Very Merry

Wishing everyone a happy and merry holiday season.

May it be warm and bright and exuberantly decorated!

Happy and Bright

Wishing everyone eight days of brightly burning candles, more latkes than a person should really eat, and dreidels that all come up gimel.

Autumn... my favorite.

Radio Silence and News

Halloo blog readers,

It's been a hectic few months, and my blog updates have been sorely neglected. Alas, this is going to be a brief one too. Just a quick apology for the long silence and a bit of good news.

I've been doing quite a bit of work on two new dummies, one featuring this little fellow (quick on-the-road sketchbook color study):

And this week, I made my very first appearance in Publisher's Weekly's children's book announcements! I'll have a longer post about this later on. But for now:

It's also worth mentioning that in the absence of my blog posts, I do post updates, sketches, and process images to both Twitter and Instagram.

Find me and say hi:

Instagram: @lisa.anchin
Twitter: @lisaanchin

SCBWI & Los Angeles

Halloo folks,

This update is long overdue.

As it is each summer, the SCBWI LA Conference was a whirlwind of good friends, loads of fun, and creative inspiration.

There was much hanging out, doodling, and goofing off with these two lovely illustrators.

There were lots of great patterns.

(With my first ever conference buddy, Kathy Ellen Davis, and Ashlyn Anstee)

 There were Mentees.
 (Pictured with Mentor, David Diaz)

There were costumes.

   (With Art Director, Laurent Linn, and Brooke Boynton Hughes)

There were cupcakes... and goofing off. Did I mention goofing off?

  (Mentees and friends celebrating birthdays)

There were so many incredible speakers.

    (Meg Rosoff)

   (Judy Schachner)

    (The stunning character bibles that Judy S. creates for each book.)

    (Marla Frazee and Allyn Johnston talking picture books.)

    (Editor, Justin Chanda, talked about Debbie Ohi's fab book.)

    (Aaron Becker sang to us.)

    (And shared sketches that didn't make it into Journey as well as a sneaky peek of Quest.)

    (All 1200 attendees skyped with Tomie dePaola, who was sick and couldn't come.)

    (And Judy Bloom inspired us to tears.)

There was even found-art inspiration lying around.


And after all of the inspiration and the conference was over, there was still more goofing off.

Yes, I said more.

The tree didn't seem amused. It was looking at something else.

And we may have gotten lost in a good book... er, books.

I left LA feeling recharged, with a sketchbook filled to the brim with all kinds of new ideas. As always, many thanks to the folks at SCBWI, the illustration board, and the faculty for an incredibly memorable conference.

Three Weeks, Five Pieces

Hey there blog readers,

Thanks for all of the kind messages and good wishes sent in the last few weeks. It's been a crazy and hard month.

It's also been a little nutty because, once again, I'm gearing up for SCBWI's summer conference in Los Angeles. Over the last slightly-less-than-three-weeks, I hibernated in my little studio and finished five new pieces for my portfolio. Whew. And now it's time for all of the last minute running around, pasting, taping, printing, and packing.

Well, ready or not, here I come.

Sad things

Hey blog readers,

I don't have a piece of art to share with you today. My dear, wonderful grandma passed away last weekend. It's been a long week, sad and joyful and overwhelming at times. She was 92, so this past week during shiva, we mourned our loss but celebrated the grand life she led, with photos, stories, and memories shared by family and friends.

Since folks have been asking, I thought I'd post a handful of photos and the eulogy I wrote for her funeral.

c. late 1940s/early 50s
early 60s with my Aunt

 1983 with me

 with me and my sister

      I was lucky enough to have both a childhood and adult relationship with my grandmother. In my eyes, she was a pillar of strength and a bottomless well of unconditional, unending love.

      Despite the sadness and loss she suffered, I never heard her express any bitterness about her life. Nor did it affect the love and nurturing she showed me and her entire family. Her children, grandchildren, and our massive extended family of Great Aunts and Uncles and second and third cousins all had the incredible opportunity to be on the receiving end of her love and kindness, often rendered in the form of her delicious cooking.

      Grandma was the ultimate Jewish grandmother. Our visits began and ended in her cozy, plaid-papered kitchen, where we were showered in edible love. From the Schneper family stuffed cabbage to a Thanksgiving table that sagged under the weight of days of cooking to her yeast cake, my grandma was a cook unlike any other. 

      About ten years ago, I was in West Caldwell for a conference, and I knew that if I told my Grandma that I would be stopping in to see her, she would make an enormous fuss. I really didn’t want her to go to any trouble, so after the conference, I called to tell her I was around the corner and would love to stop in and give her a hug. Without hesitation, she told me to come right over. She ushered me into the kitchen—her inner sanctum—and despite my protests that I didn’t want her to go to any trouble, in less than 7 minutes, a 3-course meal magically appeared on the table. I made her sit down and eat with me, but not only did she feed me a dinner far beyond any expectation, she also sent me home with two mangoes from her fruit bowl and a leftover turkey leg.

      Grandma’s do-it-yourself, make-things-from-scratch, attitude didn’t just stop at the kitchen. She built and decorated a dollhouse for all of her grandchildren to play with. She was a whizz on a sewing machine, as my mom has already said, and when I was a child, made me and her other granddaughters clothes and accessories for our dolls and toys, and when I was older, she helped me with my own sewing projects.

      She also did as much outside as inside. On one visit I remember we arrived just after she had been on the roof replacing a cracked shingle all by herself. She cared for her yard by herself well into her 80s, waging an annual war on the poison ivy out back, to be sure that her grandchildren, running around outside, wouldn’t end up itchy. Her home was a study in love, and in the heart that goes into handmade objects and into a so lovingly cared for space.

      When we were children, Dina and I loved visiting her in that house. We were lucky enough to spend more than one sleepover in West Caldwell. Grandma always had a full weekend of activities planned for us, from tie dying and decorating t-shirts to teaching us how to make her yeast cake to walks in the little woods in her neighborhood. On one of those visits, she also taught me how to make a bridge while shuffling a deck of cards and how to whistle with a piece of grass, both excellent skills that I still use. After these magical weekends, Dina and I would leave her homemade, heart-shaped notes beneath her pillow to find after we’d left. In our little-kid way, we tried to show her just how much she meant to us.

And as we got older and our relationship evolved and changed, Grandma never stopped showing us how much she loved each of us. Instead of crafts and sleepovers, she shared stories about her life and childhood, she asked us about our lives and art projects, and she wrote us letters when we left for college. These letters weren’t just a small gesture in thoughtfulness, but were yellow envelopes filled to the brim with love. Every letter always came with something sweet, usually a package of her favorite Swedish fish, and the Sunday comics. Not only did she send the entire Sunday Section, but she clipped out several dailies during the week. Every day of the week, she would cut out her favorite, “For Better or For Worse” and our favorites, “Get Fuzzy”, “Non-sequitor” and “Zits” out of the paper, date them, sometimes annotate them with her own hilarious comments, and staple them together and send them out. Finding one of those thick yellow mailers in my box at Smith would cheer me unlike anything else.

      My grandmother, like her home, like the thoughtful things she did for each of us, was a study in love and generosity. Her love never came at a price or with any conditions. She loved me, my sister, and all of her grandchildren wholly and with all of her heart. She was one of the strongest women I’ve ever met, and she supported and cared for all of us beyond anything most of us will ever know again. I am so grateful to have known her, to have loved her and been loved by her, to have so many memories, and like everyone here, I will miss her very very much.

 more recently with me and my sister


It's hot in NY.

Fox and I are both rather warm.
Fox, however, is lucky enough to be at the beach.

I, alas, am not at the beach. I'm keeping cool by standing in an aluminum pan filled with ice water while painting in my studio. It helps, I swear.


Hey there blog readers,

Yesterday was a very productive day. Not only did I send out all of the finished artwork for the penguin book I've been working on, but I also rescued an earthworm, started making my first batch of homemade ice-cream, worked on two new portfolio pieces, and found my way into the NY Times.

I posted it to other forms of social media, but I was woken up—in perhaps one of the best ways possible—by a text message from my mother, "YOU'RE IN THE NY TIMES!!!!!!!" I made it into the Metropolitan Diaries section of the paper. (If you're not familiar with it, it's a Monday paper MUST-READ. It contains little stories of NYC and often provides a much-needed Monday morning smile.)

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Diaries... next, who knows? Maybe the Book Review? Ever upwards and onwards.

And in that same vein of ever onwards, after wrapping up the penguins, I've been prepping my portfolio for this summer's SCBWI conference.

In the past few weeks, I've been doodling, not penguins, but a rhinoceros. Herds and stampedes of rhinoceroses. Rhinoceri? Rhinoceroose?

Rhinoceradical for sure.

The Writing Process: Author/Illustrator Blog Tour

Hallo blog readers,

So I just got tagged as the next illustrator in this neat Blog Tour. Jessixa Bagleyexcellent friend and uber talented author-illustrator—tagged me in this series. I met Jessixa at my first SCBWI conference in 2011, and from that day on, I've been lucky to call her friend. She is a super talented lady with an incredible sense of humor. She populates her watercolor world with all manner of adorable and trouble-making woodland critters, and her illustrations have amazing heart. When I first read her forthcoming book, Boats for Papa (due out in the Spring of 2015), I had to wipe away tears. This Spring, run, don't walk, run to your local bookstore. This is one you won't want to miss.
And now that you've all explored Jessixa's work and website, on to the questions...

1. What am I currently working on?

As usual, I'm currently working on more than one project. I'm just wrapping up the final illustrations for a picture book called A Penguin Named Patience (written by Suzanne Lewis and published by Sleeping Bear Press) due out in February 2015. I'm also in the process of working on new book dummies for two of my own stories. 

2. Why do I write what I write?

Life can be hard and serious and terrible at times, and I like to write stories that transport the reader somewhere else for the duration of the book. I like a story with a touch of whimsy or humor or a little bit of magic, but also with a lot of heart. My stories are usually born out of character sketches. I'm drawn to strong central characters, so when I draw a child or animal that has a lot of innate personality, I'm driven to figure out who he/she is and find his/her story. I also find that level of emotional connection is strongest when there is an important relationship between characters in the book. Many of my recent stories are about friendship, finding friends in unlikely places, and the joy of an unexpected relationship.  I want to connect to my readers through the emotional connection between my characters.

3. How does my writing/illustrating process work?

It always depends on the story. Sometimes I write a full manuscript before I start drawing. Other times, I find a compelling character/image in my sketchbook, and I write a story based on that character. I'm exploring new methods of working, though, and trying to develop stories simultaneously with the illustrations.

Really, though, everything begins here, in my sketchbooks. I draw and draw and draw, sketching scenes, characters, and compositions, sometimes adding lines of text or dialogue, until I've found my main character(s).

Once the preliminary text and character sketches are done, I move onto thumbnails using large pieces of 11x17" paper. The thumbnail stage is often a chicken-scratch stage, and most of the sketches are pretty unintelligible to most folks. It does, however, help me see all of the spreads at once and get a sense of the pacing and initial compositions.

Once I've worked through the thumbnails a few times, I make my the first dummy in InDesign and print it out. This dummy is just the thumbnails blown up with the text laid over these very rough sketches. I could leave the dummy on the computer, but I find that it helps me to hold a physical book and turn the pages. Then I can see if the breakdown of text and images actually works together. Does it flow properly? Is the pacing right?

I love making dummies. There's nothing like holding an actual book in your hands. After the first thumbnail dummy, I go back, revise my rough sketches until I'm satisfied with the pacing, and then I do it all over again with tighter, cleaner sketches.

Each "final dummy" has two or three full color pieces inside.

And if I'm presenting the dummy at a portfolio show or conference, I frequently "bind" it using the backs of old paper pads and sketchbooks to give it the feel and weight of a finished book.

The full-color, finished work inside the dummies are all painted pretty similarly. (I've done a few posts about my painting process in the past. They all start with a palette and some daubs of paint (usually Holbein's Acryla-Gouache), 

color tests,

and character tests.
Here I painted the same character, first using a combination of watercolor and Acryla-Gouache and again just using the Acryla-Gouache.

When I'm satisfied with all of the above, I move onto the larger finished piece.

And that's how I work.

Next up is the AMAAAAZING Maple Lam. Maple is a friend, fellow Mentee, and crazy talented illustrator. Her unending well of creativity and book ideas—picture books, graphic novels, and non-fiction stories—never ceases to amaze me. She is one of the hardest working illustrators I know, and she just wrapped up her first picture book, Two Girls Want a Puppy out next year with HarperCollins. Her whimsical characters and bright colors are sure to make you smile. Check out her post next week!

Thanks again to Jessixa Bagley and previous post-er, Brooke Boynton Hughes, for getting me involved. Make sure to check out their wonderful work.

Til next time!

Penguins All Day Long

I know I haven't been around much in the last few months, and you're probably a little upset.

I swear there's a good explanation.

I've been spending my days and nights and weekends hanging out with penguins because my deadline is fast approaching for these dapper fellows.

But do keep an eye on the blog. I'll be back soon with more paintings, doodles, and updates.

Nearly-Summer Fun

Wherever you are, dear blog-readers, I hope the weather is as delightful as it is in Brooklyn today. And I hope you're outside enjoying it.