Friday, September 23, 2016

Chalk Lessons

How do you feel about failure?
This summer, we made chalk paint with cornstarch, food coloring, and water. 
Summery delight!
See our driveway canvas?
 Little did we know that a thunderstorm brewed two hours away.
All our chalky wonders washed away overnight.

It's that resonance of art and failure that makes us strong, right?

Do you ever wonder if we can learn as much from our flops
- our sloppy first drafts, our rejections, our imperfections -
as from our neat and tidy successes? 

I have this thing. This fear of ruining a brand new notebook or sketchbook. 
I figure if I'm constantly working at something, then naturally, I'll keep improving. 
And when I look at my old notebooks stuffed with terrible first drafts and awkward brainstorms, 
I get panicky. What if this first page represents who I am through that entire notebook or sketchbook? Can't it at least start out perfect?
Talk about writer's block, eh?
So, I solved it. 

It's my secret to hurdling the fear of failure. (in a notebook.)

I just skip the first page. 

Then I'm set. I have a one-page cushion keeping me from a first-page flop. 
(Really, it means that the second page becomes the first page, but shhh.)

But really, don't we gain something in being brave with each feeble offering of ourselves?
In truth, even if I jump right into the first page of a notebook and ink it up with a scratchy failure, 
actually my "failure" teaches me something, and that becomes growth.
And if that's true, then maybe "failure" isn't so much of a failure. 
Maybe the effort of trying something stretches and grows our skills. 
And actually, that is beauty right there: being brave.
So, go out and be brave, my friends!
Ruin some second pages.
Scribble your heart out.
Make sloppy chalk paint that gets rained on overnight.
Get all muddy and splash around in those glorious flops.

Our Sidewalk Chalk Paint recipe:

Mix equal parts cornstarch + water.
Add a few drops of food coloring. Voila!

 

 Chalky books!


Journey by Aaron Becker
Quest by Aaron Becker
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Art & Max by David Wiesner
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Harold's Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

First Day!


Because we like to shoot at least an entire roll of virtual film
on the first day.

No jitters here!
Birdy just wants to meet the classroom bunny!

 The fella dealt with his jitters by making faces. 

Here's to the firsts in life, my friends - 

First grade!
First time in middle school!
First page in a new book!
First scribble in a sketchbook!
First line of a new story!

Here's to all the beauties to discover ahead - 
all the joys, 
and even more exciting,
all the mistakes around the bend - 
the rough starts, 
the scribble outs,
the failures
and bad days.

May they grow us kinder, brighter, wiser, 
full of grace,
and brave in hope. 
Here's to the beginnings in life, my friends!
Here's to joy in all of our seasons,
in all of our chapters.
Here's to each day we get a clean page
and fresh pencils
to make our mark.

Here's to erasers, and forgiveness when we make big, scribbly messes. 
Here's to friendship and kindness
and all the beautiful things we pick up along the way. 

Books!

Wherever You Go - Pat Zeitlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Atlas of Adventures -  illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Zoo ology - Joelle Jolivet
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, illustrated by Frank Marcellino
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
Ramona the Brave - by Beverly Cleary



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Magic Spells for Improving Your Craft

Here is a little something I wrote for Puddle Jump Collective about magic and art-making:



My twins just read the Harry Potter series -
seven books and one play.
My whole rabble of wildebeests is now running through the house with pointy sticks, saying, "Wingardium Leviosa!" and "Expelliarmus!"
Aside from the bad parenting of letting children run with pointy objects, 
I myself would not mind a wand for a few things in life. 

1. The dishes.  (A den full of four hungry wildebeests and their keepers can be very full of dishes)
2. The laundry. (Again with the den analogy.)
3. The writing and the art.
Wouldn't it be fun to flick a pointy stick 
and magic oneself into a brilliant writer and/or illustrator?
 
So, really, where is that magic spell?  
Wouldn't it make everything easier?
So, I once had the opportunity to hear picture book illustrator Renata Liwska and her husband Mike Kerr speak at a SCBWI conference in Seattle.
Wide eyed and wonderstruck,
I wanted to know the tricks and magic spells
that would turn me into a picture book illustrator exactly like Renata Liwska.

Ever do that?

Well, maybe not. But I did. 
So, we all of us watched thirstily as Renata and Mike unpacked for the talk.
They pulled out a motherlode of black sketchbooks and laid them in a mountain in front of us.
Each sketchbook was filled with perfect illustrations. 
Perfect! Pristine in skill and finish! 
How was there not even one scratched out, loopy mess up in the entire collection? How?

Renata is soft-spoken, humble, and has such a kind smile.
Her husband Mike pointed to the pile of books and told us Renata's magic spell:
"This!"

Sketch every, every day.

That's it? 
W-w-w-work? 
Just work?

Where's the magic in that? 
 
Two years later, it's beginning to sink in.It isn't an instant change, but each drop in the bucket is a spell of sorts.
 
Each drop is a growing of your eyes and ears and hands,
every sketch is an observation, a study of the world,
each page is a honing of your vision -
and therein you find the transformation! 

So, my friends, let me share some magic spells for improving your craft in a nutshell:  


1. Show up. Every day.


(Writers also call this "butt-in-chair.")

2. Sketch. Sketch. Sketch.


(Or insert your passion here. Bake cakes. Practice soccer. Juggle fruit.)

3. Write. Write. Write.


(Especially important for aspiring authors.)

4. Read. Read. Read.


(Observe and learn from the world relating to your craft. If you want to be a picture book illustrator, by golly, read picture books like a sieve!)

5. Repeat.

6. Every, every day.

Once more:


  


And the thing is?
The more I do it, the more I love this daily rite.

It's like magic.


{Excerpt first published Tuesday, August 30 on Puddle Jump Collective.}


Books!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Withering-By-Sea by Judith Rossell
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Magic Half and Magic in the Mix by Annie Barrows
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Strega Nona's Magic Lessons by Tomie de Paola

Books on Writing and Art:




Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine
Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke
Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer & Ellen Potter, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals
20 Ways to Draw a Cat by Julia Kuo
Let's Draw a Story by Sachiko Umoto























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