Monthly Archives: February 2011

My Bunny Valentines

My impulse to spread bunny cuteness started before Valentines’ Day, but I didn’t finish up these little spot illustrations until last night.  It’s only a week or so late, and hey, who doesn’t want a valentine all year round?

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Wake Me Up When It’s Presidents’ Day

Is it the weekend yet? The blog has been feeling a little neglected the past few days, due to the fact  that it has been CRAZY busy around here.  It’s just one of those weeks… something scheduled every day, the “social butterfly” lifestyle that leaves me feeling more exhausted than cool.  I don’t have time to paint or write . . . I barely have time to eat!

Here’s another thing that I missed when I was too busy: The Sketchbook Project 2011I’d sworn I’d fill up the Moleskine (after all, I bought and paid for the chance to be in the exhibit), but after all the holiday rush, the pages were still blank.  I need what my mother calls “brain space” to concentrate on art – blocks, not seconds, of free time to complete something like that.  And when there’s no brain space available, sometimes you just have to call it quits.

Just because I’m not participating this year, doesn’t mean the traveling Sketchbook Project exhibit isn’t worth checking out.  And hey, it starts right here in Brooklyn this weekend!

Go see the thousands of sketchbooks from February 19-27 at:

Brooklyn Art Library
103A N. 3rd St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Open Tue – Sun
Noon – 8pm
Closed Mondays

Remembering Brian Jacques

It is with great sadness that I mention the passing of Brian Jacques, author of the beloved Redwall series (Philomel).  Jacques, aged 71, died of a heart attack over the weekend. Read more about his life and work here.

Though I confess I haven’t read any of the most recent titles in the 21-book series, I was a huge Redwall fan as a child.  Growing up, I’d play for hours in the woods behind my house, pretending that I was adventuring in Mossflower or preparing for a feast at Redwall Abbey.  I’m sure that the positive memories I associate with the Redwall books are echoed by kids and adults the world over.

So when I found out, I just had to draw mouse characters, including Mariel, my favorite Jacques’ heroine, in honor of the great storyteller (see above). And if I can lighten the mood just a bit on this solemn occasion, I thought the two reference photos that I used to make the sketch were pretty funny.

Eulaliaaa!!!

SCBWI 2011, Part II: Beyond Picture Books, to New Media!

(Oh hey, check out this new Oliver Jeffers’ Heart And The Bottle app!)

Everyone – and I mean, EVERYONE (that’s right, NPR) – is talking about e-books and new media.  While adult e-readers are already a major part of consumer culture, childrens’ apps and e-books are still in their infancy (pun intended).  People seem to have a special concern and defensiveness reserved for the future of kids’ books – after all, who wants their kids’ future reduced to bedtime stories curled up with an IPad?

Most industry professionals and consumers alike agree that traditional children’s books aren’t going anywhere.  For one, buying a two-year-old a Color Nook is a lot less cost-efficient than a $4.99 board book, if all the toddler’s going to do is chew on the corners.  For another, people like the visceral experience of buying a hardcover book and turning its pages, reading aloud themselves instead of pressing a button.

Instead, we’re heading towards more and more options for kids books, and while we adults will have to nervously or excitedly adapt, kids will grow up expecting content on myriad forms of media.

So I commend SCBWI’s Illustrators’ Intensive for making the focus of their annual NYC event “Beyond Books: Picture Books and the New Media“.  Hey, if we don’t know about it, let’s invite some panelists to tell us about it!

As excited as I was about hearing the “Online Presence: A Panel Review of Websites, Blogs and Social Media”, it wasn’t my focus of the day.  Mostly, I was there to hear about the latest digital development shrouded in mystery: apps.  It’s something we all know is the future (SO much cooler than e-books), but we don’t REALLY know how they’re created.  First off, we sat in on the “Development of Apps from Classics” discussion, with panelists Virginia Duncan of Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins) and Colin Hosten of Hyperion/Disney Digital Books.

Ms. Duncan explained the making of Greenwillow’s first app, Freight Train by Donald Crews.  With bold shapes and different views from its companion book, Inside Freight Train, this was a perfect way to get an introduction to all that can be done with an app. Take a simple story, then add movement, games, songs… the sky’s the limit!  Check out storyboards and other making-of tidbits from Freight Train here.

Now, say what you want about Disney’s creepy corporate hold on America, but there’s no denying that they’re best suited for transitioning to new media.  Colin set the tone for the whole Intensive by explaining Disney’s philosophy like this: “It’s not about format, it’s about content.” Whether it’s a book, movie, TV show, game, or app, it’s all telling stories. Not so scary, after all, right? And those that can seamlessly translate their work to many different mediums are those that will survive the shift in technology.

As Kristen McLean said in PW the other day, “kids are omnivorous consumers of media”.  They’re not picking apps over books, they’re doing both – and why shouldn’t we?

The Intensive-closing “Practical Application Panel”, with Lisa Holton of Fourth Story Media and Rick Richter of Ruckus Media, summed it up pretty nicely with some fantastic content they’re creating, that is pushing the boundries of physical books and beyond. The 39 Clues was ground-breaking, for example, but my new favorite is The Amanda Project, a story about an enigmatic girl who goes missing from her new school, leaving 3 “guides” behind to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

On The Amanda Project‘s collaborative website, teens (um, girls) create their own character within the series’ world, discuss clues and theories among themselves, and read weekly short stories. The web stories incorporate readers’ thoughts and original plot twists, so every person on the site has a chance to be published as a part of Amanda’s life. They can even share their own writing and artwork in an online Zine… awesome!

Just as you were wondering what’s the point of it all, at the center of The Amanda Project is a book series – written by different YA authors, and published after all the buzz was created online.  It translates to IPad and IPhone apps, e-books, anything digital… but it all comes back to the original books.  Genius.

Now let’s see a picture book do the same thing!

SCBWI 2011: Stand-Out Illustrators!

This past weekend was the annual SCBWI Winter Conference, a 3-day event, packed with speakers, panels and workshops, that brings authors and illustrators to Midtown from across the country.  I’ve always wanted to go, and finally had the chance to attend the Illustrators’ Intensive by begging offering to help out a bit.

Friday was all about children’s books and new media (more on that later), but one of the most fun perks was getting to see the showcase of illustrators that was set up for judging and industry viewing.  As I tried to have fun and not to get overwhelmed by the VIP cocktails and networking, I managed to grab a few cards of my favorites.

I was pleased, but not surprised, that Leeza Hernandez (above) won the Grand Prize at the showcase. She’s super talented, and has a friendly, approachable personality to boot. But I’ve been following her work for some time, so while she deserves much congratulations, she doesn’t count on my list of “new discoveries” . . .

1. Andrea Offermann /  It was so lovely to meet German illustrator Andrea Offermann, whose rich, detailed porfolio is breathtaking.  Her work is perfect for older, middle-grade readers – book covers, black and white interiors, graphic novels.  I won’t be surprised to see her art all over the shelves!

2. You Byun / Aww, how sweet are those characters’ faces?  And look at the lush range of texture!  And warmth of light!  When it comes to creating worlds, You Byun has it down.  And I’m seriously gushing over every single one.

3. Greg Pizzoli / Okay, this guy’s silkscreen prints are just too freaking cool. I’ve got major jealousy looking at his 32-page promotional zine, C’mon, Go!, and the hand-bound editions of his books are fine art, but could so easily be commercially reproduced.  His website is most effective too, with a fun, in-depth look at his process.

4. R.S. Posnak / We designers made a beeline for R.S.’s Oliver Jeffers-esque line work and letterpress business cards (we’re too predictable).  Turns out, she’s also a designer, and has an online portfolio with a healthy mix of sleek commerical projects (for adults) and vintage curios.  Hello, animal dioramas!

5. Brian Gerrity / On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Gerrity’s work is made for kids.  Fun, bubbly characters, with a smooth digital look, are perfect for little ones.  And what a whimsical sense of pattern… you can look back at the picture again and again, and still find something new.

New “Ollie And Logger” Painting

Finished revising one of the color pieces for Ollie And Logger, which is the first dummy book I’m polishing up for submission (my New Years’ resolution due date: April 1st!).  And… well… it’s an improvement.  I’m happy with Logger, the brown turtle, since he’s in the style of the first color piece I revised.  But wow, painting a plastic bag floating in the ocean is CRAZY hard!!

I heard a quote recently of an artist who wouldn’t accept any manuscripts that contained “horses or bicycles” (smart move).  Well, from now on, no more stories about amorphous objects in water, either.  Just say no.