Tag Archives: children’s books

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!

New Artist Showcase: Chris Harrington

Chris Harrington

blog: http://chrishillustration.blogspot.com

Christopher Scott Harrington graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in 2010 earning a BFA in Communications Design with a concentration in Illustration. He primarily works in watercolor, ink, and colored pencil to create humorous, fun, illustrations that are narrative in nature. When he’s not at his desk sketching and painting he enjoys juggling, unicycling and having a good time.

What kind of projects have you been working on lately?

Personal projects, I’ve been working on drawing kids, kids are a bit of a weak point for me but not going to shy away from them, they are a work in progress as is everything. But whether it’s a job or just for fun I approach it the same way…It’s all fun. As far as freelancing goes I’ve been doing mostly some animal character designs here and there…A lot of fun!

What do you do to keep new ideas flowing and stay fresh creatively?

I am constantly on the look out for new ideas, I can’t stand when I get “artist block” so to fix that I sometimes take day trips to a park, or to the mall, sketchbook in hand and jotting down notes and crude looking doodles of the things I see or hear. My mind is always thinking in narrative although sometimes my ideas are just babble that doesn’t make any sense what so ever, and wouldn’t be a successful illustration conceptually…But I’ve found that real life is a good source of inspiration. Hearing or seeing something tweaking the story making it your own creation. What comes next? Who are these people, animals or things? When asking myself those type of questions it keeps me fresh because the possibilities of what actually could come next are endless…And up to you.

How do you go about promoting your work?

I try and target certain places where I think my work could fit. Researching the client first and foremost finding out what they publish, what they want and look for. Depending who the client is, some prefer e-mails, or snail-mail, and sending a postcard every 3-6 months. Although I bug them a little more then they might like with postcard samples…They can either give me a job or a restraining order. But I’ve found the internet is the way I like to promote myself, although I do enjoy sending postcards with my illustration on the front and contact info on the back. I enjoy getting mail…Do they?

Anyways the internet, it’s easy, it’s accessible to many, and don’t bother finding a postage stamp. Although it’s easy to send it’s also easy for art directors to click delete. Regardless you never know who may come across your website, blog, youtube account, or that cute picture you took of your dog sleeping. You never know if the right person is viewing your work and say your perfect for this type of job. I try and display my art wherever I can, in public places I’ll be sketching and someone might come from behind and watch me for awhile ask me a few questions, I also try and carry business cards or some kind of sample to give out.

I think of it this way, it’s like planting seeds unsure if it will grow but you plant them anyway.

What has your involvement been like in the online community?  How is having an internet presence been helpful or inspiring to you? Why?

I keep and maintain a personal illustration blog, been familiarizing myself with YouTube and numerous social networking sites mainly to prompt my illustration work online. As well as joining a couple illustration blogs all similar but slightly different they all have the same basic idea or objective. Each week they list a topic that you will have to interpret through illustration means. Being active in a few of them and given a week for each illustration is kind of equivalent to a illustration/freelance job. You have to budget your time and meet a deadline. It’s been helpful in numerous ways, such as beefing up my portfolio, getting helpful advice from fellow artists and illustrators some published some not. Also a great creative outlet to explore and experiment.

An art director calls you up and offers you the ultimate “dream job/assignment”.  What is it?

Good question! I really enjoy drawing animals, they are my favorite. If an art director called me up one day and asked I need a cover illustration with a variety of animals as if they were posing for a “family portrait” and a wee bit dysfunctional. Actually I take that back not a cover illustration, make it like a movie poster? I would start that project even before the conversation was over. I would be so happy!

New Artist Showcase: Alexa Macfarlane

Alexa Macfarlane

Blog: www.alexaillustration.blogspot.com

What projects are you working on lately? Anything you’re particularly excited about?

Currently, I’m working on writing and illustrating a children’s book about a brother, sister, and a fortune cookie. I won’t tell you what happens though… you’ll have to wait to read it! I’m also working on some oil paintings which I’m very excited about, and a handful of other little craftsy projects like textile designs, glassware/dinnerware designs, and some digital illustrations. I’m also in the process of getting a website up and running, but for the meantime have been using my blog to showcase recent work. I’ve ALWAYS loved art–at least for as long as I can remember–and am so excited to graduate from Pratt in the spring to start life in “the real world” as an artist.

How has your art evolved in the past year? Have you discovered anything new about yourself as an illustrator?

In the past year I’ve realized my passion for children’s books even more. I’m having a lot of fun writing and illustrating new stories. I’ve always had a love for illustration that intertwines with graphic design, like the prints and patterns on clothing and home goods, and am finally discovering how to incorporate that into my work. I would love to design for a company like Anthropologie. I am also completely obsessed with buying items of this sort! This past year has been a period of discovery and development for me; I feel that I’ve finally found my niche (what I enjoy doing, although of course I’m open to the changes/growth that will come in the future) in illustration.

What is your creative process like? What do you do to keep new ideas flowing, especially under stress?

I find that I get inspired most by reading books, listening to music, and looking at artwork. I think that always surrounding yourself in art, no matter what form, will keep the creative process flowing. When I’m stuck on an idea or can’t quite figure it out, I take a break and do something that is not related to what I was working on at all. Some of the best ideas come when you’re lying in bed or in the shower—when your mind has time to think freely or when you think you aren’t thinking about your art at all!

As a student leader, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen or young people pursuing illustration?

As a student leader, I would encourage young people pursuing illustration to draw, draw, draw. And then draw some more (and keep these drawings compiled in your sketchbook so you don’t lose them). As a young person, it’s easy to get off track with so many responsibilities, decisions to be made, and while living a new lifestyle, but remember to stay focused and on top of your work. As I said above, I’d highly recommend that young artists go to as many gallery openings, exhibitions, and shows as they can and keep themselves surrounded in art, especially if you live in NYC–we have SO many opportunities here and we should use them. But most importantly, have fun! You should be doing art/illustration because you love it… and if you made some money off of loving it that would be great too.

You’re about to graduate from Pratt this May. What would be your dream first year, career-wise?

I would love to have a children’s book published!! My dream first year would be to get a book deal, stay in NYC, freelance, and/or even work as a designer at a publisher or at a company for textiles, product design/illustrations for home goods, or a magazine. Basically, I’d be happy working in any of those areas and am open to many more. My number one goal is just to be able to support myself with my artwork and to have fun with what I’m doing.

New Artist Showcase: Shaina Koval-Kim

Shaina Koval-Kim

Website: shaina.kovalkim.com

What kind of stories and projects are you working on lately?

I’ve been itching to do a children’s book lately, since I really want to let loose and bring some fun into my drawings. I enjoy drawing weird things, like monsters and strange animals with bulging eyes and random patches of hair, and I’ve doodled a few before deciding to come up with a story about an ugly– yet beautiful– dog. At the same time, another part of me likes drawing dark, moodier things, and I find myself sketching out illustrations like that, and sometimes finishing them.

What was your process of developing your style?

I’ve kept a sketchbook since I can remember. At first it was full of hideous self-portraits and deformed horses (all of which at the age of 10 or so I thought were amazing), but as I entered my teen years I started look at things other than textbook and museum art. I found anime, and I found Ralph Steadman. Some people look down on anime/manga-style drawings, but it taught me that things don’t have to look realistic to be functional. As for Ralph Steadman, I wanted to be him. Or live my life as his work, if I could only transform into a drawing. There was more simplicity in my drawings than in his, with cleaner lines (perhaps due to the fact that I spent a while drawings an obscene number of anime characters), but I mimicked what I could, adding texture and exaggerating to the best of my abilities with my Walgreens-bought pens and colored pencils. I had a style going on, but somehow after leaving Vassar College and going into Pratt, I reverted back and thought that all “real” art had to be painted. After a semester of mediocre paintings, one of my awesome professors, Cheryl Gross, looked at my sketchbook, saw my black and white line work, and taught me how to color in Photoshop. Best. Lesson. Ever. As I got better at Photoshop, my style started gaining more texture and my drawing improved. I also experimented with linocuts recently, and have found using them a great tool in terms of thinking about composition and color. And they have a great organic texture!

What do you use to work with?  What tools, art supplies and materials can you not live without?

I must have india ink, a small brush, and a dip pen, though in some cases, just a few Micron or Faber-Castell black pens will do. I could do a black and white illustration with just that. But I really do love Photoshop. I can fix things, I can add things, I can take them away again and compare between different versions. It allows me to see thousands of options before deciding on a final product, and I really love it just for that. Plus, then I only have to carry around my laptop and a Wacom tablet for a large part of my work, so I can take in anywhere.

If you could meet any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?

I have this nagging feeling that as soon as I answer this, I’ll think of at least a dozen more artists I would answer this question with, but for now I’d have to say my old favorite, Ralph Steadman. Though if I met him, I have no idea what I would do or say. Please let me live and frolic amongst your lines and splashes of color? His work is so loose, so inky, and so insanely alive that it boggles my mind. Though I no longer want to mimic him, every time I set pen/brush/pencil to paper, I aim to have that same vivaciousness exist in my own work.

New Artist Showcase: Heather Sisson

Heather Sisson

Blog: http://heatherinasuitcase.blogspot.com/

Website: http://heathersisson.carbonmade.com/

What interested you in doing artwork for TheyDrawAndCook? Do you cook as well as you draw?

Well when I first discovered theydrawandcook I thought the idea of an illustrated cookbook was very cute and unique. It was a great way to get my work looked at and see other illustrators that really inspired me. (The recipes were also very cute and I did try some!)

Im not the greatest cook but I am a very good baker. My last two years of Pratt I used baking as a stress relief from art. I didn’t realize how much I really enjoyed it until recently. I suppose art and baking have always been a large part of my life. When I was growing up my mom taught me how to bake and every night she would read a Golden book to my sister and I. What I would really like is to figure out a way to combine them. I am currently looking into Johnson & Wales cooking school to take a baking class for next January. (Earlier if I can!) I would love to build sets out of baked goods for my children’s books. I’m still working out the kinks but eventually I will find a way to make things work.

What do you use to work with? What tools/materials can you not live without?

Now this is a question I have been trying to figure out for a while now. In the past year I have tried watercolor, collage, acrylic, gouache, ink, etc. Watercolor is my favorite but recently I have been very successful with collage. Two years ago my professor (Rudy Gutierrez) assigned a project that frustrated me to no end. Somehow I ended up with a beautiful mixed media collage of a wolf. I have never been a fan of collage so I stopped only to recently make a few new ones. Katelan Foisey and David Hollenbach have been great inspirations for me in the last few weeks. They do amazing collages that are unlike anything I have ever seen. I don’t feel like I have found what makes me, me yet but I am on my way.

No matter what paper or medium I work with I always feel the need to incorporate watercolor somehow. (It’s not a Heather painting unless there’s transparency!)

What’s your ideal studio environment?

At first I thought it would be at my desk with a pair of headphones and an ipod but now I would say I prefer to be near other people. There is nothing better then working at a table with a group of your friends. Listening to everyone’s stories and corny jokes somehow makes me much more productive.

What kind of volunteer work do you do? How does it inspire you creatively?

During my sophomore year at Prattmwp I was a mentor. I have always stressed about loans, dorms, and everything that comes with college. By sharing my own experiences with others it helped me overcome my own fears and worries. At the moment I am trying to get involved with a volunteer program that helps children during tough times. (It’s called Cross Roads) I will basically read children’s books to kids while their parents try to find jobs or get more work hours.

The one thing I have always loved about children literature is that sometimes the stories have adult themes with a simple concept and conclusion. Children look at the world so simply and straight to the point. You’d be surprised by how a kid can make more sense than an adult. That inspires me, the simple responses of a child towards difficult problems.

What kind of freelance jobs are you looking to pursue in the future?

I would really love to have my books published or even illustrate for someone else’s story. I might do a editorial here or there but I feel like the subject will always be child oriented.

The 10 Best Things You Can Do For Your Illustrations

an old promo of mine . . . I’m siiiinging in the rain! © 2009

Last week, one of my most entertaining publishing blog reads, the INTERN, posted a piece called “The Ten Best Things You Can Do For Your Manuscript“.  There are some similarities between the teeming slush piles of art and word, but a lot of the process is actually very different.  So, artists, let’s hear it for your list:

The Ten Best Things You Can Do For Your Illustrations

1.  Find your style

Not to get all “follow your bliss” from the beginning, but there is nothing more important than being amazing at your own personal style – the way that characters and actions come to you naturally. Trying to show an art director that you can do every style just leaves them unsure of how you would approach a project. Instead, let them come to you for what you do best!

2.  Hang out with other artists

You’ll be motivated by association, gain more constructive critiques than your grandma telling you how “darling” your illustrations are, and share insights on the industry as you get rich and famous – together.

3.  Be in three places at once

Don’t just focus on one opportunity.  Share your art everywhere – your local coffee shop, an illustration annual, your friend’s neighbor’s band’s show’s posters… everywhere you can.  You never know when the right person might see your work!

4.  Draw in stories

In children’s books, it’s not enough to create one epic piece.  You have to be able to keep the characters animated and flowing, with the same level of quality, for 6 months and 32 pages of your life. Whenever you begin a new character, draw them in at least 3-5 complete scenes, with different expressions, so an art director has everything they need to know to sign you.  A dummy book of sketches (with at least 2 finished pieces!) is even better.

5.  Bring your portfolio to the local bookstore

No, don’t show it to the clerk eyeing you behind their Buddy Holly glasses!  Put your portfolio under your arm and, literally, put it side by side with art that is actually being published.  Are your stylized cartoons as naturally clever as Mo Willems‘?  Or do you think your colored-pencil portraits of your dogs just aren’t as action-packed and engaging as the rest of the picture books about puppies?  Be honest with yourself!

6.  Target your audience

There is no point soliciting 100 different imprints if the imprint wouldn’t publish the kind of work that you do. Do research on what kind of books are already out there, and be specific to whom you submit. Tell them why, briefly, in your cover letter why your book would be perfect for them.

7.   Read submission guidelines carefully

For instance, at our imprint (but not for others, mind), if a submission does not include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, it is almost guaranteed to get thrown away. Give them the opportunity to send the dummy back to you, and at least you could get helpful feedback from the rejection letter.

8.  Present your work like a graphic designer

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to submit a dummy that is clean and neatly printed and presented (just order a paperback from Lulu or even make your own). A designer is more likely to pass along a book that has a great design than one that was garish, messy, or worst of all, had typos!  Are you amazing at acrylics but can’t typeset to save your life?  Coerce a designer-friend to help you out!

9.  Drop off your portfolio

Postcards are a great start to reach a lot of contacts, and you’re not even a real person these days without an online presence.  On the flip side, repeatedly cold-calling designers and insisting you won’t hang up until you’re published is the fastest way to get on their imaginary blacklist.  But with the flood of emails and cards, what will get you that extra 3 minutes of their time to actually have someone look at your work?  I hesitate to say this for fear of finding 15 portfolios on my desk next week, but setting up a time for a portfolio drop-off, if the publisher still does that kind of thing, might be the trick to get a timely and informed response from someone in publishing.

10.   Never stop learning to draw

Even the most accomplished illustrators still spend their free time practicing their craft, learning the latest technique and lounging around the Society’s Sketch Nights.  Don’t get discouraged because your art isn’t yet the awe of every art director in town, and don’t get complacent when it is!  Just keep drawing, okay?

photo credit – this artist/Pratt alum’s  postcard (not shown, too lazy to scan) is my favorite ever, and has sat in my cube since before my time.  But check out Evah Fan’s awesome 3-D work!

It’s Not As Simple As It Seems – Part II

Thinking about Neal Hagberg‘s commitment to addressing social issues in his songs, it got me to thinking about what I could do to incorporate important themes into my own children’s books. Since I don’t have a second senior project lined up yet (think… think…), this could be a perfect opportunity to create something that is meaningful to me, and could speak to others as well.

I’ve mentioned before that I remain VERY skeptical of the use of biblio-therapy. I fear that basing a children’s book around a “moral” or lesson could lead to a preachy tale that hits the reader over the head – I’d rather see books as a form of escapism or entertainment.

However, when I thought about it, some of the best books speak to greater issues, teaching children (and adults!) while still being beautiful and expressive in themselves.  Here’s my top five:

1.  Religious Tolerance: The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster, 1996).  When scarlet fever falls on Trisha’s Christian neighbors, her Russian Jewish family prepares a celebration for them, complete with latke dinners and Christmas trees.

Roy and Silo (photo credit and full article)

2.  HomosexualityAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (Simon & Schuster, 2005).  This is a story about a REAL gay penguin family in the Central Park Zoo!  I still can’t believe that this adorable story of nurturing is on banned books lists all over.

“We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families.  It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.” – Justin Richardson, to the New York Times

3.  Death of a ChildThe Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade, 2007).  This is the most beautiful book on death I’ve ever seen, using the imagery that terminally ill children express in art therapy of a floating purple or blue balloon.

4.  BullyingChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 1991).  Unusual children (ahem… like myself) need to grow up with this book of standing out and being “absolutely perfect” even if you’re different.

5.  CharityThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister Herbert (North-South Books, 1995).  Today’s society needs this book to learn how to share a bit.  (Note: when I was looking it up on Amazon, there was a comment about this book being “socialist propaganda”.  Case in point).

Can a children’s book make a difference (or make a point) in the world?  These five did it.  But can – or should – I?  I’m going to find out.

– ABE