Monday, October 29, 2012


I'm sharing here a blog post from my colleague Laura Jacobsen.  She and three others are blog-posting interviews of 16 picture book illustrators throughout the month of November.  I am one of the illustrators  whom Laura will be interviewing.  Follow all 16 interviews---and celebrate  National Picture Book Month! 

“Everything I learned in college, can now be found for free on Wikipedia.”- bobbiblogger,  Sept., 2012
Yeah, that sums it up pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, I went to a great art school, The Columbus College of Art and Design (although not as great as it is NOW after apparently a jillion dollar endowment–I mean we had classes in an old garage for crying out loud). But I have to admit I have amassed far more knowledge since I left by talking to and copying, I mean learning, from other artists, both in real life and online. Last year, our little band of local illustrator buds, Molly IdleMikela Prevost and Juana Martinez-Neal and I, interviewed each other, and learned so much in the process that this year we decided to expand our class offerings. Consider this our graduate program. In honor of National Picture Book Month classes begin in November, conveniently located on a blog near you, and, best of all, this education is FREE!
Our gracious and distinguished faculty include:
So set your alarm for November and don’t be late! (Three “lates” will count as an absence and go on your permanent record!)

Friday, October 26, 2012


Having finished my detailed sketch, I transfered it to my working surface, Lanaqarelle 90 lb hot press watercolor paper, using a light box.  In pencil, I sketched out the leafy clumps of the tree structure in a little more detail.  I then began the line work, using one of my favorite tools and media---India ink and a crow-quill pen.
I finished most of the outlines, and began working out the leafy clumps of the tree.
Then back to the figures, adding pattern and texture.
More pattern and texture added to grass, leaves, and figures.  I had not yet erased any pencil lines.  (I never erase until I have let the ink dry overnight, to avoid any possible smudging.)  I was now ready to begin adding color.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


On my next working day, I was still satisfied with my rough basic composition.  I began my detailed sketch.  I transferred the basic composition onto tracing paper, then started developing my place-holders into actual characters.
More characters took shape...
...and more.
I next worked out the umbrellas, which I wanted to design carefully in relation to the figures.
I developed the tree on a separate layer of tracing paper, so as to facilitate later placement, and eliminate excessive erasing and re-drawing of the figures.  Many artists work with layers in this manner on the computer, rather than on paper, as I do.  The concept, activity, and purpose is the same, no matter what the medium.
Finally---the layers are combined, and the detailed sketch is ready for execution!

Monday, October 22, 2012


I had, as I thought, finished my basic composition, and was expecting to begin a more detailed sketch.  But when I went back to my desk the next morning, and looked at the sketch that had seemed so perfect the day before, I realized immediately that it needed changes.  This was supposed to be a bustling market, big enough so that characters could lose each other in its confusion.  No one could possibly get lost in this tiny market!  And the tree was too small to balance the figures and umbrellas.  
I scanned the sketch into my computer, reversed the image so as to position the youngsters on the left, and printed out several copies.  Then I cut up the copies, giving me duplicate sections of various elements of the original sketch---figures, umbrellas, and tree branches.  Using removable Scotch tape, I arranged the pieces to create the larger scene that I wanted.  I call this the "hack and hew" stage.  (I could of course do this kind of work equally well on the computer---and many artists do.  I myself love the tactile experience of using paper, pencil, scissors, and tape, so I do it the old-fashioned way.)  And this is an example of why it's better that I use place-holders at this stage, rather than drawing actual figures.  It's easy for me to slice a place holder in half, or lop off the base if the figure is too tall, or even consign one to the wastebasket---whereas if I had spent time and emotion creating an actual figure, I would be much more reluctant to perform the drastic surgery needed. 
And I decided that, after all, I preferred having the youngsters on the right, and the mothers on the left, as they were in the original sketch.  So I reversed the composition once again.  I felt pretty confident that this time, I had the basic composition that I wanted.  But I again stopped at this point, planning to look at it the next day so as to confirm my judgement after a night away from it.  When working on a book, I always wait at least a day before continuing on to the next step.  I have learned that the fresh look instantly highlights for me any weaknesses in the work.

Friday, October 19, 2012


When designing and illustrating a picture book, I always make at least one piece of trial art early on in the preliminary planning for the book.  This allows me to experiment with media and style while my ideas for the book are still fluid, and I'll be willing to change my mind if I need to. Recently I made an experimental illustration for a project on which I'm currently working.  I knew what I wanted the scene to show:   A group of mothers, and a group of youngsters, who have lost each other at an old-fashioned country market.  As soon as the general idea of the composition came to me, I scribbled it down in my notebook so I wouldn't forget it.
My next step was to start roughing out the composition, using pencil on vellum tracing paper.  I always begin a composition with these "place-holder" figures.   The place-holders keep me focused on the basic composition, and prevent me from getting caught up in details that are unimportant at this stage.
After roughing out the figures, I started on some of the setting and background.  
I didn't like the shape of the umbrellas, so I changed them.  Then I worked out a general shape for the tree. At this point I thought that my basic composition was all set.  I planned to begin a more detailed sketch on my next working day.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


When I saw the Jiffy-Pop at the supermarket, I just had to buy a Pak.  I hadn't used one since I was a kid.  This would be fun---I'd revisit my childhood.  My sister agreed to take the trip with me.

I didn't bother to fetch my reading glasses.  Neither did my sister.  So we couldn't read the teeny-tiny text of the directions on the lid.  In fact, we didn't bother to read any of the text on the lid, large or teeny-tiny.  We didn't need to.  After all, we were revisiting our childhood---we already knew how to do this.

"You pry this cardboard off all around the edges," said my sister.  She began doing so.  "No, wait, wait," I said, "won't it all pop out?  You do it this way."  I began bending the foil rim back.  "No, no, don't do that," said my sister.  "This is how you do it."  "OK, yeah, maybe you're right," I said.  We finished bending and prying.  We then put the Pak over an open flame and began shaking it.
Suddenly the Pak burst open and popped kernels began exploding everywhere, catching fire as they did so...
...they kept exploding as we rushed the Pak from the stove to the sink...
...they continued exploding all over the dirty dishes in the sink.
What little popcorn we could salvage tasted okay, I guess...but I don't think my sister and I remembered our childhood correctly.  Or did we?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

MY NEWEST BOOK-The Family Bedtime Treasury

I'm happy to announce the September 2012 publication of THE FAMILY BEDTIME TREASURY.  My title Bedtime Bunnies (published in 2010) is one of 8 picture books included in the collection.  I'm in great company---Eileen Christelow, Don and Audrey Woods, and other illustrious authors and illustrators are part of the collection.  Also included in the volume are a number of poems, and a CD of an hour of "calming classical" music.  At $18.99, it's a bargain.  As to whether it puts my own individual title ($16.99 for just one book, and no CD) out of print...well, time will tell!  Click here for more details: