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.

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!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From the Sketchbook...

The last one gives new meaning to the phrase "capturing your image".

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Palmer's Candy Co.

I think it would surprise a lot of people if they knew how much work sometimes goes into a commission before an artist even sets a pencil to paper. The idea is everything. A good example of that is the Palmer's Candy project, which I received through the Sioux City Art Center as part of a public works project. I racked my brain for over a week and made a lot of sketches that weren't going to work. Then one night I couldn't sleep and started thinking about that great, dreamlike scene from the Charlie Chaplin film "Modern Times" where he is weaving in and out of all the factory gears. I wanted to find a way to make the painting personal to Sioux City, and since the candy is made in a factory right here in town, there was my idea.

I was so excited about my inspiration that I was up half the night doing sketches and laying it all out. The rest of the process was completely enjoyable, especially the part where I actually went to the shop to get ideas for different kinds of candy and the colors that could be used. Of all the candy I wanted to make sure that the Twin Bing, the candy bar Sioux City is famous for, was what people would recoginize right away.

Initial sketch:

The first small illustration was done with markers and colored pencils. I replicated the piece two more times with acrylic paint over the next several months- one 30"x30" canvas for inside, and a 4'x4' board for the outside of the building. I drive past it now several times a week, and it is still exciting to see how my idea developed into a work of art for everyone to enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Art Thief

This is my cat Dino, who enjoys keeping me company while I illustrate. Although sometimes I think he becomes irritated when I am working instead of paying attention to him- as was the case shortly after I snapped this photo. I went to the kitchen for a few minutes and when I returned my illustration was... MISSING. I spent an hour looking for it, until I was convinced that either I had gone mad, or a thief came in my house for two minutes, and my unfinished illustration was the only thing they stole. Turns out the thief was my cat, who pushed it off the drafting table and hid it under a shelf on the other side of the room (where I am sure he was hoping it would stay.) I took this picture because I thought he was so sweet watching me work, but now I know he was actually plotting. In the future I will have to tape my work to the desk if I want to take a break.


This was a fun personal project to work on for my three year old niece Jade. The letters sat in my studio for a few months, but once my sister and I painted her walls with "Pluto" (from the Disney paint collection at Home Depot) and pulled some other colors and decorating elements into the room, I knew exactly what to do to with them. The twigs and leaves are paper bags and newspapers painted with watercolors, and the little birds I (carefully!) cut from a Mary Blair painting that I printed off of my computer.

Girls, Inc.

This Girls, Inc. project is one of three that was commissioned through the Sioux City Art Center for a public works fundraiser. I was honored that the director of Girls, Inc. personally requested me, and I was filled with excitement when she took me on a tour of the building and I was able to meet so many of the girls and see all of the activities they were involved in. I love Girls, Inc. and what they do, and it was personal because I have my own great memories of spending time there as a child.

This is one of the biggest challenges I have ever had in illustrating. There were so many things I wanted to express about all the things Girls, Inc. stands for, and I wanted to do it in the most simple and powerful way possible... and I wanted it to be beautiful. I went through lots and lots of awful sketches before the idea finally came to me. I have always been a fan of silhouette art, and decided to incorporate that into the pieces by taking side profile photos of eighteen of the girls at Girls, Inc. (they were more than eager to volunteer for me.) Every single silhouette was unique, and that was the theme of my paintings for them- that every young woman is unique and beautiful. The tree in the paintings represents their strength as a group, and unifies them. I am so proud of how they resulted, and that I found a way to make it personal- the director was able to identify every girl in the painting just from the silhouette, and of course the girls were thrilled to look and find themselves.

This photo was taken about 6am, after being up all night finishing details on the larger one. The 30"x30" hangs inside the building and the 4'x4' painting is located...