Monday, April 12, 2010

peep a thon

We're slowly working our way through the candy loot. These three peeps are not just a metaphor for spring, but signal some good peeps about Nest, Nook and Cranny. Author Susan Blackaby has sent lovely reviews that quack nicely about our book.

Here's what Sheila Egan from Children's Lit had to say:

"Otters loll like whiskered boats,/Bobbing gently in the swells." Utilizing similes and many other "figures of speech," Blackby has created an enchanting tool for teaching as well as for pure enjoyment. Here her poetry covers five different habitats (desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, and woodland) and the creatures that dwell in each particular area. The table of contents reveals these five divisions and also lists "habitats" and "writing poetry." The last two sections are invaluable. The habitats section succinctly defines the environment, flora, and fauna of each specialized environment; while the "writing poetry" section has references to individual poems which explain the poetic form used or gives explanations of how the poem was researched and developed. Teachers will be pleased to have precise explanations of such terms as homophones, sibilance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonance, and rhyme schemes. Blackaby employed a variety of poetic forms to support the various themes she presented, including: couplets, triolet, sonnet, unrhymed couplets, villanelle, than-bauk (a Burmese form), and a variety of rhyme schemes. Her explanations of the forms chosen for the different poems will open new channels of writing prowess for those who create their own poetry and those who aspire to do so. Pastel and charcoal pencil line drawings perfectly match the tone of the poems and give support to the information revealed in them as well. The drawing that goes with the heron poem gives life to the lines: "Herons walk with stilted steps/Stalking, cautious, through the marsh..." Every school and public library needs to own this gem.

What with April being National Poetry Month, word play is popping up like pansies!

Last Monday, I welcomed award-winning photographer Peter Ralston for a peep into my cluttered studio.

He came to Peaks Island to document picture book illustrators for an upcoming piece by David Tyler for the Island Journal. I am honored to be in the company of such talented neighbors as Scott Nash, Annie O'Brien, and Tim Nihoff.

I didn't have time to be nervous; Peter put me immediately at ease. He caught me working on my next book project for DownEast.
More on that in another post.

Later, I brought my SMCC class to the beach for nature studies, always a good exercise in observation and design. Plus, we were all thirsty for sun after weeks under florescent lights in the classroom.

Here are a few of mine.

After drawing the big driftwood tree, I got closer and examined the rhythms of the gnarly root forms.

And seaweed seemed like a marvelous choice for creating pattern with movement.

The same elements of pattern show up in this illustration for Nest, Nook and Cranny.

And I just saw my first snake in the yard! Gave my involuntary shriek at this sure sign of spring.

Peeps or shrieks, I am WAAAAY ready for spring!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

myths and legends: annotated

All this miserable weather has made for some perfect studio days: drying off between soggy dog walks and getting dirty with charcoal. It's certainly easier at this time of High Mud than last summer, when I was chained to my drawing table while tourists to my piece of Vacationland rode by on their bicycles.

Here are some of the 26 illustrations I did last June and July for The Star Fruit Tree, a Vietnamese folk tale that appears in the Oxford University Press Myths and Legends series, recently published.

It's the tale of two brothers: one greedy and one good. This is the older brother, who quickly claims the father's riches after he dies.

This leaves the younger brother to sit by his only inheritance, a star fruit tree.

I like this drawing of the older brother who spends his evenings furtively downing rice cakes.

Short of going to Vietnam for reference, I found a video at the library that followed a boy in Ho Chi Min City, a day-in-the-life documentary that was pretty informative.
And he got to ride with his sister and her boyfriend to a karaoke club!

I found a straw hat in my daughter's dress-up bin and employed my favorite model, too.

Here the younger brother shows humility to the big raven that's been eating all the star fruit, his only asset.

I tapped some flavors for inspiration and visited Huong's, a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland with my favorite spice girl, Kirsten. She gets into the act here by pretending to push away her raven pie.

The good brother could never EVER eat a raven pie!

He proves his good will to the raven, who flies him to a reward beyond his belief, piles and piles of gold.

He collects a bag full and races back to his humble hut.

My neighbors posed for the moment when the greedy brother finally visits his younger brother's family, upon hearing of their good fortune. Thank you, Connellys and Imogen!

The family is a bit skeptical of the older brother's sudden interest in their star fruit tree.

The older brother swaps the big estate for the star fruit tree and waits impatiently for the raven to return. Here Marty is yelling at the raven to take him to the gold, and quick!

Of course, the greedy brother isn't showing any respect to the raven.

Even though the raven flies the greedy brother to the same pile of gold, is it any surprise that his bag is too heavy for the return trip?

The greedy brother falls into the sea while the young brother and his family wonder what happened to him. They live on in the big house, nourished by the sweet star fruit.

These morality tales play out in many cultures but reinforce the same values.

It was a fun project to put myself in another time and place, researching, referencing, and tasting the golden rule with Vietnamese flavor.

Thanks, OUP!