Monday, July 29, 2013


Recently I got out my old Joy of Cooking and opened it up to the recipe for Mulligatawny Soup.  It had been one of my favorites in the past, and I had a hankering for it.  But when, after several hours of chopping, dicing, and simmering, I sat down to a bowl of the soup, I was unpleasantly surprised.  Too much curry!  Either my taste buds had changed, or my curry powder was far stronger than what I had used previously.
Unpleasant surprises can happen in the illustration world as well.  I was recently on a very tight deadline, concocting a small illustration.  I started out, as I often do, with an India ink line drawing.  But when I began to add my watercolor washes, the black ink lifted slightly and bled into the color, adding an unplanned somber cast to the image.  Either I had not let the ink dry long enough; or the ink was too old (it does contain shellac, and deteriorates over time.)
There are often ways, in both cooking and art, to salvage an unfortunate situation.  For the Mulligatawny, I added more chicken broth, diced chicken, and rice to the pot.  This diluted the curry to a manageable level.  And for the illustration?  It's difficult to brighten subdued colors, at least in watercolor washes.  And I didn’t have time to purchase new ink, or re-do the art.  But artists do also have the option of changing their minds.  I realized that the muted colors and blurred ink lines of my piece were just fine.  Quite nice, in fact.  Fortunately, consumers of both soup and picture were happy with my results.

Monday, July 22, 2013


It’s a rainy afternoon---a rarity  here in Phoenix---and I decide to celebrate by making a batch of my friend Denise’s “Soft Gingerbread.”  It’s a recipe I have made many many times, always with complete success.  As I read over the recipe I glance at the cautionary note I jotted down many years ago:  ‘It looks as though it will overflow while baking but it won’t.”
I assemble my ingredients and think about the first time I made this recipe.  During that initial trial, I watched through the glass window of the oven door as the batter quickly rose higher…and higher…and higher.  “The pan’s too small!  It’s going to overflow!” I muttered to myself.  “The texture will be ruined!”  I agonized:  Should I snatch the batter out of the oven, quickly divide it into two pans, and return it to the oven?  Or should I allow it to overflow? Either choice would lead to failure, I was convinced. 
Today, as I slide the pan (which as usual is filled perilously close to the top) into the oven, I realize that in spite of my written reminder comment, and in spite of my many successes with this recipe in the past, I am once again afraid that the batter will overflow
I clean up the kitchen, and glance nervously every few minutes through the glass window of the oven door.  And I ponder the parallels between baking gingerbread, and creating a picture book.  Having written and/or illustrated around 100 titles, I should surely know exactly how to go about it, and what to expect.  Except that sometimes I don't.  I can still arrive at the place where I am sure that a word/line/page/spread/project I am working on is not going to work out.  And I can be tempted to grab in a panic at what seems the only solution:  interrupt its gestation; scrape it into a different-sized genre; hastily stir in a new medium; get out the power-eraser . . . 
I take a deep breath.  I re-read my recipe and my cautionary note, and decide not to open the oven door mid-bake.  I will have faith.  And if my current work seems, at this moment, headed for a similar disaster? I remind myself once again:  This process has worked before.  I will not sabotage it.  I will have faith.  
I will also have a generous square of warm gingerbread.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I have just sent off my contribution to the Mazza Museum's "Mazza Celebrity Art Auction": this archival print of trial art I made while working on my title BEDTIME BUNNIES, plus an autographed copy of the book to go with it.  The auction will be taking place in April 2014, but it's not too soon to mark it on your calendar.  The Mazza Museum houses a fantastic collection of more than 8,000 pieces of original art from children's books, and this auction will include art from many of your favorite famous illustrators.  The Mazza is unique in its use of its collection:  rotating art is always on display in the museum, there is no entrance fee, and anyone can walk in and look at any time.  They also carry on a vigorous educational and outreach program for both children and adults, in the form of school visits, travelling exhibitions, visiting illustrator programs, conferences and institutes, and more.