Thursday, January 30, 2014

There you are, Magoo!

I decided I needed a prop to help me promote my children's book, Where Are You, Magoo? so I thought I'd make a Magoo doll. I'm not sure if he'll just be part of a cute vendor display, or if I could make up a game for hypothetical classroom visits.

It's kinda hard to document my process in a way that would allow someone else to follow the steps or pattern, since I pretty much make it up as I go. I've been sewing dolls since I was 7, and used to be big into soft-sculpture before I ran out of time to devote to it. But it was nice to get back to some sewing projects with my "snow days" I had off work. I used polar fleece for this project because it comes in bright colors, is washable and durable.

 I always use my drawings as a jumping off point. It helps me break the character down into basic shapes. Fortunately, a cartoon-y style has much simpler shapes than a realistic style, and fewer planes to contend with. 

 Harvey observes.

 Magoo's head is basically a sort of swoopy diamond, so that's the basic shape I have to work with. I also inserted a gusset, which is a triangular piece of fabric that creates volume in a sewn shape, under the chin so that the head wouldn't be completely flat to the body.
 Tweak models. And by models, I mean runs away.
 You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. The same can be said for cats.....? I did one body and it didn't look right, so I scraped it and had to really analyze how the legs came together. I ended up inserting a stomach piece that ran from the neck to the tail, and added separate pieces for leg interiors and the whole thing looked much better, and stood more balanced as well.

Add some stripes and a tail, and Voila! my very own Magoo! Coming to a bookstore near you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Year, New Book! : Where Are You, Magoo?


New Year and a new book! My latest children's book Where Are You, Magoo? is now available on Amazon and CreateSpace!

I had a total blast making this book. I felt like writing and illustrating Frank the Gentle Viking was all about learning the process and pushing my skills as an artist. This one was just about having fun, playing with words and visual jokes.

Most of all this project was inspired by my family. My mom came to me years ago saying, "Lucy, you should write a story about a toddler who can't find a yellow cat and call it "Where Are You, Magoo?" This was back when I was attempting to be a fine artist of sorts, a serious artist. Like most children, I basically rolled my eyes and said "Yeah, mom, I'll get right on that." Surely the last thing this world needed was another friggin' story about a cat, right? My aunts and grandmothers, all cat lovers, agreed that I should draw way more cats because people love cats. Sure, yeah, great. But the idea of a yellow cat named Magoo never really left me.

I finally began to toy around with the idea of a story, but knew something had to set it apart. I really started to think about how we feel when we've lost something. The emotional center of the book really solidified when I left my local bookstore and couldn't find my car in the parking deck. I immediately thought "Oh, my gosh, somebody stole my car!" I always think this. I don't know why. It is never true. It's usually just not in the row or the level I thought it was. The same is usually true whether the missing item is a pair of glasses, your cat, your child, etc. Our minds always go to the worst case scenario. I remembered all the times my mother told me not to leave whatever designated space she set for me lest I be kidnapped by gypsies or something, which as a child I always found wildly entertaining. So I began to write a raucously rhyming story about a little girl with a wild imagination and a flair for the dramatic who cannot find her beloved pet.

This story is not only for cat-lovers, but anyone who has ever misplaced something. Adults and children alike will enjoy the irreverent rhymes and whimsical pictures. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Zen Musings

I read on Aerogramme Writer's Studio Blog a list of advice from famous writers to those of us just starting out. One quote by by Tim Winton seemed to stick out of the pack.

“Writing a book is a bit like surfing . . . Most of the time you’re waiting. And it’s quite pleasant, sitting in the water waiting. But you are expecting that the result of a storm over the horizon, in another time zone, usually, days old, will radiate out in the form of waves. And eventually, when they show up, you turn around and ride that energy to the shore. It’s a lovely thing, feeling that momentum. If you’re lucky, it’s also about grace. As a writer, you roll up to the desk every day, and then you sit there, waiting, in the hope that something will come over the horizon. And then you turn around and ride it, in the form of a story.” ― Tim Winton

This seems rather incongruous to much of the other advice on the page, much of which boils down to "Writers write. Writers work at it every day. Writers write till their fingers bleed!"

I found myself on the beach this morning attempting to mentally sift through things. I grew up on the water and like Tim, I'm familiar with the concept of waiting on the wave. There were no waves today. The sea was a silken elvish grey and so flat and still you felt you wouldn't have to be Jesus to walk across it. A wait for a surfable wave on a day like this would be a long one.

 I feel like for the past three years at least, I've been waiting for something. And all my accomplishments in the meanwhile have just been a way to keep myself busy until that mystery thing presented itself. I was terrified that if I stopped I would feel empty, ineffective, and useless in a world where my work boiled down to something as inconsequential as a wave on the shore. But then in that moment I was filled with an appreciation for the vast stillness of that "place between the waves". It wasn't that sort of fruitless, abandoned, lonely sort of emptiness that I felt connected with. It was an active emptiness. An emptiness that wasn't simply waiting, but was at once anticipatory and content. An emptiness that knew it's place, a void with purpose.

Really it wasn't empty. And perhaps that's the joy of it. There were seagulls, and plovers, and starfish. Lots of little creatures going about their little creature lives. The feeble winter sun shone as best it could. The wind was soft. Perhaps it was because there were so few things on that shore, I was really able to appreciate them for what they were and why the were there.

So often my brain is so packed with schedules and goals and hoarded thoughts. It just adds up to clutter. But when I merely try to ignore them for a while to give myself a break, they're still there when I come back with the added guilt that I neglected them. I need to do more things that actively and purposefully empty my mind. Like dumping out your pencil box to get the crud out and put the pencils neatly back in. I know I need to take breaks during the day, but without the proper mindset, those just feel like indulgences instead of productive necessities. Watching tv on my lunch break, I feel like a procrastinating child who doesn't want to do homework. Going for a run, I just mentally run through all the things I need to do when I get back and chastise myself for not doing them that very moment! It turns out I'm not really emptying my mind, I'm just filling it with more things that are themselves inherently mindless.

I need to stop. I need to rest in that place between the waves and empty myself into it. When wave watching, it's so easy to be so focused on one nebulous point on the horizon that you forget where you are in the big picture. You don't get the sense of where to place yourself, so when the wave is upon you, you're not in the position to take advantage of it. But even in that there is a beauty: once a wave passes, it's gone, unreclaimable. You can only watch, and feel it under you, and then turn your eyes to the horizon again. Rest in the waiting. Connect with the waiting. Wait positively. Wait actively. Have patience with the thing you are waiting for, or working towards, but also patience with yourself.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Flipping Pages: From Animation to Children's Books

I've always been fascinated with animation. I pursued it as a career for a while before switching to children's books. And although my name hasn't appeared on any rolling credits (...yet), there are many professional contemporary animators who have also slid into children's books. Here's a look at a few of them.

Jon Klassen
  Jon Klassen already has a handful of children's titles under his belt, in addition to work on Kung Fu Panda and Coraline, but it was his recent book I Want My Hat Back that rocketed him to the top of the booklists and made him a household name. I Want My Hat Back follows the drolly understated quest of a bear to recover a stolen hat. But with a surprise twist at the end! In addition to animation and children's books, he somehow finds time to do editorial work and teach an illustration intro class at CalArts. I would certainly trust a book about hats from a man who clearly wears a number of them.

Uli Meyer
   Uli Meyer self published his book Cuthbert Was Bored last summer. He even animated the trailer himself. Cuthbert Was Bored is the story of a little crow who is tired of being a crow. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but if it's anything like his animation, it's bound to be a hit!

Lorelay Bove
   One of the famed "Ladies of Animation" Lorelay can now add her No Slurping, No Burping! to her list of accomplishments, in addition to her other work on Disney features. This book gives us a lesson in manners, where in a role reversal, two children attempt to curb their father's terrible table behavior! Bove's illustrations remind me of the old mid-century titles Disney used to release illustrated by Mary Blaire.

Mike Yamada & Victoria Ying
    The power couple of animation have published a title of their own via their private art & production company, Extra Curricular Activities. The book is called Curiosities: An Illustrated History of an Ancestral Oddity. It explores a mysterious old mansion along with the two young siblings who have just inherited it. I can't figure out how these guys manage their own projects will also working for Dreamworks and Disney, respectively. They make it look easy and fun at the same time.
Frans Vischer
   I didn't hear about Fuddles until the sequel A Very Fuddles Christmas was out. Veteran animator Frans Vischer, who has worked on a slew of my favorite Dreamworks films, has written and illustrated these childrens books following the activities of an adorable pudgy cat. I wish I could order a book that came with a plus Fuddles for my very own! Guess I'll have to make do with my own cat.