And getting up there was no problem at all. But when it came time to leave, I just couldn’t maneuver my car into the right position to get into the lift and ended up wedged half in, half out, car scraping against the side of the lift, so that I just had to grit my teeth and go for it. My car still has the tell-tale signs down one side.
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?
There’s a definite though elusive magic that seems to happen when I’m drawing. I spend a lot of time trying to find the magic, and if I’m lucky it will appear briefly. In that moment, I’m completely immersed in the character and their feelings and find the drawing is like an extension of myself. But of course, this doesn’t happen all the time, or even often. And for the rest of the time I’m just trying very hard to emulate that magic. I hope that the drawings created in that magic moment can bind the rest of the drawings together to create something good enough!
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
I’m afraid I don’t really advertise myself. I have an Instagram page, but self-promotion isn’t my strong point.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
There’s a lot to love about being an illustrator. There is the personal joy of creating a world and characters that you inevitably bond with. The joy of the aesthetic journey and being able to realise and bring to fruition an initial idea. And of course, the best would have to be the connection you make with readers and their parents; the joy or understanding or empathy that you help to create.
     The biggest challenge for me would have to be working by myself. It can be very solitary.
e: Is there something in particular about The Treasure Box you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
When I was working on this project, I developed an overwhelming sadness for people in this situation, and what their plight must be like, especially the woman with a baby at the head of the line of people fleeing the town. I guess I hope readers feel a glimpse of that, (without descending into misery of course) and come away with a greater empathy for all.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I have a project coming up in a year or so that I feel may be my dream project. It feels close to what I want to say through my work, both creatively and emotionally. I’m doing it all backwards - I’ve drawn it, and now need to come up with the words!