Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Wonderful, Talented, Adventurous Sister

Today is my younger sister Brooke's birthday.  She is an amazing person and I wanted to illustrate something to capture the essence of her very soul for this special day.  Happy birthday little sis.  May you always be the strong, passionate, and loving person that you are today.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being an Artist is like Being a Parent

Trying to juggle my life as an illustrator and stay at home is like trying balance on a beachball while spinning plates on sticks. It’s nuts. It takes every last ounce of energy to just keep everything from crashing to the floor.

As I sat on my bed this morning trying to make sense of my life, it occurred to me that being a parent is rather like being an artist. Sure, they are completely different worlds, but when you think about it there is an undeniable number of comparisons: chaos, heartache, hard work, and a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I’m sure other artists with kids out there would agree. Here are a few examples of what I mean.


No Instruction Manual

There is a tremendous amount of resources out there for both parenting and illustrators. So much in fact that it’s overwhelming. I often wish that there could be a single instruction manual that told me exactly what to do. But there’s not. Trial and error, are our teachers. They can be rather harsh, but it’s the only way we learn.

Each path is different. No two artists are the same. No two children are alike. What works for some may not work for others. We have to find our own way. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in life is trust your own intuition. Human beings crave structure. We are to taught to follow rules and guidelines from a very early age. To think independently can be terrifying! However it is absolutely essential for parents and artists. No one can tell you how to do your job. You have to learn to trust in yourself, take chances, and embrace the chaos. Only then can you live up to your full potential.


Good Days and Bad Days
There are times when I feel like my artwork is fantastic. I’ll finish a piece and then not be able to stop looking at it. I’ll peek at it throughout the day to admire my brilliance. But then the next day I’ll turn around, see the same piece, and want to rip it too shreds. I’ll see nothing but the inconsistencies, the amateur touches, and mistakes. Those are the days I just want to take all of my artwork and burn it in a faraway field, never to be thought of again.

Parenting is the same way. Sometimes I’ll think, “Man, I’m such an awesome mom.” My son and I make cardboard box castles, we go on nature walks, I may even get him to eat a few vegetables. But then come the days when I can barely pull myself out of bed. My son sits in front of the TV, and I stare at the computer screen like a zombie. He eats goldfish crackers and plain, white, store-bought bread while I guzzle coffee just trying to maintain sanity.

Good days and bad days. There’s no way of predicting when they’ll come and go. The key is to enjoy the good times while they last, and learn to forgive yourself when things go wrong.


Fear of Failure
Failure. This is my worst fear, both as a parent and an artist. What I’m just pretending to be something I’m not? What if I never become a professional, published illustrator? What if I’m not cut out for motherhood? These fears plague me every single day of my life. Most of the time I manage to keep them at under the surface, but then someone may make a snide comment about my parenting, or I’ll receive a rejection letter from an agent or editor, and those fears break lose and I become lost in a sea of insecurities and despair.

Fortunately my passion for illustrating and love for my son always reign victorious, pushing those fears back under the surface, but they still lurk, waiting for the next opportunity to pounce. Someday I hope to be rid of them for good.


Passion

Never am I more happy than when I get lost in the lines and color of my work, or snuggle up to my son to read him a bed time story. These are the moments I live for. They make up my identity as a human being. There is a quote by Arsene Houssaye, “Tell me what you love, and I will tell you who you are.” I am an artist. I am a mother. These are two facts that will never change for as long as I live. It is who I am.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Top 10 Spring Picture Books

With spring right around the corner I wanted to share my top 10 favorite picture books for spring.  It's such a wonderful, marvelous time of year.


1.  Finding Spring
    Written and illustrated by Carin Berger

     Recommended for Ages: 3-7
     Style:  Fiction, Endearing
     Why I Love this Book: As a paper cut out artist myself, I just adore        
     Berger's illustrations.  The story is delightful and it's one that I don't
     mind reading over and over again.




2.  An Egg is Quiet
     Written by Dianna Aston
      Illustrated by Sylvia Long

      Recommended for Ages: 3-10
      Style:  Nonfiction, Whimsical
      Why I Love this Book:  The illustrations are gorgeous and the words
      chosen to describe eggs are so unusual and yet so fitting.  It's also very
      informational.



3.  Rose's Garden
     Written and Illustrated by Peter Reynolds

     Recommended for Ages: 3-7
     Style:  Fictional, Imaginative
     Why I Love this Book:  It is such an unusual, unique idea for a
     story and the ending is so touching.  It really drives home the
     importance of community.


   4.  Swirl by Swirl
     Written by Joyce Sidman
      Illustrated by Beth Krommes
   
      Recommended Ages:  3-7
      Style:  Poetry, Beautiful Imagery
      Why I Love this Book:  The movement and flow of the words
      and illustrations for this book just pull you right in.  It's
      a beautiful piece of art.



5.  The Tale of Peter Rabbit
     Written and Illustrated by Beatrix Potter
   
     Recommended for Ages - 3-7
     Style:  Classic, Fiction
     Why I Love this Book:  Perhaps I am nostalgic, but this book will
     always have a special place in my heart.  It is a beloved tale and my list
     wouldn't be complete without it.




6.  Lola Plants a Garden
     Written by Anna McQuinn
      Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

      Recommended for Ages:  3-7
      Style:  Fiction, Sweet
      Why I Love this Book:  The style and message to this book is so
      simple and sweet and made me want to take my son outside
      immediately afterward to plant our own garden.



7.  Whose Egg?
     Illustrated by Guy Troughton

     Recommended for Ages: 3-7
     Style:  Nonfiction, Lift the flaps book
     Why I Love this Book:  My 4 year old son just adores this book!
     He wants to read it over and over and over again.  Anything that
     makes him this curious about nature certainly has my stamp of
     approval.



8.  And Then it's Spring
     Written by Julie Fogliano
      Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

      Recommended for Ages:  3-7
      Style:  Fiction, Humorous, Sweet
      Why I Love this Book:  It is so very relatable!  Waiting for spring is
      so hard!




9.  Mama Built a Little Nest
     Written by Jennifer Ward
      Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

     Recommended for Ages:  3-7
     Style:  Poetry, Informational
     Why I Love this Book:  I love birds!  I come from a family of bird
     watchers so these kinds of books are of great interest to me.




     10.  The Easter Egg
       Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett

       Recommended for Ages:  3-7
       Style:  Fictional, Holiday
       Why I Love this Book:  Jan Brett was my favorite illustrator
       growing up and I love her style to this day.  I believe this book is
       one of her best.  It inspires me to be creative with my own Easter
       egg decorating.



Thanks for stopping by!  If you have any favorite picture books appropriate for spring please feel free to share!  I would love to hear from you.












Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Doodles in the Park


I was sitting in the park yesterday thinking on a writing prompt I was given "As Big as this World." Instead of writing I ended up doodling and this is what I came up with.




Saturday, March 14, 2015

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett

I was deeply saddened to hear one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett, died two days ago on March 12.  In honor of his memory I have drawn a his portrait alongside my favorite quote from his book "The Wee Free Men."


If you have a favorite book or quote by Terry Pratchett I would love to hear it.

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett

Your words and stories will always hold a special place in my heart.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Out of My League

Recently I was given the writing prompt "Back to the Drawing Board" and immediately I thought of my very first SCBWI conference experience in Nashville.  I don't know about other writers and illustrators, but when I went to my first conference I felt way out of my league.  Here is a short piece about my experience.


Out of My League

I sat outside the conference room, leg bobbing up and down nervously as I tried to ignore the relentless ticking of the clock. Tick. Tick. Tick.

I wasn’t ready! My portfolio wasn’t ready! Any minute I would be summoned to sit across the table from Lydia Joyner, the illustrious art director of Peachtree Publishing, to present my pathetic plastic binder which contained my fragile hopes, intimate dreams, and desperate attempt to be noticed in a sea of ridiculously talented children’s book illustrators.

Tick. tick. tick. 2 minutes left. My mind raced back to the day before when I’d first arrived at the convention. I was accosted by fellow illustrators with far more experience and confidence then I. They wanted to see my portfolio.

Was it okay for me to say no? Judging by their expectant looks I decided not. Reluctantly I handed over my work.

“Aww! So sweet!” Said one.
“You have such a cute style.” Said another.

Sweet? Cute? It was as if they patted me on the head and said, “Aww sweetie! It’s really cool that you’re trying and everything, but you will never be able to compete with us. Better luck next year hun.” I was dismissed as a non-threat, a little girl and her doodles trying to play in the big league.

A woman opened the door. “Heather Dent?” She called. I stood up clutching my binder. “Yes?”
“Lydia’s ready for you now.”

I followed the woman as she led me through a large conference room full of editors and agents meeting with scared individuals like myself. Finally we arrived and Lydia Joyner’s table. She looked like Meryl Streep with elegant white hair, stylish glasses, and confident chin. I was terrified.

She didn’t say much as she flipped through the plastic page protectors. Occasionally she’d something like, “What a fun character.” or “I like this one. You should put it at the head of your portfolio.” It took her less than a minute to flip through a year’s worth of work.

Then came the critique.

“There’s not enough action in your illustrations.” She said. “There’s no movement. You need to put more life into your drawings.”

She then went on to make generic suggestions like, “I would recommend that you take art classes.” or “Have you read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain?” In fact I had already read that book before I even entered high school.

I’d been right. I did not stand out. I was forgettable. I stood up, shook hands with Lydia, and left the table.

Oddly enough, I felt relieved. So I wasn’t an immediate success. So what?! Nobody’s an immediate success right off the bat. It takes time, and sweat, and diligence to get what you want in life. You need more than skill. You need endurance.

I came out of that portfolio critique with renewed determination. It was back to the drawing board for me! Next time my work would not be “cute” or “sweet.” Next time I would not be dismissed as a forgettable amateur. Next time I’d be a force to be reckoned with.

Watch out Picture Book World! I’m coming back with a vengeance! No more fooling around. I’m not the confused, naive girl I used to be. I know my path. I know my competition. I know I’m ready for the big leagues. Ready or not here I come!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lion in Winter Tournament 2015

Every year I look forward to attending the annual Lion in Winter Board Game tournament hosted by our good friend Derek Glenn.  It's one of the highlights of my year.  Board game enthusiasts travel across states to attend this intense, epic battle of intelligence.  For two straight days we do nothing, but play board games.  It's awesome!  I don't mean board games like Monopoly, Risk, and Scrabble (although I do like Scrabble.)  I mean hard core board games like Race For the Galaxy, Castles of Burgundy, and Agricola.  Last year my husband attended the World Board Game Tournament where he became the world champion at Castles of Burgundy.  So yeah.  We're pretty obsessed.

One of the many things I love about board games is the gorgeous art and illustrations.  Someday I would love become a professional board game illustrator, but for the time being I've illustrated a poster for this year's Lion in Winter Tournament coming up in a few weeks!  I can't wait.