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

 

Drawing Happy Fun Time with Jen Rofé

Treats; oh-yeah

 

I feel lucky to be living in the same city as my agent, Jen Rofé, and we were recently able to take advantage of our proximity with a face-to-face meeting. Jen came over for a little “studio” visit, to discuss some work in progress, reflect on this summer’s SCBWI conference (which Jen was highly involved in), and have some fun with a drawing lesson.

This was too valuable of an experience not to document and share! I’ve never given anyone a drawing lesson before and wasn’t sure where to start. Jen, the eager student, right away asks “Why the heck does drawing a simple box end up looking so wonky?”  This prompted exercises on one and two point perspective. I got a kick out of how enthralled Jen was with drawing boxes!

Jen using two-point perspective!

Then we had a lesson in character sketching, and I showed her how to start out with simple shapes, adding layers of detail on top of that. The character she drew is the most endearing little misfit – the hair Jen gave her had me in stitches!

Jen’s character!

That little gal definitely knows something we don’t. Jen impressed me by getting ambitious and adding a puppy. She did a  fantastic job!

Doesn’t she look at home at the drawing table?

Fun times!

But Jen, I think I speak on behalf of all your clients when I say, for our sake,  please don’t quit your day job!

 

How I Met My Agent: Jen Rofé

Photo: Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Have I told you yet that I have an agent? No?? You guys, I have an agent! She’s Jen Rofé. And, she’s awesome. Here’s the story:

Getting into the business of illustrating and writing for children, I knew early on that I would benefit from a literary agent. Some people are comfortable negotiating their own projects, but I wasn’t born with fast-talking, business-savvy genes. Aside from contract negotiations, many agents also help with career building, as well as editing your work and promoting that work to editors – many of which only accept submissions through a literary agent.

I spent about 6 months researching agents, compiling lists of viable options starting with about 50, narrowing that down to 20, then 10, and then 5 agencies that I was interested in querying. I chose agents to query based on online interviews, looking at their clients’ work, and talking to illustrators that they represent. When I had five submission emails typed up (and one already sent), something in my gut told me to wait. Wait? Wait for what? I don’t know, just wait. So I did.

That was in early November 2011. A week later I spent 3 days at an illustrators’ retreat held by David Diaz at his house, and Jen came to our Sunday night party. We put out our portfolios, which she perused, and she conducted an impromptu Q&A on agents and book deals. We exchanged info and discovered we’re both in Los Angeles, so we set up a coffee date for the following week.

Fast forward to the coffee date – I had no idea what to expect, whether she was really interested in my work or just being nice (side note: no agent or editor gives you the time of day “just to be nice”, it always means they see something worth their time). In my memory, she showed up at the counter yelling, “Chai Latte! Steaming hot! So burning hot that my face will melt off!” (Okay, not an exact quote). I have to admit, she kind of terrified me. Jen’s just what I’m not – a fierce, confident, no BS kind of gal; everything an agent should be. But as we talked easily for the next 3 hours that afternoon, her passion for children’s literature and enthusiasm for my work was evident. We gelled, and I was left without a doubt that she was the right fit for me. I’m glad that I waited, mysteriously, for that meeting – a face-to-face encounter with your prospective agent goes a long way.

Photo: Debbie Ridpath Ohi – http://DebbieOhi.com

The rest is history folks! I’ve been working with Jen since December 2011, and she’s been so invaluable already. Aside from managing contracts for me (thank you thank you thank you!), she’s an objective eye for my work, and she doles out tough criticism, which I love. Her feedback helps to elevate my stories, and asks the all-important questions “Why?” and “So what?”

It also turned out that one of her clients is Mike Boldt, who I worked with on the ABC’s of Northern Ghana project (who had mentioned how much he loved his agent), as well as SCBWI pals Ken Min and Mary Peterson.

I’m so grateful to have Jen in my corner, and I look forward to a fruitful partnership for many years to come. To learn more about Jen, check out these great interviews online:

– Literary Rambles: Agent Spotlight
– Middle Grade Ninja: 7 Questions for Literary Agent Jen Rofé
– The Brown Bookshelf: Expert Scoop with Jennifer Rofe

– Author: Agent Query

 Next up: Jen visits my studio (apartment), where I give her a drawing lesson!

A Sad Goodbye: Patricia Cantor

 

 

I met Pat Cantor at my very first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference in 2009, where she was among many of the wonderful illustration comrades I’ve made. Ever since meeting her I have looked up to her as an illustrator and person, feeling like she’s been something of a trail-blazer for those of us starting out. She won the SCBWI National Portfolio Showcase grand prize award in 2008, and was able to give me advice on the experience before my own prize trip to NYC to meet with publishers.

And as I work right now on the cover for the SCBWI Bulletin fall issue, I remember her own beautiful cover illustration:

She was also the one who encouraged me to submit to our agency, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, because she loved her agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton, so much. An incredibly talented illustrator, her work is soft and dreamy; filled with atmosphere and emotion. This week she passed away of ovarian cancer. It will be very sad not to see new work from her.

My heart is with Pat, her family and friends, her agent Jamie, and the many SCBWI illustrator friends that will miss her so and remember her always.

Inspired by: Writers

 

 

As a budding writer (or fledgling, it feels like most of the time), I find a lot of encouragement reading advice from other writers. I’ve recently gotten to know our neighbor Mike (a writer), who lent me Stephan King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I adored his personality, which he used in an amusing way to create an unconventional book on writing.

And this morning I found, through a vast array of links, starting with a Publisher’s Weekly digest email, this article:
 Collection of Brilliant and Inspiring Letters From Famous Authors to Their Young Fans
Included are letters from authors Harper Lee, Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak, C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, J.K. Rowling, and Harold Pinter.

In a letter from C.S. Lewis to a young fan,  I particularly loved this piece of writing advice:

“In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

This letter was originally posted on the blog Letters Of Note; Correspondence deserving of a wider audience, which is “an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.”  Hours will be lost on this blog, but I’ll risk that they’ll be well worth it!

Thinking of Maurice Sendak

 

 

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.” ~Maurice Sendak

With the news of Maurice Sendak’s death today, I am making time to reflect on his work and life. Fresh Air has a wonderful remembrance of him here: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/08/152248901/fresh-air-remembers-author-maurice-sendak

This program includes his 2011 Fresh Air interview, which is alarmingly raw, human, and beautiful. He speaks of his aging experience, about death, and reminds reminds us to slow down, look at the trees, listen to music, enjoy reading time, and love this world we inhabit for such a short time.

I am so thankful for the work he gave to us – and for the difficult, complex, creative and awesome life he lived.

 

Sigh of Relief Due Upon Completion

 

 

It’s been months of intense work here on my picture book project, and the interior artwork is all sent off to New York. Though I have yet to do the cover and endpaper artwork, there’s a big sense of accomplishment and relief knowing that the bulk of the work is finished. I can’t wait to share this artwork with you as soon as I’m able to!

Painting the last pages

Clean Palettes