Wednesday, April 3, 2013

wobbly egg for Illustration Friday

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is egg. I did some egg sketches and ended up choosing an egg with a chicken that's about to hatch.

If the chick doesn't regain her footing, gravity will help her out of her shell!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March First Books: POISON by Bridget Zinn

Every Wednesday this month, I’ve been blogging about first books to help celebrate the release of Bridget Zinn’s novel, POISON, which released March 12. On this final Wednesday, I'll be talking about Bridget's book:

The giveaway has ended. The winner is Diana Evans!

Update after reading POISON: One sign of a good book is that you can't stop thinking about it after you've finished reading it. I've been thinking about Bridget's book since I finished it last week. There's a lot to love about this book: a headstrong main character, adventure, danger, funny bits, a cute boy (who doesn't take away from the heroine's awesomeness), a best friend (who the main character is trying to kill, even though she doesn't want to), a cute pig with special talents, and twists and turns you don't see coming! I'm sad that I won't get to read another book by Bridget, but I'm happy that she wrote this book and left it behind for us to read. I'll be thinking about this one for a while!

About POISON (from the author's site):
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses. Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her? Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
About Bridget Zinn: Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the "summer of love" and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect."

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads. Learn more about the author on her website.

Publisher's Weekly has a wonderful article about Bridget and POISON here.

Bridget wrote about her diagnosis and treatment on her blog. I'm not sure how many people she touched with her words, but I know that she touched my family. My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after Bridget was. I had been reading Bridget's blog. After my mom's diagnosis, I sent a link to her, so she could read it too. The posts about her treatments made the road ahead less scary, and the posts about how much she enjoyed life, even with cancer, made it easier to notice the little things in life that brought us joy. My mom and I have both been looking forward to reading POISON! I loved this book, and I'm giving it to my mom for her upcoming birthday (it's on her gift list)! :D

Want to read POISON? Pick up a copy at your favorite bookstore or library, or fill out the form below to win a copy! (Note: US entries only.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Speaking of giveaways, the winner of ALTERED by Jenn Rush, is: Casey Harris-Parks! And the winner of BOT WARS by J.V. Kade, is: Lil Berry!

Why am I posting about first books this month? If you're an author or illustrator of books, you know the anticipation of seeing your book in print. You prepare for the day it releases and want to shout about it to the world because you’re so excited! Unfortunately, Bridget Zinn isn’t here to celebrate the release of her first novel, so authors and illustrators are celebrating for her. Learn more about Bridget and her novel POISON on her website. Bridget's book is now out in stores! Find POISON at your favorite bookstore or library. For Bridget's blog tour schedule, click here.

Legal Stuff about the giveaway: Void where prohibited. The book, POISON, was purchased by me for the giveaway.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

a lizard wearing glasses, an old newspaper joke, and illustration Friday

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is eye glasses. I did several sketches before coming up with this drawing of a lizard and his friends all wearing glasses:

I drew the girl on the left first, not knowing what she was so surprised about. When I started to draw the boy, I knew there would be something or someone on his shoulder, but had no idea it was going to be a lizard! I decided that a lizard wearing glasses was funnier than a squirrel, so that's what I went with. The girl on the right was just an excuse to draw a profile with someone wearing glasses, but I think she fits in quite well with the other two. She's amused because she's the one that gave the lizard the glasses!

This is a different style for me. It looks similar to my regular style, but the line is a lot thinner. Here's a crop with just the black line so you can see what I mean:

I also made a version with a dark red background. Originally it was to make sure that everything was colored in without the background showing through, but then I really liked the way it looked. What do you think of the red background?

Couldn't help thinking of that old joke my dad used to tell: "What's black and white, and read all over? --- A Newspaper!" I didn't say it was a funny joke. When I was really little, I thought it was the color red, not read. I still think of that when I think of that joke, even though I know it's really read, not red ... probably because I'm an artist.

And here's the crop I put on the Illustration Friday site:

 I like it because it reminds me of a movie poster. It also shows how different an image can look and feel just by how you crop it. Now I want to go see a movie! I'll have to check the newspaper to see what's playing ... I'll probably check it online, since we only get the Sunday paper these days. If our newspaper had comics, we'd probably still get it every day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March First Books: ALTERED by Jenn Rush and BOT WARS by J.V. Kade

 Every Wednesday in March, I’ll be blogging about first books to help celebrate the release of Bridget Zinn’s novel, POISON, which released March 12. Since my book isn’t out yet, I’ll be talking about first books by other authors. I’ll also be giving away books! Tune in each Wednesday to learn about a great book and possibly win your own copy. 

The giveaway has ended. The winner of ALTERED by Jenn Rush is Casey Harris-Parks! The winner of BOT WARS by J.V. Kade is Lil Berry!

This week I'm talking about two first books by the author Jenn Rush. Her first YA novel, ALTERED, came out in January, and her first MG (middle grade) novel BOT WARS (writing as J.V. Kade) comes out tomorrow!

ALTERED: Anna leads a sheltered and secret life, with her father, and the four genetically altered boys who live in the lab beneath their house. When the secret agency her father works for decides it's time to take the boys, they break out and flee, taking Anna with them. There are lots of twists and turns and hot boys in this book! I can't say any more without giving away spoilers, but if you like thrillers, conspiracies, and crush worthy guys, you'll like this book!

BOT WARS: I haven't read it yet (comes out tomorrow) but it sounds really good! Here's the description from the author's site:
Twelve-year-old Trout St. Kroix has been searching for his missing father for the last two years, after his dad disappeared while fighting in the Bot Wars. The Bot Wars began after robots became so advanced that they revolted and demanded more workers' rights, causing the government to declare all robots terrorists and ban them from the Districts. Trout never questioned anything the government told him--even when his own nanny bot was banished--until a vid he posts about his missing dad goes viral and new information pops up. At first Trout is wrenched his dad might be alive, but when his brother disappears, Trout learns nothing is what it seems . . . not even his own father.
Percy Jackson meets Transformers in this heart-stopping, futuristic adventure that will make you question everything you know--and look at robots in a whole new light.
Sounds excellent and I can't wait to read it!

ALTERED is Jenn Rush's first YA book. BOT WARS is her first MG book (written under the name J.V. Kade) Both books are also the first in a series, so if you like the first ones, there's more to look forward to! Jenn's birthday happens to be next week, and the best gift you can get an author for their birthday is to read their books! Pick up copies of her books at your favorite bookstore or library.  Learn more about the author on her website.

Want to win a copy of one of this week’s books, ALTERED by Jenn Rush, or BOT WARS by J.V. Kade + bookmarks? (Note: US entries only. There will be two winners, one for each book. Jenn is sending bookmarks and I'll post pictures when I get them.) Fill out the form below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Speaking of giveaways, the winner of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung, is: Jennifer!

Why am I posting about first books this month? If you're an author or illustrator of books, you know the anticipation of seeing your book in print. You prepare for the day it releases and want to shout about it to the world because you’re so excited! Unfortunately, Bridget Zinn isn’t here to celebrate the release of her first novel, so authors and illustrators are celebrating for her. Learn more about Bridget and her novel POISON on her website. On March 27th, I’ll talk about Bridget’s book and give a copy away to a lucky reader! For Bridget's blog tour schedule, click here. Bridget's book is now out in stores! Find POISON at your favorite bookstore or library. 

Legal Stuff about the giveaway: Void where prohibited. The book, ALTERED, was given to me as an ARC by the author, but the giveaway copy was bought by me. The book, BOT WARS, was also purchased by me for the giveaway.

Friday, March 15, 2013

a toothy smile for a boy and a moo

I have to go to the dentist today. It's just for a cleaning, but going to the dentist is not my favorite thing. Then I thought of my drawing of a boy and his cow friend and their toothy grins, and it made me smile. I'll have a toothy grin after going to the dentist, so it's worth suffering through the cleaning :D

You might be able to see the date in the bottom right corner. It says 1-15-04. I can't believe I drew this image nine years ago! At the time, I was a little over half way through my project of drawing a cow a day for a year. I needed to draw something silly, and to use crayons (I love crayons)! BTW, the background is crayon too. It's watercolor crayon, which is even better, because I get to draw with crayons, and then play with a paintbrush!

The image was part of a series with the boy and cow. Here are some of my other favorites of them, starting with: Upside-down Moose Ears! This is the first image I drew of them, and my favorite from the series.

The second image was the two playing leap frog. Bet you've never seen a cow play leap frog before!

Another fun one is when the cow watched the movie Jaws before going to the beach. The boy better watch out for cow sharks!

My final favorite to share is of them on the swings. I drew a new version of this image a few years later for my portfolio:

A boy and his moo friend, the perfect distraction from thinking about having to go to the dentist!

What distractions do you use when you have to do something you don't want to do?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March First Books: Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung

Every Wednesday in March, I’ll be blogging about first books to help celebrate the release of Bridget Zinn’s novel, POISON, which released March 12. Since my book isn’t out yet, I’ll be talking about first books by other authors. I’ll also be giving away books! Tune in each Wednesday to learn about a great book and possibly win your own copy. 

The giveaway has ended. The winner is Jennifer!

This week I'm talking about the middle grade novel, GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung.

GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES stars Vincent Wu, the number one fan of Captain Stupendous. In Vincent's world, superheroes actually exist, and Vincent isn't a superhero, he's just a fan. Well not JUST a fan. He's the number one fan! He and his two friends know everything about Captain Stupendous ... except his identity. Vincent is more than just a superhero fan. He's a regular kid with two good friends who has a crush on Polly Winnicott-Lee. Unfortunately, Polly doesn't know Vincent or his friends exist, or at least that's what Vincent thinks. When Captain Stupendous needs help fighting the new super villain, Vincent, his friends, and Polly, have to team up to help him. Will they prevail? Will Professor Mayhem defeat Captain Stupendous and take over the town? Will Vincent and Polly become friends? Will Vincent get up the nerve to ask Polly on a date? Find the answers to these questions and more when you read the book!

This book was hands down my favorite read last year. It's not often that I want to go live in the world of a book, I mean ACTUALLY go live there. I wanted to live in this world, and I totally wanted to be Polly Winnicott-Lee. (Polly is so cool!) If you haven't read this book, what are you waiting for? A superhero, a super villain, three cool geek boys and one awesome girl = a recipe for a great book!

GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES is Mike Jung's first book. He's also in two anthologies, DEAR TEEN ME which came out in 2012, and BREAK THESE RULES, which comes out this year. Pick up his novel or the anthologies at your favorite bookstore or library. Mike is currently writing a new book, and I can't wait to read it! Learn more about the author on his website.

Want to win a copy of this week’s book, GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung? Fill out the form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This is the first time I'm using Rafflecopter for a giveaway. Not sure if this will work better or worse than drawing names out of a hat. If I do it again next week, it works better, if not, then not.

Speaking of giveaways, the winner of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore is: Rena!

Why am I posting about first books this month? If you're an author or illustrator of books, you know the anticipation of seeing your book in print. You prepare for the day it releases and want to shout about it to the world because you’re so excited! Unfortunately, Bridget Zinn isn’t here to celebrate the release of her first novel, so authors and illustrators are celebrating for her. Learn more about Bridget and her novel POISON on her website. On March 27th, I’ll talk about Bridget’s book and give a copy away to a lucky reader! For Bridget's blog tour schedule, click here. Bridget's book is now out in stores! Find POISON at your favorite bookstore or library. 

Legal Stuff about the giveaway: Void where prohibited. The book, GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES, was bought by me for the giveaway.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Night Owl is not amused by daylight saving time.

Saturday Night: Night Owl would like to know whose idea it was to turn the clocks forward an hour. It doesn't seem like bedtime yet and she's wide awake. Night Owl is not amused by daylight saving time!

Sunday Morning: Eventually, Night Owl falls asleep. Her alarm goes off a few minutes later. She's not ready to wake up, she's very, very tired. Night Owl is still not amused by daylight saving time!

Monday Morning: Happy daylight saving time from Night Owl! To celebrate, she suggests an afternoon nap every day for the next week or so.

Friday, March 8, 2013

You are the background in other people's pictures.

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is yesterday ... as in, "Yesterday the world was full of color. Today, *looks out window* there's snow, snow, and more snow, and everything is white!" So, my picture for IF shows a world full of color and no snow, and there's also a story, not from yesterday, but from yesteryear! Though I did draw it yesterday.

Several years ago, I was walking down the street with a guy I knew, when we saw someone taking a picture. He told me that we were the background in that person's picture. I was thinking about this yesterday and sketched a bunny who inadvertently got caught in the background of a picture when he stopped to look at the butterfly landing on another bunny's head:

The two bunnies in the front are frozen in place with their hands at their sides so the butterfly doesn't move while their picture is being taken. Or at least that's how it would have gone when I was a kid. "Don't move! I'm trying to take your picture with the butterfly!"

If you've seen my other art, you have probably noticed that I usually use black outlines. This time I tried not to use them. It works, but I miss the outlines. I also used a different brush that has more texture. Here's a close up, where hopefully you can see some of the texture:

This is just a color sketch for fun. I don't think I'll be changing my style just yet. Also, the colors on the textured art aren't as bright when I save for the web, compared to the colors of my regular style ... or at least that's how it seems!

Here's the original sketch. It makes me want to do the image again in my usual style with black outlines and see which one I like better, but I'm not going to (at least not now).

The idea of being the background in other people's pictures has always stuck with me. I think about it whenever I'm in someone's shot (I have been known to make bunny ears - thus the bunnies in the picture, or smile really big, or even turn away). I think about it when I'm creating the background for a picture book spread too. Who is in my character's neighborhood? Do they live there? Are they friends or family? Or are they visitors from out of town? And I think about it once in a while when I'm creating characters. Everyone is the star of their own pictures, and we're all the background for someone else. I wonder if my character is in the background more often, or is the subject of the photos. Then I try to figure out who is taking the picture.

Have you ever thought about being the background in other people's pictures?

Want to win a signed copy of the picture book When A Dragon Moves In written by Jodi Moore and Illustrated by Howard McWilliam? Click here to enter!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March First Books: When A Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore

Every Wednesday in March, I’ll be blogging about first books to help celebrate the release of Bridget Zinn’s novel, Poison, which releases March 12. Since my book isn’t out yet, I’ll be talking about first books by other authors. I’ll also be giving away books! Tune in each Wednesday to learn about a great book and possibly win your own copy.

The giveaway has ended. The winner is Rena!

The first book I want to tell you about is the picture book, When A Dragon Moves In, by Jodi Moore (Illustrated by Howard McWilliam):

When A Dragon Moves In is a story about a boy who builds the perfect sandcastle for a dragon to live in. Just his luck, a dragon decides to move in, and that’s where the fun starts! This is a great story about friendship, imagination, and families. The text is wonderful and the art is gorgeous, plus it’s the perfect antidote to snowy winter weather! You can curl up with this book and imagine that you’re at the beach, building your own perfect sandcastle that a dragon just might decide to move in to. And that’s where the fun starts …

When A Dragon Moves In is author Jodi Moore’s first book. Her second book, Good News Nelson released last fall. Pick up one or both of her books at your favorite bookstore or library. Then snuggle into a comfy chair or a beach blanket and enjoy! Learn more about the author on her website.

The giveaway has ended. The winner is Rena!

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Today is World Read Aloud Day and a stormy day in some parts of the country. Celebrate by staying inside where it's warm and dry and reading a picture book, like When A Dragon Moves In. Or read an old favorite on your shelves and enter to win a copy of Dragon!

Why am I posting about first books this month? If you're an author or illustrator of books, you know the anticipation of seeing your book in print. You prepare for the day it releases and want to shout about it to the world because you’re so excited! Unfortunately, Bridget Zinn isn’t here to celebrate the release of her first novel, so authors and illustrators are celebrating for her. Learn more about Bridget and her novel Poison on her website. On March 27th, I’ll talk about Bridget’s book and give a copy away to a lucky reader! F
or Bridget's blog tour schedule, click here.

Legal Stuff about the giveaway: Void where prohibited. The book, When A Dragon Moves In, was bought by me for the giveaway.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March came in like a crocodile, and a talented octopus for Illustration Friday

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is talent. I thought of the octopus I painted for IF a couple of weeks ago. I've been working on some portfolio images with the octopus and a crab friend, so that image has been on my mind lately. I wondered what talent the octopus might have if he or she had a talent, and how the crabby friend might be involved. This is what I came up with:

Have you ever seen an octopus spin beach balls and a crab? Me either, but I bet octopuses could totally do this! Here's a close up of how much the crab is enjoying being a participant in this stunt (hint - the crab is crabby):

It also gives you a better idea of how the art looks. I wanted it to be more sketchy than my finished art usually is, so I left in all the pencil marks and actually used the pencil for my black line. I also didn't stay within the lines 100%, on purpose! I didn't go wild with going out of the lines, but I didn't worry if it went just over the lines here and there. Have to say I'm happy with the result and it was really fun to do too!

You will be seeing more of the octopus and crab in the future!

Also new this week: I have a new avatar for the month of March! You might have noticed it here, or on Twitter, or other places I'm online. If not, here it is:

Why the crocodile? (Or is it an alligator?) Whenever March rolls around, I wait for someone to talk about lions and lambs:
March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.
I always wonder what's going to happen when it comes in like a lamb. Does that mean it will go out like a lion? This year I didn't hear anyone say it, probably because the weather wasn't too bad here. Since nobody said it, I decided March needed a new saying for this year. Lucky for me, it goes with my new March avatar:
March came in like a crocodile and will go out like an alligator!
I doubt anyone else is going to adopt my new March saying, but it works for me. How's March treating you so far? I hope it's more lamb than lion, or maybe even a friendly crocodile!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Read Across America, Dr. Seuss, and cats wearing hats

Today is Read Across America day! Dr. Seuss, and his book The Cat in the Hat, help inspire kids to read every year (tomorrow is his birthday - he would have been 109). Last year I drew a series of Dr. Seuss inspired art, and posted this one for Read Across America:

It's  still one of my favorites from that series, and answers the question: What if the Cat in the Hat had a brother? (Unfortunately for the fish, it that would be a bad thing indeed!) What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book? What do you think would happen in a story with the Cat in the Hat and his brothers and sisters? Maybe they'd be a family of cats, all wearing hats!

I drew these cats wearing hats in May 2010. I particularly like the orange cat, who looks like our old cat, Romulus. I can just imagine him looking forlorn like that and thinking, "Why are you making me wear this hat?"

Read a book today, with your kids, by yourself, or to your cat, or fish! I'll be reading Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss, and will hopefully have time to read a novel too.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

suspense vs. stupidity in movies and TV shows

Sometimes when I’m watching a movie or a TV show, and somebody does something really stupid, I just want to yell at them. I know they can’t hear me, but someone should yell at them. Here’s an example. I was watching a show where there’s a killer in the house, and the character knows that the killer is in the house. So what does she decide to do? She goes into the basement! And then I had this conversation running through my head:

Wait, what are you DOING? Don’t go in the basement. Do NOT go in the basement. ACK! OMG! Why aren’t you listening to me fictional character lady? Why do you want to go down to the basement? Haven’t you ever seen a horror movie? I don’t care if you’re an FBI agent and have a gun. There’s a killer. In the HOUSE! Probably in the basement, where you’re going! And if they aren’t in the basement, they will be soon, so get out of there! Better yet, LEAVE THE HOUSE! If you’re not there, they can’t kill you.

Oh, and another thing, why is it that the lights never seem to work in the basement and they always have to use a flashlight? Turn on the light people! Okay, that would alert the killer that you were coming downstairs, but so will the flashlight and the creaking stairs. So, turn on the light! That way you can see the killer when he or she jumps out at you!

Oh No! The scary music is playing. Now you did it! Yes, I know you already called for backup, because, let’s face it, killer in the house! That’s why you should stay upstairs, where they can find you, until they come, you know, to back you up! No, don’t go down those stairs! I’m going to tell your mother! There’s nothing down there you really need to see or do that can’t wait until after the other people get there so that the killer doesn’t kill you.

Good job! You made it to the basement and you’re still alive! We’re all proud of you, you risk taker. No GET OUT!

Seriously. Leave the basement! Leave it NOW! Just DO IT! Just get out of the basement! Just GO! UPSTAIRS! NOW! RIGHT NOW!

---If you & your friends continue being too stupid to live,* I’m going to stop watching.---

They’re hiding behind the curtain. The killer. Is behind. THE CURTAIN!


She’s right behind you! RUN! No, not that way, the other way!


---Watching movies and/or TV is fun, when it doesn’t give you a heart attack.---

Oh goody, here's another show. What's this guy doing? Dude, do NOT go in that basement! Get out of the house and call the POLICE! Seriously! Did you not learn anything when I was yelling at the FBI lady? Great. He's not listening to me either. Shocker! But he hasn't gone to the basement yet. He looks too scared:

Do you think he's going to the basement? Do you ever yell at the characters on TV or in the movies when they're doing stupid things?

How does stupidity build suspense on the screen? It doesn't! It just makes the viewer frustrated.
* She lived to see another episode. The killer got caught, and all ended happy-happy, well except for the people who were already dead. They probably weren’t too happy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Whispering Jerboas for Illustration Friday

The prompt this week for Illustration Friday is whisper. I had a lot of ideas, but the one below got sketched out first. It's one jerboa whispering to another jerboa.

(A jerboa is a small rodent with big ears and long tails with a fluffy bit at the end, sort of like a kangaroo+mouse+bunny - yes, it's a real animal.)

I wasn't completely satisfied with that sketch. It looks like the words the jerboa on the right is saying (whisper whisper whisper ...) is actually a tongue. Then I remembered that I started a picture last year of a jerboa that looks like a dragon, who had accidentally stepped on a smaller jerboa. I remembered it because the background color is purple too. The dragon is whispering that he's sorry, and the smaller jerboa is whispering, "ouch!" I cleaned up the sketch a bit and decided to post it too (it saved much lighter than the original).

It's a bit hard to see the smaller jerboa, so here's a close-up:

I think this might be my favorite part of the image, other than the fluffy clouds, because even though he's smashed, you know he'll be okay ... eventually. None of these images are going into my portfolio, but that doesn't mean there won't be a jerboa in there somewhere!

Friday, February 22, 2013

my inner editor is an angry tiger

Do you ever have days where you feel like an angry tiger trapped in a tiny glass box? My inner editor does! That's why I had to snap this picture* recently. This is totally what my inner editor looks like when she gets angry and throws a temper tantrum (usually because she wants to play instead of let me work on my writing or illustrating - my inner editor is good with distraction):

In the end, I always find a way to work around her (usually when she's asleep). Lucky for me, cats like to sleep a LOT. Unfortunately, they also like to play a LOT! And my inner editor kitty is too big to ignore. Plus, look at those teeth! Her claws are huge too. Trust me, you don't want to mess with her.

So I've got my work cut out for me.

What does your inner editor look like? How do you work around him/her/them?

*Picture taken at the Museum of Natural History. This really was an angry tiger in a glass box!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

4 movies in 4 days: A Good Day To Die Hard, Argo, Warm Bodies, Wreck-It-Ralph

Last weekend was a long weekend due to the President's Day holiday on Monday. Since my husband and I haven't been able to see a movie in many months (something always seemed to come up), we decided to make up for it over the weekend by seeing a movie every day. BTW, the last movie we saw in theaters was The Avengers.

The first movie we saw was: A Good Day To Die Hard. Since it was the day after Valentine's Day, we wanted to see a romantic movie. Ha-Snort! We've seen and enjoyed the other four Die Hard movies, so it was fun to see bullets flying, things exploding, and John McClane (Bruce Willis) not dying when he should, or even getting seriously injured. If you liked the first four movies, then you know exactly what to expect. Despite rumors, there is a plot! Can't remember the last time we went to see a movie on opening weekend (usually too crowded for us).

Movie number two was Argo. We had wanted to see it for a while and were happy it was still in the theaters. Argo was an excellent though intense movie, with edge of your seat anticipation of what you knew was going to happen, based on the real story, but not knowing how it was going to happen. If you haven't seen Argo, I recommend seeing it in the theater if it's still in your area. Amazing story, even more so because they all lived and were able to keep the secret for many years. The real photos, juxtaposed with the movie stills at the end, show how close they got to the real people and events.

The third weekend movie was Warm Bodies. I LOVED this movie. It's a funny zombie love story that shows one way the zombie apocalypse could play out. If you know me, you know that I love zombies, but that doesn't mean that I love all zombie movies and shows. This movie was smart and funny, and full of hope for the world if the zombies ever take over. It has all the qualities of a really great YA novel in movie form (though I think the original book by Isaac Marion was published as an adult novel). See this movie, even if you don't usually go for zombies.

Wreck-It-Ralph was our final movie choice. We couldn't believe it was still in the theaters (verrrrry limited showtimes), but were happy to finally get a chance to see it. I was really psyched that Q*Bert got a role in the movie. I love Q*Bert! Also fun to see all the other video games and remember the days when I used to go to the arcades. All-in-all, a fun movie for kids and adults, with jokes for both age groups. It was smarter and funnier that I thought it was going to be, with several quotable lines. One of the funniest bits wasn't on the screen though. It was a scene in the bar where the bartender is mixing up a drink. One of the kids behind us asked another kid, "why is he shaking that grenade?" I'll never think of a cocktail shaker the same way again!

As if four movies in four days weren't enough, in one of the theaters, we got to learn fun facts about movies! At which point we realized that the person who typed up the fun facts did not know what fun facts are. Mostly they were just facts, without the fun. It made for many giggles and groans, which in retrospect was fun, so maybe the person typing up the facts knew what they were doing after all! My favorite fun fact was this one:

If you can't read it, it says, "Thor's weapon of choice is a hammer."

A fun fact indeed, especially if you like hammers, or weapons, or superheroes who use hammers as weapons, or if you saw the movie, or if you know who Thor is, or if you've ever owned a hammer, especially if you've used the hammer to hammer in a nail, but not if you've used it as a weapon, because really, who uses a hammer as a weapon? Oh right, Thor. See, that was fun!

Fun facts. Fun movies. Fun weekend. We're hoping to go to movies more frequently this year. We may never make up for all the movies we missed last year, but it will be fun to try!

Did you see any movies last weekend? What did you watch? What are you looking forward to seeing?

Monday, February 18, 2013

sheep and woolly mammoth for Illustration Friday and President's Day

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is wool. Of course the first thing I thought of was sheep. The second thing I thought of was a woolly mammoth! Then I realized that Monday was President's Day in the US. All three of those ideas swirled together to make this image:

One of my favorite things about this picture is that the background looks like a ball of blue yarn exploded, which is exactly the effect I was going for. I also really like the stovepipe hat and ball of yarn. The wig on the woolly mammoth doesn't work quite as well as I wanted, but it does still give him a George Washington vibe. I don't know about you, but when I think of woolly mammoths, I think of George Washington (okay, not really, but I will now).

To celebrate President's Day, Abe the sheep and George the woolly mammoth are going shopping at the mall. Abe is hoping to get a new pair of knitting needles, and George is planning to get a new hat (he's jealous of Abe's). After the mall, they're going for pizza, because they didn't get to eat a whole lot of pizza as president (state dinners tend to serve more formal food).

What are you doing today? Are you celebrating President's Day? Going shopping? Enjoying the day off of work? Or just having a regular Monday?

I'm planning to go to a movie!

See more art on my website:

Friday, February 15, 2013

my new motto, thanks to Mo Willems

I have a new motto, thanks to Mo Willems:

“The glass is half full of poison.” – Mo Willems (NY 2013 SCBWI Conference)

Some people might find this depressing, but to me, it’s optimistic.

Yes, seriously.

Mo said this right after Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton finished speaking. The very last question they answered was about the positive message of their books. In her answer, Julie Andrews talked about being a glass half full kind of person.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a glass half full kind of person. When asked, I’ll usually say I’m a glass half full person too, but that’s only because the other option is glass half empty.

I never liked that there were only two options.

Who wants to always be Happy! Happy! Happy! Or clinically depressed and thinking the world, or at least your world, is all about to end?

I always wanted a third option, or a fourth, or a fifth!

So, when Mo got up and said that the glass was half full of poison, not only was it funny; it also opened a whole world of possibilities. Today the glass is half full of poison, but tomorrow it could be full of chocolate chips or tiny swimming fish (or roly-poly fish heads).

Someone out there is probably saying, “But what if I drink the poison?”

That’s not the point. The glass is either half full, or half empty, but the liquid (or whatever) is never going to be consumed. The contents are what they are. The level never changes, because if you drink part of the half full glass, it makes it half empty, and if you drink the half empty glass, there’s nothing left.

Now someone is probably commenting on the fact that it’s a stupid question.

Yes, yes it is.

But at least now there’s another, more interesting question to go along with the original: “What is the glass half full (or empty) of?”

That question is a glass half full of possibilities, and the reason that my new motto is: The glass is half full of poison.

Thanks Mo!

Want to know more about the NY 2013 SCBWI Conference? I posted two sets of notes from the conference: Illustrator’s Intensive on Friday and the main conference on Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Octopus and Clown Fish in a Snowstorm - for IF

The theme for Illustration Friday this week is storm. It was announced the day winter storm Nemo hit, so I decided to include a few clown fish in a snowstorm. Since the first thing I thought of when I heard the theme was the iconic movie poster from Firestarter (the one with Drew Barrymore's hair raging around her), I added a octopus whose tentacles rage around in the storm.

It's hard to see the details, so here's a crop:

Here's another crop. I actually like this one as a complete image by itself!

See more art on my website,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NY 2013 SCBWI Conference - Part 2: Main Conference Notes

The NY SCBWI 2013 conference was inspiring and informative, and it was great to see old friends and meet new ones too. Note: speakers are paraphrased unless there are quotes – I couldn’t scribble fast enough to keep up. Also, I don’t have notes for all the speakers. Sometimes I listened without taking notes. Here are some highlights from Saturday and Sunday:

Molly O’Neil (Editor at Katherine Teagan Books/HarperCollins):

- Questions she asks when evaluating a ms submission: Do I love it as a reader? Am I fascinated by it as an editor? Can I see others having a similar reaction? Who is this book for and who is going to love it first? Do I have a specific vision for this book? Can I publish this successfully? Is the timing for this book right?
- Some books have great questions or concepts, but other aspects aren’t as strong. The whole book has to live up to the concept.
- Loves beautiful writing, but story, plot, and characters need to be there too.
- The story needs to be respectful of the key moments of being that age (whatever age the book is for).
- An agent is an advocate for the writer. An Editor is an advocate for the reader.
- Need to find a balance between the universal and specific. Readers are looking for themselves in the story.
- Resonance connects the story to readers so it lives and stays with them. Even if they don’t remember the details, they remember how it made them feel. It has to feel true to the reader.
- Write what you know emotionally. True emotions you have known, no matter the type of story or setting.
- Plotting advice: Take a book you think does what you want to do and outline it to see skeleton of what you think works.

Jennifer Besser (publisher at G.P. Putnam's Sons):

- Emotional investment on the part of the author comes through in the writing.
- If you’re bored, we’re bored (the reader).
- If you’re not invested, we’re not invested (the reader).
- The power of observation: it’s the small details about the character that say so much. (Example of small details: Ramona’s parents tell her to leave for school at “quarter after eight” so she won’t be late. Ramona doesn’t know what “quarter after eight” means. She reasons that a quarter is twenty-five cents, so “quarter after eight” must mean eight twenty-five. She is late for school.)
- The first book she signed up as a children’s book editor was Percy Jackson.
- Penguin doesn’t have an acquisitions meeting. People still have to sign off on books, but editors are allowed to build their own lists.

Margaret Peterson Haddix: One of her latest books is GAME CHANGER, which she talked about and sounds really interesting. I haven’t had a chance to read her books yet, but after hearing her speak, I can’t wait.

- It’s the story itself that matters, not the device that children read it on.
- She made a list, when starting out, of the things she wanted her books to have: 1. Adventure that’s out of the ordinary. 2. Cliffhanger chapter endings. 3. Spunky characters (not necessarily fearless, because that’s not real). 4. Characters she could think of as friends.
- Recommends making your own list of what you want your books to be like. (Note: This was one of my favorite pieces of advice from the conference, and something I intend to do!)
- She pictures her audience as kids who don’t/won’t read and say they don’t like it. She asks questions that make that reader want to read her books.
- Fail big if you have to, but go down trying! You have to take risks with writing and publishing.

Mo Willems: I love Mo’s books and sense of humor. He was the perfect person to end the conference and to follow Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. They were very positive message people, which was great, but Mo brought humor and a dash of reality to end the conference. His latest picture book, GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS, is a clever twist on an old classic.

- The glass is half full of poison. (I really love this! Will blog on Friday about it.)
- My job is to make incomprehensible books for illiterates. (Text and art in PBs doesn’t make sense alone. Need them both for PBs to work.)
- He’s trying to make stories that are going to be read, “a million-bazilliony times.” Craft needs to be strong to withstand multiple readings.
- How to Write in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Pretty Much Impossible Step … click here to see the list on his blog .
- Have better dreams because you will never reach your dreams. The goal that makes him work harder is: “I dream that everything I write will change the world for better.”
- The writing works when the writer is invisible.
- Read the very best books of the type you want to write, then find the flaws. The flaws are where you can make your story better. (Example: In FROG AND TOAD, which on is Frog? Which on is Toad? Nobody will confuse Elephant and Piggie from his books.)
- The character is what makes the story, not the hook.
- No one knows what’s funny. Funny people only know what’s not funny. Take away what’s not funny. What’s left is funny. If it’s not, start over.
- Starts art in the middle of the book so the beginning and ending have the best drawings. (Note: This was really interesting and made sense to me. Going to have to try it!)
- Your job is to be some child’s best friend (you might be their only friend – some kids don’t have good childhoods).

Monday, February 11, 2013

NY 2013 SCBWI Conference - Part 1: Illustrator's Intensive

The NY SCBWI 2013 Illustrator’s Intensive had a ton of excellent and inspiring speakers. Here are some highlights from Friday’s Illustrator’s Intensive (Note: speakers are paraphrased unless there are quotes – I couldn’t scribble fast enough to keep up. Also, I don’t have notes for all the speakers. Sometimes I listened without taking notes.):

Shaun Tan: I was lucky to be able to see Shaun at the Illustrator’s Intensive and at the main conference. (Note: I’ve combined both of his sessions here.) His latest book, THE BIRD KING, a compilation of sketches, artwork, and commentary from Shaun about his work, was just released. One of my favorite things about his new book is some of the influences for his art and how that turned into characters for his books. His art is amazing and it was cool to see his process and hear him talk about creativity.

- Style emerges from visual experiences.
- Style is more about how you think and solve problems, that defines who you are, and less about medium and how you use it.
- Style is like personality.
- Stories that migrate are universal (TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA).
- THE ARRIVAL started as a 32 pg. picture book and was influenced by the work of Raymond Briggs (THE SNOWMAN and WHERE THE WIND BLOWS)
- Wasn’t into comics before THE ARRIVAL. He had to learn how to draw them while doing the book.
- Doesn’t ask if it’s a PB, GN, or short story. Just thinks it’s a good idea.
- You don’t need to tell a story to tell a story. Let the reader do the work.

David Ezra Stein: His new book OL’ MAMA SQUIRREL  is out in March – only a short time to wait! He talked about the process of creating the characters and book. Can’t wait to see it when it comes out!

- Only you can make art the way you do it.
- “The secret was getting the right nose for the squirrel.” (Talking about his new book, and how he did all the art over after submitting final art to the publisher. The old art was good, but the new art was great. And it has the new nose. It reminds him of a periscope, or a tater tot.)
- On re-doing all the art: he said that he should have kept going with the character sketches in the beginning instead of just picking a squirrel he kind-of liked.
- Listen to your ideas. Turn off the TV. Write the ideas down. Doodle!

The Brothers Hilts: After I registered, I forgot they were speaking at the intensive, so it was a fun surprise when they got up to talk about the book they illustrated, THE INSOMNIACS. This is such an awesome book. Amazing art and a great story (by Karina Wolf). They talked about the production process for their book and especially the problems they had with reproducing the dark colors in their original art.

- When working digitally, the ICC profile from the printer can be loaded into Photoshop to help you see what the printed art will look like. You also might have to turn the monitor down.
- The actual book itself is the art, not the painting or what’s on your computer.
- When the color looks bad (too bright and garish) it’s probably good (for printing). Or at least this was true for their art for this book.

Mark Teague: He’s one of my favorite children’s book illustrators. I love his art! He’s talented picture book writer as well. The book shown here, FIREHOUSE! is the book he talked about creating. He’s also known for the HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY … series (with author Jane Yolen), the LA RUE series, and my favorite, THE GREAT GRACIE CHASE (written by Cynthia Rylant).

- The work is the most important thing. (He doesn’t do book fairs, school visits, blog, etc. He says he’s a bit of a hermit.)
- “You can do anything, absolutely anything, as long as you can make it work.”
- On picture books for very little kids (like FIREHOUSE! which is a sequel to FUNNY FARM): The pictures do the work and the text is not as important. You need strong characters and a simple story.
- “One of the really most important aspects of a PB is when you turn the page.”
- Starts with acrylics for under painting, then paints layers of water soluble oils on watercolor blocks (so he doesn’t have to stretch paper) for the finished art.
- It takes him 3-5 days to do an image. The whole book (final art) takes 3-4 months. It takes about 6 months per project.
- Key in fantasy is you believe in characters, and the ordinary kid stuff and ordinary details make it more believable.
- As long as you can carry a story (art), you can create a PB. You’re storytellers. Take yourself seriously as a storyteller.
- Illustrators need to find their voice (presence, and something to say, and satisfaction as an artist), just like writers do.
- Think about your audience. “Don’t do dumb work. Do NOT be boring.” (On clichés and recycling ideas.)
- “The only cliché for illustrators that works is, Go Back To The Drawing Board.” Whenever your career, book, etc. not going well or you’re distracted, go back to the drawing board. The work will sustain you.
- Don’t forget it’s fun. Sense of fun will also help sustain you.
- Come to illustration with the mentality like you’re talking about doing something that’s going to get you in trouble.
- If you’re good at illustration, Bring It, and don’t worry about market as much.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

wheel: art for Illustration Friday

The topic for Illustration Friday this week was wheel. When I first read it, I thought it was Whee! I didn't have a ton of time, so I ended up doing a really detailed sketch, a black outline, and a crop of quick color sketch. No finished art in this bunch, but I like the drawing, so I might do another one in the future, or finish the color for this one. I thought people might like to see the process, so I'm posting all three images.

Mice! And Wheels! And ... hey, is that a cat? The original sketch:

The original sketch is a little hard to see, but you can tell that there are wheels everywhere. Or at least I hope you can see all the round circles.

After I scanned it, I re-drew it with black outline. I used thick black lines and didn't worry about fine details because I thought I was going to have time to do more with it before posting. Here's the black layer:

 You can see the line better now, but it's still not finished. I decided to do a small crop and play with color. Normally I don't do this step, but I knew I wouldn't have time to do finished art and wanted to do a quick color study for later.

I cropped the image where the car was to emphasize the wheel theme. Plus I like that there's also a squirrel, a dog, and a mouse reading a book in this part. Hmm. Looks like I forgot to color in the tongue of the mouse on the bottom. If I do final color, I'll make sure to add that in. Here's the color layer:

I've been thinking about wheels a lot lately for a book I'm working on. It was fun to draw them and play with a different set of characters for these sketches.

Tomorrow it's back to the drawing board for the other set of wheel images, but for today, it's all about the mice, and the squirrel, and dog, cat, ants, and birds!

BTW, I almost put a bat into the image, but it didn't work, so there are two birds. Maybe the Illustration Friday topic next week will be bats. We'll find out tomorrow! Until then, the bats are sleeping.

There's more art on my website: