Tag Archives: children’s literature

Save the dates!! (The future’s so bright)

2019 travel journal WORKSHOP DATES are officially posted and open for registration!  (Click on the linked pages below for all the specifics!)

Antigua, Guatemala: March 30- April 5, 2019    OR    April 7 – April 13, 2019  (note, these are two separate workshop weeks which I’ll offer back to back.)

Taos, New Mexico:  June 9- 15, 2019

For my friends out west, there is also a weekend sketch workshop with me in the Santa Cruz area slated for May 18 and 19, 2019.  Send me an email if you are interested!! (linked is my post about this year’s trip, which was wonderful!)

And below, I’ll catch you up a bit on the landing home after a most wonderful summer……

The future is indeed very bright around here.  We ‘gotta wear shades’ as they say.   This magical gypsy summer of serious traveling has left me feeling newly and deeply inspired, even unmoored and untethered at times.  Summer is always a a season of churning and  resetting, but this year these feelings are exceptionally poignant and rich.  I’ve had so much time to think about things, what with all the flying and driving and waiting and watching along the way from place to place to place.

A bit of art was crafted here and there while on the road, but mostly I found myself in a place of keen inner observation, a bird’s eye viewing of the self just now and the work currently at hand.

This summer I pondered a great deal about what in the world I am up to in this artful life (age appropriate behavior, as I just turned 49 the other day!!).  So many proverbially spinning plates all going at once, and there’s me, the mad, rushing spinner, jumping from thing to thing, spin, spin, spin, lest it all come crashing down around me.  At least, that is how it feels some days.  On other days, the balance of things settles deeply into my heart and I just know I am on the right track, in spite of all the wobbly plates.

Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned: the centre of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the centre of the seesaw so the pain flowed through you, not into you. It was very hard. But she could do it!”

― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

Recently, I was listening to a lovely chat between Krista Tippet and Liz Gilbert on the nature of creativity and the notion of choosing curiosity over fear.  (I like this notion a lot.)  There are many quotable gems throughout this interview and I highly recommend you take a listen to the unedited version of it.  There was one small thing though that made me stop the recording at one point and run for the journal to write it down.  Gilbert was talking of an inspirational favorite poet of hers called Jack Gilbert (no relation) who was described by his students at one point as being a teacher who –

“didn’t necessarily teach us so much HOW to write a poem, but rather WHY to write a poem.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks.  In some strange way, this philosophical shift encapsulates the work I do with travel journaling in my own workshops.  Yes, of course we do a bit of Drawing 101, and Basic Use of Watercolors, and etc.  But more importantly, we work together to get to the why of it all.  Why even bother to draw or paint or capture quotes in a little book which no one besides our patient loved ones will ever see?

Somehow, through the experiences shared as fellow artists, we distill these notions into the inspiration to do the work and figure out why along the way.  It is all about enchantment.  

And so, while I do teach the how-to along with my fellow sketchers locally, my heart of hearts is invested in the why  of it all, which is at the core of my travel based workshops.

Coming to this realization has helped me connect the dots a bit in the work that I do.  How the practice of local “Urban Sketching” might relate to and feed my passion for making anthropomorphic illustrations of animals having people-like adventures.  How these illustrations might also be “serious” enough to feed the fine-art branch of my artistic interests (i.e., paintings, sans hamsters).   How the fiber-based arts of embroidery and knitting might serve as idea-hatching meditations (whilst on the surface they may look like netflix-binging in my pajamas).  And how all of these varied practices might actually come together to make the workshops I teach quite different than others because they come from a very unique place,  me.

And as they say in Maine, ‘different is good‘.

And now here it is, not even the end of August, and I am already a feeling a little less angsty about work.  A bit more centered in forging forward in all of it, varied though it may be.  I am excited to have the dates and costs set for 2019’s offerings so get those checks in the mail lads!!

It feels good to be back home in this ol’ river valley of ours for a couple of months before the need to escape it all once more overtakes me and I hit the road again.

But for now, I am settled in my little nest, catching up on work at the shop, drawing and painting and writing every day possible and trusting that all will be well.

ps. Many of you have been asking when an Ireland based workshop might happen.  As of this writing, the right place has not quite found me yet.  And place is important.  We’d need a home base, something with space for us to live while we work (lodging AND classroom space); a place which has available local meal-catering options we could hire in if needed, walkability to a local village (because, MUSIC!) and preferably near the sea.  If you have any places on the emerald Isle to suggest, do let me know!  In the meantime, I plan to get back to Ireland on me own via artist’s residencies and visits to friends when at all possible.  I’ll keep you posted! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Pressure.

I am just returned from an intensely inspiring conference at the Mazza Museum, an oasis of beauty and innocence in northwestern Ohio of all places.  If you are anywhere near Findlay, Ohio and have an interest in or love of children’s picture books, I highly recommend a visit.   The weekend conference seemed to be geared toward teachers and librarians, the very folks who use and champion the work of people who make illustrated books for kids (in whose ranks I will be one day!!)  There were also a couple of us art folks lurking in the audience as well of course but it was really wonderful to meet such lovely educators and book enthusiasts.

The panel of authors and artists was top notch.  top-notch-panel

We heard from David Wiesner who spoke eloquently about “worlds within worlds within worlds”.  He signed not only the book I picked up for my nephew, but also my sketch book.  I consider this inspiring glitter to have been bestowed upon my lowly book.

david-wiesner

Next day we heard about “sharing the truth of the world”, “clinging to a raft in a sea of doubt”, and how publishing a book is like an electrical impulse going pole to pole to pole from author Tony Abbot.  He also discussed the tremendous responsibility behind the notion of telling a good story, whether through words, pictures, or both.

tony-abbot

“Children are a much more important audience than adults.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson

Sergio Ruzzier talked of his love of picture books as a child when the ones with too many words proved overwhelming.  I am anxious to try out pen and ink in a new way after his demonstration and talk.  His books are beautiful, and his lecture was really entertaining.

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Brian Biggs’ series Tinytown books (among stacks of many he’s made) are all about “creating a world I want to live in.”  Amen.

Nikki McClure had me in tears during her speech, as I have been on the verge of tears ever since the election and all that has gone with it.  She was honest and vulnerable in her talk as she too spoke of deep grief over the meaning of recent events.  They are not trivial and are not politics as usual.  She spoke straight to my heart.

“Make.  Learn.  Speak.”

“Books are a place of calm and centering.”

“Trust the child.”

“Draw. Draw. Draw.  Thinking comes later.”

“Books should have food in them.”

“Use color to tell the story.”

“All you need is a pencil.  All you need is a dream.”  (in which I am, once again, weeping.)

Dan Santat finished off the conference, exhausted from what seems like a grueling touring schedule, with an inspiring talk about his own work and the trajectory it’s taken.  He talked of embracing boredom, and being comfortable in your own skin as an artist.  That is where one can find one’s individual style.  I shared with him this sweet image of my good friend Alice who is a huge fan of Beekle.

alice

All in all, it was just what my gentle heart needed after this past week.  I had to drive through the heart of Trump-ville to get there but it was worth it.  And I cried some more on the way home, allowing my grief to flow, although I know the conservatives who voted for our new President-Elect just don’t understand this depth of sadness and are asking us to get over it and stop being such crybabies.

Well here’s the thing.  Perhaps it’s this election and all of the vitriol involved.  Perhaps it’s the essence of middle age.  But I am done being told, in ways subtle as well as straight up obvious, how to feel.  About anything.  To be an artist, in my truly humble opinion, is to have an open heart.  To feel deeply whatever it is I am feeling.  There is really no other way to our best work.  And so I weep.

The Mazza conference was just the shot in the arm I needed just now.  I feel recommitted to getting my stories and pictures out to publishers and eventually into the hands of teachers and librarians and children themselves.  I had spent the days before this conference wondering how to move forward from here in a country so hell bent on moving backward in time.  We had come so far and yet now, we tilt back into a time of rekindled hatred and distrust.  It is heartbreaking.

So the pressure is on now, to give love a chance.   I leave you here with some Bowie and Queen.  In hope.  Under Pressure.

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give love that one more chance
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
Because love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

3dG and Me

Perhaps you know of Ginger Small, the little hamster character I have been working to pin down for a good while now.  She is very, very shy, being a small creature in a big world. I have worked with a variety of incarnations of her wee physical self as a way of pursuing a sense of character for her, so that she might share her story with me in word-form, as she has been rather reluctant to do so. And I so very much would like to see little miss Ginger’s adventures become a picture book for children of all ages one day.

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About a year and a half or so ago, I created a little felted version Ginger and played with her a bit in the studio.  Her facebook friends seemed to really love this little three-dimensional Ginger and sent cards and gifts her way.

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But all the while, this rather quiet, awkward and somewhat adolescent version of Ginger didn’t seem to match the confident, fashion-savvy cheek of a hamster that can be found in the drawings I make of her….

steampunk ginger

This little Ginger was far more quiet and bookish and chose to mostly stay at home nestled in the embroidery basket practicing the art of divination with tiny Tarot cards.  It is not lost on me that this side of Ginger is really the tender side of myself…

Ginger 6

And so, as we must never push a shy creature too very far out of her comfort zone, I crafted a couple of rounds of paper doll versions of Ginger for the Halloween and Christmas holidays that year.  Her friends were thrilled!!

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This version of Ginger didn’t feel so shy with masks to hide behind.

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Felted Ginger, being a bit of an introvert, continued to make friends one by one, choosing a more intimate exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Ginger 7

This went on for a good while.  Whenever I had the chance, and an idea came to me, I would catalog Ginger’s adventures in illustrative format.  I love doing this best of all.  I know I have shared some of these adventures with you over time….

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Then, just the other day, I was catching up on the blog writing and workly adventures of one of my favorite writer/illustrators, Jackie Morris.  Jackie’s work is such as I hold to be True North in what I like to find in books-with-pictures.  My kids have grown up with her imagery captivating their imaginations, as well as my own.  She has written and illustrated many gorgeous books and you can see them all here: http://www.solvawoollenmill.co.uk/jackie-morris-books.  Her latest book, Something About a Bear, is due out quite soon and I for one can’t wait to get my very own copy.  I may even treat myself to an actual signed copy from the site above, all the way from Wales!

While perusing Jackie’s lovely blog, I came across a sweet video of her reading her new book aloud to a small bear critter named Mary, who was, I came to find out, born in the pages of this book.  Jackie’s friends at Celestine and the Hare made a felted version of the little spectacled bear in Jackie’s book and I dare say this little felted version of the bear has taken on quite a personality!!  I love reading about her and hope she finds herself in the pages of a book all her very own at some point.  She is a delightful little bear and you can see her often these days in the recent posts by Jackie on her blog.

Sweet Mary, her friend a Snow Leopard and their collective adventures had me glancing across the studio to my own little felted critter, wondering if maybe, with a little more hand work from me, the felting needles and some extra wool, 3dGinger might decide to venture out into the world a little more for her own adventures.

And so I took her off the shelf and got back to working on her….

photo

I felted some more brightly colored wool onto her which plumped her up a bit.  After all, one of the nicest things about hamsters is their plumpness!  I updated her ears and added a proper tail – the tail being one way to tell a hamster creature versus say, a mouse, or a gerbil.

unnamed

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Soon, a more grown-up, less awkward Ginger emerged….

Ginger1

And while felting as an art form is not something I’d say I’m destined to do as my Life’s Work, I would say this updated version of herself has turned out rather sweetly.

Ginger 5

She still is the sort that likes to hang out amidst cups of tea, paints and quietude….

Ginger12

ginger 17

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But she has also found there is much she likes to do.  Like going to the aquarium.

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Enjoying a climb in the garden.

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Or sitting by the brook where flowers lean in for a drink.  Don’t fall in, Ginger!!!

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Ginger, like my own self, very much likes to spend time amongst the faery folk.  She visits them at their hut where she drinks honeysuckle tea and discusses lofty and otherworldly ideas.

ginger18

I have heard tell that the faeries enjoy her company as much as she loves theirs.

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Like all of us small creatures, Ginger occasionally ponders Beings larger in scope and more powerful than her little self.

ginger 15

One day, she would very much like to go to Ireland.  But for now, she is content with nestling into shamrocks available to her closer to home and listening to the Irish music that so often graces this place in which she resides.

ginger14

This upcoming winter, Ginger and I are going back to Taos, New Mexico.   Most times when I go to Taos, Ginger is off finding her own adventures as I don’t have much time amidst teaching a workshop.  But she does manage to rest and have a little fun on her own.

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In which Ginger Small cavorts with the other-worldly

On this next trip, however, I will not be tied up in teaching.  I have been given the great gift of time and space as a Writer-In-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House for a couple of weeks in January.  This will require a little financial finagling with time off work  at my Day Job and the coverage of some travel costs.  But Ginger and I will figure it out together.  I have a few ideas on how to make it all work and Mabel’s has graciously given me a place to stay, a small stipend and a solid meal each day I am there.  I am truly honored and humbled to have received this gift.

I’m so excited that I stumbled across Jackie’s little bear Mary, who in turn inspired me to revisit the three-dimensional version of Ginger whom I have now nicknamed 3dG. Thank you Jackie and Mary!  It’s such a miracle to be able to check in on the week to week processes of artists via the internet and to have the opportunity to build a character here myself, as well as share my day to day, week to week, month to month…. (year to year!) processes here too on this little blog-place.  I am thankful to all of the artists and writers out there who have kept their blogs as I have over the years.  They (we!) are a gift to the world at large I believe.

When visiting my son at his new grown up apartment at school yesterday evening, my newly invigorated and courageous Ginger climbed up onto a globe in the shape of the whole world.  She told me she rather feels “on top of the world” since getting through this most recent patch of growing pains.  We shall see where her adventures take us.

ginger 4