Blogging Illustrators and Glowing Reviews

We don’t purport to cover the entire waterfront here.  But every once in a while it’s fun to do a roundup of  children’s book illustration items, which is another way of saying “string some things together that aren’t really  related.”

Or lazy writing, in other words.  But hey — it’s  summertime  in Central Texas.

So let me start with this image of a few Inklings basking  in the July heat at the Central Market Cafe.  It’s a children’s picture book critique group under the Austin, Texas  Chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)

Some of the Inklings of Austin SCBWI during a recent Sunday a.m. huddle: Louise Shelby, Amy Farrier, Torran Anderson, Salima Alikhan and Marsha RitiWe converge on our own one Sunday morning each month. There’s almost always a new face  and four to 12 familiar ones.

We’ll read each others’ stories aloud  or leaf through a portfolio or  a storyboard or bring our latest book discoveries.

Mostly we all talk at the same time,  like the mice in Diane Stanley’s  The Conversation Club.

(Left to right:  Louise Shelby,  Amy Farrier,   Torran Anderson,   Salima Alikhn and Marsha Riti. I don’t think they’ve had their second cups of coffee yet.)

One Bright Afternoon

was enjoyed by picture book author Chris Barton and many fans at his debut signing at BookPeople earlier this month.

The Day Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors (Charlesbridge Publishers 2009) is narrative science writing for kids at its best.

"The Day-Glo Brothers" by Chris Barton, illustrated by Bill Slavin It’s illustrated in a smart & sassy 1950s cartoon style by Tony Persiani (with day-glo spots evocative  of  old time color separated-illustrations)

The combination of crisp text that keeps you excitedly turning pages and plentiful, high energy art that suits the narrative perfectly has garnered starred reviews for the book  in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

Which is a little like lightning striking three times (in a good way.)

It’s not a well known story and Barton had to research much  of it first-hand with interviews of suviving Switzer family members.

Through years of trial and error and a few happy accidents the brothers learned  how certain resin and dye mixtures resulted in a color that was  “oranger-than-orange.” Their experiments began as an enhancement to  one brother’s magic act — and led to massive production of the paint during  World War Two. (The colors we take for granted today as “Day-Glo” were used mainly for signaling and signage that aided in rescues and prevented untold accident casualties.)

The book unfolds as a joyous experience of discovery for the reader.

A Glowing Moment for Picture Book Author Chris Barton and his many fans at his debut signing at BookPeople July 11 for "The Day-Glo Brothers."  Photo by Donna Bowman Bratton.

Chris, a young helper and standing-room-only crowd at Austin’s BookPeople July 11. Photo by Donna Bowman Bratton

These days, some of the best information on children’s book illustration is

Found on the Blogs

English  illustrator and author  Lynn Chapman shows us  “before and after” versions of a double page spread for an assignment — with her ‘notes to self’ scrawled on drawings or copies of them.  You’ll find these on her blog, An Illustrator’s Life For Me

She’s just mailed in final art for Bears on the Stairs by Julia Jarman.  Now she’s waiting to hear about the changes she’ll have to make.

Vancouver illustrator Kirsti Anne Wakelin in her blog  My Secret Elephant talks about her tools and how she uses reference in her work — and shows us her line art for a dummy she’s been working on this year. Click on the tab that says “Illustration Process” for progress reports on her book assignment.

James Gurney Amazes…

Yes, the James Gurney — creator of the  Dinotopia books. He also maintains one of  the premier artist’s process blogs (maybe I’ve just coined a new genre) with his daily blog Gurney Journey.

He shares a lot of art instruction here and even allows you to look over his shoulder as he works over his drawing board, via close-up photos and videos.  It’s a treat.

In the post series below you’ll see him complete a commissioned poster for an upcoming festival in France. Then you’ll know why his work is so good. (He goes the extra mile!)

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Three (b)

Part Four

Part Six

Part Seven

Jumping Juxtapositions, Batman!

In this post on Just One More Book Mark  Blevis interviews illustrator Raul Colón at the Jewish Libraries 2009 Convention. Click here for the podcast. with /b

In a second interview with Blevis, Colón goes into more detail about how he and his illustration students find inspiration bumping unrelated subjects and themes into each other,  the way Stanley Kubrick paired The Blue Danube Waltz with his shots of the massive spacecraft in 2001, A Space Odyssey.

A post  on Lateral Action, a blog on creativity, says researchers have found that multi-tasking can reduce your performance level to that of someone who is inebriated.

Did you Eat, Stanley?

"Stanley's Beauty Contest" gives us the dog's point of view of one of those dog shows.

"Stanley's Beauty Contest" gives us the dog's point of view of one of those dog shows.

Stanley’s Beauty Contest by Linda Bailey (Kids Can Press, Toronto) is a very  funny romp through a Best of Show competition. (Read: many dogs)

(Stanley’s hungry because he missed breakfast. When the judges pass him by, he leads his  foo-fooed, four-footed fellow contestants on a gambit to turn the table (literally) on the show’s organizers.

The  infectiously fun, warm ‘n fuzzy textured illustrations are by prolific children’s book artist  Bill Slavin.

Famous illustrators are included Publisher’s Weekly’s  exerpt from Anita Sibley’s new book Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book (Roaring Brook.)

My favorite part:  Thatcher Hurd commenting on Kenneth Grahame’s  The Wind in the Willows. He refers to Mr. Toad as “surely the id personified.”

Ernest Shepard's depiction of Mr. Toad from "Wind in the Willows"

Illustration by Ernest Shepard.

Click on  “Leave a comment” at the top of the post —  to open the op-ed page and share your thoughts on the post items there.

For 12 free tutorials on using color with cunning  click here.