Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Interview

Joanna Marple very graciously invited me to her blog recently. There's an interview and some recent illustration work: acrylic sketches of mice, black and white drawings and a new acrylic illustration. Click over and take a look! And you might want to peruse Joanna's archive of illustrator interviews. You'll find a lot of beautiful work and great reading.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sweet Square #21

Playing with watercolors is fun. Just when you think you've gone too far, you go further. It's play.
I used violet and prussian blue for the background. The faraway birds were drawn in with a silver pen.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sweet Square #20

You may have noticed the the Month of Experimentation is over. I'm enjoying these little sqaures so much that I'm going to continue. I may not post every single one but I'll try and do them.They're a good warm up and a great way to keep creating, even a tiny bit, each day. Let's think of the MOE as Moments of Experimentation from now on.

Today I took a piece of a kleenex box, 2 pieces of a instant mash potato box and glued them on a chocolate bar wrapper. I stared at it and then decided to make the boy working in the field and the sun. Silly but fun.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sweet Square #19

Today I had absolutely no idea what I'd do. I used some very old oil pastels that I found in my parents house that were perhaps mine a long, long time ago. The pinks were pretty so I started with those then added some red and the sky blue was nice too so, why not? Still had no idea what to do but these spots of color weren't going anywhere so I took the dark blue and colored over everything. When I turned the square on an angle, I saw a landscape. I scratched. And then I added in green and other colors, alternating scratching and coloring. And voilà!

Happy to have done something very unexpected today.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sweet Square #18

My Dad has lent me more than tools (see previous Sweet Squares). This is his old cloth bound copy of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE POEMS edited by Roy J. Cook for The Cable Company in Chicago in 1928; it's older than my Dad. He not only lent this book but he made me the reader I am. He instilled a need by transmitting the idea that reading and books are important. I never wrote in school or library books; he thought it was a horrible thing to deface a book. Some things your parents tell you, stay with you. Forever.

sepia marker, watercolor, watercolor pencils

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweet Square #16

I'm thinking of my father a lot these days. I brought back some of his tools I used to borrow or I watched him use in the garage when I was a girl. His garage shelves were fascinating to my little girl self. I wonder if he noticed the traces I must have left, disrupting his stacks and arrangements; playing with his electrical tape and grease pencils, tape measures and levels... I used to help him when he used power tools (that would never happen nowadays but back then people improvised ;) ) and I was scared and thrilled at once. It was a privilege for me; my Dad trusted me and thought I was strong enough to help. I wish there was more I could do to help now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sweet Square #15

I've been away for nearly two weeks on an unexpected trip to help out with my parents. It was a very busy time filled with the full range of emotions. I'm happy to be home and making Sweet Squares again but my thoughts are on my parents. I'm wishing them peace and safety and good moments. Spending time in their home has made me think about the little things, the everyday things parents do for us.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sweet Square #14

Today it occurred to me that splattering is a skill. Never thought about it much before but now I want to use it in illustrations. We just don't splatter enough after a certain age... :-)


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sweet Square #13

Took out the Cray-pas again (see Sweet Square #7).
I'm really enjoying this Month of Experimentation. Drawing whatever is in my head and not searching for reference materials first has been a real boost for me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sweet Square #12

I was in the mood to use the palette knives again. Acrylic paint. Having fun with the textures.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sweet Square #11

Is it starting to feel like fall? This is my favorite time of the year and the time I miss my native New England most. Autumn in France tends to be wet and dreary and the leafy color I love so much is lacking.

This Sweet Square is another of the watercolor experiments. I went for a warm palette this time as opposed to Day 9 when the palette was cooler. I let the very wet and drippy background dry then stared at it until I had an idea what to draw.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sweet Square #10

A quickie. Collage (from magazines and painted paper) and  watercolor & marker (the bird watcher) on a square cut from a tissue box. The clear skies here in Brittany today must have influenced me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sweet Square #9

Taking inspiration from my fellow Sweet Squarists, I created a background with very wet watercolor then let the background tell me what to draw. I enjoyed this. In fact, I enjoy doing these squares a lot. Characters that have been rambling around my brain are coming to life and materials I often ignore are used.

Click on the colorful "Sweet Squares" square to the right--> if you want to learn more about them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sweet Square #8

This one should be called "SILLY Square" because it is me being very silly. This is more cartoony than usual. I didn't have any idea what to do today so I decided to start by gluing that crown on the 3X3 square and seeing what appeared underneath it. What can I say? Guess I'm not in a princessy mood today!

collage, marker, watercolor

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sweet Square #7

Today I took out a pack of CRAY-PAS (anyone remember those?) that a secretary gave me when I worked on a trade floor of a big bank in New York. She heard I was taking continuing ed classes at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) for advertising/graphic design and thought they might come in handy. I have no idea why they were in her desk on this trade floor but I took them and then never used them! They went from my walk up apartment on the lower east side of New York to Versailles to Quimperlé and now they moved to Brest with me. I'm a firm believer that things WILL come in handy eventually. And voilà! They are student quality oil pastels and make for a nice experiment: draw, layer and mix color, smudge and scratch-- yes, they build up enough to allow for scratching off for nice effects.

How's The Month of Experimentation going for you?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sweet Square #6

I had a blast doing my 3X3 inch square today. It's the Month of Experimentation so in that spirit I took out my palette knives. I don't use them much-- even when oil painting-- ocassionally and never for an entire painting. But today I did this square with them using acrylic paint. I've had a bear character on my mind for awhile and it was time to get it out. This experiment meant no looking for reference (to see what a real bear looks like). I wanted to just blurt it out. And blurt I did. This was fast and fun. And I liked being able to say 'Hi' to this guy. It's a beginning!
(The scan muted the colors a bit but this gives a good idea of it.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sweet Square #5

I don't usually work in watercolor but I see such great things done with it. The MOE is the perfect place to play with it. This is a composition (3X3 inches) of things I see out my window here in Brest. The is an urban environment but you'd be surprised what you find. If you haven't joined in on the fun of Sweet Squares, it isn't too late. Check out Diandra Mae's blog.

watercolor and black Berol Prismacolor on moleskine sketch paper

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sweet Square #4

More for the Month of Experimentation. What's going on here? I'm getting to know a cow character but other than that I'm not sure. That's the experimental part of it. :-)

acrylic paint for the background; black felt tip for the cow; collage

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sweet Square #3

Black & white (marker) for today's Sweet Square. This gave me a chance to try something out in a mini format in a little bit of time. Check out the Month of Experimentation on Diandra Mae's blog if you're interested in joining in on this adventure.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sweet Square #2

Second day of Sweet Squares. Acrylic, marker, collage. Having fun.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sweet Squares

What better way to get into the back-to-school spirit than an online challenge? Inspired by Melissa Sweet at the SCBWI Conference in LA, Diandra Mae has started the MONTH OF EXPERIMENTATION over on her blog and it sounds like a great opportunity to me. Click over to Diandra's blog to see what it's all about. The basic idea is to start the day with play. I did my first 3X3 "Sweet Square" today.

These "Sweet Squares" offer an opportunity to do anything-- use new materials or new combinations of materials. Just try stuff out in a small format quickly. Today I used acrylics with black marker and some collage. I hope to do a ""Sweet Square" everyday in the morning to get my day started. The key is to have fun and experiment without judging or pushing oneself. Who knows where these little experiments can lead? I don't know but eliminating the pressure to produce "perfect" work for my portfolio seems like a good place to start.

Thanks so much to Diandra Mae for cooking this up.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer time is the right time for... sketching

Just this past June 21st, SCBWI chapters all over Europe (and beyond) participated in a Summer Stolstice Scrawlcrawl. Out here in northwestern France, Sue Porter, my daughter Gemma and I did our part. You can see our blogpost with sketches and photos here.

Now that I'm planning a visit home to New York in August, I remembered another summer sketch experience at The Frick Museum. They offered free entry for Sunday morning sketch sessions. I wanted to go and needed a sketch buddy so I nominated Gemma.

She was pretty comfortable sitting around at home but was happy to come.
Gemma warmed up a little.
Dana too. We took a quick stab at the architecture.

Then we zeroed in on the plants. I liked the leaves and light.
What I especially like about Gemma's sketch is that she found patterns right off and accentuated line.
Nice composition too!

Gemma has grown to like these very public, "in front of everybody!" outings. This year she's looking forward to it. So am I.

The Frick has free admission evenings too, complete with docents giving great tours. If you're in NYC this summer, hope to see you there.

Monday, July 2, 2012

12X12 Halfway There Party!

I’m trying to eek out an entry for the 12X12 in 2012 Halfway There Blog Party. The problem with going (almost?) last is that I’ve had a chance to see what all those other Partiers have done (great stuff!) and I’m drawing a blank.
Hmm. Still thinking…

Luckily, I had a little more luck coming up with picture book manuscripts. At the halfway mark, I can honestly say that I have six first drafts completed. Number Six was under the wire too— completed it on June 30th.

I’ll spare you the reasons (excuses?). Some months have been very organized and some less so. June was one of the latter (started a new job). But thanks to the 12X12, I was motivated to get something on paper. So for the first time, I wrote a first draft in bits and pieces. I usually like to write the first draft in one go but I had to write it on the fly this month and it really wasn’t so hard after all. A couple of paragraphs in the dentist's waiting room, a few more waiting at my daughter's ballet gala, recharging in my favorite café... I had time to think about my ending without stressing, do a little research, figure things out. This story, like the other five I’ve written this year (plus the seven written for NaPiBoWriWee) will need lots of revision. That’s okay. I’m looking forward to it. Once the first draft is down, the fun part is making it better and sketching out characters.

I’ve been having a great 12X12. Thanks so much to Julie Hedlund for dreaming this up and to all the 12X12ers who are such a supportive, interesting, inspiring group.

Party On!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Easing into the Day

Sometimes I finally get around to buying something or other I need and it brings me an inordinate amount of pleasure. Take my new toaster for an example. I went toaster shopping with my teenager and she wanted one that was very sleek and stylish. It looked like this:

It was a good toaster but too Darth Vader for me. It made me remember how, when I had my first apartment in New York City all those years ago, I put in a black and white checked kitchen floor and wanted eveything to be either black, white or red. I was young and I liked the clean geometry and sharp colors.

We kept looking and I fell in love with this little baby:

Not nearly as impressive but I thought I could face it every morning while I eased into my day. It looked like a cloud to me. I'm not a big fan of anthropomorphic toasters in general but this one also reminded me of the Pillsbury doughboy or a tooth. Mostly a big fluffy cumulus cloud though.

I'm not exactly sure what all this means about the march of time (didn't want to say "getting older") but I can see that I've exchanged some of my hard edges for less exact boundaries. It's all good; we change and evolve continuously.

And to show you I haven't completely lost my edge, check out the racy kettle I just bought:

This color is called "cerise" which means cherry and the whistle on this baby could stop traffic.

Have you treated yourself to something simple lately that makes you inordinately happy? If not, do!

(Sketches are all done in acrylic except the two kettles left and center--pencil and marker.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Whole Story with SCBWI France

This is a flyer that I created for the SCBWI France Spring Atelier. As Assistant Regional Advisor of our chapter, I organized this event for our picture book writers and illustrators.

The Belgian publisher, Mijade was presented by its founder and editor, Michel Demeulenaere.  He was a bookseller specializing in comics and children's books before he followed his dream and created Mijade. Michel’s talk was so interesting because his point of view of children’s publishing is very personal. He owns the company and has his own idea of what this all means. He ran through submission guidelines as that information is on their website. For illustrators, they have very specific artwork requirements : an illustrator would probably have to create some pieces to satisfy them. Michel also talked about the books they publish and what kind of stories interest them (not message-driven and with some humor). Mijade prefers to work with illustrators and writers on a regular basis if possible— he is sincerely concerned with his collaborators’ ability to make a living at what they do. As part of his powerpoint presentation, he showed us actual earnings for the author/illustrators of certain books over time. Eye opening! Diane Meirlaen also of Mijade, added details about the sales aspect. And they brought a bunch of their books and let each attendee pick one out to take home. Wow!

Next up was Sue Porter a member of SCBWI France and an author/illustrator with a long experience in picture books. Sue is currently finishing up a book with Mijade: PAPA SE MET EN BOULE. Her segment began with a presentation of her and Michel’s collaboration on this project. She explained a bit about the process of taking an idea (that she had about 25 years ago) to words to pictures and a dummy book and then submitting it to Michel. This was still just the beginning. Several months and 22 pages of email later they are almost done. Another eye opening presentation for our members— the realities of bringing a picture book to the world. Later Sue gave the group an idea of her career: starting with beautiful early work and how it evolved as she grew as an author/illustrator thinking more and more about the child reading the book.

All this was followed up (after lunch) with a workshop on using photo references to grow ideas. Sue has inherited the picture archive compiled by Faith Jaques and first bequeathed to Janet Ahlberg. She brought us just a sliver of this huge collection to peruse while trying out an exercise on creating characters and getting to know everything about them.

The SCBWI France Spring Atelier was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. The members who attended left buzzing with excitement and ideas (and a new Mijade picture book!). Big thanks to our extremely generous faculty, Michel, Diane, Sue;
and our Regional Advisor, Tioka Tokedira for all her help as well as The Marymount School for hosting us in their beautiful library. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

From Very Humble Roots

I was going to do a sketch of this vegetable for you but I decided that a photo was necessary— you’d never believe how ugly this céleri-rave is unless you saw the real thing (some English translations: celeriac, celery root and knob celery).

This veggie was new to me when I came across it here in France. In food, what’s unusual to one is quite ordinary to another. Maybe this is how it is for you with céleri-rave. Food familiarity often comes from what our mothers liked and knew how to cook. And regional preferences; I never saw céleri-rave when I was a kid in New England or later on, in New York. I wasn’t looking for one so maybe it was right under my nose and I ignored it. You can’t blame me— look at it!

(top and bottom)

Poor céleri-rave! Not blessed with a pleasing physical appearance it has to make up with a surprising taste and texture. And to add to the surprise and perhaps to lessen the competition, it appears in the markets in the right season, winter.

Now what do you do with it? You have to cut off the outer layer and you get this:

Then you julienne it in the food processor and get this:

Isn’t it pretty now?! It went from a dirty knobby root to a fluffy white cloud.
Then you peel and cut up a pink grapefruit. Zesty!

Add a little lemon juice. I use a non-fat goat milk yogurt (but you could use any type) as the dressing.

This is a winter delight. Cool and refreshing and packed with sunshine. My teenager loves it too. And it's very low-cal. From humble beginnings we get fantastic results. Just need to look past the first impressions.

And while I’m preparing this (takes about 15 minutes), I think about all the times I’ve worked on a painting or a story and thought, Wow, this is bad. This is ugly. What was I thinking? But I hung in there, cut something here, added in a little of that and finally pulled it off, much to my own surprise and delight.

Do you know and use céleri-rave? Are you going to try it now?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Liebster Award

Four people honored me with the Liebster Award in the last couple of weeks and each time it was such a pleasant surprise. It’s awarded to blogs with less than 200 followers to generate attention and create new connections. Liebster is German for dearest, beloved or favorite.

When you get one you add the logo to your blog, thank the person who awarded it and link back to their blog. And then give a Liebster to 5 bloggers by leaving a comment on their blog.

Big thanks go out to Penny Klostermann, Angela Peña Dahle, Jennifer Kirkeby and Lynda Shoup for brightening my day with a Liebster.

And then there’s that matter of five random things about me.

1) I’m a New England/New York City girl living in France.

2) I won the National Grand Prize of the Cappy Dick contest in the Sunday comics when I was 10 years old: a set of the World Book Encyclopedia AND atlas. I still remember what my entry looked like (word puzzle and drawing).

3) I used to live in Little Italy, NYC over an Italian caffe. It was noisy.

4) I used to live a stone’s throw from the Château de Versailles and worked in what was, in Louis’s day, the stables of the king as an English teacher to architecture students.

5) I volunteered at a restoration in the French Alpes of an old fortress called La Redoute Marie-Thérèse … for six weeks. If you see a crooked little stone wall there, you can be sure that I made it.

Without further ado I will pass the good vibes along.

Juriko Kosaka is an English language enthusiast who loves drawing and painting. She’s such a dedicated sketcher of things like food, people on the Tokyo subway, desktops. Right now she’s posting a Drawing-a-Day. You will love Juri's blog and tweets in English and Japanese.

Jean Reidy is the author of picture books Too Purpley!, Too Pickley!, Too Princessy! and Light up the Night. She is the champion of worthy causes. Sometimes she has giveaways on her blog where you can win a manuscript critique. What are you waiting for?! Go look.

Elizabeth Stevens Omlor’s blog is called "Banana Peelin': The Ups and Downs of Becoming a Children's Writer" and she’s gotten the down and dirty from the likes of Tara Lazar, Iza Trapani and Katie Davis among others. Find out what faux pas they made on their journey in the publishing industry. Hurry!

Lisha Cauthen says "I write YA novels for boys that girls like to read too. About normal kids who have abnormal things happen to them. Let’s call it horror, for now," on her blog "The Imaginal Realm." She is funny and knows a lot about this writing stuff. She’s an active member of SCBWI Kansas and edits their Sunflower Scoop. Her tweets @lishacauthen are legend.

Sylvia Liu is so great at passing along helpful information. She writes and illustrates for children and is interested in things like "kraken, flotsam and robots." I’m going back to her blog to find out what kraken is. See you there!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Bird in Town

I have to admit something. We moved in September so technically, I’m not Up in the Attic Lately anymore. I am living in an apartment duplex but I’m still at the top of the building though, okay?

With a move comes changes. It’s more urban here and bigger. There’s a bus system that runs until 8:30 pm, lots of library branches and a Fine Art Museum.

The change I’ve been thinking about lately is the birds. In the old house, in the attic I worked under the roof. I heard the birds scurrying around, their claws scratching the slate. Singing meant chickadees and sparrows. A repeated phrase of several notes spelled the longing call of my favorite blackbirds. And the cooing of the turtledove couples was either soothing or annoying, depended on the day. Squawking signaled the turf wars fought by crows in the giant oak tree.
The crows! I didn’t love them or hate them yet I couldn’t remain indifferent to them. They traveled in packs and dominated. They couldn’t share like those little songbirds. It had to be their oak tree. Their TV antenna perch. Their driveway. Their chimney pot— where they ate plums from our tree. I know because sometimes they’d drop one and boy, did that make a racket when it smacked the fireplace screen.

In this new place, I don’t hear the birds much. The double glazed windows have us sealed up tight. No spaces between roof slates to let in sounds. But I see the birds more. Mostly seagulls. Lots of gliding swooping seagulls. We live on the coast. Water is everywhere, ports and bridges abound. This apartment is surrounded by lots of open air space and has tons of windows. Birds dive onto the roof— close to the windows below the ledge then land out of sight and sound. The close-up views of them mid-flight is new to me. Yesterday, when I turned towards the window in the kitchen, I startled a seagull who had landed on the sill. This could not have been easy because seagulls are very big and the windowsills not so big. I was startled too. Daphne Du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock and "The Birds" came to mind.

New Year and new town. I realize that it takes me awhile to get into a new place. I take small steps. Learned the bus lines. Joined a gym. Found a marché. Chose a café with excellent café crème as my hangout. Got a library card. Doesn’t seem like much but I also realize the value of small steps in life— and in my work. There’s been a lot of talk online about New Year’s resolutions as well as anti-resolutions, post-holiday slumps and procrastination. I’m familiar with these things but I’ve got to keep moving things forward. I’ll take small steps on some days and hope for more on others.

The view has changed. The birds are different. Onward ho!