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


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:

Life, Little Fox, and Cookies

Hey there blog readers,

Many thanks to all of the folks who checked in after Sandy. We were lucky; our building and neighborhood were just fine, and our loved ones made it through safe and sound. And for the first time since the storm, I can see lights on in most of the buildings in lower Manhattan. I have a lot to be thankful for this week.

Since getting back to Brooklyn, I've been volunteering at a few different places nearby, trying to help those hit hardest by the storm. It feels good to be useful, but at the same time, it's hard knowing that there are so many other folks out there still in need of even the basest of needs - somewhere warm to sleep, a hot meal, clean water, and a little bit of light.

I needed something to cheer me up, so as usual, I grabbed a pencil and started drawing. This little fox found his way onto my drawing table and made me smile.

And later, needing further comfort, I made orange-chocolate biscotti and a cup of tea.