I've been wanting to do circus-themed illustrations for years. I've been collecting imagery and dreaming about the sort of characters and environment I wanted to create. Lately, with the closing of Barnum and Bailey and the changing circus mission, it's been on my mind even more. I'm putting together a promo packet to send to art directors and agents and creating a few personal pieces to include in my port folio. I took this opportunity to have some fun with the circus theme. If you are an art director or agent and are interested in recieing my promotional packet when it is ready please email me or comment here with your email and I will be sure to include you on my short list!
Normally, summer is not my favorite season. I don't do well in the heat and my allergies leave me feeling itchy, tired and a bit foggy most of the time. This year, however, I have a reason to welcome it with open arms! I can already feel the schedule of the school year fading away and I'm starting to adjust to the new, more consistent work schedule in the studio. I will still be navigating the work schedules of my two teenage sons who are not yet driving and the very phrenetic schedule of my new(ish), high energy puppy but this is all an improvement!
Looking forward to sinking my teeth into my emerging "Caged" series. This series gets its imagery inspiration from vintage botanical and biological illustrations. The energy for this series is fueled by my own angst and thoughts about being a woman in her fifties as I consider all the choices I've made along the way and the things that cage me in one way or another. I will be incorporating hand embroidery into the works, as I have in the previous two series. This time I plan on working on hand dyed fabrics as well as the tissue paper layers I've used in the past. I have been doing research on the history of embroidery and it's parallel to woman's roles in the family and community. This history will play its own role in the series and what I hope to express in these works.
Because most artists these days have to keep many irons in the fire to keep the bills paid, I will also be putting together a marketing package to send out to art agents and directors in the direction of illustration and licensing work. Work on the Gracie Brave book is ongoing and I will be doing some illustration work for the authors this summer as well.
Happy Summer to all who have teken the time to visit my "desk" today. Be well and stay in touch!
I am now offering some of the 100 Days of Botanicals and Bugs as giclee prints in my shop here on my site! Please email me with inquiries or requests for specific images or sizes.
The 100 Days Project Continues and is going well ... I've loosened up and have played with new color palettes and am finding pure joy in the process! I've started doing research on the history of botanical illustrations as well as the history of embroidery and it's reflection of society and culture. This search and the daily practice of playing with the themes will inform my next series which I hope to really dig in to this summer. Finally, I am researching fellowships and artist residencies to commit a focused block of time to this series, if anyone has any leads - I'd welcome the resource!
These studies and sketches will inform my next wall art series. This new series will explore the mixture of hand embroidery, used in a more free-form/intuitive way than I have used it in my first Beasts series. I've begun to explore the use of embroidering on tea-dyed fabric as well as water soluble substrate material for hand work. My intention is to bring an updated and deeper exploration of the traditional botanical/natural history illustration.
I continue to work on my children's book illustration portfolio and hope to pull a pitch together for the Gigantic Turnip book.
Finally, I am researching the possibility of pursuing a Masters in Social Work to support my goals of bringing creativity as a means to healing to audiences that have experienced loss and or trauma.
I've been going back in to the illustrations I worked on for the Make Art That Sells Children's Book Illustration class I took this past fall. These are some character development attempts for the Sailor's wife for The Gigantic Turnip folktale that I have set by the sea.
I am pleased to announce that the newly expanded Worcester Art and Frame Gallery in West Brookfield, MA is now showing my work ! I have my Beasts II (Heritage Breeds and Heirloom Seeds) series hanging now in addition to some smaller works on paper and cards, also available. There will be a grand opening reception on March 11 if you're local and want to stop by to say hello to some local artists.
I'm the featured artist on Rise, Design and Shine this week ! I answered some questions about my work, my process and my dream jobs. Check it out.
Hello good people ! Whew! Haven't posted here since November ?! Shame on me ! December always gets away from me. Here's the new year upon us already. I have been emerging from the fog of activity related to the holidays as well as to my middle son starting college. I am just starting to get my footing with my new schedule of driving him back and forth to classes and carving out my studio time. Oh! And we added a new little four legged life to our family. "Jimmy" is a little ball of puppy energy and a real tricky one to train. I've taken on a new teaching position at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens and will be starting with a "Monet's Garden" class with young school age students in the spring. Really looking forward to teaching children again. I taught children ages 3-13 for 11 years in my private art school out of my home. I stopped teaching to get ready for a solo show back in 2011 and really miss being with young artists. Their enthusiasm and strong instincts were the things that got me painting again in 2006 and it's a missing piece in my life.
I'm working on a big project that unfortunately I can't share here or anywhere else until I get the thumbs up from the client. In the meantime I've been warming up in the studio by doing little concept pieces and throwing them on Instagram.
I've been inspired by a Emily Gould's journaling class on Skillshare, where she asked us to write daily by being sparked by the opening sentence, "today I noticed.."
I also played with some images that suggested to me a particular word. I worked with images first and then thought about what words came to mind when I thought about the composition. I've been working on hand lettering with all these ideas.
and finally ... I created a little piece for M.L.K. Jr. Day. I love W.E.B. Dubois's words...so much richness in his thoughts and writings.
Now that the the Children's Book Illustration course is over and all the Thanksgiving left overs are eaten, I am ready to take on the holiday season! I'm gearing up to participate in an art show this Saturday at the UUCW church and have just announced that I will be hosting an open studio the weekend of December 17-18.
I am offering my newest card design: a Hanukkah themed card !
I decided to enter the competition to win a free space in the next round of the Children's Book Illustration course.
The assignment was to design the front cover of the imaginary book titled, "The Sugar Plum Fairy's Adventure". I truly had so much fun with this assignment! I really tried to relax and have fun and give myself plenty of time to see it with fresh eyes to fine tune and make this the most solid submission to date.
My plan first thing in the new year is to design a marketing package to send to a small group of art directors and agents. If you are an art agent or art director in the children's book illustration and/or children's markets and would like to receive my newsletter and/or my marketing package please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. Here's to the best year yet in 2017 !
AND...its a wrap ! Last submission to the Make Art That Sells Professional Children's Book Illustration course with Lilla Rogers and Zoe Tucker.
A few things I have learned about myself and the industry:
- I've come a long way in a few years and need to celebrate that.
- I can push myself to keep it simple and take some risks.
- Simplifying my palette has powerful results - do it more.
- You don't need a polished and finished manuscript to submit an idea to a publisher.
- I do have a hand lettering style!
- Character and emotion is all about subtlety ...the cover art and action inside is all about being bold and dramatic.
- I am super excited to work on my marketing package that sells my "USP": my Unique Selling Point !
It's staring out plainer than ever
Brighter than all the fool's gold that gleams
It's simply now or never
Putting flesh on the bones of my dreams
- David Gray, "Flesh"
Any chance I get to use David Gray's lyrics to illustrate a post is a good day for me !
I've been a bit quiet here the last few weeks but I apologize... I couldn't find my computer keyboard under the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates when I am chin deep into a project. And I have indeed been chin deep into the Make Art That Sells course, Children's Book Illustration course with Lilla Rogers and Zoe Tucker these past four weeks ! What a wonderful experience it has been for me. Some tears, as there are always tears when I take Lilla's courses. All my buttons get pushed and my ego tries to bully me. However, I am getting much better at pushing right back. I've been reflecting at how very far my work and my knowledge has come in the past three years (since taking the first MATS A course Lilla offered) and really, that's an opportunity to celebrate not fill tissues with tears!
I'd like to indulge you, if it's ok for just a bit, and share the lifespan of this dream I have of creating beautiful picture books for children.
Drawing, coloring, painting on the wall of my second grade classroom (shhhh...) have always been my activity of choice. My first studio was in my bedroom where I set up a private space in an unused large closet to research, draw and paint. I would collect my favorite picture books and study them intently in that little closet lit by one bulb hanging from the ceiling. I recently purchased a second copy of one such book that I was intrigued by: "Debbie's Dollhouse" illustrated by Pat Paris.
Other illustrators that I was intrigued by were Holly Hobbie, Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, Jan Brett and 1930's illustration in general. The blocks in the photo above were my mother's. Her mother, my grandmother, whom I never knew wanted to be a children's book author/illustrator. I am told I look just like her and we have quite a bit in common leading many to believe I am her reincarnated spirit. It is eery how much we have in common but that's a story for another day...
In college I bounced around a bit within my studio art major at Skidmore College but always held up the intention to be a children's book illustrator. One of my drawing professors was married to illustrator, Lorinda Bryan Cauley. Pat and Lorinda invited us into their home where we could view her studio and ask her questions, etc.. I remember being tongue tied because this life of illustrating stories while raising small children was the very dream I had imagined for most of my life. I think it scared me to view this glimpse into the very life I wanted so closely. It doesn't make sense now but that's what I felt.
During the summer of my junior and senior years in college I was fortunate enough to work at The Main Street Gallery in Nantucket, MA. The gallery showed Jan Brett originals and I would stand transfixed in front of her work, studying every detail just as I had as a little girl in my studio closet. I was thrilled to meet her and to talk to her about my dream of developing my portfolio to approach publishers after graduation. She was so encouraging and even said I reminded her of herself at my age. Again, I felt more fear than encouragement at her open and kind spirit.
So, for reasons I can't really nail down, other than a lack of confidence in my own voice, I lost my way after college on the path to pursuing that dream. I won't go in to all the twists and a turns my career took since 1987 (including an advanced degree in a non-art field) but to suffice it to say, "what a long strange trip it's been!" Along the way, I met another one of my illustration heroes, Maurice Sendak , when I embarrassed myself by kneeling in front of him to ask for his advice. His response? "First, stand up". I think that's pretty telling. Yea Jane, stand up and take your place in the world would you for crying out loud !?
So, here I am. I started painting again professionally in 2006 and ever since I have worked toward developing my voice and honing my skills. I illustrated my first children's book this past year, "Gracie Brave" to be published soon. The authors' hired me privately so it's up to the winds of fate and their efforts to edit and pitch it to the right publisher so, fingers crossed!
So, "enough about me, what do you think of me?" wink wink
Here's some of my progress in the class:
The children's book illustration class with Art Agent Lilla Rogers and Scholastic UK Art Director Zoe Tucker started this week ! We had to pick a text from three different choices. Lila developed a quiz method to help us make our choices which was fun. I chose the Russian folk tale, "The Gigantic Turnip", a favorite or mine as a child. I always loved stories that built on itself progressively. I thought I could have fun with all the characters and it just felt right.
First I brainstormed about the characters...
? a farmer at the farmer's market buying seeds from a woman who's truck says, "Ginormous Seeds" or "Monstrous Seeds" or something...
? a scientist-farmer who is experimenting with various fertilizers...the scientific name of turnip is "Brassica Rapa"
? Show growing turnip under the ground with a calendar...looked up the growing season of turnips...
? make the turnip a character in it's own right
And then... I couldn't sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about the characters and the setting of the story. I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea that I fell in love with !
> Set on the seaside...family lives in a lighthouse (considered setting it in Holland but gave that up)...Old man is a fisherman who finds the seeds washed up on the beach in a pirate treasure type box...married to his wife, a mermaid...granddaughter based on photos of my mother's of her as a 2-3 year old in vintage 1930's bathing suit...use vintage 1930'2 color palette. In the back ground is a secondary story: a whale swimming in the ocean getting progressively closer to the shore...when the turnip does finally pop out of the ground it flies into the open mouth of the whale. That's my idea so far.
Here is my final main character submission for the old man:
I like how the embroidered details look on his coat and beard. I also like the color palette and the crab on the watering can. I want him to be an imposing figure built like a big, hefty turnip! I'm really looking forward to allowing the other characters and story to unfold. Working on trusting my instincts and not allowing my insecurities about certain details derail me but rather push through and just keep sketching and brainstorming gently. In the past I push so hard I think I block some of my best work.
I've been spending most of my time preparing for my experience in the Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells course: Children's Book Illustration which starts this Monday (!0/3/2016). I've been saving for and looking forward to this class for months and months since I first heard about it. I've cleaned my studio, cleared the air of any sense of regret over the Global Talent Search experience and tried out some new ways of working.
I've been experimenting with incorporating my hand embroidery into my illustrations.
I've also played around with Lilla's warm-up assignments that revolved around a fictitious character named "Minette". We were charged to imagine her as a well rounded character: who were her friends, her pets, her world?
Rounding down the illustrations for the Gracie Brave project and beginning to ramp up for what's next for me.
I've been thinking a lot about how I might push the quirk factor in my work. The type of children's book illustrator I long to be is someone who shows more of a sense of humor in my work. I'm putting that intention out there and will explore it in the Lilla Roger's Children's Book Illustration class which starts in October.
In preparation for this upcoming course I have been taking a few related classes on Skillshare.
I recently watched Nina Rycroft's courses. I played with some face shapes in her "Explore Character with Nine Shapes" class:
Next I would like to use some of what I gleaned from her insight and apply it to inanimate objects with character.
When I returned to the studio from my trip I was feeling a bit burnt-out and confused about the Global Talent Search outcome. I knew I just needed to give myself a few days to dust myself off and get back into the swing and I am happy to say I am back in the world again!
I continue to work towards the last few pages and finishing touches on the Gracie Brave project:
In the evenings when my energy shifts but I still need to work I have been listening to The Jealous Curator podcast and doing fluid, loose gouache and colored pencil florals and seed pod studies in my sketchbook. Not sure where this will lead but might try some larger versions and offer them for sale in my website shop. Stay posted... and be well.
My submission for the Global Talent Search hosted by Lilla Rogers Studio has been a joy to create! . I went with a Metamorphosis theme for this assignment: to design a tea cup, saucer and napkin for a posh newly expanded tea and pastry cafe. I named the cafe "Chrysalis" and went with imagery of moths and fruit. I've been obsessed with the combination of peachy-salmon tones with dusty rose lately so I knew they would play a role and of course, light aqua blues and mossy greens are always popping into the picture ! I did my first honest to goodness repeat pattern in Photoshop with this project. The original idea was to put the pattern on the tea cup but I decided on putting it on the napkin only as well as a backdrop neutral for the overall presentation.
I made the decision not to do a mock up of a teacup with the design on it. I really wanted to keep the composition simple and let the art come forward. I decided instead to do the teacup design on a template shape that would be used at the factory level to place it on the cup.
I wanted to push the unexpected nature of using moths instead of butterflies. Moths are so varied and so many are just amazingly gorgeous. I borrowed nature books filled with photographs of moths and their various stages of life: chrysalis, caterpillar, egg, etc... from my dear friend Loree Burns who has a vast collection of such books including the ones she has written! If you have a young nature lover check out her books - they are terrific! .
I liked the idea of using the Metamorphosis idea in conjunction with a place you might go to pause for a bit to gain sustenance to continue your personal journey or perhaps spiritual unfolding. I came up with a tag line for the cafe: "Nurture your Metamorphosis" for the cafe.
I truly felt more confident and joy-filled working on this assignment than I have in previous GTS attempts. I hope my emotion for this personal victory shines through in the result. Crossing my fingers and toes that Lilla and her staff sees something they'd like to see more of and will allow me the opportunity to try my hand at the next assignment. There are over 1,000 international artists in this GTS and she will have to narrow that group down to 50 ! Not an easy job I am sure. I will let you know ! In the mean time I still have work on the Gracie Brave book and having fun with the last few pages - so much going on in these last illustrations and I am loving that prospect as well!
Here is my final presentation submission:
Another page for Gracie Brave...and very timely as I have entered Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search for the third time. I do feel so much more confident and ready for this competition. When I entered the first one I had really no Photoshop skills and there was much banging my head on the desk and tears. The second time I had slightly more skills and could cut and paste things together but still nervous and uptight about the whole thing. This time I am, for the most part, able to manipulate what I need to and I can relax and just push my own style in my own way and use Photoshop as just another tool to get to the end result.
Can't share my design yet but I will after the deadline on August 12. I am having so much fun with this assignment ! Right up my alley. Three time's a charm!
I've been reworking a page spread for Gracie Brave. I wasn't satisfied with one of the recent submissions and asked the authors if it was ok if I went back in. I've also been looking critically at my ability to keep the characters consistent throughout all the illustrations I've completed so far. The beauty of this independent project is that I can really work at my craft in a way that benefits both my own growth as well as the author's vision.
Here are the images of Hazel, Gracie's grandmother that I have incorporated into the book so far:
I rejected this version of Hazel - I realized changing her clothes might be interesting but it effects consistency of the character and doesn't work.
Here is the first version of the two page spread:
This is the redo of this spread: