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Viewing Blog: lizjonesbooks, Most Recent at Top
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I am an illustrator, a children's writer, a high school writing coach, a part time prof in children's literature, a bluegrass and oldtime fiddler, a farmer, a newbie blacksmith, and a highly distractible but loving mother of three.
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1. Happy All Hallows Eve!


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2. Recent images

Just realizing I have been truly neglecting the blog this year... because there have been lots of happy and art-y things going on! I now have a local art studio where we have a lot of fun creating... come visit! Meanwhile, here are a few pics I've done recently.20131022_172624

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3. Illustration Friday-- reflect

There's a lot to reflect on this New Year's Day-- I guess there always is, huh? It's been a pretty amazing year, culminating in my opening an art studio in Connellsville, PA this fall and winter. I'm still trying to catch my breath... but very happy. Hope you're having a wonderful start to 2014, wherever you are!

ETA by way of explanation: image was prompted by a group doing a mandala a day for the first 12 days of the year. Not sure I'm going to have time for that, realistically, but I figured I could do one. In creating this, I was thinking about how hazy past and future seem, how hard it can be to connect where we are now into the grand trajectory of our lives. Trends and epiphanies bubble to the surface-- some you can make out, some you can't. How different moods color our days as we reflect, through a dark glass, always. Maybe this is my version of newport2newport's Magic 8 ball.

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4. The Next Big Thing Blog Tour

The “Next Big Thing” is a global blog tour to showcase authors and illustrators across the globe and their current work. I was tagged by the incomparable Pittsburgh writer, Sally Hobart Alexander, who's written many books for children and young adults about the experience of blindness, most recently She Touched the World-- Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer.

1. What is the working title of your next book?
Celestial Jugglers

2. Where did the idea come from for this book?
People who were reading this blog way back in 2007 might remember this image, which I did for the Illustration Friday prompt "Jugglers". I am a total astronomy buff, and the idea of orbits as a sort of juggling was irresistible to me-- and there are many jugglers in space! The sun juggles planets, planets juggle moons... galaxies juggle stars. I really enjoyed working on this picture, and thought there might be a book in it somewhere...

3. What genre is the book?
This is a nonfiction picture book. There are verses on each page which a parent could read to a younger child, and for older ones reading on their own, there are more detailed notes about the planets and moons, as well as one weird fact about each system! There will be a list of additional resources for the curious at the end as well... of course. ;o)

4. What actors would I choose to play the characters in a movie?
To play these guys?

Character close upsphobos

(These are some close ups from the Mars spread--  Mars, Phobos,Ceres, and Deimos)

So who wants to be a planet? Hmmmm....
Maybe Violet Beauregard, post illicit gum-feast?

Botticelli's Venus on the Half Shell is the obvious influence for my Venus, so an actress who resembled her would be a good choice!

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Learn about orbits from the sun to the planets and moons, and the whole way out to the Milky Way!

6. Who is publishing your book?
If I'd decided to just submit the words, someone might be holding it right now, but I really wanted to do the illustrations for this one! I should have it out shopping around by the end of the summer.

7. How long did it take to write your draft?
I wrote it in bits and pieces over a couple months. Writer and scientist extraordinaire Fred Bortz has very kindly offered to fact check it for me, so I plan to edit at least one more time based on his critique!

8. What books would you compare yours to?
Hmmm.... well, it has more of a focus on mythology than Seymour Simon's gorgeous Our Solar System,

and a lot more astronomy than my childhood favorite, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.

Both of these were very strong influences as I thought about where I wanted to go with this idea.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I've always loved painting night skies and mythical creatures... the Illo Friday prompt really solidified this idea for me, though. Illustration Friday has been an amazing source for book ideas for me over the years!

10. What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
As I was doing the research for the story, I came across many strange facts-- and I included one on each page!

Thanks for stopping by for a chat!

Sometime around August 5th, be sure to check out my friend Jeannine Garsee's post for the Next Big Thing Blog Tour! http://onegrapeshy.livejournal.com/

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5. Illustration Friday-- Storm


So 2013 is the year of the snake-- in this case, a black water snake. I'm kind of fond of snakes, so long as they don't bite me-- they're so graceful and smooth.  None of the black snakes around us are venomous; mostly they keep down the rodent population and mind their own business. You don't often see them, unless they've found a good sunny rock to bask on.

But for a lot of people, snakes are the stuff of nightmares... and the year of the snake can be a difficult time. The most recent snake years brought u 9/11 and Tiananmen Square... which might lead a snake-phobe to worry that the coming year could be stormy. 

But every year has its storms.
What do water and snakes have in common? They both flow.  And darkness on the deep doesn't mean you're going down-- sailors navigated by the stars. With any storm, whether you sink or ride it out depends largely on how you trim your sails.

This site recommends focus on discipline and attention to detail for those who want to make progress in creative work... sound advice, whatever year it is!

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6. Illustration Friday-- Wheel


When I started doing Illustration Friday, back in 2005, it was a playful exercise rather than finished work. Over the years, I've gotten more finicky about what I put up here, but today I decided to go back to my roots, and just have fun with it. So the picture above started out looking like this:


...which made me happy at the time because I was using the mouse to do shading, which is kind of hard.
But as a whole, the composition was a bit boring, right? So definitely something I could have a bit of fun with.

Tonight I'm back to using the mouse to color, because my wacom pen is awol. I may print this out and go back with actual paint to do some detail work later... but my printer is out of at least four types of ink. (and it won't shut up about it, either-- aargh!)

Tomato to wheel. Hmmm...

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7. Illustration Friday--Wings


So wings is pretty much irresistible for me, as topics go. Conveniently... there might be some here.

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8. Illustration Friday--Stretch


Nerves can be stretchy things.

Fortunately for all of us.

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9. Cyber Monday Art Sale!!


More images on my Facebook artist page here: https://www.facebook.com/lizjonesbooksart?ref=hl

$25 per digital print, plus shipping, payable via paypal. Message me to place order.
Happy Shopping! :D

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10. The Cybils are coming! The Cybils are coming!!

Can't wait to nominate my picks... but not sure whether I'll be up in time to get dibs on my first few, since 12AM Pacific is 3 AM here!

Get ready, get set...

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11. Illustration Friday--Crooked


So this is one of the letters I'm working on for my Alphabet coloring book, and I'm frustrated because the image feels really crooked in places... too much black here and there... pixelation from enlarging the image (the original is only 3x5)...ehh. I'll get there eventually.

Will be putting together a Kickstarter package for it soon, in the hopes of fast-tracking the first printing!

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12. Illustration Friday-- Bounce

Coloring book art-- Y is for Yippee!

When I saw the word this week I thought-- I have just the thing! I've been working on a coloring book based on the alphabet, and as you can see I'm almost done.

Just two more letters to go.... yeah, that's right. Not all alphabets end with Z!

This also seemed appropriate for today since last night, the Curiosity Rover made a successful landing on Mars-- even though it didn't use the bouncing ball technique the last two rovers employed. I'm impressed and amazed that such a rube goldberg landing technique worked!

Bigger image here: http://lizjonesbooks.livejournal.com/pics/catalog/1833/121704
(Anyone besides me totally frustrated with the new Scrapbook? Oy)

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13. Illustration Friday--Carry

So, you know I've been doing these shoes.
I had an interesting request--a pair of mustache shoes. Ah... a challenge!
This is the result-- pictures of mustaches carrying on in many ways:


Here we have papa and daughter mustaches flying a mustache kite while mustaches in the grass sneak up on them, next to a mustache picnic, next to a mustache family portrait.

On the other side I went more for the movies, with mustache vultures zooming in on a carcass next to a mustachioed gunslinger, next to Mustache Tarzan swinging thru the trees.

On this one, things look a bit more peaceful-- a mustache is riding his bike, mustaches are smiling for no reason in particular, while birdie mustaches fly into a mustachioed sunset.


Next we have a flock of mustaches descending on a kid's ponytails so they can ask if her hair would like to join their group (doesn't look like she minds)... a mustache walking her dog under the mustache tree, and a couple of groovy mustache dudes rockin out(or something).


I always like to leave something for the wearer on the shoes tongues, and this one was too fun to resist.

I'm probably done with these for now, as my supplier dried up, and what's currently available online or anywhere else is about 3 times the cost... ugh. But I'll most likely be doing them again when the stores decide it's the "right season" for plain canvas shoes again!

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14. Illustration Friday-- sight

Since April, positive changes in my family's life mean that I've come down from a seriously crazy schedule. I'm so happy to have time to spend on Dan and the kids again. Also writing... cooking... enjoying the woods...

and of course, making art.

I actually did this image back in January, at a time when I'd been sick often enough and badly enough that my boss insisted I take some time off to rest. I knew then that I would (eventually) be enjoying the return to life that I have now, but it still seemed impossibly far off.

So very, very grateful to be here.

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15. Shoes, anyone?

I made these using simple canvas shoes, and discovered others might be interested in buying a pair! I posted this on my FB account, and then realized there are probably people I know on LJ that aren't on FB, sooo....

If you want to order a custom pair, private message me with the following information:
--Your name and mailing address
-- predominant colors you'd like in the shoes, as well as any particular motifs you'd like to see
  (stars, peace signs, tie-dye, hearts, wings, ferns... I dunno. You tell me!)
-- shoe size(essential info!!)

The shoes will cost $28 a pair, which will include the cost of the shoes and shipping.
Anyone reasonably local (Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Mill Run PA) who's willing to meet me somewhere to pick shoes up, I'lll only charge $25.
Payments via Paypal.

I'll do the shoes in the order I receive them! :D

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16. The Sketchbook Project 2012

This is the first time I've ever participated in the Sketchbook Project-- thanks so much to The Arthouse Co-op for sending me a journal-- that was a delightful surprise! (maybe I should get on twitter more often-- hmm?)

About the art-- this sketchbook was very much an experiment for me. When I signed up, I knew I wanted to do something about flight, and that I wanted to use gouache and ink-- and that was pretty much it.

I waited a long time for the book to arrive-- I had just about given up until the first week in April, when I discovered that it had arrived, but my kids had stashed it in a nice safe place! Well, better late than never...

I began layering in color. I wasn't sure if the paper would stand up to the gouache, and was pleased that it did. But when I began using colored sharpie over the paint, it bled through both the paint and the paper. Frustrating!

On a whim, I tried painting over the ruined pages with acrylic instead. I was tickled to discover that not only could I block the sharpie(mostly!), I could layer gouache, sharpie, and even colored pencil on top of that. Now I was having fun...
Here's the book in order! I added the captions for each page below-- in the actual book, they were all at the end instead. Words are kind of sappy-- the work of about 10 minutes!! Wish I'd had a little more time to work on it-- this was fun!

The cover.  I'm actually in Mill Run, PA, not Baltimore MD-- no idea how they came up with that! Oddly, I did live there for awhile as a child...

When the blackbird pulls the night down over the coals of the dying sun

The phoenix rises to give the call-- a new soul must ignite to fill the day.

Birds fill the skies, mourning for the spinning soul now fallen

Then turn to the stars to praise and entice them.

They sing love of wind and water

of light among branches, and leaves unfurling, then

Foom! The stars are intrigued. The birds scatter.

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17. Meltdown!

Dr Fred Bortz, science educator extraordinaire, returns today to talk about his book Meltdown, which explores the events leading to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facilities last year.

Dr. Fred has long been fascinated with nuclear energy as evidenced  by his work for companies like Westinghouse (nuclear design group at the Advanced Reactors Division), and readers of his book Catastrophe! Great Engineering Failure—and Success will see that Meltdown! picks up right where the discussion of the risks and benefits of nuclear power left off.

The book also explains how earthquake and tsunami detection technology doubtless saved many lives during the event, which is very much in keeping with the "science behind the story" style of Catastrophe!

Dr. Fred does an excellent job drawing readers into the social and scientific issues related to the disaster, and the judicious use of diagrams, maps, and photos provide a fuller sense of how the ideas fit together, even for readers unfamiliar with the basics of nuclear technology. He also provides a rich variety of resources for readers who'd like to learn more after reading the book.

As I read, I kept thinking of the last book that I interviewed Dr. Fred about-- Astrobiology. While doing the research for that story, he was able to go on site to the big telescope and met the scientists who worked there.

A writer can learn a lot from exploring the subject directly this way-- but visiting the site of a nuclear disaster might not be wise.

So I asked....

When you were doing the research for Meltdown, did you have any desire to visit the site, and if so, who would you have wanted to  talk to? Where would you focus your attention?

Fred responds...

I haven't given any thought to visiting northeastern Japan. Yes, it would be "cool" to check out the tsunami damage in the same way that we might see the aftermath of a serious automobile accident, but it would also be "creepy" in the same way. And it wouldn't produce anything of value.

When I talk to young readers about my work, I always focus on how to ask productive questions. That is why, had it been possible, I would have liked to tag along with PBS reporter Miles O'Brien, while he was developing the Frontline documentary, "Nuclear Aftershocks," that first aired on January 17, 2012. It asks the same questions that I want to leave my readers with in my book.

The program description at the Frontline web page (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/nuclear-aftershocks/) is this: "FRONTLINE travels to three continents to explore the debate about nuclear power: Is it safe? What are the alternatives? And could a Fukushima-style disaster happen in the U.S.?"

To put that program together, Mr. O'Brien had to talk not only to nuclear power experts but also energy economists and policy-makers, including leading politicians. Like Meltdown!, that documentary leaves the key questions open, because it recognizes the answers will come in a very different world, politically, economically, and technologically. Add a Comment
18. Cybils Winners!!

Here are our Winners in Graphics-- with so many excellent reads (again!!!) it was a tough choice!
Our Midgrade winner:

Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke
First Second Books
Nominated by: Isaac Z

Zita the Spacegirl's appealing combination of humor and sci-fi adventure already has kids begging their librarians for the sequel. It's got everything: aliens, robots, critters from the cute to the weird to the scary, and a smart, self-sufficient heroine who's unfailingly loyal to her friends whether they happen to be human, robot or giant mouse. The visual storytelling is just as appealing—the drawing style is loose and open, and the fun character design and sound effects add liveliness and humor. There's enough action, novelty, and color to keep younger readers interested, and enough thoughtfulness to satisfy more sophisticated readers, making this a terrific choice for a wide range of ages.

Our Young Adult Winner:

Anya's Ghost
by Vera Brosgol
First Second Books
Nominated by: Robin

Ghost story—check. Snarky but fully rounded protagonist—check. Believable teen characters and behavior—check. Humor—yep. Anya's Ghost has the perfect blend of story elements and it deftly layers several classic teen literature topics in a relatively short space. The themes of fitting in at school and in life, avoiding toxic friends both earthly and unearthly, and learning to come to terms with who you are, are nicely underscored by the fact that Anya is an immigrant. At the same time, Anya's interactions with the ghost add suspense and the perfect amount of creepiness. The art style is simple, engaging and funny, and works well with a monochromatic format. A fast-paced read that doesn't skimp on story.

You can find the full list of winners here.

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19. Illustration Friday-- Messenger

Messenger... of peace.

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20. Illustration Friday-- Stripes

Started this as a meeting doodle-- basically a phi regression/spiral (http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Ratio-Worlds-Astonishing-Number/dp/0767908163)

Not that my phi proportions are exactly calculated, but well... close as I could get.
Lotta stripes here, too. Conveniently for this week's topic!

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21. TGIF

Not illo friday quite yet-- new topic won't be up for an hour or two. Sitting here working on papers and thought of this image from my gouache sketchbook-- Friday always feels like surfacing to me, somehow! Hope you all have a great weekend!

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22. Illustration Friday-- Scary

So, scary isn't my usual kind of topic... but what the hey. It's nearly Halloween.

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23. Illustration Friday-- Fuel

Fires of creation, perhaps?

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24. Illustration Friday-- Scattered

Since I doodled this during a meeting, "scattered" seemed as good a title as any.:P

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25. And they're here!!!

Time to choose your favorite children's books of the year-- anything published between last October 15th and this October 15th is eligible.

Click on the image to go to the Cybils site... lists of judges(including graphics!) are up, and the nominations forms too. Can't wait to see what you think was the best of the year!

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