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!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nothing to see here

In a perfect world, I'd update my blog at least once a month. But the two projects I'm working on are technically too soon to show. So I'll show what I can and tell you more about them. Below is a book dummy I'm creating with a friend/author/colleague, Barb Ciletti. We're working as a team to submit to publishers and/or agents to get a book deal - fingers crossed. There's many revisions, but this is how it looks at the moment.

The second project is a book about mummies! The author is Rhonda Lucas Donald and it's our third book together. The publisher is Arbordale Publishing and it's our ninth book together. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science just opened a new exhibit, Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs so this is where my research began. The book is scheduled for Spring 2018. I'll be posting images from that project when I'm further along.

And below is what I do when I'm not drawing. I've written earlier about being a volunteer at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. One of my favorite things is being a docent at the Historical Heritage Courtyard in Library Park. We have a couple of different events, Fort Collins Through Time with school groups and Culture in the Courtyard for the public.

Cathy Morrison (1905 Schoolmarm), Jeff Stone (Antoine Janis) and Cindy Tunney (Auntie Stone)
Thank you Chris Winslow of FC Public Media for the photos.

Tantramar Heritage Trust
 Ok, this photo is not really my students from the Upper Boxelder School. I found it online. But when I'm welcoming a school group to come inside and take a seat in the historic one room school house this is how I imagine they looked back in the day. The kids and I have a great time comparing and contrasting a day in the life of a student from 1905 and 2016.

Thank you for taking a look!

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

Slide from Power Point Presentation, Judging a Book by its Cover
 I'm super excited about this upcoming conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Robert Schram, the genius behind Bookends Design and I are giving a presentation about book covers for the Women Writing the West Conference. Bob will talk about book design while I chime in on illustrations.

Women Writing the West Fall Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Julia Cameron is the key note speaker and I've been a long time fan of her books. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity started a movement that's been going on over two decades.

Santa Fe's always beautiful, but my favorite time is in the autumn. Looking forward to making new friends, soaking up some culture and dining on yummy southwest cuisine.
Photos from Santa Fe's tourism site

Friday, September 9, 2016

Bye bye "Baby on Board", off to the printers you go!

I've turned in my illustrations and revisions for Baby on Board. Now I get to see what Patty Arnold of Menagerie Design and Publishing comes up with for the design and layout. She'll make the words and art come together and shine.

I've read one book endorsement which goes on the back cover... "Beautiful in imagery and rich in text, this book is bound to delight and inform readers of all ages. Especially refreshing is that dads are included as primary caregivers in this book! A wonderfully comforting message of connectedness among the world’s creatures shines through--big or small, fierce or cuddly, we all care for our young."
-- Dr. Mary Benson McMullen, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

The story starts and ends with people, but in between you'll find various baby mammals, birds, reptiles and arachnids. It's fun to see the book developing and evolving, almost like raising a baby to be sent out into the world.
Copyright page and beginning of the story, page 3
One of my favorite parts of illustrating children's books is after the artwork is turned in. I create free downloadable activities to tie in with the book. I'm not so interested in research, consistency and creative integrity as I am in making something work that 3 - 8 year olds will be able to create and enjoy. I want to challenge them, but not frustrate them, know what I mean?
Baby on Board Floaty Sea Otter Craft
Child-tested by my seven year old grandson!
Not only does the otter float, but also sticks to the side of the bath tub = Awesome kid fun!
Here's some adorable otter pups you can watch while making your craft and waiting for the book release. And more at Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Cam. Last, but not least are these incredible Sea Otter Cupcakes. No otters were harmed in the making of these yummy treats!

Below is another craft, less steps, but potentially much, much, messier - BEWARE!
Baby on Board's Very Messy Penguin Footprint Craft
Kangaroo pouch craft, lion coloring page, lots of fun animal activities to make
We're working on a couple of more activities to go along with more animals in Baby On Board. Not every activity we experiment with makes the cut, but you get the idea.
Experimental headpiece activity? Don't think so...
Thanks as always for taking a look!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

August's here already?

It's hard to believe it's already August. This year I've had my head buried in projects; four educational picture books, one trade book and several presentations. Yesterday I turned in final illustrations for Baby on Board which comes out in the spring. Now there's one more book and one more presentation to go. I have ideas I want to develop so I'm looking forward getting involved with new projects and open up some space to see what comes next.

In Northern Colorado we have Style Magazine. August's issue focuses on female entrepreneurs. I was fortunate to be interviewed by Elissa J. Tivona. Elissa is a journalist, she travels internationally to present her work in peace and conflict studies and teaches at CSU. She was wonderful to work with and I'm proud to be a part of this month's magazine.

Also, I wanted to thank Elizabeth Dulemba for including Storytime in the Dome in her Friday Linky List! Elizabeth is a Visiting Associate Professor of the Picture Book Design class at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia in the summer. The rest of the year she lives in Edinburgh Scotland, pursuing her MFA in Illustration at the University of Edinburgh. Plus, she's an all around good person to know. We're both members of PictureBookArtists and I keep up with her on her blog these days.

Last, but hopefully not least, here's a couple of illustrations from Baby on Board.

They paddle very slowly as they swim along the coast.
But nestled under Mama's fin, this baby likes it most.
Tucked in pouches, gripped in teeth
Propped on backs or underneath
This is what some animals do.
How did someone carry you?
 Thanks for taking a look. See you in September!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Storytime in the Dome

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
I'm a volunteer at the Museum of Discovery in Fort Collins. Volunteering there always brings new experiences, plus it's fun. On opening day I was behind the cash register in the gift shop. I work with the educational department greeting school groups on field trips. Last fall I helped with garden maintenance, pulling weeds and pruning plants. One of my favorite things is being a docent in their Historical Heritage Courtyard program.  

Storytime in the Dome at
This month I am totally excited and honored to kick off Storytime in the Dome. This opportunity began in a brain storming session when they were opening the new Tot Spot exhibit. Here is the software program they are using to create the big interactive picture book we'll be reading and discussing. The event will begin with the kids creating an art project that relates to the book, a nature pendent. Then we'll head upstairs to the digital dome where we'll read and talk about The Prairie That Nature Built. I want this program to succeed so we can bring a lot more books to life and get more book creators involved.
Thank you to whoever took this photo!
And I want to report that our first ever "Storytime in the Dome" was amazing. As we were preparing and rehearsing for this event I'd ask how ticket sales were doing. A couple of weeks ago 10 sold, then 37, then the morning of the event I heard 55 tickets had sold. As we were getting the materials together for the art project and passing them out people continued to stream in. We actually sold out all the seats which equalled a dome-full of 80 plus kids and their folks. It was great to see families excited about this and I'm very encouraged.

Thanks to Sarah, the early childhood lead for working super hard to make this a success, along with Ben, who created the digital show, Jason, the museum director who brainstormed the event and kept us all enthused and on track, to Amy for creating a great display and book signing area in the gift shop and especially thanks to Holly who really believed in me and this book. Did I mention I love being a volunteer at the museum?

Red Feather Lakes Community Library
On the same day as "Storytime in the Dome" I have an afternoon presentation at the Red Feather Lakes Community Library where we'll talk about illustrating creative nonfiction children's books. This is part of their Summer Reading Program. It will be a day of more talking, less drawing which makes me a little nervous with four book deadlines looming this summer! Here's a photo of the exterior of the library where they're putting in new landscaping. It already looks great. Flowers sooth my extreme deadline anxiety.

And just so you know I'm really working, here's the Common Loon illustration from Baby on Board.

The little loon's thick feathers hold body heat inside, So it can climb on Mama's back as they go for a ride.

Thanks for taking a look!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference

21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference
21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference

I've been looking forward to this conference all year. Now it's only a week away and there's still a lot to do. I'm honored to be presenting two workshops. Saturday afternoon I present "Creating a Picture Book - An Illustrator's Perspective". And on Sunday I'm co-presenting with James Ransome, whose work I LOVE! That workshop is "Surviving as an Illustrator". I'm sure his perspective must be totally different from mine so it should be interesting.

Conference faculty
And while on the subject of creating a picture book, here's a couple of new illustrations for Baby on Board, written by Marianne Berkes and published by Dawn Publications. It's a Spring 2017 release, due around the same time as all the new spring babies.
This 'possum hauls her babies from one place to another. The joeys have it easy as they all ride on their mother. 
Here's a little background about North America's only marsupial, the strange animal with the appropriately confusing name. In 1608 Captain John Smith coined the word opossum from "opassum", the Algonquian term meaning "white animal." In his notes he wrote, "An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young."

No one really knows why the opossum's "o" was dropped, but it appears in print as early as 1613. There are true possums in Australia and New Guinea, not to be confused with their North American cousins, the opossums. I told you it was strange.
Baby clings on Mama's hair. They slowly move with ease. They sleep while hanging upside-down from branches in the trees.
And who doesn't love a sloth? Two-toed sloths are nocturnal while three-toed sloths are diurnal, which means they are most active during the day. Skeletons of now extinct species of sloth suggest some varieties used to be as large as elephants!

You can click on the first two images for details about the conference. Click the illustrations to enlarge and get a better view. Thanks for taking a look!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Let's Celebrate Spring with Book Bar and Lalu!

Celebration of Spring!
After a cold, snowy April I am so ready to celebrate SPRING! I love Book Bar and Lalu! I wish they had been around when my kids were little because this is a much appreciated concept. Kids will have a great time, listening to a story, creating art on the back patio and munching down on yummy snacks while their adults kick back with a glass of wine, enjoy conversation and the beautiful day. What could be better? Well, 1/2 price wine and kids' meals, which makes life about perfect.

A whole lot of artistic, book loving kids!
Here's some photos of the book event at Bookbar with Julie from Lalu. We had a great time!

I need to get back to drawing, drawing, drawing so I can take a break to celebrate spring on May 19. I hope you'll join us. In the meantime here's a couple of new paintings for Baby on Board.

What animal doesn't have teeth?
It rides upon her bristly back while she digs insects up.
Here's an anteater mom along with her baby. The baby is well camouflaged, blending right into his mom's bristly fur as he rides on her back.

Animals that don't have teeth are called edentate animals. Anteaters don't need teeth with their long tongues which they use to swallow around 35,000 termites and ants, their daily meal.

What animal wins the "Awesome Dad Award?"
The father warms it with his feet; how can this really be?
The Emperor Penguin is a devoted dad. After the mom lays her egg she journeys into the ocean to replenish herself for a couple of months eating fish, squid and krill. During this time the father is in charge of the egg, carefully holding it between the tops of his feet and his brooding pouch. Antarctica is so cold that the chick would die without the warmth of the parent's pouch.

And below is a video I stumbled upon while researching Emperor Penguins. It features LaLa, a King Penguin, also from Antarctica. He was found trapped in a fisherman's net with an injured beak and wing. The fisherman took him to the Nishimoto family who nursed him back to health. LaLa bonded with the family and refused to leave so they built him a refrigerated room under their house. Daily he would accompany Nishimoto to the fish market and eventually he began making the trip on his own.

Here's LaLa, the King Penguin, not to be confused with Lalu, the Art Studio...

Please check back for more illustrations and updates. If you're in the Denver area please drop by for our Springtime Celebration at Book Bar with Lalu!
Thanks for taking a look!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spring Local Author Showcase at The Bookies!

The Bookies in Denver
You know it's spring time in Colorado when it's 70 degrees one day and a few feet of snow the next. Confusing? Absolutely.

My all time favorite sign of spring is the "Spring Local Author Showcase" at The Bookies in Denver. I have a long history with this store. My kids loved The Bookies when they little and now my grandson and I go there, one of his favorite places. Please come by to help us celebrate.

National Independent Bookstore Day
And it turns out a lot of kids brought their parents to our book signing on a snowy day in April. That's Zoya Master, author of Two Cat Tales to my left and Dave Johnson signing Zoodiac Kids to my right. It was such a fun event!
Daisylocks by Marianne Berkes, Arbordale Publications
My second favorite sign of spring is when I see my daisies starting to sprout even though I had to dig through the snow to find them! If you're snowed in this weekend like many of us in Colorado here's some fun activities you can do - that and 

What are your favorite signs of spring where you live?
Thanks for taking a look!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Baby on Board

I'm working on a new book scheduled for Spring 2017. It's by Marianne Berkes and published by Dawn Publications. I'll post more as I go along. If you haven't guessed by the illustrations it's about how animals carry their young. How did somebody carry you when you were just a tiny baby?

This baby chimp is cradled in a "sleeping" nest.
Baby clings on mama's hair. 

This mom is like a living raft as she transports her pup.
The illustrations above are known as works-in-progress or WIP. They change as we continually tweak, refine and research. What you see now may look very different by the time the book goes to press this fall. I work directly with the art director and editor then they show the art to the author. There's a lot of collaborative feedback - all this behind the scenes tweaking goes into making the book that much better. After we're all happy with it then it goes to vetters, professionals in their field, who might make more suggestions. We want the final outcome to be a fun and imaginative picture book that's based on reality in nature. Here's a great article by Tania Lombrozo, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley who explains why kids love books based on nonfiction!

Check back for new babies as I continue to draw; maybe a cub, a joey, a pup, a spiderling, who knows? And there will be at least one spread showing a special father who's the caregiver for his young. Can you guess which animal that could be?

And I'm totally honored to be a part of Fulcrum Publishing's 3rd Third Series. Patty Maher is in charge of this program. She was my art director for Ignacio's Chair and we've been friends ever since. She didn't mention this in the flyer, but Patty will be doing a presentation on the Caldecott Award. Hopefully I won't be too nervous about my presentation to enjoy hers.
3rd Third Seminar
As always, thanks for taking a look! You can click on the images for an enlarged view.