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:

Sketch every, every day.

That's it? 
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.}


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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Puddle Jump !

It's here! It's here! It's here!

Puddle Jump Collective : 13 children's book author / illustrators combining forces to showcase art, discuss craft, collaborate, and contribute to the kidlit world.

We'll blog, share projects, and splash often.

I'm honored to be one of the lucky 13.

This rain-loving girl skipped to the front of the line
for the our very first project -
a collaborative Puddle Parade.

Author/illustrator Lorian Dean is next up
to combine my rainy girl with an entirely new character and set up,
which she will post, and tag another illustrator to follow suit.
I can't wait to see what transpires.

I hope you'll join us as we journey into the big pond.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Paris party!

Let them eat cake!

Sweetness from Cafe Pray...
It's always fun to play with noses
on famous art...
They puzzled over my hand-drawn pieces of  Picasso's Woman & Bird

and then played "Pin the Nose on the Picasso"

After a scavenger hunt, and treats,
we made wee matchboxes des Paris.

Ah the joys of the small things in life!

Paper. Art-making. A clamor of cousins. Laughter. Balloons.
Joyeux anniversaire! Happy birthday!

Here's to finding joy in the small things and the good things, my friends!

Au revoir!
C'est la belle vie!
Swan song!


Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock
The Iridescence of Birds by Partricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winter
A Giraffe Comes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, ill. by Jon Cannell
Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail by Laurence D'Anholt
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Coming soon...

They say some people match their dogs.
I wish I had a dog so I could know what I look like.
I so often enjoy looking behind the camera at the world.
For an upcoming project, I was asked to make a kid portrait of myself. 
A selfie? A sketchie? A skelphie?

I approached it the same way I approach a new character. 
Sketch a zillion bundle of possibles,
then hone in on who that character is.
So.. who am I?

What do I look like anyway?
What do I feel like?
What would I look like if I combined me now
with some of my favorite things from childhood?
Books. Overalls. Sunshine. Rain.
Puddle boots.
This is the girl I settled on. Bookish. Hopeful. Happy.
Not afraid to get messy.

Here's to finding your happy self this week, my friends.


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