22 January 2018

Debi Gliori for Picture Hooks

Fabulous author/illustrator Debi Gliori was a recent guest of PictureHooks - what a treat! You might know her as the creator of No Matter What. LOVE her work and she was a generous and lovely speaker.
     I hadn't done one of these day-long workshops in a while and after Martin Salisbury's talk I really wanted the chance to reconnect with PB peeps and play...
     In the morning, Debi and her mentee, Rachel Everitt talked about the mentor/mentee process for PictureHooks.
I especially liked this method Rachel used to display her gorgeous etching prints in a recent art show. They are just bagged in cellophane with a hardback and hung with clips. Brilliant!
Debi shared her sketchbooks (OMG) and process. She talked about making unique characters. I know I've been to a million things like this, but I always learn something. Even if it's something I already knew presented in a new way that helps make better sense of something. For instance, my big takeaway was that young characters will oftentimes have a head and body that are nearly the same size. Yes, I knew that, but for some reason, the way she put it really struck a chord with me.
     After lunch, we got out the art supplies and played. The closets at the Scottish National Gallery are jam-packed full of fun things to play with. Debi encouraged us to build a plasticine model of a character and then draw from that. I used the 1/2 and 1/2 idea and made a wee fox. (Here he is with two fellow creators.)
It was fun!
Some folks used torn paper too.
     Hollins students - see, I do this too! Debi got into it too!
     I actually didn't get much drawing done as I was having too much fun gabbing with everybody. These are my peeps after all and I love talking picture books! For instance with Ruth who works at the Scottish Book Trust, and Rachel who teaches animation at the ECA. PEEPS, I SAY! I look forward to the next event.

21 January 2018

Video: Snow at the University of Glasgow

Looking for Mr. Tumnus... Click the image to watch on Facebook.

Women's March 2018 - I was there!

In a way. My ART was there!
Lynn Alpert sent me this great photograph from St. Louis.
And Tina Hanlon sent me this one from Roanoke, Virginia. (She added the image of me with my Lady Liberty sign and was telling folks the story behind it.)
My image is available on t-shirts in My Zazzle Store - STAY VIGILANT!!!

20 January 2018

Martin Salisbury

The founder of the Children's Book Illustration MA program at Anglia Ruskin University (and the external auditor for my illustration program at the University of Edinburgh), Martin Salisbury, recently gave a talk in Edinburgh hosted by PictureHooks. While I'd met with Martin in his auditor role several times, I'd never heard him give a lecture. So, this was a treat. He talked about the history of picture books, something he's written about at length in many respected books.
     The audience was filled with my picture book peeps here in Scotland (SO NICE to see everybody!), including my former ECA professor Jonathan Gibbs who introduced Martin.
     First, Martin explained what a picture book was with this famous quote by Barbara Bader.
     I especially enjoyed the graphic where he showed how the pace of a picture book is like music. (I'm sorry I can't credit this image or tell you what the music is - does anybody recall?)
And a handout on pagination by one of the professors at Anglia Ruskin.
     My Hollins students will appreciate his focus on The Owl and the Pussycat storyboard and page layout. I missed the illustrator on this one too! Anyone?

     What really resonated with me was when Martin said,
"If it's a great composition without the text, it will be a terrible composition with the text. Text is a shape like any other shape."
     I also liked the Saul Steinberg quote he shared, "Drawing is a way of reasoning on paper."
     He shared work by no less than 19 illustrators, including John Burningham.
and Quentin Blake, of course, along with work by newer creators too.
     Martin is one of the first children's literature academics to come from a practice-based background, as a working illustrator. He even came out of Graphic Design - like I did! It's why he was happy to share the high-design trend and process trend he's seeing in picture books these days. That said, there are more of us academics coming up in this world of kidlit, bringing our unique angle of discussing picture books from the practitioner's viewpoint. It made me excited about my BFA in Graphic Design, MFA in Illustration, and PhD research in Children's Literature. It's a booming field and one with so much subject matter to discuss! For instance, his talk was through a UK lens. Made me want to put together a history of US Picture Books slideshow. I think I shall...

19 January 2018

Friday Links List - 19 January 2018

From NPR: Where Author Jacqueline Woodson Would Like To Take Young People's Literature In 2018

From Shelf Awareness: Bao Phi, author of A Different Pond (illustrated by Thi Bui, Capstone Young Readers), won the 2018 Charlotte Zolotow Award.

From HuffPost: 20 Children's Books To Spark Important Discussions About Race And Tolerance

From Time: Why Children's Books Should Be A Little Bit Sad

From Ben the Illustrator: Illustrator Survey 2017 - so interesting!

From The Scottish Book Trust: Scottish Picture Books of 2017

Kidlit Artists: GET MOVING! "Once upon a time, long ago-ish, I was an Art Director working on automotive advertising in Detroit. And surprisingly, many things that I learned as an AD apply to my present career as a children’s book illustrator. Here are some of the parallels I gleaned from the experience. Perhaps you can benefit from them, too."

From Fodor'sTravel: 17 Bookstore Cats Worth Road Tripping For

18 January 2018

Gianna Marino's IF I HAD A HORSE

I was so horse crazy as a kid. What little girl isn't? I took riding lessons every Saturday for so many years. I was even a groom for a summer and you've read my posts about brushing horses at Hollins. But I never had a horse of my very own. So, you can imagine how Gianna Marino's IF I HAD A HORSE speaks to my inner child. What a gorgeous work. I'm thrilled to have Gianna here today to talk about the creation of this lovely book.
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I love to start of with tiny little sketches, really rough and easily changed. I find once I get attached to a drawing, I have a hard time letting it go, even if it is not right for the story.
In these early drawings, I try to capture movement, emotion, freshness and a feeling of how the book might make the reader feel. It doesn't always work.... but to me this is the most important part of making a book. I make tiny little dummies with these first sketches, usually just a few inches tall. I go back and forth between the text and the illustrations, though I did something completely different for If I Had a Horse (see below). I move on to tighter, full size sketches once the tiny ones are in an order that feels like it tells the story I want to tell. I work in pencil on tracing paper, mostly because it is soft and easy to erase and over-lay.
When these are to my liking, I do color studies for each page, trying to tell some sort of story with the color (if the story calls for that!).
     While I have tried other mediums (and failed in mastering them in any way), I love gouache and that is usually my go-to. I sometimes layer it with gum-arabic over mulberry paper, or use it over crisp white watercolor paper. I love that it can be transparent or opaque. I love that it feels like melted chocolate. I love that it can get really muddy and make me insane with finding the perfect tone. I usually mix up little jars, number them and take notes when I am doing color studies. I will end up with 8-12 jars of different colors to finish the final illustrations with.
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?
"Heart Art" = Art that makes our senses come alive, so we can smell if the character is by the sea, or taste the delicacy we can only see an image of, or hear the wind blow from the page of a book. My favorite illustrations are those that make me cry, or laugh, or love a character so much that I want to know more. Art that makes me FEEL!
      When I work on my own books, I often think about someone I know well when I am drawing the different characters. I hope to let the reader know little secrets about the characters, or THINK they know them more than the words are saying.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
The creation of If I Had a Horse was completely different from any book I have written.
      I was in Costa Rica for a month and greatly missing my horse. While getting frustrated with another book I was working on (with piles of crumpled paper at my feet) I decided to shelve that idea and get my hand back into drawing by doing these really loose and small sketches of a horse and what it would be like if I had my horse with me. Which lead me to recall what it felt like as a child to NOT have a horse and how I would do things differently now that I was adult and (sort of) knew better. (Although I think a child's instinct with an animal is more natural than us over-thinking adults).
With these little sketches, I cut them out and moved them around until it visually started to tell a story. I cleaned up the drawings a bit and sent them to my editor. No words, just these silhouette drawings. While he loved it, he asked how I felt about adding words. I thought about it for a few days, and then wrote what is now the story, in a day. I think I tapped into my own childhood feelings of longing for connection with a horse.
      And what made this story even more strange, were the color studies. Because each illustration was fairly simple, I decided to use color to help tell the story. So I did a small version of each page, no bigger than 6 inches long. They were lose and quick. When I sent those to my editor, we both decided that I could not reproduce this feeling in a larger size and they printed from those first color studies. There was a little magic in that horse...
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I am not a good advertiser! I love coming up with ideas and turning them into stories. I love to visit schools and share secrets with the students about creating art. I love to speak at conferences and workshops. But I am also an artist and spend most of my time alone in the studio, waiting for the invites to come to me! I guess I am a little lazy in the advertising aspect of art. (I was at a residency in Wyoming for a month, so I'm including THAT studio images, since that is where this book was created.)
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
What we love and hate are usually close, right? I LOVE to work alone and be on my own schedule. I hate that I work alone so much! I would say that is my biggest challenge. Though there are days when I just can't figure something out and it feels like I never will. I have finally learned to walk out the door and go for a hike. When the mind stops trying to figure something out, it usually DOES figure something out.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
When I was writing the text for this story, I stopped short on the page where the child is falling off the horse. Yes, it is scary to fall off a horse and I am sure something that every parent hates to see. On the other hand, learning to ride a horse (and learning to try new things in life) often results in failure and an opportunity to try again. The child realizes that they don't agree on everything. Realizes that relating to this creature, being strong like him, and seeing that he could be gentle, "Like me" are how they move forward together. Horses, and many animals for that matter, are often trained by power OVER them (through strong training tactics, harsh bits and objects to scare them). I love that this child finds a way to gain his trust (with an apple and patience), and realizes they need to work together in order to grow and become a team. I also want the reader to know that this child could be anyone. It could be a girl. Or a boy. It is more about the connection to each other, which is why we decided to keep everything in silhouette.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Every book is a dream project! At least when they begin! Then comes the work...
      I am working on a book now about giraffe siblings. The smaller of the two wants to be like the bigger one and realizes, through a game of hide-and-seek, that they are! It is called Just Like My Brother and is due out Spring of 2019 with Viking. I am working on something else now that is one of those tip-top-secrets (I have never been able to write that before and it makes me feel like a spy!) as well as a sequel to Night Animals!

e: Thanks so much Gianna!! I adore this book!

17 January 2018

More Snow!

It's been a whiter winter than usual here in Scotland (from my experience so far). My train ride to Glasgow on Tuesday was so lovely, I have to share...
Can you see the sheep? No? It's because they're white.
Bwahahaha! I'm kidding, there weren't any sheep in these photos. (I tried to get a photo with the sheep, but it didn't turn out.) Although, there's definitely a storm in this second photo.
There's a saying here in Edinburgh...
Can you see the Firth?
Then it's raining.
Then it's about to rain.
This snowman was sitting on a bench outside the library.
The view out of my office was lovely.
As was the view out the front of the building.
All that said, it was really hard to navigate all the steep hills as the sidewalks grew icy. I was sore from walking like a penguin all day! Eh, it's worth it.

16 January 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Chorus

     A friend of mine sings in choruses around town. I love going to hear them sing. It's so joyous! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     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.

15 January 2018

The J.K. Rowling... PUB!

It's always surprised me how little Edinburgh plays off of its most famous author, J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter. You'll see products in stores sometimes. You can visit The Elephant House where she supposedly wrote the books (it was actually a different location). And there's a Harry Potter tour you can take. But if you want to visit the World of Harry Potter, you have to go to Disney Paris or Orlando.
     So, I got rather chuffed when our local pub, the Arthur Conan Doyle (also an Edinburgh native), changed it's name for a city-wide literary art event to the J.K. Rowling...

with her portrait on the sign.
It's definitely a tourist stop, so the food ain't so great and we were presumed to be tourists while there (the American accents give us away), but the decor is lovely and I thought you'd get a kick out of it. Here's Stan on the way in.

and the national flower of Scotland - the thistle.
The bar was charming too.
If you come to visit, I'll be happy to meet you there for a whisky.

14 January 2018

VIDEO: Tremontaine

I love this book trailer for my friend Ellen Kushner's latest novel in the Tremontaine world (and the prequel to her Riverside series that began with Swordspoint!. Click the image to learn more and see for yourself!

11 January 2018

Chris Barton's DAZZLE SHIPS

Remember when I told you about the Dazzle Ship parked in the Port of Leith? Well, Chris Barton went and wrote about it in this gorgeouse book illustrated by Victo Ngai for Lerner Books.
e: What was your creative process for Dazzle Ships, can you walk us through it?
Sometimes a significant piece of the text for a nonfiction book will come to me even before I’ve researched the subject to my satisfaction, and this happened with Dazzle Ships.
      On the last morning of 2014, when the book was just something that editor Carol Hinz and I were discussing, I wrote this introduction:
There is a large ship depicted on this page, but you probably can’t even see it because it is camouflaged.
Oh. You can see it?
Well, then. Let’s talk about what you’re looking at.
That’s pretty close to the opening lines of the finished book:
One of the ships on this page is painted in sneaky, stripy camouflage.
You probably can’t even see it.
Oh. You can see it?
     But the ease with which those opening lines came to me was nowhere to be found when I tried to figure out what should come next.
      I mean, the very next activity was research -- lots of it, all of which would determine what came next in the text. But the more I researched, the more I realized how unlike my previous nonfiction books Dazzle Ships would be.
      Those previous books focused on the lives of one or two or three people -- Bob and Joe Switzer, John Roy Lynch, the Christensen brothers, Lonnie Johnson -- and the stories I told followed their lives pretty linearly.
      But the story of dazzle camouflage didn’t seem linear at all. There were multiple people with roles in bringing it about, and they each had backstories, and there were tangents galore involving such famous names as Picasso and Roosevelt and Titanic.
      And topping it all off was the inconclusive nature of the dazzle camouflage experiment. The Americans said after World War I that, you bet, this stuff worked great at keeping ships from getting sunk by U-boats, while the British were much more hesitant to declare whether dazzle was effective. That discrepancy doesn’t easily lend itself to a climactic conclusion that’s both dramatic and honest. I tried to address both the bevy of tangents and the lack of a tidy outcome with a meta approach where my process of creating this book became part of the story itself. I’ve got several drafts saved under the title How to Write a Book About Dazzle Ships. Here's a taste:
And a Royal Navy commander named Norman Wilkinson had another idea to try. His idea was to camouflage the boats. His idea was called --
Wait a minute.
Was Wilkinson the first person to suggest camouflage for ships during World War I? No, he wasn't. To find out what made his idea different, I had to read about those other suggestions and the people who made them.
      Eventually my editor took matters into her own hands, cut out the self-indulgent elements in what I’d written, and reordered the rest. And that gave me a fresh perspective on this story -- enough that I could see that its heart lay in the attempt to solve a life-and-death problem by trying (among other things) something “seemingly bonkers,” rather than in any measurable effectiveness of that bonkers solution.
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?
For picture book illustration, I’d say that Heart Art is any illustration that serves and advances the story that it’s telling -- be it beautifully, dramatically, humorously, what have you -- while also inviting the reader to linger over the art for its own sake and ponder how the artist landed upon the decisions that make up that particular image.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Dazzle Ships?
Funny to me, anyway, is the story of the other two nonfiction books I submitted proposals for to the same editor at the same time.
     Dazzle Ships was an idea that Carol had brought to me, but the other two book ideas I had come up with on my own.
      Lo and behold, it turned out that Carol preferred the book she suggested over the ones I suggested. (Go figure.) But the upside of that is that Dazzle Ships was a finished book, from beginning to end, in less than three years -- easily the fastest path for any of my nonfiction picture books, even with the difficulty I had zeroing in on how to tell the story.
e: How did Dazzle Ships come to be?
This project began when Carol heard the “Razzle Dazzle” episode of the design podcast 99% Invisible.
      This was about a year before the publication of the first book of mine that she edited, The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. We were already looking ahead to doing another book together -- we just didn’t know what the subject would be.
      Neither of us had heard of dazzle camouflage, but she was intrigued and very soon I was, too! I knew it could be a interesting-looking book, which -- thanks to Victo Ngai’s art -- turned out to be a complete understatement.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I love the freedom that I’ve enjoyed to bounce back and forth, from one book to the next, between seriously researched nonfiction and completely ridiculous fiction. I wouldn't have nearly as much fun as an author if I had to choose one or the other.
e: Is there something in particular about Dazzle Ships you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
If they read our bios on the cover flap, and dig a little further, they’ll notice how different my background is from Victo’s. We’re from different generations and opposite sides of the world. I grew up in a 14,000-person Texas town and have lived in this state almost my entire life, whereas she’s gone from Hong Kong (6 million in population while she was growing up) to the Rhode Island School of Design to New York to Los Angeles.
      Victo and I have never met or even spoken on the phone. But as with the efforts that went into getting dazzle camouflage onto the sides of thousands of ships during World War I, collaborations and creative undertakings can emerge from and flourish under all sorts of conditions, as long as there’s trust and goodwill and openmindedness at hand.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Carol Hinz and I have been working on the text for our next nonfiction project together, All of a Sudden and Forever, about recovery from and memorialization of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Millbrook will publish that one in late 2019, and it will be the picture book debut of illustrator Nicole Xu.
      And I’m putting the finishing touches on the text for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?, my picture book biography of Texas Congresswoman and teacher Barbara Jordan. Ekua Holmes is illustrating, and the book should be out from Beach Lane in fall 2018.
      I’ve got lots of stories in the works that will, I hope, turn into dream projects. But the dreamiest dream project would probably to be create a novel together with my wife, Jennifer Ziegler. She’s published several novels, and I’ve published zero, so not only would I learn a lot in the process, but I think it would be a lot of fun.

      My recent and upcoming titles for young readers include WHOOSH! (included on a dozen state reading lists), DAZZLE SHIPS (an Orbis Pictus Honor book), BOOK OR BELL? and WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A VOICE LIKE THAT? (a picture-book biography of Barbara Jordan). I'm also the author of THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (winner, Sibert Honor) and SHARK VS. TRAIN (a New York Times bestseller). You can visit me at www.chrisbarton.info. (See Chris's workspace with doggie Ernie below.)

e: Thanks Chris!


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