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So many beautiful faces to draw in this world.
I woke up feeling like dancing today.
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Was a great trip to NYC, but always feels great to be back in the studio, working on sketches for the next book. The light is pouring in my windows - I love this time of year.Add a Comment
This morning, the year's first white tailed fawn wobbled out of the ferns in our yard. I love this time of year. He looked like he didn't quite know how to balance on those long legs. Mama licked him and sent him back to the ferns to hide. I didn't want to miss a moment by getting the camera, so I thought I'd share this drawing instead - it's in my upcoming book, BORN IN THE WILD, out this fall with Roaring Brook.
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Thank you Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature for selecting HOW BIG WERE DINOSAURS? as a book of outstanding merit for The Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2014 Edition.
Link to the 2014 list of Best Children’s Books of the Year from the Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature.Add a Comment
Getting lots of help packing for next week's author visit to Wilmington, MA.
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We've seen a few really nice reviews of Flight School in the past few days. One was a *STARRED REVIEW* from the June 2014 issue of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books! Here's a little snippet from that:
"The watercolor and pencil illustrations are warm, robust, and thoughtfully composed... Penguin is a charmingly tubby and stout guy, and the skillful positioning of his red flight goggles visually convey his emotions: when he’s happy, the earpieces flip up jauntily, and when he’s sad, they dejectedly droop. This could be a useful tool for many kinds of discussions—from the adaptations that some kids need in a classroom, to creative problem solving, to perseverance—or a cheerful addition to a unit or story hour about birds or penguins."
Another nice review was from the Librarian's quest blog.
Here's a quote from Librarian's Quest:
"If you are looking for a title about dreaming the impossible dream look no further than Flight School...It presents readers with a cast of lovable characters who look on the bright side of life. Sometimes we truly need the help of our friends to keep our heart full..."Add a Comment
Today I learned that US Fish and Wildlife Service is commemorating my grandmother as a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Hero. I'm so proud of her. My grandfather as well, for they worked together tirelessly to save the environment and wildlife.
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Killdeers calling along the river this morning. I love this time of year. This is a little sketch from my sketchbook.Add a Comment
Please join us in creating an activity for Flight School!
One of the most fulfilling aspects to my life as a creator of children’s books is when I hear how teachers are using my books in classrooms to excite kids passion for reading, creating, and learning. I have been fortunate that so many teachers have given their time and energy to create activities and lessons around my books. But often I only hear of these efforts through perusing others’ blogs. I thought it would be wonderful to collaborate a little more directly with teachers.
A collaboration of this kind seems appropriate for Flight School. This is a story about a little penguin with the soul of an eagle who finds his way to a place where birds teach birds to fly. Only through the perseverance and kindness of his teachers does this little penguin get to lift off in the wind. In the spirit of the book, I would like to work with you.
Any teacher that would like to participate is welcome! Please create a craft or activity around the book, Flight School, and post it to your blog, pinterest, or facebook site, or just share it with your fellow teachers and classes. And send me a copy of the activity so I can post it to my blog and website. Photos of your classroom activities that I can post, to share with my readers, and inspire others, would be much appreciated!
Then as a huge thank you, to show my appreciation for the work you do, I will send you a signed limited print from an illustration in the book to share with your classroom.
I'd like to thank everyone who came to see me at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough last weekend!
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I spent Easter Sunday looking through old sketchbooks, dreaming about new ideas from old thoughts. I love sketchbooks – they have the ability to keep ideas and memories alive. I also find when creating them, I'm much braver while on an adventure than in my studio, to try different things. My journal is a place where I explore, and do a little re-inventing. Sometimes things just sit between the pages of a sketchbook forever, but occasionally they leap out a decade later and prompt a new story or direction in my work.
Here's an example of a painting I probably would never create in the studio, but it was just a moment of joy captured within the pages of my Paris journal. I passed this little dog each morning on my walk into the city. I thought he had both panache and whimsy so I played with a brightly colored sketch on the back of a little blue paper bag that held a scarf I had just purchased. It's fun to try new things.
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I'm just settling back to the easel after a trip to Sweden. It's always good to get out of the studio to see and draw new things. Here are a few of the sketches done in my sketchbook while away. I wish I could spend my whole life wandering around this beautiful world looking at art and sketching.
Our first day in Stockholm – snow blanketed this cemetery. I loved the stark gravestones and cross against the white and brilliant yellow of the church.
Wedding spoons of the Sami people – carved reindeer antlers
Swedish Folklore design
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Oh the joy and expectation of a new book soon to be released! I live a quiet life tucked in the NH woods, crafting stories each day with pencil and paint. But then a bright sunny day of expectation comes bolting toward me on the calendar, when a new character will soon join my family of book characters I've been fortunate enough to create.
Here's a sneak peak.
Flight School will be released on April 15th!Add a Comment
I received a lovely e-mail from Jennifer Knauer who celebrated her son's 5th birthday by hosting a story walk birthday party with Red Hat! If you haven't heard of story walk, here's a link to learn more about it. This amazing activity for families to celebrate and embrace stories was established by Anne Ferguson (Montpelier VT) and The Kellogg Hubbard Library.
Following the story Board tradition, Jennifer laminated the illustrations from the book and presented them (in the same order as in the book) along the path. After Dylan's birthday celebration, they gave the Story Walk materials to the ParentChild Center in Orange County, Vermont, so that the families in that program may continue to use it.
I just love activities like this -- Dylan and his friends and all their families romping through the woods playing follow-the-leader and other silly twirling games as they followed the 1/2 mile of hiking trails to find each of the laminated spreads of the story, then ending with a picnic and hot cider. It sounded like the perfect scamper through the woods for everyone and it makes me very happy to think my book Red Hat was a part of this lovely day.
I hope more families discover this amazing program and enjoy!Add a Comment
I just finished the jacket art for my next book, Good Morning To ME! It's always a great feeling to bring a project to this stage. After more than a year of sketching, and revising, and re-sketching, then painting up a storm, at long last, the art and words are in place and the book is taking shape.
I've written a lot about how the animals I love and draw inspire my stories, but this story came directly from my household of critters, so I look forward especially to sharing it. A real team effort this one is!
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F&G's for my next non-fiction book, Born in the Wild, peeked out of the snow on my doorstep! How exciting to see a book start taking shape. I look forward to sharing more about this book as we near the release this fall.Add a Comment
I'm woefully behind on providing an activity around my book, How Big were Dinosaurs?, but some dear young readers have inspired me. So I have just created coloring pages from the book. These can be downloaded as a pdf file from my website or from my pinterest site. I hope they offer a launching off point for activities in classrooms and at home with little ones who are interested in the topic of dinosaurs. I remember as a youngster, I drew and drew and drew, mostly dinosaurs. I believe this passion is what led me to take the plunge into a career as a writer and illustrator. So I plan to provide more activities in the future around my books, in hopes they foster creativity and imagination with my young readers.
Download these new dinosaur coloring book pages for How Big Were Dinosaurs. Includes Velociraptor, Ankylosaurus and Stegosaurus.Add a Comment
Painting and drawing intensify life for me. Last spring Dave and I traveled to Paris to sketch and savor art in the museums. I expected to be moved by the paintings of my favorites, Vulliard and Bonnard, and so many other great painters. But then we found ourselves in the path of treasures that moved us in ways we didn’t expect. In the Louvre, we found ourselves gawking at ancient ceramics turned from clay, and small glass vessels fired from sand. The craftsmanship of the ancient artisans combined with time had built a richness into the patinas that no modern craftsman can replicate. Iridescent blues, greens and golds reflected back at us as we moved slowly around each tiny sculpture and vessel.
Ancient glass vase from Iran
Painting in the Louvre with watercolors is not allowed, but I couldn’t resist. I had to pull out my paints and sketchbook. How could the guards say no when one is in the midst of such delight. I think my enthusiasm was contagious because soon a flock of kids gathered around as I tried to capture thousands of years of beauty onto the slender leaves of my sketchbook. Some of the kids were in giggles as I sat with as many as 4 paintings at a time precariously balanced on my lap, waiting for each puddle of watercolor to dry while diving into another. Soon kids from all over the world, who spoke different languages, surrounded me. We laughed together as they played lookout for guards, and held my paints, and even teased me for having too many paintings going at once. And then we shared my discovering of some small detail of a carving or glaze and got caught up in it all and urged me to start another sketch. The guards discovered us of course, but just shook their heads and smiled. How grateful I was they didn’t interrupt.
A close up of a ceramic plate
Inspired from Egyptian carving
The attempts to capture the iridescence of ancient glass or ceramic glaze on paper always falls short of course, but the act of trying has a way of solidifying it in one’s imagination and memory far deeper than a photo or passing glance would. And most of all, to take part in creating, that’s the best thing to come of it. These pieces sculpted by an artisan long gone, his or her name lost to time - we are separated by thousands of years, but their art and life fuels mine. How fortunate we are when we take the time to soak in beauty created by artists who came before.
A close up of glazes from an Iranian ceramic
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The expectation of a new book, soon to be released, is almost unbearable. It takes so many months, but I'm starting to look forward to Flight School coming out this April. One of the hardest things for me is just thinking about how much fun I have creating these little characters. I always have the temptation to go back and paint it all over again. After so many months of revision on a story, it can be hard to just leave it be. But there comes a point when you have to just stop and trust and let the book bloom on it's own. Here's just a little sketch of my penguin in Flight School – one that actually sits on the cutting room floor and didn't make it into the book. But it expresses my eagerness for this project to be out into the world soon!Add a Comment
Beatrix got wind of my putting images on Pinterest and she thought, seeing that she has her own book in the works, that she should have her own Pinterest board. So here are her first images for the "Beatrix" board. As you can see, we kind of live in a birdie filled world here.
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I finally did it - I decided at long last to check out pinterest a few weeks ago and I have to say, I like it. It's a great way for artists to store reference and show creations. And even better, a place to discover the work of other artists. So I just thought I'd mention it here today. I just created a new board (here's my pinterest link) sharing some images of my home and studio and how I set about creating a space in which I find inspiration to work and live. I'm a novice at this new pinterest platform, but finding it fun.
Working from a studio connected to home presents both challenges and luxuries. The down side is that escaping work can be difficult, it's so easy to sneak into the studio at all hours of day and night and feel the pressing need to work on projects in progress. But it's also a luxury to go to work simply by trotting down the hall with your favorite birdie and puddy cat as companions. It means having a lot of discipline and focus to maintain sane hours, but I really love it and feel fortune to have worked from home most of my adult life. But I didn't always have such surroundings in which to paint. I spent years working on kitchen tables of cramped homes, painting in poorly lit spare bedrooms, or in the middle of living rooms. Our early house was cluttered with paintings, frames, easels, crates, panels, and the smell of wet oil paint stifled the air. The scent of baking bread never had a chance over turpentine. Now I'm spoiled, I have a spacious studio filled with light and beauty (and I dropped the toxic oil paints for the lovely soft scent of watercolors). I saved for years for this studio, feeling in my heart that creating a space to work in was an important part of the act of creating. And not just the space became meaningful, but all the totems and art objects that fill our home and studio. Today, as I start a board on pinterest that'll focus on the home and studio, I'll share a few photos of where I work and the art totems it holds.
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The beginning stage of creating a book is such a delightful time for me. Lots of unanswered questions of course, and yes, many doubts, but it's also the high octane exciting time of creating. Knowing which idea, from hundreds that occur to the one that becomes the main focus of a year's work, can be a bit of a mystery as well.
Some of my books have come from true life events that I wanted to record, or consider more deeply, or share with others. More and more my stories are completely fictional, growing out of my own imagination. But these still have true life experiences and emotions that rest close to the surface. I find for me the most important thing that allows me to "notice" or "grow" a story is just to be open to the beauty around me. To do this I carry a sketchbook just about everywhere, recording life through drawings and writing. I try never to judge the work when writing in a journal, just record. More often than not, I'm so completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the thing I'm recording, there's no time to judge. Later is the time for thoughtful contemplation and a "going over" of these ideas. That’s when the "one" rises to the top and becomes a full fledged story.
I've just begun a new story for a picture book that bubbled up from one of my journals – one I kept on a trip to Paris last spring. My journals don't just hold memories of things I saw or did while traveling. The cluttered pages filled with sketches and watercolors hold daydreams and musings recorded during that enchanted time away. I used to paint only what I saw on travels, trying to capture architecture, nature, or every beautiful note of light. But on this trip, the daydreams I indulged in as I looked out over the rooftops of Paris, or walked the halls of museums were just as important to the experience as what I was seeing. I painted a lot from my imagination and a new freedom and experimentation danced into the pages of my journal. I also painted characters that came to my imagination while walking the streets of Paris. Now two of these little characters, born from such a treasured trip, are coming to life in this story.
I've always encouraged kids in classrooms to keep a journal – keep filling them up, and remember to go back and look at them later. I'm thankful for this practice I started so many years ago. Stacks of journals line my bookshelves keeping memories alive, and books have grown directly from their pages. I'm thankful too that I have a husband who loves to travel with someone who spends a lot of time with her nose in a blank book. The time I put into it can be "somewhat" intense. But Dave happily explores and daydreams himself, and treasures the journal of memories that grows during our time away. He doesn't mind holding brushes and paint pallets when I setup in cramped spaces makes it difficult to spread out. And he's been known occasionally to leap heroically after brushes that are about to float away on the waves of rivers. I'm lucky in my travel companion. And this trip to Paris was one of our best trips ever, so I'm lucky to get to create a story from it!!
Here are just a few of the paintings done on that trip – a varied range of musings from life and imagination. I'll share more of the story itself when it is further along.
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I was very excited this Thanksgiving when I finished ALL the final art for the book – GOOD MORNING TO ME - that I've been working on this past year. It features my beloved parrot, Beatrix, and kitty. I started it last Thanksgiving. I spent a quiet morning in my studio packing up each painting, wrapping them in paper and sealing them up safe and tight in layers of cardboard to be shipped off to my lovely editor and art director, all the while dreaming of the feast I would make for my husband later that day, and thinking how we would kick back and savor the feeling of finishing another story. So then why the weird feeling when I tried to kick back that night? And why the next morning the desire to open up the package?
Ah done… but not quite.
I poured everything into this story. I scrutinized every sketch and revised countless times over the past months. I did color study after color study and painted up a storm to finish this book. The first few hours I chalked it up to that age old feeling that it's really hard to let go of a project after a year of work. But by mid afternoon, I knew it wasn't just that feeling--there was more to do. I ripped open the package and spread the paintings out one last time. Then I had to break it to my husband that I needed to revise and keep painting through the weekend. He's always awesome about this kind of thing and knew the regret of not pursuing this idea outweighed the lost weekend.
Students of writing and illustration always ask me, "when do you know when something is finished?" I think with creative pursuits you can never really know. One always looks at a work and thinks I wish I had done that or this differently. And sometimes in the pursuit of perfection we go sailing past the point of DONE and venture into over-baked, over-thought and over-worked. It's heartbreaking at times to know you've gotten to that point. But I want to strive to the point where there are no regrets. That you don't get to the end and wished you had tried one more thing. And so I'm painting away on these last few spreads and my heart is already telling me they're an improvement.
I was asked today to teach at a writers conference later this spring. Unfortunately it conflicts with my schedule and I can't, but it inspired me to want to share one little kernel of something I've learned working on these stories. Students often share paintings and dummies of picture books with me and ask if I think they're finished. No one can tell us this except our own hearts. Characters and stories grow up very slowly for me. Layer upon layer of understanding comes to me as I sketch and re-sketch and paint and repaint. I have friends who work much faster and I envy them that. But then again, I love the fact that I have so many happy hours with my characters as I create them. They are good company!
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