A VERY Special Day at The Carle

A VERY Special Day at The Carle

Last weekend was incredible!!! The Bharat Babies team and I had a very special story time and book signing at one of my most favorite places in the world...the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art! Book signings are fun, but this was especially moving for me. The Carle is such an inspiring place with so many of my illustration heroes on the gallery walls and the bookshelves. I was a lucky guys this weekend to be part of it.

It's so crazy exciting to see my books in this gift shop!!!

The Reading Library! Author extraordinaire, Amy Maranville read our first Bharat Babies book, Hanuman and the Orange Sun. As BB's flagship book and my first illustration project with the indie publisher, this book is INCREDIBLY special. I couldn't have been more proud to see the kids' excited faces as the pages turned! 

As an added little surprise (to the kids and to me), I did a little drawing demo. Luckily, I'd brought some drawing sheets for the kids to follow along! I'll confess, I was little nervous. But I think it went well. More than well, actually. It was a really special moment to watch the kids drawing along. Nothing is more sweet than kids making art. There's video...but it 's not gonna happen on this post. ;-)

The one and only OJO drawing her pal Hanuman! Ssshhhh, Ojo, MAY have been the inspiration for the Bharat Babies first main character, Harini.

After we were all drawn out, i was book signing time!

Another surprise that still has me a little emotional was "The Caterpillar Book". Our amazing hosts at the Carle asked us to sign "the book". The Caterpillar Book has been signed by all the authors and illustrators that have been to the Carle. This book (Volume 6, so far) has been signed and drawn in by some of my personal heroes. It was incredibly humbling and exciting and wonderful. With a shaking hand, I left a mark of my name and Hanuman Dada's handsome mug!. (Even typing this part of the post is getting me a little misty. Seriously, an incredible moment!

The Caterpillar Book!

The day was magic...and not just for the fun of book signing and being a part of something so sweet. To be with the Bharat Babies team, my husband, my Dad and friends who totally surprised me when they walked in the door (The Carle is a pretty good drive from home) made it all the better. So much love and inspiration on one little ol' Saturday afternoon.

A few "Bharat Babies": Me, Sailaje Joshi (our fearless leader and the visionary making books with diversity happen, Amy Maranville (The brilliant author), and Megan Boshuyzen (The one that make so much happen)

That thing where your Dad (a.k.a. "Big Time") endures many hours on the highway and wears one of school ties to come to your book signing.

The Husband

Surprise guest stars, JoJo and Bren!

The day was not without a few extra special moments, too!

He doesn't know I snapped this pic. But seeing my Dad in the Carle gallery made my heart swell!

Oh, did I not mention this? The day started with a couple of legends! Just before our story time and book signing, we had the insane pleasure of attending a talk with Phantom Tollbooth geniuses Norton Juster (R) and Jules Feiffer (L). I can't tell you how crazy it was to follow this act! They were hilarious and inspiring and completely wonderful!!!!!

Today was Super!

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Today was Super!

What a SUPER Monday!

Today is the launch of my latest book illustration project! I'm thrilled to be working with Bharat Babies on another exciting title. Super Satya Saves the Day, written by Raakhee Mirchandani, is officially available for pre-order today.  Check it out!

But, wait! It gets better!

What better way to celebrate this than with a little fun with Kathie Lee and Hoda!? Our book was featured this morning on the Today Show as one of this week's "Kathie Lee and Hoda's Favorite Things"!  CHECK IT OUT HERE!

One last WONDERFUL thing!

Our brilliant author stopped in for some Satellite radio fun with Hoda today. Thanks to Raakhee and Hoda for the photo!!! Hooray!

Hoda and the Raakstar!

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Recommended! Yay!

This was some super fun news! Completely delighted to see that the Midwest Book Review Children's Book watch recommends my learn-to-draw book I illustrated and created with Blake Hoena for Cantata Learning!!!!! I love this series and this book was one of my favorites! 

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Book Stop!

Today was a fun one. The Bharat Babies gang and I were at Annies Book Stop in Worcester, MA for a reading and quick book signing. It's always really sweet to share the stories and pictures with little ones. Fun day, Thanks to Sailaja Joshi for setting this up! 

Author Amy Maranville in the book-signing trenches with me!

Amy Maranville sharing the story Hanuman Moves a Mountain.

The Making of a Crow

The Making of a Crow

I'm BEYOND excited that my next book is an Aesop fable. Really?! For Cantata Learning, I'm illustrating an upcoming edition of The Crow and the Pitcher.

For this book, the fist step I took was to create the crow character. A strong series of poses from the beginning will help ensure character consistency later. References are always good. But they're best when you create your own!!! The evolution of the crow himself has actually come together easily. I fell in love with him immediately. It's almost like he's drawing himself.

"Thanks, crow!"

Here's the character sheet for this project. 

Now, it's time for the work! First step here is to start sketching on the blank layout with text in place. 

First page sketch for the moment when Crow get is is big, brilliant idea!

Sshhh. Don't tell the Editor, but I one to color before we even reviewed the sketches together. What can I say? I just couldn't wait!

First color test.

So, what I know about myself as an illustrator is that I can easily overwork something. So, my first color test (above) was an attempt to lay down some style and let it sit for a day or two...or three to see how I thought things were shaping up. Don't overwork it. Don't look to closely. Day 1, "Cool!" Day two, "Meh, alright, but I'll give it another day." Day three, "We are NOT there yet." I took down' some line weight, loosened up on shapes, and played with more color. Most importantly, I went back to what feels good and natural for me. I admittedly struggle with this idea that illustration should come so easily that I can do it blindfolded. Not the case. The is work, a craft. There's a balance between "what feels right naturally" and "what is successful after focused effort". I feel like I got there. I'm happy...happy to move on with this crazy, determined bird. Now, with this out of the way, I can be as focused as this crafty little corvus!

Crow and I are ready! Let's make a book!!!!

A Little Musical Inspiration for the Day

The studio is full of music today! I love music discovery...especially something like this.

  At Least For Now  by Benjamin Clementine

At Least For Now by Benjamin Clementine

It's a little quirky in places, and a lot beautiful everywhere. I stumbled upon him when I heard "Nemesis" on TV and Shazam'd it! Hooked! Love him and his music...clearly influenced by another favorite of mine, Nina Simone. Give is a try, you won't be sorry. Beautiful and all the inspiration I need to get through a lot of design work today!

Culturally Literate Global Citizens!!!!

Since Bharat Babies' inception in 2014, I've had the pleasure of illustrating a number of books for them. Check out their iFundWomen campaign and far in love with them for yourself...they're doing great stuff to bring diversity to kidlit!

Tales

One of my favorite side hustles is working with my husband on the promotional materials for his students' Drama Club at Lynn English High School. Posters, programs, and stuff.

The newest latest is for a staged performance of two classic (and unnerving) short stories: The Necklace and The Monkey's Paw. Michael's first concept was a warm room with a wing chair by the fireplace and a window showing the snowy night outside. I saw something different. I tried to work up a concept of images of the objects central to the stories in a mash-up that was to be intriguing and engaging. 

Jotting down some rough ideas

Sketch, sketch, sketch

Aside from the age-old notion that the customer is always right, the more we worked on the concept, the more I saw the value in his original idea. I still loved my concept, but I suddenly had a breakthrough. I visualized a scene like he first wanted, but I flipped it a bit...in perspective and style. Together (he a very...involved client) we landed on a concept of the fire with haunting, outstretched shadows. Michael was looking for a little distortion and a few warped details. I was envisioning something in a color-blocked and cut paper style. In fact, it brought me back to my first explorations in the children's illustration space. Sharp lines, Photoshop masks, texture, lots of shading and color blocking. This was a perfect opportunity to revisit some of my early techniques. In fact, I think it's a great style for me to explore. It came together so smoothly once I had this image in mind. 

The new sketch

Work in progress

Sometimes, for a project like this (one that marries illustration and design), I find it really helpful to place text and design elements right into the art temporarily to "see" how it's going. In the end, after a REALLY fast process, The poster came together really well. the poster is in production as I type this post!

The finished piece!

Mockup template available here. Check it out. These are fun! 

Ojo and Harini

Bharat Babies is a Boston-based publisher and consumer products company. Their mission is simple: design and produce developmentally appropriate books that tell children's stories about India's Heritage. (By the way, I TOTALLY lifted that from their site. I wanted to make sure I got he mission right since the work they do is SO important...and lovely)

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When I was tapped by the wonderful folks at Bharat Babies, it was to illustrate their very first book Hanuman and the Orange Sun. This book featured the delightful character of a little girl named Harini. She just MAY have been modeled by the Publisher's daughter, Ojo...one of the cutest kids I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I'm happy to say that the character of Harini caught on and ushered readers through a series of other stories published in the years since. It was an insanely wonderful compliment to hear from the publisher, Sailaja, that I'd captured her daughter's spirit and character with my scribbles! Delighted to get the call to draw Harini in her next tale, Let's Celebrate Diwali! Here's the cover and a peep at few pages:

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Drawing this book about how Harini and her friends at school share stories about how they and their families celebrate Diwali was a blast. Loved it! These kids are so sweet. And Ojo...sorry, Harini is quiet the little party host! When Sailaja and her family shared these portraits with me recently, I was over the moon! So amazing to see Ojo and Harini together!

(Click to enlarge)

Ack!!!!!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE these pictures!

And last week I found out that my Let's Celebrate Diwali days were NOT over! The book is already in reprints and the team wanted to celebrate THAT with a brand new cover! The Bharat Babies Design Extraordinaire asked me to bring some of Harini's classmates to the cover. I took this as an opportunity to introduce a new title treatment to fit the new art and the BB overarching branding.  Ready? Here's the new cover! Hooray!

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Be on the lookout for so much great Bharat Babies stuff! And check out their site.

Learn to Draw

As a kid, one of my most favorite things in the world were my learn-to-draw books. I mean, Ed Emberley! Right?!

As the Art Director for Cantata Learning, I seized and opportunity to illustrate their first series of drawing books. Not only were they Cantata's first learn-to-draw books, they were mine too. It was a little daunting, but an insanely fun project working with our Editor/Author for these books, Blake. This was not a typical book project where I could just await a manuscript with art notes. Nope. Since I was inventing the instructions that readers would use, I worked with Blake every "step" along the way. Get it? Step? Step-by-step? Forget it.

Also, since Cantata Learning books are set to music, we had to work together to make sure that the steps made for good text to make for good music. Super collaborative process...tons of fun.

A few weeks ago...samples arrived! This was such a great experience, they WON'T be my last drawing books!

 

Even more fun...this weekend I got to bust out a few sample for the kiddos as a party. Few things fill me with more hope and inspiration than watching future artists go for it!

Studio Wall

TPC studio got a new wall this week.

The Race is On

It's sketching time for my next Cantata illustration gig! In fact, we're already moving to color. Time flies! Here are some sketches and the first color page (in progress):

Love

Latest poster design. My husband's students are in rehearsals for the annual Spring Review. Time to get the show art and poster going. The original concept was a very rough, painterly treatment of the word love. Sometimes you know right away if a design's going to work. I knew in minutes to try something else. Round 2 happened fast....with just a few changes in direction. Keeping the painted stone texture, I went with a "shape" and form that was more graphically sharp and playful. This mass of swirling textured bubbles feel like a living, breathing thing with lots of energy. Whether you see paint splatters or rose petals, I hope it feels "love"ly to you. Final poster is officially ready for production....I hope the kids like it!

Version 1 of the "LOVE" art treatment.

Version 2 of the "LOVE" art evolved quickly. The first one just didn't come together for me.

Final poster design

UPDATE! The swell art department at Lynn English High School reproduced my poster design as a huge banner for the cafeteria!

A little inspiration

A friend and fellow illustrator just turned me on to Maggie Rogers. I love this song! This video! 

Read Aloud!

You guys! Last week was Read Aloud Day. All over the world, it was a call to celebrate the importance of reading and sharing stories. My client, partner and bunch of pals at Cantata Learning were buzzing all week with activities. My part? I'm excited to have created an illustration celebrating the event. Look for it on their blog in the next couple of days. We have a few characters on the team. I, for one, can wait to see pictures and clips from their visits! Keep an eye out on their blog!

Sturm and Durang

My husband, Drama Teacher at Lynn English High School, is bringing his students to the METG Theater Festival with Sturm and Durang, Four Short Plays by Christopher Durang. I've been tapped to design the t-shirt and show poster art. Super fun!

Off the the races!

A couple of preliminary, super rough concept sketches for a special project coming up. I'm so excited about this!

March on!

I can't tell you how much fun it is to see this book I illustrated for Cantata Learning animated and read by my pal, Shannon McClintock Miller!