Monday, December 17, 2012

Tomie DePaola Award

I recently entered the 2013 Tomie DePaola Award Contest. The criteria was to pick an excerpt from either Little Women, Huckleberry Finn or The Yearling.

After I read Little Women, I did some preliminary sketches based on some scenes I liked. I focused on what I thought the character would look like.

But I didn't want to go for the obvious- Jo in her attic working away, the sisters gathered around sewing and chatting, etc... I wanted to capture a moment in the story that reflects deep emotional bonds between the characters, the sincere joy of the story and the charm of the era in which Little Women was written in. The Christmas party when Laurie and Amy fall in love I thought the perfectly seasonal moment.

After a little research on late 1800s costumes, I drew. I inked. I painted.

Here's my submission:

You can view the unofficial gallery of incredible entries from the contest here:

What a talented group. I wish we could all win. Bonne chance to everyone!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

SCBWI Portfolio Review Night

I attended the SCBWI Portfolio Review Night at New York City's lovely Anthroposophical Society.

When I checked in, there were a few names in the lottery basket. My hopes were high. In a few minutes, the host was going to pull out three names which their portfolios would be reviewed by Art Direct Lucy Ruth Cummins of Simon and Schuster and Senior Designer Kerry Martin of Clarion Books.

I settled into my seat and scoped out my competition. They all seemed like decent tax paying folk. The room wasn't too full, my odds were high. The event was underway and I was riveted by Kerry and Lucy's presentations. Kerry reviewed Deb Lucke, the author illustrator who I took a class with. Next she mentioned Daniel Salimieri's work. Both his books are on my nightstand. I began to wonder if the stars were aligned for me on this night. I also heard about the style of art the publishers were interested in, some behind the scenes stories and how Lucy and Kerry work with illustrators.

Then, the names were picked. I thought I heard "Helen" but it was really "Ellen" and some other illustrators that weren't me. Tant pis, as the french say. Which means too bad but without the sense of trepidation that is associated in the English language.

Instantly, my competition became my community and it was fascinating to hear Lucy and Kerry critique the portfolios. The feedback was clear, analytical and practical. It was a lively discussion between the pickee, the publishers and the audience. Some takeaways were to:
 - Vary my color palette
 - Develop my lettering
 - Rotate the pieces in your portfolio, keep it fresh

I asked about Lucy and Kerry's pet peeves. Kerry is occasionally put off by unorganized portfolios that have work shown in landscape and portrait orientations as well as illustrators that show only a few pieces (show at least 8). Kerry mostly objects to in accurately drawn hands and anatomy (she urged us all to go to life drawing classes).

It was a great evening and I am very thankful for Bridget Casey, SCBWI NY Co-Regional Advisor, and the other the organizers of the event. I learned a good deal of information. And, if you'd like to see what I had prepared for the evening, please review a sampling of my latest portfolio here. A bientot!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

PbIdMo 2012

Last month, I participated in PbIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). It was a good challenge and I enjoyed coming up with a new idea each day. Some days I spent 10 minutes on it other days I drifted on brainstorming and tangents for about hour. It was a good reminder to stay loose in my thinking about the creative process. And the best part was hearing everyone's stories and comments on Tara Lazar's blog.

Here's my official completion pledge:

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

And the fun part (courtesy of Ward Jenkins):

My notebook is bursting with some good ideas, I hope at least one comes to fruition! And that's another post. A bientot, mes amis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Homage Potage

There's a french word "potage" for soup. But it's not really soup. It's a richer soup which is thickened with potatoes or some other starchy veg (vegetables). I have beautiful childhood memories of coming in from Belgium's damp and cold to warm up with my favorite potage. My Mom also made lovely clear soups.

Recently, I was reminded of my Mom's soup when I turned the pages of Soup Day by Melissa Iwai. Not only is her blog, The Hungry Artist, a wonderful resource of gorgeous recipes and photos but her book, Soup Day, is a favorite in my household. Here is my tribute to it, my potage homage . . .

My helper and I searched for the freshest indregients at the store (we might of been on page 4 of the book and we got weird looks, but I do as the French, I give them the strange look back, n'est pas?)

Veg cleaned and chopping had begun (yes, I deviated somewhat from the book here, you'll have to buy Soup Day to know exactly how.)

All the beautifully chopped veg ready to go into the soup pot.

And the finished soup. . . delicious.

Here's my illustrated version of my homage potage. Thank you to Melissa Iwai. What an inspiration! A bientot.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jerry Pinkney Exhibition and PiBoIdMo

I had the thrill of spending over an hour with the legendary Jerry Pinkney and a group of visitors at the Hudson River Museum. Jerry gave us a tour of his current exhibition, highlighting 50 years worth of illustrations. I suppose he is most known for the Lion and the Mouse, which won the Caldecott Medal in 2009. However, my favorite of his books are: The Old African, Sweethearts of Rhythm and Sam and the Tigers. Which of his books are your favorites? Reply in the comments section.

Here we are, while he signs a book for me (excuse the blurriness of the shot, the paparazzi were going frantic.)

I was intrigued by what Jerry said about his early youth. Although he never knew it until much later in his life, his fascination with the printed page "fueled a need to fill the masses." He also talked about what keeps a project fresh- setting up obstacles in the actual approach of a painting and identifying the illustrating challenge for yourself as you execute the story.

Go see the show! Well worth the trip . . . and the rest of the museum is lots of fun. There's a planetarium, an over sized street art exhibition, etc...  A special thank you to the curator, who showed us the historic manor!

And, while on I'm on the topic of picture books, I would like to formally announce my participation in this year's PiBoIdMo. PiBoIdMo? If you are wondering if I've made this up, no, here's the creed (from Tara Lazar's Blog):

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.
You can find out more about PiBoIdMo at Writing for Kids and see the official logo designed by Ward Jenkins (his work is Amazing).

Wish me bonne chance and a bientot!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ten Variations Obstacle Course

Writing and Illustrating Exercise

This prompt comes from Matt Madden's popular blog. We tried it in my Art group a few weeks ago. See instructions below and find more details at:

A- Think of a common phrase like, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

B- Create list of variations on your phrase. Example:
1- Antonym: Do take one chicken out of many baskets.
2- Missing vowels: Dn't pt ll yr ggs n n bskt.
3- Vowels only: o u a ou e i o e a e
4- Confrontational: "Bet you can't put all your eggs in one basket!"
"Heck ya I can!"
5- Minimalist: All eggs one basket.
6- Biblical: Though shall not putith all ones chicken layings in ones carrying case.
7- Affirmative: "Would you just take an egg out of the basket!"
8- Romantic: "Oh honey, put all your eggs in my basket!"
9- Opposites: All baskets don't egg in one put your.
10- Medieval: "In the name of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table, though shall not taketh poultry offspring from its nesting place!"

C- Pick a phrase from the list and make an illustration from it.

Here's my drawing:

I urge you to submit yours in the comments section below. Have fun and a bientot!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Suppose I'll Say Sketcheroony

In April, I wrote about my sketchbooks, my preferred sketching tools and the drawings from them I called sketcheroonies.

Now, I give you my latest watercolor and ink sketcheroony (yes, I made it up then, so the singular of sketchroonies is sketchroony), from the lovely outdoor concert we enjoyed over the weekend. A bientot!

ps- The musician is Carolann Solebello. You can find her online here:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Slight Curve

I've been working away at a mini comic, The Slight Curve, that is rather apropos for summer time. Generally, when I work this way, I start off with rough watercolor sketches.

Then I design the pages and make a key to figure out the size of my panels. I layout panel borders and sketch out the words and images in pencil.

Afterwards, I paint all the images. Then I paint the words, the panels and finally I ink the outlines (see below for finished art).

Enjoy The Slight Curve and give me some feedback in the comments section. And, if you are interested in using or repurposing the story, please be in touch. : )

A bientot!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Steins Exhibition Inspiration

Two paintings remain with me from the day I went to the Steins Show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One was Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein and the other was Matisse's portrait of his wife, Amelie Matisse, Woman with Hat.

I can just imagine Gertrude literally coming off the canvas, grabbing my hand and the both of us taking flight over Manhattan like Raymond Brigg's Snowman. We sail the open sky. Soon we find ourselves over vast forests away from the curling wide Hudson. We land in my studio. She hands me a brush and gives me that "get it done" look. Outside, Amelie Matisse is jumping on a trampoline which is delicately placed on fresh cut grass. Amelie is holding onto her hat. She's laughing. Her dress billows like a parachute. She doesn't say a word. But I know her message: "Don't forget to have fun!"

Here's my quick study of each of the paintings:

So what is it that I am working on? What shall I have done? What shall I have fun doing? Well, that's another post!

A bientot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gertrude Stein and Amelie Matisse Poems

Inspired by Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein and Matisse's portrait of his wife, Amelie Matisse, Woman with Hat from the Steins Show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I wrote these two poems:

Portrait of Gertrude Stein

African mask face
Solid bold pose
Smolder stair
Watcher weeps
Weeps weeps
Over this
Boundless human
Picasso captured
Pensive woman

Amelie Matisse

Stripped clown face
Carmen Miranda
Before the time
Jazz beat
Across canvas
Voyeur view
Matisse's mind
Looker laughs
Laughs laughs
Over this
Pout hat
Sanguine gaze

A bientot.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Steins Collection

I saw the Steins show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s on until June 3rd. I only have a few words: get there quick.

What can I say about this astounding exhibition: Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Pierre- Auguste Renoir to name a few. Not only are the paintings spectacular, the show is also an amazing story about two bohemian collectors who had tremendous foresight.
I was reminded of the movie Midnight in Paris which touches on the Gertrude Stein and her collaboration with artists of all types in Paris. I was fascinated to discover by the exhibit's virtual view of where Gertrude hosted the Saturday night salons in which the artists would come to her house and share their latest work.

I left the museum on such a high: Paris at the turn of the 20th century, walks through the Tuilliers, discovering Picasso, what romantic bliss! Je prends le champagne, darling!

A bientot.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Starlet Chorus Line Queens

I did a series of large abstract paintings in the fall 1995. Several months later, was opening night – wine, cheese, jazz and the paintings hovering over white walls like starlet chorus line queens at their first show. They looked great.  I remember after the exhibition was over, I sat in the corner of the room for a while and felt smitten. All the hard work and angst over these paintings had paid off.

In the summer of 1996, I rolled up the 5 by 7 feet paintings. Today I unearthed them for the first time. Sixteen years later, I can still hear that jazz beat, I smell that cheap wine, I sense the clatter of people's comments and me, much later, sitting on the floor looking up at my beauties.

I eventually want to do something with this collection. A piece of me wants to cut them up into little paintings and mount them on boards. Another part of me wants to trim the edges and frame them. For right now, I’ll let them simmer in my head as I produce more paintings . . .

Here I am, amongst them, really to show scale.

Here is the glorious group of beauties, "sunbathing" in the yard.

Here is a close up.

Here is an extreme close up.

Here is my foot next to an old foot print. Oh! I used to love those old shoes. They were my first pair of Simples.

A bientot.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Three Minute Watercolors

I got out my rusty stop watch (the one my husband used to time out my contractions during labor) and watercolor paper. I set up an object and gave my self three minutes. Here's one of my attempts:

Try it. You'll be surprised with what you see! A bientot.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Back from Arizona

We were on vacation last week so I wrote a little poem about coming home. I suppose I needed a little more time out west!

 Upon Return
Mesa tables drift through
the vast western desert plain.

Cactuses suspend this idle time
and promise fountains of oasis.
Catch the upward open sky
to descend this vacation high.

Abound blue goes to sheltered view
surrounded by sparse budding trees.
Settle humble cabin life- lake and woods
where violets bloom on bereft return.

Here’s a quick painting from my new sketchbook. I did this rather quickly. More entries on working with time constraints to come . . . A bientot!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Show at GWL

I had the pleasure of being part of the Art Extravaganza at the Greenwood Lake Public Library today. I was in a group of photographers and painters: Irving Fishman, Rene Fressola, Minna Harmon, Patty Kaminski and myself. This was the event for all the 2011-12 Works of Art Gallery artists to meet and mingle with local patrons. Kelly Corrado, the coordinator of the event, did a fantastic job of transforming the room and speaking about the Works of Art Gallery and its artists.

Here's a picture of my corner. I displayed my watercolors, a few abstract pieces and my portfolio. It was exhilarating to answer questions and tell the stories behind my paintings. I can't wait for the next opportunity to show my work. A bientot!

Friday, April 13, 2012


Like countless others, I’ve been completely inspired by An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory. His website also has terrific journal samples and beautiful movies of the artists.

An Illustrated Life  has got me thinking about my own sketchbooks and what I have found useful over the years. I have several in many locations all for various purposes. A school bound note book for writing, a watercolor paper bound for painting and sketchbooks that I’ve made from my favorite heavy duty drawing paper. My tools of choice are cheap ball point pens and watercolors. And, what always seems to happen to me- I write in my painting journals and sketch in my writing journals. Most of the time, I make little “sketcheroonies” in my notebooks. Having read An Illustrated Life , I decided it is time to be more conscious of my sketchbooks and what I use. So I bought a fancy new sketchbook and made up these rules: upgrade to markers and design the page more. I am hoping my sketcheroonies will evolve!
Here is a recent sketcheroonie that elicited my EasterBreeze poem.

What about you? Any preferences about the tools you use? Have the rules you’ve imposed on yourself helped or hindered you?

A bientot,
: )

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wanna Fight? Hammering Out Conflict in a Story.

A few years ago, in Deb Lucke’s Graphic Novel and Picture Book class, I was introduced to the concept of conflict in a story. As defined, the conflict is the problem that triggers the action in a story. For example, in Sendak’s famous Where the Wild Things Are, the conflict is between Max and his Mom although we don’t actually see the argument. However, there are also stories where the conflict is literally in the story. In Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Peter disobeys his mom and almost gets caught by Mr. McGregor.

At the time, I was a little stuck on my Mama Lucia and I instantly, drew:

 I regrouped. I listed both my characters attributes and asked myself what is each character’s deepest desire:

And, after many pages through my notebook, I discovered the power struggle between the siblings for their mother’s attention.  Also, I saw how one character’s “want” got in the way of the other character’s “want”. Got any conflicts up your sleeves? I want to hear some.

And where is this story now and what have I done with it? Well, that’s another entry!
A bientot.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Easter Breeze

The change of seasons always makes me notice my surroundings differently. Today I wrote a few lines of poetry with a few simple rules: stay in the present tense, omit prepositions and write what I see. I challenge you to submit a few entries right here in the comments section!

Here's what I came up with:

Easter Breeze
Feather whisper cotton clouds.
Dreadlock flowers drench bare trees.
Settle spring bring weather ease.

A bientot.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pay it Forward

I had the most extraordinary thing happen to me. After a long day of running around in the spring weather, I drove 40 minutes out of my way to a specialty store and realized I forgot my wallet. So I asked the clerk at customer service if they would take a credit card number over the phone. She said no. I understood. I was ready to move on when, to my amazement, a complete stranger opened up her wallet and asked me how much money I needed. I couldn’t even register her words. I sort of stood there dumb founded. I was floored by her generosity. She handed me $80, we exchanged addresses and she left me saying this: 

I still feel like my jaw is on the floor over that kind gesture! I am left to wonder what kind of world we would live in if we all operated like this beautiful stranger . . .
A bientot!
PS: And if you are wondering if I paid her back, well, of course I did! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Letting Loose

A few times a week, I’ve been going back to the love of my youth: just mucking about with paint. This is mainly an effort to loosen up my style. Last week, I used spices from my kitchen as the basis for a few of my paintings.
It all happened by accident. I was hosting a North African themed party and along with the hummus, cous cous and the spicy roasted veg, I wanted to make some unconventional place mats. So I swirled glue on poster paper and sprinkled cumin, cinnamon, curry and chili flakes over my patterns. After a little coughing and shaking about, I really liked the lines I created.

Here’s a close up of the spices melded to the page:

Once the spices were dry, I sprayed them with a clear acrylic and realized the place mats were too delicate to put plates over. Unconventional? Hum. Unpractical? Not exactly.
I then incorporated charcoal and pencil into the “place mats” to work out a composition.

Next, I covered my sketch with paint.

My eyes no longer water from the chili flakes and place mats are now paintings. Life is good!

A bientot.

PS-  See Spice Man, on my painting page, another painting created in this method.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

You may have seen my work at Fuse#8 Production yesterday. I had a lot of fun doing the exercise: take a famous children's illustrator's style and reinterpret a page from a Dr. Seuss book. Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Horton the Elephant in the style of William Steig

Horton the elephant in the style of Beatrix Potter