Thursday, April 30, 2009

14 wk novel, week 8: half way – check in and goals

We’ve been writing for seven weeks; today is the start of week eight. Which means, we’re half way there!

Goals for week #8: Take stock of where you are and how much you have left. What can you realistically get it done in the next 7 weeks (June 18 is the last day)? It’s ok if you don’t finish, as long as you are working towards your goals.

I’m going to plan out the next 7 weeks this weekend. I’m still hoping to be done by June 18, even though I’m behind right now due to other projects that have had earlier deadlines.

How is everyone else doing?

Exercise for this week: Now that you’ve been writing for 7 weeks, it’s time to ask a few questions. I’ve included some questions below, but feel free to ask your own questions. [Note: You may have asked a few of these questions already, but it can be helpful to ask them again when you’re in the middle to see if things have changed and where the story is going.]

* What’s the main quest that your MC is on and how is she going to achieve it?

* Does your story have a theme or a question it answers?

* What’s the emotional tone of your story?

* Is your MC someone that the reader can care about and identify with?

* Can the reader identify with what’s important to your MC?

* What’s your MC’s secret? Do you reveal this to the reader?

* Do you know the ending of your story yet? Is it the logical conclusion to your story? Is it plausible?

* How does your character grow and change in the story?

That’s it for this week. How are you all doing with your novels?

Last day of BEDA and the Death Chicken Contest

It’s the last day of BEDA (Blog Every Day April), and my personal take on it, which has been to make art every day. Technically I started BEDA on April 2 (but I posted twice that day). If I post tomorrow for IF it will be a full month. Plus I’m posting twice today (14 week novel post later today).

The last blog art for April 2009 (it was going to be a different image, but then I drew this one and I like the idea that the puppy is saying, “What’s next?):

It’s time for the top 5 good and bad things about blogging / making art every day in April. Then we’ll have a contest to win a Death Chicken – remember the Death Chicken?

BEDA - the GOOD:
1. It was fun, and I really needed that after a couple of not so fun months.
2. Deadlines and discipline helped get rid of procrastination techniques.
3. Art builds momentum - It helped me turn out multiple color sketches for a possible new client and make sketches for a mini comic for my graphic novel class (I didn’t post all the art I did in April).
4. I started participating in Illustration Friday and joined Watercolor Wednesdays, which I might not have done otherwise. I think it’s been good for me to share my art, which I haven’t done a lot of on my blog.
5. It’s helped me to think about my goals for art and writing in the future.

BEDA - the BAD:
1. Not enough family time.
2. No days off for weekends, holidays or birthdays.
3. Taking forever to respond to blog comments and not reading and commenting as much on other people’s blogs, and working late many nights to get it all done.
4. Making art for my blog instead of my portfolio. (There’s a big difference. Although some blog art might be sketches for portfolio art later.)
5. Not having enough time to devote to other projects I needed to work on.

After all that, would I do it again? Absolutely. Although I might make some art ahead of time, so I don’t have to wait for paint to dry before posting.

And now for the Death Chicken contest!!! To win your very own Death Chicken (pictured here with a Sleestak), leave a comment on this post, along with the name for your Death Chicken and his little sidekick. (Note: If you're posting as anon, please leave your name and some way to contact you if you win, email, blog, website, etc. Thanks.)

Winner will be a random drawing from all entries on both blogs. Creative names, or explanations for regular names could possibly win second or third place prizes, like a Sheila postcard or a book or something else I think up before the drawing. (Winners for additional prizes will be picked on a purely subjective basis.) Contest is open until 10 pm EST on Thursday, May 7. The winner(s) will be posted Friday morning, May 8.

What did I name my Death Chicken? Glad you asked. I’ve decided to name mine Will, and his sidekick Holly (after Will and Holly in the Land of the Lost … and thus having an explanation for this wacky picture).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Tortoise and the Hare - WW monthly challenge

Watercolor Wednesdays has a monthly challenge, in addition to the weekly prompts. This month it was Aesop's Fables, and I chose The Tortoise and the Hare because it reminds me of publishing. Slow and steady wins the race (or at least that's my hope). I started this painting after midnight last night, so it's not exactly the way I would have gone about it during the day. However, it was a fun experiment.

I started out with a navy colored pastel paper and drew on it with watercolor crayons.

I liked this stage so much that I almost didn't go any further. However, Watercolor Wednesdays implies the fact that I should probably use some water. So I got out my spray bottle, which made it look like this, which I also liked.

This morning, I really wanted to use acrylic to finish the painting, but first I tried regular watercolor paints. That wasn't very effective on the navy paper (I knew it wouldn't be, but it never hurts to try). So I decided to use my gouache paints.

Note: I don't like gouache. I can't make it do what I want, it smells weird, and it cracks after it dries.

But I decided to use it anyway, since this was an experiment. The first bits of gouache I painted didn't look good, but I stuck with it. I like the way it turned out, other than the cracking of the paint as I untaped the painting from the board. (Anybody know a way to make it crack proof?)

Here's the final result:

What's your favorite Aesop's Fable?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Strange Happenings

I looked out the window this afternoon, and it was snowing! Big flakes of snow were whirling and swirling outside. There were so many that it looked like a snowstorm was rolling in. That may not seem too unusual for April, except that it was 88 degrees outside (I knew that because I watched the weather channel a few minutes earlier).

So if it wasn’t snow, what was it? It looked feathery and there used to be a bunch of pigeons roosting in the apartment building next to ours, but pigeons don’t just lose feathers and I hadn’t heard any shots.

Maybe it was butterflies?

Nope, not butterflies. When I went to the window, I saw that it was flower petals floating and flying around outside! We have lots of flowering trees where we live and it was windy outside. Still, we’ve lived here for many years and have never seen a flower storm like this. Maybe it happens every year, but since we’re not near the ground floor, we don’t see it. Or it could just be one of those things that rarely happen.

What kind of trees did the snow come from? No clue, but here’s a picture:

Luckily, it “snowed” again after my husband came home, so he got to see the blizzard too. :)

Art Day: finding time to make art

Over on Watercolor Wednesdays, Wendy asked me a question that I thought other people might have too. Wendy was nice enough to let me repost her question and my answers here, along with the story of today's painting. Thanks for the question Wendy!

I see on your live journal you have decided to post a drawing a day. Kudos to you for actually succeeding so far. How have you accomplished this? I can't seem to maintain any kind of regular schedule in my creative output and would love some pointers from you.

My Original Answer:
Getting started doing one a day is the hardest part. Once you get on a roll, it gets easier. There seems to be a momentum that builds (I've found this other times when I did challenges, like cow a day or dog a day for a year). The momentum can wear off, like this week after finishing a big art deadline for something else. But then you just have to start again.

There are days when it's hard to get one done (thus the midnight postings) and other things that need to slide a bit, like reading and commenting on blogs. I'm not doing as much of that since I started, but maybe that's not so bad.

Remembering that it can be a sketch and it doesn't have to be perfect helps. Also, you can start sketches or do a bit of the color before the day you're going to post it. It doesn't all have to be done that day, unless you are behind and have to squeeze it in.

It's also easier to do one a day if you don't have to post them to the blog, because that involves scanning and posting, which takes time. If you just do a small sketch or a painting and don't post it, it's easier to do it.

I think making the public announcement that I was doing it also helped. It makes you feel like you have to do it or you'll let people down (not that tons of people read my blog, but you know...).

Then there's the story of today's painting, a.k.a.
How things went horribly wrong, or how forcing yourself to work with a deadline can lead to creative solutions for artistic problems.

For today's painting, I sketched a kitty, then re-drew it on watercolor paper, painted it (multiple layers), then got to the very end of the painting, which is when I normally add the black outline and details with paint or marker.

When I got to the outline stage, I already knew there was something wrong with the face. The drawing was fine but it looked weird now. However, I didn't have time to paint another painting. I'd already spent part of last night and off and on all day on this one. Plus, it has to dry before I can scan it and I didn't have anything else to post today. I had to use the cat.

So I inked the painting, including the cat's face. It looked horrible. Then I tried to fix it. It looked even worse after I tried to fix it (you can't fix watercolor unless you get lucky).

I thought about just posting the bottom of the painting - the grass and flowers looked nice. Or the cat with a blanked out the face like they do on TV. I even thought about not posting anything tonight, but it's almost the end of the month and I've made it this far.

Then I said to my husband, "I could put a mask on the cat."
He said, "No ... unless it's a bee mask."

I'd been thinking of an elephant mask, to tie in with the end of elephant week. Or maybe a big yellow smiley face. The bee mask was a much better idea, since there were already bees in the painting. Plus, quite honestly, there was no way the cat could look worse than it already did.

So I painted a bee mask (with acrylic to cover the watercolor and ink).

Then I waved the painting around and used the hair dryer, and waved it around some more, so I could scan it (while it was still just a bit on the sticky side) and get it up while it's still Monday somewhere in the world.

So here now, is my creative solution (with some help from my husband) for today's painting. I kind of like it, and it's a bazillion, gazillion times better than before the mask. What do you think?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

elephants like to swim

I saw a nature show on TV recently. It had lots of footage of elephants swimming. It even had some shots with the camera below so you could see what the elephants looked like underwater. It was very cool.

For the last day of elephant week, here's my rendition of elephants swimming:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How do you stop a herd of elephants?

With baby ducks. ;)

Friday, April 24, 2009

IF: Theater - a.k.a. Peter Pan with elephants

When I saw that the topic for Illustration Friday this week was theater, I wondered how I could make it work with the fact that it's elephant week here on my blog. My next thought was, "Peter Pan." Surprisingly, Peter Pan works perfectly for elephant theater. Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

14 wk novel - week 7: Getting unstuck, keeping your BIC, and making progress

Some people are able to keep plowing through, all the way to the end of the draft, while others write in fits and starts, sometimes getting stuck along the way. There are lots of reasons you could be stuck. Maybe you don’t know what your characters should do next (if you had an outline, you threw it out a long time ago). It could be that you’re bored with your story (probably need to add more conflict or a subplot). Or, you could just have other things that have had to take priority over this project. Maybe it’s another story, or work, school, family, or the need to sleep. Since it’s elephant week here on my blog ...

Maybe the elephants can help us get writing again:

* If your plot is stalled and your characters are wandering around aimlessly, send a herd of stampeding elephants through your story. Something is bound to happen.

* If you’re bored with your story, imagine that your characters are elephants. How does that change the story? What if they are elephants in space? Ok, that’s just silly, but sometimes you have to think up some crazy ideas to realize that your story is exciting, or maybe those crazy ideas will be just what your story needs.

* If checking email, getting a snack, or reading blogs keep you away from your writing, imagine that there’s a HUGE elephant behind you. There’s another elephant in front of you. Everywhere you look, elephants. Now imagine that all the elephants have just filled their trunks full of water and will spray you, unless you get back to work.

* If other commitments are keeping you away from your writing, try to think about your story even if you can’t write it all down. Elephants never forget, but you might not remember all the cool things you thought up while driving to soccer practice or sitting in a meeting at work. Keep a little notebook and a pen with you at all times so you can make notes to help you remember. You could also get a voice recorder or leave yourself voicemails or text messages.

** If you really need a break, take one. Even elephants visit the watering hole when they need to.

Goals for week #7: Write something every day, even if it’s just one word. Yes, “the” counts. Hopefully it will make you say, “the, what?” and keep writing. If you want to set a specific daily or weekly word count, that’s good too.

Link for this week:
There’s only one link for this week, because I’m sending you to a page that has a ton of writing articles by Alicia Rasley. I haven’t read them all, but the ones I have read have been great.

Quotes for this week:
“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.” ~Vita Sackville-West

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” ~Ana├»s Nin

“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.” ~Sharon O'Brien

“The wastebasket is a writer's best friend.” ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~Vladimir Nabakov

“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.” ~Peter De Vries

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” ~Joseph Heller

“The only cure for writer's block is insomnia.” ~Merit Antares

“The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.” ~Agatha Christie

Happy Birthday to my husband, who is watching hockey as I write this. :)

Earth Day Elephant Fairies for Watercolor Wednesday

Apparently I have a harder time drawing fairies than elephants. The Watercolor Wednesday challenge this week was really a challenge (it was actually more of a challenge with human fairies than elephant ones). I won't show the human version - yikes! That's headed to the shredder tomorrow.

Here are my 2 tries with elephant fairies. The first one wasn't working at all, so I put it aside and painted the second one. Then I felt bad for the first one, went back and added and reworked it, and now I'm not sure which one I like better. Which one do you like best?

Earth Day Elephant Fairy and Superhero

Earth Day Elephant Fairy Too

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Elephant Week: Balancing Act

Yikes! This elephant is losing his balance. Do you think he'll be able to regain his balance? Or will all the boxes come tumbling down?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Elephant Week and Art Day: Art Tips – drawing what you can’t draw

Art Tips: I thought it might be useful to talk about ways to learn how to draw what you can’t draw or don’t think you’re good at drawing.

Everyone has something they can’t draw, or think they can’t draw. I have several things, but this post and this week is dedicated to one of the things that I don’t think I draw very well: elephants. Every once in a while, I’ll draw an elephant that I like, but more often than not I have to draw and redraw the elephant to make it look like a normal elephant and not a mutant creature.

Below is a list of some strategies that I use. What works for you? Or do you just avoid the subject (I do this sometimes, and Maurice Sendak famously did this with Where the Wild Horses Are – when he realized he couldn’t draw horses, they became Wild Things).

Break it Down: Break the subject down into simple basic shapes or pretend you are drawing a stick figure version of whatever it is. The drawings today are my elephant face made with a 3 part process, starting with basic shapes.

Back to Basics: Beginning drawing books and drawing books for kids are great for learning to draw things – if your art is very stylized, it can help to add a foundation to your drawings that give them even more appeal than they had before. BTW, don’t discount those drawing and art books that have unattractive covers. Sometimes they try to put so many things on the cover that it makes it seem like they couldn’t possibly know anything about art. Recently I found a book like that at Borders, in the discount section: The Complete Guide to Drawing and Illustration by Peter Gray. There’s a ton of good info the book, even if there aren’t any elephants.

Research: Find pictures, hire models, go to the zoo! If you don’t know what it looks like, find out.

Repetition: Take as many pictures as you can find of the subject and draw all of them, then look for more pictures or take some yourself and draw again. Repeat this step until you can draw the subject without looking at reference material. Then draw it in your style.

Elephant Week (a.k.a. accountability): This week I'll be drawing/painting elephants and posting them each day. Sometimes it helps to know that other people will see what you’re working on. It gives you incentive to learn how to draw it before you stylize it.

kitty picture - speaks for itself

The meaning varies, depending on what type of meow accompanies this look. What do you think Remus is saying?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

swirly butterflies for a sunny day

This painting was really fun to make (and has much brighter colors in real life). It seemed perfect for a warm sunny day like today.

DH and I are off to enjoy the day. I wish you all a warm sunny Saturday full of fun!

IF: impossibility

The topic for Illustration Friday this week, is impossibility.

It's an impossibility that this girl will be able to hold this pose much longer before toppling over.

Of course, it's possible that I didn't plan ahead while drawing, and the reason that she's in this pose, is because the only way to fit her feet on the page was to have her legs bent. Or, maybe she's trying out a new yoga pose. Or maybe she's invented a new way to do cartwheels.

Happy Weekend everybody!!! I hope it's filled with wonderful impossibilities :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

14 wk novel - week 6: feedback, or a cow is a cow, unless it’s a horse

Goals for week #6: Sometimes life throws you extra projects, a cold, a family crisis or two, or there are no more clean socks and the laundry won’t wash itself. When that happens, you’ve got to concentrate on things other than writing. But don’t forget about your novel. Try to set realistic goals for how much you can write in the next 7 days. If there’s no crisis and you’ve got clean socks, then smile and keep on writing :)

Sharing your work before it’s done …
Do you share your novel before it’s finished? I know some people like to send it through their critique group, while others won’t share anything until it’s done and polished. I usually share, but this time I’m trying really hard to not share until I have at least 3 chapters done and polished so that I have the voice and story set in my mind. Feedback is great when it helps to make your work better, but not so great when it becomes writing by committee. If you have a really strong vision and character voice, it might be ok to share early. If it’s easy for you to get off track, then you might want to write the whole thing before you get a critique. (The exceptions are when you are in a writing class or going to a conference. Then you might want or need to share early.)

Sharing your work, a cow-tionary tale:
Instead of quotes this week, I thought I’d share a story. It’s about art, but easily applies to writing and the idea of sharing too early. A few years ago, I was doing an art project where I created a cow picture every day for a year (366 days – it was leap year). As you can imagine, life does not stop so that you can draw a cow every day. Sometimes you have to bring your drawing or painting supplies with you and draw in public.

My husband and I were visiting my parents, and the only time that day to draw a cow was at the restaurant where we were having breakfast. We ordered and I started drawing. I’d been drawing cows for years and was several months into my cow-a-day project. At that point, I could draw a cow blindfolded and it would still look like a cow.

However, when the waitress started bringing juice and coffee to the table, she looked at my drawing and said, “Wow! That’s a really nice horse.”

She called my cow a horse. In front of my family, who thought it was really funny.

I didn’t think it was funny. I started to doubt if my cows really looked like cows. Maybe they did look like horses. “OhMyGod, I can’t draw cows! Or anything else! Or… I’m a sucky artist.”

It stayed with me for a while. I kept drawing my horse-cows and grumbling about it until I realized that the waitress must not have known what a cow looked like. She probably didn’t know what a horse looked like either. Horses don’t have horns, or udders. And horses have manes. Horses don’t look like cows, and cows don’t look like horses. After that I didn’t worry whether or not I could draw cows.

The moral of the story is: Trust your vision and your creative talent. Some people give great, relevant feedback, while others don’t have a clue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Watercolor Wednesdays - O is for Owl

I'm honored to have been accepted as a member of Watercolor Wednesdays today. It's a blog where a talented group of children's book illustrators have weekly and monthly art challenges. Thanks to Wendy (Lyon) Martin for asking the group if I could join.

This week's challenge is Alphabet Letters. When I was doing my daily drawing of an owl, I realized that an owl would be great for the letter O. So I quickly painted this picture:

I used watercolor crayons, watercolor paints, watercolor markers, acrylic paint (for the O around the moon and OWL), and a hair dryer so it would be dry enough to scan yet tonight. I'm not sure I like the watercolor markers. I still haven't figured out how to make them do what I want them to do. Has anyone else had success with watercolor markers?

The original drawing for today was supposed to be an owl carrying a letter (to the IRS for tax day). I decided that the owl post birds would be a bit different looking. I ended up with a bird that's not very owlish, but I still kind-of like him. What do you think? Hope you all got your taxes in on time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Last week, I was awarded the Lemonade Stand award from both Rena and Brenda. This award is given for great gratitude and/or attitude. Thanks Rena and Brenda! The first thing you’re supposed to do is put the award logo here, but they never tell you how to do that, and whenever I try, it doesn’t work (just like YouTube on my Blogger blog). So, I made my own lemonade picture :)

Pretty soon it will be hot enough for lemonade, or even the lemon-orange-lime version I make sometimes (yum). If you want to try it, here’s the basic recipe.

*lemon-orange-lime-ade recipe
Squeeze lemons, limes and oranges into a large pitcher
Add water and sugar to taste

* I’ve never used the same amount of any ingredient twice, so there’s no right or wrong way to make it, but you don’t need as much sugar as with regular lemonade, so put a little bit in, taste, then add more if needed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Art Day: Illustration Friday - Experiences? Comments? Opinions?

Today's Art Day is about Illustration Friday. Has anyone tried it? Do you like it? Think it's useful?

I've wanted to participate in Illustration Friday for a while now, but this is the first week that I'm joining in. It seems like a great way to prompt yourself to make art based on an assignment and about a topic that you might not have thought about illustrating. Both good things to practice if you want to illustrate for someone else.

The topic this week is, "Fleeting." My painting shows a moose dancing. Because sometimes, you've just got to dance, and those moments are fleeting. I wish those "Gotta Dance!" moments happened more often, don't you?

(The moose is a character in a PB I'm working on, but the art technique is different.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What if bunnies could juggle?

If bunnies could juggle, it might look something like this:

Or not. Hope you had a happy bunny day if you were celebrating.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

using raindrops as an art supply

Today’s picture was made using watercolor crayons, rain, and watercolor paints. Here’s the step-by-step process.

Step one: sketch (not shown, color sketch)

Step two: add raindrops

Detail of color sketch before and after adding raindrops:

Step four: Finished art

Try it next time it rains outside :)

I did do this one other time, with cows. See it here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Race to Moo Mountain

We went to see the movie, Race To Witch Mountain, last night. I wanted to see it because I remember liking the old movies. DH went with me, just to be nice. Neither one of us had high hopes for the movie, so we were pleasantly surprised. I liked it and DH didn't hate it. Lots of action, cool visuals and special effects (except for the helicopter scenes, which were totally cheesy), and 2 cool teen actors.

When I got home, I wondered what it would be like if cows were aliens ...

... either that, or it was just an excuse to draw a cow. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

14 week novel - week five: process, progress, and inspiration

When I started the 14 week novel posts, it was all about process, specifically tackling novel writing in a way I hadn’t tried before, and hoping that it might be useful to others at the same time. So far, I’ve found that:

- Trying to do a detailed outline brings out the evil inner editor in me Big Time, and totally shuts down my creativity … at least for now. Maybe outlining will work for me in the future though.

- Planning out the story did work. (Where do I start? What are a few things that might happen? Possible endings?) I know that seems like outlining, but it wasn’t anything formal, mostly thinking, with a few scribbled notes.

- Picking one project helped me focus. However, when that project went back to the original idea of making it a graphic novel, I needed to pick another story for this project (not to mention figure out how to write/illustrate a graphic novel – I’m taking classes for that – the writing one started Monday and the art one is in a few months).

- Finding the right fit for my idea helped. My second idea was supposed to be an edgy, dark YA, but I couldn’t get it going. After rethinking it, I have a new plot and a younger age group (young YA or older MG – basically tween).

- I’m making progress! I’ve written 2600 words since yesterday, and I’m still going! Yay!

- And I have a new sketch of my MC, Lexi (looking shell-shocked for a specific scene - I haven’t added in the other characters or background yet). What do you think? (It’s not a graphic novel; I want to write it as a text novel first.)

Goals for week #5: Set your own goals and keep writing! This is all about process, and you have to find a process that works for you. My goal is to try to write a bit on this story every day, even if it’s only a few sentences, and not focus so much on word count. What are your goals?
[Note: I changed it from assignments to goals so it doesn’t seem like I’m telling you what to do. :) ]

Quotes for this week: (for inspiration)
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” – Ernestine Ulmer

"I wrote, because I could not dance.” - Karen Cushman 2004

“Your internal critic exists to keep you from telling the truth. Writing is about taking risks, taking chances, feeling it down to your toes, conflict, loss, growth, believable characters.” – Libba Bray 2004

“I have not failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“You are the boss of the project – do the illustrations how you think they should look.” – Robert Sabuda 2004 (I think it applies to writing too – write the book you want to write.)

“A story should contain at least: 1 belly laugh, 1 honest tear, and 1 gasp.” – Bruce Coville 2004

“A clean house is the sign of a wasted life.” - Donna Jo Napoli 2004

“Any kind of writing is writing, and you don’t know what it will lead to.” – Christopher Paul Curtis 2005

“Don’t worry about being funny for others, be funny for yourself.” - Gennifer Choldenko 2005

“Girls are interested in more than just fashion and boys.” - Wendelin Van Draanen 2006

“Don’t believe anyone’s rules. The only one that really counts is ‘write the damn book.’” – Jane Yolen 2006

“Books allow us to eavesdrop on another person’s soul.” – Katherine Patterson 2007

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

going bananas! banana stickers, a banana bread recipe, and a banana loving monkey

The banana sticker monkeys used to make up really fun sayings or use pictures of Curious George, but it seems that they haven’t been able to come up with any good stickers lately. They’ve started stacking bananas on their heads, instead.

They also like putting multiple stickers on bananas (or maybe someone saved up their stickers).

Since banana monkeys like banana bread, I thought I’d include a recipe. Enjoy!

Banana Bread Recipe
(from Mom and Crystal Sugar)
½ C butter or margarine
1 C sugar
Cream well.

Blend in:
*4-6 mashed ripe bananas
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

Sift together:
2 C sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda

Add alternately with:
** ½ C butter milk
Blend until well combined.

Fold in:
½ C chopped walnuts

Pour into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 20 min. Remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.

*more ripe than the bananas picture above - when the bananas have lots of brown spots on them, they’re probably ripe enough
** may substitute sour milk or sweet milk soured with 2 tsp of vinegar

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NCAA wrap up and spinning basketballs

Agent Nathan Bransford held the 1st Annual Blog Tournament Challenge (NCAA basketball - March Madness). I tied for 5th place! That might not seem like a big deal, but there were 140 people that entered. Plus I never place that high up. My husband and I also had a challenge going, like we do every year. I beat him and earned bragging rights until next March. Some years he wins, some years I do, but this is the first year that we both only had 1 team going into the final four. I think a lot of people had that experience this year, or there's no way I would have gotten to 5th place in Nathan's challenge.

Did any of you participate in a challenge or fill out a bracket this year? How did you do?

This is me, spinning a basketball, which I used to be able to do, for a couple of seconds. If I had practiced, I probably could have been a good basketball spinner, even if I wasn't that great of a basketball player.

Oh, and I also have a shiny new avatar :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Shopping Cart Racing and April Drawings

We went grocery shopping on Saturday, and Mall shopping and Target shopping on Sunday. The image below may or may not be me ;)

I’ve decided to do my BEDA (Blog Every Day April) as a DEDA (Draw Every Day April). I have been and will continue to post a sketch, drawing or painting (mostly sketches) every day this month.

Since I’m posting my art today, the Art Day interview, with illustrator Stephen Macquignon, is in a separate post (here) so that it can showcase his art.

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Stephen Macquignon

Today’s Art Day Interview is with illustrator Stephen Macquignon. Read on to find out more about Stephen and his art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City with the intent of becoming a comic book artist, however in my last year I took an illustrating for children’s book class and that is when I found a home for my art style.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the recent books you illustrated.
A: I have three picture books coming out from 4RV Publishing. “Angeline Jellybean,” by Crystalee Calderwood, is about a little girl who loves to eat jellybeans. ”Colors,” by Dana Warren, is simply a book about color. The difference between this book and other books like it, is that it goes beyond “green means; go red means stop.” It also is about color as a feeling. (Both Angeline Jellybean and Color are out now.) “Would a Kangaraffe Make you Laffe?” by Richard Aaron, is about animals that were connected together, example: half of lion & half hippo. It’s coming out in early summer. Also coming out, in April, is a chapter book I illustrated, for 4RV Publishing, called the “The Art of Science,” by Ransom Noble. Learn more about my books at the publisher’s website.

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 finishing up “If Fish Could Drive,” by Dana Warren, another picture book, plus two more picture books following this one, “The Marshmallow Man,” by Rena Jones, and “Libby the Odd Squirrel,” by Lea Schizas.

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: Cards for birthdays and other holiday’s friends and family only a few logo designs, but no the style stays the same.

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 am given a break down on what text will be on what page, so I kind of make it simple just to follow along.

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: No, I have kept things like that out of the illustrations I try to keep to what is written in the text.

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: I have how I put the Angeline Jellybean cover together from start to finish on my blog.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I have no favorite color I love them all!

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: Pen & ink / digital color is a lot of fun.

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: I think crayons.

Q: Do you have a favorite childhood picture that you remember making?
A: No not really.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: Yes since I think it started in middle school if not earlier.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: Yes to all of it, a good reference could really improve your work even when your style is not realistic it is good to know how many toes a character has.

Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
A: I’m also a New York State licensed massage therapist; I enjoy helping people.

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: Time. I put it aside work on something else. I try my best to forget about it for a while.

Q: What was your favorite toy, stuffed animal or doll when you were growing up?
A: A stuffed mouse; I called it Molly. It was in good shape, until one day my dog thought it was one of its own toys.

Q: What illustrated book(s) do you remember from when you were a child?
A: “The King with Six Friends” by Jay Williams illustrated by Imero Gobbato.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now? (You can list more than one.)
A: Maurice Sendak, Marie LeTourneau

Q: Did you like to tell jokes or stories as a child?
A: No. I was a quiet kid; I kept to my self.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?
A: Go to an amusement park and pay half price. *laugh*

Bio: Out side of working with 4RV Publishing, I’ve been fortunate to be a contributing illustrator for "Stories for Children Magazine," working along side some very talented Writers, Editors, & Art Directors, the experience has been priceless. One of the illustrations I have done for “Stories for Children,” called "A Grand Dilemma," just won the Preditors & editors Readers Poll 2008 for Best Artwork. To read more about me or to see more of my art work please visit me on jacketflap or at my blog.

Thanks for the interview Stephen!
All images in this post © Stephen Macquignon.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Warning: Escaped Cat On The Run!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

gumball machines aren't just for gumballs anymore

Traditional gumball machines have gum in many colors but only one flavor, a Juicy Fruit/Bubble Yum like hybrid. Small gumball machines for your house or office still come with that kind of gum.

Other gumball machines might have gums in different flavors. (My favorites are cherry and grape; what are yours?) Or they have candy, nuts, food for birds or zoo animals, toys, dog biscuits, or even soap. Yes, soap.

Soap is probably the weirdest thing I've ever seen in a gumball machine, but mostly because I couldn't help wondering what flavors the soap came in (even though I knew they were scents and not edible - kind of like scented markers that come in food flavors).

Buying gum (or candy, toys, dog treats, soap, etc.) from a gumball machine is more fun that buying the items at the store. It's like rolling the dice or picking a card in a game. You never know what you're going to get when you drop in your quarter(s) and turn the handle.

Sometimes the toy or gum flavor that you want is elusive and you have to try again. A couple of years ago, we tried to get my mom a stuffed duck key chain out of a gumball machine. It took several weeks and many quarters before we finally got it, because we kept getting frogs. There's always one thing that's more plentiful than others! It's best to have a couple of quarters as a back up, in case you get the icky flavored gumball.

What's your favorite thing to get out of a gumball machine?

Friday, April 3, 2009

ceramic death chickens, sleestaks, ninja chickens, Sheila, and BEDA

Last night I passed by a shop on my way to have dinner with my husband. In the window was the coolest little ceramic sculpture of a skeleton in a chicken suit. I had to have it.

Isn’t he cute? I named him Death Chicken. He’s got a little chicken friend, too. I haven’t named the little chicken yet, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll name it Will or Holly, based on this picture.

What do you think? BTW, Death Chicken is not afraid of the Sleestak, but little Will or Holly is. Speaking of being afraid. Sheila the zombie cheerleader is afraid of chickens, but she’s not afraid of Death Chicken because he’s technically a skeleton in a chicken suit and not a real chicken. Will or Holly is a different matter.

Sheila’s also afraid of ninja’s, and a ninja chicken is her worst nightmare. I did some sketches of ninja chickens (with throwing stars and nunchakus) today. This character is probably going to appear in Sheila’s story:

In other news, I joined Maureen Johnson’s BEDA (Blog Every Day April) after Julia posted about it, even though I have several projects going on now. Anyone else joining in on the insanity? Maybe BEDA can help me with my WIPs. Ha!

Well actually, buying the ceramic Death Chicken gave me something to blog about today and made me think about Sheila and ninja chickens, which caused me to do the ninja chicken drawing, which means that BEDA is already helping me write and illustrate my graphic novel WIP, right?

I can justify almost anything. Mwahahaha ;)

Oh, I almost forgot. I bought 2 ceramic chickens yesterday. One for me and one to give away on my blog when I come up with a really cool contest, or the end of April and BEDA, whichever comes first.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

14 week novel-week four: changes and voice part 2

How’s everyone doing so far? Let me know how it’s going and cheer each other on in the comments section, if you want.

Changes: Don’t be afraid to make changes if your WIP needs them. Just because it started out as a PB, MG, YA, or GN (graphic novel), doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. The novel I’m writing is about Sheila, the zombie cheerleader. Yesterday I had a breakthrough on a new look for Sheila and started to think about making it a graphic novel. The original idea was a graphic novel, but I didn’t think I could pull it off. After Tomie dePaola’s wonderful video on having the courage to fail, I’ve decided to go for it. Thanks Tomie!

Here is the assignment for week #4: Keep Writing! A few people mentioned that 5000 words might be a bit much. Set your own goals for what you want to accomplish by the end. Including this week, there are eleven weeks left. (I’m going to try to make the first scene into a graphic novel script, along with some sketches to show layout/composition.)

Quotes for this week: (on voice, from 2006)
“Great dialog works forever.” - Beverly Horowitz

“There is a difference between literary and commercial styles. Know your style and write for it.” – Jodi Reamer

“Dare to find a voice that works for you.” – Wendelin Van Draanen

“Angsty characters don’t have to be all out; you can pull back and the voice will still come through.” – Justina Chen Headley/Alvina Ling (My notes don’t indicate which one said this, but they were back and forth the whole time, so been both of them might have chimed in on it.)

Links for this week: (on voice)
* Writer Tabitha Olson shared great notes on voice from editor Caroline Meckler.

* Editor Cheryl Klein wrote a post on voice recently.

* Writer Christy Evers shared notes on voice from editor Martha Mihalick.

A new look for Sheila the zombie cheerleader?

Remember Sheila? She hasn't been around my blog for a while, but she's been talking to me (her story is the one I'm writing for my 14 week novel). Lately she's been begging for a new look, since the old images I did of her are younger. Yesterday I did a sketch that she likes (the other ones weren't good enough for her). Here's the new look for Sheila, unless she changes her mind and wants a different look again. What do you think?

Now that she has a new look, I'm seriously considering making her story a graphic novel, again. That's where it started and I still like the idea of drawing lots of zombies ;) I'll let you know what I decide (actually, what Sheila decides) later today, when I post week four of the 14 week novel.

Update: She's not as zombie as the old Sheila because of feedback from an editor saying she was too zombie-ish. I'm trying to find the right balance of making her look older than before and not as freaky. Her skin tone will be a greyish-green color, so that should help. Thanks to Tamarak and Slatts for feedback on her zombie-ish-ness!