Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Covers





I've recently been commissioned by a company in Hollywood, California that rents artwork and props to create fifteen (cleared) book covers that will be available for television and film use. The only instructions I was given were to leave room for the titles (which I plan to hand illustrate and add later) and to keep them fairly simplistic because a camera would not be able to pick up on a lot of little detail. The funny thing is that even though these aren't real books, they are giving me real story ideas for what happens to the book cover characters I am creating. These are the first two of the fifteen- it will be exciting to see which television shows or films they show up in!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Babe

This illustration is one of my personal favorites, and I thought it would be appropriate for posting on MLB's Opening Day. I was raised in a house that rooted for the Tigers, not the Yankees (doing an illustration of Ty Cobb somehow didn't seem as heartwarming) but I think Babe Ruth is the greatest player there has ever been. It isn't just because of the incredible stats but for his love of the game, for the way his fans loved him and the way he loved them back. Especially kids- he was known to call everybody "kid" and to them he was larger than life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Illustration Friday: Strong





When I saw that the word of the week on Illustration Friday was strong, what came to mind is how strong creative people must be to be able to do what they do. Strength to share their work with the world and make themselves vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure; strength to tune out voices from people who are not supportive or understanding, strength to try an unfamiliar technique or medium, and the strength to spend many, many hours in isolation honing their craft.

When I feel down about a particular rejection or string of rejections, there are people who will tell me not to give up. The thing is, I don't know how to do that anyway. I've never even considered it, because I feel so passionately about the art of picture books and being a children's book illustrator is the only thing I have ever wanted to be (really, I don't know what else I would do). I don't think there is weakness in feeling sad or frustrated when the rejections seem endless. But there is strength in not allowing those feelings to linger too long, in picking oneself up and doing whatever works best to get back in the positive, creative frame of mind. Reading always seems to help me do that, so does music. There is a line from a Jim Croce song I like that goes "ain't nobody ever had a rainbow baby, until he had the rain." They are words I try to keep in mind every time I open my mailbox to find another rejection, along with some very encouraging words that came from a well-known author/illustrator I admire who told me that my work was so strong and funny and emotional that getting published wouldn't be a question of if, but a question of when.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From the Sketchbook...



A drawing that I found from a few years ago while going through some old sketchbooks, from when my niece was a baby and her big brother liked to take her toys away!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

POP!



Here are a couple of color images from the newest story that I have been working on about a little porcupine who would very much like a balloon of his own, but many unexpected things (bees, birds, clowns, himself) make it difficult for him to keep them from popping.

My nearly wordless book was partly inspired by my love for comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. Because their films were silent and told mostly through actions and emotions, with only a few words appearing on the screen, I think they are very similar to the art of the picture book. I love the surprise element of their films- when you think one thing is going to go wrong, it turns out to be something else. A perfect example of that is a scene from a Buster Keaton short called One Week, in which Keaton is attempting to move his house on wheels across some train tracks, with disastrous but very funny results. Check it out here.

Jellyman Kelly


Growing up my dad introduced me through his record collection to many musicians of the 60's and 70's, including James Taylor- but Jellyman Kelly was one of Taylor's songs that I serendipitously discovered on my own while watching Sesame Street. I love it's nonsense lyrics (I read that the song came out of a poem that his five year old daughter Sally wrote at school). It came up on a playlist recently while I was working on another project and I started to think about who Jelly Man Kelly and Jenny Mulhenny were, and why is there a big question as to whether she will let him come home? I decided Jellyman Kelly must be a jelly salesman- only he eats more than he sells, and makes a big sticky mess in the process. Jenny Mulhenny is his wife and she likes to boil hot water for her tea. The answer to whether Jellyman Kelly can come home? No! (At least not until he sells the rest of that jelly and cleans himself up)!

Here is a link to James Taylor singing the song on Sesame Street. I give you fair warning if you take a listen- it is quite infectious and you will most likely be singing it to yourself the rest of the day!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Illustration Friday: Sleep



I am willing to admit that sometimes my bed looks like this when I fall asleep at night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cat Support Group



Last year a single friend of mine turned 30 and made the comment that maybe it was time to give up and get a cat. There seems to be a negative stereotype about the woman over a certain age living alone with her cats. There is a line from one of my favorite shows, Mad Men, where Peggy's mother advises her, " If you're lonely, get a cat. After twelve years, get another one. Then another. Then you're done."

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas





Every year I have the same one wish for Christmas- snow. It's hard to get into the holiday spirit when you look out the window and see lighted trees and decorations surrounded by dead grass and dirt. Growing up in Iowa, most years I have gotten my wish. This year it has been rainy and gray, and with a few days left till Christmas I am still hopeful!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Little Dogs









I have been drawing these fluffy white dog characters in one form or another since I was a kid. As I was cleaning out a drawer in my studio recently, I came across some light sketches of them that I had started a few years ago. Since they fit the theme of the holiday season, I decided to finish them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Illustration Friday: Sea



The word for Illustration Friday this week fits with a couple of illustrations that I have done that were inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson poem My Bed is a Boat.

My bed is like a little boat;
Nurse helps me in when I embark;
She girds me in my sailor’s coat
And starts me in the dark.

At night I go on board and say
Good-night to all my friends on shore;
I shut my eyes and sail away
And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,
As prudent sailors have to do;
Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,
Perhaps a toy or two.

All night across the dark we steer;
But when the day returns at last,
Safe in my room beside the pier,
I find my vessel fast.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Oz



I don't remember the first time I was introduced to Oz, perhaps age three or four. The story of a Midwest girl like myself who goes on an amazing adventure must have captured my imagination, however, because I have been intrigued with Oz ever since.

When I was seven and old enough to read on my own I checked out the book by L. Frank Baum from the library- and as much as I loved the movie and Judy Garland, I loved the book even more. Quickly I went through Baum's 13 other stories about the land of Oz and it's many wonderful inhabitants. Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik Tok, and the Patchwork Girl were a few of my favorites. I spent quite a bit of time as a child thinking about how much I would like to go to Oz and visit these characters.

Here is photo of me in the first grade wearing a Dorothy costume for Halloween:


And here is a photo of me in the second grade, wearing the same Dorothy costume for school picture day:


Recently I read a biography of L. Frank Baum called Finding Oz, which detailed the events in his life that led him to the eventual success of his American fairy tale The Wizard Of Oz when he was 43 years old. Pieces of his failed careers as a chicken breeder, traveling playright, castor oil salesman, and store owner/ newspaper man in Aberdeen all found their way into his story. There were also inspirations for The Emerald City from the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and a strong female protagonist in Dorothy from his famous suffragist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage.

As an aspiring author/illustrator I found particular inspiration in Baum's optimistic outlook that endured through his many failures- he never stopped telling his stories to children and he never gave up hope. I had heard from different sources over the years that initially Oz was rejected by fifteen different publishers. This is a story however that Baum most likely embellished, because the book explains that he only had one handwritten manuscript (where is that now?!) and it would have been highly unlikely that it would have been sent to so many houses. He had success the previous year with Father Goose, His Book and his publisher was ready to take a chance on Oz.

I'm glad they did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lots of Cats



I wanted a color piece from my book dummy to add to my portfolio, and I thought this scene would be perfect for the season we are headed into.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IF: Journey



The word of the week for Illustration Friday is Journey, which is great because the newest story I've been working on has to do with an imaginative little mouse who embarks on his own adventurous journey. I loved using rich, earthy colors on this little fellow and it made me wish that fall was here already!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tomie dePaola Award


I was thrilled upon hearing the news that I was chosen as one of the fifteen finalists for the Tomie dePaola Award! I am very thankful to Tomie dePaola and SCBWI for the honor.

In other years the prompt has been to illustrate a passage from a book or a poem of his choosing. This year the task was to create characters and a story from our own imaginations in six panels, so the possibilities were wide open! I think it was a wonderful assignment because for illustrators aspiring to make picture books, creating consistent characters and an interesting story involves so much more than creating one nice picture. I have experience with telling a story in a 32 page book dummy, so the hard part for me was figuring out how to tell one (with no words) in only six panels. After doing several thumbnails to work the story out, I decided to do the final panels in black and white with the only color being the red string to really emphasize it.

Once again, the inspiration came from personal experience. Not long after I adopted my cat, Dino, I gave him a big ball of yarn to play with. Because what is cuter than a little kitten with a ball of yarn, right? My mistake was leaving the ball of yarn out when going to bed. When I woke up in the morning the very long string of yarn was wrapped around all of my furniture winding through my living room, dining room, and kitchen. My immediate reaction was to laugh. Though it took much of the morning to clean, it looked like he had the most fun ever. Also, I never left a ball of yarn out unsupervised again.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Balloon Hat Boy and Dog


This started as a doodle in my sketchbook and I thought it would be fun to turn into a colored illustration! It is a lesser known fact that besides being an artist, I also know how to make balloon animals. I learned from my dad, who was a professional clown- although I can't make hats this elaborate, I do know the basics like dogs, giraffes, bunnies, swords, and ray guns (that alternate as blow dryers).

A photo of me at about six years old modeling a more simple version of the balloon hat:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

IF: Summer!


I thought this would be an appropriate illustration to post up for the first official day of summer, and summer is also the word of the week for Illustration Friday. Actually, it's not a new piece but one from a few years ago that I discovered recently while organizing my studio and realized I never posted it to my blog. Being raised in the Midwest, I didn't spend much time at the ocean- just a trip to California when I was eight, where my memory of seeing the Pacific can be summed up in was that it was very cold (in June) and my sister and I got one picture standing in front of it from a distance, bundled up in our sweaters, before we were ready to pile back into the warm car. It was eighteen years before I visited the ocean again and that was a completely different, much more blissful experience. I was in complete awe, and I can't begin to describe how wonderful it felt to set my feet in that water for the first time. Even though I didn't get to experience that kind of joy as a kid, I felt like one the second time around and wanted to capture it an illustration. Although I should note I did take some artistic license with the seagulls, with who I did not have the most pleasant experience. Beginners tip for visiting the ocean- seagulls are not ducks. Do not attempt to feed them unless you want to recreate a scene from The Birds.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

About a month ago an SCBWI friend contacted me about a woman who was looking for an artist to create a mural in her home. I met with her to see the space, which was a play area built in the basement that they were having remodeled. She wanted it to be a special place for her grandchildren to play, and she wanted the theme to be Alice in Wonderland. I was thrilled to hear this, because I love the story and already had experience in designing a set for a theatre production of Alice a few years before.

Before picture:



Originally the owner of the space had the idea for a tree to be painted, but after viewing her loft-style basement with a brick wall on the opposite side I thought that it would fit better with the space to make it look like the room Alice falls into before she crawls through the little door to Wonderland.



I wanted to make a little pattern around the doorway to look like wallpaper, and I thought what could be better for entering Wonderland than a pattern of small keyholes!



On the other side of the door is Wonderland, and that is where I could really have fun with color and imagination!













I used chalkboard paint inside the heart so the children could make their own artwork in Wonderland. I had such a good time working on this project (maybe aside from being a little sore from painting in such a small space!) and getting to know the wonderful family who lives in the home. They can't wait to make memories with their grandchildren in the space with tea parties and sleepovers, and I was so happy that I could help be a part of it!



Friday, April 25, 2014

From the Sketchbook...



The sketch I did of this little girl made me think of a line that I have heard often, a compromise offered by an adult to a child who does not want to eat whatever it is they don't like. It led me to think of a story about this girl, who does not want to eat her broccoli and tries several ways to hide it, such as in her ears...



or disguise it, perhaps as a hair bow?



I didn't hate broccoli as a kid. I don't remember really liking it either- with a little cheese it was okay. But I did hate peas and fish sandwiches. I still hate peas and fish sandwiches. The peas were easy to dispose of, as there was a vent near the floor in the dining room that I could poke them down. The fish sandwich I didn't have as much luck with when I hid it underneath a chair in the living room, not having the foresight to think that the fish sandwich would start to reek. I came home from school a few days later to see the chair moved, the vacuum out, and the sandwich gone. Busted.

So maybe it wouldn't make a great children's book, giving kids ideas of what to do with their unwanted food. But there still might be an idea in there somewhere. Sometimes I will remember a drawing that I had done months or years before and it will fit in perfectly with my present story project. Which is why I keep all of my sketches (which now fill up a couple of large containers) because you just never know.

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 favorite poetry books, The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, 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!

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, a book that I really enjoyed reading as a child. 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,


in a box with movies,


on top of a bed,


under some newspapers,


and on the fireplace mantle.


Silly kitty.