ZENO and ALYA Cover Artwork

I created artwork for the cover of a sweet and emotional middle grade novel, The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, by author Jane Kelley, released earlier this Fall.

The book goes between two characters’ stories: Zeno, a newly orphaned parrot, and Alya, an 11-year old girl struggling to recover from leukemia treatments. Jane Kelley’s story is beautiful and heart-felt, and I wanted the cover artwork to convey the emotional quality of the story within.

 

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The book design, by Ashley Halsey, is so lovely.

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ZenoAlya_backspine

A little behind-the-scenes, here’s the original rough thumbnail and then the sketch.

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Thumbnail Sketch

ZenoAlya_prelimsketch

Full size sketch

This was another project that came out of my 2012 SCBWI winning trip to New York, where I had a portfolio consultation with Liz Szabla, editor in chief at Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. As my husband and I were looking for the address on my way to the meeting, we stopped to take pictures in front of the famous Flatiron Building.

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Standing in front of the Flatiron Building (and the Macmillan offices) in January 2012

We continued to search everywhere for the Macmillan address all around the buildings nearby, and I was getting flustered that we couldn’t find it anywhere. We finally realized that Feiwel and Friends was actually inside the Flatiron Building. I was delighted to be able to enter and do business in this iconic New York spot!

Working on the artwork with Liz Szabla and creative director Rich Deas was a joy and a breeze.
Thank you to Jane Kelley and Feiwel and Friends!

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More about the book:

An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick, she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate––and a banana nut muffin––bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

 

 

New Piece: Mother West Wind

I wanted to share with you my latest personal work, which I finished in December as a gift to my grandmother, Marvel Swanson. I credit Grandma Swanson for instilling in me an early love of children’s books. She has adored children’s stories since she was little, and when she read to me as a child I could tell she genuinely enjoyed every word and picture she shared with me.

I found out that her favorite books growing up were the stories of Thornton W. Burgess, particularly the story of Mother West Wind and the Merry Little Breezes. She once said she would love to see my illustrations paired with his words, and so I decided to make her a gift of original artwork inspired by the opening scene in the story Mrs. Redwing’s Speckled Egg.

Thanks to both my grandparents, Ray and Marvel Swanson, for all their love and support throughout my life.

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Exerpt from Mrs. Redwing’s Speckled Egg, by Thornton Burgess (1874 – 1965):

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills in the golden light of the early morning. Over her shoulders was slung a bag – a great big bag – and in the bag were all of Old Mother West Wind’s children, the Merry Little Breezes.

Old Mother West Wind came down from the Purple Hills to the Green Meadows, and as she walked she crooned a song:

Ships upon the ocean wait –
  I must hurry, hurry on!
Mills are idle if I’m late –
  I must hurry, hurry on!

When she reached the Green Meadows, Old Mother West Wind opened her bag, turned it upside down and shook it. Out tumbled all the Merry Little Breezes and began to spin round and round for very joy, for you see they were to play in the Green Meadows all day long until Old Mother West Wind should come back at night and take them all to their home behind the Purple Hills.

First they raced over to see Johnny Chuck. They found Johnny Chuck sitting just outside his door eating his breakfast. One, for very mischief, snatched right out of Johnny Chuck’s mouth the green leaf of corn he was eating, and ran away with it. Another playfully pulled his whiskers, while a third rumpled up his hair.

Johnny Chuck pretended to be very cross indeed, but really he didn’t mind a bit, for Johnny Chuck loved the Merry Little Breezes and played with them every day.

 

 

Keep Me In Your Heart

A new illustration in honor of good friends getting married.
What could be more appropriate than a Winnie the Pooh quote?

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart.
I’ll stay there forever.” ~A.A. Milne

Congratulations Sean and Sarah!

 

 

SCBWI Bulletin (Sept/Oct 2012) Cover Piece

 

 

I was invited by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to do cover artwork for their magazine’s 2012 Sept/Oct issue. This is a huge honor, as it only comes out 4 times a year and the illustrators they usually ask to contribute are total rock-stars!

The theme always involves a kite in some way (the society’s logo), and I had so many fun image ideas; funny, scary, sweet – but the one I chose was what I hope is the most magical concept.

Left: rough thumbnail, Right: tight thumbnail

This was the first time I’ve ever worked in 3-point perspective, the view of the city being from above. It was a really cool challenge, and I used some photos from a trip to Europe that my husband and I took back in 2010 as inspiration. I decided to make the city a merge of London, Paris, and Quedlinburg (Germany).

Photos from our trip to Quedlinburg, Germany

I blew up the thumbnail sketch to full size and sketched on tracing paper over that.

Perspective drawing on tracing paper

Final pencil outline

sketch detail – the boat

I scanned this light pencil outline and then printed it onto my watercolor paper (Arches Coldpress 140lb) with my printer (Epson 2880 wide format, pigment ink). This is how I transferred the sketch onto my final paper, but sometimes I use a lightbox to re-sketch the image for the final image instead of doing it this way; it just depends on which is easier for that particular piece.

Here’s the final image:

Inked with dip pens and India ink, colored with watercolors

And look what I received in the mail last week; printed copies, a thank you note from Steve Mooser (president of SCBWI), and a beautiful framed cover image with engraving. Wow – thank you SCBWI!!

Printed copies, note from Steve Mooser, and a framed gift from SCBWI

 

Football Illustration: The ABCs of Northern Ghana book project

 

 

I’ve just finished a new illustration for the project 9 Degrees North: The ABCs of Northern Ghana, which is a charity picture book by the Tools for Schools Africa Foundation. The book will be a compilation of illustrations  from varying artists, each creating an image for one letter of the alphabet.

My letter was: F for FOOTBALL

The text for the page will be:
Ghanaian kids love football! They play as much as they can, and dream of one day taking the field with the Black Stars, Ghana’s national football team.

As a note, football in Ghana is soccer in the U.S. (I didn’t get the assignment wrong!). This was a challenging topic for me, as I wouldn’t consider myself to be artistically inspired by pro sports. BUT, I am inspired by dreams, and I love the idea of these kids playing out in the dirt, dreaming of one day becoming professional players themselves. I made that my focus for this drawing.

Rough Concept Sketch

Final Illustration: Pen and Ink, and Watercolors

 

Cello Illustration

 

 

I just finished a new illustration for the portfolio! It’s a stand-alone image done in pen and ink.

Left: Thumbnail sketch. Middle: Pencil sketch. Right: Tonal study

I started with a thumbnail sketch, and then created a crude clay model for lighting studies. I created the full size pencil sketch on my final watercolor paper and began inking the lines. I realized before inking the whole thing that I should try a few tonal studies, so I scanned in the sketch, and printed it out on watercolor paper at about 8×10″ (with waterproof printer ink). This made good practice for the final piece before applying the ink washes.

Final size: 10.5″x13″.

~Eliza