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Author and illustrator Roxie Munro returns to Ready Set Draw!, with a new project inspired by several of her books, including Market Maze. In this episode Roxie teaches you how to draw your very own busy random Roxie reversing maze! Go above, go under; make turns and twists. There are no mistakes, only opportunities to create new paths.
Did you, a child, or student draw their own maze using this video? Please share your images with us via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! Use the hashtag #KidLitTV on Instagram and Twitter too. We can’t wait to see what you’ve drawn!
Eight trucks hit the highway in a colorful and mesmerizing maze book that helps kids understand how food gets to their tables. In eleven intricately drawn mazes, eight vehicles, each carrying a different product, are on their way to the city. Fish, apples, dairy products, corn, vegetables, flowers, eggs, and baked goods all travel through colorful and minutely detailed landscape mazes to reach the city farmer’s market. Information on all of the products and their journeys is included along with answers to all of the mazes. For additional fun kids are challenged to look for objects hidden on each spread.
Prepare to be astounded, because these are no ordinary mazes! Welcome to Mazeways, where A is for Airport, B is for Boatyard, C is for Circus, and everything is exciting. In this eye-opening world, each letter in the alphabet transforms into a fantastic maze and fingers have to trace a path through fantastically detailed environments. Navigate these puzzles as you would if you were traveling in real life: drive your car on the right side of the road, cross the street only at the crosswalks, and feel free to walk around furniture or landmarks as long as nothing blocks your path. Each maze comes with directions on how to launch into the adventure, and features really cool things to find and guide you along the waylike crocodiles and seals, clown cars and motorcycles, baseball diamonds and sunken treasure, and more!
Find more of Roxie’s books, including more mazes, here.
ABOUT ROXIE MUNRO
Roxie is the author/illustrator of more than 40 nonfiction and concept books for children, many using “gamification” to encourage reading, learning, and engagement. Her books have been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese.
Roxie was born in Texas, and grew up in southern Maryland, by the Chesapeake Bay. At the age of six, she won first prize in a county-wide contest for a painting of a bowl of fruit. She has been a working artist all her life, for a while freelancing in Washington DC as a television courtroom artist. It was great training for life drawing, concentration under pressure, and making deadlines. Clients included CBS, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press. Fourteen of her paintings have been published as covers of The New Yorker magazine.
She also creates oils, watercolors, prints, and drawings, primarily cityscapes, which are exhibited widely in the US in galleries and museums. Roxie’s work is in numerous private, public, and corporate collections.
Roxie Munro studied at the University of Maryland, the Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore), earned a BFA in Painting from the University of Hawaii, attended graduate school at Ohio University (Athens), and received a Yaddo Fellowship in Painting. She lectures in museums, schools, libraries, conferences, and teaches in workshops.
Many oils and watercolors are views from the roof of her sky-lighted loft studio in Long Island City, New York, just across the East River from her home in mid-Manhattan. Roxie is married to the Swedish writer/photographer, Bo Zaunders.
Howdy friends. Today I give you three more characters strutting their stuff. We have Mort Felinestien, Hank Tembo, and Mrs. Topeka. I trimmed the sections that you have already seen, so that it doesn't get monotonous. As I have stated in previous posts the first section contains the rough pencil animation I have used as the basis for all the other walk cycles. When I drop these characters into scenes in the final animation I'll stagger their walk cycles. In English that means they won't all walk in unison in the final. ; )
As you can see to the left here, Mrs. Topeka doesn't have much up and down in her walk cycle. I tried to match the suggestion of girth/weight (no offense Mrs. Topeka!) that I had in Mr. Topeka's walk a few weeks back. I have a feeling that as they approach you on the sidewalk you can feel these two characters before you see them. The concrete would tremble.
Speaking of trembling concrete, Hank Tembo (Swahili for elephant, according to Google) is sporting a stylish plaid Irish cap (which can be purchased in the gift shop on your way out). His toy/gift bag originally had the name Finnegan's on it, but it was too hard to read so I took that out.
And then of course there is Mort Felinestien looking oh so sharp in a grey suit which matches his bowler, the band of which matches his tie and socks! Mort is carrying a rolled up newspaper, which he plans to attack and shred once he gets back to the office.
One again that's the Marine Corps belting out "Up In The Morning". It seems very fitting with all the exercising going on around here. It's also one of my favorite cadences, and one I loved to run and ride to back in the day.
Next time I will try and drop a city sidewalk scene scrolling by in the background for next time. Something that loops, like the old Flintstone's backgrounds did. Something simple though. I want it to be interesting, but I don't want it to detract from the main purpose which is just showing off the walk cycles.
As I have stated before my work flow is pretty basic. I draw the characters in my sketchbook. I scan the drawings and "cut them out" in PhotoShop so I can move the pieces. Then I pose them on each frame of the walk cycle (still in PhotoShop). Then I render it out as a Quicktime movie. I use After Effects and Premiere to composite everything together. As always I hope you have enjoyed my drawings and this animation. Thank you for stopping by, God bless, and have a great day.
Paul O. Zelinsky grew up in Wilmette, Illinois; the son of a mathematics professor father and a medical illustrator mother. He drew compulsively from an early age, but did not know until college that this would be his career.
As a sophomore at Yale College, he enrolled in a course on the history and practice of the picture book, co-taught by an English professor and Maurice Sendak. This experience inspired Paul to point himself in the direction of children's books. His first book appeared in 1978, since which time he has become recognized as one of the most inventive and critically successful artists in the field.
He now lives with his wife in Brooklyn, New York. They have two grown daughters.
Among many other awards and prizes, he received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel, as well as Caldecott Honors for three of his books: Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995).
Spring is the season of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, so I thought I would focus on the business side of illustration today. Can you tell us about how you as an illustrator are selected to work on a picture book project?
Other than through the occasional subliminal suggestion I plant in the illustrations of my published books (painting “HIRE ME!” upside down in the trees outside of Rapunzel’s tower and so on), I don’t know how I get chosen.
My work looks awfully different from book to book, but I imagine that an editor or art director who ends up contacting me is thinking of one look in particular, and they might mention that to me, though they may not end up getting it. Also, from my third book on, I have tended to keep working with people I’ve worked with before, so those publishers know more what they’re getting into. On my end, what happens is that I get a call or an email.
Could you describe your involvement in the process, from the time you are contacted about a new project, through the creation of the illustrations, to the finished book?
I usually want to stick my nose into all stages of the creation and production processes, but as I try to do it in a nice way and, I hope, not out of a personal need for control but in the spirit of collaboration, I’ve rarely had trouble.
So it usually begins for me when I get a phone call or email from a publisher, either asking if I’m available or just sending a manuscript, and I can sometimes tell pretty quickly if I think it’s a good idea for me on or not. Sometimes I don’t know and I mull.
My first criterion (and I’m sorry if this seems pompous) is whether the story makes me think that our overcrowded world, with no shortage of books in it already, would be notably worse off without this new addition. (Which is sort of like saying how much do I like it, but not quite). Then I imagine what kind of art I’d like to see illustrating the manuscript and at that point I can usually tell whether I’d get excited by the prospect of trying to make that kind of art.
Then, if it’s a go, come all the stages you probably know about in the making of an illustrated book. If it’s a picture book, that means breaking the manuscript up into pieces that fit in a 32- or 40-page book (publisher tells me what’s possible)—not a simple job if you want to do it right.
At the same time, I try to imagine the best size and proportion for this book, long before having any idea of the content of its pictures. Then with text decided for each spread I’ll very, very crudely rough out an array of thumbnail sketches, trying to establish the dynamic of the storytelling through the pictures, the content and composition of each illustration.
After or during that time, I’ll be casting around for what the characters should look like, and I’ll be thinking about the style I want the drawings to display. This is intimately connected to the choice of medium, so I’m thinking about that, too, and probably doing a lot of testing on scratch paper.
If I get the thumbnail sketches working, I’ll go to a full-sized, or at least not-so-little dummy, in black pencil, with text placed on the pages.
The dummy can be very rough, too, and I am generally willing to risk showing it to the publisher even before, say, I have any idea of what the characters will look like.
I like feedback, and things like pacing can be judged without other important features yet in place. I might also put the pictures together with text in InDesign, at least as a preliminary version before the art director gets to work on it.
When the designer does join in, I’ll want to be part of her or his process, too. Then there is research, refining sketches, working out color, checking with editor and art director all along, and working and working and working on finished art.
How involved is the art director or author in determining the style of the artwork for a particular project?
The style of my artwork has to be determined by me, to the extent that I can control it. I think the author should have a role in choosing an illustrator, and if there’s a wish to have the book look a certain way, that could be part of the manuscript’s presentation to me at the outset. But in fact this rarely happens. I think publishers are interested in seeing what I come up with.
It has happened that after seeing what I come up with, they aren’t convinced. Then it becomes a conversation, or a discussion, or a debate, in which at the end everybody needs to be on the same side. And I can be convinced that I was wrong, at least if I was wrong. Do you ever revise your illustrations based on feedback from the art director or for other reasons?
I make lots of changes based on suggestions. Art directors and editors I work with often have great ideas that I didn’t think of, or can point out features in my drawings that I then realize were not so great. I believe we are all devoted, at base, to creating the best possible book. So if I’m given a suggestion that I don’t feel good about, I will say why, and another conversation can begin.
I will try to convince the other parties that I have important and valid reasons for seeing things my way, or point out (if it’s the case) that their suggestions might have problems they may not be considering, and at the same time they’ll do the same to me.
In the end, with very few, minor exceptions, I don’t think any book I’ve worked on has left anybody feeling that the wrong path was taken. What is the typical timeline, from receiving a commission, to submitting the completed artwork to the publisher?
I’ve rarely managed to finish illustrating a book in less than a year. That has been about the average, I think, but I’m usually not able to start work on a manuscript right when I receive it, so it’s hard to pin down the time it takes when I’ve got a couple of projects waiting to be begun for a couple of years, and I’m already thinking about all of them a little.
You have said in the past that you have created many of your picture book illustrations using oil paints. When that is the case, how is the final artwork submitted to the publisher?
Art that isn’t digital to begin with needs to be scanned, and it is still the case that publishers use scanners or cameras of a higher quality than almost any individual illustrator would have access to.
I’ve talked to some younger illustrators who scan their reflective art and deliver electronically, without even considering that they could or should deliver the actual art on paper. That is really the preferable way to go. Oil paints have the reputation of not drying, but my oils are usually dry within a day, or at least dry to the touch. There is an additive you can put in your painting medium to speed the drying, and if I’m running very late I will sometimes mix in a little more of this desiccant, or I will avoid painting with pigments I know are slow-drying and favor the faster ones, if possible.
Although I won’t scan my own oil paintings (my scanner picks up reflections on oil paint’s shiny surface for every little textury bump in the paper), I’m not above asking for the high resolution files that the publisher gets from their scanner, and sometimes even before first proofs, going in digitally to fix things I didn’t manage to do correctly in the art.
After a book is released, what kinds of promotional activities do you as the illustrator engage in to support its release?
The more the merrier, I say. I’m on Twitter (@paulozelinsky) and Instagram (paulozelinsky) anyway, and while I don’t like self-promotional posts, when a new book is coming out, there is plenty of interesting information to share. I go on Facebook, too, but only privately for my personal account. I would prefer that people I don’t know personally “Like” my Facebook author page.
I’ve had some ideas for contests and a raffle for prints of the cover art of a book. Sometimes the publisher has given me great support and help. But I’ve also done a raffle or two on my own.
In general I do these things because they seem like cool things to do; I don’t know if they have in any way helped sales—in fact I doubt it. Also, I like to create a repeating design based on almost every new book, and have it printed on fabric (at spoonflower.com). People can purchase it on their own, by the yard (though they don’t), and I can have some of made into a shirt or a vest (which I do). Not so long ago I couldn’t decide on color choices in one of these patterns, so I conducted an online vote; that was fun.
An additional layer of attention has sometimes become available to me that would be harder for most illustrators to garner, in that a few of these larks I’ve gone on were interesting enough that Publishers Weekly has written about them, or the Horn Book. But only after a friend pushed me into asking these journals if they’d like to write about it.
I’ve made ties that go with my books, as well as shirts and a couple of vests, and I wear this special apparel (in moderation!) whenever there’s an appropriate event.
And yes, school visits are great. I love to do them with or without a new book. There is nothing better than to see groups of children appreciating the very things you spent so much time and effort on in the solitude of your studio, a year or more earlier.
When it comes to visiting schools I tend to be passive, waiting to be asked, but it’s not out of line to approach and let schools know you’re available if they’re interested. School visits not related to a book tour are a source of income; as part of a book tour, arranged by an independent bookseller, I’m happy to give one presentation to a school, but not the three or four I’d give if it were a paid arrangement.
Are there some new releases we should look out for?
Actually, no. It will be a long time before anything new comes out. After the recent Toys Meet Snow, it’s going to be quite a while until the next thing.
But one brand-new release that is partly mine is the 75th anniversary edition of Make Way for Ducklings. I was very honored and excited (you can imagine) to be asked to draw a pictorial map of Boston that would be included with the book and a CD recording in a boxed set. That edition is just out now, I think.
I had a wonderful time researching what Boston looked like in 1941 (if felt like detective work), and illustrating parts of the story in the appropriate parts of my map, which is really an aerial view as much as it is a map. My drawing didn’t reproduce every single building in and around Beacon Hill, and I had to squash some blocks down in size for the picture to fit the proportions of the paper, but it’s pretty faithful to reality, I’d say.
You’re going to be one of our dueling illustrators at the SCBWI booth at the 2016 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. How often have you visited BCBF?
Publishers always told me, when I asked about Bologna, that going there was not something I would want to do, or should. It was only for brusque, publisher-to-publisher deal-making and if I went I would be in the way.
I first came to Bologna anyway in 2006, because after planning a family trip to Venice, I decided to look up the Bologna fair and discovered that it started immediately after we were going to leave Venice, and Bologna was an easy train trip away. And then a friend told me that SCBWI was holding a full-scale pre-conference in Bologna on the weekend leading up to the fair. I was able to get a spot on a panel, and then when I asked publishers again, they told me I should go after all, and helped me find a hotel room (almost impossible just a month before the fair). And I enjoyed it tremendously!
So after that first wonderful time there, I’ve been going back almost every other year, and continuing to enjoy it tremendously. Where else can you see virtually every children’s book published in the world in the previous year? I see a lot of editors that I know, as well as the great SCBWI community, so it’s an occasion to hang out with friends, and I must say that eating is a large part of the pleasure.
I think the Bologna fair has been changing, and now you see a greater presence of book creators among the sub-rights sales force and the editors. Mostly these are just people coming on their own, but now very occasionally they are even being sent by their publishers.
SCBWI isn’t putting on Bologna pre-conferences any longer, but they have an active booth at Bolognafiere every other year. Of course my favorite activity is the dueling illustrators tradition, which is huge fun. And this year the booth is bigger than ever before.
How can visits to fairs such as BCBF benefit an illustrator’s career?
I haven’t used my trips to the fair in a practical or useful way from the point of view of career-helping. But I’ve seen illustrators come away with publishing deals: it can happen though I’m not positive how it’s done.
SCBWI itself can facilitate this, because you can arrange for a period of time when you sit in the booth and basically represent your books to passersby like all of the other publishers with booths there.
There’s also a wall at the fair for illustrators to put up their promotional cards, and publishers look through them (although there are so many cards by the end of the fair that it seems like an awfully long shot).
European publishers set up periods for open portfolio-viewing, and illustrators line up with their work in hand, to be seen by an art director in the flesh.
Do you have any advice for a first-time visitor to BCBF?
If you have published already, and are thinking of visiting Bologna, definitely ask for advice from your U,S, publisher. If you have ever had a book picked up by a foreign publisher, it would be a great thing to arrange to meet that publisher’s representatives in Bologna. This will make you more of a real person to that publisher rather than just a subsidiary right they purchased.
SCBWI offers various good opportunities to get your work seen, so definitely arrange your visit with SCBWI in mind. Even if you’re not trying to network or push your career forward, hanging out (and eating out!) with SCBWI folk is reason enough to make the visit a fun time. Many but by no means all of them are of US origin, but they live all around the world.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Bologna, apart from visiting the BCBF?
Did I mention eating? Well, other than that, Bologna has some fantastic museums. Besides the main art museum (the Pinatoteca) there is a fabulous Medieval museum.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a museum devoted entirely to the generally under-appreciated painter Morandi, although I think it may be closed temporarily and its collection shifted to the Modern Art Museum. There is plenty more to do in Bologna, and don’t forget about the eating.
People say that Bolognese food is the best in Italy, and although that kind of claim is sort of meaningless, it is probably also true.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. It was great to see you at the Book Fair. I really enjoyed watching your duel with Doug Cushman at the SCBWI booth during the fair!
Thank you! The pleasure is mine.
Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.
“How To” Library series published by The Child’s World. I thought it might be fun show you a little behind the scenes look at a few of the children’s book illustrations I did for this series of “How To” library books. You might have noticed that one of the sketches still shows the colored […]
I am gradually creeping forwards, though it's taking longer than I would like. So many fiddly bits! I am rather pleased with the effect of the muck heap though. My favourite bit on this one is the knitting sheep though. And I really like how the cockerel colours contrast so well against the background:
This is spread 3, coming directly after the artwork I showed you last. You can see Julia's text on the rough which, as usual, was tacked to my drawing board directly above the artwork as I worked, to allow me to keep checking the details of what I was creating, because of course, when you use pastels, a lot of that detail from the pencil drawing gets obliterated:
It's useful, taking a photo of the artwork once it's done. I hadn't realised this before but, seeing it reduced like this really helps me to spot things I've missed. A book like this is a bit of a nightmare, making sure I have coloured every tiny shoe, not missed out any hands, left off any freckles etc. I can see, looking at this artwork, I have forgotten the eyebrows on the lad throwing the muck at his classmate, so he doesn't look quite naughty enough. I'll just go and fix that...
Welcome to Cynsations! What was your initial inspiration for writing Calling All Cars (Sourcebooks, 2016)?
I wrote this book for my first son, Owen, who was obsessed (and that’s putting it mildly) with his Matchbox cars. He had about 75 of them, and by age 3, had given them all individual names.
We used to play a game where he’d close his eyes, and I would hand him one of the cars. He would feel it, and then tell me which of his cars it was. He never missed. He sometimes slept with them in his crib (I know, choking hazard! Once he was asleep, I removed them, okay?)
He even carried them everywhere he went. Once at the park, he buried one in the sand and then couldn’t find it. Not our finest hour.
What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?
As you know, there is a lot of rejection in this business. Well, considering my car-obsessed son will be 13(!) next week, I would say from spark to publication was about 10 years, give or take a year.
The only timing that could have been better for answering this question would be if he was now 16 and learning to drive.
A lot happens in 10 years. I actually thought Calling All Cars was going to be my first sale, but the editor who was championing it left before the editorial meeting.
I sold several more books and most of them even published before I sold this one.
Events…those Matchbox cars were soon shared with Owen’s baby brother, Wyatt. My children learned to use the potty. They learned to read. I gained and lost a lot of baby weight. I became an Aunt. We moved from an Audi to a Subaru to a minivan to an SUV. I could go on.
Like I said, 10 years is a long time.
What were the challenges—research, emotional, logistical—in bringing the cars to life?
Not too long after I started sending this manuscript out, Pixar came out with a little movie about cars—you may remember it—and I thought my story would never make it.
So I shelved it for a good bit of time. When I landed my agent in 2009, and sent her everything—good or bad—I’d written (my apologies to her for that!), and this was in the mix. She believed in it, and I’m thrilled that it found a home—and such a good one at that with Sourcebooks. The editor and illustrator nailed it!
What did Sarah Beise's illustrations offer to the text?
I think Sarah did a tremendous job of giving the cars different personalities through their drivers. I was a little worried that an illustrator might animate the cars and they would smack of that Pixar film I mentioned…but because she has animals driving the cars, we avoided that issue entirely.
And with any picture book, the illustrations go well beyond what the text is saying. There are penguins snorkeling and surfing in the background, hidden children’s toys, pigs in the wide car, a turtle in the slow car, lions in the King and Queen car, bugs in the Bug, and all sorts of other clever nuances….and best of all, if you line up every page horizontally, the road connects from start to finish.
Why animal characters?
My editor and I met and discussed the different options: animating the cars themselves, having people drive them (kids or adults), or animals. I was up for anything—and while people are fun, animals are just so much better. As a pet owner, I’m a bit biased.
I was really happy with the direction, and Sarah’s animals are cute and full of personality. It was the best outcome.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
This publishing ride has been an amazing one for me. I can remember in my pre-published days, visiting this great blog called Cynsations where I could get a sneak peek at all of the editors whom I was trying so hard to reach, on ‘the other side.’ And now, here I am, on the blog!
I’m honored. Thanks for having me.
Big cars, small cars, let’s call ALL cars! This bouncy text explores the wonderful world of cars zipping up, down, fast, and slow. A perfect basic concept books for eager young learners from the author of Tons of Trucks. Then cruise into bedtime!
Rest cars, Hush cars No more rush, cars. Cars pull in, turn off the light. Sweet dreams, sleepy cars...goodnight!
Filled with vibrant art, adorable animal characters, and cars of all kinds from love bugs to the demolition derby, Calling All Cars is for every child who loves to read about things that go! Surprise bonus—follow one long road throughout this vividly imagined world and don’t miss the hidden clues in the artwork!
Accompanying pictures are as follows: Sue’s yellow English Lab, Charlie; Sue’s home office; Sue’s son Owen playing with his matchbox cars; Sue in a DeLorean at an 80’s themed event at a Sonoma winery
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As you probably already know, I am working on my artwork in a rather random order. Actually, it's not random to me: it's about content on the page, rather than story progression, but it probably looks random from the outside. Having drawn the smelly muck heap spreads, I went back a bit and tackled the farmer and the prickly haystack. I wanted to get the look of the muck heap under my belt first, then I could ensure that the haystack looked sufficiently different.
This was a lovely bold spread, so much easier to tackle in pastels. It another one where the background will be dropped in later, in a nice, bold colour, which is why there is so much of my pink paper visible. I have already established the look of both the farmer and the bull in earlier spreads, which made things even easier.
When that was finished, I thought I would go back to the other spread where that same gate appears: spread 2. As you can see, the muck heap is just being delivered to the field, complete with stowaway piglet. At this stage, Class One are still oblivious to the bull, though the reader can't fail to notice him glaring through the gate bars:
Of course, this was a much fiddlier piece to do and, in the end, it took nearly 3 days to get all the detail in. The pastel 'clogs' after a while: you can only build it up so much, then you have to use fixative, which allows you to continue to layer over the top. Having fixed it when it was 2/3rds finished, I had to more or less rework everything, to bring back the brightness of the colour. A bit of a nightmare, especially when there is this much going on. Fixative has always been an unfortunately necessary evil.
Here it is on my desk, with the rough I always mount alongside, for guidance. That will allow you to read Julia Jarman's text:
Before people send me messages pointing out that I've 'missed a bit', the writing has been left off the sign on the gate deliberately - you always leave text off picture book artwork, so it will work for foreign editions. I will create the 'Beware of the Bull' text separately, so it can be taken off for any translations.
You might also notice another little anomaly in that area of the illustration. In my rough, there is more of the bull showing. Actually, on my very first drawing, it was just a tail visible, as a teaser, but my art director thought we should see a bit more of him. My re-work of that rough is the one above. However, when I was preparing to start the artwork, tracing the image onto the pink paper, using my lightbox, I forgot to trace the bull's body! I noticed my error in plenty of time, but thought it actually looked better. With just his face, it looks like he's hiding, and yet he's perilously near to the boy, which I think will amuse my young readers.
So, I coloured up the spread with just the bull's head showing and have sent the photo to my art director to see if they agree. I can easily add the body back in if they would rather. Cross fingers they like it as it is!
Here’s an illustration I meant to get done before Christmas, but, you know, life.
It’s finished now, and was great fun!
Here’s a detail.
I love drawing so much <3
In unrelated news, I realized yesterday that I made the coloring contest deadline on Sunday, April 13th. There is no Sunday April 13th this year. This is yet further proof I shouldn’t be allowed near numbers.
Anyway, the coloring page deadline is now Wednesday, April 13th. Wear those crayons to the bone, my friends.
I'm working on an italian edition of Black Beauty with Edizioni EL. I'm always happy when I have the opportunity to work on a classic I loved as a child. My dream project would be an illustrated edition of Watership Down (there's a pitch in the works in my spare time. I hope it will see the light one day.) One of the reasons I enjoy working with Edizioni EL is that they leave me a lot of freedom. When I told them that I was tired of my usual digital work, they let me try something a little different - a graphite rendering and digital colour. It's a good way to step away from the computer and the final result is very appealing to me at this stage. Here's a little preview of the work and some sketches. As you can see, I'm still working on the layouts digitally. It's easier for me, as I know how much room I have on the page, but then I transfer them on Fabriano FA2 and use pencils. Follow me on IG to see more as I move along - https://www.instagram.com/gaiabordicchia/
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Laura Stitzel is an independent artist in Melbourne, Australia. She has been working as an illustrator, designer and animator in Australia and Canada since 2007.
Working mainly for children’s television, Laura was recently part of the creative team at one of North America’s largest animation studios in Toronto, Canada.
There she worked on the Emmy Award™ winning "Peg + Cat," and led the painting department on "Arthur,'" the world’s longest running children’s television series.
In her home of Melbourne, Australia, Laura has also illustrated and animated on a wide range of media including educational interactive projects, video games, advertisements, and television.
In her own illustrations, Laura’s work shines a light on animals and their place in our world. Creating artworks with a uniquely vintage style, Laura’s illustrations feature detailed pen and ink ornamentation and hand-lettering, paired with cheeky characters and cute creatures.
You have a varied background as an illustrator - can you tell us about the different types of projects you’ve worked on?
My training is in animation. I’ve been working in the animation industry in both Melbourne and Toronto since 2007. I’m primarily a background artist, and I also animate and design characters and props. I’ve worked on children’s television programs as well as interactive projects and print media.
When I’m not working on these big projects I like to keep creating my own illustrations that have my own style.
What mediums do you work in? Does this vary depending on the type of project (print vs. website vs. television/animation)?
It does vary project to project. For my own illustrations, I always use pen and ink along with watercolour or digital painting. Sometimes there is no digital input at all, sometimes just for touch-ups.
When I’m working for an animation studio, the process is almost entirely digital. I’m an avid Photoshop enthusiast. I love figuring out ways to imitate real painting and drawing techniques in Photoshop. This was a big part of my role on the children’s show Arthur, during its transition from cell animation to digital. I developed a new process for the painting team and created digital brushes to best recreate the original look of the beloved show. It was a great experience.
Of course there are exceptions, I was lucky enough to create some artwork for "Peg + Cat," which is made using gouache and pencil and then scanned in for animation. Sitting in a modern animation studio and painting was quite surreal - and a real delight.
Do you have a favorite medium or illustration tool?
Absolutely - fine liners. I love using ink and I get the best results using a handful of fine liners with variations in thickness. I use black, brown and sepia. I just love that I can do both fine details and bold outlines.
I’m a big fan of old fashioned rendering techniques like stippling and cross hatching. I also use a nib pen sometimes, but it’s a lot less predictable - which is sometimes a good thing.
When I’m doing my roughs in pencil, my other cant-live-without tool is an eraser stick. With a ‘sharpened’ eraser, I can erase in a very fine line, which I use to carve gaps in or clean up my messy pencil line work. So it’s like I have two drawing tools - a pencil for grey and an eraser for white - genius!
Can you tell us about your typical creative process?
Sure. Once I have an idea for an illustration that I’m happy with, I draw a quick rough sketch to work out the story, the poses and the composition. Then I dive into references. I have loads of books of vintage advertisements and posters from the early 1900s, and I can’t do without them. I’ll use them to get ideas for a border, or a rendering technique, a font, a little ornamental decoration or even a character’s clothing.
If I’m doing hand lettering I’ll often go online to find the perfect font, and I also use Google Images for references for animals. How anybody ever drew without Google Images, I’ll never know. Then I rough out my line work in pencil. I use tracing paper a lot to mirror decorative elements or shift parts around. Then, when I’m ready - I go over all my line work in pen, and do some passes of watercolour. I often draw in layers, then scan them in and assemble them in Photoshop.
Lastly, I digitally apply any finishing touches. I’ll usually leave it and come back to it the next day with fresh eyes and find a few little things I want to change.
Does it vary depending on what kind of project you are working on?
Of course when I’m working for an animation studio, the creative process is dictated by the established style of the show, and by tight deadlines! That means there is less individual freedom, but I’m creating part of a larger vision which is immensely satisfying.
However, there are parts of my own creative process that I bring to a studio environment. I’m always a believer in taking time to rough out a plan and to look at references before diving in.
Taking a step back and reassessing an image’s readability is also very important.
Of course with studio work I can’t always leave something overnight, but I have little tricks - such as always having the Navigator in Photoshop visible, so I can keep seeing my image at a glance and making sure it works.
We’d love to hear more about your winning illustration "A Little Nonsense." Was it part of a larger project, or is it a stand-alone piece?
This piece is a stand-alone work - but it is one of a few illustrations I’ve created using quotes from the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Mr. Wonka’s dialogue is smattered with literary references, and I’ve used a handful of them over the years. So I guess I have borrowed quotes from a character who borrows quotes from everyone else!
I intended for the characters in the illustration to be familiar from old stories and nursery rhymes, but not specific to one film or book. For example there is a little piggie eating roast beef, there’s an owl and a pussycat, and there’s a fox in a bandit mask. They’re all on some kind of adventure together that we don’t really know about, but we might imagine it.
By pairing these characters with the quote - ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men’ - I’m saying that imagined characters and stories mean something to all of us, they have a place in our world and they’re important.
What was the medium and the creative process for this illustration?
I illustrated the characters, the border and the lettering using my beloved fine liners, and painted the colour in Photoshop. The colour palette I borrowed from a 1917 advertisement for McCallum Silk Hosiery.
I love colour theory and finding out why some colours work together and others don’t, and I wanted to see if I could appropriate an established colour palette. I don’t usually reference something quite so directly - I also borrowed the sun and fish! - but it was an experiment and I’m happy with how it turned out.
What is a typical creative session like for you?
Just so much fun. I give myself a few dedicated hours to cut off from the world. I always put on loud music and sing terribly.
I find the pencil stage makes me a bit anxious - what if I can’t get on the page what I can see in my head? But the inking stage is pure bliss - I’m in my own world, what they call ‘flow’. I usually draw way longer into the night than I ever intended and regret it the next day.
Do you have a dedicated place that you like to create?
No, actually I don’t! I like to move around a lot, and it’s very important to me that I can create no matter where I am and no matter my surroundings. I have a fairly portable drawing board and a laptop.
In the past few years, I have traveled a lot and get my best ideas when I’m out discovering the world, so it’s important to me that I can draw and create in a variety of spaces.
Some of my favourite illustrations I’ve done in a sketchbook propped on my lap on a bumpy train ride, waiting in an airport, lying in a park, or wearing earbuds in one of the world’s many coffee shops.
Thank you so much for spending time with us today! I look forward to seeing more of your illustrations in the future.
Emily Isabella is an illustrator from Hudson Valley, her work varies from book illustrations, packaging designs to textile designs. Her work reflects on the delights of the everyday, in a very beautiful way. Her clients have included Anthropologie, Frankie Magazine and Birch Fabric to name a few.
To see more from this illustrator visit her website
I started to draw on paper coffee cups right after I came back from the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, summer 2013. I was overwhelmed with a lot of fabulous information I had received from the workshops and people who share the same love of picture books.
I actually went to the university’s coffee shop and ordered my regular coffee. While I was reviewing my notes from the conference, I started to just draw on my paper coffee cup as a mental break.
Suddenly I found the surface of the coffee cup very smooth and very friendly to work with in pencil. I looked around and imagined myself and other people as different type of animal characters - rabbits, dogs, cats, etc. Later, I started to think how cool it would be if I kept all of my coffee cups every day and instead of drawing in my flat sketchbook, use my coffee cups as my daily round sketchbook.
This unique dimension altered my understanding of composition, forgoing page borders in exchange for unending movement. I found this idea to be vital in illustrating a story - propel the viewer toward a world without borders and limitations imposed by the edge of a page.
All drawings include every simple joy we have in our routine life and sometimes we forget about them. The illustrations help my audience to take a look back into their inner child and invite it to come up and play the life and enjoy the freedom of uninhibited self-expression. This open-ended approach to storytelling helped me find a new style in illustration.
You categorize your children’s art in your website into two categories “fine & detailed” as well as “loose & simple.” Is this a decision you make before starting on a piece? Or is it something you decide after completion?
Mostly this is an afterthought. Some works are highly detailed images of simple ideas, other times they are sketches containing a great deal of meaning. These categories describe how I’m feeling at the time.
Some works I really focus on, and curate every detail. Other works I’m just not so patient with, and need to just get the basic point across and move on.
But the major differentiation is not always in terms of graphic detail. Sometimes I spend extra time on subtleties that illustrate complexities of life, whereas other times I just want to make something that is easy for people to relate to.
There are times in our lives when we look at every little detail, and focus on it intently, and other times in our lives where we just want to ‘take it easy’. I only make the distinction on my web site to aid the viewer, not necessarily to define my work.
"Donkey in the Forest" was part of a series of images associated with a series of books I recently completed with a publisher in Iran. These books were part of a national curriculum that millions of young people took part in, as part of national testing.
I was honored to be included in this project, as it drew on stories and themes that have been part of Iranian culture for hundreds, even thousands of years. Stories are the conduit of human understanding through the ages. It is through metaphor that we grow and maintain a sense of who we are, our place in this world, and our duty to grow.
The donkey represents so many aspects of humanity. His reflection is our reflection, and through his life experience we evaluate our own. Have we grown? Have we been content with our own understanding of the world? Is it a fact that everything we believe is true?
Letting go, and connecting with the small animal that is ourselves is a step toward understanding these broader issues. The donkey is simply a trusted friend with whom we can travel, each on our own unique journey.
How has your art changed over the years?
Art for me over the years has changed with my life, as anyone else. As a teenager in Mashhad, Iran, I was interested in testing limits as any normal teenager would. I felt lost and alone, burying myself in books and culture well past the limits of my own neighborhood and city in an attempt to know that which is not widely known, or see that which is not readily available in a confusing and contradictory world. In my twenties, I was concerned with independence and growing past my preconceptions of those expectations upon me. There were a number of pieces of art that I produced that I was excited to publicize, but I knew better as it may have proven difficult for my family or detrimental to my career.
I grew past this impulsive and sometimes mischievous phase into my thirties as a master’s student at the University of Tehran. Unfortunately, I had not yet understood the boundaries and cultural limitations that my work tested, and I left before I was finished with my MFA.
Since coming the U.S., I have tempered my message, working to understand the deeper meanings of my roots, while also refining and broadening my messages to appeal to a wider variety of audiences, enabling people to think and question the world around them without fear of persecution.
The donkey relates to us that we are all put on this Earth to live, and breathe, and feel and love, right or wrong, and that it’s ok to relate to an image that may reflect our emotions at the time. The donkey also carries with him the test of human character over time, that all of our cultures have come from somewhere, and are worthy of patience and understanding.
Two projects focus on public spaces and our relation to them. The BenchMarks project in Iowa City takes a simple public object, a bench, and creates a metaphor for public engagement, encouraging passers-by to relax and enjoy a peaceful moment that their community has provided.
The second project is through City Sounds, The Des Moines Public Piano Project. This project takes used pianos, subjects them to visual artistic interpretation, and places them throughout the greater Des Moines area in attempt to draw out and engage the public in well-mannered frivolity under the sun, with music and sound at their fingertips.
I have also begun collaboration with a New York agency working on a new and evolving project focusing on education-oriented work for school-age children. What advice would you offer someone just starting out in the field of children’s book illustration?
The common adage in writing is “Write what you know.” Illustration is no different, in that one should illustrate what they see, both through their eyes and through their mind.
Likewise, this is not as easy as it sounds, so don’t be afraid to see things differently. Not every dimension is well-defined, and not every answer is questioned.
Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.
Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.
I have been working on a couple of illustrations from the middle of the Class One Farmyard Fun. This is the bit where the bull is free and biffing people into the air, left right and centre. He tosses a whole bunch of children into a smelly muck heap and is then creeping up on the teacher...
As usual, I stuck other previously finished pieces onto the drawing board, to use as colour reference for the characters:
Perversely, I tackled the muck heap illustrations in reverse order. This is the one I did least week, where the children are already in the muck. Teacher is too busy wiping muck from her wellies to notice the bull behind her...
The background on this one has been left blank (the pink is just my pink paper), because I intend it to be cut away to a block colour, which we will drop in digitally. Or rather, 2 colours (which is what the diagonal line on the rough is about).
This digital background technique is firstly to create additional visual variety as the reader works through the book. I hit on the idea of the two-coloured background because, when doing the original rough, I had trouble with the scale of the children against the teacher / bull scenario. The kids should really be much bigger, if they are in front, but this didn't work, because they eclipsed too much of the page and didn't allow teacher and the bull enough impact. But I wanted a spread, for added drama. Hmmmm.... problem! By slicing the background into two colours, I am hoping to create a half-way house between two separate illustrations side-by-side, and a single spread.
I have just this morning finished the artwork for the spread before the one above: one of my favourites:
The children are flying through the air and landing in the muck heap. I created a stowaway piglet in the muck heap earlier on in the story, so it was fun to have him here, worrying about children landing on his head! Next, I'm going to tackle a spread with the bull up close, a nice simple illustration for once, with the poor farmer flying through the air, about to land in a prickly haystack. Hee hee. Thanks for the great subject matter Julia.
Honestly I cannot remember exactly how long. I grew up in China when most parents felt slightly ashamed and deeply concerned to have an emerging artist in the family.
My mother used to take drastic measures to stop me from becoming one. Of course that did not work. In fact, it made me more determined to pursue my dream of art. Looking back, I am quite content with what I have become through these years.
Do you have a favorite illustration medium and/or tools?
Recently I have a newfound interest in watercolor, besides my long-time favorite of brush and ink. I am planning on using only charcoal pencil for my next project. Not to mention that I like computer graphics, too, and am pretty familiar with it.
In fact, I am really fascinated by all media, tools, and techniques. I don’t want to limit myself by drawing a line between what I can and cannot use. If possible, I would like to have opportunities to try all sorts of new medium, as I love the feeling realizing “Oh that’s how it works.” It’s just like gaining a new friendship.
What is your typical process for creating an illustration?
Brainstorming the overall composition, posture of the characters, sources of lighting and the vision angles. This is my “Step One”, and then there it is, the long creation process. To me, this initial part is the most challenging.
As an illustrator, I am creating something out of thin air: from an abstract concept to a depicted visual image. I really value the instantaneous inspiration that strikes me, showing me the composition and the perspective of the picture, what visual angle applies, where the light comes from, and so forth. That instant blueprint flashes in my head usually determines what my final work looks like. And, with such a scheme, the following part of the process, such as outlining and coloring, will flow naturally, which makes the whole creative process quite enjoyable.
However, as much as I try, that transient Eureka! moment does not guarantee to honor me every time I brainstorm.
Does this process or the tools you use vary between projects?
Yes, and no to this question. “Yes”, with my great curiosity in diverse methods and approaches, the creative process itself or the media/tools involved in it may vary significantly. Every artwork has its “voice” to be heard, and it demands distinctive interpretation.
I personally don’t think there is a panacea for all tasks: solution α might be the least effective for problem β. As I said, I am keen on finding the particular expression that makes the voice stronger.
Yet, “No” is that no matter how different the projects are, there is something unchanged in all processes: the brainstorm at the very beginning, which I called “the enlightening phase”.
Is this how you created your winning illustration, "Daughter of the Dragon"?
Yes, "Daughter of the Dragon" went through such a process. It is the first spread of the whole storyboard, so I figure it has more responsibility than other pages in terms of fulfilling purposes such as introducing the character, setting the background and atmosphere of the story, and appealing to the reader in a visual way.
Technically, the illustration was done mainly with traditional media of brush, ink and gouache on 22" x 11" board paper for the drawing part.
I even used a tooth brush to create a certain richness of texture before scanning into my computer for finishing up.
"Daughter of the Dragon" is beautiful! Can you tell us about your inspiration for this particular illustration?
"Daughter of the Dragon" is a retelling of a Chinese folktale about a young dragon girl leaving the sea to join the much loved Lantern Festival but having underestimated how different and complicated the human world could be.
To be more believable, the main character was modeled after my daughter, who was born not too long before the making of this illustration.
I was trying to blend in metaphors and symbolism to this piece in order to best interpret the manuscript: I use lotus, a Buddhist symbol which grows up from mud, through water, into air, still remaining stunningly beautiful with faith, to signify the characteristic of transcendence of our protagonist.
So daughter of the dragon must triumph over all challenges and follow her heart to go somewhere she had yearned for. In particular, the red scarf hints at her passion and determination.
Is it part of a larger work such as a picture book or was it created as a stand-alone piece?
The illustration is from the same titled children’s picture book that I cooperated with my husband. He writes and I illustrate. "Daughter of the Dragon" is the first full spread among other illustrations in the picture book.
Where do you like to create?
It depends on what phase I am in during the process. Though the “enlightening phase” requires full alert and deep contemplation, I strangely prefer to do it somewhere outside home, likely with crowd and noise, for instance, a small cafe or even a busy restaurant. I feel more engaged and motivated with such populous effects, thus I am more efficient in finding the idea that sparkles.
After succeeding in getting the satisfactory design of the project, my choice for creative space is the least flexible: home and home only. I think many may agree with me that the creating process itself can get very lonely and stressful. So an environment that is familiar and also comforting and supportive will help tremendously.
I do have my work space at home, with all my equipment, tools, supplies, and references handy. Every so often more stuff crams in and I constantly feel that I am running out of space. Lighting is super important to me when comes to work, as I need to have sufficient yet comfortable lighting to do my job well. Maybe because my space is pretty cozy, it becomes a hub where everyone in the family, my husband, my daughter, and our cat, like to hang out.
What is the typical illustration process like for you?
My work habit is to make plans and to stick with them. I believe participation is quintessential for an artist, for it broadens one’s horizon by practices such as professional critiquing and/or peer networking. Therefore, I try to be active in my field signing up many art activities during each year.
I make both general plans and detailed schedules, usually prior the year to come. According to the different artistic missions I sign up, my illustration session can stretch to a full-year-long, with multiple sub-sessions, each with a precisely timed beginning and due-date.
In order to prevent procrastination, I make day-to-day schedule for the sub-session to proportion my project and to specify my daily task. Whether ahead or behind, it shows clearly where I am in the process. Also, it feels great to check off things from my to-do list every day.
Even during each illustration session, I am not always switched on to the “work mode”. Instead, I try to allow life intervene occasionally: running errands with my husband, playing with my daughter, feeding my cat or the squirrels and birds in the backyard, making dinner plans or simply mopping the floor…these small but peaceful moments help refresh my mind so that I can stay sharp and sensitive in art.
Thank you, Roya.
Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity of being interviewed! I am truly happy and flattered that my artwork is appreciated by many.
Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.
Lisa Anchin has been drawing since she could hold a pencil and making up stories since she could speak.
She grew up just outside of New York City, passing briefly through Massachusetts where she picked up a B.A. from Smith College, and then she returned to New York to work and to later pursue additional graduate degrees—an MA at Columbia and an MFA at the School of Visual Arts.
When not in her studio, she can be found haunting one of the many cafes of the five boroughs, sitting with a bucket of tea and scribbling in her sketchbook. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner in crime and a not-so-little black cat.
I’ve been trying to expand my palette, so as an exercise, I’ve started picking colors that I don’t generally use then planning an illustration based on those colors.
"Happy Birthday Fox" was one of these painting exercises.
The mustard, aqua, orange, bright magenta, and lime green felt like party colors.
But rather than the moment of the party itself, I wanted to illustrate that contented, happy sigh moment that comes after the party has ended.
You are the illustrator of A Penguin Named Patience (Sleeping Bear, 2015). What was it like illustrating your first children’s book? Were there any unexpected developments?
A Penguin Named Patience was my first illustrated book and an interesting challenge.
Serendipitously, I actually received the offer only a few days before I left for a trip to New Orleans for an illustrator’s weekend. While I was there, my fellow illustrators generously agreed to accompany me on a visit the Audubon Aquarium, so I could take reference photos.
I was able to photograph the penguin enclosure and the South African penguins featured in in the book. That was a really luck coincidence, and then the publisher also sent additional images of Tom, the penguins’ keeper, and videos of the penguins’ triumphant return to New Orleans.
I had never made such a large body of work on a single subject before. That in and of itself was an experience. Before I began work on the final pieces, I did quite a few character studies and color tests. I wanted to make sure that everything would be consistent throughout the book.
Overall it was a really wonderful experience. Not to mention, drawing penguins is a pretty great way to spend your workday.
Tell us about your school visits? I imagine students are excited to learn about Patience and the other penguins who were rescued after hurricane Katrina.
My school visits have been really rewarding. The first one I did was actually at my old elementary school. The kids I’ve spoken with are always excited that the book is based on a true story, and that Patience was a real penguin living at the aquarium at the time of the storm.
After reading the story together and answering their questions about the reality of what happened and the making of the book, I like to draw with the kids. I usually start by talking about South African penguins before taking them through the basic steps to draw Patience.
With older kids, I can also talk about storytelling, character development, and how to visually emphasize your protagonist, especially when all of your characters are a single type of animal and all look very similar. I love watching the kids draw and seeing the characters they imagine and create.
What is a typical work day like for you?
On studio days—I also freelance at a publisher doing book design during the week—I’m usually at my desk by nine. I set aside some time in the morning to take care of business related things—emails, invoices, etc.—and then I begin with warm-up sketches.
Sometimes these are drawings of the characters for the project I’m currently working on, but usually I use it as free drawing time. Often these open, sketch-anything moments lead to nuggets of ideas for future stories.
After my warm-ups, I dive into work, which ranges from writing, thumbnailing images for a new dummy, sketching, working on color studies, or painting a final piece.
The actual work of the day depends on where I am in a project. I try to take small breaks as I work—for a new cup of tea, to play with my cat, or just to stand up and stretch—and I always take a long walk in the middle of the day, which inevitably includes a stop at the library three blocks from my apartment on my way home.
What are you working on now?
As of this week, I just finished the art for a new book called I Will Love You, written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and being published by Scholastic in the spring of 2017. It’s a lovely story, told from a parent/care-giver to a child. The text uses beautiful, lyrical language, and is a non-linear narrative, which allowed me to stretch my imagination. It was a joy to illustrate.
I’m also working on a number of my own stories, and I often have a few in progress.
If I get stuck on one project, I can put it aside and work on another until I’m ready to return to the first.
Right now I’m juggling work on an entirely new manuscript with revisions on two book dummies—one is a story about a precocious little plant and her garden and the second features a character that I’ve been calling Little Viking.
Do you have advice for artists who are just getting started in the field of children’s illustration?
First and foremost, join SCBWI. Between the conferences, the technical and professional information, and the community, the organization provides an unparalleled wealth of resources for someone new to the field. I owe much of my career to SCBWI, and I specifically want to emphasize the importance of the community generated by SCBWI.
As illustrators and writers, our work is largely solitary, and it’s so important to find a group of like-minded folks. They can both provide moral support on those hard-to-work-through days of doubt, and also honest feedback on your work.
If you don’t yet have an agent, editor, or art director to turn to for creative feedback, it’s helpful to have critiques from peers. I still look to my illustration critique group for a first round of editing and feedback well before I pitch a new story or dummy to my agent.
Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.
Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.
Alanna Cavanagh is a Toronto based Illustrator and Surface Designer. Alanna has recently been working with te Neues, Papyrus, Neiman Marcus, Crane Paper and more. Alanna says her work has been described as "simple yet sophisticated with a playful point of view". You can see more or get in touch online here.