Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Horn Book Magazine March/April 2014

I always look forward to receiving the latest issue of The Horn Book Magazine, but this one is extra special:  March/April 2014 is an issue all about illustration.

See the cover? That's Grace Lin's studio!  She is one of the illustrators who shared their favorite art media in a series of columns called Studio Views (more on that in a future post.) 

There's another reason why this is such a special issue for me: I have an article published in this issue about art notes -- illustrator's statements about the media and/or technique used in the creation of the artwork.  Being an illustrator and a librarian I've always been interested in the media used in picture books.  I wrote a piece about it, submitted to the Horn Book and it was accepted.  It is a true honor for me to be part of such a distinguished magazine about children's literature!

Here's an example of an art note from the adorable Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda:

"The art was made with ink and color pencils on white paper, surrounded by hundreds of cats (ink cats!)

Art notes come in all different formats -- some very short, some very detailed, some with a touch of humor (a favorite of mine!), but they're not always present.  This was a fun article to write so it's great to see it in print.

And Roger Sutton, Editor-in-Chief for the Horn Book, sent me the coolest note thanking me for contributing to this issue:
Just perfect, right?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ernest and Celestine

This weekend I saw a great movie -- Ernest and Celestine, based on the series of books by author/illustrator Gabrielle Vincent (who is also the author of one my favorite dog books, A day, a dog.)

The movie won France's César Award for Best Animated Feature and was a nominee for this year's Oscar for Best Animated Film.  It is a an absolute delight -- I can't wait to watch it again.  I do that, you know, I watch movies I like over and over again.  It's started when I was learning English and used to watch movies several times to practice (I would read the subtitles the first time, and then stop for all subsequent viewings.) You can learn a lot from watching movies repeatedly: once is really not enough, you miss too much.  This is also what started my love affair with movie soundtracks.  By the way, the soundtrack by Vincent Courtois is also a treat.

Anyhow, the movie does a wonderful job adapting Vicent's characters and artistic style.  The film blog has a lot of really cool information about the making of the movie, including how they decided to keep the backgrounds as watercolors to stay true to Vicent's sketchy and airy watercolors.  The blog is well worth a read: it's not only informative, but quite funny too!

Ernest and Celestine is a must-see!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's here! 2013 Ladybug Picture Book Award!

Look what I got in the mail this week -- the 2013 Ladybug Picture Book Award for Little Dog Lost!

The crystal award is designed by Pepi Herrmann and it is beautiful.  I will always cherish it and proudly display it right by my art table as a source of constant inspiration.

Thank you to all little readers in New Hampshire for giving Little Dog Lost this great honor.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

World Read Aloud Day | March 5th, 2014

For the 3rd year in a row, I will be participating in WRAD -- World Read Aloud Day.

It is LOADS of fun!

I take a day off from work and spend the day Skyping with schools and libraries from all over the country. This year I'll be meeting teachers, librarians and kids from Florida, Maine, Texas, Georgia, New Hampshire and Ohio!

Huge thanks to author Kate Messner who graciously compiles on her blog a list of authors and illustrators willing to Skype for free on WRAD.  It's a wonderful idea and for a great cause!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ladybug Picture Book Award!

And now for some really FANTASTIC news:  Little Dog Lost is the winner of the 2013 Ladybug Picture Book Award!

*dances, jumps and twirls around the room*

According to the Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library, "The Ladybug Picture Book Award is designed to promote early literacy and honor the best in recent children's picture books.  A committee of children's librarians from around the state selects 10 picture book titles early in the year.  Then, during November, New Hampshire children from preschoolers to those in third grade choose the award winner."

How cool is that?  Honestly, I was so honored just to be nominated this year.  Winning the award is just the best Christmas present ever!

A HUGE thank you to all children's librarians, teachers and children who read and shared Baltic's amazing tale!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Goodbye to Constance

This week we said goodbye to our dog Constance.  We rescued her 10 years ago this month, and at that time she was thought to be between 6 and 8 years old.
She was the most perfect beagle girl and we were so lucky to have her in our lives for so long.
She died peacefully in our arms, and now she's in heaven with St. Francis.

We miss her so.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Spotlight on Books and Illustrators

Do you know Eric Barclay? If you don't, you're in for a treat!  I discovered Eric and his amazing art through Illustration Friday, where his posts in response to each week's prompts were always fresh, original and masterfully done.  Eric is also a most generous person, who left encouraging comments on everyone's blog -- believe me, it means a lot to receive cheering words from such a talented artist!

August has been a great month for Eric who has two brand new books out:

I can see just fine (Abrams, 2013) in which a young girl is not quite ready to admit she needs glasses (I can totally relate!!)

Hiding Phil (Scholastic, 2013), a funny and charming story about three siblings and one very big (adorable) elephant they must bring home.

Make sure to spend lots of time looking through Eric's blog -- you'll see just how creative he can be!  Look at what he did with with a plain empty toilet cleaner container:

Truly, the man is a GENIUS!
I'm sure there will be many more great books from Eric to come!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Giveaway Winners!!

Hiya!  It's time to announce the winners of the illustrated envelopes giveaway!  If you didn't win, or didn't get to participate this time, no worries.  This is certainly something I will do again in the future.

So without further ado... the winners are Joanne and Maria!  Numbers were selected using a random number generator.

I'll be contacting you by email to get your addresses so I can mail the envelopes asap.  Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Illustrated Envelopes Giveaway (and Letters to Klaus)

At the lovely gallery Illustration Cupboard, I had the chance to see an exhibit of beautiful illustrated envelopes sent to Klaus Flugge, founder and publisher of Andersen Press.  These envelopes were decorated by picture book artists that worked with Mr. Flugge, and were displayed in his office for years.  Now, 100 of these envelopes have been compiled and published in the lovely book, Letters to Klaus.  Publisher's Weekly wrote a nice piece on the story behind the book.

The gallery also had on display a series of envelopes made especially for this exhibit, all addressed to Illustration Cupboard, including one by Anita Jeram, one of my favorite illustrators.  I purchased a copy of the book, signed by David Mckee, who had been at the gallery celebrating the book launch.  And here is his envelope made especially for the exhibit.  Cool, right?

So I had the idea of making my own illustrated envelopes for a giveaway.  To enter, just leave a comment and a way for me to reach you (so you can provide me with your address.)  This giveaway is open to anyone, here in the US or overseas, and the winner gets one envelope addressed and mailed to them.  There are two envelopes, so there'll be two winners, yay!

Bunny and Bubbles

Ducks and Scarf

This giveaway is open until midnight, Saturday, August 3rd. Winners will be selected randomly from the posts and announced on Sunday, August 4th.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Talking About Art Supplies

Well, hello there!  It's been ages, I know.  I had big hopes of keeping to a schedule, adding new content to my blog on a consistent basis, but here I am, 4 months after my last post... tsk, tsk, tsk.

But wait, I have a good excuse!  I was working very hard on my second picture book, which I'm happy to say is DONE (and art was delivered on time, yay!) *happy, happy dance*  Aaaand, the book has a new title, ready?

Ladies and Gentlemen, keep your eyes open for... SLEEPOVER WITH BEATRICE AND BEAR! Coming 2014 from Nancy Paulsen Books and yours truly.

On my last post about working on book 2, I said that I would be talking next about my favorite art supplies.  This sounds like a great way to get back into blogging mode!

My favorite watercolor paper lately is Fabriano Artistico Extra White, 140 lbs, hot pressed.  I use blocks - they're more expensive than sheets, but easier to store and do not require stretching.  That beautiful watercolor pan set was a gift from my parents (Sennelier artist watercolors) and it's been put to great use!  I also use tube Winsor & Newton artist watercolors.  Pen nibs and holders, as well as a selection of brushes, and Winsor and Newton Black India Ink.  In a jar, a selection of Prismacolor color pencils (there are a lot more that I keep in clay pots by my window).

My studio is a corner near a window (see the clay pots with pencils?)  It can get a bit messy and crowded, but it's home!

This is where I worked on both Little Dog Lost and Sleepover With Beatrice and Bear, and while I do most of the inking and painting there, I also use the kitchen table and any other surface available for drawing and sketching, cutting paper, using the light box, etc.

Welcome to my world!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Spine Poem

Book Spine Poems -- a brilliant idea, right? Travis Jonker from 100 Scope Notes is looking for a few good book spine poems to celebrate National Poetry Month.  You can read all about it here and here.

So below, my humble contribution to this month's celebration:

Can you tell I'm a librarian? ;-)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Picture Book Watch | April Edition

And we're back!  Here are a few great titles due out next month!

By Tiffany Strelitz Haber ; Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Philomel, 2013

A new book from Tiffany Strelitz Haber, author of the adorable The Monster Who Lost His Mean (Henry Holt, 2012) and illustrated by the always amazing Matthew Cordell.  I love his illustration style: sketchy line ink drawings, natural, spontaneous and fresh.  And funny too!  Check out this great piece by Jules Danielson about Matthew and his amazing book Hello! Hello! (Disney Hyperion, 2012)

By Emily Gravett
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children, 2012

From the über-talented Emily Gravett, a book about Cedric, a little dragon who wants to be read the same bedtime story, again, again and again.  Emily creates the most original books, both in terms of story and design.  I've been a fan since her debut picture book Wolves (Simon & Schuster, 2006). You can learn more about her unique books in this neat piece published by The Guardian.  

By Bob Staake
Schwartz & Wade, 2013
The first time I saw this cover, I was immediately hooked -- such beautiful colors and design.  And once I learned about the story I realized this is one of those not-to-be-missed books. Bob Staake tells a powerful story of friendship between a lonely boy and a bluebird -- in a wordless format, rendered entirely in shades of grey and blue.  There is a website with lots of great information about the making of the book. In a way it reminded me of another favorite book of mine, How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham (Candlewick, 2008)

By Eliza Wheeler
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013
There's something magical about this cover, isn't there?  A sneak peak at some of the interior art from the author's blog makes me long for more!  This is Eliza Wheeler's debut picture book as author/illustrator, and it promises to be special: the story of Miss Maple, a diminutive woman with a deep love for lost seeds.  Eliza won the SCBWI 2010 Los Angeles International Conference Mentorship Award AND the SCBWI 2011 Los Angeles International Conference Portfolio Grand Prize -- her artwork is stunning! 
Look for these books at your library or at your favorite bookstore!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Working on Book 2 | Beatrice and Bear | Story Development

I decided to do some posts about my second picture book, which is due to be published spring 2014.  I can't share a lot right now, as I'm still working on the final paintings, but I thought it would be fun to talk about story development, art supplies, illustration processes, etc.  I'm doing a better job this time documenting the whole process from idea to final book, and felt these would make good topics for blog posts.

Little Dog Lost is a based on a true story, so in the case of my first book, story development was based on research and intended audience (aimed at very young children.)  It sold as part of a two-book deal, the second book to be determined, a project that would interest both the publisher and me.

I find that all of my story ideas begin with a drawing or a painting. Even Little Dog Lost began with an illustration created for Illustration Friday.  So for the second book, I went back through some of my sketches and illustrations and found one in particular that I felt had a strong narrative quality, that "told a story."  I did a few more sketches based on this idea and shared them with my editor Nancy Paulsen and art director Cecilia Yung.  Once I got the okay to proceed, the next step was to write the manuscript and create a thumbnail storyboard.  Writing the story for me is a combination of words and sketches, both very much connected. But at this point, it's important to focus on the text.  Again my agent Teresa Kietlinski was a fantastic critique partner -- I sent her my first draft of the manuscript and she wrote back with some very good insights and ideas which helped me develop the story.  Once I had a good manuscript, it was time to create the thumbnail storyboard, using a template with all 32 pages ready for sketching.  I went through many of these storyboard templates, drawing and re-drawing pages, cutting and moving around sequences, etc. The goal at this point is to determine the story's pacing and the best places for page turns.  It all has to fit within 32 pages, and you want to tell it in a way that is balanced, keeps momentum, and creates interest in what's going to happen next.

I shared the manuscript and storyboard with Nancy and Cecilia, and was ready to move on to the next step: creating the dummy.  Now quick sketches become more detailed and developed.  The initial dummy is the first time seeing words and illustrations together, as they would appear in the final book, but it is still very much a work in progress.  Writing a book is truly a collaborative effort and the feedback I received from both Nancy and Cecilia helped me develop a much stronger, tighter second dummy.

And I'm now at the final art stage, working on the illustrations.  On my next post, I'll talk about some of my favorite art supplies for creating the illustrations.  Needless to say, I'm CRAZY about art supplies!