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Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

It may be an ever-increasing digital world, but I know for a fact that there’s a whole bunch of us out here who just love opening our mailboxes and finding a real,honest-to-goodness, 3-D paper card inside. Call us old-fashioned, call us what you will, but we’re still out here!

So … if you like receiving cards and know folks who feel the same, why not send this adorable French Bulldog blank notecard (my original art) to someone who would appreciate it. This Frenchie pup is wearing her cutest garden finery and ready to go.

The card measures 4.25″ x 6″, full color, and soft gloss outside, nice matte surface inside for easy writing. 10 cards to a pack with white envelopes, packaged in a crystal clear acrylic sleeve. And this particular drawing even earned me a spot as a Finalist in the Dog Writers’ Association of America competition in the Illustration category!

Like this idea? Purchase them here and Happy Spring!

 

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northernhawkowl-jbalsam2I found myself really looking at a stunning calendar photograph of this Northern Hawk Owl for the month of November. I am the recipient of a large number of calendars each year, some from organizations I support, and others that are cold mailings from like-minded organizations. I have several of them posted around my home, not to remind me of the date but to enjoy the beauty of nature and animals, changing every month.

As December approached, and a new bird would arrive, I started to play with the idea of doing a watercolor of this owl. She is clothed in multiple shades of browns with large white flecks on her dark wings and a cap that looks like it has been dusted with freshly fallen snow. But ahh .. there has been a bit of a drought in these parts in terms of my drawing, so rather than tackle something I haven’t done in ages, why not do something I really enjoy, simple black ink. And so I drew.

Perhaps most surprising as I hunched over my desk, was that Jazzy, who normally would be meowing up a storm demanding dinner at that precise time, was utterly quiet. It was as if she knew this was something even she hadn’t seen in a while, and best not to disturb a woman at her work.

We never know what will inspire us. I, myself, was surprised that this owl had been calling out to be drawn for days. What I do know, is that when we’re inspired, it’s good to listen.

 

 

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Well, we see how much time has passed since that last post … so this will be a bit brief, as time, even to blog, is sometimes hard to find. Among the things I particularly enjoyed about this June Conference were several workshops which enriched my life as a children’s book writer and illustrator and added to my knowledge of craft, inspiration and TUESDAY-DWeisner2curiosity.

A workshop with the children’s book illustrator and author David Wiesner was terrific. He gave the opening keynote, but I also took a workshop with him titled “Reference Is Your Friend.” He’s a brilliant, phenomenally talented and very humble person, and listening to his process as he designs and works out his world-renowned books was fascinating. His recommendation for all the attendees if we would take away one thing? Draw from life.

A workshop by Donna Galanti on world-building was another favorite because  no matter what type of novel we write, whether fantasy or one taking place in our town, we need to create a world for readers. Donna really broke it down, and also provided the rare handout so we could be listening to her presentation without our heads down scribbling notes frantically. She came up with so many useful points that I will refer to as I’m delving into my own novel.

There were more excellent ones, and one or two that were not so fabulous, but we only know by opening ourselves to the presentations and finding out what there is for us to learn. I’d also signed up for two one-on-one critiques for my WIP novel and another for a WIP picture book. One of these was outstanding and gave me some very good direction.

By the end of the first day of the conference, I didn’t see a soul who wasn’t looking a little wiped out, just from running from class to class and then to individual critiques and roundtables. Of course, I could go on. And on. But I’m going to stop here, with a suggestion for all of you who might be reading this and who are interested in writing and/or illustrating children’s books and not already a member of SCBWI.

Join. Join a whole bunch of other talented, dedicated people who want to reach out to children with amazing ideas and stories and visions. Join an organization whose sole existence is to provide everything you’d want to know and more about how to become a writer or illustrator for children. Become familiar with your local branch of SCBWI and see what they have to offer. In New Jersey, we have the annual June Conference, but also some smaller events during the year. You can learn more here on the SCBWI site and check out the chapter nearest you while you’re there.

Maybe I’ll see you at the conference!

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“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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With the annual New Jersey Society of Children’s Books Writers and illustrators (NJ SCBWI) June Conference on the horizon one has to think – there is something so amazing about so many individuals all streaming into one location from all over the country for a single purpose – to share, to learn and to grow in the one thing that unites us all – children’s books. We meet old friends and make some new, share and see amazing illustration, and have the opportunity to sit in workshops and at lunch tables, not just with our peers, but with editors and agents from some of the finest publishing companies and agencies in the U.S. Cheers to us all!

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As they say in the movie … put your hands in the air like you just do not care!

That’s what I’m sayin’! Put your hands up high, over your head. Open up those fingers and swing your arms to the left and to the right. Swing your hips to the left and the right! And put a smile on your face whether you feel like it or not. Feel better?

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If you actually did that, you do feel better, and I’ll tell you why. You can change your mood by changing what your body is doing. It’s true. There’s a body of evidence that tells us that we can change how we feel by doing a few very simple things. For example, it’s almost impossible to stay feeling angry when you put your hands over your head like you see in this drawing, titled Happy Bogles. Wave them back and forth; you’ll be surprised at how you feel.

Or, if you’re feeling sad or angry, go to the mirror and give yourself your best, happiest smile. Keep smiling and you’ll feel a change. Of course, one of the simplest things to do to change a mood is dance. Do you feel like dancing when you’re feeling out of sorts? Of course not, and that’s exactly why you do it anyway. And put up those hands and see what happens.

Now who are those wonderful happy bogles and what’s a bogle anyway? Happy Bogles is by John D. Batten, a British painter and illustrator, (1860 – 1932), who among his numerous works, illustrated English and other countries’ fairy tales, mostly around the turn of the century. This particular illustration, which I have loved for such a long time, accompanied The Golden Ball.

What is unique about this particular illustration is that it portrays bogles as happy. Bogles are folkloric creatures of Northumbrian and Scottish origin who play a part in any number of folk and fairy tales; however, they are not known for being happy creatures. Rather they are mischievous and enjoy making life difficult for humans, albeit not particularly harmful. But in this illustration they are joyful. (Hmmm – perhaps they just accomplished something to bother some unsuspecting person.)

Whenever I look at this drawing, I feel happy. Let it inspire you, too, and put those hands in the air with a big smile. See? It’s working!

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Do you appreciate kids’ art? You have the opportunity to tell them so by voting for them in this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition.

Each year Google holds an art contest, encouraging kids from kindergarten to 12th grade, broken down into 5 age/grade categories, to submit artwork which would be suitable for the Google header, such as their event header featured above. There was a theme for the children to draw to, and that was “What makes me … me”, and all kinds of materials were acceptable. Google has winnowed the entries down to 53 U.S. state and territory winners and now you can vote for a finalist. You can check out all the details in Google’s How It Works section.

They’re looking for 5 National Finalists, one of whom will have their artwork featured on Google’s Home page. And that one Finalist will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 educational grant for their school, and the list goes on.

But the best part – for me, anyway – is checking out the amazing talent of the kids who created artwork around the Google lettering we’re all so familiar with. If you just want to go straight to the artwork — vote here!

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Ada-TitlePage2Welcome and thanks for stopping by. Visiting today is debut author and friend, Laurie Wallmark. Accompanying her – at least in spirit – is the brilliant young scientist, Ada Byron Lovelace.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Laurie’s blog tour hosts had some options in our presentations, so I offered some interview questions that will hopefully show us a different side of Ada. I’ve also included some of the book’s stunning artwork by April Chu.

Still A Dreamer: Having read as much as you have about Ada, what do you imagine Ada would make of social media? If alive today, would she tweet? Have a blog? Be on Facebook? How would she use them?

Laurie: Ada would most definitely use social media as a method of communication with her fellow scientists and mathematicians. She often attended evening salons at Charles Babbage’s house to connect and exchange information. Social media would have allowed her to do this more easily and frequently. Through Facebook and Twitter, she could hear about the many marvels of the Industrial Revolution without waiting for them to be published in scientific journals. With a blog, she could share her many scientific theories and receive feedback from her peers.

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SAD: Although Ada might have laughed at the term, she was a visionary. There have been so many technological discoveries since her own, what advances/inventions might Ada make use of were she alive today? How would she have used them to advance her own knowledge?

L: The greatest technological boon to Ada’s studies would be, without doubt, the Internet. As discussed above, social media could provide her with a wealth of information. More than that, websites of organizations like the Royal Society (the UK national academy of science) and individuals like the polymath Mary Somerville would be invaluable. Even seemingly minor inventions, like e-readers, would be useful since Ada was so often ill and confined to bed. With an e-reader, she could easily keep up with her studies.

SAD: Lord Byron the poet was Ada’s father, but had little to do with her upbringing, correct? At any point, to your knowledge, did either acknowledge/praise the wonderful accomplishments of the other?

L: Ada’s mother separated her from Lord Byron when Ada was only one month old. She was never allowed to see or interact with her father after that. Lord Byron, though, lovingly wrote of Ada in his poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted—not as now we part—
But with a hope—*

He died when Ada was only nine years old.

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SAD: The $54,000 question – How can Ada’s work, which began as a child, reach girls today, (other than buying your book, of course), and inspire them?

L: Several organizations have used Ada’s name as a rallying point for their cause. The Ada Initiative (recently shut down) supported women in open-source technology and culture. One of their major achievements was to formulate a code of conduct signed by most major tech companies for appropriate behavior at technical conferences,. And of course there’s Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of the achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). On this day, people throughout the world blog about girls and women involved in technical activities. In 2015, October 13 is Ada Lovelace Day. Not coincidentally, this is also the release date of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at: http://lauriewallmark.com/blogtour.php.

Laurie writes exclusively for children of all ages and has a lifetime love of, and involvement in, math and science as well. Learn more about Laurie at her
Website –  http://www.lauriewallmark.com,
on Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/lauriewallmarkauthor
on Twitter – https://twitter.com/lauriewallmark

Better yet, come meet Laurie in person at her book launch on Sunday, Oct. 25th from 1 to 4 p.m. at The Book Garden in Frenchtown, NJ!

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Cover-Ada-4Blog2What I’ve learned from my friends who’ve been published is that there is no end to the things one can – and sometimes must – do to promote one’s own books. What I learned of not too long ago is what’s called a blog tour. My friend Laurie – or perhaps her main character, Ada – is on one now, and next week, I’ll be a stop on the tour. Who knew?

Laurie Wallmark‘s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is set for release October 13th, but her blog tour began on September 12th and continues through early November. Each week Laurie does interviews, writes about her book, writing in general, and more. It’s a job in and of itself!

She and Ada will be stopping by Still A Dreamer on Friday, October 2nd, so I hope you’ll pop in for a very interesting interview, and some additional information about this fascinating young woman who created the first computer program.

Artwork for the picture book was done by the very talented April Chu, and is phenomenal. I might be able to give you a peek at that, too.

See you soon!

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As promised, I will try, as time allows, to bring you some of the amazing works of the sculptor Seward Johnson. He is the founder of the Grounds for Sculpture Museum, which is largely outdoors, and in his 80’s, he continues to work today. A retrospective of his work has been on display for well over a year now, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to see the many pieces that will soon return to their homes around the world.

Just inside the Welcome Center is a large gallery of his works; all but two are based on famous paintings. Today’s post focuses on a few of the works inside the gallery.

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What you see above is a 3-dimensional room created from Van Gogh’s painting, “Bedroom at Arles.” When you step inside the room, there are two shiny black footprints upon which to stand. I, (yeah, I know, shame on me), didn’t read any of the art notes provided, but obediently stood on the footprints anyway and photographed the installation. What I didn’t see until I got home, is that by taking the photo from that exact angle, the effect was that of the 3-D room being flattened to appear as Van Gogh’s painting.

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To me, the genius of this sculpture is not just in Johnson’s usual accomplishment of turning a 2-D painting into a 3-D sculpture, but in then finding a way to reverse it back to 2-D. Above is a photo I took inside the room where you can see that the bed is made up with a real blanket, pillows and sheets.

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Stepping back in time, we have Vermeer’s “Girl with A Pearl Earring.” Johnson sometimes uses a suspended real frame to perfectly surround the subject as he/she appeared in the original painting, while they sit in the proper pose.

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In more than one example of his work, we see Johnson’s sense of humor, and his “Mona Lisa” installation is certainly one of them. Here she sits, nicely framed, as was our girl above. The guards you see below are, of course, part of the installation, but what about the other people in the photos?

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Maybe not so much! What is truly enjoyable as you tour the grounds and this gallery and see his work, is that you are frequently left wondering, “Is that person real?” In a world where only a base under their feet can indicate that the people might not be live, it’s not always so easy to tell. Sometimes you do have to come pretty close to be sure.

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Who knew the Mona Lisa offered photo ops? I can’t help but think Da Vinci would have been amused.

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And who would have suspected that the Mona Lisa was a much more modern young lady than her rather serious portrait might indicate. Cheers to Seward Johnson! You put a smile on every person’s face that looked at this exhibit.

If these works appeal to you, I encourage you to go to Seward Johnson’s website where you can see all his works, often multiple views, and have a link to take you to the original painting upon which he based his sculpture.

More sometime soon …

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TheTigerRising-KDiCamillo2What first draws you to physically pick up a new book? The title? Perhaps. But what makes you think that it may be truly wonderful? Chances are it’s the cover. And when it’s a children’s book?  The artist’s cover illustration is what will make you long to see more.

As an artist/illustrator myself, I am always thrilled to come across new and fabulous illustrators whose work I’ve never seen. This has happened twice recently and I was so impressed with these two artists’ work, I thought I’d share with you.

The first artist is Chris Sheban and I searched him out because I was so taken with the cover art on the Kate DiCamillo book I’m reading – The Tiger Rising. Turns out, Chris has also illustrated another favorite middle grade novel of mine, same author, Because of Winn-Dixie. Take a look at Chris’ portfolio – he’s amazing.

InAVillageByTheSea-AChu2The second artist is April Chu. She came to my attention because she is the illustrator of the soon-to-be-published Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, the debut children’s book written by author and dear friend, Laurie Wallmark. What inspired me about April Chu are the illustrations of her most recently published book, In a Village by the Sea. It takes a lot of talent to portray the ocean as beautifully as she has, not to mention everything else in her illustrations. Take a peek at April Chu’s portfolio. Her work is truly outstanding.

Just as reading, as well as watching plays, movies, and yes, even TV, adds to our depth as writers, looking at other artists’ work adds to our richness as illustrators.

EdmundDulac-PrincessPea2I’m going to add one more artist who has been a longtime favorite of mine. I can’t add a link to his portfolio because he is no longer alive, but his work glows with a richness and vibrancy that I have loved since I first set eyes on it many years ago. He is Edmund Dulac, born in 1882, passed away 1953.  You can get background on him here, if interested, but will see more of his images here, where prints of his work are for sale. Pictured here is a 1911 illustration of Dulac’s for The Princess and the Pea.

It’s a good day to be inspired!

 

 

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Those of you who stop by with any regularity often see at least one photo of the stash I garner after the Annual Library Sale. Not this year, but I did bring home some wonderful selections, adult, MG and YA, which were accompanied by another bunch of tantalizing books which my Library Sale Buddy offered me. (She opened her trunk like she had hot merchandise in there – dozens of books she’d read over the year, and was offering to me and other friends. It was pretty funny.)

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A few days ago, I was ready to dive in to one of those picks and chose a book by John Irving, Cider House Rules. I’d seen the movie years ago, which was fabulous, but as I CloseToFamous-JoanBauer2began the book, it didn’t seem right. I wanted something that would feed my creative self, the me that wants to work on my Middle Grade novel. I put it back on the shelf and drew out the Joan Bauer MG novel I’d picked up, Close to Famous.

I like Bauer’s style – her characters are believable, palpable people you might know or like to get to know. No high drama, but real life in a compelling way. This would both feed my creative self and provide an enjoyable read.

 

For those of us who create, who aspire to bring something new and of value into the world, feeding that part of ourselves is so important. I know, for myself, it can also get sorely neglected when life’s demands are peaking, and Creative Me can get tossed into a corner like a shucked-off backpack, full as it is of wondrous things.

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What writer isn’t enriched by reading, what artist by looking at art that inspires? Imagine a baker who doesn’t sample fabulous cupcakes, tasting every nuance of flavor, checking the texture for mouthfeel – how could she possibly produce truly delicious cupcakes herself without knowing what really good cupcakes taste like? It’s no different with us.

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Another way to feed our creative selves is to get out in nature — take a walk, take a drive to a nearby park, sit in your garden, watch a bird, a bee, a squirrel. Nothing fancy. Let the wonders of nature inspire you, help you feel at peace, connected. In that serenity, our creativity can come out to play.

I took the photos you see here on a recent walk – blue sky, sunny day – reminded me of the me that longs to create despite the daily demands of life. It was like a cupcake for my creative soul.

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Take a little time for yourself, especially when you most think you have none. Treat yourself to a creative cupcake. Add extra sprinkles; be inspired.

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Wisdom from the master himself …

WinnieThePooh

For a long time they looked at the river beneath them, saying nothing, and the river said nothing too, for it felt very quiet and peaceful on this summer afternoon.

“Tigger is all right really,” said Piglet lazily.

“Of course he is,” said Christopher Robin.

“Everybody is really,” said Pooh. “That’s what I think,” said Pooh. “But I don’t suppose I’m right,” he said.

“Of course you are,” said Christopher Robin.

~ A.A. Milne, Illustration E. H. Shepard

 

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