Saturday, December 31, 2011

I have been super excited to do these derby comics every week... like, SUPER excited. I'm looking forward to a 2012 filled with more! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dear Diary

As a little exercise for myself, I'm going to illustrate some excerpts from my childhood diaries (oh, and I had many). Here's the first page of my 1989 diary...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pre-bout derby comic!

Wish me luck on Saturday! Even better, if you're in Portland c'mon out and watch!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Round two!

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for a husband who cooked a wonderful meal yesterday while I got to sit around and draw.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I usually have no fears about showing my work to others, but I'll admit it... I'm a little nervous about sharing this! It's something new for me, and new can be scary.

(click for larger view)

My goal is to do little practice strips each week. About, yes, roller derby- because I am obsessed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I love my job!

Every minute of every day, I love my job. And not just because jeggings are appropriate work attire. No, I love my job because I get to explore questions like, "What type of advertisements would appear in the program of a Broadway musical produced by insects?"

Monday, October 24, 2011

On Vegetables and Soup

Dear readers, in my last post I mentioned a phrase that I heard at a panel at the Wordstock festival here in Portland, and the phrase was this:

"Take other people's vegetables, but make your own soup."

Now, ever since I posted that, the internet has been abuzz.* What does this phrase actually mean? (*note: this is a lie. The internet, as far as I can tell, is still abuzz about cute cat photos. In which case, may I present to you):

Anyway, the internet maybe did not care, but I sure cared about this new catchphrase of mine. Ask anyone in my current children's book illustration class at PNCA- I used this phrase A LOT in recent critiques. "Nice vegetables in this one." "Why not take some onions from this painting here and add it to your crockpot of ideas?" "Is anyone else hungry? It's 9 o'clock!" Since I'm so smitten with this analogy, I thought I'd break it down a bit to demonstrate what it means to me.

I am a veritable Peter Rabbit when it comes to stealing vegetables to use in my soup. One of my favorite gardens from which to harvest is, appropriately enough, THE CURIOUS GARDEN by Peter Brown (DO YOU SEE WHAT A WONDERFUL ANALOGY THIS IS?!?!)

If you haven't seen this book, I highly recommend checking it out at your local library, or- more likely- buying your own copy, because you may want to refer to it again. And again. And again.

I am absolutely in love with the color in this book, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I call this book a masterpiece. Now, I myself would like to be a Master of Color, and when I was charged with painting a mural last summer at the Portland Children's Museum, I prepared by packing up my paints, an iPod, and a big ol' bunch of vegetables from the garden of Mr. Peter Brown.

In this color sketch I did for the mural, I took the greens and the red-oranges from Peter Brown to put in my soup. As in, when I was mixing my paints, I literally would put dabs of my paint in my copy of THE CURIOUS GARDEN to see that the colors matched.

I brought my copy of the book with me on-site (see it there in the bottom right-hand side?)

Add a pinch of salt and a sore back after two weeks of work, and...

Voila! My own soup. I honestly don't think anyone would EVER confuse our paintings, and I don't think Peter Brown would have a legal leg to stand on if he took me to court (go ahead, try me, Mr. Brown. My brother's a lawyer). I think there's a big difference between ripping someone off, and taking things you admire from another artist and incorporating those things into your work.

Similarly, I am currently harvesting the vegetables of another artist for my current book:

Edgar Degas, I'll see you in court, too, sir.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I met another celebrity!!!!!

... MORE exciting than Michelle Kwan? I think the answer is YES!

Yup, right there in the middle is Illustration Icon Marla Frazee! And she is flanked by Julie Paschkis and Nancy Tillman! (moderated by Portland illustrator Brie Spangler, sitting in the fancy chair).

This meeting took place at Wordstock, a fabulous literary festival held each fall in Portland. I LOVE this festival- last year David Shannon and David Wiesner spoke TOGETHER. ON STAGE. FOR AN HOUR. It was like the best hour of 2010 for me. Anyway, this was another hour high on the list- these 3 illustrators spoke about their work and answered questions. I asked Marla what her favorite assignment to give to her students is... soon to be an assignment in my class at PNCA! I also got this little bon mot out of the hour:

"Take other people's vegetables, but make your own soup".

This is a better way of saying what I often say in class: "Steal from other people. Just change it enough so they won't sue you". But I think the vegetable saying is closer to the truth- take elements you admire from others, but be sure to make the work your own.

I was so happy I got to hear Marla speak- I missed her first talk of the day, as I was leading a workshop at the same time. A workshop about writing children's books, dur.

I opened with this photograph and a simple 4-minute writing exercise called, simply, "I Remember". One of the most important steps for me in becoming a children's book author and illustrator has been to get back into the midset of being a kid.

Something that helps me with this is to really, honesty remember what it was like to be a kid. Not through the rose-colored glasses of "adulthood", but the real worries and frustrations I felt. A good way to tap into those memories is through old photographs. You can try this at home- find a photograph of yourself as a kid, and write down as many honest memories as you can of that moment.

For example, I remember precisely when the above photograph was taken. I was in my room, busy doing something important, when my mom came in & told me to put on my overalls and come outside for a picture. First of all, I was annoyed at being interrupted- I was DOING something. Second of all, these were Strawberry Shortcake overalls, which I was too old to be wearing. Third of all, I had outgrown these overalls, so I had to sort of hunch over so I could even fit my torso inside them. My overall feelings at the time of this picture were that I was being unfairly forced to do a bunch of things I didn't want to, because I was a kid and she was my mom (I know, what a cruel mother). (I love you, Mom!)

Anyway, my point is, childhood is not a carefree time for ANYbody, and it's important to remember your worries, concerns, and joys in order to relate to your kid readers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Boomer Makes His Debut

No matter how old I get, I always feel like September brings a subtle air of "Get Back to Work". My last days of summer were filled with visitors, quasi-camping, and Twilight re-enactments (perhaps I will post pictures in celebration of the cinematic release of Part 4, Act I). However, it's September now. I am knee-deep in illustrations for my next book, and my Children's Book Portfolio class at Pacific Northwest College of Art begins in two days.

But for now, step back into the golden days of Early September with me, back when the sun set at 8pm & we all wore t-shirts...

On Labor Day, I had the pleasure of visiting the Portland Children's Museum for an Advanced Sneak Peek reading of my next book, Olympig! The book doesn't come out until next summer, so this was kind of a practice run for me. I am planning all sorts of Olympic-themed storytimes for next summer to coincide with the book's publication, so I wanted to see what worked and what didn't.

For the record, Wild & Crazy Interpretive Dance competition: WORKED.

Jumping jacks: WORKED!

I really wanted to incorporate some physical activity into the reading, and my mom suggested tying some movements into the story. So, when Boomer runs in a race, we all ran in place (side note- coach's whistle to indicate end of activity: WORKED). When he does the long jump, we jumped. When he dove, we did some pretend swimming. And the Grand Finale was when the Wild & Crazy Interpretive Dancing came into play.

I also brought in a few "mistake" paintings (since the original art is with my publisher) so the kids could see and touch the original illustrations.

We ended with an Olympic Closing Ceremony parade throughout the museum! (Note: next time, bring music. Loud humming of Olympic theme: FAIL.)

It was lots and lots of fun, and I am looking forward to more events next summer! Thanks to Mom & Dad for the crafty help and the photographs, and to everyone who came out that day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mummers and Drag Queens

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel so overwhelmed by work you want to just curl up into a ball in a dark room? Well I have! So rather than face reality just now, I decided to write a blog post composed mainly of funny pictures I found online!

I actually had a very fun task on my plate today. I'm gearing up to start the final paintings for my next book, and today was a research day. Ladybug has a few costume changes throughout the book, and I felt some of her outfits weren't quite fabulous enough yet.

When I googled "Broadway costumes", by and large I was underwhelmed by the image results. Where were the feathers? The sequins? The top hats? In short: where were the Mummers?

If you are not familiar with the Mummers Parade, you are probably not from Philadelphia. It's a parade held on New Year's Day, with people wearing outrageous outfits and carrying umbrellas, playing banjos & accordians.

Not going to be celebrating the new year in Philadelphia? Fear not! There is also a Mummers Museum! I discovered this gem while looking for a place to hold our wedding reception a few years ago. Imagine the photo opportunities!!

And because I am hiding from reality right now, I will also share some pictures of our runner-up wedding reception location: The Mutter Museum. We could have cut the cake next to The Big Colon!

Expressed our new union next to the conjoined twins!

And we could have given everyone cute plush toys from the gift shop as wedding favors.

Anyway, between the Mummers and the drag queen community, I was able to get some pretty awesome inspiration for Ladybug's costume changes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Olympic Celebrity!!!!

Remember how in my last post I said I don't keep it cool when I meet celebrities? Well, OMG YOU GUYS, I JUST MET MICHELLE KWAN!!!!!!!

I am right now adding this picture to the "Olympic Figure Skaters I Have Met" page in my scrapbook. Which, until today, was limited to this picture:

(BTW, in the middle is Sarah Cloots, former editor at Greenwillow. She is now a freelance editor- if you're in need of a professional eye before you submit your dummy to an agent or publisher, or self publish, check out her services on her website.)

Maybe I'll have an "Olympic Celebrities" page on the website I'm building for OLYMPIG, who knows. I was thinking about bringing an advanced copy of OLYMPIG for Ms. Kwan to sign (and by "advanced copy", I mean "one I printed out from my computer at home"), but I didn't want her to get any ideas. After all, goodness knows the last thing I need is for another Olympic figure skater to write a book about athletic pigs.

My only other near-Olympic encounter was in 2004, when Michael Phelps was rumored to have made a reservation at the restaurant where I worked in New York (Ruby Foo's in Times Square), but "his people" cancelled at the last minute.

Do YOU have any great Olympian stories?!? I'd love to hear them!