Snow!

Hey there blog-readers,

I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful and bright holiday season. Today, we got our first taste of winter... it's snowing in Brooklyn! Weeee! Some of you might clarify it as "wintry mix" or "slush", but I'll take what I can get. Snow!!!!!!

And in honor of the snow, I thought I'd share a new piece from the season.


I'm excited to say that it was recently featured on Kathy Temean's amazing blog! She did a round-up and featured new work from many of her Illustration Saturday interviewees. Definitely take a moment to scroll through; there's some amazing work on the page. Thanks again to Kathy for the feature and for maintaing such an amazing resource for children's writers and illustrators!



A Very Merry

Wishing everyone celebrating a lovely holiday filled with all of the magic of the season!



Last InsideOut of 2012

Hey there blog readers,

The Forward's latest installment of the InsideOut series is up on the site. This was a hard article to illustrate and a harder article to read. In the wake of the Weberman trial and conviction, Judy examines abuse in the Hasidic community. It's worth a read and is, as always, well-written and thought-provoking. Check it out.
Stay tuned for further InsideOut pieces from Judy and illustrations from me in 2013!

Four hours

Hey there blog readers,

So you remember that lovely little children's book organization that I write about every now and then...?  SCBWI, you know, that one. Every fall SCBWI announces a pretty neat contest run by Tomie DePaola. Last year I had a bunch of free time and entered a piece. This year, however, was just a wee bit busy with trips and jobs and all kinds of stuff, so though it was announced months and months ago back in September/October, I didn't have any time to tackle the project.
The assignment: create an illustration in black and white (including half-tones) from a classic. We had to choose a passage, a line, or description from one of three books:


  • "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott,
  • "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, or
  • "The Yearling" by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

I felt terrible about missing out on an opportunity not only to create a piece of work in beautiful black and white, but also to put that piece of work in front of Tomie. I tried my best to put it out of my head... but I contemplated it in early October. I half-heartedly considered it later in the month. I spared it a passing thought in November. And in December, I finally decided to pass. I just didn't have any spare time.

Until the day of the deadline...
At 1pm on the 14th, I realized that I couldn't not submit anything. So I made a beeline for the studio, grabbed a pencil, and dashed off a sketch. I use the term "sketch" veeeery loosely... scribble would probably be a better word. I've been dying to try out some old papercut techniques after seeing Andrea Offerman do an amazing demo, so with that in mind, I set to work.

When the contest was first announced, I realized that it had been years since I'd read Little Women, so I picked up a copy for my own pleasure.

One passage that I loved was something that Jo says to her sister, Margaret:

"I'd have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled with books, and I'd write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie's music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-something heroic, or wonderful-that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous; that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream."

With less than four hours until the deadline, I sat down to work.

And at 5pm, I sent in my entry:

Thursday

Weee, it's Thursday!


Happy Chanukah!


To all those who celebrated last night and who will be lighting candles for the next seven nights, chag sameach!


Wishing you a warm, bright holiday filled with light, magic, and a heaping plate of latkes! 

Forward: InsideOut

Hey there blog readers,

The latest article in the InsideOut series is live!

It's been a rush-rush, busy week of work. Because of Sandy, this particular illustration ended up being a last minute, work-through-the-weekend sort of job. Despite the rush, I'm pretty happy with how it came out. After I sent in my first sketches, the art director liked the dichotomy of boys' world-girls' world, but he wanted to emphasize this difference even further. I love the idea of a cross-section of a house but was worried that the two pieces wouldn't come together. In order to better unify the piece, I brought some of the blues from the downstairs scene into the living room and some of the lighter living room colors down into the bookshelves of the basement.



Check out the whole article here.

Thanks to Naomi and Kurt for their art direction!

SCBWI Bulletin

When I checked the mail today, there was a pleasant surprise waiting - the latest SCBWI bulletin!

Guess who has a few sketches featured inside!




 Many thanks to Sarah Baker at SCBWI.

Also, be very careful when returning home after checking the mail... you never know when an attack-cat might be lurking.



Characters!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Just for fun... a few wee characters I've been playing with.




Lost Weekend


Hey there blog readers,

Last post I very briefly mentioned my SCBWI Mentees "Lost Weekend"in California. Lost Weekend was born last year after a few of the mentees from 2010 joked about visiting mentor, David Diaz's house and studio. This year, 18 of us gathered for a weekend of talking about art, illustration, and process; Q & A with David; meeting agents; cooking; and hanging out. What could be better?

David is an incredible cook, and we served as an army of sous-chefs, learning the art of homemade sauce, popovers, fritatas, "cheese-y things", and other delicious dishes under his careful watch.
  (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi) 

The cheese-y thing:
 (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi) 

At one point during the weekend, we had to stop work immediately because popovers, as David explained, MUST be eaten straight out of the oven
(photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi) 

(photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi)

In between all of the cooking, we spent much of the weekend talking. We gathered to discuss art, illustration, our personal processes, the children's publishing industry, social media as a tool for self promotion, agents, etc. David's house is a piece of art itself - spacious and filled with light and color - and I couldn't think of a better place to meet up with a bunch of illustrators.
 (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi) 

(photo courtesy of Jen Betton Rogers) 

  (photo courtesy of Arree Chung)

We spent a whole bunch of time in front of the fireplace, throwing around ideas.
  (photo courtesy of Andrea Offerman)

Rubin Pfeffer and Jen RofĂ© spoke to us about the agent's role in children's publishing and graciously answered any and all questions. Each agent had a unique perspective on the industry, and it was interesting to hear about their backgrounds and clients. 
   (photo courtesy of Jen Betton Rogers)

My favorite part of the weekend were the process demos. Each illustrator shared a piece of his/her process and did a short demo. Here are a handful of mentees showing their skills:

Debbie Ohi drew us a vampire squirrel on the computer.
  (photo courtesy of Jessica Lanan)

Erin O'Shea did a carving demonstration and displayed her woodcuts.
  (photo courtesy of Andrea Offerman)

We had not one, but three amazing watercolor demos -

   (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi)

 
(photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi)


 (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi)


At one point during the weekend, we were so cozy in front of the fireplace that a few of us did our demos right there.
 (photo courtesy of Maple Lam)

  (photo courtesy of Andrea Offerman)

David wowed us with a demo and showed off some recent work.

A major highlight of the weekend - everyone brought a portfolio of work to share. The caliber of work on that table was extraordinary, and I felt incredibly grateful to be included among this incredibly talented group of illustrators. 
   (photo courtesy of Jen Betton Rogers)

And finally, what weekend in California would be complete without a trip to the beach?
  (photo courtesy of Andrea Offerman)

 (photo courtesy of Maple Lam)

  (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi)

It was a whirlwind wonderful weekend that ended all too soon. I cannot believe it's already been two weeks since my plane touched down in NY. That being said, the weekend inspired a major wave of creativity. There are more than a handful of techniques that I saw over the weekend that I've been trying out. And since then, I've started two new dummies, begun a complete overhaul of an old favorite, and finished a few new paintings. 

It was probably one of the most inspiring and supportive weekends I've ever spent, and I'm truly grateful to be a part of this kind and talented group of illustrators. I cannot wait until the next time I get to see everyone.
  (photo courtesy of Debbie Ohi)

Many thanks to David for generously opening his home to us, to Rubin and Jen for providing advice and answers, and to my peers for sharing their work and stories.


David and Lily the Wonderdog

Forward

Hey there folks,

I just had an incredibly inspiring weekend out in California at the SCBWI Mentorship "Lost Weekend". It was an incredibly inspring four days spent with some of the most talented folks I have the privilege to know. I'll be doing a big ole post on the whole weekend, but not just yet. I hate to leave you all hanging, but this post deserves some quality time; I need to collect my thoughts, upload some photos, and scan a bunch of things.


But in the meantime, here's some reading to keep you busy. The latest article in the InsideOut series is up!

3 dozen balloons, 300 playpen balls, & 1 ring


Dearest friends and family and blog folks,

It has been a crazypants extraordinary week, entirely out of time. For most of you, Sandy was the cause. For me, partially so… but even more extraordinary… I got engaged last weekend. 

I know, not art… but you guys, you guys! There were 3 dozen red balloons and 300 playpen balls involved. How can I not write about it? (If you need to save time and want just the abbreviated version of the story, please scroll down for the last photo.)

We did our best to get in touch with folks, but phones have been down and inoperable; busy signals and digital operators echoed over the lines with each attempted call. For those of you we couldn’t get in touch with, here’s the whole story…

I left for Massachusetts on a Wednesday to celebrate J’s birthday on the 27th. With all of the preparation for the party, there would be little time to hang out and catch up, so she suggested that we spend Sunday after the party romping around Smith and Northampton. So, on the morning of the 28th, I said goodbye to two Smithie friends who’d driven out for the party (little did I know I would be seeing them later), and J, my sister, and I drove into Northampton. We parked by admissions and then stood looking down across Paradise Pond. (For those of you not familiar… this is what it looks like).

It’s a familiar and comforting sight, but on that Sunday, there was something different. Red balloons dotted the landscape, and one such balloon was tied to the swing. J was curious and suggested I find out what the balloons were for.

Shrug. Okay.

So, I trotted down the hill towards the swing, where a mother and a little girl were swinging. I asked them if they knew why the balloons were there. A scavenger hunt of sorts, they thought.

Hanging from the balloon was this Polaroid picture:

Pause… I know you’re going to read this next bit and think that I’m lying. But seriously, if you’ve ever been to Smith College and seen the chalkings for birthdays and the crazy crap my dear Smithie ladies do for one another, my next thought will not seem odd to you.

So my first thought – Aw, cute! It’s someone’s birthday, and her friends made her a scavenger hunt. And her name is my name. That’s adorable.

And I turned to head back up the hill towards J and my sister. J pointed towards another balloon, and, like a farmer shooing an errant chicken, she waved me away.

Shrug again. I guess she wants me to see what that one is. Okay.

So I trotted back down the hill towards one of the benches overlooking the pond. There was a second balloon tied to the bench, and on the bench lay a beautiful bouquet of flowers and this Polaroid:


I looked back up the hill. J and my sister were gone. With audible clanking, the gears started spinning.

Wait a minute… I’m Lisa.

Dawning realization. It took a while, but I got it. The balloons were for me! I turned around and around a few times. Still no sign of J or my sister. There was nothing left but to do as the Polaroids instructed. So, with a Cheshire cat’s grin, I picked up the bouquet and set off after the trail of balloons.

The red balloons were tied all along the path down by the pond. They led past the Japanese Tea Hut, past the path to the Quad, around the pond and down to the Mill River. This is what it looked like:

I followed those balloons for quite a ways. I didn't know I was getting engaged... I took my sweet time and a bunch of photos.


Finally, I rounded a bend and saw a big bunch of the balloons tied to a downed tree… and Ezra in a fedora and a suit jacket. And then I burst into tears. Not only were there balloons and flowers, but my dear boyfriend had made me a ballpit in the woods. Because we’re grownups.

He helped me over the log that was serving as the edge of the ballpit, and then there were many wonderful words and a question and a black velvet box with his Nana’s ring inside.

Of course.

And there was much hugging and weeping (on my part) and laughing and grinning and dancing in the woods in our makeshift ballpit beneath a bunch of red balloons. Because the future is bright and filled with all kinds of plans, and we’re going to spend our lives together.


We may have sat there in the woods by the Mill River for twenty minutes or an hour or six… it was a moment outside of time. But eventually, we packed up our ballpit, tied our balloons on tightly, and made our way back along the path. Actually that's not true... first we took a whole bunch of photos. HE HAD A POLAROID CAMERA!!! 




As we went, we slowly untied all of Ezra’s three dozen balloons until we each had quite a handful.


When we finally arrived back at the swing above the pond, not only had my sister and J reappeared, but my two other Smithies (I told you they’d be back) were also waiting with champagne and glittery confetti and hugs and congratulations.

 And that’s pretty much the end of the engagement part of the story. After that, we were stranded in Massachusetts for four days during the storm, but Sandy did it’s absolute best to completely miss most of Western Mass. We made the most of it and had ourselves an excellent little half-week away outside of time.

The end… for real this time.

As promised, the abbreviated version: