Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear | Book Cover

Book covers are the first thing people notice about a book, be it at a bookstore, at the library or even online.  A book cover needs to be attractive and eye-catching, pique one's interest with a glimpse of what the story is about while at the same time keeping readers guessing how it will develop. It should make one wants to get the book, browse, take it home. 

Interesting enough, book covers are usually the last piece of artwork produced when working on the final art.  A lot of thinking goes into the making of a book cover, so valuable input comes from many sources: editorial, art direction and design, publicity and marketing.  Titles can also change in the process, which means new covers need to be created.

The title for Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear went through a number of changes.  At one point, it was called The Great Hibernators -- below is a rough sketch for a possible cover:

I was lucky to be working with book designer Annie Ericsson: a book designer has a profound effect on a book and especially on the cover.  She picked the type fonts, put together the jacket (front and back covers, spine, front and back flaps) and came up with what I think is just the perfect cover for this story, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One Spread: From Storyboard to Final Art

When I started working on the final art for Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear, I had big plans to document every step so that I could share the progress afterwards.  It didn't quite work as well as I had hoped: once I started painting (and re-painting) it was hard to remember to stop and take pictures. Also when working on deadline, the need to make sure paintings got done by a certain date/time would take precedence over everything else.  Before I knew it, I had skipped taking breaks to photograph my progress.

But I did manage to document one spread in detail.  It's one of those happy cases where the very first tiny sketch, done for the storyboard, remained basically the same throughout the work.  Here it is as a 1 x 2 inch doodle: Beatrice and Bear saying goodnight and going sleep:

Next came a larger sketch, better suited for the dummy, done with a bit more detail:

I sometimes photocopy pages from the dummy to test colors -- the paper is not really suited for watercolor painting, but it helps me to see whether the colors I'm envisioning work or not and to try different color combinations:

Now for the final painting, which was done on Fabriano 140 hot press paper.  I used a light box to transfer the sketch to the watercolor paper, and did the outline first, with a brush and Winsor & Newton black India ink.  I erased all pencil marks and then started painting using Sennelier watercolors and Prismacolor pencils to add texture and/or shading.

It's kind of cool to see it like this, from little doodle to final art.  Next we will talk book covers!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear | Character Development

Working on a picture book takes time -- lots of time -- for everyone involved: author/illustrator, agent, editor, art director, book designer, marketing team, etc.  It is a VERY collaborative effort so publication dates mean a whole lot to many, many people.

August 7th is pub date for Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear (Yay!), so I thought I would use this month to talk a bit more about the making of the book.  In an earlier post I talked about story development and working on storyboards.  Now let's talk a bit about character development: working on poses, expressions, colors, etc.

I typically have a lot of pieces of paper with small drawings and studies for each character, color combinations, etc.  I need to write things down, otherwise I may not remember how to maintain the same color scheme.  I paint the pages out of sequence, so I will usually need to recreate the same color used days or weeks before and -- believe me -- it's easy to forget.  If something works, write it down.  There are happy accidents, and sometimes you want to make sure you can make them happen again.

Next time, I'll be discussing working on a page from storyboard to final painting.  See you soon!

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!