Sunday, September 13, 2015

Illustrator Day SCBWI-Eastern Pennsylvania 2015

Well, time sure flies, doesn't it?  It's almost fall!

But I'm back with a really cool post.  Yesterday I attended Illustrator Day 2015, organized by SCBWI-EPA's Regional Illustrator Coordinator, Adrienne Wright.  As usual, this was a truly wonderful day, filled with engaging presentations and great company.

Illustrator Day is one of these events I do everything I can NOT to miss, and for good reason:  I always leave feeling energized and encouraged, always learn something new, and make new connections.

Here are a few highlights of the day.  The first presentation was by Jennifer Kelly, Assistant Art Director for Dial Books for Young Readers.  Her topic was "Bringing characters to life: capturing emotion and energy."

She talked about the importance of establishing an emotional connection with a character, and talked in detail about 7 tools:
1) Your pencil and paper, the early sketching phase
2) Gesture and body language
3) Face (especially eyes and mouth)
4) Using real-life subjects (even photographs) to find the right expression and mood
5) Context and atmosphere
6) Fresh eye
7) Your emotional (and mental) state

It was a really good presentation, and I took lots of notes!

Next came a presentation by local author/illustrator Brian Biggs, and it was AWESOME.  Brian talked about his process illustrating an upcoming picture book written by Mac Barnett called NOISY NIGHT.  Trust me, it was a real treat seeing the work behind illustrating Mac's manuscript: working on pacing, character, design, color and typography.  The good news? It's going to be a hit, for sure.  The bad news? We have to wait until early 2017 for publication.  Keep your eye out for it!

Agent Heather Alexander from Pippin Properties, Inc. was the next speaker and she talked about developing an illustration brand and career path.  She shared her lists of do's and also advice from some of the illustrators she represents.   My favorite? A quote by Jennifer P. Goldfinger -- "Knock it off and get it done!"  I can get pretty overwhelmed sometimes and insecure, and I'm going to write that down and put it next to my art table.  Another good advice? Find the social tool you feel more comfortable with and stick to it, do what feels organic to you.  So, here I am, back to blogging :-)  

And if all this was not enough, I also got to connect with other illustrators like Merrilees Brown, Val Jones, Rebecca Thornburgh, Kelli Thrasher-Brooks, Patricia Kreiser, Virginia Law Manning, Annie Raulerson, Nelda H. Horwitz, Lisa Kahn Schnell, Berrie Torgan-Randall, Kathryn Howard, and many others!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

World Read Aloud Day | March 4th, 2015

I'm back!  And for good reason: I'm getting ready to celebrate World Read Aloud Day on March 4th, 2015.  A program by LitWorld, WRAD celebrates the importance of reading aloud and encourages all to participate and share stories.

I've been participating since 2012 by doing Skype visits with schools and libraries and it's one of my favorite days of the year.

What about you, what are your plans for World Read Aloud Day? Read on, everyone!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

And the Mail Art / Illustrated Envelope goes to...

A day late, but here are the winners of the SLEEPOVER WITH BEATRICE AND BEAR illustrated envelopes giveaway:  Annie Silvestro, Stacey Hsu, and Elizabeth Corbett McGoran!

Thank you very much to everyone who tweeted, shared on Facebook, told a friend, and/or left a comment on the blog post.  I collected all the names, numbered them, and used a random number generator to pick the winners.

Your envelopes will be arriving in the mail soon!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Giveaway | Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear

Today is publication day for Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear!  To commemorate I'm doing a giveaway open to all (US residents and abroad.)

Here are three illustrated envelopes with characters from the book: Beatrice, Bear and Squirrel, each hand drawn and painted -- you can own an original!  There will be three winners and each will receive one of the envelopes mailed to their door.  I'm a big fan of illustrated envelopes and mail art and I hope you are too!

To enter, help me spread the word about Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear: you can tweet about it, share it on Facebook, Pinterest, tell a friend, ask for it at your library, it's all good.  Leave a comment on this blog post, with a link back to you or a way for me to contact you should you win.  Winners will be randomly selected and contacted for their snail mail.  Then wait for your mail carrier to deliver the handmade envelope to your address!

Contest runs from today until Tuesday, August 26th.  Winners will be announced on Wednesday, August 27th.

Thanks for participating, everyone!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear | Countdown to Publication Day

The big day is almost here: August 7th, 2014, publication day for Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear! This week it will be officially out into the world, and it's time to celebrate!

My very talented friend Stacey Hsu from Original Sock Dogs did her magic again and created a wonderful Beatrice doll, capturing her personality and features perfectly.  Beatrice will be accompanying me to all events and book festivals, of course.

Stacey's daughter Sophie read the story and sent me this really cool drawing of Beatrice and Bear (please note her addition of Worm and Book --  ADORABLE!)

Also all ready for download is a terrific Teacher's Guide created by Marcie Colleen -- really, really good stuff, lots of ways to use the book in all sorts of fun activities in the classroom (or at home!)

And finally, what better way to celebrate a book launch than with a giveaway? Stay tuned for more information on a separate blog post on Thursday, August 7th, pub date!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear | Delivering The Final Art

And so it arrives, one of the best days of the whole book publishing process, especially for illustrators -- delivery of the final art! Since I live close to New York City, I get to deliver the art in person: what a treat -- I get to see my editor Nancy Paulsen and art director Cecilia Yung and visit the Penguin building in Lower Manhattan.  I remember when I did it for the first time with Little Dog Lost, that day is still so vivid in my memory. It was glorious!

The same was true with Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear.  I take a day off from my day job at the library and head off to the train station.  The art is all prepared: each spread labeled, covered with mylar, in a sturdy art bag.  Once I get to Penn Station it is a quick subway trip and soon I'm standing in the lobby for the offices of Penguin Young Readers Group.  There are bookshelves with some of their books displayed, all imprints, and look what I saw on the shelf:

After getting in we head to a conference room and display all the art around a table, so we can see it from page one to page 32.  Here are Nancy Paulsen and Cecilia Yung helping me set all the art in sequence on the table:

Other Penguin employees are invited to come as well, and take a peek -- it's a lovely opportunity to meet other people who will be working together on our book: publicists, library marketing, as well as other editors, etc.  

Afterwards we go out to lunch and have a fantastic time!

To read other entries in this series just go to Character DevelopmentFrom Storyboard to Final Art, and Book Cover.
Next we will talk about the other best day for an author/illustrator: publication day!

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!