16 November 2017

Cao Wenxuan's FEATHER

Sometimes I just want to show you a groovy book I've received, like today. I recently received a review copy of FEATHER written by the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award Winner Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award Winner Roger Mello, translated from Chinese by Chloe Garcia Roberts, for Elsewhere Editions, "a nonprofit children's press devoted to visionary picture books from around the world."
With a line-up like that, I can understand the money that obviously went into the physical design of this book. The protagonist of the story, a feather trying to find out which bird it belongs to, is divided between the pages and a cardboard flap built into the book.
The pages are of variable lengths depending on if they are meant to interact with the feather flap, or not (as towards the end). These are all very high-end design decisions.
The artwork is minimal, large shapes and simple lines. This spread is especially interesting—the birds are shown on vases rather than in a real-world setting as the text implies.
Both the author and illustrator did a write-up about what the story means to them, printed in the front of the book. As Cao says,
"...underlying this simple story of Feather pondering her questions are actually the core questions of human thought: Where do I come from? Where do I want to go? Who do I belong to? In fact, Feather's journey of riding the wind, her journey of questioning, is really the human journey of searching for a sense of belonging."
I don't think a book like this would sell to a US picture book publisher as it's more of an art book than a book for children, in my opinion. But it is interesting. Certainly, I find that international books tend to push the boundaries of what a picture book can be, as this one does.

15 November 2017

Sneak Peek at Christmas

The second-most-popular tourist time for Edinburgh is the Christmas and holiday season. It's well-earned. The town gets thoroughly decked out in twinkle lights and decorations. The Christmas Village will open. And Connie celebrated her birthday. We meet our friend every year at The Dome for cocktails to celebrate, and it has become our official kick-off to the holiday season. How could it not with a view down George Street like this?
And an interior decorated to the hilt.
It's one of the must-sees when visiting this time of year, and we'll be sure our friends Janice and Tom see it when they come over at the end of the month!
     And truly, this is only a sneak peek - I'll be snapping lots more photos to share with you! Especially of the new light structure at the end of George Street - that blue dome thing in the photo. I hear it's a globe and I haven't seen it up close yet...

14 November 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Winter Squashes

     Squashes aren't just for Jack-o-Lanterns. They make good eats all through the winter too! (And they're fun to look at.) CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

13 November 2017

Picture Hooks 2017

Last week I headed over the Water of Leith...
to the Museum of Modern Art to meet Vivian French for lunch and see the Picture Hooks Exhibit.
These are the lucky, beginning illustrators who worked with successful picture book mentors to up their crafts. For instance, lucky Hazel Dunn worked with the amazing Patrick Benson.
I loved seeing two of his original pieces - pen and ink and watercolor on colored paper - wow.
I loved the work mentee Anders Frang did especially with his mentor Steve Antony.

It was an absolute treat to see Helen Stephen's work up close and personal.

That street scene was done with watercolor, ink, and caran d'ache crayon.
     But the best part of all, in my opinion, is seeing the work-in-progress sketches. To get a behind the scenes glimpse at how these creators thought processes developed. Like these character studies by Frang.

The development of the main character from too old to a proper little girl in Kirsti Beautyman's work. She was chosen Picture Hooks Illustrator for 2017.

And the textile-inspired work of Hazel Dunn.

I wonder why the blue in Hlín Davidsdottir's work?
All in all, very cool, and wonderful to see it with my friend Viv!

12 November 2017


Have you seen this newest book written by Margaret Wise Brown? It's called GOOD DAY, GOOD NIGHT and is illustrated by Loren Long with an obvious nod to its mentor text, GOODNIGHT MOON. How many similarities can you pick out? Click the image to watch the trailer on YouTube.

11 November 2017

Scouting for a Night at the Museum

Last week, my PhD supervisor (Maureen Farrell) and I went to the Hunterian Museum on the University of Glasgow campus to scout out the space we'll occupy for the Fantasy Scotland: Night at the Museum! There, I saw the actual sorting chair
- actually known as the Blackstone Chair where award-winning PhD students get the honor of giving their VIVAs.
After the sorting chair, the first thing to greet you in the museum is the skeleton of NESSIE!
Our space will be in the back - completely transformed through the use of free and leftover art supplies - cross your fingers we can pull off something wonderful!
Afterwards, Maureen gave me a wee tour about.
Can you believe she was actually married HERE?
Wow. I'm truly lucky to be able to claim a part of this amazing campus!

10 November 2017

Friday Links List - 10 November 2017

From the NYT: Seeking a Voice, via a Bilingual M.F.A., in Writing and in Life

Children's book author/illustrator James Mayhew is offering a Master Class in Book Illustration at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh on 9 December

From Muddy Colors: Reference Manipulation - Pushing The Pose Or Portrait - LOVE these reference photos with their resulting illustrations!

From The Bookseller: 'Most Beautiful Book' shortlist reavealed

From Electric Lit: The Secret History of Cricket Magazine, the 'New Yorker for Children'

From The Scottish Book Trust: 8 Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers

From The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards - the 2018 Nominations! Congratulations especially to Elizabeth Wein for The Pearl Theif!

09 November 2017

Ged Adamson's MOMMY, BABY AND ME

This adorable new picture book from Peter Pauper Press recently came onto my radar. It a new sibling story told in an adorable way, written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Ged Adamson, who stopped by to talk about his process. I think they have a winner here, so let's get to know Ged!

e: What is your creative process and medium, can you walk us through it?
My creative process varies. Sometimes I'll just be doodling away and something will stick out and trigger an idea. Other times, it won't involve drawing. It will be just thinking of stuff that might work as a story. Or I'll be watching a tv programme or something on the Internet and that will inspire me.
      I used to draw with ink but then I got into pencil. I much prefer it - you can erase things! The way I work once I've got to final art stage is to do colour and line separately. I'll draw the scene in pencil and then paint the colour and shadows on another piece of paper. Then I scan these into the computer and put everything together in Photoshop. This gives me control and flexibility. On the writing side, I will usually let the rough sketches suggest how the text will go. This constantly chops and changes. It often involves help from my editor. It's good to have that different viewpoint on the words.

e: I love your mix of watercolor and pencil drawings - how do you know when a piece is finished?
Thanks! I'm learning to accept that often, less is more. This is really important with picture books. Sometimes, it's when you take away a background element that you suddenly feel happy with an illustration and think "that's finished!"
      There's a spread in my next book Ava And The Rainbow (Who Stayed), where there's a load of people getting off buses. I wasn't happy with it until I took away the grass and the asphalt. It just suddenly all worked against white.
      In the same book I leave a lot of objects uncoloured, black and white. This wasn't laziness it's simply because I thought it looked better! Instead of filling in every building, sky and tree, I would just stop when I was happy with how everything looked.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
What makes an illustration magical? Well, for a start, it shouldn't look like it's trying to be magical! It has to have this quality because it's done by someone with a style that comes straight from their own personality. Rather than trying to be some other artist. I have to get a sense of the person behind the art. It's nice if it looks like somebody used paints or pencils or ink or crayons for at least some of the process. But it must have originality, humour and an ingredient of the past. Beatrice Alemagna, Oliver Jeffers, Lesley Barnes and Kevin Waldron are examples of artists that fit this description.
      I'm not a big fan of super detailed, slick artwork. It tends to leave me cold.
      There are so many professional people using tablets exclusively to do their art, that a lot of illustrations have all the lovely texture but no human quality. There tends to be a uniformity to these illustrations. Like people who've gone to the same plastic surgeon.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Mommy, Baby, and Me?
Linda Marshall is the author so I think you’d have to ask her that one. She’s such an insightful and empathetic person. Not everyone can get into the mind of a dog! It wouldn’t surprise me if she’d experienced this situation in real life with one of her own animals. The poor dog’s confusion when his owners’ tempers are frayed due to lack of sleep. It’s heartbreaking - he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong.
      What’s great about dogs though is that even after that initial surprise of the new arrival, they soon join in with the parenting. Linda shows this really sweetly in the story.
e: What was your path to publication?
I always wanted to be a picture book author and illustrator - it was something at the back of my mind for a long time.
      I was working in music - composing for TV ads, trailers, stuff like that. I had this idea for a story, so when I wasn’t writing tunes for a job, I would work on the book.
      At the start, I was really clueless about putting together a simple story in the context of a picture book. So mine ended up super complicated and meandering. But I got fantastic advice from a couple of friends in the children’s book world. They showed me how I could edit the text right down and get rid of unnecessary scenes and characters.
      I knew I needed to get representation to have any hope of publication. I sent Elsie & The Vampire Hairdresser out to agents. Isy Atherton of Creative Authors came back saying she loved the story. She got me a deal with a New York publisher. It was so exciting!
      That was about five years ago and, thanks to Isy, I’m now doing this full time and I love it.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I love it when I think I've come up with something good. You just get this feeling that a new idea might have potential. It doesn't always pan out like that afterwards but I just get a massive kick out of that moment when you suddenly think "hmm that's interesting". I spend most of my time doodling and thinking of ideas - when I'm not working on signed off jobs, that is - so the aim is to surprise myself with something.
      One of the challenging things for me is to make myself happy with my art style. I'm constantly pushing to improve the look of my illustrations. It's a slow process. I think things like Instagram are great because you're seeing lots of amazing illustrations and sketches by very talented people. It inspires you to try different stuff with your own work.
      I think it's dangerous when you're completely satisfied with how you do things. You have to be open to new processes.
      Writing is also something I find a challenge. It comes less naturally to me than the art. I don't mean the shape of the story or coming up with ideas - I just mean the actual writing of the text and making it flow and sound interesting. That feeling that I've got my own 'voice' as a picture book author is elusive. But maybe that's hard to judge from this side.
e: Is there something in particular about Mommy, Baby, and Me you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I'd like people to come away with the idea that life is all about adapting to new situations and new ideas. And that we should always try to see things from the other person's viewpoint before we make a judgement - even if that person is a dog! Empathy is a great thing.
      In fact, I think the problems we face in the world at the moment are because a lot of people won't do these very things!
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
In a few months, my next book Ava And The Rainbow (Who Stayed), comes out with Harper. I'm really excited about this one because it's the first time I've done something that's like a fairy tale. I'm proud of it and I think it's an original idea with hopefully lots of humour. Fingers crossed people like it!
      I've got a couple of new things I'm working on that I think could be really good. One of them, if it comes off, could very well be a dream project! It's a story that involves music. I would love to combine writing and illustrating a story with composing some music and maybe having the whole thing performed.
      I'm just finishing the follow up to Douglas, You Need Glasses! , which is called Douglas, You're A Genius! I've also done a second Shark Dog book, Shark Dog And The School Trip Rescue!

07 November 2017

Coloring Page Tuesday - Squirrel Reader

     Don't you adore a cozy reading nook? So does my bibliophile squirrel! You get to decide what they are reading. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

06 November 2017

Out n' About in Edinburgh

The weather has been lovely as Edinburgh transitions into colder weather and the holidays loom. The Christmas villages are starting to go up. Friends are out, and Stan and I had to wander. This will be the ice-skating rink in St. Andrew Square.
Harvey Nicks has brightened up their entire building's displays.
Stan and I had to get out and enjoy this weather, so we went to lunch down in Stockbridge, where we ran into Deborah and Connie and Humphrey (the fuzziest one).
And I promised you more wedding party photos. Here are the men having pictures taken. That's the best man, I believe, in the kilt.
Photos not shared are the giant dinosaur puppet on Princes Street, and the bachelor party with the groom-to-be being hazed by his friends, forced to wear a day-glo aerobics outfit. I wasn't brave enough to grab that one for you! But I'll try again on the dinosaur. So, y'know, just normal stuff. :)

05 November 2017

TRAILER: Loving Vincent

Have you heard about this animated film, Loving Vincent? Every single image is an actual oil painting done in the style of Van Gogh. Click the image to learn more about it and watch the trailer. I cannot wait to see this!

04 November 2017

My Feature at Picture Book Month!

Friday was MY day to be featured at Picture Book Month! I shared my picture book, Lula's Brew and talked about various kinds of literacy that picture books are especially good at imparting. Happily, a quote has been pulled from my posting, which is being shared on social media:
Sharing a variety of picture books with children can provide the tools to understanding and translating our world, helping to create a more compassionate, educated and literate citizenry, which not only benefits children, but benefits all of society.
I'm proud of that one! Click the banner to go read my entire post. Then stick around, because there will be posts every day of the month from well-known and beloved children's book creators. And don't forget to download my calendar while you're at it. It makes a great resource to choose thematic reading to share with the young readers in your world!


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