Wednesday, December 29, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #12: Working in the Kitchen has its Advantages

This was my kitchen before I started painting again.

This was my kitchen mid-project.

This was my kitchen near the height of chaos.

We live in a small (SMALL) cottage on a wonderful street in a place that makes me feel like I'm on vacation every day. We have amazing neighbors. And so, here we stay in a home that fit perfectly when we were a two person family. Now we are four and a dog. Still, working in the kitchen does have its advantages. For the stay-at-home mom, the studio/kitchen is the perfect setup. With two kids, nearly all of my day revolves around the kitchen: breakfast, second breakfast, snacks, drinks…you get the picture. With my art in the kitchen, even when I'm not actively working, I'm subconsciously working. I'm looking at images in progress and solving problems during the day. When it comes time to work at night, I'm often ready to dig in because I've spent so much time looking at the previous night's work.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Illustration Friday: Winter

Winter in Sausalito, that is. Happy holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #11: Enjoy the Ride (It's a Rollercoaster, part 2)

A follow-up to last week's rollercoaster post: my picture book with the uncertain future now has a home at Knopf. I am just beginning to learn the details. So, for this week, the rollercoaster is on the way up. It is a lesson in patience and humility as I learn to take the long view and just enjoy the ride. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the ride. My new mantra. :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Illustration Friday: Mail

Hive a Happy Holiday!
My neighbors have bee hives. They tell me one can order bees by mail. The text bubble will be lost on some of my international friends, but I think those of you in the US will recognize these words.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #10: It's a Rollercoaster

I've heard many people say that this is not a business for the faint of heart. It seems that most authors have experienced some disappointment after receiving offers for publication: they've lost editors to other publishing houses, they've had contracts cancelled, etc. If one is not in their shoes, it is easy to look at these occurrences as little bumps on the road.

However, I've had my first small "bump on the road", and from the inside, it certainly feels much more like a big old pothole. Well,let's just say rollercoaster. I received a call recently from Tricycle Press, the publisher of my first book. They are being closed by their parent company. I feel quite fortunate that my first book with them is still going to press as planned, but one of my contracts with them now has an uncertain future. It is hard to go from the excitement of an offer to uncertainty. And while I understand that it is a business decision to close the imprint, it feels very personal as well. My experience with Tricycle has been fantastic on all levels: they are wonderful people, marketers, editors and designers. And, they make wonderful, quirky books. (I'm a sucker for quirky books.) I am sad to lose this publishing "home".

Friday, December 10, 2010

Illustration Friday: Phenomenon

A chameleon's holiday tail phenomenon…

By the by, some of my work is on display in a juried show (of children's book illustrators) at the Brick Alley Art Studio. It's a lovely gallery and they have a Saturday Art Walk tomorrow evening should you find yourself in Sacramento, CA. I learned today that my work was awarded best of show. How's that for a nice Friday morning piece of news?!

My favorite piece of Friday morning correspondence, however, came from a 9-year old girl and her mom. They emailed drawings inspired by some of my work. I am so touched and honored. And may I say, this 9-year old is quite the artistic phenomenon herself.

Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #9: Find Your Own Art Directors

I am lucky. My husband is an art director (although not of children's books). He usually comes home after a long day at work to my pictures spread out on the kitchen table and a barrage of questions. (An art director's work is never done.) My kiddos are privy to a lot of conversations along the lines of: "Maybe it needs more blue here. What if the frog's eyes were a bit more menacing? Oh, is that supposed to be a wing?"

I find it so helpful to have other eyes on my work and people who will be honest with their feedback. Finding your own art directors is key. They may be under your roof. They may be in your critique group. They may be online. They may come inside 4-year old bodies. Recently, my 4-year daughter took a look at one of my paintings and said, "You know Mama, it's good but I think it could use some sparkles."

While the sparkle comment just made me laugh, her reactions to my work are often genuinely helpful. If she can't tell me in one sentence what's happening in an image, I know that the image is not succeeding. In addition to my in-house art directors, I belong to two different critique groups. With that many eyes on my work, it doesn't take long to realize where I have holes in my writing or images.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #8: The Answer is Obvious, Once You Figure it Out

People talk a lot about this elusive thing in writing called voice. I suppose style is (kind of?) the illustration equivalent. I was in art school in the 1990s. The picture books I studied had long texts and complex painterly illustrations. Often they were based on folks tales and legends that called for ornate period costumes. I tried my hand at this type of work but it never quite clicked for me.

Then a new generation of picture books was born -- they were simpler in both text and images. I really connected with some of those books. Olivia, anyone? I LOVE that pig. And I began to find my own voice in writing and illustration: simple and clear with a touch of humor.

In retrospect, it seems so obvious, especially when I look at myself as a person. As much as possible, I live a simple life -- I opt for simple clothes, usually no makeup, I'd rather walk than drive, etc. I wear earrings so infrequently that both of my daughters get excited on the rare occasions when I do. :) So, doesn't it make sense that my work would be similar? As I'm writing this post, it all sounds so obvious that perhaps it doesn't even need to be stated. But it was interesting to me when I began to connect the dots, and who knows, it may give some of you insights into your path or process. Happy December!