Curious business

Children’s book illustrators and anyone absorbed in the curious business of children’s book illustration,

Do you find it interesting, as I do that the big commercial for Google’s Nexus 7 features a little girl and her mom reading a Curious George story on the device?

Google, in its elegant way used a simple illustrated page from a classic children’s picture book series to introduce its new tablet to the world.

From the Wikipedia entry:  “The series was written and drawn by the team of Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey. The couple fled Paris in June 1940 on self-made bicycles, carrying the Curious George manuscript with them. At first only H. A. Rey was credited for the work in order to distinguish the Reys’ books from the large number of children’s books written by female authors. Later, Hans Rey was credited for the illustrations and Margret Rey for the writing. “

Google+ tools for artists and illustrators — a free workshop

Pooja's Google+ workshop screenshot

Watch Pooja Srinivas’ video presentation, Google+ for Artists and Illustrators  — and discover how to network, find and build community, extend your reach and promote your art and illustration with free Google+ tools.  Go here for Pooja’s superb 80 minute workshop.

A “Nuts and Bolts Saturday” in October

Children’s book illustrators, artistrators, writers — if you live within reach of Texas, open your calendars.

These guys kind of say it all. Animator, online comics creator Erik Kuntz  (who’s also Austin SCBWI chapter’s webmaster) wrote created this animation using XtraNormal.

Briefly, the Second Annual Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium is set for Saturday, October 6 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. Author/publisher marketing consultant Kirsten Cappy of Curious City is one of several featured faculty guests.  (Definitely a curiosity theme running through today’s post…)  For a schedule and details on the workshop and presenters, go here.

Curious George on the Nexus tablet

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Children’s book author-illustrator Mark Mitchell, penned this post and did a short video on the “best drawing secret” that you can see here.

How this nonfiction PB “Jes’ Happened”

Children’s book illustrator Don Tate never thought of himself as a writer, despite his many children’s author, publishing and librarian friends — a small army’s worth — and being surrounded by journalists all day in his work as a graphics reporter for the Austin American Statesman

author-illustrator Don Tate at BookPeople

Don Tate at the book launch party for his “It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw”  at BookPeople in Austin, Texas Saturday, June 9, 2012

He’s illustrated more than 40 educational books and 11 children’s trade books by other writers. His aunt Eleanora Tate is a successful children’s book writer.

But he wasn’t one. Not until Saturday.

That’s when Don threw a book launch party for himself —  actually his first-ever bookstore signing event — to celebrate the release of It  Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.

It’s a picture book bio about an impoverished folk artist whose pictures, drawn on scratch cardboard and paper in the 1930s and 1940s now hang in top museums and fetch tens of thousands of dollars from serious collectors.

The book has already received rave and starred reviews in The Horn Book, Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

You can imagine the scene: Family, friends and fans (including author and or illustrator pals from the dynamic Austin SCBWI chapter) swarming the second floor of Austin’s renown indie-book store, BookPeople. A kids’ art-making station littered with markers and paper hosted by Don’s illustrator friends. Easels propped up by the podium for a creative sketching showdown by audience members. A refreshments table piled with baked treats. A funny banner unfurled by members of Don’s author group, the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels.

In the two videos — excerpts from a longer video interview Don gave for students of Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! children’s book illustration course, Don talks about his experience of coming up with the words for It Jes Happened.

The real story of Traylor who began making his drawings when he was 85 and living homeless on the streets in Montgomery is a jaw dropper.

If Traylor drew and painted earlier in his life, which is plausible, there’s no record of it. Though many of his pictures, certainly are mental snapshots from his memories of childhood as an Alabama slave before the Civil War.

“Traylor is recognized as one of the finest American artists of the 20th century,” says the website of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which holds one of the largest public collection of Traylor’s drawings.

“His works are notable for their flat, simply defined shapes and vibrant compositions in which memories and observations relating to African American life are merged.”

“Using a stick for a straightedge, he created geometric silhouettes of human and animal figures which he then filled in with pencil, colored pencil, or poster paint,” says an article on him in Wikipedia. “Much speculation surrounds the identification of mysteriously shaped objects,  usually referred to as “constructions,” and the complex scenes he called ‘Exciting Events,’ which depict groups of people.”

Nearly as fascinating as Traylor’s journey is this PB biography’s long path to publication. Don told Saturday’s standing room only audience how the subject was first suggested to him by an author friend Dianna Aston. She’d decided the idea fit Don better than her–  and sent him the newspaper clipping that had first caught her eye.

Don kept the clipping beside his drawing table — where he would see it every day as he worked on more pressing illustration assignments.

He wanted to let the  message of the life of this prolific, unschooled  black artist sink into him slowly.

He wrote a draft and entered it into the NewVoices contest sponsored by New York publisher Lee & Low Books.The annual award (that includes a cash prize of $1,000 and a standard publisher’s contract) goes to a picture book manuscript by a writer of color.

Don won the New Voices Honor (runner-up) award — with a $500 cash prize — and an offer to publish if he was willing to revise.

Illustrator R. Gregory Christie

R. Gregory Christie, illustrator for “It Jes’ Happened”

The revision process went on for four years — most of this time waiting to hear from editors on Don’s several versions.

Talented illustrator R. Gregory Christie whose electrifying artwork has appeared in The New Yorker magazine as well as several children’s books, was tapped — by Don himself as it turns out — to create the pictures.

Don talks about this in the videos. Christie interprets the scenes as Traylor himself might have, but with brighter (more expensive?) colors. It’s a tour de force of the best kind of children’s book art, integrating the subject with the pictures.

Don’s own illustrations, meanwhile have appeared recently in Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza (Charlesbridge Publishing) and She Loved Baseball — the Effa Manley Storby Audrey Vernick (HarperCollins).

You might enjoy these other interviews with Don

School Library Journal ad

The display ad that publisher Lee & Low ran in the School Library Journal for Tate’s and Christie’s book

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Lee & Low is now accepting entries for the 13th annual New Voices AwardThe deadline is September 30.
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Don and Tamara Diggs-Tate

Author illustrator Don Tate enjoys the rousing introduction by his wife, graphic artist Tamera Diggs-Tate to his book launch presentation for “It Jes’ Happened” Saturday, June 9 at BookPeople in Austin, Texas

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell is the writer of this post and the creator of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course.
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It’s easy to include How To Be a Children’s Book Illustrator on your radar screen. Just like our Facebook page.

The animated “finger paintings” of Aleksandr Petrov 

"The Mermaid" by animator Aleksandr Petrov

Still from the animated short “The Mermaid” by Aleksandr Petrov, based on a story by Pushkin.

Read about this amazing Russian animator and how he paints on glass to create  illustrations that move and breathe.   See his work, too, in the unusual new video series starting over at the Illustration Course blog.

Make Your Marks!

Looking to improve your pictures? The “Marks and Splashes” lessons can help you. See about them here and discover a secret to better drawing in some great free videos.
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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"

Develop your artistic confidence here

hiresblog.jpg
Illustration by Mark Mitchell from The Trail North by Charlotte Baker Montgomery (Eakin Press)

Congratulations!
You’ve landed on a blog and an education-community site intended for you.

You won’t find another site quite like this. Here you have art lessons. But they’re more than art lessons. More like revelations. You’ll find design and drawing tips. But they’re more than tips. They’re keys to easily tackle most picture-making challenges that you may face.

You’ll learn how to draw without “learning how to draw.” Anyone can do this, with a high interest level, the right information and a little bit of “right practice”.  You’ll get these here.

You’ll find painting instruction  — but a unique kind that can free you as it encourages and dares you to explore several painting mediums, with brush or mouse.

You’ll discover how to grow your illustration from a thumbnail “seed” to a living-breathing, full-sized sketch–  and “make a scene, fusing the  skills of the draftsman with those of the storyteller.

You’ll be shown what I call the “Howard Pyle Theorem” (to remind you that illustration is a special kind of theater) and the “Lynne and Tessa” factor, which proves how story imagery can reach beyond the frame and maybe the page!

In monthly interviews you’ll meet successful children’s book illustrators and see how they work.  They might share some trade secrets with you.

You’ll find news roundups of the field,  mini-lessons by guest artist-instructors, exposure to the books, blogs and projects of your fellow illustrators. You’ll find an online community and support group and a clearing house for an astounding array of resources and information. And gradually you’ll be able to enter the dialogue of illustrators, graphic designers, art directors, editors, agents, writers, teachers and librarians and others who love children’s books and children’s book art.

As enrolled student-members, you’ll have access to the year-long online course, Make Your Marks: A Power Course in Creating Effective Illustrations for Children’s Books, Magazines and Other Media for Children, based on a popular class honed over the years in the studio classrooms of the Austin Museum of Art Art School.

You’ll acquire some  sophisticated knowledge in a surprisingly short time — that ccould save you years of frustration and possibly costly mis-steps.

You’ll love this journey. You’ll have fun. In the strange, quiet way that creators have fun. And you’ll grow.

Maybe a lot.

So bookmark this site. Keep coming back to it. You’ve found a good community for you — but it is partly a gated community.  To enroll as a student-member and have access to the in-depth content and the core training,  e-mail mark@markgmitchell.com.

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Author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell (www.markgmitchell.com) is the editor of How to be a Children’s Book Illustrator.  

Download his award-winning book for young people, Raising La Belle for free at http://shipwreck-book.weebly.com.

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