What I'm reading

Summer is insane. The kids are here, there are camps to go to, meals to prep, family to visit, cookouts to attend, beaches to swim in, etc etc. Life is good, but oh boy, in summer, there is nothing lazy-dazy about our days.

The kids and I are of course big fans of the library, and at one of our many many visits I discovered the middle-grade series The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood. I feel a little late to the party, since the first book was published in 2009, but I've made up for lost time and have read each of the 5 books this summer. (The final book, #6, comes out in December.)

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place follows the adventures of the young and spunky governess Miss Penelope Lumley (recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females), and her charges - Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible (who were raised by wolves and found running wild in the forests of Ashton Place). Set in Victorian-era Great Britain, the books are charming and funny, each solving a mystery that leads to more mysteries, and peppered with invaluable quotes from the esteemed Agatha Swanburne... "To be kept waiting is unfortunate, but to kept waiting with nothing interesting to read is a tragedy of Greek proportions".

I initially picked up the first book The Mysterious Howl, as it is illustrated by Jon Klassen, and of course I judge books by their covers! In book 4 The Interrupted Tale, the interior art is done by Eliza Wheeler who takes over the cover art as well in book 5 The Unmapped Sea. Both Jon's and Eliza's artwork is gorgeous, and help bring the story alive.

I won't spoil anything, but I've fallen in love with the Incorrigible children, the way they speak and howl (being raised by wolves, there is a lot of woofs, "awhoo"s, and canine behavior), and am very much looking forward to the conclusion and answering all the questions that have been raised! How did the children find themselves in the forests of Ashton Place? What happened to the long-lost Lumleys? What is Judge Quinzy hiding? How are Penny and Miss Mortimer connected? 

Howling good fun!

Pipistrello

This past year I worked on a fantastic private commission for a lovely couple looking to create a book for their young son. The story they wrote is entitled Pipistrello.... which is Italian for bat. It's a tale about Divvy, a tiny bat whose quest involves problem-solving, creativity, and traveling around the globe.

A peak at some of the many pencil sketches

A peak at some of the many pencil sketches

The final art was done in watercolor. Here's one of the spreads WIP.

The final art was done in watercolor. Here's one of the spreads WIP.

I'm so pleased with how the final printed book came out. It was great to help make the client's vision come to life - and to learn so many different words for "bat"!  I hope they enjoy their book for years to come.

#NESCBWI17

A couple weekends ago I was at the fun-filled, inspiration-filled annual NESCBWI conference in Springfield, MA. It was a great 3 days of seeing old friends, making new ones, learning, discussing and reveling in the art of children's literature. And staying up late, having a couple beers.

This year's theme spoke a lot about diversity, and featured Keynote presentations by Melissa Sweet and Jane Yolen (both such amazing women), and I took home nuggets of wisdom from both.... along with a few of their books. I couldn't resist these two by Melissa Sweet.... her art is simply amazing. Do you think she'd notice if I snuck into her studio and just lived there? I just finished "Some Writer" and loved it - I'll be starting it again immediately.

This time I took a few writing workshops - scary and fun! I had a fantastic Portfolio Critique with Lucy Ruth Cummins, Art Director from Simon & Schuster. She gave me very constructive feedback that I am excited to try to implement right away in my work. I exhibited my portfolio in the Portfolio Showcase on Friday night - it was so inspiring to see everyone's work...the New England area has many talented artists! And I took the Illustrator's Intensive on Sunday - an all-day workshop run by Giuseppe Castellano, the Executive Art Director of Penguin Random House.

He gave us a pre-conference homework assignment which was critiqued once at the pencil sketch stage (before the conference), and then again at the final art stage (at the conference.) Hello flashbacks to art school! Yours truly went first.... thanks to reverse-alphabetical-order-by-first-name. The assignment was to interpret in your own style, a character from a Beatrix Potter story. I chose the story "The Tale of Little Pig Robinson", and illustrated a line from the very end of the story, where the Cat and Owl come to visit Pig Robinson on his island.

Part of the feedback I got at the pencil sketch stage (shown below left), was that Giuseppe was unsure why the Owl was sweating, and seemed to be looking at the Pig.... in the story it was written that the Owl was uncomfortable by the heat of the island, so for the final I moved her closer to the fire. The final art (shown below right) was done in watercolor, with small final details tweaked digitally.

It was suggested at the final critique that I work a little more on the color - specifically color that the light from the campfire casts on the surrounding area. Giuseppe felt it should be a bit warmer. So I did.

All in all, it was a great weekend, and I'm happy to be home in my studio, ready to get back to work with fresh eyes and ideas.

Goings on at the Children's Museum

I had the pleasure of illustrating the latest newsletter from the Children's Museum of New Hampshire. The reverse side of their newsletter is large fold-out coloring and activity page for kids, and for this project, I drew a maze! 

The museum is currently featuring an exhibit about the Abenaki culture before European contact, and the illustration I created for the newsletter is based on the 13 Turtle Moons lunar calendar. Each scale of the turtle's shell represents a month, and the maze follows the year of a Abenaki child.

Also at the museum right now, I have a painting in their gallery, along with several other local illustrators. My painting is from the story of the Abenaki people, How Rabbit Got His Long Ears. The art exhibit will be on display through September, so if you're in Dover, Nh, please come visit.

Inspiration from WOW

A couple weeks ago I went to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, and became captivated with the WOW World of Wearable Art exhibit. WOW is an annual design competition from New Zealand where competitors create the most unique and amazing works of art that are all wearable... they aren't clothes, but they are amazing! So many different materials were used - wood, plastic, fabrics, metal, etc - and the results were beautiful.

Here are a few of my favorites from the exhibit.

Doesn't it just make you want to start sculpting and sewing? The exhibit is at PEM through June 11 - go and take a look!