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.
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!
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.
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.
As I’m going through portfolio samples preparing my new website, I’m reminded of one of my favorite cover designs. Last year, I designed The Art of Making Gelato with The Book Shop, Ltd. for Race Point Publishing. The cover concepts started with a desire to conjure thoughts of old, European gelato shops. But as the brand of the partnering Gelato Shop (Morano Gelato) became more clear to us, we moved towards a more rustic feel (as you can see from the final cover image featuring reclaimed wood from an old Massachusetts barn for my photoshoot). Still wanting to pay homage to the traditional approach to making authentic gelato, I struck a balance. While the end product successfully feels european (and a bit fancy) and locally rustic at the same time, I can’t help but still love the early cover concepts. This is often the case. I love revisiting early covers and remembering the process. These books take a long time to make. A lot of rejected images and file remain at the end. sometimes, I like to scoop ‘em up and tuck them away for later.
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.