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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Pictures worth a thousand words, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Painting old buildings

Oh, my.  Yes, painting old buildings in watercolor — not latex. You’ll want to see illustrator and fine-arts painter James Gurney dash off an urbanscape — before the time’s up on his parking meter. Former National Geographic magazine illustrator of archeological/historical subjects. Author-illustrator of books for children and adults. An exquisite, if occasionally quirky teacher of drawing and painting,... Read More

The post Painting old buildings appeared first on How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator.

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2. Minimally drawn Miffy

Hey Miffy you’re so fine. You’re so fine you blow my mind — hey Miffy! Or Nijntje, as this children’s book character by illustrator author Dick Bruna is known in Holland and much of Europe. She’s a girl who wears lightly the distinction of being, at least according to the London Telegraph the most popular rabbit in the world. There’s not a... Read More

The post Minimally drawn Miffy appeared first on How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator.

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3. Then let us all with one accord…

Stepping away from the news and business this evening, I poked around on YouTube for a nice Christmas video to share with you. For some reason I started wondering if Sitka, Alaska, where I’d spent 2-3 of my childhood years still celebrates Christmas. I remember a Christmas there that lit up the dark Alaskan winter. [...]

4 Comments on Then let us all with one accord…, last added: 1/10/2013
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4. “Speak the language.” Children’s book illustrator E.B. Lewis shares his emotional work and words

“Art is a language,” Children’s book illustrator E.B. Lewis told a roomful of illustrators, aspiring and professional. What is a language, Lewis asked. “Letters of the alphabet that join together to form words, then paragraphs. And finally stories and jokes,” he answered his own question. And the mark of fluency? Maybe not what you think. “Telling [...]

7 Comments on “Speak the language.” Children’s book illustrator E.B. Lewis shares his emotional work and words, last added: 4/12/2013
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5. Terrible in pink?

A Terrible Lizard’s soliloquy moves us to empathy, or maybe not in the gorgeously tactile T is for Terrible (Macmillan)– a 2005 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year by Peter McCarty. Children’s novelist Julie Lake (Galveston’s Summer of the Storm) walks us through the Paleozoic pastel pages, while I handle the not-so-steadicam. Recorded after hours in  Julie’s primary school library that Julie set... Read More

The post Terrible in pink? appeared first on How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator.

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6. Celebrating children’s picture books!

  Below, a sweet picture book trailer by author-illustrator Peter McCarty for his incomparable Chloe (HarperCollins Childrens).   You can see art samples from the winners of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books Awards for 2014 here and enjoy best-selling picture book author Chris Barton’s post about why children’s picture books are important here. Picture Book Month is an international literacy... Read More

The post Celebrating children’s picture books! appeared first on How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator.

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7. The title is everything!

New York illustrator Lisa Falkenstern is working on illustrations for her new children’s picture book.  But she and her editor are having trouble deciding on the perfect name for it.

Lisa's baby dragon

Lisa's Baby Dragon

And so she’s asking readers of How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator to help her out! Help her choose the best name. Because she knows that the title is the most important decision an author and or/her publisher probably will make on any given book. Titles rule.  Good titles sell the book. Blah or dumb titles seal their doom.

View This Poll
online survey

* * * * *

Lisa has staked out several firsts here.  It’s the first first picture book that she has authored.
It’s the first time that this blog has been asked for help by an artist colleague.  And it’s the first official reader poll that this blog has ever conducted.

How did the dragon story come about?

Lisa: Long story. I keep a file of images that give me ideas for illustrations. I had a photo of an antique silver eggcup that had chick feet sticking out of a realistically done egg. I liked that and when I got around to working on the idea, the chick became a dragon and lost the claws. It didn’t work. then I played around with the egg and it became an Easter egg. So now I had a portfolio piece.

At that time,  while attending a New Jersey SCBWI [Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators]  meeting, a friend and I were invited to join another writing group, the Hunterdon County Children’s Writers and Illustrators.  We did and it was my husband who suggested I turn that dragon painting into a story.  I did and when I showed up for a first meeting, to my everlasting shame,  I showed up with a story called The Easter Dragon. I worked on that and got a dummy ready for an SCBWI workshop. I showed it to an agent and he pointed out that it wasn’t an Easter story, it was a dragon and bunny story. I went back to work on it, took out Easter, added a hedgehog to the characters, showed it to the same agent and he wasn’t interested.

Not deterred,  I kept working on it and finally showed it to the publisher at Marshall Cavnedish at an SCBWI  conference who liked it, but had suggestions. About four revisions later, she liked it enough to buy it.

All that from a photo of an egg cup!

Rabbit and Hedgehog -- two friends

1 Comments on The title is everything!, last added: 6/2/2010
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8. “It’s like a Magic Trick…” Perusing the Pop-up Pages of Bruce Foster

The demands are the same as for writing or illustrating a book:  Something must come to life every time a reader turns a page.  Except with a pop-up book, it really has to come to life. By definition. Things move, swing and unfold — physically hopefully with some grace and more than a few surprises. Like life.

It’s done with scissors and scotch tape — and the benign wizardry that comes from years of conjuring castles and creatures and dances from paper.

Bruce Foster received clues to his career’s direction back as a painting and  graphic design major at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville –  though he didn’t know it then. What he did know is that he liked gluing objects on to his canvases — to bring textures and dimension to his art pieces. He cut holes in them for the same reason.

“I was going 3-D in a flat paint school,” he says. “My work wasn’t received very well. It was kind of bizarre.”

Years later as an art director for a Houston ad agency, he received his first pop-up assignment — a High-C fruit juice carton that would blossom out from a grocery store mailer as one opened it. It was the campaign that introduced the first kids’ juice cartons to the consuming world. “This is three dimensional-thinking,” Bruce remembers saying to himself as he worked up the ad.  “I love this.”

It led to more pop up gigs– for books, public relations and ad agencies, cards, more books, museums, a graphic novel, more books and eventually Hollywood!

Clients and creative partners have included some of the world’s major CGI animation studios, Dreamworks and Disney,  fashion designers, an international pastry chef and the national park service.  His 40 books to date are associated with such name authors and illustrators as Mo Willems,  Kate DiCamillo, Charles Schultz, Charles Dickens  and Chuck Fischer.

Sculpting Hogwarts

Pop-up illustrations for "Harry Potter - a Popup Book

The castle that Bruce built

And now J.K. Rowling.  On November 15, three days before the release of the”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!” movie,  the official pop-up book celelbrating all of the movies from Warner Bros “Harry Potter” series will hit the stores where books are sold.

So be on the lookout next month for Harry Potter- A Popup Book with illustrations by Andrew Williamson, lead concept artist for all of the movies, text by Lucy Kee and paper engineering by Bruce Foster.

“It may be a cliché, but this really was a labor of love,” Bruce writes on his website. “My own daughters grew up with Harry as we spent countless nights enjoying the developing epic while I read aloud to them.”

A ‘White Dummy’

Paper engineers work with

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9. Build your interactive children’s book – win an iPad2!

Illustrators can now jump with both feet into digital publishing with the help of some free software and a contest launched by InteractBooks.com

“What better way to showcase all that our InteractBuilder e-book software can do on the iPad and iPhone than holding a contest to find the very best interactive book it can make?” asks the Interact Books website .

“And who better than you to produce this book by using your developer talent and our app software for the Mac and PC?”

A Youtube video doesn’t do the reading experience justice, but an actual iPad encounter with The Tortoise and the Hairpiece by Don Winn, illustrated by Toby Heflin and distributed on the Apple iTunes store demonstrates how the touch screen interactions and subtle animations of an interactive book (let’s call it an i-book) make for a whole new storytelling language.

I-books or interactive e-books aren’t quite the same as the e-books now making headlines for trouncing paperbacks in sales at Amazon.com.

They’re a new animal — maybe a new art form, and it may be months or even years before anyone knows where this fusion of interactivity and literacy is going, aesthetically or commercially speaking. Developers and a few publishers are delving into the format, but no leader for an interactive book-building engine or platform has emerged — yet.

InteractBooks

In the meantime Austin, Texas based-InteractBooks wants to push the innovation timeline up a little by launching the first ever contest for an interactive children’s book. Entries must be built with their free InteractBuilder software.

First place prize – 16gb white or black WIFI iPad2, or $500.  lnteractBooks will  also publish your title and give you a three year membership in the InteractBuilder community (a $300 value)

  • 2nd Place wins a 32gb iPodTouch or $200* and a two-year membership to the InteractBuilder community.
  • 3rd Place yields a $100 Best Buy Gift Card and a one-year membership to the InteractBuilder community.

All runners up and anyone entering the contest with an InteractBuilder-approved book will have a free year’s membership in the InteractBooks builders community. 

The deadline is September 18 and the winner will be announced  October 1, which doesn’t give you much time.

InteractBooks logo

That’s why the InteractBook folks are encouraging illustrators and authors to mull over the books they’ve already done, published or unpublished, with pictures and text ready to go — and see how they might adapt their story to this new media

1 Comments on Build your interactive children’s book – win an iPad2!, last added: 8/9/2011
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10. “Little toddler feet and hands all over my wall…”

Children’s book illustrator Patrice Barton begins a picture book with a spiral ruled notebook that she soon fills with ideas, tactics and to-do checklists related to the project.

It’s almost as if the words come first. The drawings, which for her are a series of tireless explorations only a tiny fraction of which make it to the book, spring forth after she’s worked out the notions, notations and marching orders for herself.

In the previous post she told how she assembled her scraps of sketches on tracing paper to develop finals for Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark (Knopf Books for Young Readers.) This time she reveals the earliest stages of her artwork for the picture book Mine! by well-known children’s author Shutta Crum.

Released in June, Mine! is Patty’s second book for Knopf.

At the end of our video interview minutes before class time at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art Patty walked through the F&G’s for her third Knopf title, Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Knopf editor Allison Wortche — due for publication in December. Here are sophisticated first graders, not babies or toddlers. With their glances, gestures and placements on the pages, Patty orchestrates a very funny elementary school drama of evil plans, remorse and redemption.

Watching her interpret Wortche’s scenes as text gives us insight into how she thinks about her characters and re-constructs a story in its most telling images.

SCBWI happenings for your calendar

Southern Breeze Illustrators Day poster

Southern Breeze Society of Children’s BookWriters and Illustrators Illustrators Day   – Friday, September 2 on the lower floor of the DeKalb County Public Library, 1 Comments on “Little toddler feet and hands all over my wall…”, last added: 8/29/2011

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11. Karien’s Creative Cache

We first interviewed children’s illustrator Karien Naude of South Africa back in May 2009. Back then she was basically just starting, completely self-taught as an artist, working as a paralegal at a law firm in downtown Johannesburg.

By Karien Naude

Art by Karien Naude

She was among the first batch of students to sign up for the Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks online course on illustrating children’s books.  Somehow we were friends from the start —  because Karien is, well, that sort of a person.  Even my mother wants to adopt her.  (Unofficially she has, with Karien’s bemused consent — though I should say Karien has loving parents and family in South Africa.) She’s very much a citizen of the world, with a network of artist friends that extends to the Austin, Texas SCBWI illustrators’ community, to New York,  the UK and New Zealand to mention just a few places.

Karien's telling of a Sherlock Holmes tale

A lot has happened since 2009. She’s gone full time as a free-lancer, for one thing. Along the way she’s learned, taught herself, tons about the craft and business of illustration.  So it really is time for another visit.

She agreed two years ago to serve as a bit of a guinea pig for the ongoing experiment of my online course and so she’s actually been ready for us to check in with her.

She’s a huge Tolkien and Terry Pratchett fan.  She’s been on safaris. She loves to cook and loves music so much so that you’ll rarely catch her drawing or painting without her earphones on

2 Comments on Karien’s Creative Cache, last added: 10/6/2011
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12. The miracle month

I’ll go off the topic of children’s book art — just for today. You might have noticed that the blog has been left with the lights still on, but untended in recent months. Not a lot of discussion about illustration, drawing or painting has been going on here.  I want to explain, rationalize and ask your [...]

5 Comments on The miracle month, last added: 4/27/2012
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13. A party in February

Erik Kuntz, Amy Rose Capetta and Nick Alter made this video of the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2012 Regional Conference, Something for Everybody.  I get a kick out of how the thumbnail on YouTube shows me in the crowd, getting a hug from illustrator Marsha Riti. So of course I had to include it here. Erik, [...]

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14. P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z

The childhood thrill of make believe looms large for Dublin-based artist P.J. Lynch, 2X winner of England’s Kate Greenaway Medal for Illustration. He may not come out and say this. But you can’t not feel it in his illustrations and murals, his YouTube videos and his lectures about art and painting in Ireland and the U.S. He puts [...]

5 Comments on P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z, last added: 6/5/2012
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15. “Outside the Box” (two cases)


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16. Spherical Thinking


More from the amazing Dick Termes.  His one-man show, Thinking In the Round will be on display through the end of this in Rapid City, South Dakota.

What can children’s book illustrators learn from his work? I think, that we grasp artistic perspective most easily when we think in a round way.

                                                                   * * * * *

Austin illustrator and designer Marsha Riti  gave a great interview to children’s author and kid lit blogger Tara Lazar, recently (and I’m not just saying that because she mentions me there.) You can read about Marsha’s path into the world of children’s books and the art history that inspires her here

Marsha has a B.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and is active with both the Austin Society of Children’s Book Illustrators and its elite swat team of  picture book writer-illustrators, The Inklings.

She also maintains what I would describe as exemplary illustrator’s blog. I recommend that you check it out — for fun and also if you are looking for ways to do an art blog right. It’s on our blog roll and  right here.

                                                           * * * * *
Tuesday night we conducted our first group conference call for the
Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! children’s book illustration course.
We looked at students’ work and just talked about it as if we were all sitting around in a studio classroom eating pizza — except we were at various points around the country — California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Texas, as it happens. We had all four directions covered!

And you can be a part of this!  Technology has made distance-learning suddenly very, very easy. How easy? Find out for yourself by signing up for the  course — and join the  meetings. 

You can test drive  a huges section of the course content for free, while it’s still available,  by going  here. 

                                                              * * * * *

And now back to our spherically scheduled programming.

Mark Mitchell hosts the How to be a Children’s Book Illustrator  blog.

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17. “Toast” and “Toons”


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Could it have been the book trailer that led to the exciting auction in New York for the picture book proposal Toast Friday?

Or was it just the exquisite color illustrations by illustrator-author and animation concept artist Clint Young of Austin, Texas?

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18. “Toast” Trumps


Could it have been the book trailer that led to the exciting  publishers’ auction for the picture book proposal Toast Friday?

Or was it just the exquisite digital and mixed media paintings by illustrator-author and animation concept artist Clint Young.

Young’s imagery for his story of Toast, a sweet pig on a quest for someone to love him has been causing jaws to drop wherever it’s been shown at gatherings and critique groups and Austin chapter meetings of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

Agents and editors first noticed his portfolio at the annual regional conference of Austin SCBWI that was held last May at the University of Texas Club. There Young met Little, Brown and Company Editor Alvina Ling and agent Erin Murphy who both expressed a strong interest in the project.

Over the many months that the work sat at the offices of Little, Brown,  Toast portraits began to show up in Young’s art blog, as the former LucasFilm animation concept artist developed and redeveloped his notions  and story and talked about his attachment to his character.

Young’s agent Erin Murphy put the project up for auction last week and it wasn’t just publishers bidding, but a  film studio, The Weinstein Company.

In the end, Toast went under contract to Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. Liz Szabla will edit.

We’ll have the fun of covering this story as it unfolds in coming months since
Clint is a regular member of our Central Market Cafe Inklings, (picture book author-illustrator critique group.)

                                                                      * * * * *

5 Comments on “Toast” Trumps, last added: 5/22/2009
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19. Drawing Lesson: “Snow Scene by Jon Gnagy”


Jon Gnagy was the first artist to draw pictures on television, and I was there! I mean, in front of the TV screen. I may not have been in school yet.
“We would both watch him and be spellbound,” my mother tells me.

Shadows and shading, the cube, the ball, the cylinder and the cone…
The lessons were simple, though dazzling as magic tricks for the millions of children who watched him.

Andy Warhol learned to draw from him, or so he said.

Mr. Gnagy, who was self-taught, was an advertising art director in New York before offering weekly art courses on television in 1946. His NBC-TV program was called ”You Are An Artist.” He switched to CBS-TV in 1950,” reported the New York Times in his obituary.

He passed away on March 7, 1981 at the age of 74.

A plain-talking midwesterner, the son of Hungarian – Swiss Mennonites, Gnagy did attend some evening classes at the Kansas City Art Institute as a young man. He became a company art director who won prizes for his paintings and poster designs.

There’s a wonderful (2006) article about him at the Dali House blog by crackerjack  arts writer and journalist Paul Dorsey.

Gnagy was not paid anything for the 700 telecasts he did over 14 years at the CBS and NBC networks, Dorsey says.  His revenue came from royalties on the sales of millions of  his art sets, “The John Gnagy Learn to Draw Outfit.”

I finally became the proud owner of one of these, at the age of six or seven. The kit had gray pastels to go with the black (and white) pastels and charcoal. The gray pastels were for stuff  like shadows. That seemed terribly interesting and sophisticated to me.

Alas, I lacked the concentration to stay with most of his exercises. His subjects — barns in the woods and vegetable-filled baskets on toolshed tables — seemed a little overwhelming and hard.  (I’d never be as good as him.) But, oh, how the thought of those lessons tantalized.

Maybe I should find another Learn to Draw set.  (You can still buy them!)
Really buckle down this time.

Because it’s never too late to ponder the cube, the ball,  the cylinder and the cone –  ahh, and those marvelous snow shadows.

* * * * *

Mark Mitchell, the host of “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator” is blogging tonight because he’s so behind in writing Session #12 of his course.

2 Comments on Drawing Lesson: “Snow Scene by Jon Gnagy”, last added: 5/24/2009
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20. Terrific Toons


“Graphic novels” for little bitty kids?

Comics for children age four and up?

Just Pretend" by Geoffrey Hayes

"Just Pretend" by Geoffrey Hayes

Not such a preposterous idea.  The intuitive narrative form of comics is a whole another kind of reading: Searching panels and pictures  along with words for clues to events big and small in the story is an immersion narrative experience.  It’s more active than watching video on a screen.

My “great books” education came from Classics Illustrated comics, which I loved.  Did they ruin my appetite for dinner?

Heck no, I read plenty of  real classics later. My readings of the actual Men Against the Sea,  The Dark Frigate, King Solomon’s Mines, Frankenstein, David Copperfield, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and so many more  were only enhanced by my first reading their comic book counterparts.

(In many cases the comics reading was a richer experience than plowing through the actual classic texts. Maybe that says more about me than any literary works. However  that’s a story for another post.)

Thank you, Albert Kanter for the great contribution you made to kid culture with the Classic Illustrated series that ran for 30 years beginning in 1941.

BigNo-No

On that note, Toon Books, produced by Raw Junior, LLC , endeavors to make comics readers of toddlers and tots.

And who better to tease little ones with artful pictures and graphics into an early habit of  reading  than, well, another comic book publisher.

Or more precisely a comics publisher/New Yorker magazine art director.

Françoise Mouly is a veteran of more than 800 New Yorker covers, a mom, and the co-founder and co-editor, with her husband cartoonist Art Spiegelman, of the avant garde comics anthology Raw Graphics. That’s where Spiegelman’s family account of the Holocaust,  Maus, A Survivor’s Tale, that later won the Pulitzer Prize, first appeared. It was the first comic book to call itself a graphic novel .

Mouly also designed and edited books for Pantheon and Penguin in the late 1980’s and early 1990s. She was helping her first grade son with his reading.  she discovered — to her dismay — “beginner reader” texts.

She substituted for their home reading sessions her giant collection of French comic books, and that worked like a charm. It got her thinking, and in 2000 she launched the RAW Junior division to  publish “literary comics” for kids of all ages.

She enlisted star writers, artists and cartoonists such as Maurice Sendak, David Sedaris, Jules Feiffer and Gahan Wilson.

In 2008 she started the Toon Books imprint. These were 6″ by 9″ hard cover “comics” that very young children could read on their own.

Comics have always had a unique ability to draw young readers into a story through the drawings,” Mouly told an interviewer. “Visual narrative helps kids crack the code that allows literacy to flourish, teaching them how to read from left to right, from top to bottom.”

“Comics use a broad range of sophisticated devices for communication,” the Toon Books website quotes Barbara Tversky, professor of Psychology at Stanford University and a Toon Books advisor.

“They are similar to face-to-face interactions, in which meaning is derived not solely from words, but also from gestures, intonation, facial expressions and props,” Tversky says. “Comics are more than just illustrated books, but rather make use of a multi-modal language that blends words, pictures, facial expressions, panel-to-panel progression, color, sound effects and more to engage readers in a compelling narrative.”

JustPretend
I like the Benny and Penny series by author illustrator Geoffrey Hayes, about sibling mice — a big brother and his little sister and do they ever ring true! In the latest title, The Big  No-No, released this Spring, Benny and Penny confront the “new kid” next door.

In Just Pretend, Penny threatens to disrupt Benny’s make believe pirate game (because she needs a hug).  But they somehow manage to play together. When Penny momentarily disappears in a game of hide and seek, Benny decides that pretending is better with his sister around than not.

Hayes has written and illustrated about 40 books, including early readers and a Margaret Wise Brown title, When the Wind Blew. The Big No-No and  Just Pretend are gently rendered in colored pencil and beautifully orchestrated and paced. The pages are a joy to experience. The little dialogue balloons are so natural and unobtrusive. The books give you the feeling that you’re eavesdropping on the real conversations of real children.

You can read a fascinating interview with Hayes on the  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.

indexfall_01 I haven’t yet  seen Stinky about a polka-dotted swamp monster whose turf gets invaded by a little boy. It’s creator is a 25 year old rising comics star Eleanor Davis,  a recent graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The American Library Association named Stinky its Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book for  this year.

Jack and the Box" by Art Spiegelman

The big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

The big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

Luke on the Loose" by Harry Bliss

"Luke on the Loose" by Harry Bliss

* * * * *

Mark Mitchell hosts “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator.” To sample some free lessons from his online course on children’s book illustration, go here.

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21. Terrific “Toons”


“Graphic novels” for little bitty kids?

Comics for children age four and up?

Just Pretend

"Just Pretend"

Not such a preposterous idea.  The intuitive narrative form of comics is a whole another kind of reading.

Searching words, pictures and panels for clues to events big and small in a story is a more active experience than watching video on a screen.

My “great books” education came from Classics Illustrated comics, which I loved.  Did they ruin my appetite for dinner?

Heck no, I read plenty of  real classics later. My readings of the actual Men Against the Sea, The Dark Frigate, King Solomon’s Mines, Frankenstein, David Copperfield, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and so many more  were only enhanced by my first reading their comic book counterparts.

(In many cases the comics reading was a richer experience than plowing through the actual classic texts. Maybe that says more about me than any literary works. However  that’s a story for another post.)

Thank you, Albert Kanter for the great contribution you made to kid culture with the Classic Illustrated series that ran for 30 years beginning in 1941.

On that note, Toon Books, produced by Raw Junior, LLC , endeavors to make comics readers of toddlers and tots.

Just Pretend

"Just Pretend"

And who better to tease little ones with artful pictures and graphics into an early habit of  reading  than, well, another comic book publisher.

And, in this case, someone who is also a New Yorker magazine art director.

Françoise Mouly is a veteran of more than 800 New Yorker covers, a mom, and the co-founder and co-editor, with her husband cartoonist Art Spiegelman, of the avant garde comics anthology Raw Graphics. That’s where Spiegelman’s family account of the Holocaust,  Maus, A Survivor’s Tale, that later won the Pulitzer Prize, first appeared. It was the first comic book to call itself a graphic novel .

Mouly also designed and edited books for Pantheon and Penguin in the late 1980’s and early 1990s. She was helping her first grade son with his reading.  she discovered — to her dismay — “beginner reader” texts.

She substituted for their home reading sessions her giant collection of French comic books, and that worked like a charm. It got her thinking, and in 2000 she launched the RAW Junior division to  publish “literary comics” for kids of all ages.

She enlisted star writers, artists and cartoonists such as Maurice Sendak, David Sedaris, Jules Feiffer and Gahan Wilson.

In 2008 she started the Toon Books imprint. These were 6″ by 9″ hard cover “comics” that very young children could read on their own.

“Comics have always had a unique ability to draw young readers into a story through the drawings,” Mouly told an interviewer. “Visual narrative helps kids crack the code that allows literacy to flourish, teaching them how to read from left to right, from top to bottom.”

“Comics use a broad range of sophisticated devices for communication,” the Toon Books website quotes Barbara Tversky, professor of Psychology at Stanford University and a Toon Books advisor.

“They are similar to face-to-face interactions, in which meaning is derived not solely from words, but also from gestures, intonation, facial expressions and props,” Tversky says. “Comics are more than just illustrated books, but rather make use of a multi-modal language that blends words, pictures, facial expressions, panel-to-panel progression, color, sound effects and more to engage readers in a compelling narrative.”

The Big No-No

"The Big No-No"

I like the Benny and Penny series by author illustrator Geoffrey Hayes, about sibling mice — a big brother and his little sister and do they ever ring true! In the latest title, The Big  No-No, released this Spring, Benny and Penny confront the “new kid” next door.

In Just Pretend, Penny threatens to disrupt Benny’s make believe pirate game (because she needs a hug).  But they somehow manage to play together. When Penny momentarily disappears in a game of hide and seek, Benny decides that pretending is better with his sister around than not.

Hayes has written and illustrated about 40 books, including early readers and a Margaret Wise Brown title, When the Wind Blew.

The Big No-No!

"The Big No-No!"

The Big No-No and  Just Pretend are gently rendered in colored pencil and beautifully orchestrated and paced. The pages are a joy to experience. The little dialogue balloons are so natural and unobtrusive. The books give you the feeling that you’re eavesdropping on the real conversations of real children.

You can read a fascinating interview with Hayes on the  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.

I haven’t yet  seen Stinky about a polka-dotted swamp monster whose turf gets invaded by a little boy. It’s creator is a 25 year old rising comics star Eleanor Davis,  a recent graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The American Library Association named Stinky its Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book for  this year.

Stinky

"Stinky"

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Mark Mitchell hosts “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator.” To sample some free lessons from his online course on children’s book illustration, go here.

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22. One Illustration Reverie; Two Real Deals


What does this short animated clip have to do with John Singer Sargent  or children’s book illustration?

A quoi ca sert l’amour,  a short animation by Louis Clichy, with thanks to illustrator  and animation/game artist Amanda Williams for finding this.  She called  it “brutal and adorable.”

If a child-friendly story had illustrations with these lines — and visual characters as memorable as these,  and color the way John Singer Sargent used it in his painted scenes, it would be some picture book, right?

I’m assembling my fantasy football — I mean  illustration project  — team here.

So, starting with the cartoon: What makes these stick figures tug at your emotions as they do?

The honesty? That we know these people? And been these people?

The “simple” (but oh-so-sophisticated) graphics with their varied perspectives and 360 degree “camera revolutions”?

All the fast cutting and surprise transitions?

The song? Edith Piaf’s and Theo Sarapo’s singing?

The subject?

Could some of this aplomb be translated into picture book illustrations?

Are these enough questions for now?

OK,  so let’s add some color and texture.  John Singer Sargent had a knack  for these.


Thanks to Chicago based painter Raymond Thornton for finding this.

I know.  Sargent is the painter who gives all other painters inferiority complexes.  We don’t now a lot about how he made his palette choices. (We know that he looked carefully.)

So enough with dream teaming. We’ve got some housecleaning items today.

Two powerhouse chapters of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) have announced their 2010 pow-wows — both set for early next year.

It’s Time to Mingle in Texas

Awesome Austin

Austin SCBWI comes first with Destination Publication featuring  a Caldeecott Honor Illustrator and Newberry Honor Author, along with agents, editors, more authors, another fab illustrator, critiques, portfolio reviews and parties.

Mark the date – Saturday, January 30, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  Get the full lowdown and the registration form here. Send in your form pronto if you’re interested — more than 100 people have already signed up. Manuscript crtiques are already sold out. But a few portfolio reviews are still open at this writing!

Destination Publication features Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky and Marla Frazee, author-illustrator of A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, and more recently All the World penned (all 200 words of it) by Austin’s own children’s author/poet Liz Garton Scanlon.

Frazee teaches children’s book illustration at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.  She and Scanlon plan to talk about their collaboration. You can read wonderful essays by them on this very topic here.

All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

The  faculty also includes: Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Lisa Graff, Associate Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, Stacy Cantor, Editor, Bloomsbury USA/Walker  Books For Young Readers, Andrea Cascardi agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency (and a former editor), another former editor, Mark McVeigh who represents writers, illustrators, photographers and graphic novelists for both the adult and children’s markets,  and agent Nathan Bransford.

The conference also features authors  Sara Lewis Holmes, Shana Burg, P. J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Jacqueline Kelly, Jennifer Ziegler, Philip Yates,  and illustrator Patrice Barton.
Read more about everyone here.

Happenin’ Houston

Houston SCBWI has announced the (still developing)  lineup for its conference just three weeks after Austin’s:   Saturday, February 20, 2010.  Registration is NOW OPEN.

It headlines Cynthia Leitich Smith, acclaimed author of short stories, funny picture books, Native American fiction, and YA Gothic fantasies,   Ruta Rimas, assistant editor Balzer & Bray/HarperCollin, and Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Collins art directs and designs picture books, young adult novels and middle grade fiction.

Among the recent picture books he has worked on:  Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, Old Penn Station and Rosa, which was a Caldecott Honor book.

The conference also features Alexandra Cooper,  senior editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Lisa Ann Sandell,  senior editor at Scholastic Inc., and Sara Crowe, an agent with Harvey Klinger, Inc. in New York.

You can download Houston conference info and registration sheets from this page.

No, you don’t have to be Texan to register for either of these big events. You just have to be willing to get here for them.

Remember that just about any SCBWI conference or workshop is a great education for a very modest investment.

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Speaking of  great educations for a very modest investment,  Mark Mitchell, author of this post and host of this blog  teaches classes in children’s book illustration at the Austin Museum of Art Art School and online. Learn more about the online course here — or sample some color lessons from the course here.

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23. Wild Things


Before the movie fades from awareness, let’s look at some not so exalted celebrations of Maurice Sendak’s strangely theatrical Caldecott Medal winning-story, Where the Wild Things Are, opera for toddlers.

From Wikipedia:  “The original concept for the book featured horses instead of monsters. According to Sendak, his publisher suggested the switch when she discovered that Sendak could not draw horses, but thought that he ‘could at the very least draw ‘a thing.’  He replaced the horses with caricatures of his aunts and uncles, whom he had studied critically in his youth as an escape from their weekly visits to his family’s Brooklyn home.”

Children’s author-illustrators  influence our world.  Like a good ghostbuster I have video proof that I’ll share with you now. Monica Kelley posted this clip on her blog,  My Place For Art recently.

It got me looking at more of them.  So next it’s Jammin’s Crazy Chalk Drawings — the Wild Things’ island rendered on a blackboard.

And Max in his boat:

Here’s the Disney version, which luckily the public never saw.  It has Max in his wolf suit, chasing his dog.  Except he scurries  around his home and room like one of the baby squirrels from Snow White.

This next one one has feet of clay.  I don’t know what the journalism school students were doing working on this project, but I hope they all got A’s.  I think they brilliantly captured the spirit of Max.

Of course the  ballet companies pounced on Sendak’s premise that always seemed more suited to dance and backdrops than to words.

These are but a few of the many versions of Max’s odyssey on YouTube. They range in kookinesss and fun. They demonstrate how an  artist’s idea can inspire a chorus of creative interpretations and loving imitations  — in this case, 47 years after the book first rolled off presses at Harper & Row Publishers.

* * * * *

We had fun at our group call last night in the children’s book illustration class — even if it was a call without sound. We saw some great work by students.  Learn more about the online course, Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks at this 0 Comments on Wild Things as of 1/1/1900

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24. ALA honors for Austin authors; SCBWI conferences and illustration classes for you


It’s been a landmark week for Austin children’s writers.  Three of our gang scored top honors -- a Caldecott Honor, a Sibert Honor and a Newbery Honor from the American Library Association.

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Our Austin, Texas  chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers (SCBWI) is a little dazed after last weekend’s 2010 award announcements.  Austin’ s Jacqueline Kelly received a Newbery Honor for her YA novel The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate about a girl growing up at the turn of the 19th century.  The  picture book poem All the World penned by Liz Garton Scanlon of Austin and illustrated by Marla Frazee was named one of the two Caldecott Honor books. (Frazee’s second Caldecott Honor.)

All the World

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

The Day Glo Brothers by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani

And The Day-Glo Brothers written by Chris Barton of Austin and illustrated with retro lines and Day-Glo colors by Tony Persiani won a Sibert Honor for children’s  nonfiction.  (From the ALA – “The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in English during the preceding year.”)

Our SCBWI chapter claims all three of these writers and we’ll claim Frazee, too.  So that makes four.

All four,  as it just so happens  had been scheduled to present at the Austin SCBWI regional 2010 conference “Destination Publication” next weekend (January 30) with an already honors heavy line-up of authors, editors and agents. Marla  is giving the keynote address along with Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson (Hatti Big Sky)

Another Texan, Libba Bray won the Michael L. Printz Award

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25. Conference debrief


More than 200 children’s book writers and illustrators (aspiring and professional) converged on a little Unitarian church just north of Austin for the 2010 Destination Publication SCBWI conference January 30.

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee talk about their many months of collaboration with each other and Beach Lane Books V.P. and publisher Allyn Johnston.

Guests and speakers arrived from Texas and everywhere for a day of inspiring presentations and professional critiques of manuscripts and portfolios.

“The most expensive people, all of those those who were trained by the great editors Ursula Nordstrom and Margaret McElderry are gone,” agent and former editor Mark McVeigh said in his rivetting keynote,  “Defending Your Muse.”

Still children’s publishing is  “not an industry in ruins, but in transition,” he continued.  He spoke about the emerging digital media and mobile media (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) marketplace.  But he kept returning to the sovereignty of language, individual creativity — and the Emily Dickinson poem he keeps in his wallet.  You can read  Mark’s recapping of his time with us in Austin and see the full text of the Dickinsin poem  on his agency blog here.

Later in the day, Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford elicited a gasp or two with his comment that he sees 15,000 to 20,000 submissions a year and might take  four to five clients per year from that pile. Yet his presentation, like Mark’s,  hit inspiring notes.  He refers to the Austin conference and much more in his  blog

Liz reads one of Marla's e-mails

Liz reads one of Marla's e-mails

“Designing the ‘page-turns’ is the most important thing,” asserted two-time Caldecott Honor illustrator Marla Frazee in an extraordinary presentation on the the picture book creation process.

“Use the page turn in the narrative when you want the mood to shift and your images to really stand out,” she continued.

“Save diagonals for the most dramatic parts of your story. They’re like exclamation marks!”

Marla demonstrated how she filled the imagery for  All the World (2010 Caldecott Honor book penned by Austin poet Liz Garton Scanlon) with imagery from her own life  — landscapes of the central California coast, 

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