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.