Friday, November 25, 2011

Illustration Friday: Round

I've been drawing lots of birds this week. Meet Burly Bird (on the left). I haven't named the little guy yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Illustration Friday: Vanity

Happy weekend everyone. I have a few book related updates: first of all, if any of you pick up the 2012 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, you'll find an interview with yours truly on page 167. This year's format is really great -- it's become so much more than just a listing of publishers. Also, Scholastic books just released their Spring 2012 preview. Check out the picture book interviews for a quick sneak peek of Zoe Gets Ready, due out in May. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fairytale Town

Fairytale Town was a blast: great weather, great audience AND I got to sit on a throne. Really, what more could a person ask for? Here are a few shots from today's ScholarShare author event: me doing a bug dance with the kids, reading, answering questions and being mobbed for fun giveaways. After my presentation, the lovely Kristi Yamaguchi took the stage.

If you are in the Sacramento area and have children, you must stop by this amazing place. We had to drag my girls away.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Illustration Friday: Mesmerizing

Checking in with a quick Illustration Friday. Whenever the new chicks in the neighborhood hatch, they spend some time in a little coop. It is like a feature presentation for the dogs -- they sit in rapt attention with noses through the chicken wire for hours on end. Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


My custom bookplates have finally arrived! If you'd like a signed and/or personalized bookplate, please send me a SASE along with the name(s) for personalization. Please email me for my address.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Illustration Friday: Swell

Groundswell: okay, maybe it's not exactly the true meaning of the word...

I had some fun playing with pencil and photoshop rather than my usual pen and watercolor. I'm including both of my experiments. Happy Friday!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Illustration Friday: Remedy

Hi everyone! I had fun working on this week's IF with my daughter. (Mine above, hers below.) I explained to her what remedy meant and she immediately drew a chocolate ice cream cone. Is there any more perfect remedy than ice cream?! I am humbled. :)

I haven't been blogging as much as usual for the last month or so. We are attempting to sell our house. The process of living in it, staging it and keeping two kids and a dog at bay has taken up its fair share of time. Fingers-crossed for a quick and smooth transition so I can get back to more painting and drawing.

In the meantime, I have a guest post over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog. We're also giving away a copy of my book -- just comment on that blog post for a chance to win. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

T-Shirt Giveaways

Congrats to both Janel and Seekingzeal! I've decided to send BOTH of you a t-shirt. Please email me at bethanie (at) aquapup (dot) com with your mailing address as well as which size shirt you would prefer: extra small (2-4) or small (6-8).

For those of you in the Bay Area, I'll be at Books, Inc. in the Marina this Saturday (June 11th) at 11:00 AM. Please join me for a reading and activities for kids. Spread the word!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Illustration Friday: Asleep...And Some Photos!

For some reason, I've been thinking about symbiotic relationships lately. What happens when the bird who cleans the crocodile's teeth falls asleep on the job?

On a completely unrelated note (as far as I can tell), I want to share a few photos from my book party last weekend. What fun! My good friend, Gina Risso, took wonderful photos. I've thrown in a few from other sources as well. By the way, if you like the Buglette t-shirts the kiddos are wearing, leave a comment on my previous blog entry. I'll be giving one away!

What party would be complete without aphid juice?

Cupcake scavengers (another one behind the lemonade, too.)

Ladybug cupcakes: red velvet, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Yum! 

My "little" brother entertains the crowd.
Reading while being upstaged by a two-year old (my own).

I've learned that I make very strange faces when I sign books.

The kiddos (and some adults!) made Buglette antennae.

Me with my brother and sister-in-law

Someone is wearing a lot of stickers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Giveaway winners and another giveaway!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway for my picture book, BUGLETTE, THE MESSY SLEEPER! Following are the winners. Congratulations! (We didn't reach 50 so I'll hold onto that original piece of art for another giveaway.) Please email me your mailing addresses (bethanie (at) aquapup (dot) com) and we'll get your books in the mail to you:

Also, for those of you with little ones in your lives, I'm doing another BUGLETTE giveaway. This week it's a t-shirt (very fetching with jewels, as modeled by my daughter!). Just leave a comment on this post on or before June 3rd. I will give away one t-shirt, 100% cotton, screen-printed. I have size XS (2-4) or S (6-8). Good luck! As with the last contest, I can only mail to the US. I'll announce winners here on June 8th.

Soon, I'll be posting some photos from my launch party that took place at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA this past weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, the crowd was wonderful AND we sold out of books!

Finally, now that my "30 Lessons Learned" is over, I will likely take a bit of a hiatus from the weekly blogging. Hopefully I will be doing more Illustration Fridays. I'm also in the middle of another couple of projects -- still learning lessons from those and DEFINITELY learning quite a bit about post-publication "stuff". I will likely put together another series soon. Feel free to chime in if you have any suggestions. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Buglette (and a Reading List)

Today is Buglette's birthday! I'll be visiting some great blogs next week for a virtual book tour. In the meantime, don't forget to leave a comment on last week's post for my book giveaway.

In honor of my little bug and her escapades, following are some of my favorite books with themes that are similar to Buglette. I hope you might enjoy some of these titles (along with Buglette, of course) for a hefty dose of not-so-quiet sleeping and unusual but uber-lovable little characters:

Not-so-quiet sleep books:
Bear Snores On, Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Goodnight Gorilla, Peggy Rathmann
The Napping House, Audrey and Don Wood
Little Hoot, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Roar of a Snore, Marsha Diane Arnold and Pierre Pratt
How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, Mo Willems

Books with little heroes and heroines:
Song of Middle C, Alison McGhee
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty
Olivia, Ian Falconer
A Carousel Tale, Elisa Kleven
April and Esme, Tooth Fairies, Bob Graham
The Curious Garden, Peter Brown
Clever Jack Takes the Cake, Candace Fleming

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #30: Keep it simple (It's Giveaway Time!)

I am very excited to announce that I'll be giving away signed copies of Buglette, The Messy Sleeper. I promise to keep it simple, in the wake of reading this blog post (check it out for a good chuckle).

Just leave a comment on THIS blog entry on or before May 21st. That's it! You don't need to jump through any blogging, Facebook or Twitter hoops. Winners will be announced here on Wednesday the 25th. I will be giving away one signed copy of Buglette for every 10 comments I receive, up to 50 comments. If I receive over 50 comments, I'll add a framed original illustration to the giveaway as well. Winners will be chosen from a random drawing. I can ship only to the US. My apologies to friends abroad. 

So, go ahead and comment below. Your comment can be as simple as "I want a book". Please spread the word!

Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me from the beginning as well as all newcomers. Don't forget to check back here Wednesday, May 25th for a list of winners AND another fun giveaway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #29: Be Ready for a Lot of Questions

After the illustrations and manuscript were finalized, I received a marketing and publicity questionnaire from Random House that included questions like: how many Nobel Prizes have you won? Okay, that might be a small exaggeration, but it WAS eight pages of questions about my background, my education, my motivation, my honors, my media contacts, etc. As a first time author, it was daunting.

But, I slogged through and I am happy that the document forced me to think. It made me consider all aspects of my life and how they might relate to this new path as a writer and illustrator. It made me consider interview questions that have come up again and again. It gave shape and weight to my aspirations -- that felt good!

Here is one recent interview, this one is with California Readers. It covers some ground that (amazingly), I haven't covered in my blog ramblings.

PS, Giveaways will begin next week. Check back next Wednesday for details. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Illustration Friday: Bicycle

This is a quick sketch of some of my favorite things. Of course, bikes are front and center. (I used to race bicycles.) Now, my cycling time is limited to quick outings. Still, I feel like a kid whenever I'm on a bike. I hope that never changes. Other favorite things: tree houses, terracotta, convertibles, fountains, fruit trees, swings, books and art studios.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #28: Disco, Birthdays and Time

Today is Disco's birthday. (Disco is our 10 year old vizsla.) My eldest daughter's birthday was two days ago. My youngest daughter's birthday was a month ago. Starting in January, we enter our annual "birthday season" where nearly each weekend is punctuated by a birthday party for one of my children's friends. For some reason, they are all bunched up during these months.

When I sat down to write this post, I began to think about all of these events in our lives that require our attention. Our years are broken down into events, our months are broken down into events and our days are broken down into events. On top of that, I tend to categorize my time. As a mom, I have kid time and grown up time. Life can feel so fragmented! It is easy to long for more time of one kind or another. But somewhere along the line, I realized that kid time and work time are not so separate. I will admit that I often want more time for painting or writing. But realizing that I am an artist AND a mom whether I'm changing diapers or hunched over my drawing table makes for a lot less mental anguish. That is a lesson that I learn and re-learn daily. :) I continue to look for ways to bring these worlds together, rather than drawing lines between them.

I recently wrote an article for my Mom's Club about creativity and where it fits into life. I've posted some excerpts below. Obviously it is aimed at parents of small children, but I'd like to think that it behooves us all to find time to be creative in our own way:

As parents, our time is often limited and segmented. Finding opportunities to be creative can be difficult. And with so many demands from all sides, creativity may not be a priority. Still, I've realized that having a creative outlet is essential to my mental health-perhaps even more than it was before I had children.

Why it's important
 Creativity is your own. Time spent creating can balance the hours parents spend providing for and focused on others. The sense of "flow" while creating - much like meditation - is often healing and rejuvenating. And creation is about making something, even if you choose to keep it to yourself. In a society that is very focused on consuming, taking time to produce can be refreshing.

Rethinking creativity
You may be wishing for a creative outlet but uncertain how to fit one into your life. Before kids, I had weekends of uninterrupted time that I could devote to projects. Also before kids, I could easily clear my brain and really sink into creative work. Neither of those is true anymore. But over the months and years since my first daughter was born, I've found new ways to fit creativity into my life. I've learned from other parents doing the same. Here are a few suggestions:

Think small: Consider projects that can be completed in short periods or broken up easily into smaller chunks.

Make it your own: Choose something that you really want to do. Creative projects that others ask you to do can be fulfilling, but for a true escape, choose something without strings or commitments attached.

Take classes or lessons: Choose to learn something new or take a class as a refresher, even if it is simply to reserve a bit of creative time in your schedule. 

Start your own circle: A mom on my street has organized a knitting circle for a few hours every other week. It's been a great learning opportunity for those who didn't know how to knit before. It's creative, it's social and it fits well into busy lives. 

Join an online community: Investigate your interests online. There is a community for everything. I participate in an online group for illustrators (Illustration Friday). We are given a word "prompt" each week. I take an hour or two to make a picture, scan it and upload it. It is a simple, fun way to scratch the creative itch. Plus, it connects me to thousands of illustrators around the world who are doing the same thing. (Like me, many of them are parents who look forward to drawing with crayons even after their kids go to bed.) The online option gives flexibility-you can do it when it's convenient.

Jumpstart your creativity by becoming part of an established group: Often you can find local groups that bring people with similar interests together. For example, our bookstore hosts a variety of salons that focus on specific genres of books and writing. It can be inspiring and motivating to see what others are doing.

Simply take twenty minutes: Writing is a great way to reconnect with your creative self-the self that can easily become hidden underneath a mass of chores and to-do lists. You don't need a lot of time. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron suggests writing for roughly 20 minutes each day with no editing and no premeditation-just keep the pen moving to see what comes out. You will find recurring themes and very likely uncover some creative impulses. At the very least, it clears the mind in a most welcome way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #27: Order Up (Restaurant Supplies for the Illustrator)

Technically, I learned about these gadgets after I finished Buglette. But, they are just so awesome that I have to let people know. If I'm the last one to this party and you all have had these in your studios forever, well, then please humor me. :)

These are slide order racks -- yes, the contraptions in diners that seem to magically hold orders in the air. It just so happens that you can get them in various lengths and they hold art, too. What could be more perfect for multi-page work? You can see everything at once, move images around easily and you don't have to deal with tape or any other nonsense of the sort. I think they are filled with marbles. Maybe magical marbles. If you choose not to hang them on the wall and just play with them instead, they are the loudest rain sticks you have ever encountered. (Sorry about the ugly, ugly flash photography.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #26: Remember Your Audience

I want to take a moment to thank my faithful readers! I love your comments and interactions. Please keep visiting; I will be doing a few giveaways in the coming weeks. And now, back to my lesson:

I've been starting to contemplate readings and signings. I'll be doing readings at a number of Bay Area bookstores. Since I'm a visual person, I want to bring things for people to look at and/or interact with at presentations. Plus, as a somewhat shy person, I'd much rather share the stage than have it all to myself.

So, I decided that it would be fun to have a little Buglette doll to bring along as well as leaves for my little listeners to sit on. (Thank you Mom for helping me to sew 20 leaf cushions!) It always amazes me how much better kids do at listening when they have a "spot". I'm hoping the leaves will serve this purpose.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #25: Don't Forget to Have Fun (Rubber Stamps!)

This is a fun and frivolous little post about rubber stamps. Not long after I finished the art for the book, I decided that Buglette rubber stamps would be lots of fun. So, I did some line drawings and had these two stamps made.

And, indeed, they are fun (although clearly I need to work on my stamping skillz). It's taking lots of self-restraint not to stamp everything in sight. I'm hoping the kids at my readings will enjoy them as much as I have! (Today I even sent away for a few more.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #24: The Cover May Paralyze You

Before I get into this week's post, I want to let folks know that you can enter to win a copy of Buglette at Goodreads. As well, there will be fun giveaways happening here on the blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! :)

I tried a few sketch directions and everyone gravitated toward one image fairly quickly. After a few small revisions, the sketch was approved. (Whew, one hurdle down!) The cover image was straightforward -- it was not a huge challenge for me technically. But, I found it very difficult to actually do the cover. It had to be perfect. It was the cover after all. Paralysis set in and lasted for a while. And then, multiple rounds with the tiniest variations began. Thank goodness for deadlines or I might still be working on it.

Now that it is done, I am happy. I like the simplicity and color combinations. I also enjoyed doing the lettering.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Illustration Friday: Cultivate

It was sooooo frustrating for my 7-year old self that my new little brother couldn't walk OR talk OR follow instructions when he was born. I came up with all kinds of plots (not this one exactly) to make him grow faster.

I've been missing my IF buddies! I'm in the middle of a big old deadline, but I hope to get back to IF more regularly in a month or so.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #23: Book Trailers are Fun (if you don't have to do the work)

It seems that book trailers are all the rage these days so I wanted to make one. Or, I should say, I enlisted my talented family to make one. I just did a simple storyboard. Then my husband did the editing and animation (lucky me) and my brother, a composer, did the music (lucky me). It was a very fun collaborative project.

You can view it here:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #22: It's More Than Just 32 Pages

I'm realizing that there's plenty more to be done once the book is finished, i.e. marketing and promotion. I used to work as a designer in a marketing agency and thus, I like to think about tie-ins and promo pieces. This is a mock up of one of the pieces I proposed: a door hanger. It seems like a perfect tie-in for little dreamers. My publisher has been wonderfully receptive to ideas (yay!) and they are producing door hangers, stickers and postcards.

As an aside, two lovely pre-spring surprises arrived at my house this past week. One: my advance copy of Buglette! Having my own book in the house is a bit surreal. I smile every time I walk by it. And two: beautiful flowers from my friend that perfectly match the cover of the book. I had to take a photo...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #21: Swatches are a Girl's Best Friend

I have a drawer full of watercolor swatches. These are palettes that I've used for previous paintings and/or just colors that I've mixed together and like. The colors in each swatch are noted in abbreviations because I tend to forget what I've used. These swatches are a great starting point for paintings. When I'm first considering the mood of an illustration, I'll often empty this drawer in front of me and start picking through for colors and combinations that give the right feel. Also, because this particular project is multi-page, it helped me to hang swatches/color palettes with the sketches (all over my walls) so I could see how the various color palettes work together.

A quick side note: I was the winner of a fabulous onesie from Joy Nevada's Etsy shop. Her illustrations are whimsical and suited perfectly to apparel for little ones. Thank you, Nevada! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #20: Sometimes it Works the First Time

Just so last week's post doesn't make watercolor painting sound too ominous, I should mention that there are times when it works the first time around. After a quick color study, this spread came together just as I had hoped it would. (Mama, Spot, Red and Buglette are picking aphids for dinner. Of course.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Illustration Friday: Layer

The more layers in your tutu, the better you are at ballet. (This is what I've been told by some very young and very opinionated ballerinas.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

30 Lessons Learned, #19: You Cannot Bend Watercolor to Your Will

Admittedly, I learned this lesson long before I started on this project. Watercolor is very unforgiving. You can't go back in and "noodle around" with it until it does what you want. Thus, many of the paintings for this book were done multiple times. Yes, this may point to shortcoming(s) on my part, but ever since I heard Jon Muth's editor talk about his multiple takes on paintings, I feel pretty darn good about doing as many attempts as it takes. :)

Following is a case study of one spread from thumbnail to finished painting. I begin with quick thumbnails and character sketches. My initial crow was too friendly, so you'll see he becomes more intimidating as time goes on. There are a few color studies: I was playing around with tone and value. Should the crow be darker than the background or vice versa? I was very excited when I came up with the orange legs/feet. I think they are the perfect complement to the cool darkness in the rest of the painting. I think there were 2 or 3 more interim paintings before I arrived at the final piece (they must have been sacrificed to the 4-year old who likes to show me what I should have done with my paintings).