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 any time at the ocean. It wasn't until I was 26 years old that I set my feet in Atlantic Ocean water for the first time and it was a wonderful, unforgettable feeling. A few years later when the Gulf oil spill was all over the news that I remembered the joy and exhilaration I felt being at the ocean for the first time, and how it was like being a kid again. I wanted to get that emotion I felt in an illustration, and so I did this little piece.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Red String

I was very pleased to see the Tomie dePaola challenge a few months ago. 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 a personal experience. Not long after I adopted my cat, Dino, I gave him a big ball of yarn to play with. Cats and balls of yarn go together like bread and butter, 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!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IF: Temptation

When I saw the word of the week on Illustration Friday, I thought it would fit perfectly to share an excerpt from one of my book dummies. The story was inspired by personal experience, when I visited my father and stepmother and baked a cake (which I rarely do!) and their little dachshund Dottie climbed up on the table and ate the whole thing when I stepped out of the kitchen for a few minutes. Of course I wasn't happy to have to make another cake, but we all had a good laugh about it later and it gave me a great idea for a story!

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 ago. My favorite artist is Mary Blair, and her concept art and color palette were my biggest inspiration for creating this magical space under the stairs.

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 get pretty stinky. 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!

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.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Illustration Friday: Wild

*Click on image to view larger!

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!

This is a 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. 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 and stayed because it looked interesting. I walked out an hour later in full clown make-up and there was no going back, I became part of the act!

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

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!

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!

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!

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