Sunday, June 25, 2017

We all have a story to tell

We all have a story to tell. Where Women Create BUSINESS gives us that opportunity. The magazine focuses on women entrepreneurs who have an arts based business. This is Jo Packham's third magazine in the Where Women Create series for Stampington & Company. It's so nice to have this supportive format to share our successes and failures and talk about what it's like to create a working world that's unique to each of us. Here's my story about being a children's book illustrator passionate about science, nature, and the environment.
Where Women Create Business Summer 2017 • Click on the above image for the full article.
Thank you Jo Packham, Brandy Shay, Kacey Holmstead, and Amber Demien with Where Women Create BUSINESS Magazine. Thanks to Desiree Suchy for the very fun photo shoot! Also, I want to thank the folks at The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for letting us do part of the photo shoot there. Everybody was wonderful to work with and it's a big honor to be a part of the magazine.

Pocket Science Cover Concept 1
Pocket Science Cover Concept 2
One picture book project, If The Mummy Could Talk, got pushed forward a season which opened up a block of creative space for me. I have a few books in various stages of writing, illustrating and submitting and I wanted to give you a peek at Pocket Science. The story is fluid, revising each day. I go back and forth between writing, editing and storyboarding, but for some reason the cover image keeps popping up in my mind. Above are two possible covers, or maybe end pages - who knows? At this point they can completely change. Concept one is pretty straight forward. Concept two is a cover wrap. We'll see how things evolve as I continue to write. Do you prefer one look over another?

After almost ten years, seventeen illustrated trade picture books, one historical fiction chapter book, numerous book covers, many power point presentations, several educational picture books, around 800 spot illustrations, my original Wacom Cintiq 21UX bit the dust. It's nice to have a new touch screen Cintiq and back to work I go.

Thanks for taking a look! You can click on each image for a more detailed look and further information.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

This, That, and the Other Thing

I've been a loyal follower of Miss Marple's Musings since her blog began in 2011. Joanna Marple travels the world exploring children's books that focus on nature, cultural diversity and storytelling at it's best. It was an honor to have her review Baby on Board which just came out this spring and also include me in her illustrator interviews.

Miss Marple's Musings, A young adult and children's author celebrating the natural and cultural diversity in our world
Below is I Spy Blackberry Pie, a book I'm writing as well as illustrating and will be submitting to publishers and agents soon. It's creative nonfiction - reads as a story while being based on facts. The facts are our five senses - sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. I got the idea while emailing with my best friend, Ginny. We've known each other since we were four years old and many of our happiest memories revolve around food. Why do we have such vivid memories of being in my grandmother's kitchen, waiting five more minutes for that pie to come out of the oven? That was 50 years ago while I hardly remember what I ate last night. Did food taste better when we little? Which lead to googling about kid's taste buds... and on from there. So far it's coming together pretty well. We'll soon find out what the publishing world thinks.

Black and white rough layout with type in PDF
Full color artwork to show style
Very messy, early storyboard and more refined layout in Indesign

Here are some photos from Storytime in the Dome at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery where I'm a volunteer. Desiree with Photography by Desiree came to my studio as well as the museum and took photos for an article that will be in Where Women Create Business summer edition. 

We read Pitter and Patter with a packed house on the 35 ft digital dome screen!
This is such a fun story time experience. Ben, the Digital Dome Manager animates the page turns, adds sound effects and makes the book big and wonderful. 
Super cute kids making Rain Cloud craft that ties in with the book. Sarah, the Early Childhood and Special Learning Lead at the museum develops the activities and makes story time all come together.

Detail of Pitter and Patter's Rain Cloud activity- cotton ball clouds!
And this came in today's mail - two acknowledgments for Over on the Farm. It received Bronze Medal for Alphabet/Counting books and also was chosen by the International Literacy Association's Teachers' Choice Winner 2017.

Over on the Farm gets some love!
You can click on the images to enlarge them.
Thanks for taking a look!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What is Black & White & Read All Over?

 I started illustrating historical fiction chapter books for the Young Patriot Series beginning with Amelia Earhart, Young Air Pioneer in 2000. Fourteen books and eight years later we stopped after Alexander Hamilton, Young Statesman. The books have continued to sell well, but Florrie Kichler, the publisher, became president of IPG, the Independent Publisher's Group and life got beyond busy for her.

Last year I got an email from Florrie introducing me to the new owner of the series, Carol Tulley, publisher of TEI Landmark Audio. Carol has lots of great ideas and is picking up the series where we left off. We're working on book number fifteen, Dan Beard, Boy Scout. So here's a few chapter interior illustrations and I'm working on the cover illustration now.
Chapter 2,
But after the four boys started working they found potato-bug picking was not so bad. It became a game.
Chapter 5,
They wished they might tell the Mosher twins about Traveler, for they were proud of the beautiful bird. Besides, there was plenty of good grain in the Mosher's barn and Traveler loved corn and wheat.
Chapter 6,
They decorated the den with feathers, picture writing and different kinds of bones and skins. Dan copied from his books the pictures of William Penn and the Indians and hung it on the wall.
March 2 we presented If You Love Honey for Storytime in the Dome at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Along with reading in the Dome and creating the adorable bee headband craft the kids went to the main gallery to explore the live bee exhibit and show off their dance moves on the Honeybee Waggle Dance Floor. It was awesome!
If You Love Honey for Storytime in the Dome
I'm honored to be the featured "Artist of the Month" in Ruth's Art Gallery at the Red Feather Lakes Library. I'll be giving a presentation on the last day of the month, Friday, March 31 at 1pm. Please drop by if you're in the area.
"Artist of the Month" in Ruth's Art Gallery at the Red Feather Lakes Library
Last, but not least, here's Desiree of Photography By Desiree, a wonderful photography studio out of Fort Collins. It's for a magazine shoot that you'll hear more about this summer!
Desiree being a wonderful photographer and making this a very fun shoot!
Desiree making me look good in my normally very messy studio space, normally wearing the same thing three days in a row...
Thanks for taking a look!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New book, kids, crafts and museums, oh my!

It's always exciting to get copies of a new book. Even after you've spent months reading the manuscript as it goes through numerous revisions, researching and illustrating art spreads, have proofed it through several generations of design, layout and printer proofs. It's great to hold the actual book, all shiny and new, in your hands. I hope kids will enjoy it.

Baby on Board's official release date is March 1, 2017. I didn't plan a book release party, but I'm working on a gallery exhibit and talk at the Red Feather Lakes Community Library for the month of March. Also, I'm working with the folks at Where Women Create BUSINESS on an article coming out this summer. So there'll be more about Baby on Board and what goes into being a children's book illustrator.
Copies of Baby On Board arrive in mail!
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that In A Nutshell finds a good home. The author and I are both submitting to literary agents and publishers. For the most part we've been sending PDFs through email, but some publishers want physical copies so we have those as well. I learned how to saddle stitch to create printer spreads for the book dummy. Thanks to the Fed Ex/Kinkos lady who told me that was what I needed to do and thank you to YouTube for walking me through the process.
In A Nutshell by Barb Ciletti, illustrated by Cathy Morrison 
Interior spreads for In A Nutshell
More saddle stitched and paginated spreads...
On Thursday, February 2 we read Over on the Farm as part of Storytime in the Dome at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. I hadn't read this book in a while so practiced by reading to Crowley. As you can see he loves the story, begging for his next walk to be over on a farm. He's fascinated by the sounds of the owls.

During our actual Storytime we had lots of audience participation. The kids counted the animals, made turkey gobbles, cow moos, pig snorts and found the hidden rooster on each page. Next book I'll have to figure out better hiding spots.
Over on the Farm by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by me, published by Dawn Publications
Here's Amy, another museum volunteer helping out with Rooster Puppets down stairs in the Learning Lab. We had five tables full of parents and kids making crafts, such a fun group!
And here's an image from The Prairie That Nature Built used for a display at the Prairie Heritage Center in Peterson, Iowa. I got a call from them one day asking to purchase rights to an image from the book. As a museum geek, this is a big honor!

O'Brien County Conservation Board's Prairie Heritage Center
Clicking on the images will enlarge them for a better view.
Thanks for taking time to look through my blog!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy New 2017!

Thank you to Lydia Dody, the publisher of Style Magazine and journalist, Elissa J. Tivona for the article featuring "Storytime in the Dome" at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. This magazine reflects the heart and soul of life in Northern Colorado and it's an honor to be included.
 Style Magazine, January 2016
Style Magazine, January 2017
Click on Style Magazine's cover to get the Flip Book online magazine
Storytime in the Dome at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
Click on the above logo to go the museum's site.
Everybody at the museum works hard to put this program together - hopefully it's a labor of love. Ben Gondrez, the Digital Dome Manager takes the files from my creative nonfiction picture books, digitizes and animates the page turns to be read and viewed on the gigantic 35 foot dome screen. He adds sound effects, bringing the experience to life. Sarah Kinard, the early childhood and special learning lead makes it all happen. She comes up with the crafts and activities that the kids will create that relate to the book. We head up to the theater escorting a group of cute, literary-loving kids along with their adults where we read the story. Afterwards we head down to the learning lab for art! Both publishers I work with, Arbordale Press and Dawn Publications have generously donated rights to the books since this is an experimental experience. So far it seems like the local families are enjoying it. The article below explains it much better than I do.
Stories Come to Life for the Whole Family
My messy desktop
And I'm making progress on a couple of projects. Here's the "during" and "after" shots for If the Mummy Could Talk.... Below I've placed some type to get a sense of how the cover will look. The book designer will choose the actual font and make it look much nicer. This helps me to visualize if I've left enough room for type, plus it's fun to experiment with various fonts. I'm excited to be working on another book with Rhonda Lucas Donald and Arbordale Publications!
If The Mummy Could Talk... coming Spring 2018
It's a good way to start a new year!
Thanks for taking a look.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Research Phase...

I'm working on a couple of new books. If The Mummy Could Talk... by Rhonda L. Donald is scheduled to be released Spring 2018. It sounds like a long time in the future, but there's a lot of work to be done between now and then. I've been doing research and have turned in interior roughs. Now I'm waiting to hear back from the publisher for more revisions and/or to go on to final artwork.

Have I mentioned that research is my favorite part of illustrating creative nonfiction books? I learn something new every day and hopefully it'll enrich the final illustrations.
Montage from research at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Egyptian Mummies exhibit
The docent in the lower left gave a great explanation of the elaborate process of mummification. The body's organs, including the brain which they didn't think was important are removed using a hook through the nose. The organs are preserved in canopic jars. Egyptians believed the gods would weigh the subject's heart to decide whether they deserved eternal life or not. Fascinating stuff!

Below are a couple of very rough interior spreads that my editor, art director and the author are going over now. They are super rough, but since we've all worked together before they understand that the final artwork will look better. The artwork might look similar to this or go in a totally different direction. I like the collaboration because it all works to make the book that much better.

Young King Tut had an awesome tomb but not the healthiest life.
Cats ruled dogs drooled in ancient Egypt

I find the most interesting mummies are the animals and we have several in this book. 

Even today we find ways to honor our favorite pets who have passed on to the afterlife. Here's a photo from a book shelf in my studio. On the left is a photo of my daughter with our first dog, Mohawk, an energetic Irish Setter. Next to the photo is an urn with ashes from our second dog, Tarzana, a good hearted yellow lab who liked to lay on my feet while I worked. Normally I wouldn't show my immortalized pets on my blog. However, after all the research for these mummified pets it doesn't seem so strange. How do you remember your favorite pets?
Our dearly departed pets, Mohawk next to ashes of Tarzana on my studio shelf

My second project is for Patria Press. This is a historical fiction chapter book series I worked on ten years ago with Florrie Kichler. As a kid, Florrie loved a book series called Childhood of Famous Americans (and so did I!). To make a long story short, Florrie bought the rights to many of the titles in the series, had it re-edited, re-designed along with new illustrations and has introduced it to a new generation of kids today.  Now it's The Young Patriot Series.

It was recently bought out by Carol Tully of TEI LandmarkAudio and I'm so excited to be illustrating the fifteenth book in the series, Dan Beard, Boy Scout by Miriam E. Mason. It's in the beginning stages. Even though I don't have roughs to show just yet I've included a photo of 90 year old Dan celebrating his birthday in New York along with a cover from the original series. I like Dan; he was from a family of artists, sketched nature, met Abe Lincoln as a boy and later knew Mark Twain. 
90 year old Dan Carter Beard, at his birthday celebration in New York.
Dan Beard, Boy Scout by Miriam E. Mason from the Childhood of Famous American Series
So I'm in the beginning stages, my favorite research phase and will have more to share shortly. It's scheduled to be published next year, 2017. 
Thanks for taking a look!