Saturday, October 29, 2011

All Hallow's Read

Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite writers on the planet, came up with a wonderful idea to have people give scary books as gifts on Halloween.

I salute anything that gets kids reading. That, combined with the fact that J.H. Everett and I are working away on the second Haunted Histories book, got the pencils moving. J.H. Everett sent me a delicious sketch of a bunch of skellies in the graveyard reading and I got my type hammer out to start making posters for the poster contest.

What is your favorite scary story? I like Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Roald Dahl's The Witches and Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Phantom of the Opera is creepy good and so is anything by Edgar Allan Poe.

Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 28, 2011

World of Color...

I've been working like crazy on the second Haunted Histories book with J. H. Everett. I wish I could give you a peek at it. So creepy and wonderful. It's been all pencil sketches and piles of drawings. My keyboard is covered with graphite.

Last night I painted up some doodles just so I didn't forget what color looks like.

How about you? What do you want to make time for?


“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.”
~  Fred Rogers 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I turned around and....

It's the boy's 15th birthday. How did that happen? How did he go from this?

 To this? In the blink of an eye he's all grown up. Sigh.

Happy birthday, not so small boy. Love, Mom.


Nothing is as far away as one minute ago. ~ Jim Bishop

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Home, My Sweet Home

My month of traveling about is almost done. It was amazing. It was exhausting. It was aces! I met an abundance of wonderful people. I discovered I like speaking and teaching a lot more than I expected.

The one thing I noticed from my time in the spotlight was that everywhere I went there were people working behind the scenes very, very hard. There was Sari from Sterling working Sunday and then flying home to New York and back in the office on Monday. Glori from USF helped me get a new room key and drove me around San Francisco on a Friday in five-o-clock traffic when she could have been home with her family. I noticed Jessica from the Schulz Museum moving her carseat into the trunk so we could all get a ride home from dinner. I know she was probably hoping to get home in time to see her kids before they went to sleep.

So to Sari, Glori and Jessica for all the mundane tasks, hours of emails, organizing and event planning, thank you for making me shine. And to all the unsung folks in the world, chauffeuring, baking, organizing and cleaning up, you have my gratitude.

We made toys at the Thacher Gallery at USF.

The kids had fun racing their boats.

I spent the afternoon at Golden Gate Park, sketching with Katie McDee and Kim Dwinell.

We knew we were in San Francisco when we met this group of Pikachu. They were adorable.

Sketching, sketching.....

We spent the next day at the Schulz Museum in San Francisco. Kim taught perspective and shading. Katie taught character design and cartooning. My table made portfolios to keep sketches in.

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page."  ~ St. Augustine

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Creative Connection

It has been a busy few weeks. I'm taking off for San Francisco again this weekend for LitQuake, which is a book festival and to speak at the Charles Schulz Museum.

I haven't done any baking in weeks, though with  Fall coming, it's starting to be pie weather. I also feel a big house purge coming on. Time to make space so magic can happen.

I still am catching up after teaching at the Creative Connection in Saint Paul. I'm going through all the swag that I came back with. Lots of cool stuff here...

 This is the view out of my hotel room. That is the Mississippi River, though I'm wondering why at this end it wouldn't be called the "Minnesota River" The weather was brisk and lovely for walking.

 I came back with so many goodies, including a couple of giant bags of Starbuck's coffee beans. It was kind of like trick or treating for moms.

One of the sponsors was McDonald's and they did these spiff centerpieces with layers of oats, raisins, nuts and coffee beans. I snagged up coupons for their oatmeal, which has raisins and chopped apples and I swear tastes like it was warmed by the breath of unicorns.

Cricut had a booth where they interviewed people holding paper props. I picked a light bulb because of all the great ideas swirling about.

I'm still feeling a bit like Cinderella after the ball. "What's next?" I keep thinking. I'm working like crazy on the second Haunted Histories book with J.H. Everett, finishing up another Toymaker Calendar, and making toys.

How about you? What's caught your fancy this week?


Thursday, October 6, 2011

I stumbled on this photo from the 1850's on Tumbler and it occurred to me that the ladies didn’t look very happy, especially the one in the back row. I figured it was probably due to tight corsets and bad teeth. So I gave her a makeover and hopefully she feels better.

 .Click on the pictures to see up close.

Here's the link to the original photo. Shorpy is the name of the website and I could look at the photos there for hours. Zoom in to see the detail on the dresses.

The Clark sisters circa 1850. Half-plate daguerreotype. Note on stationery of the Arts Club of Washington, in handwriting of Frances Benjamin Johnston, identifies sitters (l-r): "Aunt Harriet Allen, Aunt Ladonia Hoy, Grandma Joanette C-B, Aunt Julia Millard, Aunt Laura." (Harriet Elizabeth Clark Allen, 1818-1863; Ladonia Charlotte Clark Hoy, b. 1827; Joanette Clark Benjamin, c. 1814-1880; Juliaette Alcesta Clark, b. 1820; Laura Miles Clark Palmer, b. 1822.)

So Harriet, Ladonia, Jaonette, Julia, and Laura, I hope that you had nice lives and got to have lots of adventures in your fine dresses.

Besides wearing colors that suit you and having good teeth, what kinds of things make you feel better about life?

Just pondering,



Look not mournfully into the past. 
It comes not back again. 
 Wisely improve the present. It is thine. 
Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear. 

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Speaking of speaking....

I spoke at an Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference yesterday. My slot was 4:15, the last 15 minutes of a long day of many speakers. By 10AM all the points of my talk had already been covered, much more eloquently and thoughtfully by talented people from the industry. Sometimes you get what you get, a tired audience in a half filled auditorium, who doesn't know you from Adam. I screwed my chipperness to the sticking point and was perky as possible. (And hopefully not too boring or annoying.)

A month ago I would have probably melted into a puddle of goo, but after traveling for two weeks and non stop speaking it wasn't a completely daunting task. I've learned a lot from people who are actually good at speaking. The wonderhub, for example, is an incredible speaker. I envy his ease in front of an audience. He gets the info over and makes people laugh, making learning fun. (He used to do stand up comedy.)

I've also learned a lot from my studio mates at Studio Five.

J. H. Everett has years of diverse experience from speaking at Christ Church College to musical theater.  Years of teaching at the university level has given him a polish an the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly. 

Lesson learned = Prepare your speech with a beginning middle and end and tailor it to your audience.

 Bob Singer is basically a shy person, a behind the scenes kind of of guy... that is until you get him in front of a drawing board. Then the magic happens. He is a super star. Watching him draw is like being at the Olympics and seeing the figure skaters.

Lesson learned = Showcase your superpowers.

Kim Dwinell and J.R. Johnson gave a talk at the University of SF on storyboards and sequential storytelling. Kim worked as a Disney animator on Mulan and Hercules. She does hilarious voices when she is teaching. J.R. has years of art director street cred and is great at breaking down ideas into bite sized steps. 

Lesson learned = Experience makes you a better teacher.

 One of the presentations I did was with Bob for a crowd of kids. We made monster posters. these photos don't do the art justice. With Bob drawing pictures of Scoobie Doo and talking about monster design we hit a home run. I showed the kids how to make letters out of a strip of paper to do their typography. 

Lesson learned = Surrounding yourself with talented people makes you look good.


 Another talk I did was on "Growing Your Creativity" to group of college art students. I gave them five minute challenges like, "make the tallest structure you can from a single piece of paper" Here's the winning piece....

Lesson learned = A successful presentation also means interaction. We learn by doing.

Andy Michell, Katie McDee and Alice Provensen couldn't make it up to San Francisco for the trip. Hopefully next time. Andy wrote a wonderful speech for the tour that I will share in my next post. Lesson learned = Do what you can. It may be more than you think.

So I'm actually looking forward to  the next chance to speak and teach. The idea of speaking in front of a large group isn't as formidable as it was a month ago. Bring it on!



“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”  ~ John Ford