Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Book Signing Event

Just a reminder, if you are out and about this holiday weekend doing some shopping, stop by the Buffalo History Museum!  I will be participating in a local author/illustrator book signing there.  There will be over 50 local authors and illustrators represented and lots of books!  It sure to be a wonderful event.  If you missed the book launch and still wanted to see my new book "The Swing" then stop by!  Hope to see you there!  I have attached the details below.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Illustration Friday!

This week's word is  slow....

I haven't done Illustration Friday in a while now!  I have been so busy with the book launch that I just didn't have time, but now I am a little more free, so I'm back at it!  This is a collage I did a little while ago that was inspired by a picture book course I was taking at AAU.  It never went beyond this one illustration, but now that I pull it out and look at it again, I feel a little story developing....I wonder if there are any children's songs about turtles?  Since I am enjoying illustrating children's songs, maybe I can find one about turtles:)

Let me know in the comments if you can think of any turtle songs....Thanks!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Trina Schart-Hyman - Another Favorite Illustrator

Today I thought I'd write about another favorite illustrator of mine, Trina Schart-Hyman.  I was introduced to Trina and her work through my sister.  She gave me a copy of Saint George and the Dragon, the Caldecott winning book by Hyman, to read to my son Hunter.  Actually, now that I think about it, my sister has turned me onto lots of good books, and illustrators over the years....she has a big influence on me.

My sister loved all the characters and fairies that Hyman puts in her work and especially their facial expressions.  I started to look at her work and fell in love with her gestural line work and her character development.  She works in gouache and pen & ink so you really see the expressiveness to her illustrations.  One book that I particularly love is called "Tight Times".  This book is long out of print and is very hard to find.  My sister found a copy for me and it is one of my most cherished books.  It is a story of a family that is struggling with the stagflation of the 1970's.  I was about the age of the main character in the book in the 1970's so I really can relate to the story line.  Times are tight and both parents have to work to make ends meet.

Then one day the father comes home early because he lost his job.  My dad was a union carpenter so this was a regular occurrence in our house, the job would end and he would be out of work.

The little boy doesn't quite understand what is going on so mom sends him outside to play.  He discovers a kitten tucked behind the trash and a passing gypsy woman helps him rescue the kitten.  He takes it home to ask if he can keep it.

The mom and dad are reluctant at first to keep the cat but then emotion overwhelmed them and they realize a little cat just might be what they need now to lift the weight of the situation.  They make a hug sandwich and the kitten stays!

This is a wonderful story that also speaks to an experience that I was very familiar with.  Hyman's work seems to do that...get at the root of humanity and human emotions in a way that is touching and real.  You can see her gestural drawings in this book, which is done all in black and white.  Her character development is superb and the facial expressions that my sister loves are very evident here.  She also does a wonderful job of setting the environment with details in the kitchen and living room, and the streets of New York. 

Another work by Hyman that my sister turned me on to is "The Fortune Tellers".   This is a story of a young carpenter who is looking for something better in life.  He goes to see the fortune teller to find out if he has something better coming in life, like fame, fortune and love.  The fortune teller says all will come as soon as the carpenter becomes well known, makes lots of money and finds the right woman!  The carpenter is overjoyed!  As he leaves he realizes he forgot to ask one question so he returns to the fortune teller only to find him gone.  A women enters and mistakes the carpenter for the fortune teller so he goes with it and plays the fortune teller.  Through the charade all of his dreams do come true! 

Once again you can see her wonderful gestural drawings, this time with gouache color added.  She establishes the setting as somewhere in Africa and she develops a whole cast of characters and secondary actors who are unique, vibrant, and full of character and life. I love all the details she adds, like the little  monkey who becomes his side-kick.  These are exactly the type of things I enjoy pointing out to my children when we read stories together.  I also really admire the way she maximizes her use of the long horizontal format of the page.  I go back to her work time an again for inspiration and lessons on how to illustrate a wonderful story.  

In her own words  this is what Hyman felt made for a children's book.  “You just have to feel it. Certainly it has to relate to the human experience because children are human, too. It should have all of the things that a good adult story has only put in simpler terms so that children can grasp it.” 

For a complete interview with Trina Schart-Hyman click here.  Unfortunately, Trina died in 2004 so we can no longer look forward to new work from her, but the work that she left us will undoubtedly leave an impression for many generations to come.  I hope you enjoyed meeting Trina Schart-Hyman.  Let me know if you have a favorite book by Trina Schart-Hyman or what you think of her work in the comments section below.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Snow Day!

Well, in case you didn't know, I live in Buffalo, NY.  Actually south of Buffalo, NY in snow country.  He have had an epic storm this week, and yes, epic is the right word here, that has dropped 4 feet of snow on us in 36 hours.  So the last 3 days have been snow days!!!!  All the schools are closed, including my college, there are travel bans so no one can drive on the roads, and even if we wanted to drive we can't get out of our driveway!  So it felt appropriate that I post snow art and snow quotes today:)  The above painting is an oil I did a few years ago and the quotes below I found on the internet.  Since we can't beat the snow we might as well enjoy it!

This quote is a good one because we have spent the last three days at home with a fire in the fire place and something yummy cooking on the stove.  Movies, playing cards, and painting are the things we have been doing to pass the time.

I love this one because winter is really beautiful in a silent way and you need to be quiet and in the moment to appreciate it.  Snow actually has so many colors in it and snow covered forms can be turned into anything.  Let your imagination run wild.  Do you know how many creatures I see in my yard from the lumps of snow that have formed there...I could create a whole story from it.  Maybe that's what I'll do today:)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Launch a Success!

This past weekend was my book launch and I cannot believe the number of people who came out to support me...I am humbled, really, by the show of support from family and friends.  Many thanks to everyone who came out to support me and a big thanks to Marti Gorman, my publisher from Buffalo Heritage Unlimited, who made this all a reality for me:)  Above is me and my good friend and partner in art crime, Jennifer Seth-Cimini who was one of the first to buy the book.

I couldn't have done any of this without the assistance of my niece Amber Orlando who helped me to plan and organize the launch.  She was so helpful!  She is starting a party/event planning business called Effortless Occasions and I highly recommend you use her services for your next event.  She planned the food, drink, kids activities and display of my art influences that I used during the illustration process.  She also took care of all the day of events, food pick up and set up, decorations,
last minute details, etc.  I would have pulled my hair out if it were not for her:)  Look at how beautifully she set the event.

That's Amber in the middle with her daughter Emily and her cousins Becca and Abby on either side.

In addition her mother-in-law, Terri Orlando, made me the most beautiful cookies that looked just like the dog character Bean from the book! Aren't they adorable!

Several of my students from Villa Maria College came out early to help me with set up and stayed to help me sell books and welcome guests.  They are so awesome!  Thank you so much Teeanna and Sarah and Brandi!  You are the best!  And they made delicious desserts for my guests!

I also had my family there helping me with little errands, and many friends who came to support.  It was such a great event and we SOLD OUT of our launch quantity of books!  The publisher is busy getting more books delivered for my reading at Dog Ear Books this Thursday and my art show at Know Park this coming Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22, 2014.  I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's feedback on the book.  So far I know that several children were read to sleep by the book Sunday night and that is the biggest compliment of all!

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Copy of The Swing!


I met my publisher in the parking lot the other day to receive from her the very first copy of my picture book.  It was a little a hand off of something illegal...LOL!  We were trying to find a time in our mutually busy schedules to meet so she could give me the book to look at and approve.  Since we were like two ships passing in the night she finally suggested a strip mall parking lot that was half way for both of us.  There, under the light of the street lamps (cuz it's now dark by 5pm!) she handed me the first soft cover version of the book to come from the printer.  It was like being given gold!  It felt so special to me.  I was incredibly pleased with the quality of the reproduction of my artwork.  The hardcover version of the book is still being printed so I will have to wait till tomorrow or Saturday to see that, but if it's anything like the soft cover, I will be overjoyed:)

So here is a sneak peak for you all!  Hope to see you at the launch on Sunday!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November is National Picture Book Month

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November.  The found the following information about National Picture Book Month on their website.  The founders of this event are: 

        Dianne de Las Casas (author & storyteller)
        Katie Davis (author/illustrator)
        Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author/illustrator)
        Tara Lazar (author)
        Wendy Martin (author/illustrator)

These talented authors and illustrators put together their worldwide connections to make an event that celebrates the simplicity and beauty of the picture book.  Here is a calendar of events they have planned and you can go to the website link I provided above to find out more.

I love what they have started because I feel picture books are so important, especially in our media driven society.  We live in a highly visual world where we are constantly being bombarded with media messages, entertainment and immediacy.  While it's fun and exciting, it is also overwhelming and creates a feeling of temporariness.  Nothing seems to last, everything is constantly being updated and refreshed.  Think of the impact this must have on our children.  While I know children today are growing up in this media rich world, I also know that children need a sense of order, structure, and connectedness for healthy development.  This is where I think the picture book is so important.  A child can sit with a loved one and have that wonderful page turning experience of a beautifully crafted picture book and slow the world down.  The picture book puts the child in control and they can chose to linger over a picture or speed to turn the page to see what happens next.  Picture books offer numerous perspectives on the world, and can transport the reader to another time and place.  They can be a safe haven where children can retreat from the "noise" of the media they are surrounded by every day.  

So in our digital age, where people are predicting the coming death of print books, I feel picture books (the print kind) are needed more than ever.   Read a picture book today and enjoy the respite!  And if you are looking for a good one....I have a suggestion:)  The Swing is launching this month, during National Picture Book month on November 16th!   I can save you a copy if you e-mail me or comment on this blog post!
Read *Share*Celebrate!