Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Fun: 3-D Alphabet Book

I majored in Communication Design in art school, oh so many years ago. Typography was one of my first loves. This book is really cool. (Video via Drawn!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sample Sketch Series (1 of 9)

This is sketch number 1 for a series of samples. I thought I'd post one a week and then round up the finals at the end. Unless the trickle theory makes me absolutely crazy and I post them all at once. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Boot + Shoe + Luck = Story

Last week I promised that I'd share the inspiration behind my second book, Sam Bennett's New Shoes. Here's my rambling tale...

As I mentioned in my Door Day post, my family lives in an old colonial farmhouse that was built around the year 1720. Did I mention that it was a total disaster when we bought it, and that the realtors thought we were nuts? (In fact, we heard that a builder had wanted to buy it as a tear-down... don't get me started on that rant.) The house had sat vacant for over a year and our kids were very, very young. In hindsight, we were nuts! But the house had so much history. And we loved it.

So-- one day, my handy husband was hanging a chandelier in the dining room. He cut a hole through the plaster and put his hand inside and came out with... this boot. No kidding! Of course we wondered-- whose was it and what on earth was it doing there? 18th century hide-and-go-seek champion, perhaps? We filled it with dried flowers, put it on the mantel and pondered.

A few months later it was wintertime. And having nothing better to do, hubby was rummaging around in the basement. Mind you, when I say basement I don't mean the wall-to-wall carpeting, finished basement/rec room kind. I mean old house basement-- bulging stone walls, dirt floor and spider factory. But it is one of his favorite spots in the house because, seriously, an old house basement has tons of information about the age of a house and how it was constructed. So it really is pretty cool.

He was in a crawlspace section that had once been an outside porch, but was enclosed not long after the house was built, judging from the beams. As he was rummaging through old rocks and spoons and shards of pottery (since in the olden days people usually buried their trash outside) he found... this shoe. No kidding! It's hard to see in the photos, but there were still pegs holding it together. The leather was almost petrified. Now we were really curious!

As serendipity would have it, around that time Early American Life magazine ran an article about finding just these sorts of shoes hidden in old houses. They were called "concealment" shoes-- well-worn shoes that were past their useful life hidden on purpose, probably to protect the houses from malevolent spirits.

This set us off on a lot of research and, of course, sparked my imagination. Who wore the boot and the shoe? What was life like for them? Living in an old house naturally leads you to wonder these kinds of things anyway, but somehow the boot and shoe made it so much more immediate. They had taken on the shape of their owner's feet. They seemed so personal.

I thought about this for a few years, and eventually Sam Bennett came about-- a young boy growing up on a farm in colonial times gets his first pair of new shoes, and learns about the tradition of hiding old shoes from his papa.

In case you're wondering, through the years we've hidden our own children's shoes, too. After all, who couldn't use a little more luck?

Here's some more information about concealment shoes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Fun: Meeting Quentin Blake

"Quentin Blake is one of Britain's most famous children's illustrators, with over 300 books published and still working into his 70s. Hogarth Brown is a young artist with no books (so far) but a passion for the artist he has never met ... until now."

A young illustrator from The Guardian gets to meet Quentin Blake. I like the part where Blake comments-- "...What's good is that you actually draw things."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shearing Sheep

More from Sam Bennett's New Shoes (again, scanned directly from the art, without text.)

Papa clipped the thick wool coats, while Sam whispered in the sheep's velvet ears. "Mama will spin your wool into yarn for our clothes," he told the sheep. Papa was pleased with Sam's help.

Next week I'll post about what inspired this book. (Hint: It's something that we found in a very odd spot in our very old house...)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Books for the Long Haul

One of my favorite books ever is Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It's one that I re-read at least once a year, and dip in to as needed. I always find something new. I'd give it to any kind of artist-- painter, writer, sculptor-- the ideas apply to all. Here are a few that struck me this time:

"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars."

"If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble. Art is human; error is human;
ergo, art is error. Inevitably your work... will be flawed. Why? Because you're a human being, and only human beings, warts and all, make art."

"To make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Moonface

I can't wait for those warm summer nights when the moon glows and the stars sparkle. And flu season is a distant memory...

Here is the sketch for this piece.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Fun: Bad Rhymes and Maps That Sing

If everyone is (or stays) healthy by this weekend we'll be going to see Brian Regan. (I know, I know... lots of fluids... but sheesh, this bug is all up and down the east coast, far as I can tell...)

I've actually never been to a comedy show before, so I'm really excited! My kids were too old for Dora the Explorer-- wonder if he knows any Teletubbies??

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Doodles and More Doors

What with yesterday's door-day blog group-art-event, looming deadlines, and being in total denial about the cold/flu knocking at our door (no pun intended)... it's been a crazy week around here. So today I thought I'd just post some doodles. Doodling is a great de-stresser.

I'm thrilled by how many people shared their doors and ideas yesterday, and am still wandering around from blog to blog. It's been fun and inspiring and educational! (Oh that last word can be so clunky, but really, what could be better?) I may be late to the game, but isn't it awesome how powerful a tool the internet is for spreading ideas? Group art rocks!

Here are a few more people who jumped in at the last minute-- bravo to you!

Sara at Read Write Believe
Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge
Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Colonial Doors

Elizabeth and Frank came up with the idea of having a day where everyone does a post with a "door" theme. And today's the day! It's a blog-group-art event! Check out the list below to see everyone from around the world who's participating. So here we go:

Our house has many different styled doors, most tending toward the rustic, since the original part of the house was built around 1720. Over the years it has been added on to and changed in all sorts of bizarre and interesting ways. We've been trying to bring it back to the colonial era. It's been a neverending renovation-- and we've done almost all of it ourselves. (Believe me, it's better to pay someone to dig a new septic field.) Along the way we've made a lot of discoveries...

The green door with the wreath (at the top of this post) is where the original front door of the house was located. The door is definitely not colonial-- it dates from about the Victorian era-- but it's nice, because it lets more light in to the room.

Inside there's a half door that leads to a little room we call the library. We think this room was actually a small barn that used to be on the property, and that it was added onto the house in the late 1800's. (I tried to show the door with the top part only cracked open, but the floor is so tilted that it just swung back before I could snap a picture! Life in an old house can be a little off-kilter...)

This door was rescued from our neighbor's dumpster. (Oh please don't get me started on people throwing away lovely old doors and windows and beams...) This room is in the part of the house that was added on in the 1960's. And believe me, it looked it! (We called this the "time warp" house when we bought it-- old wide board floors paired with... mmm... orange shag carpeting. Nice!) We have been trying to bring this part of the house "back in time" a bit, and really liked the roughness of the door.

And lastly is my favorite-- our bedroom door. You can get a rough idea from this picture of how low the ceilings are upstairs. (I'm 5'9" and in my bare feet I can put my hands flat on the ceiling.) The right hand panel is one solid piece of wood measuring 23 inches wide. Now, given that the door is the same age as the house, imagine how old that tree had to be when it was cut to make a panel of this width!

So there you have it-- a sampling of my colonial doors. Nothing fancy-- but they have served their purpose for a long, long time. There's something very comforting about that.

Here's a list of everyone participating today. (Apologies to anyone left off the list!):

Elizabeth Wix, "The House in Marrakesh", Marrakesh, Morroco

Frank Gardner, "My Paint Box", San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Ambera Wellmann, Halifax, Nova
Scotia, Canada

Constance, "Rochambeau"

Jennifer Thermes, "Art-Words-Life" - Connecticut , USA

Joanne Giesbrecht,"Thistledown Arts", Alberta, Canada

Eric Orchard, Nova Scotia, Canada

Jack Riddle, Portland, Maine, USA

Christine Mercer-Vernon, "An Artist's Log", Pennsylvania, USA

Faye Christian Phillips , Kentucky, USA

Britt-Arnhild, Norway

Kate and Roger "The Skophammers", Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Terry Rafferty, USA

Barbara,"Ramblings from an English Garden", London, United Kingdom

Pam Aries,"Art and Soul", Charleston, S.C. ,USA

Mary Sheehan Winn," Just Painting", Florida, USA

"Some Pink Flowers", St. Augustine, Florida, USA

Rima, "The Hermitage", Scotland

Merisi,"Merisi's Vienna for Beginners", Austria

Paz, "Paz's New York Minute", New York

"Down Under Dale", Australia

The Aesthete, "Aesthete's Lament", USA

Mari/ Kameravena, Finland

Maryam, "My Marrakech", Morocco

Willow from "Willow's Cottage", California, USA

Ari, "Typo Blog", Finland

Lea,"Tales from the Labyrinth",USA

Stephanie, "Rodrigvitzstyle"

Madelyn,"Persisting Stars", Vancouver, Canada

Leslie,"Snips and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tales", Pennsylvania, USA

Karen Cole,"Artsortments", Pennsylvania, USA

Barrie, San Diego, California, USA

Sherry/Cherie, Toronto, Canada

Claudia Schmid, London, United Kingdom

Sue, "The Magic Armchair Traveller", Congresbury, Bristol, United Kingdom

Gemma Wiseman, "Greyscaale Territory", Australia

Neulekirppu, Finland

Laura Fortune, "Amongst The Oaks",California, USA

Sara Lorayne, "Come Away With Me", California, USA

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The General Store

A spread from Sam Bennett's New Shoes.

Sam finally gets to go to town with Papa. The General Store has all sorts of things that he has never seen! (This is scanned from the artwork, which is why there is white space on the left-hand side for type.)

"The general store had barrels of goods. There were bolts of fabric from other lands and licorice sticks and spinning tops and a fruit that Sam had never seen, called an orange. Papa bought a sack of flour and one of tea. He bought a piece of loaf sugar, wrapped in paper, and a packet of marigold seeds for Mama. There were even some shiny glass marbles for Sam's brothers."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday Map: Hands of the Maya

This map is from a book that came out in 2002 called Hands of the Maya - Villagers at Work and Play by Rachel Crandell. I scanned it directly from the book, so it's got that weird moirée pattern-thing going on. This border was fun to do... actually, very relaxing. It seems as if clients wanted more borders a few years ago, but not so much anymore.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What's Behind a Door?

Perhaps a good neighbor, ready to help...

Whenever I need an exotic dose of color, pattern, or just a glimpse into a completely different way of life from here in North America, I visit Elizabeth's blog, The House in Marrakesh. (I wish I could smell the scents and feel the warm air through my computer, but that part is left to imagination...)

On Monday Elizabeth posted a collection of her door photographs-- a post which inspired a lot of interest in doors-- their design, their metaphors, their possibilities.

So next Wednesday, for fun, she's decided to have a "Door Day" theme. Post a picture of your favorite door, or do a drawing, or write something-- whatever inspires you. And maybe drop her a note to let her know. Everyone can play!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Brick Walls & Book Decisions

Have you ever been tempted to give up on a project when you've hit a brick wall?

This happened recently with a picture book idea I'd been working on. I had spent a long time on the story, had sent it countless times to my writing group (with eternal thanks!) and it was time to start drawing.

And then I hit the wall.

I had a lot of text, maybe too much, and not enough room for illustrations. So I decided that perhaps there was enough back story in the characters to expand it into an early chapter book. (I'd never written one before-- it seemed too intimidating... but it had been in my mind to try. What the heck!)

So I began. I was enjoying thinking differently about the story (being able to use more words than in a PB-- what freedom!), and was fairly pleased with how it was going...

... when I hit another wall.

Actually, the wall was right in front of me. The wall where the sketches I had already completed for the PB version were hanging. And I missed them. I really, really missed them!

It dawned on me that the chapter book version would be a completely different story from the picture book. Not better or worse, just different. And it wasn't the one I wanted to tell.

In the end it came down to figuring out which form best suited the story. So I decided to go back to the picture book.

Perhaps I had given up on the illustrations too soon. Or maybe I wasn't thinking about them early enough while writing. (I usually end up cutting text where the pictures tell the story, anyway-- why did it stress me out this time?) But I knew I wanted to give it another shot.

I've learned a bunch of great things from this experience-- it's better to try a different approach than to give up. None of this was wasted time. And I actually broke down another wall-- because now a chapter book doesn't seem as scary. (Well, maybe a bit...) At least I know I'm capable of attempting one.

And I will-- just with a new story.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Horsing Around

Here's a really rough sketch.

When I was a kid I pretty much only drew horses. In elementary school I had a wonderful art teacher who was endlessly patient around my obsession. If we were doing collage, I'd make a horse. Painting? A horse. Working with clay? Why, I'd make a horse, of course. I think my teacher, in his wisdom, let me be creative with my passion rather than squashing it at such a young age.

Thanks, Mr. Fay!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday Map: Where in the World in Westchester?

Well okay, this is not quite a map... it's more of an illustrated info-graphic kind of thing. Which makes it map-like.

Illustration is an interesting profession for the curious. You never know what kind of assignment is going to come knocking at your door, or what sort of facts and information you'll then acquire. How cool is that?

This piece was for a story about the history of Westchester County for a recent issue of Westchester Magazine. I am happy to say I now know the name of every manor, city, town, village, hamlet and CDP in Westchester County, New York. (Still not exactly sure what a "CDP" is, though.)