Book producer Margie Blumberg adds something new to the tried and true

Children’s book illustrators would do well to make note of the pathfinders as the tectonic plates of publishing, communication and commerce are shifting under our feet — as we speak.

Content providers are rushing to the market, knowing that this day and age are like the Oklahoma Land Rush. In a matter of months, the virtual “land grab” will be over — the first round of it anyway.  The dust will have settled and the publishing landscape will be changed. Those trade books with a foothold in the new media will have an edge.

One of these pathfinders is Washington D.C.  author, publisher and patent holder Margie Blumberg, who is making her children’s books available as not only hardcovers but as iTune downloads for iPhones and iPads. Her two picture books,  Breezy Bunnies and Sunny Bunnies, featuring the art of English illustrator June Goulding.

She blogs about grammar and has an e-book available for all ages on the subject, and she’s exploring other formats as well for all her books.

Margie Blumberg, Publisher

Margie knew she wanted to write at an early age.  But like many writers, she took a detour on the way to her dream (in her case, law school and legal internships at the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Science in the Public Interest).

Undeterred in her heart’s goal, she self-published what she describes as an “autobiographical recipe calendar.” It featured delightful comic strip illustrations by illustrator John Thompson chronicling the  trauma Margie says she faced as a young adult when her doctors ruled out chocolate for her for the rest of her life!

So she was already thinking outside the box,  or “the book,”  embedding her personal yarn and favorite dessert recipes (sans chocolate)  in a desktop calendar!

With co-author Colleen Aagesen, Margie went on to write Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times - a biography with 21 activities for kids for the Chicago Review Press’s For Kids series.

But the frosting on the cake (not chocolate, we hope) in preparing her for life as a contender in the new publishing/media was the award of a patent in 2008 for an electronic memory pad. She tells us more about that in the interview.

Margie graciously answered our questions about her books, her apps and collaborating with U.K. illustrator June Goulding on her first digital project.  Breezy Bunnies, a book for the i-Pad, and Sunny Bunnies, a hardcover trade book  are both available through  iTunes as downloads and apps for iPhones. Two other books in the series are in the works.

So let’s meet our New Publishing pathfinder.

Hi Margie! You’ve created a publishing company at a time when the industry is going through a remarkable transition and you’re also reaching out to a broad market range “From illustrated books for preschoolers to nonfiction books for adults” as you state. Why did you set up this challenge for yourself and what do you see as the challenges and opportunities in a marketplace that seems about to redefine itself?

Margie: Our goal is to create books of distinction that satisfy the universal need to connect to the world through art and words.

I founded MB Publishing, LLC, a few months before the publication of Avram’s Gift in May 2003. Technology then was not what it is today. Now, with the advent of Kindle, iPad, etc., the industry is redefining itself.  Assuming books made of paper survive [as I write this, my order from Amazon.com has just arrived], I hope the elimination of book returns will be part of this defining moment. In terms of our economy, I think apps could not have come along at a better time. For the price of one hardcover book, a family can download about five to eight picture book apps. That’s great for families on a budget (that’s most of us in America) and it’s wonderful for publishers, too.

Breezy Bunnies Spread

Spread from "Breezy Bunnies:  illustrated by June Goulding

Do you see your market as trade, mass market or education or all three and more? How are you engaging these markets?

I am a trade publisher. One of my biggest challenges is to get the word out about my company’s books—whether in paper or app form. That’s every publisher’s challenge, actually. That’s why there are so many social media experts, SEO experts, and PR experts. Blogs like yours are wonderful also for discussing issues, of course, and to bring attention to work and ideas that might otherwise be hidden from view.

I have engaged Susan Raab of Raab Associates to get the word out about my company and the books that I produce. She has done a marvelous job in reaching out to the media. I have also engaged an SEO expert to help people find my site, which includes information about each book, look-inside features, and downloadable coloring pages. I’d love to hear from Web site mavens and readers alike as to what else my site could offer to make it more engaging and worthwhile.

How can your illustrator help you in this process?

June Goulding has a blog (http://junegoulding.blogspot.com/) with which she keeps in contact with fellow illustrators worldwide. They are a very friendly and supportive online community, and June is able to share news about her work whenever she wants. In general, I think illustrators can help publishers by doing book signings, reaching out to children at local schools and libraries to show their work and inspire future artists and writers, and keeping in touch around the world through their blogs and via groups on LinkedIn or SCBWI, for example.

Sunny Bunnies

Sunny Bunnies, a conventional picture book by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by June Goulding

How did you find June and can you describe the process of working with her on both the traditional and i-Pad books?

After searching through hundreds of portfolios online and scouring children’s book departments, I found June’s portfolio on a site that featured 100 other illustrators. I fell in love with her style immediately
and e-mailed her about my interest in working with her on my “bunny books” project. Naturally, she asked for details (and she was thrilled because bunnies are her favorite to draw) and after a few back-and-forths, we talked. You should know that she is a modern-day Beatrix Potter, taking in hurt or stray animals, such as hens and birds and hedgehogs, and bottle-feeding them back to health. In her compassionate and capable hands, Carrot Cake Park is a beautiful and reassuring place for children.

June and I have a nice routine. As soon as I have “finalized” the text, I e-mail it to her to live with for a week or so. Then she plots out the book in thumbnail form. When I receive her thumbnails, I call her at home in Bristol, England, to listen to how she envisions the illustrations in the
layout, page by page and spread by spread. It never ceases to amaze me how two people—once perfect strangers, separated by an ocean and a language (British English is often quite different from American English, we have learned)—are able to see so completely eye to eye, book after book. By the way, this same simpatico feeling happened when Laurie and I worked together on Avram’s Gift.

It’s during this thumbnails phase that we can spot big problems—perhaps we have too many full-bleed double-page spreads in a row,  for example. If we can move around verses, or turn some spreads into spot illustrations, we do that. It is now that the rhythm and pace of the story and important page turns are set before we move on.

Next come the pencils. Any problems in the text—if they haven’t been caught already—are glaring now. I go off to my little corner and try to figure out a better verse or a better segue or perhaps a better word. I’ll often ask June for ideas, as she’s living with the text as much as I am by this point. I like brainstorming this way, and June doesn’t seem to mind (I think). [June Goulding: “I don't mind. I like to bounce ideas around.”] Often it comes down to just a few different words, but sometimes I’ll have to create a whole new verse. If it’s a problem with the illustration, on the other hand—for example, which direction the hayride is going in (this was an issue in our fall 2011 *Busy Bunnies*), we talk it out. June has asked me to draw out my solutions, but it’s usually much better when June draws out thumbnail sketches of possibilities based upon our conversations. The obvious solution usually presents itself this way—and June doesn’t have to be subjected to my dreadful sketches.

The thing about the word *problem *is that I actually *like *to work out these issues. It doesn’t always feel like work because I’m enjoying the process so much. I remember how I loved my favorite books growing up; if any of our bunny books become a child’s favorite or part of a happy remembrance of childhood, then, well, I’ll be thrilled.

iPad book Breezy Bunnies scheduled for hardcover publication this summer

Breezy Bunnies, written by Margie Blumberg and illustrated by June Goulding

Once pencils are done, June decides upon a palette. She sends me illustrations of the two main characters, each wearing the outfits we talked about but in several different color combinations. I must sound like a broken record by now, but we inevitably pick the same two color combinations for “the kids.” Once the palette is set, June begins to paint. She uses watercolors, ink, and colored pencils. June’s art is a gift, and every time she e-mails me new finished  illustrations, I feel as though I’m being showered with presents.

By the way, if we ever discover a problem in the illustration after the art has been scanned, June fixes it in Photoshop.

How do you, as a publisher and author, foresee illustrators working on these new digital children’s books that will soon be zipping at near-light-speeds into the consumer market ?

Because of the way PicPocket creates the apps, I don’t see too many differences yet. Illustrators will always be focused on creativity. Whether they work with watercolor, oil, pencils, pen and ink, or digital software, creativity will always be the key.

The one area that needs extra attention right now concerns the sound aspect of the app. Now that parents and children can touch something on the screen—a duck, for instance—and a sound is heard, artists and writers will be thinking more and more about new opportunities for adding sound elements to the app. Lynette Maatke, the co-founder of PicPocket Books in Silver Spring, Maryland, has a wonderful ear for sounds. After we go through the book, discussing which sounds will be important and fun, she goes to work locating the MP3 sounds.

Other book app developers and illustrators are doing more with animation. And I’ve seen others creating apps utilizing different camera angles—close-ups, wide shots, etc—and orchestrations. How fun! A book app can be as close to the real book-reading experience as possible or it can be like a cartoon or it can be something in between.

But no matter how sophisticated the software or the end product, it all comes down to the story and the illustrations: Whether static or animated, if the words and the art work beautifully together, well, that’s everything really.

From a spread illustrated June Goulding

Double spread page illustrated by June Goulding for Margie Blumberg's "Sunny Bunnies"

How is conceiving, writing,  illustrating, then publishing an electronic children’s book for a mobile digital device different from those same tasks in the creation and publication of a traditional illustrated children’s book?

At this point, I’m not creating books specifically for a digital device. The
new scanning technology allows each reader to manually move across the page at his or her own pace, so creating an app with pages instead of spreads is not something that I feel we have to limit ourselves to. I suppose I’m lucky that I got into apps at just the right time for these bunny books, which have lots of spreads.

Sunny Bunnies came out in hardcover first. Then it became an app, after Breezy Bunnies Breezy Bunnies which isn’t in print yet, was designed in the exact same way as Sunny Bunnies. My plan is that once all four books are out as apps, we’ll bring them out in a boxed set of four small hardcover books. Of course, by that time, technology may have evolved to the point where children’s books can be carried around in a flexible device that allows readers to interact with the story in a landscape format. Once the technology for children’s books can mimic the hardcover’s or paperback’s look and feel, then I think we will be in a new era. Apple should create a washable device called iPictureBook—or perhaps something fun like iPB&J (PB & J = Peanut Butter and Jelly), the idea being that even kids with sticky fingers can enjoy their books.

Right now, PicPocket Books, the publisher to whom I’m licensing the bunny books, simply needs jpegs of the art (including cover and endpapers) and the title and copyright pages; my text is sent separately in a Word document. Therefore, June, Andrew Smith (my graphic designer), and I don’t have to worry about choosing a charming but readable font anymore. For my part, the publisher asked me to find the narrator for the books. I held taped phone auditions with young actresses through Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland. Once Lynette and I decided on the perfect narrator, we all gathered at the studio to record the first two books. I was able to help with readings of lines and we all got to see how a recording studio works. The engineer was fantastic. He noticed everything and was patient with us as we redid lines wherever necessary.

You mentioned that your graphic designer was Andrew Smith. What happens to the role of designer in such books? Do they now become multi-media designers?

I work with graphic designers on my hardcover and softcover books. And my full-color e-book on grammar, too, required a cover designer and an interior designer. As for the apps of the picture books, our full-bleed art makes a design for the frames unnecessary. However, a designer is a must for the covers and the title page. I work with Andrew Smith at PageWave Graphics on the bunny books.

Avram's Gift by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by Laurie McGaw

Avram's Gift by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by Laurie McGaw

Whenever the conversion does change the layout—on Kindle, for example—you need to work with a converter—or learn how to do it by yourself. I hired Joshua Tallent to convert my chapter book, Avram’s Gift, into a book for Kindle.

What is the royalty or fee arrangement for illustrators who work on MB titles? Or if that is too specific a question, what is the compensation model for illustrators of e-books and multi-media children’s products generally?

This is an area that is in flux right now and is being discussed by publishers, authors, and illustrators. I’ve heard of percentages ranging from 24% to 50% (for authors and illustrators to split 50-50). There’s much debate and terms are being redefined, but for my company, with regard to the picture books, as I am also the author, I give a 50% royalty to June for her illustrations.

In your FAQS about illustrator submissions, it sounds like you would be receptive to illustrators who work in traditional mediums, such as watercolor?

Absolutely. I love the use of traditional media. If I owned an art gallery, I would fill it with children’s book art and animation cels. So instead, I buy books.

How do you work with Emma Walton Hamilton as your editor in the production of your books? What is that like?

In a word, it’s a joy. I initially contacted Emma via e-mail, and we communicated by e-mail throughout the editorial process. We have since spoken on the phone and we did meet for lunch when she was in town (Washington, DC), but the bulk of our work together has been conducted electronically. Some may think that this sounds cold or distant, but you don’t know Emma. Her warmth and integrity—and her enthusiasm for books—shine through every word of her thorough critiques and her editorial work. Her e-mails sparkle with encouragement. When we finally got to meet in person, she was even more fabulous than I had imagined!

Art by June Goulding

Art by U.K. illustrator June Goulding for Margie Blumberg's "Sunny Bunnies"

You are now one of the pioneers in this world of electronic children’s books. What made you decide to bravely charge into this world of new
publishing technology on your own instead of waiting for capital intensive
giants like the major trade publishers, like Random House or even the newly formed Ruckus Media Group to develop the technologies, strategies and markets for this new book and interesting them in your traditional books?

I know it’s the dream of most writers to simply write and not be bothered with the details of printing books or developing apps or working with artists and designers. But my inclination is to write, work with artists,  and produce. It’s a lot of work—but fun, too!—to be responsible for the whole book. When I bake, I don’t want to make just the batter—I want to bake the cake and ice it, too. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in working with my graphic designers and with June Goulding and Laurie McGaw. And I had a really great time researching photos and art for my grammar book, as well. As for the apps, I know I could have waited, but waiting is not my strong suit. And the experience of being involved in the first wave of this new technology is not to be missed.

Also, in July, PicPocket Books was chosen as a Huggies MomInspired™ Grant Award recipient by Kimberley Clark Corporation. They will be using the support that comes with the grant to implement additional features to the platform, increase marketing efforts, and add new titles. The award includes individual consulting with one of the nation’s top PR firms for help with branding and marketing. So while PicPocket may not be a giant, it’s certainly on its way!

And now for the technology part of our interview, Margie: How did you come to invent a memory pad and get a patent on it? Does this tie into the production of electronic books?

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s so true. I was trying to remember how often a medical event was happening each night, and when I couldn’t recall the number in the mornings, I decided to invent something that would help me (and others) record events. I shared the idea with a nurse who works in a retirement community, and she told me that the memory pad would certainly make her patients’ lives easier—and hers as well. The patent process was long (about 4 years), and now that it’s done, I’ve begun talking with app developers to create a memory pad app. At the time that I thought of this invention, apps were not yet in our vocabulary.

The app for the memory pad is not related to the e-books. Much as I wish I could, I can’t turn to PicPocket Books and ask them to develop this app.

From "Sunny Bunnies" by Margie blumberg, illustrated by June Goulding

From "Sunny Bunnies" by Margie Blumberg, illustrated by June Goulding

What new projects are you working on with MB Publishing? What other
kinds of books and “thinking outside the book” projects would
you be interested in publishing?

I have recently signed a contract with a new writer to publish her middle-grade novel. June is working on the pencils for Busy Bunnies (for fall 2011), and then we will finish the 4-book seasonal section of our Carrot Cake Park series the following year with Snowy Bunnies.  At some point, we’d love to send the bunnies on adventures abroad. In addition, Laurie McGaw and I are just in the talking stages but we are seriously considering writing a play about our friendship of 10 years and counting. Although we’ve met only once (for 90 minutes on my birthday in Philadelphia over dinner)—she lives in Canada and I live in Maryland—we’ve become the best of friends, talking sometimes every day (e-mail is not lively enough for us).  We’ve helped each other celebrate in happy times and cry through a few horribly painful and sad times. Ours is a friendship that also thrives because we can discuss breakfast, art, men  and kids and always find the funny as well as the poignant. I hope we can do the play. Also, there is a cookbook on MB Publishing’s horizon. I won’t be the author, but I will definitely be one of the tasters.

I would love to work with June and a software designer/developer to create a game based on the sights, sounds, and characters in Carrot Cake Park. I’m also interested in mysteries and reference books, and I would enjoy publishing more chapter books.

It is fair to say, then,  as I said in the introduction, that you’ve been drawn to publishing since your teens, or at least since your 20s when you did your desktop calendar Is There Life After Chocolate? with cartoons and recipes?

Yes, it is. By my teens, I knew I wanted to write books when I grew up. And in my twenties, when I had to give up chocolate, I had one of those light-bulb moments: I had just stopped eating chocolate when I wondered to myself, “Is there life after chocolate?” I was obviously feeling very sorry for myself (at the time, I worked in an office where chocolate-covered donuts were always available). Immediately, I thought that that question would make a cute title for a recipe calendar. I got to work writing the cartoons and eventually started working with a cartoonist (John Thompson) who brought it all to life. I’m now gathering the cartoons to make them available on Zazzle.com. I think they will look great on mugs and mouse pads and other such essentials of life!

Thank you Margie for a wonderful interview!  Read more about Margie and her publishing company, MB Publishing.

Ramp up your command of American-English by checking in with Margie’s blog, The Scoop on Good Grammar.

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"Moon Bear" by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Ed Young

"Moon Bear" by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Ed Young, published by Henry Holt and Co.

Moon Bear

Any new children’s picture book with illustrations by Caldecott Medal winning collage artist Ed Young is an occasion, and Moon Bear,  written by Brenda Z. Guiberson is no exception.

Moon Bear tells of  a  ursine breed  that hides in the mountains and valleys of southern China and Vietnam. This picture book beautifully produced by Henry Holt and Co. features some of the best page spreads ever created by Young.  With poetic language  and riddle-like questions, Guiberson delivers interesting nonfiction account of a female Moon Bear’s daily travels and travails, most of them involving her hunt for the next meal.

This  endangered species of Asian black bear is distinguished by a white marking on the chest.  Every bear appears to be wearing a white bandanna kerchief — or a bib in a fancy Italian restaurant.

Moon Bears eat bamboo shoots, ants and berries, in lieu of the spaghetti and meat sauce they would undoubtedly also eat if they could find it in the forest. They build their nests in trees. And they seem to possess a special genius for staying out of sight. They’re as elusive as the Abominable Snowmen. And yet they’re captured in considerable numbers in Southern China and kept in confining cages. The book tells us this much in an epilogue — without going into more explanation.

Young’s page designs bring us up close to our subject bear so that we have a real sense of her movement, her presence and spirit.  Made of scraps of colored paper, magazine photos and found objects (such as bamboo leaves), the imagery is kinetic, fresh and bright with contrast.
Guiberson’s language and Young’s pictures fuse nicely to introduce us to a mysterious animal.

Read our 2008 interview with Ed Young. He talks about how he lost all of his original collage illustrations for the picture book Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein –  just before turning them in, and what it felt like to start over with them, with a short deadline looming.

"Moon Bear" double page spread collage illustration by Ed Young

"Moon Bear" double page spread collage illustration by Ed Young

Children’s and YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith gives an in incredibly generous and instructive interview to Julie Danielson at the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog about the six year gestation of her newly published  picture book Holler Loudly,  illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton).  The  interview includes some wonderful pagespreads from the book — original outline drawings and finished illustrations. You might also want to check out Barry Gott’s sketchedby book tumblr page .

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Children’s and YA author Greg Leitich Smith, meanwhile has posted on the recent bumper crop of children’s and YA  books by Austin, Texas authors and illustrators.  Illustrators Patrice Barton (Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, Layla, Queen of Hearts) , Don Tate (She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story), Laura Logan (Nonna Tell Me A Story) and Keith Graves (Chicken Big).  He cites 22 new children’s and YA books just out by Austin area authors and illustrators, most of them in the Austin SCBWI chapter. Read Greg’s post here.

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Sweet Baby Moon by Karen Henry Clark with illustrations by Patrice Barton

"Sweet Baby Moon" by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Really nice guest post by my friend, illustrator Patrice Barton on Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s blog, Cynsations about the difference between picture book and chapter book illustrations. She also talks about her own illustration process. Read the post here. Her latest release is the gorgeous Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark (Knopf.)

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Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton)

A trifecta children’s book launch party at Austin’s BookPeople on November 14 for Austin, Texas SCBWI authors Bethany Hegedus (Trouble with a Capital “T- (Delacorte,, for ages 9-up),  Brian Yansky (Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences - Candlewick, for ages 12 and up)  and Cynthia Leitich Smith (Holler Loudly – illustrated by Barry Gotts - Dutton, for ages 4 and up ) drew a big crowd, including much or most of the Austin SCBWI membership. (We’re our own biggest fans.)

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Bruce Foster, the Houston-based paper engineer profiled in a recent How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator post has attracted media attention in a  USA Today review for Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Book, illustrated by Chuck Fischer, and a Dallas Morning News feature for, among other accomplishments, his engineering of the official Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter, a Pop-Up Book, illustrated by Andrew Williamson.
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December 15 is the  cut-off date for early registration for the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference – February 18-19 - featuring Caldecott Medal-winning David Diaz and National Book Award YA Novelist Kimberly Willis Holt. Read more about the event and register for it here.

Trifecta Book Launch Party featuring Austin SCBWI authors

The cleverly stocked refreshment table at the Trifecta Book Launch Party at BookPeople featuring Austin SCBWI authors Brian Yansky, Bethany Hegedus and Cynthia Leitich Smith and many other authors, including Anne Bustard (serving chili at the table) and Jennifer Ziegler ( in black leather jacket.) Writers Sean Petrie and Jan Baumer stand behind Anne.

Austin SCBWI Trifecta book release party

An eager audience of parents, children, teachers and lots of Austin SCBWI members are ready for authors Brian Yansky, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Bethany Hegedus at BookPeople.

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Children’s author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts the Children’s Book Illustration and Illustration Course blogs.

Learn a big secret for dramatically improving your drawing here.

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“It’s like a magic trick…” Perusing Bruce Foster’s pop-up pages

The demands are the same as for writing or illustrating a book:  Something must come to life every time a reader turns a page.  Except with a pop-up book,  it really has to come to life.  By definition. Things move, swing and unfold — hopefully with some grace and more than a few surprises.  Like life.

It’s done with scissors and scotch tape — and the benign wizardry that comes from years of conjuring castles and creatures and dances from paper.

Bruce Foster received clues to his career’s direction back as a painting and  graphic design major at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville –  though he didn’t know it then. What he did know is that he liked gluing objects on to his canvases — to bring textures and dimension to his art pieces. He cut holes in them for the same reason.

“I was going 3-D in a flat paint school,” he says. “My work was more akin to sculpture and as a matter of fact, my best art school friends were actually sculptors. I’m not sure what the painting professors totally thought of it.”

Years later as an art director for a Houston ad agency, he received his first pop-up assignment — a Hi-C fruit juice carton that would blossom out from a grocery store mailer as one opened it. This was the campaign that introduced the first kids’ juice cartons to the consuming world. “This is three dimensional-thinking,” Bruce remembers saying to himself as he worked up the ad.  “I love this.”

It led to more pop up gigs– for books, public relations and ad agencies, cards, more books, museums, a graphic novel, more books and eventually Hollywood! In addition to Disney and Dreamworks, clients and creative partners have included some of the world’s major CGI and digital animation studios,  New York City fashion designers, a Top Chef pastry chef and the national park service.  His 40 books to date are associated with such name authors and illustrators as Mo Willems, Wil Eisner,  Charles Schultz, Charles Dickens  and Chuck Fischer.

One example of Bruce’s Hollywood assignments was creating the pop up castle that appears in the opening credits of the Disney movie “Enchanted.”  To watch Bruce discuss his work with the movies and CGI animators, visit the Illustration Course blog.

Sculpting Hogwarts

Pop-up illustrations for "Harry Potter - a Popup Book"

The castle that Bruce built

And now J.K. Rowling.  On November 16,  three days before the release of the”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!” movie,  the official pop-up book celebrating all of the movies from Warner Bros “Harry Potter” series will hit the stores wherever books are sold.

So be on the lookout next month for Harry Potter- A Popup Book with illustrations by Andrew Williamson, lead concept artist for all of the movies, text by Lucy Kee and paper engineering by Bruce Foster.

“It may be a cliché, but this really was a labor of love,” Bruce writes on his website. “My own daughters grew up with Harry as we spent countless nights enjoying the developing epic while I read aloud to them.”

A ‘White Dummy’

Paper engineers work with card stock and scissors to make a white dummy.

Here’s a really good video from a Smithsonian Institution exhibit on the art and science of pop-up books, Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn that runs through October of next year.

The video features Foster and another well known pop-up book artist Chuck Fischer working together on Fischer’s book Angels — and gives a great insight into the labor and thought-intensive process of creating a pop-up work — from earliest thumbnails to the assemblies of the printed books.

“Whenever I make presentations or do school visits, kids and their teachers too are amazed to learn that pop-up books are a hand made craft and not manufactured by machines,”  Bruce says.

“Every time there’s a spot of glue joining two pieces of paper,  that’s been done by hand. These are very delicate and special things.”

But getting to that point requires a “combination of pencil scribbling and sculpting with scissors,” Foster says.  “When I get to the point where I like what’s happening,  I make all the marks on the paper.  I retrace the shapes and put in dotted lines where [the assemblers] cut and blue lines where they fold.”

Before those puzzle pieces are printed and put together, an illustrator must paint them all.

“When Chuck Fischer and I collaborated on his book Christmas Around the World, he would send me a sketch and I would look at it and start sculpting it.  I’d work with scissors and tape right on the light table. That means I cut out my shapes from the sketches as I go, really fast –  right over the light table.”

“It’s sort of like the paper and I work together and it emerges,” Foster  says.

“Like the house that Jack built. It’s how you tell a story in three dimensions.”

“The process for me often starts with a sketch — sometimes in the form of a thumbnail,” Bruce says.  The next step in the paper engineering is assembling the  “white paper dummy.”    It’s  similar to a picture book illustrator’s black and white line dummy — except that it’s in 3-D and  choreography occurs when pages are opened.

Pop-Ups on the iPad?

When can we expect to see pop-up features on an i-Pad book?

Foster is actually working with a client on one now. “There are a lot of iPad book and reader applications happening right now. Mostly they’re things moving around on the screen. Flat.”

The challenge for digital animators and CGI folks,  he says,  is simulating the push of real paper against paper and the ‘ feel’ and proper timing of paper springing from flatness.

It’s hard for programmers to imitate the real thing — pictures invading our space with that “theater in the round” experience that good pop-up books convey.

He looks forward to the day when pop-up books transcend the digital  screen to interact with us in holographic form.

Bruce Foster -- Paper Engineer. Paper engineer Bruce Foster of Houston has worked with some of the top children's book publishers,  museums and movie companies to make paper imagery pop-out, unfold, unfurl, twirl and dance.

Paper engineer Bruce Foster of Houston has worked with some of the top children's book publishers, museums and movie companies to make paper imagery pop-out, unfold, unfurl and twirl.

Bruce's first paper engineering assignment, :Gutenberg's Gift" By Nancy Williard, Illustrated by Brian Leister

"Gutenberg's Gift" uses Bruce's paper sculpture to show how the first printing press worked.

"Gutenberg's Gift" by Nancy Willard and illustrated by Bryan Leister uses Bruce's paper sculpture to show how the first printing press worked and tell the story of Gutenberg's contribution to the world.

Bruce Foster and Houston Museum of Fine Arts curator Jon Evans visit

Bruce chats with Jon Evans, Director of the Hirsch Library, Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, during a special gallery talk, "The Interactive Book"

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Links to visit:  Bruce Foster website

http://paperpops.com
Take a sneak peak a
t Harry Potter – A Pop-Up Book, here on Bruce’s site.

See the pop up castle  Bruce built for the opening credits sequence of the Disney movie Enchanted

See more videos from Mark’s interview with Bruce on the Illustration Course blog
and Illustration Course YouTube channel

Check out the Smithsonian Institution Exhibit   Fold, Pull Pop and Turn and the exhibit blog

Jon Evans of the Houston Museum of Fine Art shows a pop-up book made by Andy Warhol at a recent gallery talk, "The Interactive Book."

Jon Evans of the Houston Museum of Fine Art shows a pop-up book made by Andy Warhol (replete with a simulated Heinz Tomato Paste can popping from the gutter of a double page spread.)

and a cool PDF history of pop-up books that you can download.

Discover the Movable Book Society

Read about some other other pop-up book master:
Chuck Fischer
Robert Sabuda

Matthew Reinhart


Bruce Foster opens a spread from "Harry Potter - a Pop-Up Book" for a museum goer

"Harry Potter - a Pop-Up Book"

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An Austin SCBWI “Picture Perfect” Boot Camp Workshop

Author Lisa Wheeler at Austin conference

Picture book author Lisa Wheeler speaks at "Picture Perfect" -- a workshop presented by the Austin Texas chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Saturday, October 9

Sarah Sullivan Austin SCBWI conference

Author Sarah Sullivan addresses picture book writers at the "Picture Perfect" workshop hosted by Austin SCBWI.

Gonxales, Wheeler, Greene, Sullivan and Tate

Austin SCBWI regional advisor Debbie Gonzales (left) moderates a "Picture Perfect" panel consisting of picture book and chapter book authors Lisa Wheeler, Stephanie Greene, Sarah Sullivan and author-illustrator Don Tate.

Lisa Wheeler, Stephanie Greene, Sarah Sullivan and Don Tate

Author Sarah Sullivan makes a point on the "Picture Perfect" Panel of children's book creators, while authors Lisa Wheeler, Stephanie Greene and Don Tate tune in.

Sarah Sullivan chats with Dr. Ramsey Fowler, Dean of the Masters of Liberal Arts Program at St. Edward's University, which hosted theconference.

Sarah Sullivan speaks in the morning session.

Sarah Sullivan speaks in the morning session.

"Picture Perfect"  Austin SCBWI October workshop

"Picture Perfect" Austin SCBWI October workshop

Bethany donates doorprize

Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor Carmen Oliver prepares to give away as a workshop door prize a copy of Bethany Hegedus's novel "Trouble With a Capital T" personalized by the author who stands beside her.

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For a great “secret” on drawing better click here.

* * * * *
Article on Bruce Foster by Mark Mitchell.  Children’s book author and illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts the How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator blog.
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See more videos from Mark’s interview with pop up book  engineer Bruce Foster  at the Illustration Course blog.

English illustrator Sarah Wade shows us how to “colour” with a digital brush

Children’s book illustrator and surface pattern designer Sarah Wade of Design House Studios in Ipswich,  England has put together a short Photoshop tutorial for us. We’ll get right to work with it in a minute.
But first let’s meet the two characters she’ll feature in her tutorial.

Hey Pretty Kitty from Sarah Wade on Vimeo.

A Short Photoshop Tutorial:  Colouring up
line art

Pictures and text by Sarah Wade

1.) Create your line art and scan at 300 dpi. I tend to use fine liners on layout paper to create my illustrations. Layout paper allows you to trace up consistent elements within a series of illustrations. This works really well if you are animating characters.

English Illustrator Sarah Wade Photoshop turorial

2.) Import the scanned image into Photoshop. Make sure that the image is CMYK.  Image > Mode> CMYK

Adjust the contrast and brightness of your image to ensure that you have a crisp white background and solid black line work – this will make it easier for you to select areas when colouring up.
Image > Adjustments > Brightness / Contrast
Also remove any marks and blemishes that might have appeared during the scanning process. You will need to select the Eraser Tool to do this.

English Illustrator Sarah Wade Photoshop turorial
3.) Using the Magic Wand tool, select the area that you would like to colour first. You can hold down the shift key to select multiple areas. Adjusting the tolerance settings at the top of the tool bar will allow you to determine how much of an area you select. As we are working with black and white imagery a high tolerance of about 90 will be most suitable.

When the area has been selected use the Colour Picker to choose the colour you would like to use.

English Illustrator Sarah Wade Photoshop turorial
4.) Now you can select your brush. Choose the Brush tool from the tools panel – this will automatically open the Brush Palette. Here you can adjust the size of your brush and it’s softness. Have a play around with different types of brushes to find one that suits your illustration.

English Illustrator Sarah Wade Photoshop turorial (4)
5.) Once your brush is selected you can start to colour. The brush will only effect the area which you have selected with the Magic Wand tool. To deselect an area use Select > Deselect from the menu. Work your way around the image until all areas are coloured. Adjusting the brush opacity in the header bar will help you to create a layered, painterly style.

English Illustrator Sarah Wade Photoshop turorial
6.) Once your image is coloured up in full , use a smaller brush to make slight adjustments.

English Illustrator Sarah Wade Photoshop turorial 6 or 7

And there you have it! OK, now you can watch the video again!

Sarah studied Graphic Design at Northampton University,  specializing in Illustration.
She graduated in 2004.  ” I went on to work within two large  studios that produced designs for giftware and children’s book publishing.” she says.

“I decided to go freelance in 2006 and have been working from my studio based in Ipswich for the past 4 years. I now produce surface patterns for a variety of applications including textiles, wall coverings, jewellery, fashion, shop interiors, ceramics and  advertising campaigns.  “I also illustrate children’s books and have almost 20 titles in publication.”

You can see some of her images and book covers, and read Sarah’s and  Lloyds blogs at their website, Design House Studio. (Lloyd Evans is her design studio business partner, and as of about a week ago, her husband.)  Here’s the URL:  www.designhousestudios.co.uk

Sarah’s blog has been added to our blogroll and here’s the URL: http://sarahwadedesign.blogspot.com/

Sarah’s gracious guest post demonstrates that children’s book artists on the other side of the Atlantic are just as fun, creative, charming  and nice as…well, we are.   We’re speaking in generalities, of course.

Sarah and I discovered we had one more connecting point besides our involvement with kid lit art: We’re both students of Salsa dance. And it just so happens that my Rueda Salsa instructor, Esther Weekes is from Ipswich, England.  Esther and Sarah do not know each other, but perhaps someday they will. The world does seem to get smaller every day.

Now,  I’m not sure when Sarah will begin teaching us computer animation classes :-)
But she tells us, “It is just something that I have been experimenting with at the moment, but I love how it gives characters a whole other dimension!

“The sound effects were fun to work on too, although I’m concerned that our neighbors might think we mistreat our cat! It took a few attempt to get that recording right …..it’s Lloyd’s voice –  not our cat!”

Thank you, Sarah! It’s been a total treat. Btw, your video makes my day each time I look at it and I look forward to seeing more!

www.designhousestudios.co.uk

http://sarahwadedesign.blogspot.com/

And here are some Austin salsa links for you:
Street Salsa.com

Meneo Space

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Austin SCBWI – Picture Perfect!

A “spit-polish picture book workshop” featuring author Lisa Wheeler and illustrators Don Tate and Laura Jennings

St. Edwards University campus in Austin, TexasSt. Edward’s University, Austin Texas — home of upcoming Austin SCBWI workshops

Will you be anywhere near Austin, Texas around Saturday, October 9th?
All right, then. Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 9th when the Austin SCBWI chapter will meet at beautiful St. Edwards University to enjoy an intensive one-day  workshop for author-illustrators, Picture Perfect!

This professional workshop (we did say spit and polish, remember) will help hone your children’s picture book manuscripts and illustrations to radiant perfection.

Author Lisa Wheeler will present the keynote and other author-illustrators will offer presentations and critiques. Here’s the complete faculty lineup.

  • Lisa Wheeler has written 17 books for children. Her most recent picture book for Atheneum is the hilarious Castaway Cats, illustrated by Ponder Gombel. Learn more about Lisa on her website at www.lisawheelerbooks.com.
  • Sarah Sullivan who has written three picture books. Her latest, Passing Music Down, published by Candlewick is forthcoming very soon. Learn more about Sarah on her website at www.sarahsullivanbooks.com.
  • Stephanie Greene  is a master of the series chapter book. Stephanie has written the Moose and Hildy and Owen Foote series, several middle-grade novels, has earned Horn Book’s coveted starred review for her latest…Happy Birthday Sophie Hartley. Learn more about Stephanie at www.stephaniegreenebooks.com.
  • Don Tate who is an illustrator of children’s books and educational products. His background includes illustration as well as graphic design in the areas of advertising, educational publishing, and visual journalism. Learn more about Don at www.dontate.com.
  • Laura Jennings who is a freelance illustrator living in Austin, Texas.

Download the full brochure with the registration form and all details about fees, , schedule of events, and portfolio review information here. You can also get it from the Austin SCBWI website.

Notice #1 : You don’t have to be an SCBWI member to enroll in the workshop. It’s just a little cheaper if you are, and you can do that when you enroll. :-)

Notice # 2: Manuscript critique slots are filled — but there are still some portfolio review slots left, illustrators!

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Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators features Carus senior art director Karen Kohn

PSIcon is set for September 25, 2010 at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, Oakdale, PA. Keynote speaker is Karen Kohn, Senior Art Director at Carus Publishing Company, publishers of Cricket, Ask and Ladybug. Karen will speak about the various types of illustration styles their publications look for as well as new developed apps soon to be released. Karen often finds new illustration talent to use throughout the publications from speaking engagements. She’ll be reviewing portfolios as well. Six additional industry-wide speakers are planned.

The one day conference is 8 am – 6 pm. It will be valuable to all levels of experience. Seasoned professionals and young talent alike will benefit. Light breakfast and lunch included.

Continue to check for updates on PSI’s website at: http://www.pittsburghillustrators.org/

* * * * *
Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell of Austin, Texas hosts this blog. Check out his online course on drawing and painting for chillren’s book illustration.

* * * * *

Susan’s remarkable field trip

Talented California artist and illustrator Susan Sorrell Hill reports to us today about a recent pilgrimage she made across the country to meet an artist she admires very much. When she learned that Austrian children’s book illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger would be at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Ma. for the opening of a retrospective of her work, she knew she’d  have to go. It was as simple as that.

Lisbeth Zwerger's cover for "The Nutcracker"

Susan agreed even before she made the trip  to cover the event for us.  After you read her account,  I’m sure you’ll want to visit her own rich blog and see her paintings on her online gallery.

We’ve  been hitting the children’s book art illustration museums pretty hard, lately.  In the last post (scroll down) we featured the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature and the gorgeous SCBWI “Golden Kite Golden Dreams” show.  Both  facilities perform an outstanding service in their celebration and exploration of children’s book illustration as fine art.

Enjoy her report on meeting one of the world’s beloved illustrators — and spending those couple of magical days at the extraordinary Eric Carle Museum.


Last week I wrote about my impending trip to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for the Lisbeth Zwerger exhibition. This 40,000 square-foot museum “is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art, conceived and built with the aim of celebrating the art that we are first exposed to as children.” Now that I am on the other side of my four-day, whirlwind cross-country visit, I can hardly believe it happened… Like a dream, it was wonderful and over all-too-soon…


Lisbeth signs my books.

The Museum sits in the middle of the lush New England countryside, quietly echoing large traditional barns and silos with its contemporary architecture which is also reminiscent of Eric Carle’s illustration… bold, balanced, inviting, simple yet monumental. Beautiful stone paving leads to heavy plate-glass doors opening onto the wide, light and airy Great Hall from which the large Auditorium, Art Studio, Shop, Library, Cafe and three galleries branch off. During the Members event on opening night, a grand piano in the Great Hall entertained browsing guests who sipped wine and nibbled appetizers. The Hall is also where a very long line of admirers stood patiently waiting to have their books signed by Lisbeth.


The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

It would be hard to say too many nice things about the Museum… it is an inspired, well-planned  and holistic peek into the world of the picture book. From the extensive library where children of all ages can browse published books in a cosy setting… to the well-stocked Shop which specializes in award-winning picture books, as well as cards and wonderful gift items… to the Cafe with its healthy snacks (Animal Crackers!!) and friendly welcome to guests who bring their own picnics… to the Auditorium which hosts prominent guest speakers, films, and performances of various sorts all related to the picture book… and finally to the three gorgeous galleries themselves.


The Art Studio

The galleries are surely the heart of the Eric Carle Museum… one could easily imagine oneself to be in a wing of the Metropolitan. The work is beautifully matted, framed and hung, the lights are kept low to protect the longevity of the artwork, and there is plenty of information given about each illustration, including copies of the artists’ published books to browse through. The three galleries rotate shows featuring the Museum’s own collection of Eric Carle’s prolific and endearing work, as well as the works of other notable artists (Leo Leoni‘s illustration for his book, Geraldine, the Music Mouse is on view in The Central Gallery.). An Exquisite Vision: the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger will be showing in The East Gallery until September 26th. Photographs are not allowed within the galleries to protect the illustrations, but below is a view from the lobby looking through glass doors to the gallery entrances and a view of the West Gallery from the Museum’s website.


Entrance to the gallery wings.

The West Gallery

Viewing Lisbeth’s exhibition, I was reminded of another artist’s comment recalling the first time she saw Lisbeth’s illustration years ago: “I think I stopped breathing for a moment.” It was much the same experience, walking into a gallery where approximately eighty-five original watercolor paintings hung one after another in their overwhelming, delicate and masterful glory. The paintings themselves spanned the full range of Lisbeth’s illustration career… from early, unpublished work to several from her newest book, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, (available in English from Amazon.com in October, unless you happened to be one of the lucky few who got one this last weekend at the exhibit). The paintings selected by Lisbeth and the Museum’s Curator represent virtually all of her thirty-plus books in print, and although there has been a definite shift in style, Lisbeth’s brilliant illustrative approach and virtuoso technique is consistently apparent throughout. It is hard not to be slack-jawed with awe.


The Museum’s Curator, Lisbeth Zwerger and her publisher, Michael Neugebauer… Arthur Rackham on the screen.

But Lisbeth herself, who was applauded with great admiration before and after speaking at length both days about her illustration and career,  is warm and down-to-earth. She is clearly very serious about her work, but has a sense of humor, sophistication and wit in person that echos her  approach to illustration.

While I am on the subject of friendly, I would like to say that all of the folks from The Eric Carle Museum that I have had the pleasure to interact with have been so very nice, really far beyond a basic good public interaction… Sandy, Jenny, Rebecca, Motoko, Nick… you know who you are…

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the surprise announcement made by Zwerger’s publisher, Michael Neugebauer (Minedition). Keeping just a few favorites, he will donate his large personal collection of Lisbeth Zwerger originals to the Museum. Having just flown in from the printer in China with a suitcase full of hot-off-the-press exhibition catalogs and Pied Pipers, he looked tired but pleased to be offering his magnanimous gift.

Several hundred people came Saturday evening and again on Sunday to hear Lisbeth speak.The Member’s evening was also attended by a number of well-known names in the children’s literature world… among them were Etienne Delessert (who will have an exhibition at the Museum next year, February 8 – June 5, 2011), Leonard S. Marcus, Maria Tatar, and Jerry Pinkney. On Sunday, I also had the pleasure of meeting illustrator Barbara Lehman.

Reading the new exhibition catalog, “Lisbeth Zwerger: The World of Imagination,” which has many more words about Lisbeth’s long career than did the first catalog, The Art of Lisbeth Zwerger, it would be tempting to think that her steady rise to fame has been all luck and synchronicity. But seeing so many of her beautiful originals, and being a watercolor painter myself, I know that the work of any illustrator always comes back to the moment-by-moment dance and hard work between the artist, the story, the materials and the artist’s vision. When all of this is done well, anything else is just well-deserved gravy over the artist’s simple desire to do her personal best… and “to please herself,” as Lisbeth says. Lisbeth, my dear, I am passing you the gravy boat…


Me & Lisbeth at the Eric Carle Museum

All in all, I am so happy (and fortunate) to have traveled from California to Massachusetts for this exhibition. I came home very full. Every time I think of the beautiful, lush New England countryside and Lisbeth’s exceptional art, I will remember (with a smile) Lisbeth’s note in The Wizard of Oz, “…green is my favorite color…”

It’s time for the quiz!

Question: Where can you see a bunny hopping by green, green hedges next to a world-class contemporary art museum, make some fun art, purchase award-winning picture books, get a tatoo of The Hungry Caterpillar, eat Animal Crackers, meet well-known illustrators and see beautiful, delightful and memorable original children’s book illustration… all in one day?

Answer: The Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. For a wonderful Virtual Tour of the Museum, click here.

Lisbeth Zwerger

Famous photo of Lisbeth Zwerger

Read a brief discussion of  Zwerger’s work and a few reviews of her books  from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database.

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SCBWI Summer Conference

Portfolio Showcase 2009 - SCBWI International Summer Conference - photo courtesy of Priscilla Burris

SCBWI International Summer Conference, LA  — up to the minute coverage you don’t want to miss:

Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor Carmen Oliver’s delightful daily coverage in her blog, Following My Dreams One Word at a Time

Update stream direct from the tweets of all those members attending the conference!

The Official SCBWI Conference Blog (team blog coverage from the floor, led by Alice Pope)

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August 14-15 weekend  watercolor workshop

Mark Mitchell is scheduled to teach a weekend workshop on drawing and painting for Children’s Book Illustration at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art in Austin, Texas August 14-15.

Painting and color use is an important skill set to demonstrate if you want an art director or editor to consider using your story illustrations. This class is an introduction to watercolor painting techniques – as applied to different kinds of illustrations for children. On Sunday, students will work on bringing their own original illustrations to full color finish.  Saturday Aug. 14, 9 to 4  and Sunday Aug 15,  1 to 4.  For details or to register call the Art School at (512) 323-638o or e-mail artschoo@amoa.org

The Art School is located at the AMOA Laguna Gloria campus at 3809 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas  78703.

* * * * *

Art Director/Editor Day – Sept. 25th in Arlington!

Check out this all-star cast! Scholastic art director Elizabeth Parisi, author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino, Scholastic assistant editor Mallory Kass, and illustrator/author Priscilla Burris will be presenting, manuscript critiquing, and portfolio reviewing. The conference fee for this North Texas SCBWI chapter one day event  is a mere $65.00. Incredible! And, amazingly, there are several spaces available! Unbelievable!!

For more information contact RA George Hellstren at hellstgf@yahoo.com. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your fine work considered by some of the best publishing professionals in the country!

* * * * *

Austin SCBWI – Picture Perfect! A spit-polish picture book workshop featuring author Lisa Wheeler and illustrators Don Tate and Laura Jennings

Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 9th when our Chapter will meet at beautiful St. Edwards University’s Fleck Hall in rooms 305, 306, and 307 to enjoy an incredible day at the page. The focus of this one-day workshop is to hone the skills required to spit-polish your fine manuscripts and illustrations to radiant perfection. We have gathered a fabulous team of highly successful illustrators and authors who, through presentations and/or valuable one-on-one critiques or portfolio reviews, will generously share their tips for publishing success!

The Presentation/Review Team includes:

  • Lisa Wheeler has written 17 books for children. Her most recent picture book for Atheneum is the hilarious Castaway Cats, illustrated by Ponder Gombel. Learn more about Lisa on her website at www.lisawheelerbooks.com.
  • Sarah Sullivan who has written three picture books. Her latest, Passing Music Down, published by Candlewick is forthcoming very soon. Learn more about Sarah on her website at www.sarahsullivanbooks.com.
  • Stephanie Greene  is a master of the series chapter book. Stephanie has written the Moose and Hildy and Owen Foote series, several middle-grade novels, has earned Horn Book’s coveted starred review for her latest…Happy Birthday Sophie Hartley. Learn more about Stephanie at www.stephaniegreenebooks.com.
  • Don Tate who is an illustrator of children’s books and educational products. His background includes illustration as well as graphic design in the areas of advertising, educational publishing, and visual journalism. Learn more about Don at www.dontate.com.
  • Laura Jennings who is a freelance illustrator living in Austin, Texas.

Download the promotional brochure listing affordable fee scale, schedule of events, and portfolio and manuscript review information. Click here for the Picture Perfect Workshop brochure.

Note that reservation spaces for one-on-one manuscript and portfolio reviews are limited. Sign up right away to assure a spot!

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Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators features Carus senior art director Karen Kohn

PSIcon is set for September 25, 2010 at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, Oakdale, PA. Keynote speaker is Karen Kohn, Senior Art Director at Carus Publishing Company, publishers of Cricket, Ask and Ladybug. Karen will speak about the various types of illustration styles their publications look for as well as new developed apps soon to be released. Karen often finds new illustration talent to use throughout the publications from speaking engagements. She’ll be reviewing portfolios as well. Six additional industry-wide speakers are planned.

The one day conference is 8 am – 6 pm. It will be valuable to all levels of experience. Seasoned professionals and young talent alike will benefit. Light breakfast and lunch included.

Continue to check for updates on PSI’s website at: http://www.pittsburghillustrators.org/

Facebookers can “like” the PSIcon page and follow updates at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/…ence/145248678824986

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Presenting Power Color

We’ve added Power Color: Creating Perfect Palettes for your Pictures to our catalog. Don’t be afraid of  ‘mud’ anymore in your paintings. –  Mark Mitchell

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Art aloft: The ‘Golden Kite’ children’s book illustrations

It’s hard to explain the thrill of being inches away from an original watercolor by Uri Shulevitz, or Jerry Pinkney or the late Trina Schart Hyman.

"The Huntsman" from "Little Red Riding Hood"  by Trina Schart Hyman,

“The Huntsman” from “Little Red Riding Hood” by Trina Schart Hyman, 1984 Golden Kite Medal winner

You just have to be there.  The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) working with  The Society of Children’s Book Writers and  Illustrators (SCBWI) has now made that possible for  thousands of people  with a new exhibit, Golden Kite Golden Dreams that opened last Thursday at the Center in Abilene, Texas.

Located 180 miles west of Fort Worth,  the NCCIL (they pronounce their acronym nickel)  “enhances visual and verbal literacy by celebrating the best original art published in children’s literature” as their mission states.  Their previous shows have celebrated the  art of Mike Berenstain, Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, William Joyce,  Robert Sabuda, Diane Stanley and N.C. Wyeth — to mention just a few. Golden Kite Golden Dreams, like  previous NCCIL exhibits will tour major cities around the country when its stay in the  rugged Texas hill country ends.

Richard Jesse Watson illustration
Closeup photo of “Tom Thumb is kidnapped” egg tempera painting for “Tom Thumb” by Richard Jesse Watson. 1990 Golden Kite Medal winner.

The SCBWI, which sponsors conferences, workshops and a wide variety of informational services to writers, illustrators and  others engaged with children’s publishing, awards the   Golden Kite Medals and Honors each year to the best books in four categories — fiction, nonfiction, picture book text and picture book illustration.

Golden Kite Golden Dreams pulls together original art from the winning books of the past 36 years.
Significant, I think that the first retrospective of Golden Kite Medal and Honor winners comes in the way of an art show. And this is a dazzling one:  75 pieces by 47 artists, curated by designer and children’s book illustrator (and SCBWI board member)  David Diaz.

David Diaz draws

Illustrator and SCBWI board member David Diaz draws for kids at the Abilene Public Library

Illustrator David Diaz

Here he talks to them about face proportions and facial feature relationships, while they sketch notes!

Tomie dePaola illustration

"What the Mailman Bought" illustration art by Tomie dePaola, 1988 Golden Kite Honor

Representatives from every Texas SCBWI chapter — Houston, North Central North East Texas (Fort Worth-Dallas) Austin and Southwest (San Antonio)  and Brazos Valley (College Station-Bryan) –  joined their fellow  illustrators, author-illustrators and SCBWI national board members and executive leaders for the opening  weekend activities, talks and workshops.

Illustrator Kristen Balouch

Kristen Balouch's digital illustration for the Golden Kite Honor book "The King and the Three Thieves" is featured in the exhibit. Here she makes a face.

Kristen and a young illustrator collaborate on the drawing

Larry Day illustration

Watercolor illustration by Larry Day for "Not Afraid of Dogs; Not Afraid of Dogs" -- Golden Kite Medal winner for 2007

Illustration byu Jerry Pinkney, pencil on watercolor paper for "Home Place", Golden Kite Medal Winner 1991

Richard Jessie Watson

Golden Kite Medal winning author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson demonstrates painting in egg tempera

Fairy -- egg tempera demonstration by Richard Jesse Watson

Fairy -- egg tempera demo before the group by author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson

Lin Oliver, executive director and Steve Mooser, president of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser created the SCBWI in 1971. The Society now has 22,000 members in more than 100 regions around the world.

In a Saturday presentation, SCBWI founders Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver told how they literally knocked on doors of top children’s authors to round up board members — and presenters for the first SCBWI conference (in 1971.)

For the organization’s first book award  in 1974 (for Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene)  “We picked the kite as our organization and contest logo,”  SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver said, “because [author and SCBWI board member] Jane Yolen’s father was an expert kite flier.”

Debra Lillick, exec director of the NCCIL

Debbie Lillick and Alexandra Howle of the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) Debbie is NCCIL executive director.

as SCBWI contingent and National Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla  Burris

Illustrator, designer and SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla Burris huddles with the SCBWI Texas contingent. Left to right: Millie Martin, Heather Powers, Priscilla Burris, Mark Mitchell. Carol Cooke Barrayre, Allan Stacy, Jacqueline Gramann, and Liz Mertz. The statue behind them is inspired by the William Joyce's picture book Santa Calls.

Kevin Hawkes illustration

Closeup of "By the light of the Halloween Moon. The Ghost Who Trips the Ghoul" acrylic illustration by Kevin Hawkes, 1994 Golden Kite Medal winner

“One of the things we want to show is how complex an art this is,” Oliver said, speaking of of the original watercolor, gouache, tempera, acrylic , papercut and inkworks on display and children’s  book illustration generally.

“For many, children’s books are the first exposure to literature and art and philosophy and what it is to be human,” SCBWI president Steve Mooser said.

National Center for Children's Illustrated LiteratureNCCIL in Abilene, Texas

Golden Kite Golden Dreams exhibit at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) on quiet Cedar Street in Abilene, Texas

Also in attendance were author Illustrators Pat Cummings, Diane Stanley (a native of Abilene),    Priscilla Burris (SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator),  Richard Jesse Watson, Larry Day, and Kristen Balouch Alan Stacy and Barbara McClintock and artist, art director and VP at Penguin Young Readers Group, Cecilia Yung.

Watson, Day, Balouch, McClintock and Stacy have work featured in the exhibit.

Burris, Cummings, Diaz and Yung  serve on the International SCBWI Board of Advisers.

The NCCIL show will attract some wonderful attention to children’s book art and artists as it starts to tour the country this fall.

SCBW Scroll of Scribbles

SCBWI scroll of scribbles featuring the improvised art of Heather Powers, Priscilla Burris, Allan Stacy, David Diaz, Lin Oliver and several others.

* * * * *

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator from his drawing table in Austin, Texas.

Maurice Sendak — “A whole other story that you think is there.”

In this interview clip Maurice Sendak speaks as eloquently as you’ll hear on the roles of the children’s book illustrator and children’s book  illustration.

It’s from the DVD  “There’s a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak: A Retrospective in Words and Pictures” produced by the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.

According to the press copy,  the DVD  “explores the masterful storytellers extraordinary career through his own words as the author talks about his favorite characters and the many influences and settings of his richest stories. Get the DVD at www.rosenbach.org.”

Sendak, author-illustrator of more than 100 books,  selected the museum to be the sole permanent repository of his artwork  more than 30 years ago.  The museum is said to contain 10,000 preliminary sketches as well as final drawings and Sendak’s original manuscripts.

Listen to the two Terry Gross interviews with Sendak on NPR’s Fresh Air. He really is full of perception.

* * * *

Is there a “magic secret” to drawing?

Yes, and I’m giving it away in the  latest  promotion for my online course on drawing and painting for children’s book illustration,  Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks.

The  “secret”  is the  “gesture drawing” of a  special kind pioneered by Kimon Nicolaides in the early 20th century.  I explain why I feel this way and present my take on the  “Nicolaides approach”  in five short videos and a  PDF lesson taken from the Make Your Splashes course.  Sign up at this  “drawing secret” page to access.

The title is everything!

Award-winning New York City  illustrator Lisa Falkenstern is working on illustrations for her new children’s picture book.  But she and her editor are having trouble deciding on the perfect title. So Lisa has put out an S.O.S.

Lisa's baby dragon

Lisa's Baby Dragon

She’s asking all readers of How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator to help her out! Help her choose the best name for the book. Because she knows that good titles rule. Because the title is the most important decision an author and/ or her publisher probably make on any given book. Good titles sell books. Blah titles seal their doom.


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Lisa has staked out several firsts here.  It’s the first first picture book that she has authored.
It’s the first time that this blog has been asked for help by an artist colleague.  And it’s the first official reader poll that this blog has conducted in its two year history.

How did the dragon story come about?

Lisa: Long story. I keep a file of images that give me ideas for illustrations. I had a photo of an antique silver eggcup that had chick feet sticking out of a realistically done egg. I liked that and when I got around to working on the idea, the chick became a dragon and lost the claws. It didn’t work. then I played around with the egg and it became an Easter egg. So now I had a portfolio piece.

At that time,  while attending a New Jersey SCBWI [Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators]  meeting, a friend and I were invited to join another writing group, the Hunterdon County Children’s Writers and Illustrators.  We did and it was my husband who suggested I turn that dragon painting into a story.  I did and when I showed up for a first meeting, to my everlasting shame,  I showed up with a story called The Easter Dragon. I worked on that and got a dummy ready for an SCBWI workshop. I showed it to an agent and he pointed out that it wasn’t an Easter story, it was a dragon and bunny story. I went back to work on it, took out Easter, added a hedgehog to the characters, showed it to the same agent and he wasn’t interested.

Not deterred,  I kept working on it and finally showed it to the publisher at Marshall Cavendish at an SCBWI  conference who liked it, but had suggestions. About four revisions later, she liked it enough to buy it.

All that from a photo of an egg cup!

Rabbit and Hedgehog -- two friends

Rabbit and Hedgehog -- two friends who befriend a baby dragon in Lisa Falkenstyern's yet-to-be-named picture book bought by Marshall Cavendish. This spread by Lisa may or may not appear in the finsihed book.

Could you give a brief synopsis of your picture book story — even if it’s just a taste? (We won’t give away much of the plot since the book is not out yet.)

My story is about two friends who come across a baby dragon. And what starts out as fun changes to problems. Let’s just say that things things that are cute small, don’t necessarily remain that way when they grow up,


Why did you choose a picture book format instead of an older, more complex treatment of a dragon story?

I’m an illustrator, not a writer. Until now the most I had written were pithy memos to members of my co-0p when I was president, and that was twenty years ago. I never even had the urge to write. I started to write when I realized that I needed to control what I wanted to paint and that was the simplest way. And — this might sound crass to the purists — I wanted to make the most money I could, doing what I wanted and writing and illustrating a picture book mean 10 percent royalties instead of 5 percent. Plus, I made the basic mistake of beginners. I thought, “How hard can this be?”

White cat with veil

White Cat with Veil, illustration by Lisa Falkenstern

Have you always been interested in dragons and sword and sorcerer style fantasy?

I am interested in fantasy but not the usual way it is meant. More fantastic than fantasy. but I have always liked dragons, but never had an occasion to paint one.

Was the story accepted by an editor whom you had already worked for as an illustrator or cover artist?

I had already illustrated a book, The Busy Tree for Marshall Cavendish and I knew the editor and publisher, Margery Cuyler and the art director, Anahid Hamparian. I had done a few book covers for Anahid and I may have mentioned a few hundred times that I was interested in illustrating children’s books.

Why do you think you and your editor are feeling a little stuck coming up with a title that you both like for this story?

This just seems to be a hard book to title. The whole time I was working on it I was calling it Rabbit and Hedgehog Make a Friend.  But Margery  Cuyler wanted the word “dragon” in the title.And it’s not just me. I have been asking everyone I know for suggestions and no one can come up with a title.  Since this is my first book, I wanted a really great title — something like The Wind in the Willows — that type of title.My running joke is, would Where the Wild Things Are been that famous if it had been called Max Goes to Bed Without his Dinner? Where The Wild Things Are is such a great title for a book, so evocative that it makes you want to pick it up. I mean it’s a great book without the famous title, but I just wonder how many great children’s books remain undiscovered behind a bland title and cover art?

Of these titles that we’ve listed here in the poll, which are your suggestions and which are your editor’s?

Dragon in the House came from a friend in the Hunterdon County Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group. The “There’s a…” got added by Marshall Cavendish and they also came up with A Dragon Moves In. To me they are fine. I like them.  But I keep thinking there may be a better title out there somewhere…

So we’ve added in a “write-in candidate” box to the poll.  Do you mind
our including this as part of  our focus group poll (with the understanding that our voters aren’t expecting remuneration — or a cut of the action for their suggestions)? However, if Lisa does select one of the write-in suggestions to be the title of her book, she’s offering to give a signed print of  her art work  to the creative person who comes up with the “perfect title.”  (We’ll  just need to figure out a way to identify the write-in voter. It might have to be the honor system, which shouldn’t be too hard for the readers of this blog — illustrators being honorable by their very nature.)

I’m not proud. I need all the help I can get.

Walrus by Lisa Falkenstern

Walrus, illustration by Lisa Falkenstern

What stage are you at now with your work on the book?

I’ve just started on the final drawings for the book. I should be done by November.

Have you found the process of creating your own picture book extremely fun, vexing and /or challenging?  Is it everything you thought it would be?
After this experience will you be ready to try another one?

I have to say the process of creating a children’s book is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Mostly because it is the first time I’ve done it. Learning all of the subtleties of making a book that works on all levels has been an eye opener. Now comes the painting part, which is different than anything else I have done.

So I hope I lose weight and not gain it by the time I am finished.

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Mark’s note: I took the matter to my online class last Thursday evening. You can see the chat that ensued while we studied Lisa’s  baby dragon.  (Of such casual discourse great decisions are sometimes made. Well, you can see at least a bit of consensus developing here. But don’t let it influence your vote.)

I voted for “Problem Child.” But, again, please make your own wise choice.

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T: dragon bebeh yay!

K: Oh Lisa this ones great!

T: Lisa’s work is wonderful: wow so cool!

TR: that’s a serious Easter egg surprise

KF: Very cute!|

S: What’s the story?

K: ye? dragon in a Easter egg?

K: lol

Mav: Love that smirk!!!

D: Surprize!

KF: And the smoke!

T: wow

Ti : such detail…

D: she rocks!

S : This is quite beautiful.

T : title for this or the dragon one?

KF: Very realistic!

L: how about “problem child”

S: Do you know what her medium is?

K: thats cool

KF: Or “What Dragon?”… if they’re trying to hide him.

T: very nice

Ti : it’s so fun

Ta: this is very Berkely Breathed chicldren book style

K: I like this spread

Ta: Dragon in the house

M: I like Kim’s suggestion – What Dragon??

KF: Dragon Moves In

Ta: or there’s a dragon in the house

Ti: i like “dragon in the house” — it’s like “mouse in the house” but it’s not the typical animal in the house…

Mav: Dragon in the House

SCM: Perhaps narrowing it even further, even with a kid’s

perspective: “the Dragon in the Bedroom.”

Ta: dragon moves in has been done & it’s liknked to a very

poor early reader in my mind

L: it seems less about a “friend” than raising a “problem child”

Ti: ooh–dragon in the bedroom is fun!

D: ‘Dragon in the House’ or ‘What Dragon?’

S: Dragon in the House.Mav: what’s the story line???

S: I like [SCMs] idea of using a specific room… Dragon in the bedroom,

kitchen, bathroom, basement?

T: knowing the storyline would help more

Ta: “Dragon in the House!” w/that dragon egg on the cover

or expressional faced rabbit & hedgehog

KF: “No Such Things as Dragons”

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Porcupine Fish, illustration by Lisa Falkenstern
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From Lisa’s website: Lisa Falkenstern has been a professional illustrator for more than 20 years. She graduated from Parsons School of Design and has studied at the New York Academy, School of Visual Arts, Art Student’s League, National Academy School of Fine Arts and Cooper Union.

Her client list includes: Borders Group, Simon and Schuster, Random House, Putnam, Bantam Doubleday Dell, Pocket Books, Scholastic, Marshall Cavendish and Golden Books. She has been in numerous shows including, the Society of Illustrators Annual, CA Annual, and Print. She was in the show The Fine Art of Illustration at the Hunterdon Art Museum.

Recently she’s has been chosen to be in the Showcase’s 2007 Best Illustrators 2007  Edition. She is a member of the Society of Illustrators and is in their permanent collection. She’s a Gold Medal winner of the Society’s Member Show. 2007 edition.

She’s had shows in the N.Y.C. Metropolitan area. Besides her illustrations she also does portraits. Lisa generally works in oils, but also in egg tempera, acrylic, and digital.

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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts the “How to Be A Children’s Book Illustrator” blog. He teaches an online course in drawing and painting for children’s book illustration. Click to discover the best ever drawing secret.

” I wonder how many great children’s books remain undiscovered behind a bland title and cover art”.