Snowpocalypse 2014

Screaming bird pic2

If you are reading this, congratulations! You have survived Snowpocalypse 2014! Also known as the Polar Vortex, etc, etc. I’m sure you’re tired of reading about it. Here where I live in Michigan we got about 12-13 inches of snow dumped on us. Friends of mine further north got 2-3 feet!

I feel so bad for all of the little birds and critters outdoors…how do they survive?  I can barely stand just the short run to my car and then the run into my work (while holding my tumbler of hot coffee). My sister was kind enough to lend me some money so I could buy a bag of bird and squirrel food because I didn’t have enough left from my last paycheck to buy any (sad, I know).  I was traumatized because I didn’t have any food in my feeders. After I filled them, my yard looked like a scene out of a Disney movie (or an Alfred Hitchcock movie).

Here is a screenshot from my phone on one of the coldest days that I ever remember in my LIFE:

Coldest Day Ever sm

NEGATIVE ELEVEN! FEELS LIKE NEGATIVE THIRTY-FOUR! WHAT IS HAPPENING?? Oh, but hey, at least it’s SUNNY! Silver linings, right? At least I’ll be whistling in the sunshine before my lips freeze off and I die of hypothermia.

Yet this winter is a little different for me in the aspect that I don’t despise winter as much as I used to. Why the sudden change of heart? Did I fall and hit my head? Did I secretly move to Florida?

Nope and nope. I realized that when it’s cold and miserable outside, I stay INSIDE and work on my artwork and writing.
When it’s warm outside and the birds are singing zip-a-dee-doo-dah, when I can hear kids laughing, see joggers, bikers, people walking their dogs… I want to be outside. Technically I COULD paint outside, and I COULD write outside (except that I don’t own a laptop)…but when I’m outside, I want to be physically active. Walking. Gardening. Hiking. Kind of hard to write and draw when I’m doing those activities.

A friend of mine who grew up in Michigan but moved to California years ago commented on his Facebook that the only thing about Michigan winters that he misses is that it kept him inside, drawing.

So for those of you who live in snow-belts or places that are seasonally cold…do you find yourself being more productive in the winter months? I personally get a lot more done during cold weather!

So I guess I’ll tip my hat to Old Man Winter for now. Thank you for keeping me on the straight and narrow! But this still is not an admission that I want you to stay forever… keep your visit reasonable okay? ;-)

PiBoIdMo 2013!

NOV 1 2013revised

It’s been a loooong time since I last blogged. Everyday life often can get in the way of blogging (unfortunately), as well as time needed for drawing and writing.

But now that November is here I feel the need to blog about an amazing event that is open to anyone in the month of November: Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo for short. PiBoIdMo is the brain child of Tara Lazar, and came as an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

During the month of November, PiBoIdMo challenges you to come up with a new picture book idea (or more) during every day of the month. Some participants outdo themselves and come up with fifty ideas or more. You can sign up here.

Besides being a lot of fun, there is great camaraderie between other kid-lit picture book writers and illustrators, and also a chance to participate  in an event that can lead to THIRTY new ideas for picture books as well as a chance of winning great prizes. At the end of the month you are asked to sign a pledge stating that you did indeed create 30 new picture book ideas. It’s based on an honor system, but kid-lit writers, I find, are an honest bunch. :-)

After you register, then you can ask to join the Facebook Discussion group, where you will find an amazing group of people sharing ideas, links, accomplishments, and a lot of support!

So go ahead and take the pledge, participate, and HAVE FUN!

I do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge,
and will, to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into
picture book manuscripts
throughout the year.

If you are also an illustrator, then you can earn bonus points (sorry, not really actual bonus points, just bragging rights) by joining SkADaMo, which is Sketch a Day Month, created by the talented Linda Silvestri. There is no registration or Facebook page, but there is a lot of fun and encouragement between fellow illustrators! And way more illustrations in your sketchbook that otherwise may not have been there! :-)

About the above rough sketch: Apparently this is some kind of a dog, I don’t know, a poodle mix or something. He seems happy as he writes and draws at the same time. I, on the other hand, tend to not handle multi-tasking such as this with a smile on my face, but usually with stress drops flying from my head.  But it doesn’t mean that in the end I don’t enjoy a good challenge! And my mug of coffee is much larger!

Starbucks giveaway winner!

And the winner of the Starbucks card giveaway is…Kristin Wolden Nitz!!

Thank you to everyone who commented! Since then we have had a couple of warmer days; it’s thunder-storming right now, but I’ll take that over snow!

And Shelly Wilkinson, I really enjoyed your poem!

I’m planning on more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned. However future giveaways will more likely follow an art or children’s book format! :-)

Starbucks Card Giveaway!

What’s better than a cup of coffee on a cold, dreary day? How about a FREE cup of coffee?

Where I happen to live, in the Midwest, this has been one of the coldest, dreariest springs I can remember. Here it’s April and we’re still dippin’ in the 40′s and 30′s, not to mention clouds and drizzle almost daily for weeks. WHAT HAPPENED TO SPRING?

I don’t know about you, but one thing that helps me to survive dreary weather is COFFEE!

Addiction is never a good thing, but how can I deprive myself of a hot cuppa joe? Well, it’s not always hot…actually, my favorite coffee drinks are of the frozen variety, like a frozen mocha frappuchino (nom, nom). It doesn’t matter if there’s a blizzard and it’s 15 degrees outside, a frozen coffee is perfect for any sort of weather!

 Me before coffee…

Me after coffee!

So to spread a little warmth and love, I’m giving away a $20 Starbucks gift card to one lucky person!

Just leave a comment and I will select one winner at random (Random Number Generator)

It matters not if you live somewhere that is warm and sunny right now (although I privately scorn you, ha ha. Just kidding. Maybe.) Just leave a comment telling us how your spring has been so far. Comments must all be received by Wed, April 17 by 6pm EST.

Good luck, and here’s to warmer weather, hopefully soon!

 

Making Picture Book Magic with Susanna Leonard Hill

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Recently I was honored to be asked by author Susanna Leonard Hill to contribute some illustrations for her new how-to write children’s picture books course titled MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC.

As I was already a fan of Susanna (my favorite books by Susanna are:  Punxsatauney Phyllis, April Fool, Phyllis! and Can’t Sleep Without Sheep), I was honored to be asked to contribute some original artwork. Three new images have been added to my Digital Images gallery. One of the images, “Carrot Cake”, is shown above!

If you are interested in signing up for Susanna’s course, click on this link: MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC

Clicking on the above  link will give you details about the course and also acknowledges the artists that created artwork that accompanies the lessons. :-)

About the course:

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a picture book writing course you could take on your own schedule, that was designed to fit into an active, busy life, and that was also affordable?

Well, guess what?  There is!

Making Picture Book Magic is a 4 week course that will teach you how to write a picture book… around the edges of your busy life… for a price you can afford… in a fun, friendly atmosphere. Making Picture Book Magic is designed to be delivered straight to your inbox.  You will receive one lesson a day via email, five days a week for four weeks.  You get weekends off to unplug, recharge, have family time or do the grocery shopping… or catch up if need be :)

Besides the weekly lessons, you also have the option of joining the Facebook group where you can get feedback and bond with other writers!

Spaces for the course fill up quickly, so contact Susanna write away (lol, play on words!) to see when you can join the course! Here is the link again: MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC

 

Interview and Updates

Greetings everyone! I hope that March is finding you well and that the days getting loner are helping you to move out of hibernation-stage (they are for me, that’s for sure!)

Recently I had the honor of being interviewed by Katherine Carver of Katherine Carver Photography.

I was introduced to Katherine by fellow illustrator Angie Kidd. Angie felt that Katie and I would mesh as we share two interests that are very close to our hearts: dogs and animal rescue!

I was very impressed by the lovely photographs on Katherine’s website.  So naturally I was also honored when she asked for an interview. You can read the interview here. 

Thank you Katie for the interview!

The above illustration is a  work in progress of a greeting card that I’m working on. What can be better than a dog and a cupcake? :-)

It’s Groundhog Day!

Happy Groundhog Day!

Today, in the spirit of Groundhog Day, I am honoring Punxsutawney Phyllis, the plucky and determined heroine from author Susanna Leonard Hill’s picture book, Punxsutawney Phyllis“!

Punxsutawney Phyllis is the niece of the famous Punxsutawney Phil. She knows she has the right stuff to succeed her famous, weather-predicting Uncle. However her family doubts her abilities. Can Phyllis predict the weather correctly and have a chance to be the next in line to be the famous Punxsutawney Groundhog? You’ll have to check out the book to find out! :-)

Today on Susanna’s website, she is inviting people from around the world to print out the drawing of Phyllis that she has provided, color it, and photograph it so everyone can see what Groundhog Day looks like in their neck of the woods!

As you can see from the photo above, my neck of the woods is filled with snow. I woke up this morning to a blizzard. “Oh great”, I grumbled. After downing some coffee and shoveling the porch and driveway, I proceeded to my computer where I printed out my picture of Phyllis (I cheated, I used Photoshop to color her!) so I could photograph her outdoors.

That was a little adventure in itself; as I placed my picture of Phyllis on a small incline by some bushes in my backyard. She tipped over a bit, the wind blew snow in my face, and I dropped my little digital camera-TWICE- in the snow. But it ended up being worth it as I am happy with the picture of my own little personal Phyllis predicting the weather for Southeastern Michigan! Today it is a sweltering 19 degrees, with flurries expected. it appears that poor Phyllis is not dressed for the weather here; I could at least have given her my scarf!

As she did NOT see her shadow, she has predicted an early spring! Of course, that’s a little hard to believe right now as the snow is falling!

Wishing everyone a Happy Groundhog Day, and may there be an early Spring in your neck of the woods! :-)

New Rate Your Story Logo

Hello all, I’m finally getting around to blogging about the new Rate Your Story logo that I designed! Due to a very busy time in my personal life I have been behind in my blog posts, and I wanted to be able to spend some time explaining about the process and the experience of the design of the logo.

If you are a writer and aren’t familiar with Rate Your Story, then you should definitely check them out: http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/
You can submit your story of any genre for a 1-10 rating by published writers, free of charge! So before you submit your story or article to a publisher, agent, or magazine, why not have a professional take a peek and give you a rating?

Back earlier in 2012, Miranda Paul of Rate Your Story put out a call to illustrators who might be interested in designing a new logo for the website. So I scribbled out a couple of my ideas for the logo and sent them in. I was thrilled when I was contacted a few weeks later and was told that they liked my design and would I be interested  in designing the logo? You bet!
I eagerly began cleaning up my original design and chose a font and color. Miranda and the other judges would make suggestions and I would do the revisions and send them back. Here is one of my early drafts of the logo based on my first design:

What came next was, I’ll admit at the time, a bit of a heartbreak for me: they liked the logo, but they wondered if I would mind submitting some different ideas for the logo? I could tell that Miranda was nervous asking me as she knew I had put some time and work already into the logo. I was sad, but I wanted them to be happy; this was after all, their logo! As an artist I must admit that there are times where we fall in love with our ideas, and as an artist you have to be able to take constructive criticism and face the fact that others may just not be as in love with your ideas and designs as you are (the nerve, LOL!). Man I loved those stars! Could I please keep the stars?

Back when I was in school, one of my professors whom I admire greatly, Brian Sauriol, taught us that it’s not a good idea to fall too in love with our work. He would demonstrate this by taking a piece that he spent hours painting, hold it up in front of the class, and destroy it (to the collective groan of the class). Why? Because by falling in love with our work we are essentially making ourselves smaller as an artist. If we get too involved with our work we are not as open to new ideas or viewpoints, and we don’t push ourselves or explore alternative ideas. I pondered that lesson as I got out my sketchpad and set to work on new some designs.

I sketched out some very rough ideas and submitted them, but I wasn’t that thrilled with them. I felt they were a bit boring and flat. There was a lot of back and forth ideas and suggestions through e-mail. Someone had suggested using a person in the logo, so I did another rough sketch. I was happy that that one was scrapped as I felt that the logo was too busy with a person in it. But that didn’t stop me from sneaking in more stars! ;)

Then one day I had an image come to me; I felt it was a long shot away from what they were looking for, but I submitted it anyway with hope. Miranda wrote back that they liked it! I was thrilled because I really liked this design!

The first final logo that I submitted is pretty much straight from my rough sketch.

Miranda replied that they loved it! I was very happy too. Then one more suggestion from Rate Your Story (“What??” my inner artist cried. “But isn’t it perfect as it is?”)
They asked if I could remove the periods from after the numbers, and I feel the logo is cleaner without them.  Also, the original final logo that I submitted had a white background.  Miranda humbly asked if maybe I could add some color, and expand the quill beyond the border?

Viola! A new logo is born! The above logo, which is longer than the logo that I have at the top of this blog post, was originally modified for the Facebook Page; however we found that it also fit the actually Rate Your Story webpage better than the original condensed logo.  So the above logo is what is now displayed at the top of the page.

I also created badges that will be given to people who submit their stories to Rate Your Story to display on their own blogs and webpages. So get busy submitting! :-)

So in the end, Rate Your Story has a spiffy new logo that they are very happy with, and I am very proud to have been able to design it. Not only that, but it was a great experience and it helped me to push the envelope with my own ideas, and the end result I feel is by far better than my original idea for the logo (even without any stars!).

Thank you Miranda Paul and Rate Your Story! :-)