Friday, December 31, 2010

blizzard blast

Christmas was sweet around here, thanks to secret Santas, and a dusting of confectioner's sugar, followed by a good blast of snow on Monday. Even a visit to Nana at Birchwoods was a delicious treat.

Nothing like an overload of sugar to fuel a session of snow sculpting.

I visited the Freeport Library on Wednesday for a celebration of winter with other DownEast authors and illustrators. Even that place looked totally sprayed with snow.

The first to read was Lynn Plourde, a word player extraordinaire. Her background in speech therapy no doubt informs her lyrical delivery of rhymes; she's always a joy to listen to. Her latest book, The Blizzard Wizard, is a fun romp of spells gone wrong for a forgetful wizard. Everyone made paper wizard hats to get into the magic.

 Robin Hansen and I got into the act. I think my scarf adds to the costume, doesn't it?
photo courtesy of Judy Paolini

Katie Clark read her latest, "Grandma Drove the Snowplow" and delighted us with the calamities of a snow storm. Robin followed with a reading of Ice Harbor Mittens, which doesn't feature snow, but a blanket of white fog that swallows two boys in a lobster boat.  Lynn rounded out the program by reading Karel Hayes' newest, "Snowflake Comes to Stay."  This charmer of a book features Karel's own little dog, Snowy, who is a ready mascot at appearances, patiently tolerating hugs and squeezes from the crowd of kids. He silently upstaged us all, without even donning a hat.

During the readings, I sketched a bit, just to stay busy. No easy task, capturing a moving target, but the adorable girl next to me was sufficiently enraptured by the stories, so I did this quick take.

Hmm, I need to stay in practice! I am still working on my Sketchbook Project, with only 9 pages to go.
Deadline is quickly looming in January. Here's my sketch of Eda, who is also participating.

And here is my sketcher, Daisy, who is sharing a sketchbook with her.
While Daisy waits her turn, she's doing cute drawings with a Wacom. Here's one that shows what we plan to do this evening, to celebrate the last night of 2010.

Let's hope it doesn't warm up too much. We Mainers like our winters white, full of magic and getting outdoors.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

knitting a story

Funny how many strings connect us, and when they come together, there's a story. I've had mittens on the brain lately. Spotted my neighbor, Pam, knitting on the boat on Friday morning.

She had a story to tell about her mitten, being ripped out too many times because she wasn't following a pattern. Patterns! Folks have been asking about the compass mitten pattern for those featured in Ice Harbor Mittens.  The author, Robin Hansen  has put the pattern in a nifty kit with yarn. She happily showcased them at our book celebration on Saturday at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. A hearty crowd turned out, and see how proud we are... (thanks for the photo, Anna!)

Besides signing books, Robin also brought mitten drawings for folks to color in with a pattern of their own, making an ornament.

It was a magnet not just for kids. Something about crayons brings out the best in people.

The museum is full of rich history and a fun wheelhouse for kids to explore. Here's a young skipper 
steering into the harbor, while his mate gives him a message.
I didn't get to see much of the museum, but enjoyed the interiors and this figurehead.

Heading back to Portland Harbor to Casco Bay Lines, we caught a surprise display of fireworks, the finale of the Parade of Lights, that holiday maritime event in which boats dress up in Christmas finery and circle the inner harbor.

Lovely finale for the day, which was topped off by delicious mitten cookies, brought home as souvenirs from the signing. Thanks to 3 Dog Cafe. Sweet!

I was properly fortified before my next signing opportunity right on Peaks Island, Sunday at Take a Peak. I had a hand in the interior of this gift shop when it was opened in 2003. Here's my little concept sketch that got things rolling.

The space is a shoebox attached to the larger Down Front, the island's hot spot and ice cream store in the summer. I sat at a children's table I painted in the store colors.

Thanks to all who stopped in, and found the familiar island faces drawn into the story!

The shop has a neighbor's Christmas display in the window, charming the kids who head past to the ferry.

The best news is that the ice is finally good for skating. I headed right to the pond near my house, where my daughter was skating with friends with a nearly full moon rising in the sky.

Stay tuned for the solstice on Tuesday when the full moon will rise at 4:45 PM. There's going to be an eclipse, too, early early this morning! Wear your mitts, it promises to be cold.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


While I wait for the go-ahead for final art on a new book project, I am elfishly sending out season's greetings. I added a couple of elements to an illustration from Nest, Nook & Cranny for this year's card.

If you haven't gotten yours yet, send me your snail mail address!

That humble book has received a string of recent accolades. I am proud to share: the Nook book made it onto the New York Public Library's 2010 list of top 100 books for children! Cool!

The season sure has it's merry madness. The MECA holiday sale was the kick-off. My students did a
wicked job of showcasing what the illustration department is all about: hustle.

I hovered nearby, signing copies of Ice Harbor Mittens for the Friends School.

I'll be doing more signings, hopefully, this weekend. Robin Hansen and I will be at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath on Saturday from 1 - 3 PM, for the official book launch.

I'll have some of the original illustrations from the book on display, including this one of Sam, the cocky skipper of the lobster boat in the story.

My real life model, Ellis, shows the same solid attitude during Sunday's holiday concert on Peaks Island, where he kicked off the show with a metal version of Carol of the Bells. Rock on.

Dude, that put me in the spirit! 

After the event on Saturday in Robin's 'hood, I'll be down at the corner shop on my turf at Take a Peak, on Sunday from 1 - 3 PM. There will be hot chocolate, just like Aunt Agnes makes.

Another island neighbor, Anne Romanyshyn, modeled for the elder knitter character in Ice Harbor Mittens. And without prompting, she offered me hot chocolate when I visited to take photographs. Getting reference can be a very sweet task. It brings an authentic flavor to this illustration.

It's gotten darn brisk out there today. Think I'll wear my fuzzy compass mittens!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the telling room

 As a place where words come out to play, the Telling Room was a fine vessel for a recent workshop I did around Ice Harbor Mittens, throwing images into the sea of ideas, too. There's a shiny wall there with a parade of random juxtapositions, each one ready to talk.

In illustration, words provide me with fantastic places to jump off, dive in, and make a splash visually. We warmed up by passing around a folded piece of paper and drawing a top, or middle, or bottom on one section, but no one could see the whole thing until the end. This game goes back to the Victorian era, when drawing was a common past time. And the dozen kids in this group conjured wonderfully vivid imagery.

Here's a dweeb animated by color and energetic lines:

Love the expression here and the fuzzy legs.

Kids were asked to name their character and say one thing about it. I enjoy the brilliance of Yoda Clam.

And how about this one, with a big-eyed body and bushy tail (photo by Judy Paolini)

I showed some of my sketches, including the preliminary thumbnail roughs I did to plot out the visual sequence for my illustrations for the book. (photo by Judy Paolini)

 I read the part where Josie gets uneasy, realizing the boys are lost. We talked about using a story board page, with 12 panels, to show the images. Everyone brought a mitten with a story to tell.

(Note the eyeballs on the jester shoes on the left above, just what one needs for a different point of view!)

They drew their story sequence, then began to flesh it out in a 12 page booklet format. This meant
concentration! (photos by Judy Paolini)

These kids didn't need any prompting. They're full of stories, just stand back!

My role is showing my process, offering ideas, providing some materials and plenty of encouragement. I love witnessing what emerges from travels with the imagination.

This also takes time. So, never without a sketchbook, I drew a table of artist/authors at play.

The Telling Room is a unique place, a non-profit community writing center where creative skills are strengthened and supported by a league of volunteers and staff. Thanks to Molly McGrath for pulling this together!

It has great light, and lots of space to think and dream.

Nice that author Robin Hansen's story yielded many other yarnish tales. This group of 8 - 11 year olds spun inspiration of their very own.

Friday, December 3, 2010

beyond shopping

The time has finally come! MECA's holiday sale begins tonight. The tenacious elves in IL 421 have been working on sale items for the Illustration department tables for the past month. While ideas were in the making, the busy and talented Betsy Thompson visited the class to share her wisdom and talents.

She brought in lots of sketchbooks, portfolios, marketing tips, resources, you name it. Thanks, Betsy!
She also gave feedback on early ideas for products and packaging. These are cute things by Bri 

Juliana will sell these felt toys that must be fondled: 

Seumas did some awesome t-shirts, modeled here by Cyndi.

Cyndi did her own fine shirts, from a sketch done at the Harvard Natural History Museum. Yay, field trips aren't for nothin'!

Lori created a wonderful set of foodie magnets, called Fridge Friends, with cute packaging:

I'm partial to the donut with frosting, myself...

Here's Lori as drawn by Alysa, who will be whipping out caricatures at the sale.

Bret's got graphic stickers to go:

Joe's stick-figure snowman is back this season, in a variety of comic situations:

And there's more, cards, block prints, and a surprise fish item you will HAVE to have.

We rolled out some class colors to make a banner.

And presto! Amazing what can happen in a matter of minutes with this ninja troop and some glue sticks.

Here is where we wonder how not to get oil paint on anything, hoping that the actual tables are big enough for all the awesome wares.

So, come one, come all, and go Beyond Shopping: buy art made by the illustrators of tomorrow! The tables are on the second floor, take a left towards the MECA cafe, down a few stairs and into Room 264 (where normally art history classes take place) can't miss the blinking red lights.