Video Half-Day Friday: Hope For Haiti

Do something good before jetting off this weekend – check out this beautifully-produced video from Pearson’s We Give Books and On My Mind Foundation. These two organizations paired up on a trip to Haiti to help schools affected by the earthquake disaster last year, and address the overwhelming illiteracy rate in that area. Now, We Give Books is providing 1,000 books to kids in Haiti, and you can find out more and help here.

The video features Jesse Joshua Watson, author/illustrator of the Putnam book Hope For Haiti, one of my favorite picture books we’ve published recently.  Jesse’s artwork is brilliantly colored and perfectly suited to this uplifting story.  It goes well beyond soccer and speaks straight to the heart of Haiti’s youngest generation.  A must read – and I’m so glad that children in Haiti were able to experience it in their own language!

Bemidji Book Festival 2011

You’d think that being in rural Minnesota wouldn’t bring much in the way of industry happenings, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  My Midwest visit just so happened to coincide with the Bemidji Book Festival, a 6-day marathon of events with local authors, poets and illustrators.  Kudos to the Bemidji Library and the MN Legacy Fund for making this all happen!

I stepped off the plane and immediately headed to a presentation by Catherine Friend, author of both children’s stories and the adult books, Hit By A Farm, Sheepish, and The Compassionate Carnivore.  With a humble, witty voice on her 1 1/2 memoirs and a great perspective on local farming (and sheep), she’s like a lady Michael Pollan with a personal touch.  I’m thinking it’s time to take a closer look her kids’ books, and also take up knitting!

The next morning, I accessed my inner child by attending Thursday morning’s library event with author/illustrator Lynne Jonell.  While Jonell got her start in picture books, she’s now known for her middle-grade novels, like Emmy And The Incredible Shrinking Rat.  I think the design (by Amelia May Anderson) and art (by Jonathan Bean) for Emmy is impeccable – the hand-drawn type is seamlessly integrated to the limited-color line drawings, which carry over into a flip-book style interior. Plus, it was a pleasure to listen to Lynne’s story and watch her graciously field questions from aspiring picture book authors with just the right answers (five letters: SCBWI) and some kind inspiration.

On Friday night, we headed to the high school for an author’s fair.  While most of the authors were of the niche, poetry or self-published variety, I did discover Erik Evenson, a graphic novelist/illustrator who is – get this – originally from New Hampshire!  His Gods of Asgard and autobiographical web comic, Erik’s Sketchbook Diary, were easily the best-designed finds at the fair.  Definitely check out his work if you’re interested in comics.

But nothing at the festival could top Friday’s keynote speaker, Roxana Saberi.  Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist who was imprisoned in Iran and falsely charged of spying in 2009, now speaks about her life, Iran, and the book she wrote about her experiences (Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity In Iran).  She talked eloquently and powerfully about the human rights movements in Iran and the Middle East, and it certainly encouraged me to get more involved.  Can’t wait to finish reading her book!

It’s been an action-packed visit here in Bemidji, and while I’m always happy to return to Brooklyn, I could still use another week or two relaxing in the country and soaking up all that Minnesota has to offer.

Belated BEA Busyness

Well, it’s been another one of those times where my blog has hit a bit of a lag!  My life these days is crazy busy, personally and professionally, so I really can’t complain.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for writing about my experiences or keeping up with my social media presence.  So now that I’m comfy on the recliner on vacation in Bemidji, it’s time to play a little Walking In Public catch-up…

First off, if you haven’t headed over to my new gig as a columnist on the blog, Publishing Trendsetter, you want to go to there!  The site is full of great advice and insight from young professionals on those either in their first few years, or looking to get into the industry.  As for me, I’ll be bringing the visual inspiration with the column, Design Candy.

A few weeks ago, I kicked it off on Trendsetter with my favorite design finds, head-to-head, from the publishing extravaganza of the year, BEA.  But I had a lot of favorite moments that didn’t make it onto that post.  For some reason, most of the Big 6 publishers disappoint – their large space isn’t utilized with books, but posters/video screens that don’t make an impact.  It’s the indie publishers (plus the usual suspects in Chronicle, Candlewick and Abrams) that make up the best exhibits.

Missed BEA the first time around?  Check out my highlights now:

Chronicle Books: Is designer heaven – no one even comes close to these guys in my book.

Abrams: They always pull out all the stops, this time with a giant snowglobe.

International: Saudi Arabia is by far the friendliest, but I love looking through all the foreign-language books.

Candlewick Press: No pics of the display, but note the presence of actual kids’ books.

Workman: Fun exhibit full of books, and I got a Sophie Blackall Missed Connections poster – my favorite swag of the day!

Enchanted Lion Books: Nice use of the full jacket proofs on the background.

Mo’s Nose: These self-publishers pulled out all the stops with cool display and marketing.  Plus, I think the idea of an app based on a scratch-and-sniff book is hilarious.

Hyperion: Okay, I have to be honest, this is not on my favorite list.  I just have to ask… what is with the harvest cornucopia?!  I can’t help but laugh at this one.

And, of course… here’s Penguin:

Best of Student Work 2011 – Part 2: The Pratt Show

Mozart at the Beach from Christee Curran on Vimeo.

Oh, the Pratt Show . . . it’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since all the momentous graduation-related events were happening to me!  It was great to be on the other side of things last week… browsing new artists, sipping champagne and catching up with old classmates, without the stress of having my own work in the show.

This year’s class certainly didn’t disappoint in talent!  I was so proud to see many familiar faces represented at the show, from Sarah Mimo‘s swoonworthy clocks, to new textile prints from Alexa MacFarlane and new comics from our former Putnam intern, Kris Mukai.  I’m also jumping for joy to showcase Christee Curran‘s video storyboard project (above). How adorable is that kid at the beach?!

In addition to old friends, there were also a few new faces at the show.  Here were my favorite kids’/book related discoveries:

1. Alexandria Marie Compo / I loved her quirky animal characters, and combination of digital and hand-crafted work. In fact, we were all so taken with her 3-D figures that they almost “walked” away with us!  Very well suited for the pages of a trade hardcover picture book.

2. Michelle Lynch / Michelle’s range of work is crazy – I’ve honestly never seen a graduating student grasp the concept of licensing so well!  Her style may be “simple”, but she captures a bright, cute and fun spirit with ease, and then translates it to a wide variety of products, books and character designs.

3. Erin Maala / Erin’s intricate paper-cutting skills had all of us Penguin employees drooling over her book jackets like Wuthering Heights and The Bell Jar. Another classic book series in the making, perhaps?

4. Zoe Norvell / With smart, sophisticated humor, Zoe designs books that are seriously attention-grabbing.  I especially appreciated the wit and depth of information in her collections The Future Of The Book and OKCupid.  Oh, and – how could I forget? – she redesigned Harry Potter, and we liked it. A lot.


lil zines and silkscreens from jane mai on Vimeo.

5. Jane Mai / Her work might look like it could be for kids, but trust me . . . it’s grown-ups only.  But her irreverent, freaking-hilarious style translates perfectly to comics, zines and more – so make sure to head on over to her site for the full experience!

Best Of Student Work 2011 – Part 1: SVA MFA Thesis Show

May means graduation time, and New York City is filled with student exhibitions and senior work on display for the world to hire.  So for the next few weeks, I’ll be snooping several art schools’ openings for new and inspiring illustrators, and bringing the best of the best right here to the blog.

I started with the School of Visual Arts’ MFA Thesis exhibition last night!  I’d highly recommend trekking to Chelsea for both design and illustration. Details below:

Visual Arts Gallery / 601 W 26th Street, 15th floor

April 29-May 14, 2011 / Mon-Sat, 10 am – 6 pm

All the student work was of exceptional quality (they ARE MFAs, after all), but here were my Top 5:

1. Hye Su / Looking at Hye Su’s body of work is like stepping into a completely different universe.  Her mastery of a range of mediums (from embroidery, to zines/books, to 3-dimensional objects) remain entirely consistent – everything is shown through her very unique lens.  I couldn’t get enough of her wild and wonderful characters!

2.  Lisa Anchin / Of anyone else at the show, it was Lisa who was made for children’s books.  I was impressed how prolific and professional her work was – at least 4 or 5 book dummies ready to go, and full of adorable characters and dynamic compositions to boot.  Lucky for me, guess which Penguin imprint she’ll be interning at this summer?  That’s right… we’re very excited to have her!

3.  Philip Cheaney / How excited was I to see someone who created a fully-formed eBook app?!  I was really impressed with (read: jealous of) its smooth, polished look on the iPad.  His bold, graphic lines and color sensibility are perfect for medieval subjects like Tristan & Iseult.  Check out his animations here.

4.  Pimlada Phyapradit / Pimlada’s another artist with a very different way of approaching characters.  Her broken-down toys are sweet and childlike, but with a touch of melancholy.  I’m most impressed, though, with the muted pastel tones throughout her book – it really adds to the wood textures and her drawing style overall.

5.  Jungyeon Roh / Jungyeon’s silkscreen prints are seriously, seriously stunning.  The illustrations for her book, Hot (featured in the show), somehow strike a balance between whimsical color and powerful content, with a bonus of beautiful hand-drawn type.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she continues to garner major awards and editorial publications in the future!

Farm Animal Sketch Preview

Wow . . . I am having so much fun working on this recent iPhone app project I’ve been blabbing about. The game app consists of identifying every farm animal under the sun, so I recently completed all the character sketches.  I’m really satisfied with the work I’ve done thus far.  They look like a cute little family!

There’s still much to be done, but in the meantime, enjoy this sneak preview of a few of my favorite farm animals . . . and get your iPhones at the ready for its release this summer!


Best-Illustrated Game Apps for Babies/Toddlers

I know, I know . . . it’s been too long since I’ve posted. But in that time, a new project has been brewing.  I’ve been offered the opportunity to illustrate and design an iPhone app for babies/toddlers, and I couldn’t be more excited. So stay tuned for tons more updates as I enter the world of new media and app development!

In doing market research and speaking with the app developer, I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to game apps for babies and toddlers, the market is wide open.  For instance, the Toddler Teasers series (above) has sold millions of apps – I’ll bite my tongue and leave you to judge the images and design for yourself.

What’s lacking, overall, are game apps with high-quality illustrations.  Who says that images in an app have to look digital, cartoonish, mass-market, or be pasted together with clip art and stock photos?  The developer and I agree that it doesn’t have to be that way – and I’m looking forward to putting the same watercolor, hand-drawn quality into this app that I would into a trade picture book.

That being said, there are a few good illustrated apps out there (and some nicely-designed apps that don’t need illustrations at all).  Before I dive into book apps, let’s take a look at some nice iPhone game apps for toddlers:

1. Peekaboo Barn (Night And Day Studios) / The most comparable app to ours, Peekaboo Barn’s game of farm animal names has been downloaded over 400,000 times!  Illustrator Divya Srinivasan’s young, quirky illustrations are well suited for the app world as well – quite a departure from her editorial work.  Be sure to check out the sequels, Charley Harper’s Peekaboo Forest and Peekaboo Wild.

2. Word Wagon (Duck Duck Moose)Duck Duck Moose is another award-winning app developer that I can really get behind.  Their animated characters and levels of learning look like a lot of fun, don’t they?  And as far as illustrations that are super-digital, these are pretty sharp.  Check out their other apps like Park Math, Wheels On The Bus, and Fish School.

3. Tiny Tunes Toy Piano (562 Studios) / A well-designed interactive way to start off your kid when they’re still too young for piano lessons. The combination of note name, letter, color (and bonus – animated animals!) could help small kids learn basic songs in no time.

4. Uncolor (Christy Brant Co.) / An innovative and simple twist on the illustrated app.  Just draw on the screen with your finger and an image appears beneath the black surface.  Kind of like those rainbow Scratch Art boards from childhood!

5.  Balloonimals (IDEO Toy Lab) / Because I – literally – could find no other illustrated, non-licensed-character apps for babies and toddlers that I thought were well done, here’s my favorite non-illustrated app.  The design is gorgeous, 3-dimensional, and interactive.  Just beware not to spit on your phone when you blow up the balloon!