Monday, December 28, 2015

Art Trading Cards

A few weeks ago at our monthly art meeting with the East Aurora Art Society we did an activity where we created and traded art cards.  We each created one and then exchanged them with each other at the end of the night.  This little exercise was so much fun that I continued to create art trading cards.  I think I am obsessed!  And I realized it's a great way to try out new techniques or characters without taking much time and with low commitment to the project.  If it doesn't turn out, just throw it's only a 2.5" x 3.5" piece of cardstock!  I thought I'd share a few of my favorites with you here.  Which one is your favorite?  Let me know in the comments below.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lovely Holiday Greeting from 1966

I know that it's past Christmas, but everyone is still in the holiday spirit till New Year's, right?  My colleague turned me onto this classic holiday greeting commercial from CBS that aired in 1966!   It was so lovely I just had to share it with you all. 

Designed by R.O. Blechman and animated by Willis Pyle. Beautiful, hand-drawn pen & ink drawings. Music arranged by Arnie Black. 


Friday, December 25, 2015

Jack's Christmas Present

I wanted to share with you a wonderful opportunity I had to get to know a little boy by the name of Jack.  Jack is the sweetest little boy whose grandfather discovered me at the Cornhill Arts Festival this summer.  He told me that Jack loves his swing as much as the boy in my book "The Swing".  He asked if I could paint a picture of Jack in his swing in a similar fashion to the artwork in the book.  I thought it would be fun!   

I had Jack's grandfather send me all kinds of pictures of Jack so I could make some sketches. Although I have never met Jack, his personality shined through in the pictures, so I really felt like I got to know him.  He has this impish little grin that I really wanted to capture in the final painting.  I created a final sketch with a few color studies for his grandpa's approval, then I created the final art in oil on illustration board.  Below you can see the finished piece and the work in progress with a several photo references of Jack and the color studies. 

The painting was intended as a Christmas present so I finished and mailed it out in early December.  I hope Jack has a wonderful time opening his present and discovering himself in the painting:)

Merry Christmas Jack!
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Open your hand to the Poor

As you may already be aware, with the launch of the book "The Swing" I committed to donating 50% of the proceeds of the sale of the book to a wonderful organization called Feed My Starving Children.  This organization feeds hungry children around the world.  I have volunteered many times with my own children to pack the food and pray over it as it makes it's way to people in need.  I could not think of a better organization to support with the sale of "The Swing" than FMSC.  Their vision is:

With God's help, Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) will strive to eliminate starvation in children throughout the world by helping to instill compassion in people to hear and respond to the cries of those in need.  

As I did last year, I have kept count of all the books I sold in 2015 and for Christmas I am making my donation to FMSC.  Drum roll please...........

This year "The Swing" will donate $450!!!!

According to FMSC's website $50 will feed a starving child with Manna Pack food for 7 months!  In that time the child's life is literally transformed.  That means that with your support of "The Swing" this year we will feed and transform the lives of 9 precious children.  That's 9 happy faces like those below compiled from the FMSC website.

Thank you for your support and for supporting Feed My Starving Children. 

 Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Clover and the Shooting Star

This is a special picture book that I have been working on and it's almost ready for the press.  I have one spread left to finish and then I will send it to the printer.  It is a board book format, so it's shorter than a normal picture book and I did all the art fairly quickly so it would have a fresh expressive quality.  Instead of finishing it in photoshop and laying in the text professionally, I decided to collage the text directly onto the pages.  It was important to me that it kept the handmade quality of the original because the whole project was done in love.  It is called Clover and the Shooting Star and it is dedicated to my niece Nicole Diane Miller-Harris who left us too soon.  I am giving it to her parents, my bother-in-law and sister-in-law, for them to read to their grandchildren as a way to remember Aunt Nicole.  

Above is the cover art with Clover the rabbit in the middle and his friends Raccoon  Mole, Porcupine and Possum and her babies.  The synopsis of the story is that Cover sees a beautiful shooting star and it touches his heart.  He wants everyone to have had the same wonderful experience.  But as he talks with his friends he can't find anyone else who saw the star that had moved through the sky so quickly.  It makes Clover sad.  Then wise old owl informs Clover that there others have seen the star and are carrying the hope of her brilliance on!  

Below are a few of the finished pages from the book.  The last page is the "big reveal" page and the tear jerker page, so I won't show you that one till it's published:)

I thought this book would be a nice way to help little ones deal with the loss of a special person.  The ending is hopeful and let's them know their loved one is not forgotten and will live on in a very special way.  While it came from a place of sadness in our family, my hope is that it brings healing and hope to many.

I plan to have this book available by the beginning of the year so I can share it with you at my art shows and openings.  Let me know what you think.  Would you like me to send one to you?  Or you can pick one up at my next art show!  You can let me know in the comments section:) 

Monday, December 7, 2015

20 of the Most Beautiful Picture Books (in my personal collection)

I was intrigued the other day when I found a post called  20 Of The Most Beautiful Children's Books In The World.   Since I love picture books I had to check it out.  I owned several of the books, but there were also books I had never seen before.  Amazon here I come!  There were also books I felt belonged on the list that were missing.  So I thought...why not share with my readers my picks for the 20 Most Beautiful Picture Books?  Now, I have not finished building my picture book collection, (and I don't think I ever will!) but of the 300+ books that I have right now, I have many beautiful ones that I would love to share with you!

I buy picture books for all kinds of reasons, so if your favorite book is not here do not fear, I may still have it in my collection.  I buy picture books for the beauty of the art and the beauty of the story.  I buy them for the whimsy of the characters or the fun of the layout.  I buy the classics because they remind me of my childhood.  And I buy books from illustrators who are brand new to the scene because of their fresh take on visual storytelling.  But I have to admit, being an artist, I almost always buy them for their art:)  I also have many picture books in my collection that have been withdrawn from school or public libraries for one reason or another (you can see the tags on some of them in the picture below).  I cherish those because of the number of little hands and eyes that have enjoyed the stories and art. 

So here are the 20 Most Beautiful Picture Books (in my personal collection).  I hope you find a new one to add to your own collection!

ROW 1:
1.   Yatandou, by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Peter Sylvada
2.   Bats at the Library, by Brian Lies
3.   Journey, by Aaron Becker
4.   The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
5.   Der Baum der Erinnerung (Translated:  The Memory Tree), by Britta Teckentrup

ROW 2:
6.   The Umbrella, by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert
7.   The Fox and the Crow, by Manasi Subramaniam, illustrated by Culpeo S. Fox
8.   A Blue So Blue, by Jean-Francois Dumont
9.   14 Cows For America, by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
10. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

ROW 3:
11.  Keats's Neighborhood, by Ezra Jack Keats
12.  The Star People - A Lakota Story, by S.D. Nelson
13.  Moses - When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Nadir Nelson
14.  A Redwall Winter's Tale, by Brian Jacques, illustrated by Christopher Denise
15.  The Wind In The Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

ROW 4:
16.  The Red Tree, by Shaun Tan
17.  Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle
18.  Fire on the Mountain, by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
19.  Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bigram Ibatoulline
20.  Little Elephants, by Graeme Base

Tell me, what picture books you consider most beautiful?  I would love to add them to my collection!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Selfie or Not to Selfie

art from Roswell Park Cancer Institute

It's no surprise to anyone that we are living in a time of the glorified "ME".  Most people I know are sick of the "selfie" and the focus on "me, me, me" by our society.  Even the college students who I teach are sick of our culture's obsession with "constant self promotion".  They tell me they find it annoying.  

While I was driving home from work today I was listening to the radio I heard a great talk from David Jeremiah on the opposite of the selfie.....being humble and humility.  He had such a great quote I had to share it with you.

I love that!!  Thinking of myself less and thinking of others more is all I need to do to counter balance this culture of "self obsession".  I hope this quote is as motivational for you as it was for me!  What do you think humility means?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend Book Signing

After your Thanksgiving turkey and shopping are done, take a refreshing break and join me at the Local Author/Illustrator Book Signing & Sale at the Buffalo History Museum this weekend.  The event is free and there will be over 65 local authors and illustrators in attendance.  I will be there with The Swing and all the many great books published by Buffalo Heritage Unlimited.  It's like "Shop Small" for authors and illustrators:)  Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mastodons, Lava and Art!

Wow!  I can't believe what a wonderful weekend I had at the Rochester Science Museum's 45th Annual Holiday Bazaar! This has got to be the coolest art show I have ever been in!  My booth was in what I like to call, "the lava cave".  It is an exhibit at the museum that talks about the tectonic plates of the earth and how they form land formations that we see today.  I had lava flowing down one wall and an earthquake display on another.  And the right across from me was a Mastodon!  Check it out!

The people at the show were great and so many of them gave me wonderful complements on my work.  I exhibited "The Swing" book, art from that book, my Five Hungry Mice art and my new 4 Seasons of Dresses series.  The children that wandered into my booth were so full of light and Holiday cheer that is was contagious and it was so much fun watching them discover my book and leave through the pages.  One little girl who bought my book was so happy with her purchase she asked me if she could take a "selfie" with me:)  She was adorable!  Another little boy, Wyatt, came by my booth and talked me ear off about all the things he had discovered in the museum.  He was such a joy.  

Many grandparents were out too and they were looking for that special gift for their grandchildren.  I was so honored when they decided it would be my book.  I had the pleasure of signing books to all these little children.  I wrote each name on a piece of paper first to make sure I had the spelling right.  Afterwards I realized I had made Santa's List.  Look at all the children who are definitely on the "nice" list for Santa this year!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and offered me their support.  It was a really exciting time and a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season.  I can't wait to see you all again next year!

I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday! Gobble,  gobble, gobble:)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jack Skeleton and Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays!!!!  It holds a special place in my heart for many reasons, but mostly I just love seeing kids show up at my house in their costumes.  I also enjoy helping my children come up with awesome homemade costumes every year.  Sure you can go out to the Halloween stores now-a-days and buy some pretty awesome costumes, but making them is so much more fun! Over the years I have helped my children become robots, mime's, mummies, freaks, bloody scary things, hobos, and so much more.

My favorite Halloween character has to be Jack Skeleton for several reasons --- one of them very special.  1) I just love the character.  He has such a big heart for being such a "king" at scaring people.  2) He is a lot like me.  He is long and thin like I am, and he has long legs like a spider, just like me:)  3) I dressed up like him on the evening my husband proposed me many years ago!  (That's the special part!)

So in honor of Halloween and Jack Skelton, here is a drawing I did of him and a picture of me dressed as him all those many years ago!

What will you dress up as this Halloween?  I hope you do.  It's so much fun!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Art Trail

Coming up in November I will be participating in the Southtowns Art Trail.  This is a wonderful event that was organized by The Evans Art Guild and my good friend Steve Mayo.  I was so honored he asked me to be a part of it this year.  This past summer my husband and I renovated our home to create a "home studio" for me to work out of.  So we will be opening our home and my new studio for the Southtowns Art Trail.  I would love it if you can come!  

You can check out my new studio, enjoy some yummy treats, warm drinks and art - of course!  I will be showing some of my work from my picture books, my new series of paintings of little girl's dresses and a few additional pieces that haven't been shown yet.  Check out the map below for all the details of who will be participating and what you can see at each stop.

See you on the trail!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Stop Motion Inspiration - The Making of The Boxtrolls

I follow an artist on Tumblr whose name is Aurelie Neyret.  She has beautiful work that I love to look at and that always inspires me.  You should check out her work too, I have linked her website to her name.  

Well, the other day when I went to her Tumblr I found a link she attached that inspired her.  It was a Talks at Google event with the producers of the stop motion film The Boxtrolls.  I watched the entire 1 hour+ long talk and was truly amazed.  I have always loved animation and particularly stop motion reminds me of my youth and watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer:)

Watching how they developed this film, the obstacles they overcame, the rewrites and redirection, and the joy they had in pressing the bounds of what can be done in stop motion was fascinating and fun!  I thought.... I just have to share this with you all.  Put it on while you are working on something creative and feel the energy flow:)


The Making of the Boxtrolls a Talks at Google production.  

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!