Monthly Archives: April 2011

tomato interlude


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learning and absorbing part 2

Q. Why do I love Jon Muth, Matt Phelan and Helen Oxenbury?

A. Because their characters are so lively and endearing.


Q. What is perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve taken from the SCBWI conference?

A. That I need to work on my characters.

I’ve been aware that this is something I should do- creating studies that show a character doing a variety of things. I was thinking of it as a great portfolio builder, just to prove that I can draw characters. But now I’m becoming aware that this is a much deeper challenge, and a visual character should be given as much thought and dimension as a written character.

And my final realization before I climb down off this soapbox: Stories that aren’t character driven in terms of text, can still be driven by lively and endearing characters. So my next step is to study books like Il Sung Na’s A Book of Sleep and Renata Liwska’s The Quiet Book to see how their characters bring these stories to life.

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learning and absorbing

I know most of what I’ve gained from the SCBWI regional conference hasn’t completely sunk in yet. But there is so much rattling around in my head that I feel compelled to write down some initial reactions.

In all I’ve developed five new literary crushes:

1. Dan Santat, illustrator. His keynote made me cry and I certainly wasn’t the only one. His story describes how incredibly hard work can lead to a breakdown… and a meaningful career.

2. Victoria Jamieson, picture book author/illustrator. I ended up in two of her workshops because they were so damn applicable. She read us the letter of rejection that became a turning point in her new book, Olympig, and her honesty inspires me to think more critically about my work. Although she used Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus as an example of a satisfying ending, she also talked about Miss Nelson is Missing and I forgave her right away.

3. Deborah Wiles, an author and amazing speaker. She taught me how Maslow’s five basic human needs apply to the best children’s literature.

4. Anne Moore, the art resource coordinator at Candlewick. She is so softspoken, yet sharp. She loves the “satisfaction” of a well designed book and she shows amazing examples.

5. Martha Mihalick, an agent at Greenwillow. She has good advice and good taste. And she’s cute.

I went to see Justin Chanda speak about THE FUTURE:

He is the Vice President of three imprints at Simon & Schuster and he was recently quoted in the NY Times proclaiming the death of Picture Books. I learned that the future holds vampire-mermaids. But that was a joke, I hope. He also gave props to Amos McGee, which automatically makes you an endearing person.

On day 2 I ventured into a Query Letter Intensive. Although I didn’t submit a letter of my own, I thought it would be interesting to see what agents Joe Monti and Martha Mihalick had to say.

I learned that you can’t expect to get away with convoluted synopses and run-on sentences.

This will have to be part one because this is just the tip of the iceberg. So stay tuned.

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sneak preview

It’s been an exciting process, seeing my illustration portfolio come together. I’ve developed strange and somewhat unhealthy habits of shutting myself in my studio, drinking Rainier, painting, and listening to splendid table podcasts each weekend. Some of those things might seem mutually exclusive, but trust me, it works.

Anyhow, the portfolio exhibition is finally here- the conference takes place this Saturday and Sunday. I’ve managed to select 12 complete pieces that I’m happy with, and if I add anything more it will be icing.

I posted the pieces here as thumbnails, but check out my website to see the bigger versions:


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Still Building that Portfolio

I just wanted to share a few more pieces I’ve been working on for my portfolio. My scanner is a wee bit small for these pieces, so I tried to capture the best bits.

These pieces are inspired by a Walt Whitman poem- or at least the first few stanzas. I wrote words onto the pieces, and I like them just as well out of context. It’s been fun and freeing to work with words that aren’t mine.

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