Saturday, March 29, 2014

Grandpa Dropped His Glasses

Grandpa dropped his glasses once in a pot of dye,
And when he put them on again he saw a purple sky.
Purple birds were rising up from a purple hill,
Men were grinding purple cider at a purple mill.
Purple Adeline was playing with a purple doll,
Little purple dragonflies were crawling up the wall.
And at the supper table he got crazy as a loon,
From eating purple apple dumplings with a purple spoon.

I love poetry and finding inspiration in them for new illustrations. Recently before going to sleep I was reading one of my poetry books when I came across this one by Leroy F. Jackson. I thought how much fun it would be to illustrate and grabbed a pencil and paper to sketch out my ideas before shutting off the light. It reminded me of my favorite book, The Wizard of Oz, when the characters arrive at the Emerald City and are required to wear green glasses. Everyone in the city has to wear the glasses- the Wizard's way of fooling them into thinking that the city really is all made of emeralds. I liked the challenge of illustrating a piece using variations of only one color and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mr. Wiggles

Here are a couple of finished pages from the book dummy I've been working on, Checkers and Dot. I really did have a pet rabbit growing up named Mr. Wiggles. He was initially used in a disappearing trick with the family act, but preferred being just our pet and having hops around the block on his leash to being in the spotlight.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Wood Between the Worlds

A few months ago I was listening to The Magician's Nephew on audiobook as I worked on another piece. I remembered that I really enjoyed reading it when I was a child, but I didn't recall much of it. As I listened to the chapter called The Wood Between the Worlds, my head was filled with wonderful visuals of this strange place. It is described as a place where it is so quiet and peaceful you can hear the trees growing, a place where it is easy to forget who you are and where you may feel content to lay down in the grass forever. Digory and his friend Polly have been sent there by his wicked uncle using magic rings and they are to report back to him on what they find. What they find (once they remember who they are and why they are there)is the guinea pig who was the original experiment, eating the grass with one of the magic rings tied round him. They also find that nothing ever happens there, but that by jumping in the pools they can be transported to other lands. I won't give anymore away- but it is a wonderful story. I remembered why I enjoyed reading it so much as a child and why it was my favorite of the Narnia books. It also gives the origins of how things in Narnia came to be, so it helps if you have read the other books first- or at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Chronologically the book comes first, but it was the last of the seven Narnia books that C.S. Lewis wrote.

The image stayed in my head as I packed up my studio to move to a new location. I was so glad once it was set up again so that I could finally get my vision of this hazy and mysterious place out of my head and onto paper!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

From the Sketchbook...

I haven't had much time to sketch the last few months, but yesterday I went with my sister and five year old niece Jade to get her haircut and do some back to school shopping. The stylist gave her a bob, and we found a vintage style polka dot dress and bow while shopping. Her new look definitely fits her personality and she loved it, and it made me itch to get a pencil and paper in my hands and do a quick sketch.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cats Sleep Anywhere

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open draw, empty shoe, anybody's lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don't care! Cats sleep anywhere.

This poem by Eleanor Farjean made me smile and think of my own cat, Dino, who does sleep anywhere... his favorite place being on me. But he also likes to sleep...

on a couch,

in a box,

on a bed,

under newspapers,

and on top of the fireplace mantle.

Silly kitty.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Waiting For Wings

This is the newest addition to my portfolio, although I've had the idea for quite a while. I've always enjoyed drawing bugs of different kinds, which have made their way into several sketches and illustrations. I illustrated the first version of a girl riding on a butterfly a few years ago:

I loved the energy of the illustration, and I wanted to do more with it in terms of storytelling. Because my interest is in children's books it's important that every piece in my portfolio not just be pleasing to look at but also show a story, one that would make a viewer curious to turn the page and find out more.

So I sketched out a world where the caterpillars are waiting for the day when they'll have their wings and their small companions will be able to soar in the sky with them like the older children they are watching from the flower garden.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Clown Story

*Click on image to view it larger!

These are two finished illustrations from a story I'm working on about a little clown girl and her clown dad. My dad actually was a professional clown when I was growing up, and I have a lot of fun tales to tell about it. I was encouraged by two speakers at one of the SCBWI conferences (who were amused by these stories I told over dinner) to get them written down. I worked on it for a long time and what kept sticking out in my mind were all the little day to day things that made life different (and more fun) growing up with my dad, who has always been a clown with or without the make-up. My mother joined in later, and I became one as well when I was about nine years old at a National Clown Convention after I wandered into a make-up class looking for my parents. I didn't find them but I stayed because it looked interesting, and walked out an hour later in full clown make-up. There was no going back, I became part of the act! A few years later when we had some bigger jobs my younger sister and brother got into costume and make-up and the whole family put on a show.

A picture of my dad and I. The "C" on his hat stands for Checkers, and I was Sweetie Pie.

Me on the cover of Hopscotch Magazine! My big break!

My younger sister, trying out some looks.

My brother, being silly. This picture always makes me laugh.

The family putting on a show for a company picnic.

P.S.- My dad never actually set dinner on fire, although he did burn some popcorn on the stove and melt the plastic bowl the popcorn was supposed to go in, which left the kitchen pretty smokey and smelly.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Illustration Friday: Edge

I'm busy getting my portfolio ready for the SCBWI conference in New York with a few new pieces, but I decided to take a couple of minutes with my sketchbook and ink pen to participate in's word of the week, "Edge". I thought it was too good of a word not to stop and have a little fun with it!

* Click on the image if you'd like to view it larger!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lots of Cats

This is an illustration from a book dummy I've been working on the last few months about a witch who takes in one cat- and then another, and then another, and so on. The idea came to me after living with a friend who was always taking in and caring for stray animals- I began to think that they had a sixth sense about knowing the right doorstep to show up on. I even took in one of the cats she found out in the snow last year, who I named Linus- he is a wonderful cat and has become best pals with my first cat, Dino. Unlike the witch in my story, however, two is my limit! I hope to share more from this story in future posts!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

From the Sketchbook...

Things have gotten busy with the holidays, as they usually do, and I'm now getting back on track. I'll be attending the national SCBWI conference in New York at the end of January, and I have lots to do before I leave! This is a character I'm starting to work on for a book I've written. I have a lot of experience drawing clowns- I drew lots and lots of them growing up because my family, believe it or not, actually were clowns!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

December 6th is St. Nicholas Day, so I thought it would be fun to post up this Santa piece from a few years ago. A local entertainment paper asked a few artists to come up with their own idea of what St. Nicholas looks like, and this was mine!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Orpheum at Christmas Time

Let the holiday season begin! And what better way to do it than with a Christmas movie? It's how my family always started ours. I remember my aunt putting in Miracle on 34th Street for the first time when I was a kid on the little t.v. in her kitchen and she and my grandmother and I sat around the table and watched it (while probably eating some Christmas goodies). Of course I loved it, along with many other classic movies that I was introduced to sitting in that kitchen.

I've had the idea to do an illustration featuring a movie theater for a while. This is a sketch I did a few years back:

I got busy with other things and set it aside until recently. The photo I used as a reference is of my hometown Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa in the 1940's. It's my favorite place in town, and I actually have gotten to see Miracle on 34th Street along with several other holiday films that have been shown there since it re-opened. It's so beautiful inside, I like to pretend while I'm sitting in the dark in this grand old theater watching the movie that I've gone back in time to when they first showed it.

I used my collection of old photographs from the 40's for the inspiration, too. I love to see the clothes they wore back then- especially the hats. I have about a dozen photographs of this same family through World War II, winter play, and summer camps. I wonder sometimes about who they were and what their story was.

Maybe their mother or father took them to see Miracle on 34th Street during a Saturday afternoon matinee after some Christmas window shopping. The movie came out in 1947 when my grandmother, Ann Taylor, was 27 years old. Her birthday was Dec. 6th (which was on a Saturday that year, coincidentally) so I decided to put it on the marquee. I was surprised to learn that Maureen O'Hara was the same age! I added two movie posters on each side of the doors- one is The Bishop's Wife, another great holiday flick with Cary Grant and Loretta Young. The other is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison (and Natalie Wood!) and it's one of my all time favorites. They both came out in 1947 as well.

It was fun being able to add those personal things. Miracle on 34th Street was such a big hit when it came out, surely one that would have made for lots of parents taking their little ones!

My grandmother walking in downtown Sioux City, 1940's.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day-Before-Thanksgiving Blues

I tested out new art supplies on this one, Prismacolor Art Stix, which were really fun to play around with. Worked perfect for coloring these poor little turkeys awaiting their Thanksgiving Day fate!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From the Sketchbook...

My favorite Halloween story:

When I was five years old my mother worked nights, and so it was up to my father to get my younger sister and I into costumes and take us to our church's Halloween party. My sister took some convincing, but I thought my dad had done a pretty awesome job picking them out. Upon walking in the door of our church, the festivities halted and all eyes were on us. I saw a girl dressed like Mary, holding baby Jesus. There was also Noah, and Abraham, and a few shepherds... and I knew something was not right. The theme of the party was to come dressed as a character from the Bible, and my dad never got the message.

And so there was Mary, Joseph, Noah, Abraham, some shepherds and a couple of Kooky Spooks. We went ahead and had a great time, anyway!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkinhead People

When I was a kid I loved to read the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, and the character of Jack Pumpkinhead, illustrated by John R. Neill, was one of my favorites. Every year as it gets closer to Halloween, I'm inspired to create my own "pumpkinhead" people in my sketchbook. They are so much fun to draw, and a few of them I have turned into finished illustrations.

SCBWI-IA Illustrators Show

The past few months have been busy ones! In August I moved, which is always a major effort because it means taking apart my studio, and transporting all of my work and art that I have collected, plus what seems like a million books. And then comes setting it all back up again (so I try not to move too often if I can help it!)

At the same time I was working to coordinate an exhibit of illustration work from eleven of the SCBWI-IA illustrator members. It is still being held at the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and we had a wonderful turn-out for our opening reception on September 29th.

Owen, the gallery cat, taking ownership of our promotional materials.

Now that my studio is (mostly) set up again and the show is up and running, it's back to the drawing board!