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26 April 2018

Jessica Love's JULIAN IS A MERMAID

I flipped over this book when it came onto my radar: JULIAN IS A MERMAID by Jessica Love. I'm happy to have her here today to talk about it!
e: What inspired Julian is a Mermaid?
Jessica:
I used to date someone who had an older brother who was trans who came out to his family later in life. I remember there being questions about how to explain this transition to the kids in the family. It made me curious about what sorts of books were out there for families who want to talk to their kids about gender and identity. I wanted to make a book that held the space for those conversations, without being prescriptive about how they should go.
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Jessica:
Julián is done in watercolor, gouache and ink on brown craft paper. The story started with character sketches, drawings of Julián and Abuela. My favorite illustrations have always been the ones where a character looks specific--looks like themselves. That is, for me, the deep joy of drawing. Being able to create a person who feels real. I did a fair amount of picture bounty-hunting at the New York Public Library's picture collection (a sort of proto google image search) gathering old art nouveau prints--I loved the idea of the early 20th century's decorative arts movement applied to contemporary New York City. I also did a lot of sketching on the subway, and in Coney Island. I really wanted the story to feel specific, because that's what makes it feel true. After doing the first draft of the book I had an idea about using brown paper, instead of white. Because all the characters in the book are brown skinned people, the more delicate shades of their skin weren't showing when we digitally scanned the illustrations, because the contrast was too sharp against the white, white paper. It occurred to me that it actually doesn't make sense to have white be the "neutral" color for this story, the neutral color for this story should be brown. So I did the whole book over again on brown paper, and suddenly you could see if a character was blushing, if one had slightly warmer toned skin, or if someone had a dimple. The colors became more vibrant. The whole book felt like it was suddenly at home on paper that was the color of a brown paper bag. There isn't a character in the book who is lighter-skinned than that color.
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?
Jessica:
For my money art isn't actually the object itself. I believe "art" is what happens when the thing the artist tosses out in to the universe like a ball, is caught. This is why I can't stand didactic children's books. The reader completes the circuit, making sense of the thing the artist has made. I think if the artist does not leave room for the reader to stretch, to fill in the blanks and make a connection, then there is no possibility of that electrical current jumping between the artist and the audience. I think my best work is always created with this alchemy in mind, when I am drawing for someone I will never meet, who may catch the ball I have tossed perhaps after I am dead, and feel that thrill of connection: they have been seen, thought of, and whispered to by someone they will never meet.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Jessica:
I'm really, really terrifically bad at that part of the business. Well, I supposed you could say that I'm bad at the entire business part. The only thing I really do to advertise my work is I post my artwork on an Instagram account. It helps keep me on track to know that there are a couple hundred people I'm able to share whatever I'm working on with.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Jessica:
My favorite part is the feeling of being in the current of a creative endeavor. There is always this quite tactile feeling at the beginning of a creating process where I am just wading through waist deep muck, metaphorically. I hate everything I'm drawing. But if I keep going there is this point where it turns, and I suddenly am being tugged towards the center of the river, and am being carried along by it. That moment is definitely the part that is the most pleasurable. The most challenging part is being absolutely dead broke all the time. I've spent the last 13 years working as a theater actor in New York City so I'm used to living on rice and beans and taking extra work everywhere I can find it. But it's exhausting. And it's discouraging that you can be working at the top of your game and still be unable to support yourself. The bloom is somewhat off the starving artist rose for me at this point. I don't need a lot I would just like to not feel panicked about money all the time.
e: Is there something in particular about Julian is a Mermaid you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Jessica:
It is my hope that the book will speak for itself. I remember the first time somebody described to me the experience of sharing the book with his son. The first line of the book, and this was deliberate, is "This is a boy named Julián." And this man's son immediately said, "that can't be a boy! Mermaids are for girls!" and then they had a conversation about this idea, where it came from, and is it true. And that's exactly what I hoped the book would do, but I didn't know if it would work. It was enormously gratifying to see that it's able to stand on its own two legs, and do the thing it was designed to do.
e: What are you working on next?
Jessica:
I have two more ideas for books I'm really excited to work on. I don't want to say too much about them but I can say for sure that there will be birds, and there will be heroines.
e: Thanks Jessica! Can't wait to see them!

24 April 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Flying Boat

     Who said boats needed water? Like imagination, they can also use the sky! CLICK HERE for more 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.

23 April 2018

Buy my ORIGINAL ART on ETSY: The Forest

This week the original pen and ink drawing of "The Forest" from my Marginal Creatures collection is available in my Etsy Shop. This exciting pen & ink drawing, at A4 dimension, is offered as an original unframed artwork, signed and with a certificate of authentication. Only $350! Patreon contributors can download a PDF of the image with its accompanying haiku for free! Click the image to go to my store.

to download the image as an exclusive Patron giveaway!

22 April 2018

VIDEO: Rosie Revere Engineer Read IN SPACE!!!

OMG - How FABULOUS this is! An astronaut is reading a picture book in SPACE, and not just anybook, but ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER! Click the image to learn more at HuffPost and follow the link to the Story Time from Space site!

21 April 2018

Sunshine in Edinburgh!

I've been trapped in my tower (a.k.a. 'wee flat') writing end-of-semester papers (I'm on my 3rd!), so was thrilled at the chance to get outside yesterday. SCBWI hosted a Scrivner workshop. I've been using Scrivner for years, but I knew I wasn't using it to its full advantage. And much of my thesis is happening in Scrivner as well. So, this was an extremely helpful seminar!
     It took place at the George IV Bridge Central Library, which required a walk across town on a beautiful, sunny Saturday - YAY! I wasn't the only one enjoying the beautiful day. This is what happens when sunshine comes to Edinburgh. This is Princes Street Gardens...
And the hillside covered in daffodils.
Performers were out as well, including these two young lads who played a mean bagpipe! (Click the image to watch and listen on Youtube.)
And best of all, St. Andrew Square, which is the one at the top of my hill.
I found an empty lounge chair in front of the Costa and drew for a bit. I needed the Vitamin D and actually got a bit of sun. Ahhhhhh - needed that!

19 April 2018

Jessica Warrick's HAMMER AND NAILS

I perked up when HAMMER AND NAILS hit my radar. First, what a clever take on the words. Second, I adore the dad in this story! He embraces his little girl and all the feminine she loves to be, and he's man enough to be part of that! It's published by Flashlight Press, written by Josh Bledsoe, and illustrated by Jessica Warrick, who is here today...
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Jessica:
My process has evolved over the years and has become something very satisfying for me. It is semi digital; part traditional watercolor and part Photoshop color.
      I begin with a digital sketch. I used to do this with a Wacom tablet on my laptop, but have recently made the move to an ipad and ipencil combo. I like sketching digitally because there are so many fantastic tools available that allow me to resize, reshape, erase with ease...and I love using a perspective grid too.
      So I draw up a super light sketch, and print that out onto thin watercolor paper using my epson printer so the ink is waterproof. I then go over my lines with a drawing pencil. I add in more details at this stage. I then apply a black wash of watercolor to the drawing. I use only black because I'm just going for texture and a little bit of tone. Anything that needs to be super dark in the painting will be added in later, digitally.
      I scan the drawing and go nuts in Photoshop. I modify my base texture layer quite a bit to really make the darks stand out more. I add opaque color to the above layers but also make use of layer properties to retain a nice warm, golden undertone.
      I like this process because there's just enough variety to keep me interested...I can always work on something in the traditional drawing stage if I'm burnt out on computer stuff, and visa versa. And no matter how many digital tools I've played around with, nothing can compare with the perfect errors you get with traditional pencil and watercolor. It really gives me the vintagey look I'm going for.
e: I especially adore the dad in Hammer and Nails. What was your inspiration for him?
Jessica:
Thanks! I like him too. I really wanted to emphasize the clunkiness of a big manly dude...
There was a hilarious character from the old Ren and Stimpy show that has always lodged itself in my psyche. He was a prison inmate who ate only meat sandwiches (with meat bread), was super tough and didn't know his own strength, but had a really soft side that just wanted to be loved. I adored the juxtaposition of this concept, and think he might have been a subconscious source of inspiration for the Dad:)
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Jessica:
At the beginning of my career I sent out postcards to publishers and regularly emailed art directors. But now, to be honest, I don't do much. For the most part, I adhere to a build it and they will come mentality. I like to post images of projects I am most passionate about on Instagram and Facebook. I was surprised to find that a large publisher had been stalking me on Instagram for awhile, waiting to give me a project because they liked my style and sense of humor. I do enjoy sharing my work on social media because it keeps me going...I need the positive feedback, and it helps me feel I am staying consistent. And the bringing in the business part is a bonus.
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?
Jessica:
Heart art is something you feel connected to when creating it. You bring authenticity to it. Anytime you are authentic, you will connect with others. Viewers sense the authentic energy when they look at it, and will naturally relate to it. They don't even have to like it, but they will feel something real. That's what we all yearn for.
      I feel good when I make art I am passionate about. I love people. So drawing characters based on people I have observed really makes me feel connected to human beings, and that gets me excited. I know that my viewers have observed those same details in themselves or others, and knowing that inspires me so much.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Hammer and Nails?
Jessica:
Well, you will likely have to ask the author about that!
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Jessica:
Being a fulltime creator is extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. For me its personal development. When I feel aligned, my art comes together. If I'm stressed out, not focused, haven't rested enough, worrying about something, I will battle with my art and the end result will look uninspired. I also strive to improve constantly, so there are periods of uncomfortable change with no clear vision of what's to come, just trust that following my intuition will lead to a breakthrough. And it always does. And then things get really really fun. And then eventually uncomfortable again. And on and on:)
e: Is there something in particular about Hammer and Nails you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Jessica:
I hope people will embrace the message of challenging one's own identity from this book. I don't think people realize just how malleable and dynamic they are by nature. Too often we become fixed in how we view ourselves; what we like, what we think we are capable of, what's possible for us...I love that both characters in this story challenge themselves by stepping into each others worlds. I feel when we open ourselves up to that kind of uncertainty, we open ourselves up to so many more possibilities, and a whole hell of a lot more fun.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Jessica:
I'm working on a variety of projects right now. One is a picture book for adults. It's something I've always wanted to do. The story line is completely child inappropriate but still incorporates the fantasy and playful elements that kids books have. Think drunk alien.

e: Ha! Thanks for dropping by, Jessica!

17 April 2018

Coloring Page Tuesday - Polar Opposites

     For Earth Day, I give you a polar bear from the north pole and a penguin from the south pole, because from top to bottom we love our world! CLICK HERE for more 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.

16 April 2018

VIDEO: Love Yourself: The Anti-Bullying Song

Wow. This dad created a fantastic song/rap/mantra for his daughters when they complained of being bullied at school, and it's a song every child (and adult) should learn, internalize and grow up with! Click the image to read the full story and hear the song on the Good News Network.

15 April 2018

VIDEO: Two Snails Set Off

Longing for spring? You've got to watch this brilliant French animated short, of 'bugs' telling snails to embrace the season. Click the image to watch on the Good News Network.

14 April 2018

Earth Day 2018!

Earth Day is coming on April 22nd! You have just enough time to purchase my Earth Day products in my Earth Day Zazzle Store for your local pick-up team! I also have lots of free Earth Day coloring pages for you to share - CLICK HERE or the image to see the entire collection!
Check out Jane Goodall's Roots n' Shoots organisation for more Earth Day ideas!
And learn more about Earth Day at http://www.earthday.org/.

12 April 2018

Julia Patton and Samantha Berger's SNAIL MAIL

I flipped when I saw the cover for SNAIL MAIL (from Running Press Kids)! I mean, it's pure genius, right!? Why had noone thought of this as a picture book before??? And then I saw that it was illustrated by my good friend, Julia Patton. OMG - of course! She looped in the brilliant author, Samantha Berger, and I have them both here for you today - woohoo!
e: Samantha, tell me about the original inspiration and concept!
Samantha:
I happen to be someone who is madly, wildly, passionately-passionate about handwriting. I've always believed handwriting was something that's all our own, like our fingerprint, our retina scan, our voice--something that naturally makes us US! Handwriting is like someone's voice, written down.
      And it's truly meaningful to me, in my own life, that I can STILL SEE the actual original handwriting of the greatest heroes and sheroes of my lifetime - the people who I have looked up to forever - the people who live in my cellular memory and DNA - and have helped me become me. It gives me CHILLS when I see Jim Henson's handwritten scripts and notes about the Muppets and Sesame Street. (I am writing stuff for Sesame Street International right now!)
      It fills my HEART when I see Charlotte Zolotow's and Maurice Sendak's handwritten letters and edits. (I keep all my correspondence with my editors while making a book!)
      It sings to my SOUL when I see Sondheim's original lyric brainstorms (I could break into some Sweeney Todd right this minute!)
      What a gift that we can still SEE the thought process, the ideas taking shape, the voice springing to life on the page.
      And in America, where handwriting is going extinct, writing with a pen is becoming a lost art, and learning to write in cursive is being eliminated from school curriculums, it was meaningful for me to create a book that celebrated handwriting in all its ink-blazing glory.
      And then there's the letter writing thing.
      As miraculous, instantaneous, gratifying and downright cool texting, emailing, ichatting, Skyping, Facetiming, and Social Media-ifying can be (and it CAN BE!) there is something extra special about sending letters and packages the old fashioned way, that sometimes just can't be captured by technology.
      Those things can be found in the pages of Snail Mail and in Julia's brilliant illustrations.
      Things like letters to Santa Claus and Birthday Cards, and postcards.
      Things like letters from a pen pal across the world.
      Things like Brown Paper Packages tied up with strings (which I actually received from Julia once!)
      There is nothing in the world like this.
      So Snail Mail is also a love letter...to LETTERS!
     Finally -- I've been all over the world, and I think Julia has too, and there is NOWHERE as vast and diverse and wonderfully vastly diverse as the United States of America.
      I want to celebrate that diversity!
      We are different from state to state and in every landscape and in every time zone.
      We are different in every background and every story that brought us here.
      We are different in every state bird, flower, anthem, sports team and history.
      BUT WE ARE UNITED AND STRONGER AS ONE.
      We are a true melting pot and that is one of the best things about this country.
      Slow down to see where you live and where you may travel.
      Discover everything you didn't know about each place, and what makes it uniquely IT.
      Do whatever you can to make it a kinder place - because we are so fortunate to call this place home.

e: I agree!
Julia, what is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Julia:
As manuscripts go, getting Samantha’s first draft was an illustrators dream come true. I could visualise every word and instinctively feel a connection with not only the narrative but the protagonists. I could see Samantha in every word, feel her passion and her vision, and to illuminate this was just an incredible experience. Lucky me. Here are some ‘under construction’ and 'before and after’ images for you….

e: Samantha, what do you hope readers will come away with from Snail Mail?
Samantha:
Write stuff down with a pen! You'll be so happy to see your handwriting one day!
      You'll be happy to see someone you love's handwriting also.
      Use a waterproof, archival pen (so it doesn't fade away over time or bleed) and write on one side of the paper so it doesn't leak through.
      Just ask Simpson's creator Matt Groening. He'd say the same thing. In fact, I got this advice from him.

e: Samantha, what would be your dream project?
Samantha:
Collaborate and make books with people you LOVE, like Julia.
      and always respect the snail.
      Especially the ones who wear pink Speedo bathing suits!

e: Julia, what are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Julia:
Samantha and I are in top-secret talks as we work on a new collaborative book. We’re enjoying throwing lots of ideas around. Watch this space…

e: I will!
So, 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?
Julia:
What makes me revisit an illustration is the attention to detail, the tiny things you missed on the first few readings. I deliberately create lots of tiny additions to keep all ages of audience engaged as it’s often that different age siblings/groups of children are present at a reading. I have read picture books to my own children before they could speak and conversely, they have re-read their favourite picture books innumerable times once they were older and firmly into chapter books. Picture books offer so much so to many at many different times of peoples lives. I have my own collection of picture books as an adult I drool over for their sophisticated palate or sensitivity of a certain narrative. I’m utterly delighted in the new emergence of all the cross-over genres, from picture books to graphic novels to chapter books and non-fiction. The once unbreakable rules and boundaries are being challenged with much more emphasis upon representing our unique and breaking diversity which is well overdue. I believe Heart Art speaks in different vocabularies to each individual. A beautiful book can physically stop you in your tracks or the manuscript can metaphorically pull at your heartstrings with it’s quiet but revolutionary voice. Picture books are now being utilised as tools to assist classroom discussions of important global and political issues, also they are powerful enough to help a child understand their innermost feelings when a loved one passes. Picture books begin adventures, fantasies, hopes, dreams and most importantly conversations...

e: I SO AGREE!! Can't wait to have you both back for the secret project reveal!
     

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