Monday, December 16, 2013

A Study in Pink

I'm all cotton floss and candy stripes today. Trying to get used to drawing directly in Photoshop instead of having to scan a sketch and color it. Still practicing. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Lady With the Ship on Her Head

I don't know if it's just the shows I've been watching, but Hulu has been playing the latest holiday Louis Vuiton commercial incessantly. I'm not complaining, I find it totally enchanting, replete with fantastic Louis the 18th inspired masqueraders, perhaps in subtle homage to David Bowie and "The World Falls Down" ballroom scene from Labyrinth. It features the song "I'd Rather Be High" from Bowie's latest album and I was actually disappointed to find the actual song does not feature a harpsichord as it does in the commercial.

However, rather than inspiring me to buy a gazilion dollar handbag, the commercial inspired me to dust off one of my old favorite children's books: The Lady With the Ship on Her Head by Deborah Nourse Lattimore. Lattimore's characters and illustrations are also inspired by the glory days of Versailles, and the story pokes fun at what becomes of us when we make ourselves slaves to fashion. The main character, Madame Pompenstance, is determined to win this years Best Headdress Competition at the fancy dress ball. While attempting to gather shells to decorate her hair, a small schooner sails right up to perch atop her 2 foot tall wig, and a very awkward day ensues.

I think this book inspired in me an interest in art history and historical fashion at a young age, especially discovering that women really did go to some outrageous lengths to out-do each others hairstyles, both then and today. I highly recommend this delightful read. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Jumblies

"Far and few, far and few are the lands where the Jumblies live.
Their heads are green and their hands are blue and they went to sea in a sieve."

I think I could recite this whole book. Edward Lear's The Jumblies was one of the books I forced my father to read ad nauseum. If I had to pick a book that was the seed that germinated in me the desire to become both a writer and an illustrator, it would have to be this one. I was utterly enthralled with this edition. Lear's poem tumbles off the tongue deliciously. The a rhythm of it like gently rocking ship, much like the sieve that the harlequin-like imps, the Jumblies, take on a voyage to an enchanting far off land. Rand's watercolor illustrations in charming, gentle pastels draw you into a surreal realm of possibility.

The Jumblies has been published as a children's book several times illustrated by different artists, including another of my favorites, Edward Gorey. But I have to say, this edition by Ted Rand captures the dreaminess of the poem, and cements it as an anthem for dreamers everywhere. I think there are plenty of creative souls out there who have at one point or another been totally aware that they are embarking on a dangerous journey in a metaphorical leaky sieve. And yet they sing on "O Timbaloo! How happy we are!" The phrase was my seven year old version of "I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my Soul".

These are probably the most whimsical and stylized illustrations in Rand's portfolio. I almost didn't recognize him as the same artist who illustrated the elementary school must-reads Knots on a Counting Rope and The Tree that Would Not Die. Rand excels at bringing to life stories generally based on historical events or in real life cultural settings. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If Disney Princesses discovered Cheeseburgers

I'm tired of Disney Princesses.

Let me rephrase: I'm tired of watching the Pyrrhic struggle of Disney artists who attempt to come up with a new female protagonist for each new feature film, yet never step outside their narrow Disney box. I don't give a dang about seeing Frozen because based on the previews, I've already seen it because I saw Tangled. Why are Disney animators so afraid to vary heroine body types when they aren't afraid to do it with villains or side kicks?

There's this thing called "casting against type". This refers to depicting a character with a physical attribute that contradicts or belies their character. For example, a big tough beefy guy might actually have a very dainty and sensitive personality or habits. The short guy might have a very over-the-top or pugilistic personality. These things are usually played for comedy, but it makes the character so much more interesting! I appreciate being surprised. It shows me that the animators don't think I'm stupid. I don't want the same old side kick or the same old hero. Why are animators willing to surprise me with a villain or a side kick but not take a risk on the main protagonist?

We must ask ourselves what makes us attracted to a hero in the first place: Do we like them because they are handsome and also good, so when we see a beautiful person, we automatically assume that they are good? Did we start doing this before Hans Christian Anderson began describing his heroines as beautiful and virtuous or because of it? I think we've done our society a great disservice as a result. We are conditioned to think well of beautiful people, and to scorn those who do not measure up. Any extra poundage is associated with cardinal sins of sloth or gluttony and the supposed physical manifestations of character go downhill from there.

The more of real life I experience, the less charitable I feel towards the plight of a beautiful, privileged teenager with no apparent body image issues. You're the most beautiful female in the land, you are royal, have wealth and more power than any other female in your society is likely to have, yet the first thing you feel the need to sing about is that you want something.

 Give me a break.

I'd be much more likely to be sympathetic and root for a flawed or imperfect girl. How you look physically influences how people treat you, which shapes the person you become. This is the very essence of character design: back story. A girl who weighs 185 lbs is going to have a different outlook and therefore likely different attitudes than a girl who weighs a dainty 105. Even if they are both princesses. We KNOW the handsome prince pairs with the beautiful princess. Like salt and pepper shakers. This is expected. We know the story before it even starts.

But what happens to the one who's over-weight? Or wears glasses? Or has a scar, or is gay, or isn't a princess at all? You have a gazillion stories right in front of you here because we don't know what will happen to this girl! She isn't perfect and therefore is not a shoe-in for the perfectly tailored happily-ever-after. Take us on an unexpected journey to the happy ending we didn't know was coming!

But in the end, if you, Disney, are still afraid that nobody will root for someone who isn't pretty, I think you're still looking at it wrong and selling yourselves short as animators. Big CAN be beautiful! And see what potential for your character's story you have just by adding a few pounds:

What if Ariel realized that getting married at sixteen to a guy she'd known for four days was a TERRIBLE idea, ditched the dude, when back to school (fish, school, get it? nyuk nyuk) and gained the freshman fifteen? Boom, goes from a 90's Jennifer Aniston size 2 to a 50's Bettie Page size 8. Still lovely.

Ok, maybe adding the nerd glasses was cheating, but she spends a lot of time in the library! Doing your dissertation for your Masters degree by candle light is bad for your eyes. Also it sometimes leads to stress eating, which has rounded Belle up to a size 10-12, but I think she's as lovely, kind, independent, and smart as ever.

I think it's a shame they made Rapunzel so skinny from the get go, because between her outfit and her personality, she's basically a cupcake personified. Now extra fluffy! But still sweet, warm, endearing, and adorable. Hey, it's hard not to pack on the pounds when you CAN'T LEAVE YOUR ROOM. (or studio in my case....hmmm)

I wanna jam with this Jasmine! I never met a real belly dancer that didn't have plenty of belly to go around, and since Disney dressed her as a belly dancer instead of how an actual Middle Eastern woman would likely be dressed, I think this is pretty valid. Maybe she and Aladdin had some kids (who would be GORGEOUS!) or she learned to cook. Or both. Either way, she still clearly hasn't slowed down and is as feisty and graceful as ever.

Which brings me to another point. Even if Disney is too scared to make a Princess that weights more than 90 pounds, why are all the few moms who don't succumb to Disney Death also just as skinny?! I mean, sure, generally they've only had one kid. Pop a kid out at 16-20 years, your body might bounce back. But they still seem only to have acquired a few grey hairs between giving birth and their daughter turning sixteen. No weight change, barely a wrinkle. I was so excited when we actually got to see the mom in Emperors New Groove pregnant. At least that was different. She was back to skinny in a way I doubt she would be after kid #3, but still at least we saw a fat, sassy Disney female for a little while. When do we get more of that?! Come on Disney! Surprise us! Or better yet, show us someone we can actually relate to.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Best review yet!

My favorite review of Frank the Gentle Viking from one of my favorite fans.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I'm a huge fan of Wicked. I can totally relate to the misunderstood introvert Elphaba. Especially during the scene when bubbly Glinda gives her a make over to make her Popular. I've never had anyone do that to me. I think I'd be simultaneously insulted and grateful for such help. Being deemed worthy of being someone else's project. Fortune favors the Glindas out there, for sure, and now where does that become more obvious than in the world of marketing. A world that I am decidedly not at home in.

One of the major reasons I've been drawn to art (ba-dum ching) my whole life is that it give me something to hide behind. People don't look at me when they look at my artwork. They don't criticize me, they criticize my work. Even though I put so much of myself into what I do, there's still a protective degree of transference that keeps me safe. Now I'm being told I not only have to market my work, I have to market myself as an artist. 

"Sell yourself!" the faceless advice blares. I have a small heart attack. Me? What's so great about me? Seriously, where is that invincible sense of entitlement that my generation is supposed to be so famous for? As far as I'm concerned, I'm just a person. I feel like I put all of my best into my work and what's left over is just that: leftovers. Just me, a normal human being. Pay no attention to the girl behind the curtain! You'll only be disappointed by her normalcy! Apparently drawing you a picture and then going home and reading my book is not an option if I want to get the next job, or then next one. Gotta boost those stats on TwitPinBlogFaceInterGoogle.

It's not that I have low-self esteem. It's more like I have totally neutral self esteem. While I think my art is good and worthy, I think personally I'm just totally average. I'm fine. I think this is what the world told me my whole life. I'm naturally shy and introverted, but if you talk to me, I'm relatively funny and more than averagely intelligent. My company is enjoyable if you can remember to invite me to the party in the first place. I've always been "that girl who sat behind you in AP English...maybe?" I was just pretty enough to avoid being bullied, was willing to do more than my share of the lab work, and just athletic enough not to piss off the team. But never anybody's first choice. People always seemed surprised to see me there once partners had been joined and teams picked. But I was nice. I was sweet and kind to people. And those seemed to be the only words anyone could remember when it came time to sign year books. 

My parents didn't help. My mother raised me to be a well-rounded sweet Southern Girl who was decently educated marriageable material. (Lol. How dare she, right?) A classy lady who doesn't talk about herself or brag like a tacky person. A lady doesn't grand stand. My sisters and I never enrolled in competitive sports or similar activities. I took ballet, an artful activity where one is supposed to blend gracefully into a group.

"Don't let anyone down and don't stand out". This was the core message that everything about my formative years molded me to believe. I think this is the first time I've been able to put it into words. But now I don't know what to do about it because I don't know how to be anything else? How do I make myself over into an in demand, professional, living-earning "Art-trepreneur"?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Portfolio Banner

Stories found in the oddest places

Stories can be found in the oddest places.

Not the least of which is a hole in the ground. Or maybe not so much a hole, as box under some leaves.

The story of our find starts this past Sunday afternoon. My husband, sister, some-day brother in-law Will, and I were walking in the park. My husband John is an avid Geo-Cacher. For the uninitiated, Geo Caching is an activity which uses the gps on a smartphone to locate small hidden troves of random items throughout a community. Usually the hidden container holds useless trinkets, cards, or just a list you can sign once you've found the cache.

Rachel and Will had never heard of the activity, but joined in enthusiastically. Will was actually the first to spot a Tupperware covered in camouflaged duct tape beneath some fallen branches. It contained some small toys, a disposable camera (unfortunately with all the film used up), and a list, but to our surprise, someone had added a paperback children's book to the stash, sealed against water damage in a plastic bag.

 Rachel and John examine their find as Will looks on

Now, I've used GeoCaches before as a guerrilla marketing technique. Mostly to leave cards that promoted a web comic about zombies I maintained as a goofy side project because I figured surely there would be a geeky intersection between people who like treasure hunting and zombies. But it never occurred to me to stuff in an entire book. I examined the book before we made John read it out loud to us there on the bike path.

The title of the book was Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash. Now, you would think I'd be willing to lower my expectations a bit for a book that was found abandoned in the woods. If it were an independent or self published book, I was prepared to applaud the author's creative marketing endeavor. But as we read the book, it became clear to me that it was donated to the Geo Cache because the previous owner wouldn't be all that sad to part with it. It wasn't very good. The idea was sort of cute, but I've seen other artists execute it better. The rhyme scheme was amateurish and sounded like a fourth grader wrote it. Once that assessment was made, I was even more irritated to find that it was not a first book effort by some self-publisher but had been printed by Schoolastic!  

I guess it's not really fair to a book to put it in this sort of situation. But when you go on a treasure hunt, which is basically what a Geo Cache is, you expect to find treasure! Not pirate gold or jewels, but something precious. Something worth hunting for, something that would truly be a surprise. Otherwise, it's just junk. And not cool junk that appeals to your inner child or inner Smeagol as the case may be (I found it, it came to me! Precious!) I mean Real junk. 

Again, I'm probably being unreasonably harsh. If a parent with a child stumbled over a book in a park on a beautiful day, a story would probably be a welcome addition to the day while small feet rested after playing hard and walking quite a long trail. But my inner writer and artist thinks it could have been better! A reminder to make sure your work is Treasure. Will it enchant your reader? Will they count it as precious to them? Will they feel the thrill of ownership when they pick it up off the shelf? Will they think This is mine, I found it!

But hey, sometimes the true Treasure isn't the material thing you find, it's the ideas that fill your head as the box is being opened. The find inspired me to go home and work on a few ideas about treasure hunts and mystery boxes for PiBoIdMo. So, even though we followed the rules and returned the book to the place we found it, I went home with pockets jingling with ideas and determination. A day well spent.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Very Little Bookstore

Why are all the streets in Summerville named after trees? You know there's something not-user-friendly about your town layout when you pull into the Taco Bell of the Lost Souls and see four other cars pull into the parking lot, with the occupants scrolling madly on their smart phones trying to figure out where they're going. But it was my fault for taking the back roads I suppose.

Anyhow, the journey was worth it to find a little gem in historic downtown Summerville, SC: A Very Little Bookstore.

 I like businesses that tell you exactly what they are in the title. While the shop is indeed small, approximately 400 square feet, every inch is maximized to display the most marvelous selection of children's books. A Very Little Bookstore deals primarily in picture books, and books for young readers, but they stock classic YA novels like the Harry Potter series and a small number of graphic novels as well.

Having been in many an independent bookstore that was cluttered and claustrophobic, this shop's stock perfectly matches the space it has, creating a totally charming shopping experience. An experience warmed by the friendly and personal service of the shop proprietor, Natalie Sober, who is probably one of the most welcoming and pleasant people I've met recently.

It's worth a trip with the kids to this shop made especially for them. Especially on November 30th at 10:30, when I will be in A Very Little Bookstore doing a reading of Frank the Gentle Viking during downtown Summerville's Small Business Saturday. So come on down and enjoy a day of stories, friends, and all the charms autumn on South Main Street has to offer.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Self Portrait Day

Reminding all artists that Nov. 1st is Self Portrait Day. Unless you're on Facebook where every day is self portrait day.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday: "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" or 26 Ways to Die

"A is for Amy who fell down the stairs."

So begins Edward Gorey's tragic tale of how 26 children meet untimely demises in alphabetical order. AND IT'S AWESOME!

Here again, I find myself reviewing a favorite children's book that I didn't actually read as a child. My mother didn't believe in gruesome deaths and other such unpleasantness. But kids eat this stuff up! One of my favorite games as a child was playing "The Dying Informant", which simply consisted of running into a room, flinging yourself to the floor and pretending to die in the most soap-opera-y, over-the-top, drawn out way you could describe. This book gave me so many methods to add to my repertoire.

It's not just the variety of the scenarios that is interesting, it's the language that Gorey wields so deftly. Each page has no more than eight words, yet every page has a different verb, with pages rhyming in softly rocking couplets like a demented Mother Goose rhyme. It's clear that this isn't a book about children being murdered left and right, it's more a list of tragic and unlikely accidents being divulged in an understated mock-reverent tone. The shortness of the widely kerned sentences forces you to read it slowly and lugubriously, like an undertaker delivering bad news.

For example:
Not "killed", not "strangled", not "murdered". The charmingly dated colloquial "done in by". Tragic, yet tidy. The words may be dire, but Gorey, despite his name, tends to eschew truly violent images, focusing on the moment just before the terrible incident takes place. It creates a giddy tension because the reader knows what is obviously about to happen, yet the children in question seem either totally oblivious, or are only expressing the mildest concern, which is what makes it funny. 

My favorite is:
Not "eaten". Not "mauled". "Assaulted." Like they only meant to take his wallet. Classic.

The book hangs together so nicely because Gorey's illustrative style is as spare as his writing. Bleak high contrast and ambiguously abstracted space creates a vague discomfort and sense of abandonment and insecurity. You laugh, but at the same time, there's a part of you that relates to these helpless children. 

So in the spirit of Halloween, pick up a copy of this cult classic for some ghoulish good fun, and don't let your children get assaulted by bears when they go Trick-or-Treating tonight. Have a safe and Happy Halloween everybody! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

New SCBWI Website: The place to be, and where I am

Gah! I'm totally geeking out over the new renovations to the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators website! So much more user friendly, so handy for learning the ropes of promoting yourself and connecting with the community! If you haven't checked it out, do!

I'm so glad I finally joined. Even though I haven't yet been able to connect with many members, it's an incredible feeling to put my art next to theirs on the same site and be able to step back and realize "I belong here." I have miles and miles to go in my pursuit of mastery in both my drawing and my writing craft. But the community I have reached out to has been so warm and welcoming. Even if I haven't been published just yet, I feel inspired. I feel like I've really found my calling and my career path. Which is really heartening since I rounded out this week with yet another Dayjob person telling me "'re not what we're looking for."

Nut's to them. I know what I'm good at. And I know what I love. I know where I'm going, and I know how far I've come. Even a snail can be proud of how far it's come, even if it's only a few inches in the grand scheme. Sometimes it's just that feeling of not being in last place anymore that's just what you need to keep plugging away at the next mile. Right now I feel like the proudest snail. Which is a big deal for me.

More inktober

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interesting Characters

I think there's a certain personality mold that it's assumed that the writers of children's books just fall into. I think people expect us to be warm, fuzzy, wholesome, normal human beings. But a bit of Googling reveals that that's not necessarily the case. Many of the individuals that I would consider to be the greatest in the history of the genre have been, shall we say, "a bit more of the fringe" than one would expect from their writing. So here are some things you might not know about your favorite children's book authors:

  • In my browsing through author biographies, I was surprised how many of them were professional pilots at some point in their lives. Roal Dahl was a decorated fighter pilot in WWI who occasionally acted as a spy. He collaborated with fellow intelligence officer Ian Flemming on his book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to create the create the character of The Child Catcher, one of the most terrifying villains in children's literature. Flemming would then go on to create James Bond, inspired by his days in British Intelligence. Other pilots include Antoine de Saint-Exupery, (The Little Prince) who flew mail delivery before turning fighter pilot for WWII. He disappeared while flying a mission over Greece. T.H White, author of The Once and Future King, also took up flying briefly in an attempt to cure his fear of heights.

  • Many writers and illustrators, much to their own chagrin, have to hold day jobs. L. Frank Baum, creator of the immortal Wizard of Oz, did nearly everything, trying his hand at raising exotic chickens, selling fireworks, and becoming an actor, traveling salesman and failed newspaper man.

  • J.M Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, lost his older brother David in an ice skating accident. Despite having 7 other children, their mother Margaret went into a deep depression over the loss of her favorite son. James donned his brother's clothes and went into cheer her up. She responded to him, and he spent much of his own childhood pretending to be David. The notion of a boy preserved in memory, never to grow to adult hood, provided the catalyst for the creation of Peter and the immortal NeverLand.

  • Edward Gorey was asexual. Evidence from correspondence suggests that Hans Christian Anderson, the very founder of children's literature was bi-sexual. Despite growing up in a traditional Jewish household, Maurice Sendak claimed not only to be an atheist but came out as gay after the death of his partner in 2007. But I think my favorite surprise of the bunch was P.L Travers, born Helen Goff, and author of the Mary Poppins books. Travers had affairs with both men and women, but to me that wasn't the most interesting thing about her. At the age of 40, she adopted a son named Camillus from Ireland, who was one of twins. She did so under the advice of her astrologer, and refused to adopt his twin brother. The boy did not find out he had a twin brother until he was 17 and the young man turned up on his doorstep.

  • I was actually disappointed to look up Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snickett, to find that he seems to have channeled all his would-be life drama into his alter ego. The most interesting thing he did before his writing career took off was to be a working musician, playing accordion in a couple of bands in college. 

But there you are. Just goes to show you can't judge a book by it's cover, an author by their books, or anything by what you read in a sensationalist Victorian newspaper.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Inktober are my feeble contributions to the whole Inktober effort. The idea is to draw an inked picture every day for a month, and though I draw almost daily, I tend not to ink anything since I put aside my Kevin Zombie comic.  Plus, I'm always late to the party when it comes to internet group movements. I always end up as a flash mob of 1.

Trying to channel Arthur Rackham here and not doing it too well. My fellow Painting Drama classmate Michelle is so much better at it than I am.Check out her tumblr.
When all else fails I pretend I'm in a mid-century Sears catalog and draw my outfit.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Spider and the Fly

This might not be much of a throwback, since Tony DiTerlizzi's version of this turn-of-the-century tale only came out 10 years ago, but I don't care! I'm giddy to finally have my own copy of DiTerlizzi's "The Spider and the Fly". Lusciously lugubrious black and white gouache illustrations bring vintage thrills, chills and giggles to the poem.

Seriously, look at this artwork! You can learn everything there is to know about composition and value just by soaking your brain in these pictures. The grays and rich blacks are so rich and glossy in their black and silver duotone. I feel like I should be wearing gloves to turn the pristine blackened pages. DiTerlizzi fuses inspiration from 1920's Hollywood with creepy-crawlie details that feel like something from the Tim Burton or Edward Gorey oeuvre.

Everyone should have a copy of this book. 

I infinitely prefer this elegant version of the story to the one I actually did grow up with. It wasn't a book. It was a Max Fleisher short cartoon called Cobweb Hotel and it absolutely terrified me. Talk about Stranger Danger! 

Battle the Bulge...With ART!

Diet tip # 32: Cover your refrigerator with beautiful artwork! That way when you get up to snack, you will become so distracted by the pretty pictures, you'll forget why you went to the 'fridge in the first place.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Do Your Homework

I'm sure it's probably sacrilege to portray a fictitious witch as a saint, but not being Catholic, I have to say I've found Hermione Granger a great deal more inspiring than any saint. Whenever I need the strength to keep my nose to the grindstone, I call upon her.

And it is indeed studious strength that I require, for I have had the phrase "do your homework" tossed at me quite a bit this past week. Specifically from multiple sources trying to convey the way to grab the attention of a publisher or agent. Writers, agents, what have you, constantly reciting that mantra to get would-be artists and writers to research a publisher's content and submission guidelines thoroughly before wasting their time on inappropriate submissions.

That's all well and good. We live in a world of rules that should be followed for good reason, nobody wants to waste anyone's time.

But that blasted phrase coming from them is an insult to homework. Which is loathsome enough in its own right.

I'm no stranger to homework. I remember having a ton of it over the course of my lengthy education. I understood it. I was good at it. In those days, homework was designed to reinforce concepts taught during class hours. Information was handed to you in 45 minute long digestible portions, and you took it home to further masticate it with critical thinking skills.

And you got grades for it. No matter how badly you misunderstood it or mangled it, the teacher HAD to grade it. You might get a bad grade, but it was a grade nonetheless. You got a reaction. In red ink. No matter what.

Publishers are under no obligation whatsoever to respond to you. You might have followed all the submission directions to the letter, and still you may hear nothing. You art or your story might be quite fine in its own right, in addition to be just the sort of subject the publisher deals with. But it just might not grab them. It might not be the right time in the current market, or any number of other prognosticated factors. Granted, you're not submitting to hundreds of publishers, but you're going to have to wade through the listings of hundreds of them to narrow your scope before the battle even begins! And I fully understand how many thousands of submissions each and every publisher must go through every day. It's not like a teacher grading 30 papers, it's like being expected to grade 300. And I've worked the art industry for a while now, I'm aware of how much garbage is out there. There's just a part of my brain that looks at the logistics of the industry and is screaming SURELY THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY!

It's not homework. It's hoses. The shear amount of information to be gone through is like trying to drink from a fire hose. A fire hose spraying violently from both ends at both the firemen and What I'm saying is it's incredibly daunting and I am having trouble even making a start, let alone finding the strength to muscle through the many years that, I've been told, still lay ahead of me before I get my "big break".

This probably sounded more like a rant than I meant to, just because I don't have the answer by the end of it. But you better believe I'll post it when I figure out the magic alchemy! In the meanwhile, I'll read all I can, I'll research, I'll work, I'll listen and absorb and experiment and do all the good things a student is supposed to do.

Just don't tell me to "do my homework". You're not my real mom, CAROL!

(TIL: There actually is a St. Hermione, but she is associated with healing, not logged library hours.)

Mastery, Baby!

Mastery, Baby! Pursue it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Releasing Books and Spreading Words

I think I have a pathological problem when it comes to getting excited about things that a person is supposed to get excited about. I think it's for two reasons: Reality tends to never gel with the wild expectations of my imagination, and I am far more intrigued by potential than accomplishment. I love the creative rush of starting a project, making decisions and trying to coax the thing in my imagination into existence. But when it's done, it's done, and it's just the thing that it is. And even though it might objectively be quite good, in my mind I'm always comparing it to something else it could have been. (I imagine parenting is much the same.) And I need to learn to stop.

Plus when I hear the term "book release" I mentally picture a cage of wildly flapping books being opened, and the whole rustling flock of them being released and flying away into the sky, leaving a trail of tattered words in their wake. But it's not. Stupid lame reality.

Despite not being able to fly, my book Frank the Gentle Viking was well received at my little release party. Even though most of my child audience didn't have object permanence yet.

 I love watching babies when they're being read to. They study the pictures and the words. Like an archaeologist trying to decipher hieroglyphs, you can tell they're thinking "this means something".

I also went to a couple of day schools to read to kindergartners on Monday. They totally ate it up! Before I even sat down, one little boy saw me holding my book and came up to me and asked "Can I read your book?" Heck yes, you can read my book!

I gave them a book and they adopted me as one of their own. That was my favorite part of the story.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Throwback Thursday: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub


This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. An existential quandary usually accompanied by me bursting into the room and flinging myself on the floor or a suitably drape-y bit of furniture. I don't know what is going to happen to me "career"-wise, or what I even should be pursuing at the moment, let alone how to make that gel with the current job market. My book release party for Frank the Gentle Viking is Saturday, I've got three job interviews and a school-book reading lined up and am being pulled in a million directions at once, and somehow the bills still aren't all paid.

Oh who know's what to do, indeed.

This phrase is actually one that springs to mind because it is a repeated chorus in one of my favorite children's books: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub. The story follows a hapless page who cannot manage to pry the King out of his marvelous bath to actually do daily King business. Kingy-things. The whole court joins the effort and somehow everyone ends up in the tub. Written and illustrated by veteran children's book creators Don & Audrey Wood, the text is genius in its repetitive simplicity, while the illustrations are equal parts sumptuous and ridiculous, with the whole court in its Elizabethan frippery.

The more I think of splashing and bubbles, the more I think the idea of not leaving the bathroom to face the day is one I could totally get behind. If you need me, I'll be in the tub. With a book.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Book Week! Dun dun DUHHHHH!

Hey everybody! Don't forget it's BANNED BOOK WEEK! Go read something intellectually scandalous. I can't really explain it, but there's part of me that's geeking out over the fact that a week like this exists. It's like Halloween for librarians. I feel like I should have a party or a parade. Seriously, we should have book parades. And literary cos-play. Where's Levar Burton when you need him?

I'm having trouble finding a comprehensive list for this year, but if I do, I'll post it. This is the list from 2005, which somehow manages to contain both The Little House on the Prairie and Mein Kampf. And virtually every other book that was required reading from when I was in grade school. What do teachers even teach any more? Please post a comment, what are kids allowed to read these days?

Anyway, I think I'll take this week to dust off my personal favorite Huckleberry Finn. Or finally get around to reading The Catcher in the Rye. And Atlas Shrugged. At the same time. And see if my head explodes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Waiting Place

Sigh...I'm definitely feeling stuck in the proverbial Waiting Place. Also wishing my mother wasn't holding all the Dr. Seuss books hostage. I could really use a dose of the man's off-kilter wisdom.

I'm waiting for call backs from 2 or 3 different jobs, waiting for marketing materials to come in the mail, waiting for a measly paycheck. Trying to stay busy, trying to stay motivated and keep painting. But really mostly just waiting. I feel like I've been here a lot over the past 5 years, and somehow I've yet to figure out what the magical escape key is.

No Art Supplies Till Tuesday

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Color study for my next book. Trying to will autumn to hurry up and get here already.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tim Burton Outfit

The Phantom Tollbooth

Check it out: They're making a documentary about the children's classic The Phantom Tollbooth.

This looks absolutely delightful! I can't wait to see it.

I have to say, I read The Phantom Tollbooth as an adult, rather than as a kid, and kind of feel like I missed my window to really fall in love with this book. Which is odd, because I adored Roal Dahl's books, and as an adult, I'm a huge Terry Pratchett fan. This story is right up that alley, yet somehow I just did't connect with it.

I felt somehow that it would make a better cartoon than a book, which is something I usually never think. But it just so happens that my hero Chuck Jones thought so too, because he made a cartoon version in 1970. It looks just like his Rikki Tikki Tavi feature. See it on YouTube here:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I suppose it's an appropriate Throw-back Thursday sort of thing to have stumbled over a forgotten gem from my childhood. I have owned several copies of Hilary Knight's Where's Wallace? in my life, and true to the habits of the book's main character, the book itself frequently went missing. I think I left one at the airport when I was five.

It's premise is similar to Where's Waldo?, but concerning a delightful orange orangutan who is a bit easier for younger audiences to locate. But every page is still teaming with dozens of quirky characters.

I remember just pouring over the pages, taking in all the minute details of all the actions and expressions. I still have huge respect for artists capable of such compositions. While I was good at finding the monkey (excuse me, ape), in all my grown-upness, I've become far too impatient to sit and actually draw all those gajillions of people.

Most of you would recognize the art style of Hilary Knight, the artist responsible for the wildly popular Eloise books.  He also did illustrations for the more endearingly dated Miss Piggle-Wiggle series, a collection of cautionary tales for independent readers.

His whimsical style has stuck with me for years, and I just keep coming back to it. He illustrated over 50 children's books in his career, but many of them are now out of print. Guess I should snap up an Eloise box set while I have the chance.