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.