Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nice blog post reviewing "The Shelf Elf"

Thought I'd share this nice review of "The Shelf Elf" written by first grade teacher Barb Leyne.

So nice to know that teachers and librarians are still using and enjoying this book -- Skoob would be very pleased, I'm sure. I'm amazed to say that this book been out for 10 years now! Yikes...

Monday, August 19, 2013

New book series: Rufus and Ryan

I just finished art for the third book in a series called "Rufus and Ryan." It's about a little boy (Ryan -- who is four) and his stuffed animal monkey (Rufus). Here they are. (I love to paint red-haired kids...)


The series is for a religious publisher, so Rufus and Ryan do things like going to church and saying their prayers together. The third book was about Easter, and I had fun doing the scene where Ryan is coloring eggs. The text says "Rufus was no help at all." I thought that was hilarious. Here's the picture:

The publisher thinks there will be more books in the series -- woohoo!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kick in to Kickstarter

So, do you guys all know about Kickstarter?


It's an amazing and inventive 'crowdfunding' program through which artists of all kinds (dancers, musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, and on and on) can create projects and raise the money to make them a reality. Regular ordinary folks just like us are the ones who kick in the bucks and make these artistic dreams a reality.

The way it works is that the artist creates the project (the more concrete and/or tangible, the better) with a target funding figure. Then the project creator sets up pledge amounts for potential funders -- and generally each pledge comes with fun thank you gifts (or premiums, just like PBS or your local public radio station) from the creator, usually stuff that's related to the project. Like you might get a signed print for donating $100 to an artist creating a book. Or a copy of the DVD a documentary filmmaker's creating (the husband's pledge for a documentary about VW campers got his name in the credits of the film -- boy, was he pumped!) The pledge amounts often start at pretty low figures -- sometimes as low as $1 or $5 -- but of course, the more $ you give, the cooler the stuff you get in return. The Kickstarter project is usually set to run for 30 days -- sometimes longer -- and at the end of that 30-day period, if the total amount pledged is equal to or greater than the project goal, the project is funded -- the artist gets the money! If the amount pledged falls short of the goal, then the creator gets nothing, and the backers don't have to pay anything. This is, of course, a sad outcome, but it means that you as a backer are supporting only successful projects that are really going to happen.

And there are some AMAZING success stories out there. One young woman who is a comic strip artist set a goal of $9,000 to complete a cartoon story she'd been working on for a while. She ended up raising $126,507! That is, yes, like 1400 percent of her funding goal! Gloriosky. I mean, can you imagine how psyched and inspired she is? That girl's gonna get her dreams going in a very big way.

I get very excited about the visionary projects I see popping up on Kickstarter, so I've funded a bunch of them -- about ten or eleven, I think. I'm happy to say that every single one I've kicked in for has been successful! Which means I'm getting a lot of books, prints, and other groovy things in the next couple of months.


I wanted to write about two projects going on right now that I'm really into -- and encourage you, exhort you, embeggen you to go check them out and then pledge, pledge, pledge. The first is Animal Gas, a really really REALLY funny book for kids (and silly grownups), created by my INCREDIBLY talented and funny buddy Bryan Ballinger. It's a scratch and sniff book about, well, animal gas! And it's hilarious! (And it's gonna smell GREAT.) But listen, here's the deal. It has only eight (that's 8!) more days to go, and there's still a ways to go to reach the funding goal. This book needs to happen, it really really needs to happen, so I want y'all to watch the video, read about the project and see just how groovy Bryan is -- and then get on over to his Kickstarter page and MAKE A PLEDGE! You'll come up smelling like roses once you're an Animal Gas backer, b'leeve me.

Another project I just backed yesterday is the Pose Drawing Sparkbook, a really cool sketchbook with drawing prompts and teaching tips from master illustrator Cedric Hohnstadt. This guy has designed toys for big animation studios like Disney and Dreamworks, and has lots of concept design experience -- his drawing is amazing, and he really knows his stuff. Now he's sharing it with the rest of us drawing fools who want to draw more expressive characters and just draw, well, less foolishly. Get this: you get a great pdf of 100 drawing prompts -- FOR FREE! Just visit his Kickstarter page and download it -- Cedric wants you to download the pdf, look at it, and think, "Cool -- I should check out this project." (And it IS cool -- I gotta tell you. I downloaded it and it got my head spinning with ideas of stuff to draw.) And if you kick in a mere twenty bucks, the actual Pose Drawing Sparkbook as a sketchbook AND as an ebook (for drawing digitally, yuh see).  Cedric's campaign is doing really well -- just launched a few days ago, it's already 60% funded. But that is no reason for YOU not to be one of the happy backers who get to have one of Cedric's nifty and inspiring "Sparkbooks." If you kick in, you'll feel all sparkly and inspired. And your drawing will get better! What could be cooler?

Okay, end of my Kickstarter rant! But please do go on over and look at these projects. Favor to me, okay? (And then -- you know what? Get ready, 'cause I've got a Kickstarter plan of my own brewing in my own crazy little head. Stay tuned for some news in, oh, mid-September.)

Thanks, pals.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Elf Mascot for a Girl Scout Camp

I just finished the line art of a little woodland elf girl for a girl scout camp in Tennessee. One of the camp leaders sent me a Facebook message and asked if I might be willing to create a picture of their new camp mascot -- a woodland elf! What fun -- of course elves and fairies are my favorite things to draw! And this was for such a good cause -- first, who can say no to a girl scout (I was one myself, though rather lackluster in my badge work...) and second, the camp leader wanted to use this little girl elf mascot as a friend for homesick campers and for campers who weren't getting any mail from home.

So along with her own little bug friend, our little elf friend will be handing out extra letters to little girl scout campers in need of some good cheer. Love it!

I'll be doing a full-color painting of her, too -- red hair (of course) and a leafy green skirt. Of course the ladybug will be, well, ladybug-colored. But she'd be fun for the campers to color, too!

Here she is, with letters in her mail pouch and with her mail pouch closed. A treat to do! (Maybe they'll send me some cookies as thanks -- Thin Mints, please!)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jennifer Pulver Goldfinger's new blog!

Check out the shiny new and wonderful blog just created by my uber-talented friend Jennifer Pulver Goldfinger!

Some of her extremely cool, fantastically illustrated books are "The King's Chorus,"  "A Fish Named Spot,"and "My Dog Lyle." (And Jen is also the AUTHOR of the fish book and the dog book.) What a talented person indeed.

Please do visit her blog (you'll love seeing examples of her fine art, as well as her children's illustrations, both finished and in process.) And then GO AND BUY HER BOOKS!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Z is for Zelinsky!

Ah, two posts in as many days. Dizzying, the speed with which I am adding to the Marginalia blog. The power of the Groundhog Day Resolution.

So I decided to follow a blog post about one extremely brilliant author/illustrator (that's right, you remembered! David Wiesner) with another about another. That's right: Paul Zelinsky. PAUL ZELINSKY. (His body of work is mostly as an illustrator, but his writing credits include retellings of "Rapunzel"-- for which he won the Caldecott Medal, and "Rumpelstiltskin" -- Caldecott Honor -- and re-presentations of "The Wheels on the Bus" and "Knick-Knack Paddywhack.") Oh, and pretty much every single one of his books has been recognized with multiple awards.

In early February I went to a three-day conference at which Mr. Zelinsky was a major presenter, so I had the (I know, I know, but I gotta use this word) awesome experience of hearing him talk about his work as he showed examples. OVER THE COURSE OF THREE DAYS. It was, yes, awesome. Plus he is a very nice, very funny person. Plus he sang karaoke with us. How cool is that.

I am, even as I type, wearing the swag t-shirt (black) the conference created with an image of Rapunzel on it. This, with black jeans, makes for a really swell outfit, and is kind of also what prompted my thinking about writing about Mr. Zelinsky.

His bio for the conference said that he is "recognizable for being unrecognizable." This is because he uses a different style (and medium/media) for each book. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLY...awesome. And it truly is, because he brings his virtuosic talent in drawing and painting to each different style. Take a look at Rapunzel or Rumpelstiltskin -- gorgeous oil paintings in the style of the Old Italian masters in the former case and (I would say) with the inspiration of Brueghel and Bosch in the latter (though I don't know this for sure, because he didn't talk about Rumpelstiltskin) -- and then at some of his other books (pick any one of these): Awful Ogre's Awful Day, The Shivers, The Wheels on the Bus -- all of which are lighter in color saturation and lean more toward a lighthearted, cartoon-like drawing style. Each style he uses is very much its own, but always masterfully handled. And appropriate to the text. Wow.

I could tell you a WHOLE LOT about what he said during the conference (including how he uses a graphics tablet to draw when he goes to life drawing classes, or the story about how he spontaneously offered a short tutorial for about five of us, all crouched on our knees looking at his computer screen, in which he showed us how to create a repeat pattern for fabric in Photoshop -- he made fabric from his art for "Z is for Moose" and now has his very own shirt with his art on it. Yes, this is awesome. Also, he taught himself how to do that.) Or I could you tell you just a few things, and let you find out more via links and READING HIS BOOKS.

So here's what I want to tell you: at the age of three (that's THREE), he painted a picture of a geisha (his family had just returned from a brief time living in China), and this picture was some picture: beautifully drawn and full of rich color and detail. I saw it. Remember, this was a three year old. And then -- swooshing past a lot of years during which he drew incessantly on the back side of sheets of mimeograph paper (remember that stuff? smelled great, not so great to draw on...) that his dad brought home from work -- he went to college, to Yale, to major in art. Did a lot of abstract paintings as his professors encouraged him to do (we didn't see many examples of those), but ultimately was drawn again and again to the idea that a painting can tell a story. And so the story ends (or well, begins) happily ever after, in the world of children's books.

The only other thing I will tell you (because it really, really hit home for me) is that this man does a HUGE amount of study and amassing of reference images in preparation for a book. He is a true scholar, and teaches himself, by immersing himself in it, the context and character of the story he wants to tell. I was amazed by the sheer volume of time and dedication he invests in preparatory research. And then onward to rough drawing and painting. Again, huge numbers of character and compositional studies. Over and over again. (We illustrators should learn, really learn, from this.)

The bookends of the brief view I can offer on Paul Zelinsky are that, on one hand, clearly he was born with a great deal of native talent, a brilliant, inquisitive, thoughtful mind and the desire to draw incessantly, BUT on the other hand, he also works very, very, VERY hard to create the masterpieces which are his books. And no single creation is like any of the others.

Do yourself a favor, and immerse yourself in his work. (And then immerse yourself in your own.)

Links to cool POZ stuff follow...
  • His website:
  • A cool blog post about his visit to an SCBWI event in the Twin Cities (in which you can see him wearing his oh-so-nifty "Z is for Moose" shirt:
  • AND you gotta watch this so very funny book trailer he and the author created for "Z is for Moose." (Creating his own book trailers is ANOTHER thing Mr. Zelinsky has taught himself to do, with terrific results.)