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18 February 2018

VIDEO: Derwent

If you love pencils as much as I do, you'll enjoy this peek into how Derwent Colored Pencils are made. Click the image to watch on The Kid Should See This.

17 February 2018

It's awards season!

The American Library Association recently announced this year's award-winning books in children's literature. The Caldecott winner was Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow.
You can go to the ALA website to see the entire list of award-winners.

In the UK, the longlists for the CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway awards have also been announced. CLICK HERE to see that one.

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!

15 February 2018

Carme Lemniscates' TREES

Sometimes you can feel the joy that went into the creation of a book. Such was the case in Carme Lemniscates' TREES. And it was confirmed when I watched her video tutorial (below). Her sense of PLAY is contagious! I'm thrilled she stopped by (all the way from Barcelona) to talk about her new book!
Hi Elizabeth,
Thanks for these interesting questions; a pleasure to respond to them:
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Carme:
Ideas arrive, as well as images. This is what first happens; but then I need to express them. Inspiration is one part of the whole thing; next step is to give “body” to this inspiration. Sometimes the feeling, when you are inspired, is as if you where at the top of a mountain and can see everything, and then suddenly, next second, you are at the bottom of that mountain and need to walk up to reach again that view. You have to create from zero what you have seen. This is creative expression, and you have to find, or even better let to arrive, the right word and the right image. At this stage I am somehow eclectic in my way of writing as well as choosing artistic techniques. I like to experiment with different mediums such as collage, painting, drawing, grattage, woodcut... and I like to let characters and stories to find their own voice and expression.
  e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Carme:
In my view, everything made with soul has the magical attraction I guess you mean by “Heart Art”. And to me this quality is not restricted to Art, in my opinion, you can find “Heart/Soul Art” in a poem or in a children’s book, but also in a speech, a meal or a conversation. When we are completely committed to what we are doing then something works there that produces, I believe, this magical attraction you talk about. I had an old teacher of Chinese calligraphy when I was very young, who always said: “When you write an “A” you have to feel, to be the “A” itself.”  
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of TREES?
Carme:
The book TREES is a direct result of my experience in Nature and with trees in particular, and the reflections I share with some children in a school workshop a few years ago. It was really a very gratifying experience!  
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Carme:
  I have a wonderful literary agent, Adriana Dominguez from Full Circle Literary, and I also have a website.
  e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Carme:
The best and more challenging part of my work is the responsibility —and also the joy— involved in creating contents for children. One day a child, somewhere in the world, will open that book. Children are the future, children are genuine, they have no preconceptions yet - we have the most extraordinary audience!
e: Is there something in particular about TREES you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Carme:
On the one hand TREES has an ecological message, the book aims to encourage love, and respect for trees and Nature in general. On the other hand, by ascribing a somehow anthropomorphic qualities to trees —they have their heads in the clouds/ their feet on the ground, help one another, are generous, and so on— the book encourages reflection about some of our own attitudes as humans.
Download some fun activities to do with the book HERE.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Carme:
Following TREES, I have just finished a new book for Candlewick Studio, BIRDS, which will be launched next year. Right now I am also working in new project in this line, again observing the natural world and learning from it. I can’t advance more about it at the moment, but just say I am working finding ways to encourage reflection, knowledge and love for the beautiful and magical world that surround us. I have also recently illustrated a wonderful story by Jennifer Adams - I AM A WARRIOR GODDESS, which will be launched this month by Sounds True.  
(Check out this wonderful tutorial Youtube video by Carme.)
Thank you so much Elizabeth to give me the opportunity to talk about my work.
e: Thank you for visiting, Carme!

TREES. Copyright © 2015 by Lemniscates. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
Studio/work-in-progress pics ©Lemniscates.

14 February 2018

Buy the Original on Etsy: Spanish Lady

This week the original pen and ink drawing of "The Spanish Lady" from my Marginal Creatures collection is available in my Etsy Shop. Click the image to go to my store.
Also...

to download the image as an exclusive Patron giveaway!

13 February 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Kissie Fish

     Happy Valentines Day! These fishies love each other all year long. Kiss! Kiss! CLICK HERE for more Valentine's Day-themed coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
Become a Patron!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

12 February 2018

PhD Courses and my topic!

I haven't spoken much about my PhD research so far. I think I didn't believe it would all actually happen. I mean, I'M DOING A PHD at the UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW!!!! Gadzooks! In fact, I'm solidly into my first year taking four courses: Advanced Research Methods, Social Theory (including Feminist Theory), Children's Literature and Literacies (Cricitcal Enquiry), and Developing As A Teacher in Higher Education (DAT HE). SO INTERESTING!!!
     At any rate, my topic is starting to settle down. As in, I don't change the title every day. (HA!) It's "Gender Bias in Children's Literature Through the Lens of the Trickster."
     "Trickster," you ask?
     Here is my background, straight from my proposal:
Tricksters, a term Brinton popularized in Myths of the New World (Brinton, 1969), such as Loki (Figure 1), Hermes, Coyote, Anansi, and the Devil, are well-known, mythic characters. Yet, few females are identified as tricksters. Freya, Kitsune, and the Cailleach Mohr/Beira are examples, however, these female goddesses have mixed functions and are not as definitively identified as ‘tricksters’ as are their male counterparts.
      Further, in early interviews, Scottish storytellers and professors of Scottish Studies suggested there are no Scottish tricksters. While the Bodach and the Wild Man could be declared as Scottish tricksters, it was relayed that most tricksters in Scottish culture derive from other cultures and are not specifically Scottish. The question arises then, where are the Scottish tricksters?
      More specifically, where are the Scottish female tricksters?
      In the pursuit of identifying Scottish tricksters, especially in children’s literature, a disturbing trend reveals itself. The empowering male trickster traits of cleverness, craftiness, wit, shape-shifting, and manipulation are vilified when found in the female. She is instead called witch or witch goddess, such as the Cailleach Mohr/Beira (the Hag), Nicnevin (the Queen of the Fairies), Hecate (the leader of the Wild Hunt), or Morgan Le Fay (of Arthurian legend).
      Miranda Green confirms that, “Most of the female shape-shifters were associated in some manner with witchcraft” (Billington, 1999, p3). Catharina Raudvere agrees: “the connection between women, sexuality and witchcraft appears to be a globally observed pattern” (Billington, 1999, p47, p52). This thesis will explore this theory within children’s literature.
      A second disturbing trend is that tricksters as shape-shifters can become either sex, yet most tricksters only become women to perform certain gender-specific acts. “Even his [the trickster’s] sex is optional despite its phallic qualities: he can turn himself into a woman and bear children” (Jung, 2003, p143). As in the story of Coyote as the creator of life, the trickster does not stay in female form beyond child-birth. This function-specific role-play designates the male as all-powerful, even as life-creator, relegating the agency of women (and young female readers) to a culturally hegemonic power structure, subordinating them to the status of ‘subaltern’, a post-colonialist term initially used by Antonio Gramsci to describe those who have been written out of a societal narrative. As Gupta Spivak contends: “…the ideological construction of gender keeps the male dominant. If in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow (Spivak, 1988).”
      Hence, this thesis will concentrate on this trickster lens within children’s literature. Because, as Susan Rowland says, “Trickster is both a net for symbols and a symbol himself. Such symbols are ways of detecting nature in ourselves, and are the fabric of our weaving of self into the cosmos” (Rowland, 2011, p126). If that is true, then where does that leave women in the fabric of the cosmos? Can a woman be strong in her own right, through her own cleverness and wit, a true trickster? Can this pattern of patriarchal bias be reversed or reworked by modern writers?

     To sum it up, my AIM is to: analyse and identify representations of gender bias through the lens of tricksters as they impart patriarchal ideology and influence in children’s literature, and to seek out and identify female tricksters through their identical archetypal traits and story tropes. I will “recirculate a mythic notion of the feminine” (Butler, 2015, p35) in a more positive and empowering manner through the creation of a feminist trickster tale in a practice-based, young adult, literary fantasy, Two Lies and a Truth. The novel will be both a tool for analysis of ideologies, as well as a craft application of these theories; because, as Marina Warner says, “Who tells the story, who recasts the characters and changes the tone becomes very important: no story is ever the same as its source or model, the chemistry of narrator and audience changes it” (Warner, 1995, p418).

     You'll notice from the citations that I am having to do some FASCINATING reading for my topic, such as Carl Jung, Judith Butler, and Marina Warner. I'm happy to share my bibliography if asked - it's long! Meanwhile, I keep reading, researching, writing, and having a blast studying things I've wanted to study my entire life and finally have a solid reason to pursue it. LOVE!

11 February 2018

VIDEO: Why Children's Art Matters

I love this video shared by Travis Jonker at SLJ. It explains this trend towards more naive-looking art in children's books. Click the video to watch on Youtube:

10 February 2018

Hazel Dunn on color palettes

I am such a geek about color palettes and personal color palettes. I teach it to my design students and have them do exercises to find their own. So, it's lovely to find someone else as crazy about color palettes as I am - Hazel Dunn. During the PictureHooks workshop last week, she shared a collection of color palettes she put together. First, she takes an image she especially enjoys, then she breaks out the color palette from it, like this:
You can see how she breaks out the colors in alignment with where they appear in the image.

She had about 15 of these, which she bound together in a booklet. At the back of the book was a collection of the colors she chose, creating a thorough and referencable personal color palette.
For individual projects, she also did color studies, which she again collected in a little book.
In this study, she placed colors on top of each other to make sure they worked together. It's also a great way to make sure the values aren't the same and none of the colors are vibrating as a result of fighting for dominance.
More brilliant take-away ideas from this so-called beginner. I love it!

08 February 2018

Rob McClurkan's PLAYDATES RULE!

Rob McClurkan is a friend from Atlanta and I've watched his picture book career launch and flourish - so fun! So, I'm thrilled to have him here to share his latest book with you!
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Rob:
In many ways, I am still refining my process. For this particular book, I created a dummy book fairly quickly but realized I had jumped ahead of myself and went back and started over. When I have an idea for a story, I start by sketching out my characters. While drawing, it helps me think about who they are, their personality. My initial images are not set in stone but just give me a general idea as to how I want the characters to look. It’s then onto the thumbnails and writing. I do most of this in my sketchbook. Once I am happy with the story I go back to my computer to create digital thumbnails. I have found it particularly helpful to create a layout where you can see the book in its entirety. Once I'm pleased with the thumbnail, I start working on a dummy book.
      I digitally paint my final art in photoshop.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Rob:
When you lose yourself in the artwork, that is when the magic starts. You aren’t overthinking, you are just laying down paint or pixels. You are in the zone. At times this happens even when I didn’t feel like working, at some point I lose myself and what comes out is special. For me, the magic starts when I don’t overthink it.


e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Rob:
Playdates Rule! was inspired by a childhood memory. One summer day, my best neighborhood friend and I were running and jumping into a kiddie pool. I got a good running start, and the momentum I had generated propelled me straight through the swimming pool. I have always been amazed that I was able to bust a giant hole in one of those things. That’s some thick, hard plastic. That didn’t stop us, though. I’m sure we just found a tree to climb or bikes to ride. We were two good friends, and a little mishap didn’t stop us from having a blast.


e: How do you advertise yourself?
Rob:
I have an agent that keeps my work in front of potential clients, but I also use social media, some portfolio websites like the ispot and behance and direct mail postcards.
      The challenge comes in showing new work. Many times illustrators work on projects that we are not allowed to show off until the project is published, so it's important to keep working on personal art that you can show right away.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Rob:
The most challenging part is writing. Sometimes a story makes perfect sense to me, but it is not until others read it that I start to see the problems. That’s why it is so important to have critique partners.
      My favorite part is being able to create fun and engaging characters, story and art for children.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Rob:
This book is pretty straightforward it's about how excited children get when a friend comes over to play. Suddenly all the rules are thrown out the window, and it’s just about fun. When I write I am thinking about my kids and how story time right before bed was so special. I hope that my books will bring fun, laughter, and enjoyment to children and their parents.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Rob:
I am working on a graphic novel idea as well as pitching a new picture book that I am very excited about.
      I am grateful for every project I do and in a way they are all dream projects, but I do think it would be crazy fun to be on the concept side of an animation feature when all the characters are being developed.

e: Thanks, Rob!

07 February 2018

Hazel Dunn on sketchbooks and textiles

I told you about the PictureHooks workshop with Patrick Benson and Hazel Dunn... Well, even though Hazel was the mentee, the beginner in the field, she had some great ideas I'd like to share on the importance of sketchbooks, but maybe in a different way than you're thinking. Three of her ideas especially resonated with me.
      Brilliant idea #1: she shared little sketchbooks. She said she used to get a kick out of filling up all the pages. As a result, she ended up with lovely artefacts like these, full of botanical drawings and patterns.
What you might not notice at first in this image is that she actually cut out the pattern on this page, revealing the image behind it. It was absolutely lovely! Here, she did it again. Why haven't I ever thought to do this?
     Other than these little treasures, she said she didn't really work in sketchbooks, she tended to work with individual pieces of paper (like I always used to do). What to do with them?
     Brilliant idea #2: she would take her loose drawings and bind them into little booklets. They also became delightful little treasures.
Brilliant idea #3: she would also create little thematic books employing her sketches in artistic ways. Books don't always have to be about publication, they can just be pretty little collections like this one. Each page featured a different animal, because, why not?
And don't be thinking these images were a waste - almost all of them ended up being used in her textiles - just lovely!




Just goes to show, even beginners can have wonderful tips to share!

06 February 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Snowball Cat

     This sweet little snow kitty has a wicked plan in mind... CLICK HERE for more coloring pages, and if they add joy and value to your life, please...
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Also, check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

05 February 2018

Rugby in Scotland

The Scottish National Rugby Team played Wales this past weekend. It was a big match part of 6 Nations. So Stan and I met up at the Cask and Barrel to watch it. (This pub is a 5-minute walk from our flat.)
Stan had a beer, I drank tea and drew mostly. While around us we heard the disappointed groans of fans wearing navy with white trim.
Scotland basically got the stuffing knocked out of them, the score was embarrassing. PAH!!! So, when Scotland finally made a try at the very end of the game, the pub went wild with songs and cheering! (Sadly, I didn't catch the initial excitement, just the mad texting and tweeting afterward.)
Scots are fabulous underdogs, so it was a lovely way to spend a few hours on a Saturday.

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