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It's everything I need for sketching in watercolors, colored pencils, and gouache. There's a 5 x 8 inch watercolor journal, plus devices for capturing video, stills, and audio. All of this fits onto my belt.
I start off in the cow barn, where the milkers are taking a morning nap before their judging. Without a chair, I paint standing.
Holstein named "Jacket," gouache by James Gurney
I use a limited palette of three colors of gouache: yellow ochre (Holbein), perylene maroon (Winsor Newton), and viridian (Winsor Newton)—plus white (M. Graham). Viridian serves as my "blue." I can get a nice black with the maroon and the viridian.
After the painting session, we watch the draft horse pull. It requires immense power for the team of two Belgian geldings to pull 8500 pounds of concrete.
The Dutchess County Fair will continue through this Sunday in Rhinebeck. If you live nearby, check it out—it's the second largest fair in New York State, with one of the largest displays of farm animals.
Yesterday at the barn I painted this portrait sketch of Sofie, one of the four Belgian draft horses. She had just gotten her shower in advance of her appearance today at the Dutchess County Fair. I used a limited palette of black, white, ultra blue, raw sienna, and yellow ochre.
The image is the size of a playing card, about 3 x 3.5 inches.
Fowl Play Written & Illustrated By Travis Nichols Chronicle Books 8/04/2015 978-1-4521-3182-5
40 pages Age 7—12
“Just what kind of monkey business has befallen Mr. Hound’s shop? Who has broken his window? And most importantly: why?
“Luckily, our team of plucky detectives has been chomping at the bit to take on their first case. When Mr. Hound hires them to investigate, they hoof it to his shop. And once they get sleuthing, wild horses couldn’t drag them away from the scent of a clue. But is it all just a dog and pony show to distract them from the truth
“Idioms are everywhere in the Gumshoe Zoo detective agency’s hilarious first case as they attempt to get to the bottom of Mr. Hound’s mystery.”[inside jacket]
Review The Gumshoe Zoo Detective Agency has finally received their first case: someone has broken Mr. Hound’s shop window. But why? Each member of the detective agency is on the case, each having something to say:
“Hmm . . . Yes. There’s something fishy going on around here.”
This is said by Quentin, a goat. All of the Gumshoe Zoo detectives are animals. But Quentin’s fishy statement was overheard by Reggie, who happens to be a fish. Quentin quickly saves face.
“”Oh! No offense, Reggie.” “None taken. But you are right. There is some definite monkey business at hand, my friend.”
Reggie agrees with Quentin, but makes his assessment within earshot of Steve, a monkey. And so it goes through the line-up of detectives, each one making a clichéd remark that indicts a fellow detective, yet none take offense at the off-handed remarks. The detectives are too glued to the case to become offended at these idioms. Then a clue is found that opens up the case and makes an unexpected turn. The detectives are not confused. They immediately figure out what happened at Mr. Hound’s shop. They quickly deduce who threw a can of tomatoes through the shop window. The answer is not a pretty picture.
Fowl Play is the first of a series that will have children quickly understanding parts of speech, such as the idioms used in Mr. Hound’s case of the broken window. The story is hilarious, not just because of the witty idioms, but also because the comic book illustrations are terrific. Fowl Play is one unusual book but it does its job. Teachers will have loads of fun integrating this series into their lesson plans. Kids will love the humor and the illustrations of the detectives.
The Gumshoe Zoo detectives are: Josie (a rat), Morgan (a chicken), Sharon (a duck), and Mike (a bull), in addition to the detectives referenced above. Of course, the victim, Mr. Hound, is a dog. The case does not end as one would expect. In the middle of an interview for W-IDM Channel 4, an urgent situation develops downtown . The Mayor, a cat, wants the Gumshoe Zoo detectives on the case. This case will not be as easy as Fowl Play and Mr. Hound’s idiom filled broken window. According to the final page, this case will be a “beast of oxymoronic proportions.” This is one case I am anxious to read and one new series I think will be an educational blast.
After the Fowl Play mystery is solved, the definition of “idioms” and the meaning of each idiom used in the story is given in a mish-mash style perfect for this comically fowl story. This section is worth reading for the humor and the explanations. Kids will love the references and may just find themselves using an idiom or two in their speech.
Full Disclosure: Fowl Play by Travis Nichols, and received from Chronicle Books, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
So they swished with their tails at the pesky bumblebee
"Waddle," said the mother.
In a muddy pig pen lived a huge mother pig and her little piglets ten.
It's always fun to get the first look at pdfs from a book I illustrated after the designer has finessed the layout with type and design. It's also fun to work on a book for very little kids that rhymes, can be sung, is a counting book and has a surprise rooster ending. This will be the fourth book Marianne Berkes and I have done together and my fourth book for Dawn Publishing as well. Over on the Farm comes out spring 2016. I'm working on a second book that will come out the exact same day, so I'll be posting some images for that one in a bit. Now back to work for me.
Ant The weaver ant twists leaves and twigs together with silk thread to make a home. Spider This wasp spider spins a web in tall grass, where it rests and catches its food.
Premise/plot: A nonfiction concept book for young(er) children. Readers are introduced to a wide variety of animals and learn where they live. The book is full of photographs of animals and their homes. The book is quite simple in concept, yet, oddly fascinating at the same time. Some animals may prove familiar (polar bear, ant, bee) others may seem more exotic (Fennec fox, eel, village weaver).
My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. As I said, I wasn't expecting to find the book fascinating. (Board books, well, they rarely fascinate me. They can make me smile now and then. And now and then even sing.) If you're looking for a nature-themed concept book, this one is worth your time.
The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk
(Scientists in the Field series)
by Sy Montgomery
photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Grades 5 and up
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local library.
Sy Montgomery has a gift for crafting nonfiction texts that transport readers into the world of scientists on location. In
Written by Juliette MacIver
Illustrated by Cat Chapman
Candlewick Press 6/09/2015
32 pages Age 4—8
“Yak and Gnu are friends dear and true. Yak has a kayak, Gnu a canoe. Down the river they go, singing:
“No one else But you and me Can float a boat Or sail the sea.”
But wait! What’s that? A goat in a boat, a calf on a raft, and a whole flotilla of gorillas! Now their song is all wrong. With so many other friends afloat, can Yak and Gnu still sing their sea song for two?”[inside jacket]
Best friends Yak and Gnu love to sail the seas. Yak rows a black kayak, while Gnu rows a blue canoe. Together, they row and sing their favorite song. But then, much to Yak and Gnu’s surprise, a goat in a boat yells hello. Yak and Gnu are no longer the only two who sail the seas. The happy-go-lucky pair of friends—best of friends—recover nicely, rationalizing that with the goat in a boat, Yak in his kayak, and Gnu in her canoe, there are only three who can sail the seas. They adjust their song:
“Yippee-ai, Yak! Who-hoo, Gnu! There’s nobody else Like me and you. (Well, only goat.)”
But then, there on a raft is a laughing calf and in that sail boat is a snail. What is going on? Yak and Gnu find more and more animals who can sail the seas, be it in a sailboat, a raft, an outrigger, cruiser, kayak, or canoe. Each new discovery causes Yak and Gnu to reevaluate and adjust their song. Finally, with the seas afloat with dozens and dozens of sea-worthy animals and their vessels, Yak and Gnu must come to terms with the fact that they are not the only ones who can sail the seas. But what about their wonderful song? What happens to that? You must read Yak and Gnu to find out.
Yak and Gnu is hilarious. Young children will love all the animals and the way each sails the seas. Along with Yak and Gnu, children can count the number of animals, helping Yak and Gnu adjust their song. The repetitive song will also help young children as they begin to read and phonetically sound out words. Soon, kids will be singing the song, without the book. More likely, kids will be asking for Yak and Gnu at bedtime, story-time, and most every-time it is time to read. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in watercolor and ink. The rhyming text has that sing-song quality that makes reading a picture book a joy. Yak and Gnu was authored by Juliette MacIver who loves to make young children laugh. Her previous book is entitled, The Frog Who Lost His Underpants (also illustrated by Cat Chapman). That title makes me want to read the book. Yak and Gnu is no different. This hilarious tale celebrates the simple friendships of childhood and the joy of laughter.
Full Disclosure: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Juliette MacIver & Cat Chapman, and received from Candlewick Press and Walker Books, Australia, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
If You Were a Dog Written by Jamie A. Swenson Illustrated by Chris Raschka Farrar Straus Giroux BYR 9/30/2014 978-0-373-33530-4 40 pages Age 3—6
“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a sod that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all. Can you guess what that is?”[inside jacket]
Review Using sparse text, including exuberant onomatopœia, and characteristics specific to the animal on the spread, Swenson asks young children how they would act if they were a dog, a cat, a bird, a bug, a frog, and a dinosaur. Each two-spread animal begins its question with a recognizable formula:
“If you were a . . . would you be a . . . ?”
For example, the first animal is the dog.
“If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickety-sloppy, scavenge-the-garbage, frisbee-catching, hot-dog-stealing, pillow-hogging, best-friend-ever sort of dog?”
The following spread always asks one final question:
“Would you howl at the moon? Some dogs do.”
Youngsters will love the questions, especially each of the activity-type characteristics in If You Were a Dog. While not written in rhyme, the text flows nicely. The individual characteristics are ordered such that the similar suffixes following each other. Raschka’s illustrations are child-like in form, yet lively, and capture the text and the reader’s (listener’s), imagination. Young children will not only contemplate how they would act based on the given charactersitics, but are bound to come up with their own. I like anything that activates and stretches a child’s imagination and If You Were a Dog fits that bill nicely.
The final three spreads in If You Were a Dog acknowledge that we cannot become any animal we want, but we can imitate those around us. Besides, kids are told, the best animal to be is yourself.
IF YOU WERE A DOG. Text copyright (C) 2014 by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrations copyright (C) 2014 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers—an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, New York, NY.
Full Disclosure: If You Were a Dog, by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka, and received from Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR, (an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Get your glad rags on, pull out your dancing shoes and join me At the Animal Ball by Ella Bailey! A delightful, playful action-packed flap book mixing costume design and dance moves in such a fun way, this is a board book with a difference.
Bailey’s illustrations are fantastic, using great colour combinations and lovely details. Her use of texture adds a vintage touch, reminding me of the collection of dolls’ in national costumes I had as a child. Fans of of Marc Boutavant‘s work will not be disappointed; Bailey’s cute (but not cutesy) funky animals seem to me to be Mouk‘s friendly cousins, dressed in a wide range of get-ups inspired by national costumes around the world, from kilts to grass skirts, sarongs and even leather jackets.
Each page is split into three so readers can mix and match heads, tops and bottoms, creating their own bespoke tailoring. Each flap also comes with its own dance moves, from fluttering a fan to shaking a rattle, stamping your feet and wiggling your hips: By combining any three flaps, you could choreograph your own dance!
The charming animals and the beautiful clothes combined with the great excuse to boogie make this a winner of a book – and not just for kids who can’t sit still whilst they’re being read to. It’s fun, pretty and robust – this larger-than-average board book utilises a little bit of simple engineering to make sure the satisfyingly chunky pages of At the Animal Ball can put up with lots of to-ing and fro-ing.
Lovely, lively and full of flaps – an glorious read for anyone with young kids!
Inspired by the fabulous illustrations and this video…
…we made some masks (there’s nothing like a masked ball, is there?)….
…and had lots of fun dressing up in all sorts of finery and breaking out some moves… This video of our antics makes us laugh a lot!
Whilst dressing up we danced to these toe-tapping tunes (but unfortunately couldn’t include them in our video because of copyright issues):
Written by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cathy Morrison, published by Dawn Publishing
Ok, it's not a birthday image, (our inspirational word for June is Birthday) but it's the cover for a book I have coming out Spring 2016. Artwork for this book is complete and I'm working away on a second book that will be released the same date. I'll post more about this book and others on my Studio With A View Blog soon.
Title: National Geographic Kids ALMANAC 2015 Published by: National Geographic Themes/Topics: Science, nature, gales, culture, history, going green, geography Suitable for ages: 8-13 Paperback, 352 pages, nonfiction, Three Snippets: Page 112 has a monthly sky calendar saying what is happening in the skies … Continue reading →
I was delighted to receive this new edition in the mail from the publisher Dawn Publications. What a joy to see that children all over the world are reading and learning about alligators and other swamp creatures in The Swamp Where Gator Hides written by Marianne Berkes. This book is available on Amazon.
One amazingly interesting creature is the octopus; this cephalopod can twist and turn its body into many shapes, suction to all types of surfaces, and use a cloud of ink to distract predators. This week, researchers uncovered the California two-spot octopus’s ability to sense light through its skin.
When the scientist shone a beam of light on the skin of an octopus the chromatophores (pigmented structures in the skin) expanded and the skin changed color. When the light was turned off, the chromatophores contracted again and the octopus was back to its original color. Why does this happen? Scientists determined that the octopus’ skin has proteins called opsins that work with the chromatophores for this reaction to occur.
Changing colors is nothing new in the octopus species; they can become red with anger, or transparent in sunlight. The more tools the creature has to camouflage itself the better chance for survival in the wild depths of the ocean where predators are abundant.
To learn more about the octopus or how other animals use light in the depths of the ocean here is a short underwater reading list!
Octavia and her Purple Ink Cloud
Octavia Octopus and her sea-animal friends love playing camouflage games to practice how they would hide from a “big, hungry creature.” Octavia, however, just cannot seem to get her colors right when she tries to shoot her purple ink cloud. What happens when the big, hungry shark shows up looking for his dinner? This creative book introduces basic colors along with the camouflage techniques of various sea animals; a great introduction to marine biology!
A Day in the Deep
Travel deep into the ocean way below the surface and you’ll encounter some creatures you never knew existed! This book takes you on a journey through the dark depths of the sea towards the ocean floor. Most ecosystems need sunlight, but deep in the ocean where the sun doesn’t shine animals have adapted some very interesting ways to see, protect themselves, and eat. Discover the unique habitats, adaptations, and food chains of these deep -sea creatures.
Ocean Hide and Seek
The sea is a place of mystery, where animals big and small play hide and seek! Can you imagine a shark hiding in the light? What about a clownfish in plain sight? Don’t believe it? Then, sink into the deep blue sea with Jennifer Evans Kramer and Ocean Hide and Seek! Surround yourself with the vibrant ocean illustrations of Gary R. Phillips. The ocean is an old, old place, and the exotic animals in the depths have learned to adapt to their surroundings to survive. Can you find the creatures hidden on every page? Or will you, too, be fooled by an ancient, underwater disguise?
Sir Edwin Landseer, Study of a Lion, 1862, oil, 914 x 1378 mm, Tate
British animal painter Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) developed remarkable skills of speed and dexterity.
According to one one account, "It was Landseer's custom to place a clean canvas, or panel, upon his easel and leave it there untouched for several days, or until he had completely thought out the subject that he was to paint. This done, he would take up his palette and brushes and set to work, and in an astonishingly short space of time the picture would be finished."
There are many stories of him painting large oil studies of animals in less than an hour. He painted the portrait of the spaniel and the wounded rabbit in two-and-a-half hours.
One houseguest recalled leaving for church on a Sunday morning as Landseer set a blank canvas on his easel. Landseer skipped church that day, and when the guest returned from the service, the painting was finished.
Another story of his prodigious ability comes from a dinner party in London. A lady remarked that it would be impossible for someone to draw two things at once. "Oh, I can do that," Landseer said quietly; "give me two pencils and I will show you."
Landseer took a pencil in each hand, and then "drew simultaneously and unhesitatingly the profile of a stag's antlered head with one hand, and with the other the perfect outline of the head of a horse. Both drawings were strong and vigorous; that drawn with the left hand in no way inferior to its companion sketch."
The DVD of "Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art" is now retail ready.
The DVD version has the 40-minute production about the making of the paintings I did for Scientific American. But it also has a slide show and a special 13-minute bonus feature, where I pose the question: "What can we learn about dinosaurs by sketching a chicken?" The abbreviated YouTube video above gives you a sample of that feature. (Link to YouTube)
The full 13-minute chicken feature on the DVD also considers:
• Differences between chickens and theropods • Feathers on dinosaurs in Dinotopia • Function of feathers in chickens • What's the purpose of the comb and wattles? • More chicken sketches • Feather groupings on a bird's body • Can we make a dinosaur from chicken DNA? Should we? • How are bird tails different in ground-loving birds?
While everyone worked, I painted the shed in gouache, just a quick impression. The challenge was that it was a dry day with low humidity, and the sun was beating right down on the paint. The paint dried practically as it left the brush, so I had to work fast.
More than 30 years ago, I tried painting in gouache on a hot, dry day in Death Valley, California, and it was insane how quickly it dried. You can combat the problem somewhat by squeezing the paint out on a damp paper towel and spraying the palette with a mist of water once in a while.
Gouache Week starts June 22 on the blog and on my YouTube channel, with the release of the new video "Gouache in the Wild."