Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Art Day Spotlight: Quentin Blake

I didn't realize how hard it would be to get computer and/or internet time while I was away, so I'm doing a quick Quentin Blake spotlight while it's still Monday on the West Coast (even if that's not where I am).

Whenever I walk into the bookstore and see Quentin Blake's artwork, many times on a book by Roald Dahl, it always makes me smile. His characters are so full of lfe, drawn with a few squiggly lines, some color, and a whole lot of personality.

I had plans for this post, all sorts of wonderful things to say and point to, but really, the statement above says everything I want to say about his artwork, except that if you aren't familiar with it, you should be. It's amazing. The links and things I would have pointed to are not nearly as good as what you will find on his website.

Browse his website if you have time, if not, just go here and enjoy the magic of Quentin Blake at work.

Isn't that amazing? I always love seeing how other artists work. BTW, Did you see his studio? I wish I had that kind of space :)

If you have time to poke around on his site, there's another video and a ton of interesting info.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Five Things Meme & Honest Scrap Award

I’ve been tagged by L.K. Madigan for the five things meme here, which goes like this: "Quick! Off the top of your head, what are the last five things that made you smile?"

Then I was tagged by Brenda for the Honest Scrap Award here.

"Scrap means left over, fragments, discarded material. Many times truth and honesty are discarded material, considered fragments and left over. People like us need to tell it like it is, and let the scraps fall where they will. There are 2 guidelines for receiving this award. One, you are to list 10 honest things about yourself. Make them interesting, even if you have to dig deep. Two, present the award to 7 other bloggers."

Since I have about 3 minutes to use the internet before I need to go do family stuff again, I’m combining the 2 and listing 10 things that are honest and at least 5 things that make me smile, if not more :)

1. I went to the local bookstore when we got to our destination and ordered Cracked Up To Be, by Courtney Summers. The release date is today, but they got it in early, so I’ve been sneaking away to read a chapter or two for several days :)

2. I also found 2 of Jen Barnes’s The Squad books and I’m hoping to read one of them next.

3. I’ll probably have to read the other Squad book after that, since I don’t like to wait to find out what happens in series books.

4. Every year for 7 years (so far) DH’s parents and my parents have gotten together with us to celebrate Christmas.

5. This year we are renting a house at the beach (it’s a cold, wintery beach, but it’s still got sand and the ocean). We’ve been in this area 4 of the 7 years.

6. Everyone liked the craft project this year, which was painting on t-shirts. YAY! (They liked the snowman project last year too – see it in my last post).

7. I got to paint! Even if it was on shirts.

8. I have real paint to paint with after all the parents leave :) :) :)

9. Sheila talked to me a little bit before the parents got here and I’m hoping she’ll come back again after they leave, so I can get more of her story down.

10. I thought I lost the recipe for the cookies I was going to make this year, but then I found it! This is the second time I’ve made them and everyone seems to like them. If you’d like to make them too, here’s the recipe:

Almond Butter Cookies
(from Land O'Lakes a few years ago)
makes 5 dozen

1 C Land O' Lakes butter, softened (or other butter :)
3/4 C sugar
1 t almond extract
2 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

1/2 C semi-sweet choc. chips
2 t shortening

Heat oven to 400. Combine butter, sugar and almond extract in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add all remaining cookie ingredients. Beat until well mixed.

Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Flatten balls to 1/4 inch thickness with bottom of buttered glass dipped in sugar. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely.

Melt chocolate chips and shortening in 1 qt. saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth (2-4 minutes). Drizzle or pipe top of cooled cookies making tree design, if desired.

Notes from when I made them a few years ago:
* There was a picture of all these perfect cookies with chocolate drizzle trees on them. The trees are impossible to make. This year I intend to just drizzle a bit of chocolate on them, or put a small glob in the middle of the cookie. Tastes the same, and doesn't make me want to harm people that say my trees don't look like trees.

* Some people stole cookies before I added the chocolate (ok, everyone did). There was a debate on whether the cookies were better with or without chocolate. I made half the batch with and half without this year to satisfy both groups (for the record, they taste good both ways).

* They are easier to make then it sounds like, especially if you don't try to make the stupid trees. Enjoy :)

11. I know I said there would only be 10 things, but I don’t always follow directions. The 10th thing is a rule change. I won’t be tagging or giving the scrap award to anyone specific today. Instead, I will wish you all Happy Holidays! And if you have time and want to play the Five Things Meme or The Honest Scrap Award, then go for it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Art Day Arts and Crafts: Snowman Project

Every Christmas, we do an arts and crafts project. Some have been good ones that everyone enjoys (usually the easy ones) and others have been meh. Last year we did a snowman project that we all had fun with. There were six adults participating, but it would work as a good project for kids or the whole family too.

Here’s a picture of the final project (by Stephanie, Bruce, Doug, Shirlee, Sara, and Fred):

Here’s how you can make your own snowman.

Materials Needed:
-heavy paper for drawing, painting, crafts, etc. (you can use any size, but the larger the group, the bigger the paper should be)
-pencil and eraser
-art supplies that you like to use (we used paint, crayons, and glitter glue)

Step One: Divide the paper into sections, one for each person that will be helping make the snowman. You can fold the paper or use a pencil to mark of the sections. We had 6 people, so I used an 11x17 sheet of paper, but you don’t have to make it that large if you have a smaller group.

Step Two: Have one person draw a picture of a snowman (or other picture you like) on the paper. Try to make something interesting in each section (I added birds throughout the picture so that there would be at least one in each section. You can make a sketch on another piece of paper first, or just work right on the final paper and use an eraser if you need to.

Step Three: Cut the paper into sections along the folds or pencil lines you made earlier.

Step Four: Mix up the sections and lay them face down on the table and let everyone choose a section.

Step Five: Turn the papers over and start coloring.

Step Six: When everyone is done and the paper is dry (if you’ve used something like paint or glitter glue), put all the pieces back together and see what it looks like!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Marilyn Scott-Waters

Today’s Art Day interview is with illustrator Marilyn Scott-Waters, an illustrator and toy maker. Read on to find out more about Marilyn’s art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: When I started college I really wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, but the counselor pretty much laughed at that idea so somehow I ended up with a degree in Comparative Literature. After a few decades of doing product design I finally got serious about illustration.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent book you illustrated, THE SEARCH FOR VILE THINGS, by Jane Hammerslough.
A: It’s part of a two book series that I illustrated for Scholastic. It’s about an eccentric Victorian family that travels the world looking for the most vile things they can find. It was a complete delight to draw all these strange creatures and I did learn quite a bit of natural history. The first book, due out next month is about the East Indies and the next one, out next December, is based in Madagascar.

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: Oh gosh yes! I’m working with my writing partner, J. H. Everett on a series for Henry Holt called “Haunted Histories” It’s going to be real history told from the point of view of a “Ghostorian”, a Goth kid named Virgil. Lots of creepy fun stuff! Skulls! Dungeons! Gross stuff! History shouldn’t be dull.

I did a picture book called “Mouse Party” that is in acquisitions at Piggy Toes Press. (Keep your fingers crossed) and I’m illustrating another picture book that my kid wrote in fourth grade called “Super Underwear Monkey” Next on my plate is a series of two books for Sterling that will be paper toys. It’s all good!

Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?
A: For “The Search For Vile Things” I was given a list of eighty animals to draw so I had to do a lot of research to find out exactly what a cocoanut octopus looks like or what an Atlas moth is. The most important thing in illustrating a picture book is to pick the right moment to show. I’ll doodle a bunch of different options then start laying out the whole book to see how the pages will look.

Q: When illustrating picture books, do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: What a cool idea! It’s not something that I’ve done in a children’s book. I do put my griffin mark on all my paper toys.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: Hmmm… get up, drink coffee, empty litter box, take boy to school, and draw like a madwoman until two-thirty five. Pick up boy, draw more talking on phone to husband as he drives home, cook dinner, sleep, repeat. Actually I do my sketches by hand and scan them into Photoshop, then add color digitally.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I have lots of favorites just like I like lots of different kinds of food, flowers or music. I love orange red, sage green and warm brown. I love how certain colors look together like navy and gold or rust and lavender blue.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: Photoshop followed by Illustrator. I paint about once a year and make a huge mess then go back to my nice tidy electronic world.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: Nice scissors. There is something about cutting paper with really sharp, good scissors.

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: I remember my first art failure. I was in preschool and had just seen a local play called “The Pale Pink Dragon” But there wasn’t a pink paint pot and even though there was a glorious picture of a dragon in my head when I touched the paper with a huge drippy brush the poster paint ran all over the place and I remember being really angry and frustrated.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: I did but I got sidetracked for many years in shadow careers like clothing design before I finally figured out that I needed to get serious about making children’s books.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: I do both. I think that a digital camera is a great invention.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: The thought of getting paid is a big motivator. I also bribe my inner child with fun projects…. “If I finish this hard project then I can make a toy.”

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: I love to make things out of paper. I like to add a paper toy or two to my website every month. The main difference is that the toys that I make for fun are play for me. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: A stuffed pink and white dog named Rebby. He was quite a sassy character and bossed all the other stuffed animals around. Now he’s quite squashed and most of his fur is rubbed off but he is still mighty in my mind.

Q: What illustrated book(s) do you remember from when you were a child?
A: I loved “Album of Horses” by Marguerite Henry. I also read to bits “The Big Book of Things To Do and Make’ “Go Dog, Go” is the best children’s book ever written, in my opinion.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: There are so many good illustrators that it is hard to choose! Quentin Blake,
for his spontaneity, Beatrix Potter, for her attention to animal anatomy, Edward Gorey, for his cross-hatching.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: I was one of four kids and we put on plays, operas and made musical instruments. We also wrote comic books. We always tried to get each other to be laughing so hard that we couldn’t swallow and spew milk. I don’t know how my parents survived.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?
A: I’d go to the beach, run around the tide pools and build a world out of sand.

Bio: Marilyn Scott-Waters is a children's book illustrator and avid paper toymaker. Her website, enjoys two to seven thousand visitors a day from all over the world. Her goal is to help grownups and children spend time together making things.

Thanks for the interview Marilyn!
All images in this post © Marilyn Scott-Waters.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ask Sheila – finally some answers!

Q: Sheila, some of the people on my Christmas list are those tough-to-buy-for sorts. Any gift ideas? ;) – Carrie
A: Brains are always a good gift, or books. Books build big brains. Mmm, brains! Kidding, sort-of. You could write them a story, like Mad Libs, and fill in their name and other funny stuff, especially if it’s embarrassing, or snarf worthy. Then wrap it up like a puzzle made out of tape (make sure none of the tape touches your story or it will get destroyed). That way they get a story and a puzzle.

Q: I'm wondering how Sheila was helpful while you were sick...(maybe that is my question to her...) – Kelly

A: sruble is a weenie when she’s sick, seriously. She did turn a nice shade of green though, which totally made her look like a zombie. After that, I made her toast and poured her Gatorade so she wouldn’t die and turn into a real zombie.

Q: What zombie do you most admire? - Courtney

A: I <3 Destiny Cheerific (although I’m not sure that’s her real name). She’s the most famous cheerleader ever AND she’s a zombie. I saw her cheer video when I was three and I’ve wanted to be a cheerleader ever since! She’s made tons of videos, which you can see on BrainTube. She also wrote a memoir on cheerleading that includes instructions on how you can make your own cheers. Destiny Cheerific is the best!

Q: How do zombies celebrate the holidays? - Courtney

A: Food, Gifts, Brains.

Q: If you could make any fictional character become a real life zombie, who would you choose? - Courtney
A: Jaz from Bad Kitty. She would be so much fun to hang around with. Either that, or Edward, as long as he didn’t bring Bella.

Q: How does a zombie plan for the impending zombie apocalypse? – Courtney

A: There’s an apocalypse? When? Nobody ever tells me anything! I better go get some cheesy brain puffs and put batteries in the TV remote. Nobody is going to want cheering during an apocalypse, which completely blows.

Q: If you had three wishes, what would they be? Inquiring minds want to know! – Courtney
A: A boyfriend, to be a professional cheerleader when I graduate, and to never see a chicken ever again.

Q: One of my staff members is starting to drive me nuts! She seems to make the easiest tasks last all day so that she doesn't have to do the rest of her job...What can I do? How do I get the point across that she has certain things she HAS to do and then she can do these other things? Thanks for the help! – Brenda
A: Threaten to eat her brains. When you do that, make sure you are dressed up like a movie zombie (which is not how real zombies are) and paint your face to look like you’re dead. A nice shade of grey-green should work. Don’t forget some red for blood accents where needed. If that fails, watch Super Nanny to get some ideas, like making her sit on the naughty chair if she doesn’t do her work. If that fails (from what you said, she seems like a difficult sort), start a barter system with her. For every task she completes, she gets something in return, like maybe a piece of gum (I like Juicy Fruit or Bubble Yum). Make the hard tasks worth more gum. Then on payday, she can trade in her gum for her pay, but she only gets what she’s earned, and not what she thinks she should get for sitting around and not doing her job. Either that, or she can keep the gum and you keep the money. If nothing else works, get a new worker and leave the old one out in the snow.

Q: What's up with teenage zombies these days?- Christy

A: Teenage zombies love to watch TV, when they aren’t chasing humans or cheering at football games. My favorite show is Gossip Girls! I totally guessed that Rufus and Lilly had a kid. Amanda didn’t think so. I don’t understand why Chuck’s dad had to die for that though, and it makes Dan and Serena getting back together totally impossible, which sucks, because they are the best couple on the show. My favorite character is Jenny. She does whatever she wants, no matter what the consequences, and she’s really passionate about fashion, like I am about cheerleading. They should really have a zombie character on Gossip Girls. I read a lot of books too, when I’m not cheering or watching TV. I don’t like to chase humans, but I do like to chase vampires, like the guy I know that is totally like Edward in Twilight, except that he’s a real vampire and doesn’t sparkle, and isn’t dating anyone right now, and his parents are his real parents; he’s not adopted.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

who, what, why, where, and Sheila

I’ve been fighting with Sheila lately. It turns out that she’s a teenager, NOT a fifth grader. She said, “I used to be a fifth grader, but now I’m a teenager and I want to talk about cheerleading and boys and stuff, not those lame adventures that you tried to write for me, which, by the way, never happened.”

Eeek! It’s a teenage zombie cheerleader with an attitude. HELP!

On the positive side, Sheila’s age change has helped immensely with the writing and the story. I was really struggling. When I originally imagined her and started writing about her, she was a teenager, but then she got younger after my portfolio review. Speaking of which, since my drawing skews younger, I won’t be doing art for the book. It will be text only, and the art will be reserved for my blog and website as something fun.

Tomorrow, Sheila will FINALLY answer your questions!!! I got her to agree to answer them if she could be her teenage self and not have to try to remember what it was like being a fifth grader. All the questions asked so far will be answered, along with any new ones in this comment section (by tomorrow at 10am EST).

So that’s what I’ve been up to, well that and panicking because we’re leaving this weekend and I’m so far behind in all the stuff I have to do before we leave that it’s not even funny! *stop for deep breaths* What have you been up to lately?

p.s. The title of this post doesn’t really mean anything, unless you read the post and think it does (then let me know what it means too, ok?).

p.p.s. I will be gone until January, starting this weekend. I will continue to post the Monday Art Day segments, but I’m not sure how much internet access or time away from family I’ll have. Wheeeeee! If I can sneak away, I’ll try to check in :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Christina Wald

Today’s Art Day interview is with illustrator Christina Wald, who has illustrated several fun books, including a brand new pop-up book. Read on to find out more about Christina’s art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: In my early career I did a lot of illustration got game books and collectable card games. This included more than 12 books for the Star Wars RPG for West End Games and many cards for Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG (A card game based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) and its expansions.

When that market went through a period of flux, I worked for a while at an advertising/marketing agency while I prepared samples for a new market.

I have also done a lot of work for toy companies throughout both for the product design and packaging departments. The transition seemed natural.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent pop-up book you illustrated, BIG CATS by Donna H. Bowman.
A: It was a great project with a lot of creative leeway. We started out with rough sketches, which they gave to a paper engineer to work out the dies. Once that was worked out I did all the paintings.

The designer sewed them all together in an amazing layout (most of the images were spots). The relationship with the designer involved a lot more back and forth than usual which was really enjoyable.

The book has some really interesting features including a big pop-up lion’s head.

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I recently finished illustrating Henry the Impatient Heron for Sylvan Dell. It comes out in spring 2009.

The story is wonderful and was a joy to illustrate. It featured such an interesting character and there was a lot of action.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: Yes, I have done a big variety. I have done a lot of illustration for heat transfer flags, some advertising (including some Corona displays), editorial and product design. My degree is in Industrial design and I still design products (As a design student I co-oped at Kenner Toys and Huffy Bikes). In addition to toys, I have worked on designs for vases, wind chimes, figurines, candy dispensers, and so on. Once I had to do design concepts of a sump pump.

Making a living as a freelancer means that there is rarely a dull or routine day. All projects are interesting and involve problem solving.

For fun, I love doing comics. Occasionally I contribute to a friend’s comic anthology collections. Comics also heavily influence me as a children’s book illustrator. I constantly read them when I was younger. I still occasionally go to comic book conventions.

Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?
A: Sometimes there are art descriptions and sometimes it is totally left up to me. I usually get a gut feeling about the text and it is rarely difficult to come up with an overall vision.

Q: When illustrating picture books (or novels) do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: All the time! My cat Boris is in three books so far. My husband and friends are in many of my paintings too.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: I start with a rough thumbnail, do a final sketch and scan it in. For final art, I transfer the sketch and paint the final many times in pieces and assemble them in Photoshop so I have a lot of layers (sometimes it is nice to be able to move things for type issues). That is especially handy for complex pieces.

Q: Do you do all the painting in acrylic and then assemble it in Photoshop? Or do you do some painting in Photoshop after you get it there too?
A: A lot of both… I do many paintings in pieces and then scan them in. Then I color correct and retouch in Photoshop. Sometimes I do alterations and enhancements in Photoshop too.

I do not work digitally exclusively because I like the spontaneity I get from painting. That being said, I have a Cintiq tablet which really facilitates the process of sewing everything together.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: Green and Orange-I cannot decide between them.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: Acrylic and Photoshop.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: Crayons and spin art.

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: One of the funniest drawing memories I have is when I was in the fifth grade. We had to do portraits of each other in art class.

I drew my best friend.

She was horrified by my portrait of her and wrote me a note with bullet points describing why she hated it so much and how she would never talk to me again if I did not destroy the picture.

I think what really turned her off was that I drew her head on a marble column in a museum. I thought it was cool but taste is individual.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: I was interested in a variety of career paths. I always drew and made up stories, but I also loved theater, history and science.

Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: Both or either depending on what it is.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
A: An astronomer.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: I just muddle through it. If it is late at night, I will get some sleep so I can freshly approach the composition. I also have many friends that are illustrators that I can get a quick critique from is something is REALLY not working.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: Probably my Princess Leia doll (and other Star Wars toys). I also liked fairy dolls.

Q: What illustrated book(s) do you remember from when you were a child?
A: My favorites were probably Bread and Jam for Francis and Madeline in London. I also liked Blueberries for Sal.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: My current favorites are Adam Rex and Loren Long.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: Yes-quite a bit. One of my first characters was “The Ultimate Sinister”. He was a cat with a top hat and monocle with a bunch of slave mice. I drew him all over my folders in junior high.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?
A: Climb a tree.

Bio: Christina Wald lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and two old cats. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1991 with a degree in Industrial Design. Besides illustrating children’s books and other publications, she also designs toys, giftware and other products for a variety of clients. She also used to do a lot of illustration for role-playing games collectable card games in the 90s.

She is currently working on a book for Grosset and Dunlop coming out in late spring and “Henry the Impatient Heron” will be out in early spring 2009.

When not working, she enjoys movies, comics, reading and traveling to new places. For more information, visit

Thanks for the interview Christina!
All images in this post © Christina Wald.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Twilight Movie Review

It's always fun to see a book you enjoyed be made into a movie. It brings it to life and you get to see what happens and how the story is changed or enhanced (or not) by being acted out. I took my husband to see the Twilight movie last weekend. I knew going in that he probably wouldn't like it that much, but I was hoping that they made it into a good movie so that it would surprise me and he would enjoy it a little bit.

Unfortunately, Twilight was not that great of a movie if you didn't read the book. I liked seeing it come to life on the big screen, but I didn't think it was a good movie. It reminded me a lot of the first Harry Potter movie, in that they tried to follow the book so much that they lost sight of telling a good story. Hopefully the next installments will be better at converting books into movies.

There were a ton of teenagers in the theater, which made it more fun for me, because they were laughing and reacting to all the same things I was. It was obvious what was happening in the movie, but if you hadn't read the books, the funny parts were just ordinary. For instance, during the biology scene, it was obvious that Edward was reacting negatively to Bella, but they didn't say why, and they didn't say why he was being nice to her all of a sudden after his camping trip. They could have made that scene funny for everyone in the theater, but instead, it was just a boy meets girl, hates girl, then boy likes girl kind of thing, with no explanation whatsoever.

Details and context would have taken the superficial movie characters and made them more interesting, like they were in the books. I know they can't include everything, but they need to include some stuff for the people that aren't already fans. Plus it would be nice for those of us who are fans too. Adding just a few more key details would have helped to make the characters more rounded and make the romance more epic and understandable (if you didn't read the books, you wouldn't know why Edward and Bella got together other than maybe hormones or forbidden love).

I really liked James, Victoria and Laurent, but I thought it would have been more suspenseful to allude to the killings w/o showing the other vampires until the baseball scene. It would have been great to get more of the danger and James tracking Bella into the movie too. That would have made the violent scene in the dance studio much more plausible and interesting. The way it was, it seemed out of place with the rest of the movie. (Don't get me wrong, I totally loved that scene, especially where Alice is helping Bella and gets blood on her hand. Actually, that was my favorite scene.)

I'm glad I saw it but I wish it had been better. I'm planning on going to see Eclipse when they make it a movie too, just not with my husband.

The best parts (IMO) were:

The scene in the dance studio with James and Bella and how it plays out between them, and when Edward and then the others arrive. If the rest of the movie had that kind of intensity, it would have been excellent (think what they could have done with the romance).

The look that Edward gave the guys harassing Bella. One stare and they all scatter - HA!

Bella falling on her butt. It was over before I even had a chance to laugh (which I totally would have if they had made the fall just a little bit more drawn out). I waited the whole movie for more spaz moves - there were tons in the books, I was hoping for more in the movies.

Alice - LOVED her!

Jasper - I wasn't sure if I liked him at first, but I was sold by the end of the movie. I loved the expression on his face, and thought it was realistic that he would let his guard down just a bit during the baseball scene.

Sparkles - I don't think they were supposed to be funny, but compared to the description in the book, they were hilarious. Everyone in the theater was laughing, or maybe it was just me.

Edward catching the apple. Cool move.

Bella - I thought KS made a great Bella.

I wasn't prepared for Carlisle. I had heard things, but had a different picture in my mind based on that. When he first appeared I was not ready for that, but he grew on me. The Cullens actually all looked a little more like live dolls than like sexy vampires the first time you see them. All of them together is a cool look, just not exactly what I expected. It did grow on me though. Edward looks different.

Mike - great casting, cute guy. Sorry they didn't have Bella go out with him.

Jacob - loved his smile! I'm not a team Jacob fan, but I liked the actor and can't wait to see what he does with the bigger part in the next movie.

Jumping out of Edward's window into the forest. That was cool. Wish I could do that. Plus the scenery was gorgeous!

The not so great parts (IMO):

The sleep stalking. I didn't think it could be any creepier than in the books, but seeing it on screen was worse. It's not romantic to have someone watching you sleep without your knowledge or permission, even if they say they are protecting you. It's just creepy and stalkerish.

Edward - I like RP, he's just not how I pictured Edward. Sorry! I'm hoping I'll get used to that by the next movie.

The voice overs. I could have done without that. I don't think it added to the movie; it just made me think about how much better the book was.

I would have liked to see more of the reservation side of the story. Without that, the next one will seem even stranger than it already does in the book.

Continuity issues (for those of you that will go see the movie multiple times):
When Bella went to the bookstore to get the book on legends, she put it in her bag. Then Edward saved her from the bad guys. On the way home, they stopped at the Sherrif's dept. and Bella got out, without her bag. Edward went with Carlisle. In the next scene, Bella magically has her book. ??? (It's always fun to point out stuff like that - every movie has at least one scene.)

Another continuity thing: when she's in the hospital, they keep showing Bella close up, then farther away. Back and forth and back and forth. The tubes are over her eyes one way, then they're not, then they are, then they're not!

Final Thoughts:
If you read the books or just want to see the movie, go see it. If you don't like teenage girl movies or movies made from books, then stay home.

Other Reviews:
Courtney did a really fun review of her Twilight movie experience.

Entertainment Weekly review. They have video interviews with Robert Pattinson and Stephenie Meyer (8-10 video segments), which I watched. There were more videos after that, but I didn't watch them.

The Variety review
also has an interview with Robert Pattinson (with some seriously bad hair).

School Library Journal review
has a book/movie comparison.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ask Sheila + DEAD GIRL WALKING review /contest

Ask Sheila - Sheila the zombie cheerleader wants to answer your questions. She'll answer questions about life, publishing, romance, holidays, whatever. Think of her like Dear Abby, if Abby were a fifth grade zombie cheerleader. Ask your questions in the comments section to this thread or by email: sheila at sruble dot com. You can remain anonymous if you want.

Speaking of supernatural girls, Linda Joy Singleton has a new book out that I can't wait to read. Check out the review below for more info on her book, and check out her blog to enter a contest to win the book.

Here's a review of Linda's book DEAD GIRL WALKING, from School Library Journal: Gr 8 Up

Amber Borden is clever, ambitious, and tired of being seen as a nobody by the popular crowd at her high school. She's convinced that her ticket to success is to be an A-list talent agent, and her first big break is in convincing Trinidad Sylvenski to let Amber manage her. Unfortunately for Amber, her life literally spins out of control. After discovering what the most popular girls really think of her, she has a near-death experience when she is hit by a mail truck. In the "heavens," she meets her loving grandmother and loyal dog who give her words of encouragement, the promise of better things to come, and instructions on how to return to her body. Amber is so excited with this encounter that she takes a wrong turn and winds up in the body of beautiful, wealthy, and popular Leah Montgomery. It doesn't take long for Amber to realize that Leah's life and family are in major turmoil. All she wants is her old life back, and she will do whatever it takes to make this happen. What she learns along the way are the experiences of a lifetime. This page-turner has wit, love, courage, adventure, and remarkable insight. Amber is truly a teen heroine whom readers will identify with and learn from, who brings new meaning to the word "dead." A must-have purchase for fans of the supernatural and the occult.-Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

character cravings, NaNo and JoNo, holidays and a meme

What does your character crave? Is it something small like a sugary treat? Or is it something bigger, like a friend, or a boyfriend, or a home, or a parent that actually loves them?

How can you write or illustrate your character’s craving in a believable way? How about something like this (or is it too much?):

“Hi, do you have pie? What kind of pie? Can I have some pie? I’d like some pie, or maybe some cake. Do you have cake? Or cupcakes? Or cookies? I could go for some cookies. I’d like a cookie! Then again, I could totally go for some candy, maybe chocolate. I like chocolate. Do you have any chocolate?

Sugar Craving! Sugar Craving! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I should probably just eat fruit. Fruit has sugar in it. Fruit is much better for you than chocolate, candy, cookies, cake or pie, but I really like pie. If I have apple pie, it’s both fruit and pie. Mmmmmmmm, pie.”

Authors: Write the Crave! - Illustrators: Draw the Crave!


In other news …
NaNoWriMo – If I hadn’t gotten food poisoning, I really think I could have finished in time. Even though I didn’t, I’m still glad I signed up this year. I have a character with a strong voice and a story she wants to tell. I’m still working on it and I’ve also started working on Path Of Bees again too! (I’m working mostly on Sheila’s story, but I’ve been slowly adding to the Bee’s story too.)

JoNoWriMo – My main goal was forward progress. I’ve been making progress, so I achieved this goal! I might not be going as fast as I’d like to, and I might be working on different projects than I thought I would, but I’m making progress, and that counts.

The Holidays – Warning to those who haven’t been paying attention to the calendar lately: the end of the year is coming up fast! I just realized we’re leaving a few days earlier than we usually do, and it’s already December, and I’m starting to panic, just a little bit. Eeek! Help! There’s so much to do in the next week and a half! Maybe some pie would calm me down, or some chocolate. Mmmm, chocolate. :)

I was tagged by Adrienne for a cool meme where you give one word answers to questions. It’s lots of fun, so try it if you want! (I tag everyone that wants a fun word challenge!)

Where is your cell phone? table
Where is your significant other? work
Your hair color? brown
Your mother? knowledgeable
Your father? reader
Your favorite thing? art
Your dream last night? weird
Your dream/goal? published
The room you’re in? living
Your hobby? fun
Your fear? unmentionable
Where do you want to be in 6 years? healthy
Where were you last night? home
What you’re not? bored
One of your wish-list items? books
Where you grew up? Minnesota
Last thing you did? breakfast
What are you wearing? clothes
Your TV? old
Your pet? furry
Your computer? warm
Your mood? stressed
Missing someone? family
Your car? white
Something you’re not wearing? earrings
Favorite store? bookstore
Your summer? beach
Love someone? yes
Your favorite color? lots
When is the last time you laughed? yesterday
Last time you cried? Ummm?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Jennifer Morris

Today’s Art Day interview is with the versatile illustrator Jennifer Morris, who creates art for children’s books, greeting cards, and licensed products. Read on to find out more about Jennifer’s art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: Before I had kids I used to work in a cubicle as a software engineer. I actually have a master's degree in computer science, but I had always dreamed of illustrating. When my daughter was born, I quit my job to stay home with her. I figured that was a great time to test the waters and see if I could get any work as an illustrator. My daughter is almost eleven now and I haven’t gone back to my cubicle yet.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent picture book you illustrated, IF A MONKEY JUMPS ONTO YOUR SCHOOL BUS by Jean Cochran.
A: When Jean came to me with a manuscript about zoo animals running amuck at a school, I was thrilled. I love drawing animals - and silly animals getting into trouble are even better - I couldn't resist.

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: Jean and I have collaborated on another book entitled “On a Dark, Dark Night” which is scheduled for release fall 2009. As you can see this is completely different styling from the first book we did (see cover below). But I think it this different styling works well with this subject of this book. I also have a couple of other books in the wings but don’t know how much I should say yet since I haven’t actually started working on them.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: The first illustration work I did was for greeting cards. Most of my designs were created for a company called Great Arrow. They do very graphic, hand silk-screened cards. Very different from my children’s work (see card image below).

I also do paper plate designs, mostly for kids birthday parties. As you can see, these are yet a different style. I find it hard to stick with just one style for every project (see plate design below).

Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?
A: I try to envision the story like a movie. Then I pick the key scenes from my "movie" to illustrate.

Q: When illustrating picture books, do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: Yes, I really enjoy adding my own things to the images. For instance in “If a Monkey Jumps Onto Your School Bus,” the monkey shows up on every spread, sometimes he's hidden - the kids like to search for the monkey. “On a Dark, Dark Night,” I created a little doggy sidekick that isn’t mentioned in the text.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: I blogged about creating the cover for "If a Monkey Jumps Onto Your School Bus." (click on the pages for the links) Monkey Cover page 1, Monkey Cover page 2, Monkey Cover page 3, Monkey Cover page 4, Monkey Cover page 5, Monkey Cover page 6, Monkey Cover page 7,

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: This may sound like a hokey answer, but it changes - really! I'm usually drawn toward warm colors - reds, golds, yellow-greens, but lately I've been going through a blue phase (but I'm not depressed honest!).

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: I love Photoshop. I experiment much more on the computer than I do with paint and paper. I always feel like I'm going to screw up when I'm using paint. I find being able to save a backup copy to be very liberating.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: A brand new box of Crayolas (the 64 pack with the built in sharpener). Although I was always bummed that the sharpener never made them look like new again.

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: I started a huge pen and ink drawing of a carousel horse. I think I was about 12. I was doing it with a quill pen and I gave up halfway through, but I kept it. I think its still under my bed at my parent’s house.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: Yep, ever since first grade. I was probably the only kid in grade school with a copy of the "Artist's Market." I never submitted anything to a publisher but I used to read through it.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: I do try to use reference - but not always. I use photos, purchased models and sometimes I make my own models out of Sculpey and Styrofoam. Here's a link to one of my Styrofoam creations.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
A: I’d probably go back to computer programming. I did enjoy programming; there is a creative aspect to it that is similar to illustration (without the monkeys of course).

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: The challenge for me is to try to look at it with a fresh eye. Flipping the image over (either in Photoshop or in a mirror) helps me distance myself. Sometimes just taking a break can help.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: Mrs. Beasley. I still have her, although she is looking mighty scary.

Q: What illustrated books do you remember from when you were a child?
A: I think my favorite books as a kid were the pop-up books my mom got at Hallmark. I had an alphabet book, a poetry book, and my favorite, "The Adventures of Super Pickle".

(sruble note: Another Super Pickle fan – hooray!)

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: Umm let's see, I have so many favorites. Brian Lies, Mini Grey, Brandon Dorman, and Adam Rex and are a few than come to mind.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: I wouldn’t tell jokes, I’d draw cartoons instead. It got me in trouble a few times.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?
A: I’d get a big bucket of plastic figures (I would have LOVED those fancy Schleich figures) and play with them all morning, I'd watch cartoons all afternoon and eat a huge ice cream sundae without once worrying what it’s going to do to my waist.

Bio: Jennifer Morris is a designer, illustrator and children's book author. She has designed everything from paper plates to award winning greeting cards and is the author and illustrator of the Scholastic book, “May I Please Have a Cookie?” which has sold over 500,000 copies. You can visit Jennifer on-line at

Thanks for the interview Jennifer!
All images in this post © Jennifer Morris.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! Did you see Sheila in the parade?

Sending wishes your way for a Happy Turkey Day! (Or as we call it at our house, Happy Beef Day!)

Did you see Sheila the zombie cheerleader in the parade? She was the one with the pigtails and green skin. ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

update, a new blog feature, Art Day and Thanksgiving balloons

I’m back, and it’s still Monday … somewhere. I’m not back to normal, but I’m eating food again, very bland food. I’ve lost 5 lbs. so far. It’s not a diet I would recommend to anyone. Exercise and watching what you eat would be a way better idea. Thanks for the get well comments!

Ask Sheila – Sheila has opinions on everything and she wants to share (sort-of like Dear Abby, but with a 5th grade zombie cheerleader giving the advice). Ask her any question by commenting on this post or emailing her: sheila (at) sruble (dot) com. Put “cheers!” in the subject line so that Sheila knows it’s not spam. She doesn’t like spam, but she does like Spam (tastes like brains).

Remember, Sheila is a zombie and she’s in fifth grade, so her advice might not be conventional. Also, opinions expressed by Sheila the Zombie Cheerleader do not necessarily reflect those of sruble, and she may have to add a comment or two if Sheila gets out of hand.

Art Day December Schedule:
12/1 – Illustrator Jennifer Morris
12/9 – Illustrator Christina Wald
12/15 – Illustrator Marilyn Scott
12/22 – arts and crafts – snowman picture
12/29 – spotlight – Quentin Blake

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloons are one of the coolest things about the parade. Every year we go to see the balloons blown up the night before Thanksgiving. The balloons start out flat, like any other balloon, except that they are huge. Thousands of people crowd through the streets to see the balloons, and it’s hard to get pictures without getting run over, but I managed to get some pictures last year (DH guarded my back). Here are a few of my favorites:

Read more about the balloons:
Macy’s Behind The Scenes – Creating A Balloon

How Stuff Works - Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Wikipedia)

Official Macy’s Parade Site

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Deborah Freedman

Today I’m interviewing author and illustrator Deborah Freedman for Art Day. Deborah’s art and writing are a whole lot of fun for kids. Read on to find out more about Deborah and her work.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?

A: After I had my first baby, 20 years ago, I started making little books for my kids. I slowly started taking those little books and myself more and more seriously, and eventually put an illustration portfolio together. After a few editors encouraged me to do my own books, I concentrated on writing - I had a bit of a learning curve with that though!

Q: Tell us a little bit about your first picture book, SCRIBBLE.
A: Like a lot of artists, I’m inspired by children's drawings and have always wished that I could be that loose, that imaginative. One of the things I love about the art of young children is that so often there is a wonderful narrative that goes with it; I know that my own kids often asked me to write little descriptions or stories down at the bottom of their pictures. After years of looking at and thinking about their artwork, one day I had an idea for a book - about two sisters who draw together, and the story behind their drawings.

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I always have a few picture book projects going, in different stages.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?

A: Sometimes I like to do art for myself that is just a little edgier or more oblique than what I can do for the picture book crowd.

Q: When illustrating picture books do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: Just as I was about to begin the final sketches for SCRIBBLE, we adopted a tiny kitten, Milo. I thought it would be fun to have a "real" cat alongside the pretend one, reacting to what is going on or sometimes one step ahead of the other characters, and Milo made a great model. So he is there, on every page. Although I don't expect him to show up in every book, he is the main character of a book I am working on now.

Q: Can you explain your art process?

A: When I first have an idea for a book, I dedicate a little sketchbook to it so that I can keep track of my thoughts and doodles. Once I have things worked out in my head, I move to a thumbnail, storyboard format. I write and draw at that stage for a long time, working out the overall visual theme, arc, pacing, etc. I usually do a sample or two at that point, to test out my ideas for the art. Then I slowly blow the sketches up to make room for more detail.

For final art, I like to work on the whole book at once, if I can. I do like things in batches to keep them consistent – like settings at once, each character at once, etc. Then I scan everything and assemble it on my computer. And I try to make it look like it hasn’t been pieced together!

Q: What is your favorite color?

A: That's an interesting question for me.

Most of my projects start in my head with some sort of big visual theme or hook, and color is an important part of that. I don't necessarily have one, forever favorite color, but I do have a favorite of the moment - one color that sets up the palette for the rest of the art in a book. I use that color in a very deliberate way, as critical element in my story. In SCRIBBLE I focused on yellow and pink, which some readers may find an odd or even unappealing combination, but those two colors helped me add depth to my characters and drive the theme of the book. Right now I'm working a lot with blue, a calming blue, maybe as an antidote to all of that pink and yellow!

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?

A: I both love and hate the unpredictability of watercolor. On days when I don't have the patience for it, I like pen & ink.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: Play-Doh. Mmmm, that smell…

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: I don't. Isn't that sad? But I do remember that when I was in nursery school, I painted lots of girls with hair that flipped into swirly curls at the end, like Princess Aurora's in SCRIBBLE. I also remember the different houses that I built from blocks, and the funny outfits that I sewed for my brother’s and sister’s stuffed animals.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: I don't know that I ever said to myself, "I want to be an artist", but art has always been a part of my life. My sister and I took art classes together after school and in the summers, throughout our childhoods. My grandparents were avid art lovers, and often took us to museums and galleries. Largely because of their influence, I majored in art history in college. But in the end I decided that I needed to be "doing" something artistic and not just studying it, and so I went to architecture school.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?

A: Mostly my imagination; it's hard to pose a child doing something like flying through the air. Also, I find that my drawings are less rigid and more emotive when I work from my head. But when I'm having trouble with a pose, I do look at myself in the mirror or go to photos. Or I give up and change the pose!

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?

A: Do I have to be something else?

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?

A: My husband and I have a large collection of art books, so when I'm stuck I often go to those for inspiration. Sometimes I even steal from them (don’t tell). Or I take a long walk. Or a nap.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?

A: I had (still have) a stuffed lion with a winsome face and legs that were sewn on backwards.

Q: What illustrated books do you remember from when you were a child?

A: I actually have a list of my old favorites on my website, here. From that list, the single book I've always remembered most vividly from my childhood is THE SNOWY DAY. Ezra Jack Keats’ images - Peter dragging his stick and making angels in the snow, the snowball melting in his pocket - have always stayed with me. And the words too. “Down fell the snow – plop! – on top of Peter’s head.”

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: Ooh, tough question! I don't know where to begin or stop. My taste is all over the place, ranging through Sendak, Peter Sis, Stephen Gammell, to William Steig and my buddy Frank Dormer.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: No, never! I was the one who liked to make things; my brother and sister always accused me of abandoning them once their stuffed animals were dressed and the block houses were built, when it was time to PLAY. They think it's funny that I'm the one telling stories now. No wonder I have so much trouble with plots...

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?

A: Lie on the grass and daydream.

Bio: Deborah Freedman lives with her family in Connecticut, and is the author and illustrator of SCRIBBLE (Knopf 2007), a Book Sense Pick. Please visit to learn more about Deborah and her work.

Thanks for the interview Deborah!

All images in this post © Deborah Freedman.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

writing story and characters by watching TV (especially the West Wing)

You can learn a lot about writing from watching TV, especially The West Wing (one of my all time favorite TV shows).

If you take the politics out of the show, you can concentrate on the writing (some of you are probably saying that’s impossible; the whole show is about politics, but I assure you, it’s possible). Politics is only a backdrop, the premise behind the show, along with exploring who the players in Washington are, what the issues are, what it’s like to work at the White House. However, politics is not the main point of the show. Honestly.

The West Wing is really about the characters, who they are and how they interact with those around them. We care about the characters after the first show, and continue to care about them for several seasons. Plus there are a ton of major characters to care about. It’s not just one or two. Even the minor characters are important. Think about how you might pull off a novel with a huge ensemble cast, with many main players and several key secondary players. Could you do it?

How did they create such great characters and make us care about all of them? They did it by making the characters think, act and feel like real people, with great stories, real problems, and realistic dialog (and good actors too). We care about the characters because they’re flawed and because we get to see their good and bad sides. We get to see them on incredible highs and rock bottom lows; we see their whole range of emotions. There are no cookie cutter characters or continuously happy people on this show, and there shouldn’t be in your writing either.

The West Wing is not just about the characters; it’s also about the stories. Yes, many of them involve politics, but not always in the way that you’d think. In the very first episode, Sam, the Deputy White House Communications Director, accidentally sleeps with a call girl, which could be a political nightmare for the administration, not to mention embarrassing to him. (Sam met a cute girl at the bar and went home with her; he didn’t know she was a call girl, but that won’t matter in public opinion.) What actions might your characters take that could wreak havoc on the world around them? Do they do them on purpose? Or do they not realize what they’ve done until it’s too late?

The West Wing has excellent stories, sometimes several in one episode. Some of the stories carry over into following episodes and some of them wrap up in one show, but they manage to keep all the plots and subplots working at once.

If you’re writing series books, watching TV could be a really great way to see how to do single episode and longer story arcs at the same time, while keeping your readers interested in what’s going on at any given time. The West Wing is one of the best shows to study for this.

If you haven’t seen The West Wing, don’t take my word for it. Go rent the DVDs (or buy them if you have some $), or watch them on Bravo like I do. If you deconstruct the episodes, or even just watch them for entertainment, you’re bound to learn something about characters and stories and how to make them work.

If you have seen the show, think about this:

How many of you wish you could write a love story like the one between Josh and Donna? Or write the love story between Danny and C.J.? These start at the very beginning of the series and aren’t finished until the end of the show (it ran for 7 seasons and 156 episodes – that’s a long time to stretch out a romance and make people still care what happens).

* What about writing Charlie’s story? When his mom dies, he postpones college to take care of his little sister. He goes to the White House to get a job as a messenger and ends up being personal aide to the President. Then he dates the President’s daughter, which riles up the hate groups because Charlie’s black, the Zoey is white. The President and Josh get shot instead of Charlie when the hate groups target him. Later in the series, he was able to finish college and move into a new position as Deputy Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.

How about Leo, the Chief of Staff? He’s a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who helps one of his friends get elected to the Presidency. Then his past drug addiction is made public knowledge, which puts that friend in political jeopardy. At the end of the series, Leo ends up running for VP with the next President.

Have a happy weekend everyone! Hope this gave you some food for thought or at least an excuse to watch more TV.

* One last thing, remember Charlie? Originally his character was only supposed to be on for a few episodes; he ended up being on all 7 seasons. It shows how a minor character in your story can end up taking on a more important role than you had originally envisioned.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

art vs. illustration

From an article mentioned in the PW Children’s Bookshelf newsletter today, that I think is worth mentioning in case you didn’t see it: Not just a pretty picture

Fiona Gruber | November 10, 2008 | Article from: The Australian

The article compares art and fine art, while at the same time talking with Graeme Base about his art for books and about the exhibit he’s about to hold at a gallery. They also talk about other children’s book art and fine art, as well as markets for art in different countries. My favorite quote from this article is a quote from Graeme Base:

“Their primary function might be as a commentary on accompanying text or as a book-framed visual narrative, he adds. But this does not cancel out their uniqueness. "Obviously they have to work as a sequence of pages or they're not doing their job properly, but I see every one as an individual piece of art," he says.”

What do you guys think? Anyone want to start a discussion in the comments section?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sheila the zombie cheerleader vs. NaNoWriMo

My portfolio reviews went well on Sunday. Yay! I learned about some things I need to improve and found out some things that were working well too. It’s always interesting to hear different opinions, especially back to back. Sometimes one person will like something the next person won’t, and vice versa. It’s always telling when they agree.

I’m putting my portfolio up on my site soon (no really, this time I’m actually going to update my website). Here’s a sneak peak of 2 book covers I did:

Bee’s cover:

Sheila’s cover:

Sheila thinks that since she has a book cover now, she should be the NaNoWriMo novel, even though she’s younger than Bee, and even though she (apparently) lied to me on Halloween about how she became a zombie. She assures me that she has way more than 50,000 words to say, which I believe, because she never stops talking to me.

I would ignore her, except that I’m not that far into Path of Bees (because I was working on my portfolio last week) and because she said she would eat my brain if I didn’t. Maybe for another reason I can’t talk about yet, too.

What I didn’t tell Sheila is that I’m still going to work on Path of Bees (at the same time), just at a slower pace.

Hope you all have a creative and productive week!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Diane Dawson Hearn

Today’s Art Day interview is with illustrator Diane Dawson Hearn, who creates wonderful images of children and animals. Read on to find out more about Diane’s art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?

A: I started illustrating when I first learned to write, and would draw pictures for my own stories. I tended to get more recognition for the drawings when I was small, and so I think this lead me to focus more seriously on my artwork. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York I was given my first book to illustrate called, SEE MY LOVELY POISON IVY, by Lilian Moore. I've been illustrating ever since, and have also had three of my own stories published called DAD’S DINOSAUR DAY, BAD LUCK BOSWELL and ANNA IN THE GARDEN.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent picture book you illustrated, RAIN FORESTS, by Nancy Smiler Levinson.
A: I had illustrated two other books for her called DEATH VALLEY, A DAY IN THE DESERT, and NORTH POLE, SOUTH POLE. All of these books are nonfiction, which is a challenge for me since my art leans more toward the humorous and whimsical. I needed the artwork to be accurate enough for children using the book as a learning tool. Needless to say, I did a lot of research for RAIN FORESTS and enjoyed learning about the flora, fauna and human inhabitants of both temperate and tropical rain forests. The book took me two years to illustrate (with some delays in the editorial process) and there were lots of corrections made along the way. Considering I am not a scientific illustrator, I'm pretty happy with the result. (sruble note: check out the amazing cover. It looks like you’re really in the jungle, staring down a leopard, doesn’t it?)

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I am working on some illustrations for some of my own unpublished stories right now. I need to update my website with new artwork and I would also like to get a few stories circulating to publishers. I've included a drawing for one of my stories, which is about a troll.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: My husband keeps encouraging me to try my hand at some licensed work, but so far I haven't given it much of an effort. It's tricky, because what works for greeting cards or licensed work doesn't necessarily work for children's books, and my artwork seems to always look like a book illustration. And I fear that I don't have a fine art bone in my body. I remember once in college my professor was trying to get me to think more like a fine artist, and he told me to bring in some of my doodles that I would do in the margins of my notebook in classes. He expected to see the sort of abstract designs a lot of people do when they are doodling, and he was dismayed to see all my doodles were of little animals, monsters and fairies! I think he gave up on me at that moment!

Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?

A: If the story is well written the ideas just seem to flow naturally from the words. I rarely have trouble thinking of scenes and images for books; the words are like fuel for the fire of my imagination. The dummy stage of illustrating a book is one of the most important, because it's at this point where I begin to think of the flow of the story, what I want to illustrate on each page and the design of the book. Often at this stage I'm not thinking of the little details, just the overall ideas. Once I've done my necessary research and have designed characters and settings I start to think about more details.

Q: When illustrating picture books do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: It depends on the story. I like to do it if it's not intrusive. In several of my books I've included a floppy eared stuffed dog like one I had when I was a child, and I'll often add a pet. For instance, in my own story, Dad's Dinosaur Day, I included a cat who was not in the text, but he appears on many pages reacting to what is happening in the story. I've never included people I know, probably because I'm terrible at portraits.

Q: Can you explain your art process?

A: One of the most important steps when I've received a book to illustrate is to let it sit with me for a time, to give my imagination a chance to get going on it. If necessary, I'll do some research for various elements in the story such as setting, costumes or animals. Then I draw character sketches to get an idea of the cast, and I create a dummy to show basic design. After that I do sketches on tracing paper and transfer them to heavier paper. Then I ink or paint them, using acrylic paint. Sometimes I water down the acrylic and sometimes I use it in an opaque method.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I know this sounds crazy, but I don't really have one. I've noticed, though, that recently when buying clothes I've tended toward teal a lot, and ultramarine blue. But I don't necessarily use those colors a lot in my artwork.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?

A: Pen and Ink and Acrylic paint on paper.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?

A: I remember when I was about nine my mom bought me a set of magic markers. They were a new thing back then, and very smelly, but I was enthralled by them. I still have the cardboard box they came in!

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?

A: When I was in fourth grade every week my teacher would read us a chapter from Sinbad the Sailor, without showing us any pictures from the book. Then we would illustrate the chapter. Other than illustrating my own little stories I was writing at the time, this was probably my favorite memory of drawing.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: Yes, and specifically a children's book artist. I also was interested in cats and dinosaurs, as you can see by the little drawing of a cat I did when I was seven. Interestingly enough, the first books I wrote myself that were published were about a cat and a dinosaur! Go figure.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: I've never used models because my artwork is stylized, but I often used research from the library, internet and my own picture file I've been keeping since I was a student. I had a teacher tell us to start saving photos and magazine images on all kinds of subjects in an organized fashion. I now have two tall filing cabinets crammed with images of every kind, neatly filed into categories like bears, plants, cars, etc. and I refer to them on just about every assignment I get. The photos are jumping off points for my imagination, as I rarely directly copy them.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?

A: It's hard to say, since I've been focused on the art for so long. But as a student I was interested in France and Russia, and I have a fascination for tribal peoples, so who knows where that would have led?

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?

A: Prayer and hard work! Usually I do lots of thumbnail sketches to iron out my composition, so by the time I'm doing a sketch I have a fairly good idea about where I'm going. Since I don't use a computer I often have to cut parts of the sketch out and flip, or rearrange them to get what I want, but it usually works out eventually. And when I get to about page 23 of a 32 page book I often think I'll never make it (kind of like a marathon runner "hitting the wall"). At that point I just have to make myself keep that brush moving, knowing that if I do I will reach the end.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: I've mentioned earlier that I had a floppy eared stuffed dog I called "Oggy Doggy" after a cartoon character of the time. I still have him, all worn out and threadbare, very "real", like the rabbit in the Velveteen Rabbit. I also loved playing with little plastic dinosaurs and I had a big boxful of them. I would have loved all the crazy plastic monsters and creatures that are available now.

Q: What illustrated book(s) do you remember from when you were a child?
A: Ferdinand the Bull, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Red Balloon, and Eloise, to name a few.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: I enjoy the work of Lane Smith, Brian Froud, Peggy Rathmann, Brock Cole, and David Wiesner, among others.

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?

A: I love jokes, but I can't make them up myself. Though I wrote stories, I think I was too shy to tell any out loud. I would read some of my stories to my mom, though, before bedtime.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?

A: When I was young, living in suburban New Jersey, we used to follow streams as they meandered through backyards and under streets. If I were young today I'd be tempted to follow Tom's Creek that runs nearby our house here in Virginia, to see if it would take me all the way to the New River.

BIO: Diane has been drawing since she was very small, and has known she wanted to write and illustrate children's books since she learned to read. Over the course of her career she’s illustrated over 50 books for children and has had three of her own stories published. You can find out more at

Thanks for the interview Diane!

All images in this post © Diane Dawson Hearn.

Friday, November 7, 2008

zombies are chasing me!

Help! Sheila and her friends won’t leave me alone! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! The only way to get them to stop chasing me is to work on my portfolio (there will be zombie pictures and vampires and … ).

Back to work! Hope you all get lots of creative work done today and have a great weekend too!

Remus Update: No teeth pulled! (They said they might have to pull several.) He’s pretty sore, but his teeth are clean and healthy, which in the long run should help him stay healthy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Remus, bad days, and what if?

I’m not here; I’m working on my portfolio (review on Sunday – eep!) and taking Remus to get his teeth cleaned. Send some good vibes his way. He’s having a bad day. Poor kitty!

Something to ponder while Remus is at the vet:
We don’t like it when we have a bad day or someone we love is having a bad day. However, we need to give our characters bad days, or at least get them into sticky or uncomfortable situations. That’s what makes the story interesting and the characters grow. So …

What’s the worst thing that could happen to your character and could you put them into that situation?

Could you write her out of it and help her get to a better place?

Could you make the situation worse?

You could throw in an old boyfriend (that she still loves) when she’s having a fight with her new boyfriend, or an earthquake, or showing up to school in her underwear (and it’s not a dream) or maybe she goes skydiving and her parachute doesn’t open, or …

What if your character had the worst day ever? What then? How would he save face or make things right?

Today is a good day to ponder What If? I’ll be doing that for some black and white images for my portfolio. Bee and Sheila need to make an appearance, and I’m about to give them both bad days, and a few good moments too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

videos for illustrators, authors, and snarky people

I’m not here; I’m working on my portfolio. However, there are a few cool videos that I thought you might like while I’m gone:

For Illustrators – How to watermark a whole batch of illustrations in Photoshop at once. The video is long, but really helpful. Watch, © copyright your images, post.

For Authors and Illustrators – 2 interviews with Sandra Boynton in one video!

For Authors – Sherman Alexie on the Young Adult Novelists panel at the Texas for the Texas Book Festival, November 3 2007.

For Snarky People – Have you seen the TV show Whatever Martha? It’s my new favorite snarkfest. Alexis Stewart (Martha’s daughter) and her friend Jennifer watch old Martha Stewart shows and make funny comments. Sometimes they try the craft projects (and usually fail). Don’t feel sorry for Martha. She had the idea in the first place. The Rice Krispie treats episode and the Andy Rooney episode are my favorites, but I couldn’t find them on YouTube. The s’mores episode is good too, and it’s here:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election day Twilight Zone

Don't forget to vote, because if you don't, you will be sucked into a Twilight Zone like vortex, where the pre-election political ads and commentary will run over and over and over again, and you won't be able to escape it ... unless you go vote.

Ok, not really, but please remember to vote today. Thanks!

Tomorrow it will all be over, unless we are sucked back into the vortex that was the 2000 election, but that won't happen again, because you're going to go vote, right? Right now? Okay? Please? Yay!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Sherry Rogers

Today’s Art Day interview is with illustrator Sherry Rogers. Her images are fun and kid friendly. Read on to find out more about Sherry and how she makes her art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?

A: In my previous career I was a Graphic Designer/Technical Illustrator. When we moved to our new home three hours away the market for Graphic Design was fairly scarce and the house prices were half, so for the first year I didn’t work outside the home which I thoroughly enjoyed. Both of my kids were in High School and didn’t require much of my time. I had worked full time most of my life and after a year off, though I enjoyed it, I started feeling like I wanted to work outside the home again.

I’d always loved picture books and children so I decided to research what I needed to do to start a career in that field.

When my kids were really small I’d written and illustrated a picture book. It was done strictly for myself and obviously never published. Hmm … I should go back and visit that book and think about submitting it.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent picture books you illustrated, KERSPLATYPUS by Susan Mitchell and SORT IT OUT by Barbara Mariconda.
A: Both are published by Sylvan Dell, an incredible publisher to whom I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude for letting me fulfill a dream. All of their books start with a fun warm story with a math, science, or nature theme. In the back they add a 3-5 page “For Creative Minds” section that includes fun facts, crafts, vocabulary and games, to reinforce the educational value and to support National Science and Math Standards.

KERSPLATYPUS is a story which takes place in Australia. It is about a small lost creature (a platypus) that appears out of nowhere after a big rain.

He is befriended by animals who try to help him find where he belongs. His fur, feet, tail, and duck-like bill remind each of the animals of something they have in common with him. They set off on a journey to find what he is and where he belongs. Along the way they have him do the same sort of things they do, climb trees, fly, and hop. They all try very hard to help him find where he belongs … everyone, but the blue tongued skink. Each time the creature (platypus) is unable to perform the task the animals give him, the skink laughs.

KERSPLATYPUS is the story of one creature’s journey to find what he is and where his place in the world is and how he sometimes falls flat on the way there. It’s a great story that helps children understand that with a little determination (and some really good friends) you can pick yourself up when you fall and keep on going and find the place you belong.

SORT IT OUT is about Packy a packrat who loves to collect things. Packy’s mom is tired of the mess of his growing collection and tells him to sort his things and put them away. SORT IT OUT is a rhyming book that encourages the reader to participate in the sorting process by putting Packy’s things in categories such as characteristics and attributes. The illustrations include a subplot, not in the text, about Packy’s sister, who enjoys taking some of his things for her own enjoyment.

Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any other books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I just finished illustrating a book called PAWS, CLAWS, HANDS AND FEET, which is due out in Spring of 2009 and I am in the process of illustrating another one called MOOSE AND MAGPIE, which is due out fall of 2009. I also just completed a job for Humpty Dumpty magazine.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: I don’t, but I have thought about it. I just haven’t had the time to explore the market and learn what I need to do enter that market.

Q: When someone else has written the text for a picture book or novel, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?

A: I usually get a pretty strong vision the first time I read through the manuscript. I never start illustrating the book right away though. I usually read through the manuscript several times and try to let the words really sink in. Once I get the idea of the story pretty solidified, I go through the manuscript and decide the pacing or page turns that might help create more drama. Although, the page turns can still change as I go into the sketch phase. I try to always let the story work its way out of me no matter how many times I have to start over from the beginning of my process. I have been known to add things even after the painting process has started. If it makes the story better I have learned I need to do it.

After I figure out the page turns I move on to rough sketches. That is the hardest time for me. I find it hard not thinking about the story/book all the time. I find it hard to shut my brain off enough to sleep. After I get the rough sketches done, I hang them on my corkboard wall in my studio and really study them. I try to let them hang for a couple of days and see how I feel about them. By doing this I usually see ways to make the story better or more interesting. When I first started illustrating books, I was too excited to get into the painting, so I didn’t let this waiting period happen. I just sent the roughs off to the publisher for approval. It felt like it would be too painful to change every page because I wanted to add something. Now I know that I need to wait and look and let the story unfold..

Q: When illustrating picture books do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: I either have something on an item that has the name of the city I live in (this time it’s a book the beaver is reading), my kids’ names or a secret mushy message (usually in very small print so no one can see it) to my husband or his name.

The last three books I have illustrated all had subplots in the illustrations and not in the text.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: You can visit my website I have a place there that explains my process:

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I have loved the color red since I can remember. It really makes me feel inspired and happy.

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: My favorite medium for creating picture books has to be digital. I LOVE PHOTOSHOP!! I love that it is easy clean up. If I only have five minutes I can still work and then just go … no mess. Also there is no scanning the final art. I just send it off to the publisher.

I use acrylics for my personal projects. That is the medium I used for my snowflake for the Roberts’ Snow project. What a great opportunity that was for me and I had a great time doing it.

I would like to explore watercolor more. Not a detailed watercolor and simple washy watercolor. I loved watercolors as a kid.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?

A: Watercolors were wonderful for color books but ruined the back of the page. Crayons, markers, color pencils, tape, glue, paste, glitter, acrylics, felt, construction paper, beads, scissors, pipe cleaners. I loved it all. Just typing all that was very exhilarating . . .whew!

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?

A: I wish I’d had the vision, or maybe the ego, to think I could have been an artist and make a living. I never thought of art as a way to make a living, just a way to have fun. It wasn’t until my mid thirties when I went back to college that I got the vision.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?

A: I have never used models, but do use references photos from books and such. I usually collect lots of reference material (too much) for an animal and elements of my books. I try to study the reference material so that I have a better idea of how I’d like to draw the items.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?

A: Wow never really thought about that. . .hmm. . .maybe a Therapist of some kind.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?

A: Looking at other illustrations I have already finished helps. Just knowing that I persevered and finished previous illustrations lets me know I can do these too. Also, knowing that creativity takes a lot of time and rarely does it just come without a lot of hard work . . .it evolves over time.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?

A: I had a doll I called Teddy when I was little. He had a thin type of rubber for skin and was stuffed with a cotton material so he was soft a pliable. How do I know he was stuffed with cotton? Well I was swinging him around by his arm and well his arm came off. I was so sad because he couldn’t be fixed. I can still see Teddy in the garbage can. . .

Q: What illustrated book do you remember from when you were a child?

A: Anything by Dr Suess
The Little Fish That Got Away, by Bernadine Cook, illustrated by Crockett Johnson
“I Can't,” Said the Ant, by Polly Cameron
The Beezus and Ramona Series, by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray
The Henry Huggins Series, by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: David Catrow, Brian Froud, Toni DiTerlizzi, Jim Harris, Barbara Upton, Chad Camero, Karen Stormer Brooks, Amy Wummer.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?

A: If I could be a kid for one day. . .I would want my sister and brother to be kids again too. After eating waffles for breakfast we would spend the morning watching cartoons (the old ones like when I was a kid.) We would eat toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. Then go outside on the porch and play board games, like Life, Parcheesi, Old Maid, Go Fish, Poker and Clue. When we got tired of playing board games we would play all the great games we played on the lawn. Games like Red Rover, Simons Says, Red Light Green Light, Mother May I and maybe we’d have a water balloon fight if the weather was good. Maybe we would look for clover in the grass and then lie on our backs on the lawn, look up at the clouds and see what kind of animals and creatures we could see in the clouds. Then we would ride our bikes and roller-skate a bit and then we’d go in and eat Mom’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn for dinner. After dinner we would play more board games on the front room floor or go outside and play. When it got dark we watched tv or read books … then off to bed.

Bio: Sherry Rogers is a digital illustrator who lived in the San Francisco Bay area of California for over 17 years, where she attended Foothill College and studied Graphic Design/Graphic Arts. After completing college she worked for over a decade as a successful graphic designer and technical illustrator with three high-profile engineering companies. After relocating to Rocklin, California, where she currently lives, she was lucky enough to have the opportunity to make a career change and now illustrates for children, which is where her heart has always been. Sherry has illustrated six children’s books and is working on a seventh. For more information, visit her website - - or her blog -

Thanks for the interview Sherry!
All images in this post © Sherry Rogers