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faceofhope Illustration by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Children’s literature may be the most influential literary genre of all. Picture books, chapter books, middle-grade and young-adult novels all serve the most noble of purposes: to satisfy the need for information, to entertain curious imaginations, to encourage critical thinking skills, to move and inspire. Within their pages, seeds of wisdom and possibility are sown.

Therefore we, the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators, do publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.

Our country is deeply divided. The recent election is a clear indication of the bigotry that is entrenched in this nation, of…

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Petty HeadshotSigh. So Dev Petty asked me to do this blog tour thing and I said yes. You don’t say “no” to Dev Petty because she’s kinda scary and you can only see half of her face.

See?

Anywho… she’s incredibly funny and her debut picture book “I Don’t Want to be a Frog” (illustrated by the fabulous Mike Boldt) is coming out next February from Doubleday. She says it’s autobiographical and, since I’ve never met her in person, I’m inclined to believe her.  Check out her writing process post here: http://devpetty.com/

Here goes nothin’, kids…

What am I currently working on?

Laundry.  There’s always laundry. It is the WORST.

Professionally? I’ve been collaborating with an author friend o’mine (who may or may not be a frog) on a very… errr… unique picture book series.  While she’s in charge of the words and I’m all over the pictures, it’s been a lot of fun to work together on all aspects of the series… plotlines, set design, character interaction, camera angles, etc.  The nature of our industry tends to require many hours of writing or illustrating alone and so it’s been really exciting to throw ideas back and forth with someone who’s also really invested in the project.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Oh, boy.  Kind of a tough question. I don’t have a specific medium like most other illustrators… the closest would probably be an overarching diorama medium.  There are some phenomenal artists who work in diorama but I specifically steer clear of viewing their work in order to keep a fresh perspective.  In the last year I’ve started to incorporate other media forms to best suit the specific story that I’m working on.  The story is king. Period. I think it’s important to let the story guide illustrative choices… everything with intention. There are two constants, however, that tend to show up in everything I do… clay and eyes.

Why do I write what I write?

Actually, I’ve just started to really work on my writing.  I’ve always identified more as an illustrator but some of my writer pals have been really supportive and helpful in providing feedback/guidance. There’s just a lot of evolution in my writing right now, which is great! I tend to be drawn to anything funny. Anything innovative. Anything that’s really well done.

How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

Welp. If I’m doing the writing and illustrating things flow differently because I can make choices about presentation as I go.  I can answer, “do I let the words or pictures speak here?” on my own and the story evolves sentence by sentence… image by image in a rough dummy.  In my current collaboration project, things have worked slightly differently.  After getting the words, I spent a good amount of time just thinking about what the story called for visually and how to best present the visual storyline. Next was the general framework… set and physical character development. After those were established I set up just a thumbnail rough dummy and a shot list. Finally, the actual illustrating and compilation into page layout.  I try to stay away from Photoshop (though it’s a great tool) because the nature of my illustration is very much handmade and it’s meant to be imperfectly beautiful on purpose.

 Up Next on this lovely blog tour:

The extremely talented and lovely ladies: Deborah Marcero and Bethany Telles. You’ll be hearing a lot from them in the years to come and I’m excited to hear more about their processes!

A special “thanks” to Fred Koehler for getting this started!

 

 

 

 

 

HARRIS

Harris gathering some food.

Hey! So I haven’t written a post in a LONG TIME. I know that. I’ve been busy. Doing what?

Here’s what:

*   I finished the STOP dummy (book with illustrations that you submit to agents/publishers) upon an interested agent’s request.

*   THAT TOOK FOR-EV-ER to do.

*   She shot me down. Bummer. – BUT, now I have a complete dummy and a better idea of my artistic direction. It’s kind of like working on a master’s thesis.

*   STOP is the work that I’m so emotionally tied to and I’m positive that it will have to go to a smaller press. Which is great!

*   Next, I went to query-land. If you know any writers or illustrators, treacherous this process can be. Basically, I just flip between crazy and sane-ish (See post from Erin Bowman: http://www.embowman.com/2011/my-query-process/).

*  To keep from going TOO crazy, I started working on a completely different book… HARRIS THE HOUSE DRAGON.  I love him. Very different than anything I’ve done before, both artistically and plot-wise.

So that’s where I’m at now.  I’ll continue to post little blurbs on HARRIS and his progress occasionally. I am certainly not giving up on STOP, but it’s possible that it could be more successful if it followed a book like HARRIS. Who knows?  Hope you’re all doing well & thanks for reading, friends!

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Early versions of the main character and Vern.

I thought I’d post a few process pictures from the other picture book that I’ve been working on lately.  The book is tentatively called Vern Won’t Calm Down.  The only major difference in materials from this book as compared to STOP! is the main character’s hair.  I actually bought a small doll head, cut it up (to allow for my own character) and re-styled her hair to fit my character.  Super weird… you’ll see.  The dog, Vern, is made out of tin foil covered with clay and then painted with acrylic paint.  Like all of my other characters, he as acrylic “doll” eyes, too.

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Creepy cut out doll head, waiting for alterations.

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Slightly less creepy, beginning character development.

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Main character’s head, body, and two sleeping Verns.

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Verns: pre and post paint.

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Making the main character’s clothes… I love liquid stitch.

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Making Vern sit up.

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Vern sitting pre-paint.

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blackshooting

– A pashmina can make a lovely black backdrop (I shot a few different versions with different backgrounds)

– The shirt made out of nails is my 2-year-old’s koosh ball… some scissors, spray paint, and safety pins finished the job!

– The main character’s jeans are made out of my husband’s (now former) favorite sweatshirt.  For the record, one of our daughters stained it.  Got it?!

– It’s super hard to make 1 character look like himself when placed next to two other versions of himself.  If you understood that, you are also sleep deprived.

– The shirt made of feathers is actually made out of a tiny, fabulous boa that I found at a craft store.

– I shot all of the images during the girls’ nap time.  Both were sick with a tummy bug and I didn’t know how much (if any) time I’d get.  Thank you for the 85 minutes, ladies.

 

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This image addresses issues and related feelings a person with an autism, anxiety, or sensory processing disorder might have with clothing. Clothes might feel tickly (like feathers), too tight (like rubber bands), or painful/poke-y (like nails).

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what I'm working on tonight

nearly finished with the 3 versions of the main character… just some finishing touches and then shooting!

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skeletons

wire and clay skeletons that I’ll use to make 3 different versions of the main character for the “shirts” page

(photo credit: http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2012/05/fork-in-road-on-public-pensions-in.html)

(photo credit: UCLA Faculty Association)

The first image I created for this book was the “shirts” image. It addressed issues a person with an Anxiety, Sensory Processing, or Autism disorder might have with clothing. So, to make a long story short, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the image and now I’m back to square one… and there are a few different paths I could take.

1) Re-shoot using the same backgrounds that I used before (purple, elaborately patterned wallpaper with a wood floor)

2) Shoot using the wood floor and a black background

3) Shoot from the main character’s knees on up and position them “larger” and possibly off-center on a black background in post production.

I really like the look of the purple patterned wallpaper that I used before, but consistency is key in picture books. Will I be able to repeat (different) patterned wallpapers throughout the rest of the story? Do I want to take the readers’ eyes away from the characters? At this point, I’m thinking, “no.”  However, people usually get dressed in the mornings… would a black background be appropriate?  Probably not.  Do I want the entire book to be simply characters, with a few props, and simple white backgrounds to consume the entire book?  I don’t think so… but what do you think?  Would that be more powerful?  Would that get the message to the reader in a better way?  Let me know, you kind blog followers, you!

One of my main illustrative motto’s is: Keep it simple and make it powerful… above all, be intentional.

Time to get back to work… thanks for stopping by, Friends.

L.