Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two great tastes that go great together!

Hopefully you're not too full from Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy some spaghetti and meatballs. Made with paper, colored pencil, and a little imagination, I guarantee that this version of my kids' favorite meal is relatively low in calories. Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Raising Voices

"And when you feel like your voice is away,
your throat may feel “froggy,”
you don’t know what to say...
Don’t be frightened, your voice is still there.
Waiting until you are ready to share."
-You Have a Voice

by Erin McKenna Nowak

Did you know that according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, it is estimated that speech, language, and hearing disorders affect one of every 10 people in the United States? It was that statistic, as well as personal experience, that moved me to write and illustrate a picture book that would encourage and inspire young children affected by communication disorders to use whatever language they may have. I also designed it to help children without communication disorders better express themselves and understand their friends and peers who are coping with language impairments, stuttering, or autism.

Now that I have my own children, I can see that every toddler and preschooler needs to be gently and consistently reminded that what they have to "say" matters, and that we, their parents, teachers, and friends, are listening. As I hope the little snippet of writing above shows, it is my intent to approach these needs of all young children in a unique way. Accented with bright and lively illustration, this book, currently titled You Have a Voice, focuses on how play and every day activities (like groaning to let mom know your tummy hurts) give all children a chance to use their voice, express themselves, and be heard. I believe there is a real and large audience for this book. Now, I need to find a way to reach it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

While we're on the subject...

I thought I'd stick with my beach theme, but get back to some illustration I did with children in mind. Behold, a surfer girl. I'm thinking she's a teen. Ever since I was a teen I've loved to draw "action-shots," mostly depicting dance or gymnastics. And I've learned that these are challenging subjects for an illustrator. You want the face and body to communicate feeling to the audience, but you also want it to look "realistic" to a point. Here I want to show how much fun my surfer chick is having, but I also want it to look like this girl is in motion, and balanced at the same time. I'm not sure I've achieved that, but it's on its way.

Since I've begun digging up old illustrations for stories I've written, as well as creating some new ones for this blog, I've learned a few things. Some areas I want to improve in are: perfecting skin tones, creating truly finished and polished works, and nailing down my style even further. I've been reading a lot of Tomie DePaola lately, and while I love him for a million reasons, I'm currently in awe of his consistency...even across story genres. I also want to spend more time practicing keeping characters looking consistent through a variety of situations. Now in the case of Jane Chapman's work with author Karma Wilson's delightful Bear series, we are talking about a cast of animal characters. Still, I admire how from book to book (and there are quite a few!) Bear and his friends look so familiar and uniform, yet are still rendered so artistically.

Sounds like I've created a few homework assignments for myself for the week. Better get cracking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunny day in Syracuse or precipitation on Peter Island?

I thought that a good question to ask myself today when I stumbled upon this little travel sketch I made while on my honeymoon. This month, my husband and I shared our my 6th wedding anniversary. Looking at this drawing I made while lolling around in the BVI, brought me right back to that November day by the pool. I looked out at the sea and mountains while it misted and rained...for a whole week. A whole week! And all in a place where it supposedly never rains two days in a row, let alone an entire week.

Needless to say, it was still a dream vacation, and I love how the colors of this quick, lively sketch capture the setting, weather, and my feelings at the moment I created it. I'll admit, all the rain made me a tad blue. So fellow travelers, artists and writers, do you sketch or journal to capture your feelings and experiences while on vacation or when you hit the road? What do you get out of it? One thing travel sketches always give me, no matter how much time has passed, is perspective. For example, six years later I experienced a brilliantly sunny fall day here in Syracuse, and while I may not have been sipping a BBC (oh, Bailey's, Banana & Coconut...I dream of you often!) on a private island in the BVI, it was still a GOOD day. And there wasn't a drop of rain...

Friday, November 13, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I know I said yesterday that I have a relatively well-formed illustration style, but every once in a while I like to try something different. Who doesn't right? Since I normally lean towards colorful brights, pattern, and ink outlines, this little drawing seems out of order for me. Yet these exercises in exploration always inspire me creatively and often help me narrow my focus when it comes to fleshing out story ideas. Here are two little winter cardinals cuddling in their tree hollow home. I am always mesmerized when I see a cardinal flitting amongst the snowy landscape and in this drawing I wanted to share the feelings I experience when I do magically catch a glimpse of one. So in an attempt to reflect the stillness, cold, and heavy quiet of that atmosphere, as well as the tiny yet powerful ray of delight and warmth the cardinals' red color adds to the equation, I came up with this. I'm also intrigued by the idea of the house off in the distance with it's warm golden color and plume of smoke. What are they cooking in there? Who is sitting in front of that hearth? Have they seen the birds? Do I need to add footprints in the snow?

And so the process begins...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stating my intention...loud and proud!

What's something I need like a hole in the head? That's right, another blog! It may be tough to believe, but in the process of streamlining and organizing my life, I've actually found that I need to add a bit more to certain areas. The trick is to let go of the extraneous stuff and only add the most important. In my case, the most important "stuff" are the things that support my goals and dreams.

One of those dreams has always been to write and illustrate a children's book. Somewhere out there is my 1st grade teacher Miss Rosen. I bet if you asked her (and she remembered me) she'd agree this is a goal I set for myself at age 6. Of course, a lot happened between 6 and now: the teen years (which I'll spare you), a BFA, a design career, a family, a business, and a whole lot of fun. Still, I never forgot this dream. I may have deferred it, but the entire time I was still drawing, journaling, scribbling, and plotting.

Now is the time to make it happen, and I hope this blog proves a useful tool in tracking and achieving my goal. Before I go, I need to introduce you to the spunky little character above. I haven't got a name for her just yet (perhaps that's something you can help with? Comment away), but she's the perfect mascot for my efforts. Her image exudes my illustrative style: a mix of watercolor, colored pencil and ink; wrapped in brights and reflecting a love of pattern. Her stance and body language speak volumes as well. I hope to bring a unique, strong, fun-loving, and enthusiastic voice to the world of children's writing and illustration. And just like this confident and hopeful little miss, I believe I can.