Friday, June 27, 2014

This week...

For the last couple of weeks I've been locked away in the deep, dark, comforting solitude of an art cave.  It's sort of strange and wonderful how creative slumps are sometimes followed by a torrent of ideas and inspiration. 

I'm busy getting ready for the SCBWI Summer Conference and have been putting the finishing touches on Baby Love (written by Angela DiTerlizzi, published by Beach Lane Books), which will come out next spring. 

What kinds of art things have you been up to lately?  I'd love to hear! 

Also, I was interviewed by the lovely folks at KidLit 411.  You can read the interview here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Writing Process: Author/Illustrator Blog Tour

Last week the inimitable Ben Clanton tagged me for an author/illustrator blog tour.  Thanks, Ben!

Ben's next book, Rex Wrecks It!, comes out at the end of September.  But, you don't have to wait until then to see his very excellent work.  Mo's Mustache and The Table Sets Itself are just two of Ben's several books and if you haven't seen them yet you should head to the library immediately!  Don't even finish reading this post.  Go right away, before someone else checks them all out.  Seriously.

Ok, now that we've settled that important business and you've returned from the library with Ben's books in tow, onto the questions...

1.  What am I currently working on?

I'm currently working on a few different projects.  I recently finished the illustrations for a picture book called Baby Love (written by Angela DiTerlizzi and published by Beach Lane Books) that will come out next spring.  I've started work on the cover of the second Cupcake Cousins book (the first book, by Kate Hannigan, published by Disney-Hyperion, came out on May 13th and should be available at your local library or bookstore).  I'm also working on sketches for a picture book with Random House titled MORE! and written by Linda Ashman.  I'm finishing up illustrations for a new UK magazine called Storytime and I'm working on book dummies for two of my own stories.

2.  Why do I write what I write?

Er...  I wish I had a good answer for this one but, to be honest, I'm not really sure.  Sometimes story ideas come from a character I've doodled.  One of the stories I'm working on was sparked by a photograph of an old house that I happened to see during a time when I was thinking a lot about my grandparents.  I suppose I write about things that I relate to in a personal way.  My stories tend to be quiet because I am quiet.

3.  How does my writing/illustrating process work?

I feel like I'm still figuring out my process, especially for writing.  But, I think it goes sort of like this...

- I draw a character or a scene in my sketchbook that sparks an idea.  Or I see something interesting at a museum or in a movie or photograph that causes a spark.  I think it was Mo Willems who talked about ideas being like seeds in a garden.  All of the little sparks of ideas are like seeds in my mind.  Some of them germinate very slowly and eventually grow into something.  Once in a very long while an idea germinates very quickly and has to be scribbled down in haste.  And some of the seeds never take root.  Or maybe they're still in there waiting for the right time.

- Once an idea seems like it might be viable I do lots of sketches.  Sketches of the character, thumbnail sketches of the layout, slightly larger sketches to work out composition.

- Then I write.  This part still feels scary and unfamiliar and exciting.  I do a few drafts and maybe
show them to one or both of my critique groups.  And then I write a new draft and show it to my critique group again... over and over.  And then I work on a new story to give my critique group a break from the first story.  And when it seems like I've waited long enough, I show the first story again, and re-write it again until I don't know what else to do.  So far, that's pretty much how the writing part has worked for me.

- For the illustrating side of things, I do several sketches and when I've figured out more or less what my composition will look like, I do a large pencil drawing on Arches 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper.  Then I ink in the line work using FW acrylic ink and a dip pen.  When the ink is dry I erase the pencil lines and stretch the drawing by soaking the paper in water and stapling it onto a gatorfoam board.  Once the paper is dry I start painting with watercolors.  Then I scan the finished painting into the computer and sometimes make a few corrections or adjustments in Photoshop.

So, there you have it!  And now it's my turn to do the tagging!  Up next is my good friend, Jessixa Bagley.  I admire Jessixa's work very much and her book, Boats for Papa, will be hitting shelves soon.  Take it away, Jessixa!  (And thank you again to Ben Clanton!  Don't forget to check out his wonderful work!)