This past week in NYC wrapped up in the coolest way! Raakhee Mirchandani Singh, Bharat Babies, and I celebrated "Super Satya Saves the Day" at the gorgeous alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet showroom. Thank you so much for everyone who put this incredible party together. Kids in cape, books, cupcakes, bubbly, friends, family, fashion, laughs, and a few hugs goodbye...until next time! Amazing time!
After a wonderfully busy couple of weeks, I’m finally catching up with the blogspace! It was, gosh, about 2 weeks ago that Super Satya Saves the Day officially landed!
As a book illustrator and art director, there are times when work is about more than emails, deadlines, manuscripts and schedules. I’m so touched and honored to be part of this special project with these amazing people. Satya, Raakhee, Agan, and Bharat Babies…Thanks for making me part of this. I loved drawing this story! Woo hoo!!!! You guys! Click on the image below to catch Satya's story on the Today show!
You guys! A thing I did! Here's the trailer I created for the book I'm also Art Directing and Designing. "Being You" (written by Alexs Pate, Illustrated by Soud and pub'ing in August by Capstone) encourages children to be seen for who they really are—not just who they’re told to be—and challenges adults to respond with clear eyes. It's been a labour of love for everyone involved. We can't wait to share it with you!
When you're a kid, it can be hard to be who you really are. In the picture book, Being You, two kids learn that they have a choice about how the world sees them. They can accept the labels that others put on them, or they can let their inner selves shine.
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.
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!
So, there’s an old theory that you should never meet your heroes…you’ll just be let down. I’m here to tell you that this is not always the case.
Several weeks ago (I’ve been neglecting this blog terribly), I got to meet the man that drew some of the books that excited me about drawing!
The Worcester Art Museum (in Worcester, MA) opened the “KAHBAHBLOOOM: The Art and Storytelling of Ed Emberley” exhibit. ‘What?! That’s awesome!!!! The Mary Blair exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum and THIS just a few months apart?! Whoo hoo!’
I marked my calendar made a mental note to REALLY TRY to get over there after work. There was gonna be a meet-and-greet with the man himself since it was opening day. The day came and I thought, “Ya know what? The way work's been going, I’ll never get out of here at a reasonable time!” So I took a personal day. I carved out an afternoon for myself at the WAM. I’d never been there. Charming, beautiful place. I loved it from the moment I opened the front door.
The meet-and-greet was to be at about 5:00, so I wandered around the museum…AFTER I made a beeline for the KAHBAHBLOOOM Room (as I'll call it from now on. If you know me, you know I love a good rhyme.)
I gotta say, it was insane to walk through the room and see the actual handwork of the learn-to-draw books that charmed me as a kid…and as an adult. I was flooded with inspiration and nostalgia…especially since I’m drawing learn-to-draw books myself right now! I left and revisited the room three times before 5:00 arrived.
A quick trip to the gift shop for my Emberley swag (including an amazing coffee table book by Todd Oldham and Caleb Neelon), I returned just in time for an impromptu book signing with Ed. Signing, apparently, wasn’t planned. But this man is such a gentleman. He gladly endured us, spent time with everyone, and signed our books! And...BONUS…I have an original Emberley doodle in fresh orange ink on the title page of mine! Such a great moment!
See my face? I can't even play it cool. He's just such a swell guy and inspiration!
I’d been hitting a wall with work lately. This Fall was PRETTY challenging. It’s been a wonderfully busy time, but also a time with plenty of frustration and LOOOONG days. This was exactly the motivation and battery recharge I needed. I know, I’m gushing. But an artist (I’m ok calling myself this now. I’ve been called a lot worse!) gets inspiration from very specific places. And revisiting this insanely charming world of art, I found my happy place.
If you can get yourself there, I HIGHLY recommend it. Not only did I get to see the books I grew up with, I was able to stand nose-to-nose with some incredible picture book art I’d never seen before. Go. Do it. It’ll be your happy place, too!
Pssst, check out my pics below from the exhibit. Photos were allowed...PROMISE!!!
The first thing you see when you walk in!
This is awesome. For a telethon, decades ago, Ed was auctioning a custom, hand-painted mural. For a set display, Ed painted these luan doors so the viewers could see his art. The story goes that these doors were later folded up and used as a shelf in the attic of his home. What?! Can you imagine discovering this so many years later?
The Drawing Wall
THIS was an amazing wall. It's not every wall that completely transports you back to your childhood.
This gigantic woodcut was mind-bindingly beautiful.
It's a really exciting time for my pals at Bharat Babies. And it's so great that their stories are reaching such a huge audience. With the mission to design and produce developmentally appropriate books that tell children's stories about India's Heritage, BB is doing work that is so desperately needed these days. Now is a time to get to know each other globally. And any group of impassioned content creators doing just that through books for infants and elementary school-aged children, well, that's just awesome. In the case of this book, Bharat Babies Founder Sailaja Joshi, saw the need to bring the magic and history of Diwali to very young ready that might not otherwise learn about it.
Sailaja N. Joshi, founder of Bharat Babies, reads "Padmini is Powerful" written by Amy Maryville and illustrated by Tim Palin from the publishing company's collection.
So...no lie, while I'm putting this blog post together, and wondering what the next exciting bit of news might be fore this book...I got word that our book popped up on the Reading Rainbow Facebook page! Hooray!!!
Now, here's a peep at Let's Celebrate Diwali published by Bharat Babies!
It's been about 10 years since I walked (sometimes sprinted) the halls of ELLE Magazine as Promotions Art Director for ELLEgirl. It was some of the most fun work I've ever done. And it was there that I was reminded of the potency of girl power! That magazine was a really important moment for empowerment girls and young women. And I loved it.
Well, another reminder happened a few days ago, and I'm over the moon about it! I could not be more proud to announce that ELLE just published the article "How to Build a Feminist Library For Your Baby". The article was a short list of recommended books that contributor Raakhee Mirchandani thinks make the perfect library of "powerful titles about powerful ladies that pack a big punch"!
One of the featured books is Padmini is Powerful by Amy Maranville (and illustrated by...ME)!!!!! Hooray! It was really incredible to see this. It's been such a labor of love making books with my friends at Bharat Babies. And to be recognized this way is so incredibly wonderful! Thanks, ELLE!
An illustration career can be challenging, a ton of long hours, frustrating, full of long nights, and the most rewarding job you could ever ever ever want. Sure, we get paid (usually). But there are moments like this that mean the most. I'd been Art Directing for Cantata Learning for a couple of seasons before I started illustrating a few titles, too. Lots of work and a ton of fun. From time to time, I'd post sketches and images on social media throughout the process. A few weeks ago, a long-time friend of mine that I'd not seen in a hundred years wrote to me on Facebook that she'd seen my illos on Facebook and had gone and purchased a couple of the books I drew for Cantata. She sent me this heart-swelling video of her little ones with Little Billy Bison and Bear Went Over the Mountain. If I illustrate a thousand picture books for kids, I'll never stop being so moved and so happy to see kids leafing through my pages. Thank you, Kerry! This video means the world to me!
This summer, I had the pleasure of art directing another Sparkhouse Family publishing project. Rufus and the Very Special Baby is the first Christmas story from the publisher's new imprint, Frolic. Just the first season of books was, this title was a complete joy to art direct and design with the Sparkhouse team and the incredible illustration talent of Natasha Rimmington. We were so happy that Natasha was on board for more adventures with the fantastic characters she created last year. With another complete season ahead, we snuck this book in as a mid-season project.
I'm not gonna lie. Whether I art directed, designed, produced, or illustrated a book, I am always super excited about that day that my samples arrive! Days like today are extra special. As the Art Director for Cantata Learning, I art direct, design and produce anywhere from 35 to 50 books per pub season....twice a year! Today, the entire Cantata Learning Fall 2016 set of books landed at my doorstep...50 books! There's so much to be excited about here. But, I'll confess, I'm most excited to see 4 books in particular. This season, I also illustrated a 4-book series of books about where animals live...hee hee, and where they don't! Who Lives in a Tree? Who Lives by a Pond? Who Lives in a Cave? Who Lives Underground? Squeeee!!!!!
Today I handed over sketches for a very special Yoga book to my pals at Bharat Babies. What makes this day extra great? It's National Yoga Day! Check out a few sneaky peeks at Harini & Padmini Say 'Namaste'...coming soon!
Hey guys! This past year, I've been working with Sparkhouse Family as the Art Director for their newest line of books. Already in production with the second season and some wonderful surprises, Sparkhouse is announcing season one of Frolic board books (4 titles), picture books (4 titles), and a bursting-with-cuteness 40-page board book Bible!
This has been so much fun working with the great folks at Sparkhouse. What a wonderful bunch of people coming together to bring kids and families these very special books! And I couldn't have had more fun working with artists Natasha Rimmington and Mike Garton (and of course their superstar agent Lucie Luddington) from Bright. So happy to be making these books alongside this team.
A few weeks ago, I took myself on a little creative retreat. (Blog post to come about that!) I promised myself some drawing time. No deadline, no planning, no client in mind. 100% a pencil and me (…and an iPad). So many amazing artful moments came out of that weekend. But, the character development of this romantic little guy is chief among them. I love him. Keep an eye out. There’s more of him to come.
This morning an image of a lion popped into my head. It took me a while, but I remembered where I’d him before. Quick Google image search. Yup. That’s him! This cover is one of the things that brings me back to my child in a flash. I had a stack of Golden Books as a kid. But I think this was one of my favorites. Sigh…vintage children’s book art! Is there anything better?
One of the challenges of illustration and creating art this past few years has been getting my head around the idea of loosening up and getting comfortable behind the pen! If you know me personally, you know that this isn’t always easy for me. As a designer, I’m a planner. I’m a designer who likes clean, tight layouts.
When it comes to illustration, I’m VERY happy (finally) settling into a place of looseness and playfulness. I love working with organic lines and rough shapes. It’s making me incredibly happy.
There’s another thing I’m thinking about lately. Framing of an illustration is so important. The images in this post are two illustrations of the same moment in a book I’m drawing for Cantata Learning. The image below (the yellow one) was the image I started with for page 6.
This is the VERY dramatic moment when Billy Bison finds himself dealing with a pesky fly on his nose. My knee-jerk reaction and first instinct was to frame the image this way. Straight-on. Fly on his nose. It satisfied the requirements of the manuscript. Done… or so I thought.
When I moved from sketches to color, I realized that there’s a lot more potential here. Also, even though the fly’s only in the story for a couple of pages, let’s make him a character. Why not?! Here’s what I came up with:
There’s no reason this antagonist needs to be reduced to a black circle with two white ovals for wings. And now, I feel, this page has a lot more charm, emotion and movement to it.
Teacher/Librarian Extraordinaire Shannon McClintock Miller shared this picture with me today. Thanks you so much, Shannon! This is the first time I’m seeing my illustrations in the hands of a reader. Such an incredible moment and so glad that we’re a part of Team Cantata!
Today was a day of clowning’ around. I had lunch on the deck with my sketch pad and a TON of fresh air. This pencil sketch came so naturally, that I couldn’t wait to render it. Since the sketch made me so happy, I let a stab at a new approach to digital painting it take over. I gotta say it. I’m thrilled. This funny dude reminded me to have fun when I make pictures. i love him.
So, every publishing season (for the past few years) I seem to take on more and more books. One Spring, it was a couple of coffee table books, a kids’ book and a cookbook. Then the next Fall I was able to throw in another cookbook or two. The numbers grew…and grew and grew. But it wasn’t until I met the folks at Cantata Learning that I realized exactly what I was capable of in a publishing season.
I met the Joan and Chuck at Cantata in time to design their first season of picture books. The imprint brings music to the learn-to-read moment. The original and public domain stories and songs come to life, not only in the pages illustrated by some pretty wonderful artists, but also with the music accompanying each book (CD and online).
I remember my first meeting with Joan when she told me about the project. We agreed that taking these books that still fall into the educational category into a visual space where each one feels like it’s own trade picture book. Sure it’s a little more work, but let’s make these books special, right? Right!
“Wait! How many titles are you launching with?”
“mmm … about 30.”
“That’s what I thought you said."
Now, years ago, I’d been taught to lead with "yes”. No matter the challenge, you find a way to get it done. And so I did just that.
“Sure, I can totally design 30 books in the next couple of months on top of my cookbooks and origami kits under contract already.” (Naturally, this happened as I was entering my busiest publishing season to date with The Book Shop, Ltd. with books for Thunder Bay, Sterling Innovation and Race Point Publishing).
A handshake, a few laughs, and a contract later, the manuscripts and art started rolling in!
After a fun couple of months we did it. Last Spring we produced the first season of Cantata Learning books … and it was a joy! It was such a joy that I’m in the late stages of completing a 40-book second season with this amazing team. In fact, this season I art directed AND designed the books. I even illustrated a couple books myself!
No matter how much work it felt like, it’s not until you get three boxes of samples in the mail that you realized how much you just accomplished!