Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Illustrating for LadyBug Magazine

LadyBug magazine is a multiple award winning publication for very young children. This is only one of the many publications from Cricket Magazine as the publisher. I have been reading these magazines to my own kids since they first began. Here is a story titled "My Baby Sister" that I illustrated for LadyBug. What an honor to be part of this top quality publication!
The month that I was assigned to this story, I had visited a special exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago of paintings by Mary Cassatt. Can you see the influence in the warmth of the family grouping?

Monday, October 29, 2012

and a pony story

The last series of stories that I was involved with featured a pony named Copper. Copper is cared for by a small girl and her older brother.

First step (of many) is my pencil line drawing, with some fun in the October issue with apple picking.

Ponies love to munch on apples.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

more dog stories

Duke, a very large but gentle Great Dane became the hero of the next series. Duke was in the charge of two small girls. At first they lived in San Francisco but later in the series the family moved north so that they could play in the snow with Duke.

Guapo and his family

One more story about the friendly dog named Guapo.  (By now we have all guessed that his family is hispanic?)
These illustrations turned out so well that I have used them for my self-promotion, and on the home page of my website currently.

Guapo and his family are enjoying a day at the beach and it might appear that they live in Southern California, a place which is familiar to me since I went to college there.

Elena and Guapo splashing in the waves, with the rest of the family all at the beach. Here is a process bit, my pencil drawing scan for the digital art finish.

The big surprise in the end of the story is when they spot whales!
Notice what Guapo, that silly dog is doing? Smashing the sand-castle and getting his fur absolutely messy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wild Animal Baby

The first set of stories with WAB for National Wildlife Federation was a story about a boy and his cat, Stripe. 

A small problem with the story was that our boy could not be "out and about" with his cat unless his parents were also present, (because he is too young to be out alone) and the cat had to be on a leash. A cat walking outside on a leash?  Apparently there are laws about cats and leashes but who can get a cat to comply? Here is a page from the December issue where the interesting lesson was about looking for footprints of wild animals in the snow. That was fun.

My next set of stories had a funny dog by the name of Guapo as the title character. Guapo lives with a little girl and her large family.
Here he is in a classic "wanna play?" pose.
And here is my first page with the family at dinner.
Guapo and his little girl, Elena have many adventures, these two illustrations are from the May issue where they are helping in the community garden. A colony of "wild' ants is the nature discovery.

Friday, October 26, 2012

the story with the red truck

I can just imagine reading this aloud to my 3 year-old, look a truck! And it is red! 
Karl and his mother are heading to the farm market in the red truck. For some reason Skip is going for a ride too, in the back of the truck. Karl's mother sells goat cheese from the farm, as part of the story, I made up a logo. As they happily ride through the countryside, they see a Warning! Deer Crossing sign and Karl asks what that sign is for. Soon, they see a group of deer crossing (and skipping, like Skip).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

process of writing, drawing, and painting the story

Here is a little bit about the process for those who are interested. I used Photoshop to produce all digital final art for the Wild Animal Baby series. The first step in the final art is the line art which I draw on vellum paper with a soft pencil. I scan this line art into my computer and use it as the first layer under my digital painting. The actual "painting" is done with a tablet and stylus and a collection of Photoshop brushes. The benefit of this process is that I can make corrections in the composition and drawing at this stage which I could not do if this was a traditional type watercolor. 
I wrote these stories all at the same time with an eye to the flow through the seasons and to include previous story lines and characters. So here at the picnic, the two girls from an earlier series, and the brother and sister with their pony, "Copper" who will be in the next series. As I wrote out my story ideas I created a story board of each with my art and words. I had the goat farm planned out so that I could show different scenes throughout the stories. Here is the farmhouse with a huge tree that is far in the background in the first story. The red truck is important to another story in the series. I added that story thinking of my youngest son and how interested he would be in a story where the characters are driving about in a truck!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More stories for chidren

I discovered that I really like writing for very young children. The format of six pages and ten sentences is so much fun to work with.  I have always tried to make my art as much a part of my storytelling as the words on the page. (I have also illustrated several wordless storybooks for Childrens Press.) I always like to show more details and bits of the story not said in words. Perhaps including details that show what might happen on the next page. It is a pleasure to think that a child too young to read could enjoy the story just by following the clues.
Here is the title page for my second story in the series which I both wrote and illustrated. This issue came out in March so I planned a very green Spring-like color scheme. I took reference photos of a three year old boy running about with a puppy. I also visited a nearby children's zoo for observation of goats.

Friday, October 19, 2012

creating a children's story and illustrations

"Out and About with Skip the Goat, is the first story that I both wrote and illustrated in a series for Wild Animal Baby magazine. I admit, the story line is simple, and the word count isn't high. Consider though how difficult it is to tell a story with 6 pages and ten sentences. 

For this story I envisioned a farm out in a rural area at dusk with the sun setting over some distant hills. The cover art is in muted colors with the setting of the barn, house and farmland mapped out. The figures are small but I show clearly that the goats and people are headed into a brightly lit doorway. On the second page we can see our main character, Karl tenderly cuddling his baby goat as his mother calls the goats into the warmth of the barn. The center spread is full of interesting details about goat farm life, some buckets, brooms, hay, water, and food. These are all the things I would point to and talk about if I were reading this story to a young child. Our boy Karl is being very helpful which is also an important point. And then, the sleepy tucking-into-bed scene which I always love in a good story. Even if it is just the goats going to sleep.
Notice the detail, the foreshadowing of a climax in the story arc, the owl in the barn!

In the concluding illustration I wanted to show a real wild animal that could very well be sleeping in the barn all day waiting for the moment to get out and be wild at night.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Illustrations for children's books

After my encounter with three well-known children's book illustrators (and all writers too) recently I was filled with longing to do more illustrating and maybe some writing. People often ask if I write books too and I always answer "Oh, no, writing is so very difficult, I have so much respect for a good writer." I don't think of myself as a writer but I do enjoy storytelling.
Actually, I have written some original children's stories and have been published. I worked for a couple of years for a publication produced by National Wildlife Federation called "Wild Animal Baby". This is a monthly magazine for very young children, full of lovely photos of wild animals, illustrations and stories. I produced the illustrations for a recurring story called "Out and About" featuring a child and his pet and various adventures of a domestic animal sort.

In the second year of this project, (which I loved) I found out that the writer on staff for this series had left the company. I asked if I might submit a story idea. I wrote out my own story line about a boy named Karl who lives on a goat farm and has his own baby goat to care for. I pictured the farm being somewhere in Wisconsin, (I was driving through the state that week and my mind was full of images). I named the goat "Skip" and based my story on my own memories of playing with baby goats as a child living in a rural area myself. Six of my stories were accepted and published with my illustrations. That was such a thrill for me.
Here is the opening spread for my first story, "Out and About with Skip".

Monday, October 15, 2012

milestones and events

Milestones, events, anniversaries and passages of time lately, so many so swiftly and now October is nearly half over.
I attended an event last week that was significant to me. I was very inspired by seeing and hearing about this illustrator's life work.  Marla Frazee (pictured here) made an appearance at Anderson's Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois.  She lives in Pasadena, California, and meeting her was a great opportunity for me, as I have long been a fan of her work. She attended The Art Center College of Design as did I, and teaches a children's illustration class there now. When I went to Art Center, as an illustration major, there was no encouragement in the children's book field. Maybe I just didn't have instructors with experience in that area, but that is what I really wanted to do with my illustration training.

While it was a great boost to me personally to talk to Ms. Frazee, I was also introduced to two gentlemen sitting in the back row who modestly said they were illustrators also. They were Eric Rohmann and Stephen Gammell in town to hang out with Marla Frazee I assumed? How cool is that? I was sitting with three Caldecott Honor Book and Caldecott Medal winners all in one evening.
Stephen Gammell here, left. and Eric Rohmann to the right.

I feel like such a backstage fan but I do have copies of the books of all three artists on my bookshelves.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

the light changed

The light changed, the temperature dropped, and it began to rain this morning. I had left my easel out in the yard last night, thinking the rain would hold off, and I could get some painting done with the morning sunlight from the east. To my dismay the pallet was wet, but then, not too wet, and oils were still gooey so I spent an hour working on my composition, making notes that were mostly dark, since that was all that I could see. When the sun reappears later this week, I will get set up again. I am optimistic that we will have a series of brilliant fall days yet.
The dominant object in my composition is the small bright dogwood tree. Behind it is a ginko tree that we planted just a year or so ago. It has the most melted hot buttery yellow leaves right now. In the photo left it can't be seen but I am making it a bit taller and moving it to the left more so that I can feature it too. I think I will not show the neighbor's garage.

Friday, October 12, 2012

where I have been?

 I haven't posted in a few weeks. So where have I been hanging out? My backyard, where the autumn colors and afternoon sunlight is just as lovely as anywhere else. The advantage is that I know my yard and I know just where the buttery golden light is the best in the afternoon hours. Here I am with my always faithful painting companion.

I have been taught to change positions whenever the sun starts glaring on the palette and canvas. Looks like it is time to move around again here.