Sunday, December 27, 2009

Critters (Paris and Ruby)

While I was on the topic of rodents, I thought I should also share some photos of another cute little critter that as recently entered our lives. This is Paris one of two pet rats we adopted for Christmas. Her sister Ruby is hiding under the covers. It's so hard to get a good picture of them because they are either sleeping or in constant motion. But Paris was lounging in her hammock today so I was able to snap a couple of photos. I just love those whiskers.
They are really cute and run to greet you when you open the cage. If you are wearing a hoodie they will try and dive in the pocket so they can go for a ride.

Adorable Animals by Natasha Fadeeva

If you need a dose of cuteness head over to Natasha Fadeeva's website. Although it says that they are stuffed animals, some looked like they might be needle felted, like these adorable little mice. Either way they are absolutely charming.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


When I was in college I worked at a place called Glendorn. It went up for auction this past fall. I wish I had a few million laying around so I could buy it as my own personal summer house. When I worked there it was a private estate but now it's open to the public, at least it was until this auction took place. I don't know if there is a new owner now or not, but I hope it stays open. I would love to go there as a guest some day. I have such nice memories of the place as an employee, I bet being a guest would be even better :)

When I worked there, I worked as a nanny and in the kitchens. Since I was pretty good at drawing and that sort of thing, the manager also hired me in the off season (i.e. the winter) to do crafty sorts of things. For instance, one year I painted an army of plywood angels for the Christmas tree. And another time I painted a mural on the gymnasium wall. You can imagine how surprised I was when I was looking through the auctioneer's website and saw that my mural was still there! That was my first and last mural and I'm really amazed that no one has painted over it in 20 years. Good grief, that mouse is kind of scary looking. I wish I could go back and fix it. Hmmm, I wonder if they still use those plywood angels at Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Christmas Already!?

It's nice to have a website that changes with the seasons. That is, until you get busy and neglect your website. Then you end up with pumpkins and Halloween witches on your website the week before Christmas (oops!). So I took a few minutes today to at least get rid of the pumpkins and replace them with snowflakes. Phew, just in time. Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Alfie in Watercolors

Most of my final artwork is done in Photoshop but I do own some brushes and paints and have been know to use them on occasion. Recently a teacher wrote to me and said she had purchased 100 copies of "May I Please Have a Cookie?" to give to her students. In her email she had asked if I could send her something to hang on her classroom wall. It didn't seem right to give her a print out of a Photoshop file so instead I did a watercolor painting of Alfie. I hope she and her students like it. And for anyone else out there that buys 100 copies of one of my books, I will be happy to paint one for you too. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Ice Storm Anniversary

Saturday December 12th is the anniversary of the big ice storm that left our town without power for a week and a half last year. Ahh, good times.

Let's hope we don't have a repeat this year.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sculptures of Steve Tomashek

If anyone is wondering what I would like for Christmas. I just knew you were (grin). I would LOVE one of Steve Tomashek's little creations. He makes the cutest little wooden critters. Check out the YouTube video of how he carves a teeny mouse. Good grief, I'd be a bloody mess if I tried that!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Recipe Post Card

I did a postcard mailing back in October and to entice art directors not to throw it in the circular file (at least not right away) I made it a recipe card. We all like chocolate - right? So to keep with the chocolate recipe theme, here's the postcard that I did for December. If you've never had peppermint bark, it's awesome.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Xmas Card

Working on Xmas cards today. Every year I say I'm not going to wait 'til the last minute to get my Xmas cards printed and every year December sneaks up on me and I doing things at the last minute. But hopefully if I submit everything to the printer tomorrow morning I'll have them in time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Alfie Beating Harry in Sales Rankings!

I was so excited when my first book was published and I saw it posted on Amazon for the very first time. To me, it really seemed like the big leagues to be listed on Amazon with the likes of J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss. But as a first time author, no one ever told me, or should I say warned me, about Amazon sales rankings. If I wasn't an author I probably wouldn't even have noticed the sales ranking number. It's tucked the customer review rating under the benign heading, "Product Details". But once your book has a sales ranking, it's very hard not to check it now and again, like say, every waking minute of the day. I wasted a lot of time those first few weeks waiting for my easy reader book to shoot up to number one. But like most things, it got a little boring after a while, especially once I realized "May I Please Have a Cookie?" would never beat "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." These days, I consider myself a recovering sales-ranking addict and I only check once or twice a week.

But today, my friends, is the day! Now mind you, the sales ranking number change every hour or so, so this may be a total fluke, but darn it, I don't care. Currently "May I Please Have a Cookie?" has a Amazon sales rank is 4,795. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" has a sales ranking of 16,640. Alfie is actually ahead of Harry Potter! Maybe Daniel Radcliffe would be interested in playing a little green alligator in his next movie (grin!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Photo Reference

Occasionally I do historical illustrations, like right now I'm working on a couple of projects that are circa 1900. So I'm looking for reference to get ideas for clothing and other items from that time. I was having a tough time finding images of children's clothing and more specifically children's shoes, then I discovered the New York Public Library digital gallery. Doing a search for "children clothing" brings back lots of great reference images.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Illustration Friday - Skinny

Okay, I'm not sure exactly what this has to do with skinny. Maybe a skinny young harpie perched on a skinny branch. But I just couldn't resist creating something creepy for Halloween. Happy Halloween everyone!

Here's a detail...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Train Picture Books

My son is eight now but has been obsessed with trains since he was an infant. Finding picture books for him was always a challenge because if there wasn't a train or at least a truck or bulldozer in it, he wasn't interested. I didn't always want to read non-fiction books and I was tried of reading about Thomas the Tank Engine. Sound familiar? If so here are a few books that my son and I both recommend.

Choo Choo Written by Virgina Lee Burton
This was my son's favorite book. Choo Choo was Virginia Lee Burton's first book, originally published in 1935. She certainly must have understood little boys (and girls) because this story of a run away steam engine is still chugging nearly 75 years later. I also recommend Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow also by Burton. They may not have trains but they have larger machines (which are almost as good.)

The Lionel Great Railway Adventure Series by Lin Oliver illustrated by Charles S. Pyle
Sadly these books are no longer in print but they are nice picture books for the train nut who is getting a little old for Thomas. These are fictional stories but each centers around a real famous train. The books in the series are, The Mighty Mogul, The Daylight Limited, The President Express and the Torpedo Run.

Niccolini's Song By Chuck Wilcoxen Illustrations by Mark Buehner
I love Mark Buehner's illustrations and this book is no exception (I love his anthropomorphic trains) This story about a night watchmen singing the trains to sleep is a great bedtime book.

The Pony Engine By Doris Garn and Frances M. Ford Illustrated by Gregorio Prestopino
I was familiar with the Watty Piper book entitled "The Little Engine that Could." So I was confused when I picked up "The Pony Engine" at a yard sale one day. The story in both books is pretty much identical. So what gives? Well, in fact, the story of the little engine that couldn't get up the steep hill was not actually written by Watty Piper. In fact, Watty Piper was not even a real person. The true origin of the story is murky at best. See the Wiki entry and also here. But regardless of who came up with the story first, I prefer the Doris Garn and Frances Ford version the best. Sadly this version is out of print. But there are lots of used copies available.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Illustration Friday - Frozen

Here's my entry for frozen. This is a new version of an old illustration I did years ago. After walking around most of this afternoon I has first had "Greetings From New England" but changed it "The Tundra" after I warmed up a bit. This was one of my first tries at doing my own lettering. I kind of like how the text came out but I'm not sure I like the placement. The penguin seems colder some how without it.

Dark Dark Night Review

A nice review by Ruby Winkle of On a Dark, Dark Night. Thank you! You should also check out the rest of the Ruby Winkle Review: Children's Book Illustration and More, there's lots of good stuff in there. I especially enjoy the illustrator interviews.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cornerstone Books in Salem - Sat Oct 17th

I'm polishing up my broom and getting ready to go to Cornerstone Books this weekend (Saturday Oct 17th at 10:30) for a fun Halloween costume party. We'll be reading books and making crafts, so come join the fun!

For Halloween Over Achievers!

For those of you who aren't happy with just 2 triangle eyes and a toothy grin these sites are for you...

The multi-talented Holli Conger hosts and annual Pumpkin Junkin event. It's kind of a squash collage sort of thing. So grab your glue gun and start "junkin". There are even prizes to be had.

And if that's not enough check out Scott Cummins' Pumpkin Gutter site. This guy must have pumpkins on the brain!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Long Distance Book Signings

Sometimes far away friends and relatives like to get their books signed. Mailing the books back and forth can be a royal pain. As we all know postage is through the roof these days and then finding packing materials can be troublesome.

I figured there must be an easier way. Then I remembered we have a cookbook signed by Julia Childs. She didn't actually sign the book (which weights about 10 lbs) she signed a self adhesive label that was then attached to the end papers. That sounded much easier than mailing books back and forth. And, if it's good enough for Julia then it's sure as heck good enough for me. So I've started making my own book plates. Avery makes a large 3 1/3" x 4" shipping label (#8254) that works nicely. For On a Dark, Dark Night I've designed a little border that coordinates with the book that I can print out. Then I just sign the stickers and pop them in an envelope. Thanks Julia, now if I can just figure out how to bone a chicken...

Since I already had the border, I also created a "This book belongs to:" type book plates out of this design that you are free to download. That way you can keep track of all your Halloween books. The PDF is optimized to print on those Avery #8254 labels I mentioned above. When you print, just remember to set page scaling to "none" or they labels will not line up correctly.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Highlights from the Highlights Party

Okay I'm finally getting around to posting pics of the Highlights party a couple of weeks ago. To fill you in, Highlights Magazine hosts a party every fall for the illustrators that have contributed to their publications. We illustrators aren't let out of our studios very often so many of us jump at the chance to go to a party. And this one is always awesome. Part of the festivities is a costume party at the Highlights offices in Honesdale, PA. This year's theme was dress as your favorite holiday (day of the year) Incidentally, the cow was not invited to the party, she was at farm the children visited during the day.

My family and I went as Christmas. My son and daughter went was snowman. My daughter peeled her's off before I could snap a picture or before someone "cool" saw her. :)

My husband and I went as Christmas tress. He's such a good sport. It was kind of neat, I found some battery operated lights so our trees actually lit up...

And here I am with some like minded Christmas people...

But some folks opted from more unusual holidays. For example, Judith Moffatt, went as Mary Poppins Day (who knew?). But doesn't she make an awesome Mary Poppins? Practically perfect in every way...

And here's another very clever costume. Robert Squier and his wife Jessica went as "moving day."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Trains and Books

My son is a huge train fanatic. When he was younger I thought it was just the normal Thomas the Tank Engine infatuation and once he his grade school it would wane. But he's 8 now and still going strong. Thomas has faded to the background but now we are into HO trains. So much so that he is a member of the Youth In Model Railroading organization and he actually exhibits at model train shows around New England. Above is his "module," the 6 foot section of the layout that he's responsible for decorating. Of course, since he's only eight, he got some help from mom and dad.

Why am I telling you all this? I wanted to show you how we incorporated one of his favorite picture books into the scene. We found a great little car and camper which reminded us of "Camping Spree with Mr. Magee" written by Chris VanDusen. So we gave the camper and car a new paint job to match the car in the book we and made a little dog Dee out of sculpey. If you know the book you may say, hey wait a minute, Mr. Magee didn't have a VW Bug (sorry it's the best we could find) In case you were wondering the thing to the right of the car is a campfire that has a little red LED inside so it actually lights up. (Mom is so proud of herself for figuring that one out.) Now if I can just find a duck on a bike for over by the barn...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Illustration For Kids Website

There has been a lot of sprucing up over at the Illustration for Kids website this past week. There's a new logo, new art samples, new everything, so check it out.

We've also changed the layout of our postcard mailer. I think it looks terrific. Thanks Holli!

Here's a closeup of my contribution...
Check out my 8-year-old's interpretation of what's going on in this image here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Creepy Crawlies

Now I'll admit I'm not a fan of bugs, especially bugs that would take up the whole palm of your hand. But I have to admit these guys are pretty neat. My friend Karen, gave me a praying mantis egg case back in the spring and I put it in my garden. It was brown and about the size of a ping pong ball. I never saw anything come out of it and I kind of forgot about it. But then last week a new brown ping pong shaped thing appeared in the top of one of our bushes about 3 feet away from where I put the first egg case. Then we started looking around. Soon we found a praying mantis...

and other...

and another...

There was actually a forth green one but I couldn't get a good shot of it.

The reason we even found all of this was because of another creepy crawly living in the garden. We have had this spectacular spider in our garden for the past few weeks making a huge web. I actually saw it from about 40 feet away as I was pulling my car into the driveway. Sadly the web was gone this morning but he/he? was sitting on the house and finally in a convenient spot so I could snap a photo of her too. I wish I was braver and put my hand next to it so you can see how big it is. Including the legs it's about 2 1/2-3" long.

Gibson's Bookstore with Marty Kelley

I'll be at Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, NH this weekend. And now that I see all the great stuff they've got going on there, I'm completely bummed that it isn't closer to my house. Check out all the happenings this month at Gibson's

I'll be there this Saturday at 10:00 am along with children's book author Marty Kelley, the author and illustrator of "The Messiest Desk" and Jean Cochran the author of the book I illustrated, "On a Dark, Dark Night." Marty and Jean will be reading their books and I will be doing a drawing demo and a craft project. So if you are in the area, please stop by with the kids.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Illustration Friday - Germ

Just to show that you can use all sorts of things to make interesting Photoshop brushes. The brush I used for the background of this image was created by manipulating a photo of the H1N1 virus.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Halloween Treat!

I got my copies of "On a Dark Dark Night" this past weekend. It's always a treat to see the finished books. There are a lot of steps to the publishing process so sometimes the book actually arrives months or even years after the authors and illustrators have done their part. As you can see, Eddie helped me unpack.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ten Best Halloween Picture Books

I like creepy stuff. But as a mom of a kid who was traumatized by the Halloween section at Walmart when she was a toddler, I don't like things too creepy when it comes to kid's picture books. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite, not too scary, books for All Hallow's Eve...

Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies
This isn't really a Halloween book but it's about bats so I think it's appropriate for the season and it's super, super cute. Brian's illustrations are just awesome (love the snack bar scene!) And if you find that you like this book there is a sequel, "Bats at the Library."

The Haunted Ghoul Bus by Lisa Trumbauer and Jannie Ho
A bus full of monsters and zombies could be stuff for the late, late show but Jannie Ho's quirky illustration makes it a fun ride on the "ghoul" bus.

The Spider and The Fly by Mary Howitt and Tony DiTerlizzi
This one isn't exactly a Halloween book but this film noir version of Spider and the Fly is perfect for reading on a dark October night.

Wattilda by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner
I LOVE Mark Bruehner's illustrations and Wattilda is no exception. I still haven't found all the hidden pictures in this book.

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Clever and bold illustrations help children send the monster away. A great choice for really young kids.

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
I laughed out loud the first time I read Adam Rex's verses. And his illustrations are just amazing! And if you like this one, check out the sequel, "Frankenstein Takes the Cake" This one would be best for grade school kids, the humor may be lost on the little ones.

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin
I never considered this a Halloween book but I saw that Barnes and Noble had it on the Halloween table. And since it is one of my favorite picture books, I will include it in my list.

Sheep Trick or Treat by Nancy E. Shaw and Margot Apple
When my daughter was little, we read "the sheep" books over, and over, and over again. You parents know what I'm talking about. But unlike some of the books we read again and again, I still like them. Margot Apple's sweet illustrations are just perfect for this little rhyming book.

Georgie by Robert Bright
Sadly, old-fashioned books like Georgie, written in 1944, have gotten pushed aside for flashier more colorful books on the bookstore shelves. But Georgie, the timid little ghost, still has some life left in him. I sure you will be able to track down a copy at your local library. And if you child likes Georgie, there are a dozen more books in the series.

On a Dark, Dark Night by Jean M. Cochran and Jennifer Morris
Yes, yes, I know, I'm shameless! But I couldn't really make an honest list of my favorite Halloween books without including my own, now could I?