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coloring page tuesdays, news and events, blog book tours, reviews, illustration and promotion, and general weirdness from a children's book author/illustrator.
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1. Christina Balit on TALES FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

I adored THE ARABIAN NIGHTS as a kid, so I was thrilled when Nat Geo Children's Books asked if I'd like to see their recent incarnation, Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love and Betrayal, written by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Christina Balit. Christina stopped by to tell us a bit about how she works.


e: Hi Christina, what is your creative process and what is your medium, can you walk us through it?
Christina:
Well I work in a very tiny room at the top of an old stone house in the middle of the Kent countryside in England. Its packed to the rafters with everything I need and because of the way I work I don't need a great deal. Everything I illustrate is done by hand so first and foremost I need all my reference books (of which I have thousands on shelves throughout the entire house) and a table and a comfy chair. I have two chairs actually...so I make sure that I switch from one to the other throughout the day to change my position and keep my back moving.

      I have a very disciplined routine when making a book. I will have worked out in advance exactly how long I have been given to make each image in a book depending on the deadline that I have been set. First thing I do is read the story and then study the space that I have been given to fill with a picture. I also have various instructions that have been given to me sometimes by an Art Director or publisher that I also have to pay attention to and I start drawing. I used to make all my drawings on thick cartridge paper in the old days and deliver them by hand to my publishers here in the UK, but things have changed so much now with computers and I can now deliver sketches by email to anywhere in the world! I still draw everything by hand but now make them onto tracing paper instead so that I can lay out the drawing over the text panels that I have been sent to make sure my sketches fit correctly into the layout.

      Once my drawings are complete I photograph them carefully using a good digital camera and I send these sketches via email to my designer. He/she then uses these sketches to place them within the books grid design and I then wait on feedback from 'the team' - which is the publishing house itself, the author ect., ect. I then make any changes requested and once the sketch is fully approved I prepare to paint. I do this onto watercolour blocks, which already have the edges gummed down in advance. It's very important to find the right paper as it has to absorb the water and not resist the paint in any way, which can happen and be a disaster. I then trace by hand my original drawing onto the water colour block and begin painting. I use Windsor and Newton watercolour paint tubes only as they have extremely pure pigments and are very concentrated. I also mix into the paint some gouache for opacity (to make the colours a bit thicker) and gold inks. I love using gold inks as they make the original art shimmer but of course re-producing the gold in print can be an expensive process for the printers unless they are planning to add a gold foil in reproduction.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again? I’m looking for your definition of “Heart Art.”
Christina:
Well to answer this I have to think back to what I always loved in illustrations when I was little and pouring through books. And that was beautiful drawing and exquisite detail. But then I didn't have access to all the computer art and digital animation that children have now and books were all we had. But regardless I really think little people love searching for the magic and finding all the little bits and pieces that are sometimes too small to see on a first look. The hidden treasure within the breath-taking awe and wonder of hand made work. Children instinctively draw onto paper and try to make art until they no longer believe they are any good at it, so they instinctively appreciate the loveliness of an illustration.

e: Did you have any tie to the Arabian Knights - what’s it like to illustrate such a classic?
Christina:
Very much so! I actually spent large chunks of my childhood in various parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. I went to a small nursery run by some lovely nuns on the banks of the Euphrates in Baghdad, a primary school in the deserts of Abu Dhabi (long before it became a city and it was a small barasti village on a peninsula on the Arabian Gulf) and an extraordinary Quaker school nestled in the mountains of Lebanon. It was a great background to my visual memory.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Christina:
I've been working on two new stories for children - which are based on Babylonian myths and I've also been writing a play (for adults). Furthermore, National Geographic are hoping to produce a further Treasury of Bible Stories soon so that should be just great fun.


Thank you Christina! These are LUSCIOUS!

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2. Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy New Years 2017

     IThank you to all of you for your kind emails and loyal support throughout 2016. I'm so grateful for every one of you and I wish you all a new year filled with hope, wisdom, peace and joy. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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3. VIDEO: Rick Steve's European Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all! Have a pleasant watch of Rick Steve's Christmas in Europe. Click the image to watch on YouTube.

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4. VIDEO: Nicolette Jones on Non-fiction Picture Books

Nicolette Jones is the children's book reviewer for The Sunday Times out of London and a powerful force for good in the children's book community. I was lucky enough to get a portfolio review with her last year through Picture Hooks. Recently, she recorded a series of videos on picture books and their creators. You can view the first one about non-fiction titles on The Sunday Times website - click here or the image below to go watch.

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5. Merry Christmas!


Take a break, take a breather, and COLOR for peace of mind today! I have lots of free holiday coloring pages available HERE (or click the image).
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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6. Friday Links List - 23 December 2016

From Net Galley: 16 Top Covers for 2016

From Homemade: 12 spectacular gingerbread houses

From Brightly: 5 Books That Teach Kids What It Means to Be a Kind Person

From Giuseppe Castellano: 10 Mistakes Illustrators Make

From Zetta Elliott.com: 2016 MG & YA Titles by African Americans

From The Scottish Book Trust: The Writer's Guide to Staying Sane Over Christmas

From The Washington Post: 19 Books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times: A librarian's list

From PW: "Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming" More than a dozen children's book editors describe what it's like to work with writers whose books they loved as children.

From Muddy Colors: An Illustrated Ghost-Story of Christmas (some of the best-illustrated versions of A Christmas Carol!)

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7. Jo Weaver's LITTLE ONE


LITTLE ONE
by Jo Weaver

e: What is your medium?
Jo:
I generally work with willow charcoal and a putty rubber on slightly toothed paper. Willow charcoal is very soft which makes it difficult to get crisp lines, but it has a wonderful texture to it and is great for tonal work. I love the earthiness of charcoal. And there is something deeply gratifying about producing a whole artwork with only one little stick of burnt wood!
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Jo:
This is a tricky question and I’m not sure I can answer it very eloquently. I think that the emotional response an illustration provokes in the viewer is what makes it magical, rather than any specific technique used to create it. For me, one of the most important ingredients of a truly magical illustration is relationship, or rather the depiction of a connection between characters. This could be between two or more characters in the illustration or between the reader and a character. I consider the environment, the setting for the story, to be a character in itself. Because often books are about the relationship between a character and their environment. Certainly this is a big theme in my own work. A magical illustration, I think, often has a strong sense of relationship in it.
e: What was your path to publication?
Jo:
My path to publication probably began way back in my childhood with my absolute adoration of AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh. The joy I experienced in pouring through those books and copying E.H. Shepherd's drawings sparked a life-long love of illustrated stories. But it took me a while to turn my hand to illustration professionally. In my teens I turned down a place at art school because I couldn't visualise where it would lead me. I never wanted to be a fine artist and somehow illustration had never occurred to me. Throughout my twenties I worked in international development and as a support worker for homeless people. I loved my job, but had always had a quiet desire to follow a creative path and had started painting pictures for friends and family. My brother picked up a leaflet in a local cafe advertising evening classes in children’s book illustration with the artist/author Claire Alexander. It was the first time that book illustration had entered my mind as a possible career and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment. I took the class and loved it so much I decided to apply for an MA in Children’s book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. I had no formal arts training and my portfolio was pretty meagre at this point, so I was astounded to be accepted. The course completely transformed my artwork and story-telling capabilities. For my final degree project I began to work in charcoal for the first time. Up to this point my work had been very mediocre watercolour, but the moment I picked up a stick of charcoal, it took on a life of its own. My editor at Hodder Children’s Books, the lovely Emma Layfield, happened to visit the college towards the end of my time there. She had a look through my portfolio where she met my charcoal bears and offered me (and them!) a book deal – a very exciting moment!
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Jo:
I hope that that book has a meditative quality about it. When I was creating it, I always had a sense of quietness in mind as something for the reader to take from it. I believe that there is magic to be founds in stillness, and in maintaining a strong relationship with the natural world. So aside from the story about a mother and her little one, I hope that the book promotes a sense of calm and connection to nature. Jo's studio...
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Jo:
I’m currently working on two books - one is the follow up to Little One, for Hodder Children’s. I’m not sure I can say much more about it yet but I am enjoying it enormously. The other is a very different project. Endorsed by Amnesty International UK, its a novella by the wonderful writer Gill Lewis about the power of music to overcome oppression. Its protagonist is a young Syrian refugee. Its a deeply moving and important story which I feel honoured to be illustrating. It's wonderful working on two such different projects and between them I think they pretty much cover what would be my dream project.

e: Thanks Jo! Can't wait to see them both!

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8. Coloring Page Tuesday - Merry Christmas from Scotland!

     It's time for us all to take a break and believe in magic once more. Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and a new year filled with joy, good health, and personal successes! CLICK HERE for HOLIDAY-THEMED coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up for alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...


THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift! Click the cover to learn more!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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9. Santa Two-Up

I can't believe I caught photos of this! I've seen lots of random Santa hats around Edinburgh lately, but these were the most outrageous ones.

Two people on a motorcycle is called "Two-Up"! Perhaps this is Santa-up!

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10. VIDEO: Christmas Book Recommendations

Barb Landgridge recently visited WBAL-TV in Baltimore to talk about some great books to buy as gifts this holiday season. The best part? The Baltimore NBC affiliate really understands the value of talking about books and reading and promoting both! Click the image to go watch on YouTube.

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11. We got us a Christmas Tree!

Last year we didn't brave the adventure of buying a Christmas tree, but this year we decided to give it a go. We headed down to a nearby Christmas tree lot.

But their prices were high and the trees looked a bit scrawny. We would have had to buy a stand for it and we didn't know where we'd keep it the rest of the year... etc. etc. So we ended up buying a LIVE tree from the nearby florist - whose prices were surprisingly reasonable, and it came in its own bucket. Course, Stan had to carry it home uphill for a mile... No taxi for him!
It fit just right...
And we actually had enough doodads and such around that the place decorated up rather nicely. (I included a red and white stripey straw from a recent lunch - it's stuck in the tree.)
It was definitely worth the effort. So nice!
And it has joined all the other Christmas tree lights we can see in our neighbor's windows. Festive! Happy yule y'all!

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12. Friday Links List - 16 December 2016

From Muddy Colors - a great gift idea for artists: Making [Home-made] Walnut Ink - Groovy!

Pantone's Color of the Year has been announced: GREENERY

For the students and teachers among us, check out McSweeney's Post-Election College Paper Grading Rubric - hilarious!

From Brightly: Books Like Harry Potter: 10 Series to Read Next

From Muddy Colors: Things I Learned From Creating 122 Paintings in 11 Months - Greg Manchess on Above the Timberline

From 100 ScopeNotes: 2016 Librarian Lump of Coal Gift Guide

At Authors.me: Little Pickle Press is rebranding to March 4th

From Picture Book Builders: Four Part Series: Editors at the Top! (Begins with Neal Porter - read them all!)

From The Times: Books of the year: children's by Nicolette Jones

From Sotheby's: Icons of Children's Illustration (on auction!)

From EMUs Debuts and Debbi Michiko Florence: Great Gifts for Writers - good list!

From Bookshelf: Read Din bookcase and f Bodoni light - Oh! I want me one of these!!!

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13. David Lucas' A LETTER FOR BEAR


A Letter for Bear
by David Lucas

      I've been asked about "heart art" - what gives something soul? Writing and drawing come from the same place for me - I love patterns - patterns of words and patterns of shapes and lines. And I look for resonant patterns, patterns that seem to have all sorts of echoes.
      Picture books are many layered - and the hidden layers echo on frequencies I am hardly aware of. A common experience for me is reading one of my stories, long after it was published, and thinking: "That's what it's about!"
      Even the simplest ideas keep their secrets.
      A Letter for Bear is a simple tale of a lonely postman, doing his job, delivering letters but never getting any letters himself. Night after night he sits in his cave alone, with his cup of soup, staring at the dark.
      All my story ideas are autobiographical, and on one level the bear is my Dad.
      My Dad never had any friends. Not one. He was a lonely obsessive, talented at drawing and making things, but fatally unable to reach out. The real miracle is that he had six kids. But then he met my Mum when she was very lonely, and they were both very young, both misfits in their way. (She had been an elective mute as a child.)
      But although she really grew and now lives a full, wonderful, happy life, he had such severe emotional difficulties that he progressively alienated all of us.
      An example: at 18 months old, my little brother became seriously ill and had to have an emergency operation. Parents weren't allowed to stay in hospital with their babies in those days - so you can imagine what a horrible experience it was for my Mum - having to leave her baby alone, in pain and distress. Dad drove home, my Mum in the seat beside him, and naturally she was crying. Dad couldn't stand it. They stopped at a red light, and he pushed her out of the car and drove off, leaving her at the roadside, miles from home.
      It is hardly surprising then that ultimately he ended his days living in a 'cave' alone, staring out at the darkness, like the bear in my story.
      Bears are solitary creatures, harmless in general, but dangerous and vicious when threatened. But why did my Dad feel so threatened?

      I've just been reading 'The Autistic Brain' by Temple Grandin, and it confirms my view that Dad was autistic: good at a very narrow range of tasks, with an intense eye for detail, but bewildered by human interaction, forever misreading social cues.
      The difficulty for autistic people is information overload. And emotion is particularly hard to deal with - it can't be systematized, pigeon-holed, it cuts you to the core.
      Dad was intensely aware - but so intensely aware that what might seem a manageable situation to most people, was to him like bombs going off inside him.
      His instinct was for self-preservation. So he did things like push my Mum out of the car - even though she herself was so upset. In fact, precisely because she was so upset.
      My love of pattern, my eye for detail, and my own social clumsiness (especially when I was younger) probably place me somewhere on the autistic spectrum myself.
      Temple Grandin suggests at the end of her book all sorts of ways that autistic people might learn to reach out to others successfully (she is autistic herself).
      As I grew up, I realized that one way to talk to people was simply to make a conscious effort to ask questions, to try not to talk about myself so much.
      I might often fail, but that basic principle - of seeing human interaction as a patterned transaction of give and take - is just the sort of structured 'rule' that a high-functioning autistic person can really internalize, and visualize.
      Being an author, in fact, is being professionally manipulative - trying to understand the various levers of the heart. What makes people respond - or not. And writing stories has certainly helped me govern my own emotions, and understand myself and others much better. I find writing much more difficult than drawing for these very reasons - and it has a dangerous fascination for me. I often focus on writing when I'd probably be better off just getting on with drawing.

      Poor old Bear, in my story, does find an answer to his problem: in his job, in what he is good at - delivering letters. He writes to everyone on his round, inviting them to a party. His letters are like me learning to ask questions. He doesn't sit there forever waiting for the world to meet him on his terms, he reaches out.

      And this being a children's picture book, everyone responds warmly.
      In the final scene he realizes all the letters in his sack are to him: he has Christmas cards from everyone. Understanding my Dad's autism helps me feel more compassion for him. And I think of those little daily tragedies, like the time he gave me a completely blank birthday card, saying: "I haven't had time to sign it." Or the time, when I was older and I met him in town (typically we'd arrange to meet in a bookshop) and I suggested we go to the pub for a drink.
      "I'm not thirsty," was his reply.
      He was a funny old bear.

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14. Student Christmas Party

Each year after deadlines we students have had a pot-luck Christmas Party in student housing. It's a new group of students this year from last, but they were just as good cooks. The feast was multi-cultural and amazing.

I made Mexican cornbread this year, which is a bit of a trick since there is no such thing as cornbread mix here. It turned out great, and Catherine made guacamole, which went perfectly together. I was still under my dissertation deadline, so wasn't quite in party mode yet, but it was still lots of fun to connect with this amazing talented and smart bunch of people.

Here I am with Eshow (ee-ShOW, as in Ow!)

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15. Coloring Page Tuesday - Book Christmas Tree!

     For all you book lovers out there, I give you a Christmas tree made of books! Write what you wish for on the spines. And Happy Reading! CLICK HERE for HOLIDAY-THEMED coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up for alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...


THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift! Click the cover to learn more!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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16. Picture Hooks - Picture Book Covers!

This weekend was our last Picture Hooks workshop. This time we studied picture book covers with Tiffany Leeson, Creative Director of Egmont!

     As usual, it was held at the Portrait Gallery in the wonderful space available there which we completely destroyed (this was at lunch).

     Much of the same gang showed up again (we've become friends). Here's Anka in the foreground and Hazel in the background.
     And once again, I learned a TON and had a fabulous and creative time!
     On day 1 we studied existing covers and their target markets. The differences were so obvious when seen together. We discussed color, fonts, graphics - everything! Then we were each assigned a story and we had a go at a purely illustrated cover, and then an all text cover. It was left to everybody else to guess what title we'd been assigned. Can you guess? I got Sleeping Beauty.

     Day 2 was even better. We focused on creating bespoke type, starting with pure mark-making to various tunes. Guess what the music sounded like...


     From there we worked on creating our own fonts. I hope to finish mine as I really liked it - based on "Yikes!"
     After lunch Tiffany assigned us books to re-design. I was thrilled to be handed MOG, which is as much of a classic here in the UK as Snoopy is in the US. And while I wasn't happy with my Sleeping Beauty art from the day before, I was thrilled with what I did with Mog. Everybody else seemed to like it too. I even achieved a foil by putting glue on my cut out letters and rubbing foil wrapping paper onto it.
     All said, it was a wonderful and creative way to spend a weekend and I learned SO much! I have adored these workshops and look forward to whatever they come up with for next year!

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17. VIDEO: Wolf in the Snow

Enjoy this book trailer for Wolf in the Snow - a lovely story inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, but with a wolf who needs saving and a brave little girl who can do it. Click the image to watch on YouTube.

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18. Tissue Paper Art!

You probably all played with this in Kindergarten, I know I did. But I started using tissue paper in an entirely new way. It all began over at Hazel Terry's blog - Printing With Tissue Paper. Hazel is always experimenting with new and creative ways of working. Well, this particular post lit a fire under me. It's so cool! So on the way to uni after reading her post, I stopped to pick up some tissue paper and try it for myself. One problem. Most tissue paper these days has a binder in it so that the ink doesn't run. Well, that's exactly what I wanted it to do, so none of the stuff I tried worked. I asked Hazel about the tissue paper she used and she, lovely lady, actually sent me a pack. And I was OFF!

First, I experimented. You just rip off a piece of the paper, lay it where you want, then apply water to the back. Layering different colors creates new colors. Some of the papers are juicier than others. Some lift ink off of the ink below them. And you can use a piece of paper more than once. If you're lucky, it'll pick up the ink from a previous layer of color and create entirely new things. All in all, it is a very messy and fun process!
But that's exactly what's so fun about it. It put me in touch with my inner kindergartener, and is wonderfully unpredictable.
I have a ton more experimenting to do (which I am looking forward to with my upcoming semester of pure studio time!), but already, I just adore this media. I'm applying it to a new line of illustrations I've been working on - more on that soon. Here it is, still a work in progress as I haven't removed the tissue paper yet. I'll show you the results soon.

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19. A Christmas Literary Salon

Each month I attend the Literary Salon hosted by the City of Literature. To get there I left the Edinburgh College of Art, walked through Grassmarket, and up Victoria Street...

which looks a lot better in the Edinburgh Holiday Guide - click their image below to check it out.
I cut across the Royal Mile and past the Writers Museum, which cuts through a wee alley that opens up to this view of Princes Street and the Christmas Village.
     Anyhow, I cut left to the Literary Salon, which is usually hosted by The Wash Bar... and stays there. But not this past time. We started at the bar, but we soon moved on to the John Knox House, home to the Storytelling Centre and the oldest house in Edinburgh, to kick off a new tour.
It began with roasted chestnuts. (I really love these things!)
And a story, of course!
The tour continued from there, but we hadn't eaten yet. So we headed to an Italian restaurant we hadn't yet tried. This was our view.
So, yeah. That was a Tuesday in Edinburgh. :)

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20. VIDEO: John Klassen's WE FOUND A HAT

I love this video of Children's book author Jon Klassen and the morally ambiguous universe of hats... Click the image to watch in a new window.

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21. Christmas Decorations in Edinburgh

One of the best things about where we live here in Edinburgh is my walk to and from Uni. It's 1.6 miles and it goes through the heart of some of the best twinkle light displays in the city. Here's my path. I go around the castle, which has colored lights shining on it. Yesterday was blue, today was red. I go north on Lothian, cut across Princes Street, then hook a right on George Street. Which is where I encounter this.

It's a giant arch construction covered in lights choreographed to choral Christmas music and it is the main tourist draw this holiday season. It's so fun to navigate through the happy crowd on the way home.
     I then walk down the length of George Street where I see things like this.

and this
     The Dome is always spectacular. Sometimes they even pump fake snow onto the sidewalk!
     At the east end of George Street is St. Andrews Square (our square). They set up a skating rink around the monument and shine a light show onto the column, making it snow, saying "Merry Christmas (shown here), and then turning into a candle.
     I walk around the skating rink, listen to carolers, and watch little kids use penguin-shaped supports as they learn to skate.
     On the other side of the park is Harvey Nichols and Multrees Walk. HN always does crazy window displays.
     Then I cut left and go downhill, enjoying the view of the Kingdom of Fife in the distance, to finally get home. There's no better way to get into the spirit of the season!

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22. Coloring Page Tuesday - Book Trees

     Holiday reveries are upon us, but take a moment to enjoy the quieter moments too. Of course, you can decorate the trees if you like!CLICK HERE for HOLIDAY-THEMED coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up for alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...


THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift! Click the cover to learn more!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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23. Summative Review Time

This one is for a grade! It's end of the 3rd semester in my MFA in Illustration - our most difficult semester of all! I'm on the couch working on my dissertation, which I will submit this Friday. *pant, pant* Meanwhile, the studio is off limits to us because the tutors are reviewing our summative submissions. Mine looks like this.

On my desk are works-in-progress like my Textiles workshop projects. Gads, the pillow turned out so freaking CUTE!
Some finished projects, like the cover I did for the elementary school I visited - Vivian was doing a writing workshop with them and invited me along to show the kids how to draw manga. This is their story.
You saw my See Noise submission already.
And you've seen most of my Marginal Creatures project - in black and white. They're now in color, accompanied by haikus and I will make them into a book next semester.
There's also all my ongoing picture book projects - the ones I can share like this one.
And the ones I can't share just yet - you'll have to guess at that. All said, I'm pleased with my work this semester. However, I'm not done yet! Enough goofing off, I've got to get back to my dissertation. Wish me luck!

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24. Claudia Rueda's BUNNY SLOPE

I'm starting to identify a theme with the books I've been featuring lately - lots of SNOW! Claudia Rueda's new book is no exception. She stopped by to talk about BUNNY SLOPE.

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Claudia:
I usually begin with a question. It could be why cats have whiskers or the purpose of life. The source of my ideas is always curiosity. Sometimes the answer to the question I ask becomes the theme for a story. I carry sketchbooks everywhere I go, so I can scribble ideas and play around with different styles. Once I have an idea for a story, I plan the book by drawing a storyboard on a plain piece of paper. The storyboard becomes the roadmap for the development of the visual narrative and for the words that tell the story.
e: What is your medium?
Claudia:
I like to reveal the pencil marks on the paper. I use graphite and color pencils, charcoal and ink on paper. Sometimes I use watercolor or I add color in Photoshop. The story usually tells me what the best medium for the book is.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call “Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Claudia:
There’s no formula for how to make art look magical. I think an illustration feels “magical” when it brings you a sense of mystery and when it creates an emotional connection.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Claudia:
Not to repeat myself.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Claudia:
We could say that Bunny Slopes belongs to the interactive children’s books genre.
      Books that require the reader interaction have been around for more than a hundred years, Pat the Bunny (1940) being one of the most celebrated. These books are coming back again, maybe as the authors response to the current ubiquity of digital interactive media. Most of those books are playful and fun. Although Bunny Slopes has that playful element, my intention was to go beyond and to explore interactivity as a narrative resource. I wanted the reader to be able to move the story forward or to change the story. I find this possibility amazing and full of potential.
      I also wanted to develop Bunny as an adventurous and playful character, but also caring and warm-hearted.

e: I think it worked! Thanks Claudia!
      New York Times’ Bestselling author Claudia Rueda’s Bunny Slopes is swishing onto bookstore and library shelves! Time to tackle the bunny slope! Shake to help Bunny make it snow, tilt to help Bunny ski down the slope, and turn to help Bunny escape a cliff in his path. Is there any obstacle Bunny can't conquer? Bringing grins and guffaws with each turn of the page, readers will find Claudia Rueda's innovative bookmaking as entertaining as the twists and turns of a ski slope—and as satisfying as a cozy cup of hot cocoa.

Check out this adorable trailer on Youtube:

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25. Friday Links List - 09 December 2016

From Bookshelf: 1,285 nails: Rocking chair bookcase - I want one of these!


From Giuseppe Castellano: The Illustrator's Portfolio - YES!

From AdWeek: Can You Figure Out the Mystery Inside This Remarkable Ad About High School Love? A message deeper than idle sketches By Tim Nudd - woah.

From Brightly: Books That Help Kids Walk in Someone Else's Shoes

From 99U: Take a Break: 5 Ways Freelance Creatives Make Unpaid Time Off Work

From Muddy Colors: Cory Godbey talks about Charles Vess' new book Walking Through the Landscape of Faerie of which I was lucky enough to see some of the originals when Charles visited Hollins University last summer!

For the budding Space Scientist in your life, check out NASA Astronaut Dr. Dave's TO BURP OR NOT TO BURP: A GUIDE TO YOUR BODY IN SPACE.

From 99U: Why Pride is Good

From GREAT!storybook: How to Overcome Depression and Write Again

From Treehugger: Artist repurposes vintage books as exquisite paper cups & bowls - gorgeous!

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