Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sleepy Bees

 I'm currently working on the cover art for a Highlights Hidden Pictures issue. 
This is the base layer, drawn in pencil. I've started adding color in photoshop.
 Five fish are hiding.

 Color blocked in roughly.

 The final piece. 
 This may be the best cover to date that I've produced for this publication.
 Thanks to the inherent charming nature of bees who do actually curl up to sleep in their flowers.

My Latest Book: The Sunrise Band

 I received my advance copies of The Sunrise Band a little while ago! The books turned out great, thanks to Jeff Dinardo of Red Chair Press; author and art director. Their Funny Bone Readers  series combine humor with gentle lessons about character development and healthy living. The books will not be available from the publisher until January.
  This story is all about cooperation.  Owl plays her classical violin at night, keeping Lizard awake. Lizard's jazzy sax keeps owl irritated in the daytime. What will they do?  (Throwing rocks or sand is not an option!) 
  I made postcards and bookmarks which I will send out soon. 
  Some of the illustrations are here:  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The birds, the Witch and their Wardrobes

  Just finished this illustration for Ranger Rick magazine's February issue. The page, a regular feature called Ask Rick, answers readers' questions about wildlife, as in"Why do birds always face the same direction when they are sitting on a wire? "  Good question! The answer is: because they use the resistance of the wind  to take off; just like an airplane does.
   Half way through the illustration I began to wonder what I had tackled. This was a bit of a perspective challenge! There are  some things I would change now, but  here it is. 

                                                              And a different take.

 This assignment required a white background to accommodate text. But I have a little layering exercise I've been applying lately after assignments are finished which allows me to play with added depth and  atmosphere. My hope is that it help brings my work into more of a narrative mode. 
 I let some text wander into this one.  It turned out to look a bit like an antique postcard .
My  preference for colors is decidedly turning toward the muted. And winter's grey days are coming. I am asked to do so many bright and cheery colors that it's a relief to do some work in sombre tones.  I'm also trying to be aware of the size of eyes. I reduced the eyes of the boy in this version to be a bit less cartoony.

 Halloween was a bit uneventful here. Rain on the pumpkins, and lots of wind in the willows. That, and the spectre of deadlines!  Here's a little study I did in preparation for a personal painting I am working on that I started last year. Her name is Jane Disdain. A character for my own book.

                                                      Here is the original post of the sketch.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

100 Degrees and Snowing

  A cover for High Five magazine. 
   We've had record heat temps the last few days! But it's winter already in Illustration Land! 
 Uh-oh, hold on, little squirrel! I think she'll be OK. 
 It's January now. Record chill.  Polar vortex  descending again, making outdoor activity actually dangerous! Keep warm, kids. Here's the final printed cover:

An article for Ranger Rick about snow and how the right conditions of precipitation make the perfect packing snow. I really had fun with these kids;  playing around with the expressions and the spirit of the fight.
Thanks to Billl Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes for some snowman inspiration. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Shel's Bat

About a month ago I was asked to illustrate a page for a first grade poetry anthology.  An  interesting thing happened. I sketched the bat as requested but the publisher found out they could not legally print another illustration along with a poem by Shel Silverstein. So my bat was left out in the printed piece and replaced with  Shel's bat, which is OK, but heck, I like my bat better ( apologies to Shel, rest his soul). But it's all good.

This inspired me to write a bat poem, which was too long for the layout, but  I may show it later, along with a caterpillar poem. Poetry is fun when you are in the flow.

 I  embellished the caterpillar a bit for art's sake.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Who stole my nuts?

 Ranger Rick asked me to illustrate an article on woodpeckers. This red-bellied couple is  preparing to order a tasty meal at their favorite cafe´. "Hmmm, should I have the peanuts again or should I splurge and go for the suet cake?" 
  Using the old paper background was a new experiment.  The "menu"  was not asked for in the layout, but since the space was there; I just couldn't help doing it for myself, after the illustration was sent. Who can resist a tattered empty page? Lately I just can't leave anything be; I want to push it further, into a different realm.

This squirrel thug has just stolen from the acorn woodpecker's stash. 

Just playing around again, I put some color behind him for added drama.

He will appear  something like  this in the magazine. 

So, I'm thinking he would be great on a tote bag. Although that might imply that the carrier of such a bag is a shoplifter. Hmmmm...should I?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lizard Beach

After the brutal heat most of the country has endured in the past week; I thought it was time for everyone to get to the beach. If you see lizards there, maybe you have had too much sun. If you see 5 donuts hidden in the scene, maybe you are hungry!
One cool thing I learned about chameleons is that they can move each eye independently. They don't really like donuts though; so they have no desire to look at them, no matter how many there are.
I had fun making this cover image for High Five Hidden Pictures, a new magazine for younger kids.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Sunrise Band

 I recently had the pleasure of working on a reader for Red Chair Press. The art director and author, Jeff Dinardo, has extremely high standards and wanted a trade look for the books; so I was delighted to be included. The books, "Funny Bone Readers", all have life lessons and this one centered on how to get along despite being total opposites. And, of course, the power of music to connect.
 It's a 24 page book. I took a few other assignments during March and April but mostly worked on this. It will be released some time later this year; and since I have permission to post the illustrations; here is The Sunrise Band. Desert owls are called elf owls and make their homes in cacti. They have no ear tufts, just roundish heads, so she needed some owlish glasses. The lizard is loosely based on a collared lizard. It was fun immersing myself in the desert with these characters for a while. I'll keep you posted on the publication date.


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Wild Wild Midwest

  Last weekend was the MIdwest SCBWI conference; a round-up of authors and illustrators from four states: Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, and 19 luminaries in children's books from various parts of the country.  
The universe seemed to be indicating that I should go. A 24-page reader finally completed. No impending storms. 2 new tires on the Toyota. That rattling noise? Probably nothing. Tofu burgers and green drinks in the cooler, postcards, vitamins, hand sanitizer, yoga mat, flask-hidden-in-a-diary... 
  I couldn't get away until rush hour on Friday. I missed the "wild wild west" costume contest and meet and greet that evening. Oh well.
  The next morning, tired but wired; I zombied around in a sea of alien faces sporting a tight, panicked smile. Then I spotted Troy Cummings, fellow illustrator, author and facebook friend. I was betting he would look similar to the guy on the cover of his recent book, Giddyup Daddy, and I was right.  Neither one of us had been to an SCBWI conference, and he had made me aware of it back in March I think. I was intrigued by the line-up. But Fort Wayne Indiana!?  What's in Fort Wayne? Of course, it's a magnet for jet-setters.
  Turns out those Hoosiers know what they're doing. It was a very inspiring conference.

I'm such a fan of Peter Brown. 
  Here he is being a good sport. I think that's Matt Faulkner, another wonderful faculty illustrator, beside him. Hello silly cowgirls... my new friends.
As I listened to Peter describe how he combined influences from Noir films and Twilight Zone and Loony Tunes for his latest book, Creepy Carrots, I thought of a gourmet chef, collecting styles instead of spices. He takes things that he loves and artists that he admires, then combines the ingredients together in just the right proportions to find his vision. Each of his books has its own unique atmosphere. Chowder and The Curious Garden are miles apart, but still his own. It was fascinating hearing about his process, and he's such a natural comedian.  Check out Peter's blog for news and some interesting photos of his recent Vietnam trip. 

  I had heard that Laurent Linn is a great art director, but I had never met him. As art director/designer/collaborator for Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, he has been working with some of the best authors and illustrators.

Among his many  other other credits, he was an Emmy-award winning creative director for Sesame Street (he designed and built puppetry for the Muppets, starting with the original JIm Henson Muppet Workshop). He is also a great friend to SCBWI, travelling to many of their conferences.

  As Laurent showed us his favorite author/illustrators and talked about the dynamics of doing both, I realized he really loves illustration and has a deep understanding of visual storytelling, character and emotion. And when I told him I liked his shirt, he showed me that he had some snazzy socks too. But I didn't get any pictures of them.

There were many insights from Jane Yolen, Lin Oliver, Franny Billingsly, Matt Faulkner, and Rhonda Gowler Greene, among others. Way too many to post here.

           I entered this kid in the juried art show for unpublished work. To my surprise he won best of show! 

  There was some amazing work among the 40 entries. The three runners-up were Troy Cummings, with his palsy-walsy engine and caboose, Sheralyn Barnes, who brought her snuggly big bear and snoozy girl, and Mike Desantis, showing an angry alligator and friends. 


  This was shot soon after Laurent LInn gave a really cool review of my piece on the screen in the main ballroom.  Notice the empty seats and the bored people; obviously because Laurent has left.
It was great talking with him one on one and he encouraged me to pursue this direction. I'm working on sketching some new friends for the kid and mapping out a story. 
  The faculty was brilliant, I was awestruck and dumbstruck, the energy was great and I met so many generous and interesting people. Thanks to Kristi Valient, regional advisor and coordinator of the art show and author/illustrator.
Thanks to all the coordinators and volunteers. 
Thanks also to my boyfriend Dave and his mother, Natalie, rest her soul, for the little gold easel she bequeathed, which just happened to provide the perfect accent for the Klimt-inspired background. (and thanks, Gustav!)

....oh yeah, the easel makes it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


 Illustrations for the May issue of Highlights last year. They've been squirreled away until now for some odd reason. Sometimes  I'm too busy, other times it's just that thing that artists go through.  Letting time pass before looking at the work again.
 The story is about a squirrel who does not like nuts and is quite embarrassed by the fact that he is different.  He attempts to have a big party so that he can give away his huge stash of nuts without revealing his secret. But he is exposed. All ends well when his girlfriend helps him realize that it's ok to like seeds. The art won an "Illustrator of the Month" award.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baby Ellie

  I had almost forgotten this piece I created for Ranger Rick a few months ago; then the magazine came  and reminded me. Of course, elephants never forget. Or as Dorothy Parker once said, "Women and elephants never forget."
  Baby elephants suck the ends of their trunks in lieu of thumbs.  I wonder what Dorothy would say about that?

Thursday, January 10, 2013


A spot I just completed for Ranger Rick magazine. 
I think the pearly dew on the web is so beautiful... nature's jewels. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Party in the Park 2013!

 Out with the the old and in with the new!  I anticipate much excitement in the new year, as fresh as the first fallen snow in a woodland grotto.  It's a  good day for a walk and writing stories, rich with the scent of fir and odorless skunks.