Illustration Friday: Peace

Crazy days, lately…lots of deadlines, parties, and illnesses going on around here! That’s why I am personally looking forward to a little PEACE over the Christmas/New Year holiday. At least, a little! Some time to play with the kids, watch movies, bake stuff, and of course- read. Bedtime reading is one of the most peaceful times there is, when you can let go of the day’s frantic pace and put your mind in another place. The only problem with this plan is that nighttime reading also induces sleep in me!

This piece is a few years old, during my short-lived “pastel” phase. It turns out that I am not fond of working with actual pastels (not enough control for this control freak!), but I always liked this piece- it’s the bunnified version of my husband and daughter.

Sending out peacful vibes to all of my pals out there, and to whomever needs a holiday helping of it!

Treat Yourself…

…this holiday season to one of the best books ever! Everyone knows “A Christmas Carol,” whether it be one of the many movie versions or a perennial stage production. I am a big fan of the screen versions. The George C. Scott version I think hits closest to the feel of the book, but ya gotta love the overblown performance of Albert Finney and the rollicking musical track of “Scrooge!” And frankly, Magoo’s Christmas Carol still makes me misty every year.

But, have you read the original book? Have you?? The book actually makes all these other versions pale by comparison. It’s JUST THAT GREAT. We are so used to how other media has adapted the story (in lots of awful ways, too)…that going back to the original (for me) is always a revelation. I try to read it every year, and I am always amazed at how eerie and effective the writing is.

The art piece here is from the 1990 Harcourt edition illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. He’s a done a fabulous job of capturing the mood of the book, which is deliciously dark. I highly encourage anyone and everyone who hasn’t read it to pick it up this year- let me know what you think!

Illustration Friday: Help

Hi everyone- I haven’t been able to do a new Illo Friday piece in a while…work is crazy these days, just in time for the holidays! There always seems to be an abundance of deadlines at this time of year. Anyhow- I did this piece last year for a Scott Foresman reader called “Popple Popcorn.” Here, Pete’s mom is helping him make special popcorn with his own melange of spices. This is not unlike what goes on at my house- I like to experiment with recipes, and I encourage my girls to, also. They always come up with great ideas- and there is always a giant mess afterwards! Ah, well…messes can be cleaned eventually (and I do mean, eventually!)

A Wrinkle in The Fabulous Fabric File

I use a lot of fabric in my artwork…not the real thing, mind you, but carefully scanned versions of them. Once they’re in the computer, they are mine, mine, mine to manipulate at will! I have hundreds in already, and hundreds more waiting to be scanned. But first I have to spend the time getting them scanned in.

For some reason, Georgia the Geriatric Cat has decided that she loves my Fabulous Fabric File (yes, that’s what I call it). She truly, deeply loves it. I cannot keep her off of it, short of keeping the swatches in a drawer or a box. But more often than not, they are out so I can flip thru them and find what I need.

Georgia has already wrecked about 20 of them, either by hairing them up too much, or digging her nails into them and pulling threads out, and also through means too gross to mention here. She doesn’t seem interested in the alternate fabric pieces I make available to her, she always wants my GOOD ones. How does she know?? Oh, well- she’s 17, so I cut her some slack.

Her second favorite place to sleep is on the scanner- I bet I could get a nice scan of her fur if I wanted to! I just realized that this photo shows her both on the scanner and some of the FFF at the same time. That must be Kitty Nirvana for her!

Special Delivery!

Today I received a Priority Mail package, which I promptly ignored for a couple of hours. I was sure it was an eBay purchase that I should probably hide from the kids. So later, when the kids were getting ready for bed, I opened it up. Well, what do you know! It was a batch of my newly printed board book Shopping with my ABCs!

This is the first board book that I have illustrated (but not the last, I have 2 more in the works). I must say, they feel great! I like the heft factor, and the printing is pretty darn good. Whew! You just never know until you see the real thing!

My ABC book is designed to go with a set of alphabet toys that foster letter recognition. Got babies? Consider checking out the Babe Ease line- they are a company that cares about the quality and functionality of their products. And they’re swell to work with, too!

Open Studios

Here in RI we have an amazing amount of old, industrial revolution era mills. As a product designer, I have had the benefit of working in one of these great old spaces for years, at least on a part-time basis. A decent renovation can really give these old buildings a new life. What I like about our old 1884 brick mill are the high ceilings, giant windows, miscellaneous pipes and ducts in the oddest places, and the wood floors that have seen thousands of feet over the years.

Luckily, there is a lot of mill renovation going on around the state; some of it great, some of it questionable. Well, I went to a great one this past weekend in Pawtucket. It was buried in a typical industrial mill complex, but once you got inside…wow! Around 60-70 artists have set up studios of all kinds inside, a real beehive of artistic activity. Painters, graphic designers, mosaic makers, woodworkers, fiber artists…I really must doff my beret to the many artists who opened their studios to the public.

A studio is such a personal space- getting to see how other people organize themselves, what supplies they have on hand, and just generally what makes them tick was fascinating. Thanks, brave people!

More Ruth E. Newton!

I went out to a few of my favorite antiques and collectibles shops in Ct. over the weekend (avoiding anything resembling a mall), and what luck! Another Ruth E. Newton book jumped out at me. This one is from her 1943 Mother Goose rendition, published by Whitman.

What I really like about her work (aside from the cute-but-not-too-cloying look) is her use of color. A great combo of natural tones, but hopped up a bit in saturation. Love it. This picture illustrates the lesser known Mother Goose rhyme, “I love little pussy…”.

Hmm, I can’t imagine why THAT one isn’t heard more often these days (snicker)!

Awesome Old-Time Book Artists, Part 1

For those of you who don’t know me in person, I have a serious penchant for things from the 30’s and 40’s. Mostly, I am talking about toys and children’s books, but also anything with graphics of the era- greeting cards, packaging, etc. My artistic leanings are approximately one generation off- I should have been born in 1937, instead of 1967! Anyhow, my point is- there are an amazing amount of great children’s book artists from the past, so I will post some art now and then from my collection. Today’s artist is an all-time favorite: Ruth E. Newton. This comes from her “Peter Rabbit” book from 1938, a Whitman book.

Ruth E. Newton (1884-1972) attended the Philadelphia School of Fine Art before beginning a long career as an illustrator of children’s books. She illustrated more than 40 books, many for the Whitman Publishing Co., and also designed greeting cards and dolls.

Her art is colorful without being too in your face, and cute, but not annoyingly so. Anyone who can walk that fine, fine line is offically awesome in my book! And check out the action in the picture here- no stiffness. Don’t get me wrong…the original Beatrix Potter one is swell, but Ruth brings her own fluffy joy to the character!

Illustration Friday:Thanksgiving

What a fine, fine, topical theme for this week’s Illo Friday (once again, brought to you on the weekend- are any of you really able to create art on Friday??)

Here we have one of my family’s favorite rituals- the decanning of the cranberry sauce. As everyone knows, cranberry sauce (the fully gelatinous type, NOT that awful “whole berry” stuff) must be decanned VERY carefully, or else you totally lose the highly desirable can shape.

There will be ten points awarded to the person who can most accurately describe the sound cranberry sauce makes as it exits the can- good luck!

Good luck also with all of your joyous family rituals this week- have a great one!

RIF Day!

Today I volunteered at my kids’ school for RIF Day…that’s right, Reading is STILL Fundamental!

It is always a fun and semi-exhausting day- it somehow never works out that 1st graders come first, followed by 2nd, etc. Instead, the 4th graders come, followed by the 1st graders, etc. That means putting out a couple hundered books, then putting them all away and pulling out a different batch (always trying to make sure age-appropriate books are available).

I love the way some kids come in and choose immediately, while others linger as long as possible, finessing their choice. My own kids fall into the latter category. It’s also intersting to see which books go, and which ones stay. Junie B. is alive and well, as is Charlie Bone and Magic Tree House. Not so hot this year? Sports books, we had a lot left. It’s hard to figure out the wants from year to year, we try to ask the teachers and librarian what kids seem to want, and go from there.

The RIF experience always reminds me of my own experience of getting to choose my own book, when I was around 9 (same age as my twins now). I remember there being what looked like serious leftover/remaindered books, and other kids not knowing what to pick. Then I saw it. The Holy Grail! A novel version of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, complete with lyrics! Oh, happy, blessed day! Granted, this wasn’t a typical kid choice, but it was great for me. I still have it! If you get the chance, volunteer for your school’s next RIF day!