Catching Willie Mays (in a children’s book illustration)

How perfect that award-winning children’s book artist Terry Widener has done the pictures for the new picture book by Jonah Winter (just released by Schwartz and Wade) about the greatest all around baseball player ever – Willie Mays.

Terry brings a background of high level advertising and editorial illustration and something else to the many children’s books he’s done on sports figures: The sensibility of a gifted athlete.

Too small to play football on school teams, Widener focused on baseball and mainly golf, which he still avidly plays. In fact he attended art school at the University of Tulsa on a golf scholarship.

After graduation Terry had to choose between two job offers — one as the golf pro at a country club, the other as an ad agency art director. It could have gone either way; Terry went the advertising art route because it paid just a little more per week.

He went on to do design and illustration work for major publications and ad agencies — for national and international clients like Coca Cola, Burger King, The Franklin Mint and Aesculap (a German orthopedic implant manufacturer. )

His first kids’ book illustrations were for Lou Gehrig — The Luckiest Man by David Adler (Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace) named a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor book, a Texas Blue Bonnet Reading List selection, an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year and an SCBWI Golden Kite Finalist, and received the IRA Teacher’s Choice Award.

Since then his books have attracted more honors and recognition,  including Smithsonian Notable Book of the Year, School Library Journal  Best Book of the Year, the Junior Library Guild List, the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show, the Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year and other awards.

Terry paints in acrylics. He’s experimented with a variety of styles in this medium, though now he works in a more painterly, naturalistic style, in the “Old School” children’s book art style of N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle.

That he’s done so many children’s biographies of sports heroes is purely coincidence, he says. What’s no coincidence is the sophisticated-simple design that he brings to these pictures of action and excitement in the ball field, boxing ring and competitive swim lanes — and the comfy authority with which he treats historical settings and scenes.

These videos are excerpts from an in-depth interview Terry gave me for students in the Make Your Splashes — Make Your Marks! course. For more information about this online course on illustrating children’s books, or to receive e-mail news from the “Marks and Splashes” online learning community, go here.

You Never Heard of Willie Mays? by Jonah Winter (Schwartz and Wade) features a lenticular cover illustration. You know those “wiggle pictures” that seem to move when you look at them from different angles? You’d find them  sometimes as surprises inside Cracker Jacks boxes. Schwartz and Wade wanted to use lenticular printing for the covers for this series of picture book sports bios.

The process required Widener to come up with three paintings for the cover. The paintings would animate Mays knocking the ball out of the park, in one of those 50 home run hits of his career.

Terry had to model himself swinging a bat to avoid relying solely on the photos and videos he’d pulled together of the real Willie Mays in the moment — lest he and the publisher end up in a battle with The New York Times and Sports Illustrated over intellectual property!

When dealing with images of sports icons and other stars, be careful to not copy your source material, Terry cautions. Your references are probably all copyrighted!  He couldn’t even render newspaper sports pages of the day as they were, he says. To use them in an illustration he had to change them up a bit — even the wording in the headlines!

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With his art director wife Leslie Widener (also a children’s book author-illustrator) Terry lives in a 100-year-old house in historic McKinney Texas, a few miles north of Dallas, Texas. They’re members of the North Texas chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

Terry enjoys doing school visits and receives many invitations for them each year. He can often be coaxed to draw for students in a collaboration where they “art direct” his improvised sketches on the white board.

For a list of Terry’s books and awards go here and to see the covers of some of his books, go here.

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Terry doesn’t illustrate only books on sports heroes. He takes on a variety of projects, like this series of picture books on folks songs with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

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IMAGMark and Terry (Laura photo)

Mark Mitchell and Terry Widener share a chuckle at Texas Educational Service Center Region One school librarian’s conference in Harlingen, Texas in September 2012.
(Photo by children’s author-poet Laura Purdie Salas) http://www.laurasalas.com)

Austin SCBWI Kick It Up a Notch! conference delights and inspires 

Renowned illustrator and fine artist E.B. Lewis headlined the Austin SCBWI 2013 conference, Kick it Up a Notch! last weekend at St. Edward’s University. (Below) E.B. drew for pre-K and K students at the Regents School in Austin, Texas.

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He also inspired middle grades at the school.

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E.B. Lewis dazzled illustrators and writers alike with an impromptu watercolor demonstration at a Sunday workshop following Kick It Up a Notch!

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Austin, Texas based illustrator Patrice Barton received the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for her art for the picture book Mine! by Shutta Crum (Knopf) in the reception that kicked off the Austin conference. She and Crum presented a workshop about the making of Mine!.
See the video interview Patty did with this blog about illustrating Mine!

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Caitlin Alexander won first place in the conference Portfolio Showcase that was judged by E.B. Lewis, publisher Neal Porter and agent Rubin Pfeffer. Caitlin receives full tuition to next year’s Austin SCBWI conference and a $200 cash prize from the social media firm, Alter Endeavors, owned by Austin SCBWI’s Nick Alter. Erin McGuire won second place and Laura Logan and Amy Farrier tied for third place in the portfolio competition. All won gift cards from Jerry’s Art Supplies. Photo by author Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Google Drive for Artists free replay

Sign up to see the full recording of the workshop on Google Drive and other great Google tools for illustrators, presented by Pooja Srinivas. Yes, it’s free!

And finally, here is my nomination and vote for the ultimate Valentines Day book.

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Mark Mitchell, who sometimes edits this blog wrote this post.

Author-illustrator Keith Graves: Ace kids’ yarn spinner

You might not learn all you want to know about children’s book author illustrator Keith Graves from his website — like, what is the name of the rock band he was founding member of and still plays in? (Answer: The Whispering Javelinas.)

But you’ll find answers to the important questions, like,  How did he learn to draw?

His response (see the site’s FAQs):  “I have been obsessed with drawing since I was knee high to a slug…

“I’ll bet I have drawn at least five or six billion pictures, mostly of things with one eye, in my life. Most of them stunk, but some came out OK.

“That’s the thing.  If you draw lots of pictures, chances are a few will be really cool.”

Reviewers have used words like zany, quirky, twisted and rowdy to describe his pictures and stories that are also just plain funny and kid-friendly.

If you’ve never read any of his books, the video below with Keith reading his Loretta, Ace Pinky Scout (Scholastic) accompanied by the movie theme from The Great Escape offers a fine introduction to his oeuvre.

His latest work is the first in a series of chapter books that he illustrated with white colored pencil and acrylic paint on black illustration board.

In these video excerpts from a longer interview that he gave for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! course Keith talks about his happy experiment with long form writing and his new series character, Thaddeus J. Hibble.

Keith’s long professional art career has included editorial illustrations for some of the country’s top publications, music album covers, posters,  ads, Hollywood animated film projects,  his own children’s picture books and those of other authors’ (including Margie Palatini, Mary Alice Fontenot,  Helen Ketteman and Sandy Asher.)

He earned his B.F.A. from the University of Southern Louisiana, studied at the Parsons New School for Design in N.Y.C. and finished an M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

But not before he tackled essential boyhood tasks like building a W.W. II submarine out of cardboard boxes in his (New Orleans neighborhood) backyard, learning to play the guitar and immersing himself in the lore of movie monsters, the hot rod cartoon monster (plastic kit) models of Big Daddy Roth and a particular uncle’s hilarious tall tales about growing up on the bayou.

"Chicken Big" cover

Further down in this post we mention the winners of the SCBWI Tomie de Paola Illustration Award. The contest required artists to render a certain scene from Chicken Licken (or Chicken Little or Henny Penny. )

So we can’t omit mention of Keith’s strangely endearing take on the same tale that resulted in his 2010 picture book Chicken Big  (Chronicle Books.)

Watch the discussion below for his insights into developing a visual character who rings true.

Page  from "Chicken Big" by Keith Graves

St. Edward's University, Austin Texas

Something for Everyone

That’s the theme for the 2012 Regional Conference of the Austin Chapter of the Society of  Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 

It’s no exaggeration, either — with its insanely good lineup of name authors, agents, editors and a few other top children’s publishing industry professionals.

Conference logo design by Erik Kuntz

Come meet Patti Ann Harris, senior art director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers who oversees the design of the picture book list and novelty book imprint, LB-Kids,  Bonnie Bader, editor-in-c hief of Grosset and Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan, two imprints of the Penguin Young Readers Group and Diane Muldrow,  editorial director at Golden Books/Random House and editor of the famous Little Golden Books.

Hobnob with agents, Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary Agency),  Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) and Jill Corcoran (Jeff Hermann Agency) along with YA novelist Lisa Lee,  picture book author and writing teacher Anastasia Suen and Kirsten Cappy, who owns the children’s author-illustrator marketing consultancy Curious City.

Conference logo design by Laci Morgan

Registration is still open for Something for Everyone, set for February 17-19 on the St. Edward’s University campus in Austin, Texas.

SCBWI Tomie dePaola Illustration Award winner announced

For first place, from more than 300 entries from around the world, dePaola chose the scene composed by Yvette Piette Herrera for the Chicken Licken fable.

See Yvetter’s wonderful piece and the other winning submissions by Carrie Eko-Burgess,  Rotem Omri and Lori McElrath-Eslick, along with Tomie dePaola’s comments on the SCBWI site.

See more great work (178 of the contest submissions so far and counting) in a special “Unofficial” Tomie dePaola Awards blog initiated by Houston SCBWI illustrator coordinator Diandra Mae, including four pieces by Marks and Splashes students Joanna Strybosch, Catherine Jacobs, Cynthia Iannocone and Virginia Rinkel.

PB Dummy Challenge for kidlitart challenge Twibbon

Twibbon design by Diandra Mae

#KidLitArt Picture Book Dummy Challenge 2012

Here’s what you want to know about this year’s Kidlitart #PBDummy Challenge:

Sign up here, start work on your pencil dummy drop by the #kidlitart Twitter chats at 9 pm (U.S. Eastern Time) every Thursday to visit with your creative colleagues.

You’ll find additional challenge-related discussions on Twitter using the challenge hashtag: #PBDummy.

Try to register for the challenge by January 15 to be eligible for the Agent Pitch contest at the end of the six months.  The challenge extends to July 1.

(Live anywhere near the St. Louis, Mo. area? PB Dummy Challenge co-founder Wendy Martin will teach art and painting classes this Spring at Jefferson College, including Watercolor Pencil Techniques, Narrative Illustration, Cartoon Animals and Basic Logo Design. Check out page 11 of the Jefferson College Continuing Education 2012 spring catalog or contact Wendy directly through her website for more information.  She’ll teach at the Festus, Mo. campus.)

If you feel instead like concentrating on picture book story structure and writing,  consider the 12 x 12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge.  “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write one picture book per month for each of the twelve months of 2012,” states challenge instigator, author Julie Hedlund in her blog, Write Up My Life. 

“This means a first draft: beginning, middle, end.  NOT a submission-ready piece,” she says.

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby inscribes a book for illustrator Lalena Fisher, while his wife and co author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson chats with Lalena.

Triumphs and tallies

Picture books by Austin SCBWI artists Jeff Crosby and Patrice Barton made the Texas Library Association’s 2×2 list for 2012. Wiener Wolf  that Jeff wrote and illustrated and Mine! written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Patrice made the top 20 books (winnowed down from 700 nominated titles) for children ages two through the second grade.

Patrice’s illustrations for Mine! were also included in the Society of Illustrators 2011 National Exhibition in NYC.

Both illustrators have been profiled on this blog and interviewed on video for the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks students.

 Liz Rosenberg’s “Best Books of 2011″ for children article in the Boston Globe leads off with Austin SCBWI’s own Divya Srinivasan’s Little Owl’s Night  (Viking.)

Elizabeth Bird, youth collections specialist for the New York City Public Library compiled her list of 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2011 in her blog, A Fuse 8 Production  for School Library Journal.

Illustrator Patrice Barton with author-illustrator Mary Sullivan

You don’t want to miss the 2011 Retrospective for Julie Danielson’s  7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog that  includes interviews with Brian SelznickGenevieve Cote, David Ezra Stein, John Rocco, Beth Krommes, Beth Ellis, Betsy Lewin and many others.

And see the 2012 picture book preview by Kirkus Reviews.

Check out “Tech Tuesday” posts on the new Girllustrators Tumblr blog  and Just Picture This: A one stop blog for all things Children’s Illustration. News, events, links, articles and more– compiled by illustrators Diandra MaeCasey G.Dani JonesKelly Light and Jez Tuya.

Art by Sylvia Liu (for an Illustration Friday theme, "Separated")

Marks and Splashes course assayed

Many thanks to Sylvia Liu (illustrator, environmental attorney) for reviewing  the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course  — and interviewing me on her richly informative kid lit art blog Sylvia Liu LandRead the review.

Stories that move (really they do)

See some interactive digital books in action (videos) ofs in action and read about the latest InteractBooks Contest (prizes include iPads, an iMac and more)  for artists and authors using the free InteractBuilder software. You’ll find more on the latest post,  Stories that move and talk when you touch them on the lllustration Course blog.

Richard Johnson of InteractBooks

Sign up for free sessions, tutorials

1.) From idea to iTunesAuthor-illustrator David Tribble walks us through how he created his children’s picture book for the iPad, Lord of the Scribes.  See the 90 minute-replay.

2.) Building interactive books for touch screen devices:
A presentation featuring children’s author Dan Byrne who won last year’s InteractBooks competition with his picture book on nutrition and gardening for kids, It’s Time for Carrots (illustrated by Jenna Matsalla) and the developers of the InteractBuilder software. Hear it here.

3.)InteractBuilder Bootcamp online –  a complete training on building interactive books for the iPad, iPhone and other touch screen devices

Three more live Saturday sessions to go with InteractBuilder developers Ezra Weinstein and Richard Johnson teaching how to use their groundbreaking software.  Replays of the previous trainings are available for only three more weeks. Find more information, temporary replay links and upcoming class registration links.

American fine artist Emiy Barto

American artist Emiy Barto

4.) Fabulously free: 

Open source software for artists and illustrators, presented by architect and illustrator Jim Larson. Enjoy the replay.

5.) Build your online gallery on a WordPress.org or WordPress.com blog

Erik Kuntz and Mark Mitchell demonstrate  how to install thumbnail portfolios on WordPress blogs.  Access the replay and videos.

6.) Is there a “best secret” to drawing? Find out here.

"The Three Gnarlies" Interior Page

Interior illustration by Keith Graves for his picture book, "The Three Gnarlies"

Conjuring a young witch’s world in watercolor

University of Texas BFA grad Marsha Riti worked at her first creative love, ceramics before she saw an opportunity to make some extra money with her studio art craft — illustrating books for children.

She did some additional study (including taking my class at the AMOA Art School), joined the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and built up her portfolio.

Eventually she landed the assignment from Pelican Press to illustrate the picture book The Picky Little Witch by Elizabeth Brokamp.

In these excerpts from a video interview she did for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course, Marsha shares her process for illustrating a picture book.

Her technique of patching together and occasionally manipulating her watercolor illustrations in Photoshop has served her well.

Her blog that she fills with her images and interviews with her illustrator and artists friends caught the attention of an agent, which led  to a contract to illustrate a series of chapter books for the Little Simon imprint of Simon & Schuster.

In the slideshow below you can see Marsha garbed as her witch-in-training heroine at last month’s book launch party.

She’s joined by friends from her Austin SCBWI illustrators’ critique group, the Girlustrators who came out to support, babes and broomsticks in tow.

Marsha Riti signs at BookPeople, surrounded by her Girlustrator pals.

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InteractBook contest winners announced

Our judging team has named the winners for the create your own iPad
book app  contest by InteractBooks.

The first place winner in the contest for creating an interactive book using the InteractBuilder software received an iPad2 and a publishing contract.

Other contestants received prizes, too.

First Place –  It’s Time for Carrots by Dan Byrne

Second Place –  Put the Ow in Meow by Adreienne Jervis

Third PlaceThe Magic of Lizzie Boo by Leslie Dennis

Coming in fourth and neck in neck with third place – CAE Club gets Ready for a Great and Scary Halloween by Ann Kesselman.

Congratulations to all contenders!

Stand by for some videos about the entries, an interview with the winner and news about the next InteractBooks contest.

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Read a fun post by South African artist and new student Helga Pearson about the Marsha Riti interview and her experience of her first lessons of the Marks and Splashes course.

Find out more about the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course on illustrating children’s books in a changing publishing world.