Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Opening the sketchbook...

Every once in a while I like to open the sketchbook to show you what is going on in my head:)  My life has been very topsy turvy lately so the sketchbook is not at full as usual, but it still has some promising doodles.  One doodle is an idea for a gift book that I am working on.   I hope to post more about that gift book either later this week or early next....

In the meantime, here are a few for you to enjoy:)

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznik - Sneak Peak!

Last week I received in the mail the most wonderful gift!  It was actually a gift I had ordered for myself and forgot about...don't you love those:)  It is the latest book by Brian Selznick called "The Marvels".  I ordered it during the summer before it was printed, and Amazon sent it to me as soon as it became available.  I have been savoring this book all week, trying not to go through it too fast!  But I wanted to share it with you all in case you hadn't heard about it.

Brian Selznik is the author of many picture books including The Doll People series, Frindle, The Wonderful Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Wonderstruck.  He was already a successful illustrator, but I would say it was when he illustrated Hugo Cabret that he set him apart as an illustrator and storyteller.  He adopted a style that, he says, was inspired by the old black and white films.  They had to rely on only visuals to tell the story since there was no sound and only a frame or two of text to communicate the full story.  Brian Selznik imitated this format in his Hugo Cabret story with huge sections of the story being told by pencil illustrations and text intermittently inserted throughout.  It was a instant success.  When I discovered Hugo I totally fell in love!  His newest work, "The Marvels" is done in a similar format and that's why I wanted you to see it.  A synopsis of the book from Brian's website is as follows:

"The journey begins on a ship at sea, with a boy named Billy Marvel. He survives a devastating shipwreck and later finds work in a London theatre. There his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until young Leontes Marvel abandons the stage and runs away.

A century later, Joseph Jervis, another runaway, seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Stormy Uncle Albert and his strange but beautiful house, with its ships and theater programs, haunting portraits and ghostly presences, lure Joseph on a search for clues about the house, and his own life.As readers piece together the mystery of how the two narratives connect, they will be swept up in a gripping adventure that is also a moving exploration of our need to belong and to tell stories."

Here is also a wonderful video that Brian himself put together to preview the book.  You should definitely watch it!  It is so artistic and such an inspiration!


Brian Selznik studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and after he graduated from college he worked at Eeyore’s Books for Children in New York City.  He says he learned all about children’s books from his boss Steve Geck who is now an editor of children’s books at Greenwillow.  His first book, The Houdini Box, which he both wrote and illustrated, was published in 1991 while he was still working at the bookstore.  I don't have that one yet....need to order it:)  Since then, he have illustrated many books for children.  I first discovered him when I bought the Doll People series of books.  His classic pencil drawings are what drew me in, but it's his storytelling that kept me hooked.  Below are a few pages from "The Marvels".  


What I admire the most about Brian Selznik and his work is that he is a wonderful storyteller!  He uses his unique pencil drawing technique and a variation of values to lead the readers eye to the most important story telling elements in each frame.  Not only are his compositions detailed and engaging, but their format enhances the ability of the reader to see the story unfold before them picture after picture.  Sometimes he will take 5 or 6 full page illustrations to tell a single moment in the story.  The page turning experience of this book is wonderfully paced and gives the story a wonderful rhythm.   Additionally he does a stellar job with his character development.   In "The Marvels" he has so many characters to develop and draw consistently as he tells a story that moves across four generations with many of the characters aging from infancy to old age.  His attention to detail and consistency in developing these characters helps the reader to instantly recognize each character even as they age and are sometimes brought back into the story many years later.  In my mind he has definitely set a very high bar for visual storytelling and one that inspires me to improve my own visual storytelling. 

When I was in New York City a few years ago I stopped into the Society of Illustrators and saw an exhibit of original children's picture book artwork.  Brian's work was there and I was blown away when I saw the originals from Wonderstruck!  They were so detailed and so small!  Actually much smaller than the printed pages, which is unusual since many artists will work larger than the finished format.  But his drawings are so well done that they can be enlarged and not lose detail.  It was a wonderful discovery for me and I have been inspired ever since:) 
In case you are interested in reading more here is a link to a USA Today Review and if you are like me and need to own your own copy here is a link to Amazon so you can order it too!

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to "The Marvels".  Let me know in the comments what you think of Brian Selznik's work and "The Marvels".

Monday, September 14, 2015

A child has no trouble believing.....

A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.

- Steven Pressfield
artwork by Machael Knapp

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three little bears in a dumpster!

Have you seen this adorable video?  Three little bears are rescued from being trapped in a dumpster while the mommy bear watches.  Thank you to those kind people who rescued those little bears!

Well, I thought about the person who discovered that the little bears were trapped in the dumpster and what they must have seen when they looked is a quick little painting of what I thought it might have looked like:)

I had fun imagining this scenario and wished I could have peeked in and seen those bears!  What do you think?  Did I capture what they might have seen?  Maybe there is a picture book story here...I'd love to hear what you think:)  Feel free to comment below. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Favorite Illustrator - Garth Williams

So it's time for me to tell you about another favorite illustrator of mine, and probably yours.  When I think of Garth Williams I think of my childhood and reading his books in the tiny bedroom of my childhood home.  I read every single one of the "Rescuers" books multiple times.  I read them for the illustrations because I loved Garth Williams pen and ink drawings.  I would copy those drawings over and over again.  Bernard and Bianca were brought to life for me by those drawings.  And their adventures took me to new places.  I knew when I read a description of a predicament that they found themselves in, Garth Williams' drawing would portray it perfectly.  I remember a description of Bernard and Bianca escaping the Black Castle through a small opening that lead to a gushing stream outside.  It was a detailed description, but I couldn't quite picture it in my mind.  Then I turned the page and the illustration showed it perfectly.  It made my enjoyment of the book complete.  I remember staring at the picture below and being amazed at how he crafted the details of a little girls face with just hatches of line.  I think it was the first time I came to appreciate the power of value.

And of course my favorite book of his was "The Cricket In Times Square".  The little world that he created for Tucker the mouse, Harry the cat, and Chester the cricket in the subway enthralled me.  Tiny matchbox beds and thimble tables.  I loved every drawing! I often copied the drawings trying to get his pen and ink style.  It was my exposure to Garth Williams' drawings that made me fall in love with drawing as a child and made me want to be an artist.  I loved that he created these magical worlds where adorable creatures lived and had these memorable adventures.  His work touched both the artist and the adventurer in me and has influenced me to this day.

Garth Williams was born in New York City to artist parents.  Like many great artists he studied art in Europe when his parents moved to England.  He studied architecture and then switched to painting and sculpture.  He graduated from the Royal Academy of Art and served briefly as the headmaster of the Luton Art School outside of London before resigning to immerse himself in art.  When he returned to the United States, he tried to become a cartoonist for The New Yorker, but his work was rejected because it was considered too wild and European.  Isn't that funny!  His work was considered too wild?  I wonder what he showed them!

He eventually found an opportunity at Haper and Row when a manuscript for a children's book came in.  It was E.B. White's "Stuart Little".  I guess he wasn't too wild for children:)  That was the beginning of a long and successful career as a children's book illustrator for Garth Williams.  And while his illustrations were the reason for the success of such books as "Stuart Little," "Charlotte's Web," and "Cricket In Times Square" at the time of their success he was often not credited.

For me, almost all of Garth Williams work sits on my bookshelf.  He is frequently a "go to" resource for me when I want inspiration.  He captures a sense of innocence and wonderment in his illustrations that I want to develop in my own work.  He has not been with us since 1996 when he passed away, but his art has left a permanent mark on me and maybe on you too.

What is your fondest memory of Garth Williams work?  Leave me a comment below.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Keuka Art Festival - A successful weekend

What a beautiful weekend I had at the Keuka Arts Festival in Penn Yan, NY!  Even though we had to set up in a rain storm, and we had to tear down in another rain storm that actually lead to flash flooding....during the festival itself we had beautiful sunny skies and wonderful turn out!  Check out the beautiful scenery I had all weekend!

That's my tent with the dog painting on the outside:)

I brought with me my new "The Swing" picture book, some new prints from the book and from my other picture book artwork, and some new paintings.  Here's a look...

The Swing was a big hit at the show!  Not sure if it was the candy that I lured the children in with (heeheehee) or the artwork itself!  But I was so pleased with the many parents who stopped to look at the book.  The older parents and grandparents who were familiar with the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, enjoyed my interpretation of his words, while the younger parents who were not familiar with the poem, seemed charmed by it and my "reintroducing" the poem to a new generation of children!  They also really appreciated that I am continuing to contributing 50% of the proceeds of the sale of the book to the organization Feed My Starving Children.  It's such a great cause and I love that I can do something positive with my art.

Sales of the book were good and many people were excited to see that I am working on a new picture book as well.  They said they would come back next year to see it so count on me being at the Keuka Arts Festival next year.  I also picked up several new little fans, two of them are pictured below.  I love the little girl with her feet in the air:)  

All in all a great weekend!  Thank you Keuka Arts Festival organizers.  Can't wait for my next show!  I'll be in East Aurora at the East Aurora Art Society Fine Arts Festival on June 27 - 28, and then in Rochester at the Cornhill Arts Festival on July 11-12, 2015.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Keuka Arts Festival Preparation

Summer kicks off art festival season!  I am participating in four fabulous art shows this summer to promote my children's picture book The Swing and to sell my art.  The first one is this weekend - the Keuka Arts Festival in Penn Yan, NY.  This is a wonderful festival in the heart of the Finger Lakes along an outlet of Keuka lake.

So this week I have been preparing for the festival.  I ordered prints of my artwork from The Swing and also from my "as of yet, not released" Five Hungry Mice picture book.  They are all signed and numbered and cellophane wrapped.  I have also been putting the finishing touches on a few new paintings that I will debut at the art show.  A series of little girl dresses and some sweet ducks.  Here are some sneak peaks of what I will be bringing...

Boxes of artwork are piling up inside my studio...

And piles of tents, walls, and supplies are piling up in my garage....

I will be promoting my book The Swing as well as selling prints that I have made of my favorite illustrations...

Plus some new work!

My new studio is working out great for preparing for the art shows.  There is room for me to lay my work out and curate it.  I also have space for two easels, so I have two paintings in process on them as well as one on my desk.  My husband just made me a new work bench that is nice and high so I can stand at it and cut mat boards or fix hangers to the back of my paintings without having to bend over to the floor, like I was doing before:)  So happy with my new space!  This show season is going to be great!  Hope to see you there!