Sunday, December 12, 2010

My epilogue to Davis-Kidd

So as snow swirls down outside pretty much guaranteeing that tomorrow I'll be coasting on a cookie sheet down the backyard with my kids instead of working come Monday morning I thought I would share a couple of neat nuggets with the blog. I will get to my Davis-Kidd story but first, a sample of a book I worked on this summer:

This was a little board/activity book for Lifeway's Big Apple Adventure. It was illustrations over photographs - similar in design to Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny books. In order to get the illustrations lined up, I sketched them out on tracing paper, scanned the sketches in, placed them over the photos in Photoshop, then zoomed way in to make sure they really were lined up and adjusted as needed. When it was time to do the finish, instead of using my usual pencil line, I used a very fine Sharpie to outline each character. The solid black line gave each illustration a more seamless look when placed over the photos. Needless to say there was a lot more process involved in these than in my usual illustration style but it was a pretty fun challenge. Since I didn't have to worry about a background I got to spend more time on the characters.... and even decided to draw a few of my friends into the illustrations! Here are some interior spreads:

The back and front cover spread:

Look for it in the spring at all Lifeway Stores!

So here it is: I have my own little ending to Nashville's sob story about the closing of Davis-Kidd Booksellers. Twelve years ago, shortly after making the leap to freelancing, I was invited to submit designs for the tenth anniversary poster for Tennessee's Southern Festival of Books. Happily my illustration and design were chosen and I went on to create several marketing materials for the festival. At the time Davis-Kidd was a sponsor of the festival and afterward, a framed print of the poster was hung in the children's area of the bookstore. When DK moved to the Mall at Green Hills the poster was hung downstairs near the TPAC box office desk. Even though I think my work has gotten better since doing the illustration, I always smiled to myself when I saw it hanging there. So when word came that Davis-Kidd was closing its doors I anxiously asked a clerk what would happen to the poster. He told me to put my name on a list of people who were interested in buying store fixtures.... and to write down what I was interested in. A few weeks later I got a call that all store fixtures were going on sale. In 25 degree weather, with rain falling, and a just woken up Baby Sprout, I rushed to the store to see if my poster was still there.

It was..... and it had a price tag on it of a hundred bucks!

Now with a rational mind I can see that the framing alone was worth at least $100.... but at the time I was a little taken aback (and slightly flattered). They thought my poster was worth $100! Wait a minute.... I was going to have to pay $100 to get my "own" work back! I hemmed and hawed, called Jim Dear who told me if I didn't buy it I would always wonder what happened to it. He was right. So hundred dollars lighter, the Sprout, the stroller, the poster, and I made our way out of a crowded Green Hills Christmas shopping parking lot.... and home to pick out a new display space. Davis-Kidd may be gone but I'm glad I have my own little bit of the store hanging in my library.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sherpa Mommy

How can you tell if you are seeing a real live Sherpa Mommy? Sherpa Mommies are known for their extraordinary ability to carry an entire afternoon's worth of errands in their arms at one time. Click on the chart below to see the characteristics of the Sherpa Mommy in her natural habitat.

p.s. I also thought this would be pretty appropriate for this week's Illustration Friday theme, transportation.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia

Today I'm giving a shout out to fellow illustrator and SCBWI-er, Elizabeth Dulemba, on the release of her latest book The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia, written by Susan Rossen Spain, published by Sterling Books. The art looks really yummy. Sterling is publishing a Twelve Days for each state and personally I'm glad they picked a couple of Southerners to do Georgia's. Elizabeth is a whiz at on-line promotion and has lined up a maze of blogs, activities, promotions and tours to get the word out! The actual release date is Tuesday October 5th so with E's fab self promotion we can all expect to see this book's release in the news crawl on CNN by Thursday.

On a more serious note, it's about time for me to begin my annual holiday drum beat of GO BUY BOOKS! With 2 kid's birthdays and Christmas in the next 3 months our family can almost singlehandedly support the reading industry. Almost. The rest of you need to do your part too...... and take my recommendation of The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia as a great way to get started.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SCBWI Midsouth Conference

Every year I feel like I should write a wrap up of the conference..... and every year I just decide to defer to someone else's blog. Looks like this year will be no exception! For a much better overview than what I could give (since, hello, i wasn't in every session) check out the actual conference blog.

This year was just as informative as previous years. One of my favorite parts is always the panel discussion at the end on Sunday. This year, before taking questions submitted by attendees, conference planner Sharon Cameron asked each faculty member what they could do to speed up their journey into publishing. Their answers were as follows:

Patti Ann Harris - Be yourself and stay true to your vision

Ruta Rimas – Be professional

Ellen Hopkins- plunge into the next project.

Peter Clifton- have fun

Kelly Sonnack- Find a way to hook publishers/readers. Follow your heart, but make it relevant.

Linda Pratt- be flexible. and actually write, don't just be a student of the industry

Lionel Bender- Don't underestimate the amount of time it takes

Diane Muldrow – Be smart, do your homework

Tracy Barrett – Know what you can do

I did manage to get some new pieces done around work for my portfolio. Here's a couple more spreads from my newest dummy Nothing All Day

Friday, September 3, 2010

Illustration Friday - Dessert

Hotdogs for lunch and ice cream for dessert. This is from my latest VBS project Big Apple Adventure

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Work-at-home mom - REALLY??!?

This Dr. Laura thing is killing me. No, not the latest flap over the N word..... I'm talking about what I discovered on a recent trip to her website. To back up a bit: The Fry and Sprout have been at Grandmama's this week while Jim Dear and I did some massive house projects. Subsequently, having the gallons of free time afforded by a no-kid existence has allowed me to become aware of things that would not normally cross my radar screen. So while lingering over breakfast with my husband this morning I happened to read that Dr. Laura has accepted her own resignation from radio, presumably for some segment of her show involving the N word. I haven't actually heard this show (see above comment about my normal life with kids) but I was intrigued and, crucially, had time on my hands so I went to my trusty Google search bar, typed in "d-r-l-a-u-r-a," and was shortly staring at her official site.

What I found there made me laugh in astonishment.

Again, not the offending segment (I still haven't heard it), but the assertions via multiple ads and posting on the main page, that, as a mom, you could easily work from home. Not only can you work from home, you can do it with your child in the office with you.

Come again??

I am a mom and I work from home and - let me pause for emphasis - it's close to the same level of difficulty as achieving cold-fusion. I could be wrong, and could have the only kids on the planet that won't be quiet while I'm on the phone, but I am here to say that any starry-eyed new mom who thinks they can build a career from the spare corner of their playroom, while 2 year old Jr. chatters happily (and quietly) behind them, needs to get more sleep. Oh sure, when Small Fry was a baby it was a leeetle easier.... I remember taking my first assignment after he was born. The Fry was about a month old, and I feverishly worked while he slept. Which, little did I know, was going to be most sleeping he did ever. I met the deadline handily, the art director thanked me for the awesome work, and I patted myself on the back for having this work-at-home-mom thing down. Three months later it was different story. Now almost 5 years and two kids later, I have a drawer in my studio filled with plastic toys but the bulk of my work is done while my kids are at the cold, institutionalized childcare option known as our church's Mother's Day Out. I do work on naptimes, one ear glued to the monitor, while my hands and brain fly over the keyboard in a desperate attempt to be as productive as possible in a 90 minute window. And I work at night a lot. Which doesn't sound so bad until you add that onto a whole day of taking care of two naturally curious beings with a ho' lot more energy than me. Wonder how many CEO's of fortune 500's would like to make key decisions for their companies after 10 hours of that.

Now I'm not whining (very much). I know I signed up for this on a long ago Valentine's Day with my husband. I don't regret either having kids or continuing my career, which means I work for myself at home. But I do take offense at people like Dr. Laura promoting its relative ease compared to working outside the home. Women who choose to raise their children and work, not matter where the corner office is, begin a balancing act that puts Philippe Petit to shame.

The ads on Dr. Laura's site featured moms holding smiling children while typing away on a laptop. No sign of back strain from sitting with a child in your lap while also trying to see the screen. No tell-tale sign of important papers flipped everywhere or stained with coffee jerked out of reach at the last minute. No questionably safe office accoutrement's being handed to the child as a distraction. There was one ad that got it about right. I'll call this one "right before she missed an important detail of the contract." Notice the baby gnawing on her hand: she's bored and teething and tired of mom's attention being elsewhere for the last 35 seconds. Baby is strategically positioned to flip backwards in annoyance, wham her hard baby head into Mom's collarbone causing Mom to lose her grip on the cell phone while simultaneously keeping Baby from hitting the floor. The good news is Baby doesn't hit the floor. The bad news is an important piece of the cell just went skidding under a nearby bookshelf. The really bad news is Mom had been waiting for that call all morning, praying it would come while Baby was on a nap. Of course it didn't. Looks like Mom had a good start to her day, she got dressed - even managing to put in earrings - but she's not exactly smiling here. Maybe because she knows it's only 9:30, her cell phone's under the furniture, her child's wailing is drowning out her client's bewildered "hello hello's?" from the floor, she can't remember where her coffee cup is, ... and there's eight and half more hours before hubby walks back through the door.

No, she's not rushing to get her kids and herself dressed and out the door at 7am. And she's not dropping them off with some well meaning, scrutinized, and highly paid child care worker. And she's not picking them back up 9 hours later, on her way home to get through the frenetic bedtime rush before settling in to relax with a glass of wine and her husband. But maybe she should be. At least then she might get 15 minutes in the car to herself. 15 minutes to listen to the radio. Maybe even 15 minutes for Dr. Laura to tell her everything she's missing by not working at home.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We'd Rather be Fishing

Check out the Ripple Sketch blog for a great way to help the Gulf clean up efforts. Illustrators from all over the world are donating marine life themed art to raise money for restoration. Here's the piece I posted which sold only a few hours after being posted!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some new-ish sketches on a long day

It has been a freaking long day. After getting the Sprout down for her nap, I'd hoped to have an afternoon of sketching on some projects and maybe, maybe, even getting to work on my new story idea. After all the submission deadline for my regional SCBWI conference is fast approaching and this year I intend to have my dummy critiqued by an editor as well as an art director. So with baby quiet and Morning Edition streaming I looked forward to a few hours of creative combustion. Then the phone started ringing with calls and e-mails about projects that, well, I'm not that excited about but frankly the money's good. So there went my nice afternoon of sketching. So throw in baby Sprout being cranky after her nap and a contractor working on our new deck being ornery and I'm now sitting here sipping white zin, scanning in what sketches I did get done and saying thank goodness its 10pm. At any rate to cheer myself up I thought I'd post some sketches from the new story idea (not the ones I didn't get to today obviously) these were done over the last few weeks. The story is Nothing All Day, about a little boy (played by a mouse with attitude here) who is having, well, kind of a crappy day also.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Illustration Friday - Trail

Trail of Happiness
My first illustration Friday post in a while.... definitely the first since The Great Hard Drive Meltdown of 2010.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

packin' up and movin' up

Ok this time I'm not even going to come up with some witty story to explain why I haven't kept up with posting. Instead I'll just say 2 kids, plus one house for sale, divided by one house sold, multiplied by one move to a fabulous new house. You do the math. At any rate in my last post I explained how we were about to put our house on the market. . . and now badda bing badda boom. . . we are 7 days away from closing on the old and moving into the new. As I have referenced many times I love love love my studio here so I am more than a little sad to be leaving it, however I am focusing on the walk-closets and extra 1000 square feet my kids to get to "decorate" in the new house.

To give an update on my New Year's resolutions.... I have, in fact, started another book based on a conversation the Small Fry and I have on a regular basis. The title at the moment is Nothing All Day. I'll post sketches shortly (read: after moving). A few other illustrators and I have formed an online critique group and its been a great inspiration.

On becoming more loose with my work - still working on this one, but I have been enjoying being loose with the sketches for Nothing. My deadline is early August so that I can get it into the critique sessions for the SCBWI Midsouth conference. Having to get 30 spreads sketched out in 3 months on top of work (and did I mention moving?) means I don't have time to get jammed up drawing each and every hair on my characters' heads.

As for an update on Zoo in the Tub, the word from my recent communication with the publisher is that it is "still under consideration." Okaaayyyyy. I'm going to take that as good news. I have actually gotten very positive feedback from the other pubs I submitted it to, which while not an acceptance, is better than a form rejection letter photocopied crookedly on a piece of scrap paper and I have had my share of those many years ago. Most of the other editors wrote that they thought it was funny though just not quite right for them - basically the equivalent of you telling your girlfriend that you love her outfit but thinking I could never get away with wearing that myself. Oh well, there is a publisher out there somewhere that does dress in my taste.

To sign off here's a couple of sketches from Nothing All Day. For no other reason than animals are easier to draw than people, these characters are mice. I've been reading the Fry and the Sprout a spate of mouse-populated books and noticed that their (the mice, not my children) facial structures and very similar to people's. Enjoy:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bad blogger rings in 2010

Wow its been a long time since I wrote... that's actually really funny to me because I write posts in my mind all the time but just never make it from daydreaming in the tub to sitting at the keyboard. Or let me clarify, actually sitting at the keyboard doing something other than work (and surf Facebook, we must have our priorities.) At any rate the reason(s) for my 2 month absence are because my schedule for the last 2 months looked something like this:
Plan Small Fry's birthday party
Meet 2 deadlines
Plan the Sprout's FIRST birthday party
Meet 3 deadlines
Celebrate Christmas
Meet 2 more deadlines
oh, and did I mention we are planning to sell our house this year so that involves painting, cleaning, packing, calling realtors, more cleaning, fixing, planning, more packing, and yet even more cleaning. And our house isn't even listed yet, that's next week. I can hardly wait.

So not being one to make lists only about my headaches/reasons-I-can't-find-time-to-blog, I will share with you my list of resolutions for 2010. If you've been reading a while you will remember that New Year's is actually a big deal for me, as I wrote earlier. Here goes in no particular order:
1. Create another picture book to send out (somehow after doing one I decided I could do it again.) I haven't hard back from all of the places it was sent from my last post, but I did hear back from one - it was a personal rejection. Which in the world of publishing is actually a good thing. The editor complimented the story and thought it was funny, just not right for their house. But that is sooo much better than the crooked photocopy form letter. Yes I have gotten some of those too, but not for Zoo in the Tub. (One final note on my submissions, several folks have asked in real life if I've "heard anything." Honestly I'm trying to not think about it or talk about it too much. I'm superstitious enough to believe in jinxing oneself.)

2. Work on loosening up my work. Starting last year I really worked on not trying to make every finger on every hand of every child perfect. Sometimes I will get in a groove and the next thing you know I've been slaving over a square quarter-inch of an illustration for 20 minutes. It really puts a cramp in my hand let me tell you, and I don't think my work is better for it. So I want to put more fluidity (is that a word?), more energy, more life into my pieces this year.

3. Work on some licensing ideas. I toss ideas around in my head (more daydreaming in the tub) and I see posts go by on the various online illustrator groups I'm part of but I never do anything with them. Of course that is largely due to time and my lack of it. One of these days my kids will be in school 5 days a week and, when they are here, able to entertain themselves without my constant supervision or participation. While others refer to this as "that sad time when I knew my kids were growing up and didn't need me anymore" I like to refer to it as heaven.

4. Finally, lose 10 pounds. Ok cheesy and cliche I know.... but c'mon, i have two kids worth of baby weight hanging around. There I said it out loud and I think 10 is a realistic goal... surely in 12 months I can lose 10 freakin' pounds.

So thats it. We'll see how I do with this (especially the weight thing) when the stress of more deadlines and moving kicks in in a few months. But for the time being I'm going to sign off, go eat my vegetarian lasagna and take my sketchbook to bed. Happy 2010 ya'll.