Wednesday, July 22, 2015

to be played

"Every book is a question I don't know the answer to.   
I don't want my books to be read, I want them to be played. 
What I want is after they've read the book to say, 'I've got an idea!'"
-Mo Willems in this interview on NPR

My 5 year old reads books this way.  After we read Float, within minutes she was making paper boats and floating them in a little pool.  After reading Mrs. Maple's Seeds, she was Miss Maple, dressed in an apron, scattering seeds across the living room.  We read Hogwash and she was quickly drawing her own mud/paint/shower machines complete with magnets, faucets, and piggies hanging up on a clothesline to dry. After almost every story that she loves, she says 'Mama, I want to BE that. How can I BE in Hogwash?  How can I BE in Miss Rumphius, how can I BE in Virginia Wolf?  (Lots of paintbrushes and a big bow in her hair seem to be a good starting place for the latter.) It's a question that I've learned not to answer, as whatever she comes up with is always more surprising, more interesting, more wonderful than anything I could have suggested. 

Of course when we draw together, she is also full of ideas.  Sometimes we trade our drawings back and forth, sometimes we swap them right before adding color. We draw a lot of girls in flying machines and long fancy dresses.  But today I was drawing a creature in a scarf which she thought looked like a bandage.  Which seemed like a fun idea, which led to these—


Saturday, July 18, 2015

a fly, a dress and a haircut

A lady and a fly.

I love beginning a drawing without any idea of how it will end. Usually, I start with a face, and from there the drawing takes on a life of its own.

Here are a few such drawings from the past few weeks...

Two ladies, one dress.

And a haircut.

Monday, July 6, 2015

knobby bits

"I like strange stories, shaggy stories, stories with knobby bits and gristle and surprises... 
All my favorite books have quirks." 

I've been working on a few illustrations lately that have their share of knobby bits and gristle.  I've also been thinking about the ways in which stories can surprise and leave questions unanswered even as they end.  Most of my favorite books from childhood have quirks, and many of my favorite illustrators have a rough, loose, or odd quality to their work.

As I work on a story of my own, I've been visiting my local library and bringing home some tall stacks of books.  Here are some shaggy stories that I've really enjoyed lately:

Would You Rather by Jon Burningham
John Patrick Norman McHennessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late also by Jon Burningham
Hogwash by Arthur Geisert
Oink also by Arthur Geisert
Take Away the A: An Alphabeast of a Book! by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo
The Treehorn Trilogy by Florence Parry Heide and Edward Gorey
Outstanding in the Rain by Frank Viva
Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell
The Skunk by Mac Barnett and Patrick McDonnell
 It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Bealey
The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett
Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith
The Rain Door by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake
Pomelo Explores Color by Ramona Badescu and Benjamin Chaud

Also,  Carter Higgins, creator of the wonderful blog Design of The Picture Book, shares her thoughts on the dingiest rattiest books, stories that matter, and honesty that makes you squirm (as well as a great list of of books to check out) here.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

along for the ride

Lots of wagons and carts this week.  And a few monsters along for the ride...

Going for a Ride, detail

Almost ready

Almost Ready, detail

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

not just written

Read, read, read.

Write something every day.

Never take no for an answer.

Don't believe your reviews--either good or bad.

Heart on the page.

Know that books are not just written, but rewritten.

-Jane Yolen's advice to young writers 
from Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Inky Girl blog.


Friday, April 24, 2015

a felt sense of it

"[W]hen I was a dancer, we were always encouraged to fall in rehearsal, so that you could know what the tipping point of any given movement was. That way, when you did it on the stage, you could be sure you were taking it to the edge without falling on your face. It sounds like a cliché, but really it's just physics— if you don't touch the fulcrum, you'll never gain a felt sense of it, and your movement will be impoverished for it.”  


Last weekend I had the honor of having my portfolio chosen as the 2015 Art Portfolio Show Grand Prize Winner at the SCBWI WWA spring conference.  There was so much beautiful work on display, and I'm thrilled and grateful to be part of this incredibly talented and supportive community.   Thank you SCBWI!

And thank you as well to Kyo Maclear (author of the extraordinary book Virginia Wolf, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) for the above quote.  She has a lovely collection of quotes and images here which I recommend checking out.

Illustrator be Nimble, SCBWI WWA 2015 illustrator's Intensive HW.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


"But every raw soul has it own secret advantages. Elena had hers, 
and those advantages might as well be termed perplexity. 
Perplexity isn't as noble as conviction, but perhaps more good is done 
in the name of muddling through uncertainty 
than is done hacking away with the righteous sword of self-confidence.  
I don't know.  And that's my perplexity."

- from Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire

Here's to another glorious year of uncertainty...

Happy New Year!  


And here are a few other book that I've been lucky enough to read over the holidays and happily recommend:

An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
Zlateh The Goat And Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak