Friday, August 29, 2014

Red-winged blackbirds, lilies and end of summer

Here's a piece I've been wanting to do for awhile. It's time to begin saying farewell to summer and these two symbolize the season for me. 

Also, my studio, with freshly cleaned surface, with coneflowers beyond the window.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Nesting

Found a hummingbird nest that have blown out of a tree on my walk this morning. 
Such magnificent tiny architecture. So strong yet so comfortable for those 
thimble-sized fledglings. I'm glad I didn't have to construct a house with my mouth for our baby!




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Tales of Harry Potter

A few years ago, I read aloud “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to our daughter, who then inhaled the following six books on her own. I felt a bit unfulfilled, having never finished this classic series myself, so last winter I embarked on reading the rest, a chapter or two every bedtime. I triumphantly finished Book Seven a couple weeks ago and I am still missing Harry's world! I enjoyed the endearing characters, fantastic settings and plots, but as a naturalist I was also captivated by Rowling’s inclusion of natural history in her tales. Her owls may carry mail scrolls to the ends of the earth, but they are based on real, species-specific owls. And of course, each advanced wizard or witch can summon a patronus, a powerful and protective animal spirit. They don't choose the animal patronus, it is revealed only when they first succeed in creating the charm. In the books, Harry and his mates each have distinct creatures; Harry's a stag, Ron's a Jack Russell terrier, Hermoine's an otter, Luna Lovegood's a hare, etc.  It makes for the most magical moments. I'm wondering on what my patronus would unveil as...

I hope Harry Potter sustains a readership for decades. I feel it may be one of the last classic series shared and loved so globally, as reading for youth seems to be less of a passion that it did even a few years ago. If I ever discover I am a witch born of Muggles, I'd create a charm to preserve the joy of reading. The most powerful magic I can conjure until then is to continue to help create a good picture book or two!


Friday, July 25, 2014

A little sketchy

A few days on the "North Shore", Lake Superior, Minnesota and time to limber up and do some sketching.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blog Tour!

Earlier in the summer, I was invited by friend and award-winning children's book writer Jackie Briggs Martin http://www.jacquelinebriggsmartin.com/ to be part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. An image of a jolly double-decker bus crowded with all my favorite bloggers- writers and writer/illustrators all- came to mind. Blogs are great vehicles in which inspirations and observations travel widely. No passports needed, carry on only a creative mind, focus time and a love of writing and children's books.

You can find Jackie's blog and her post on the blog tour at: http://www.jacquelinebriggsmartin.blogspot.com/2014_06_01_archive.html

Here are my replies to the tour's four questions:

What am I working on?

A couple commercial illustration jobs are juggling for time on my board right now, along with the sketch stages of a current picture book project for Minnesota Historical Press. Writing is confined at the moment to blogging and my long-hand (private) journal. I have a file full of stories in progress though and try to fledge at least one manuscript and book proposal of my own every few months.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m in the non-fiction camp, and I strive to write in an approachable, friendly style, factual but not didactic. I’m not sure how my voice differs from others. I hope I write like the writers I love to read.

Why do I write what I do?

It’s a mystery for us all, isn’t it? One of my favorite playwright and screenwrights, Horton Foote (Trip to Bountiful, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tender Mercies) said something like you don’t choose the material you write about; it chooses you. I think I write best not about what I know in my head but what I know in my heart.  

How does your writing process work?

My brain has been described as a junk drawer, with many ideas haphazardly rolling around inside. One day, I’ll open the drawer and something will pop to the surface that interests me. It is usually one sentence or one image that I happen upon organically that evolves into a story. For instance, my first narrative, creative non-fiction picture book, My Wilderness (Sasquatch; Spring 2015), started with a child’s remark I overheard at an art exhibit. One moment, I had no story; the next I did. After that initial spark, I flesh things out with research and a lot of BIC- butt in chair- keyboard time. I write and edit a manuscript in its entirety before I sketch or do story boards. I like my illustrations to sit in “the green room” (what actors and entertainers call the waiting room before an actual performance begins) until the words are completely ready for them. It’s a joy to get to mesh pictures and words together. And hope what my heart has to say in words and pictures is what kids would like to read about, too.

Next stops on the tour? I've tagged two friends in the field to hop on the tour. Both are illustrators primarily but phenomenal writers as well.  They each write lively, smart blogs. Julia Kelly and Jennifer Black Reinhardt will add their colorful commentary in the next few weeks.

Thanks Jackie, Jennifer and Julia!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt is a nationally known award-winning illustrator whose artwork has been published on numerous calendars, books, greeting cards, even needlepoint kits and collector plates! She lives in Iowa with her handsome husband, two teenagery teenagers, and a big white poodle.  Her blog can be found at http://jenniferblackreinhardt.blogspot.com/

Either in words or fabric and thread, Julia Kelly illustrates the mountains, canyons, deserts and people of the Four Corners Region where she lives with her husband, daughters and too many dogs. Her blog can be found at http://moonflowerstudio.blogspot.com/


This is from M. Sasek's classic This is London. Sasek is one of my favorite author/illustrators. Maybe someone on that bus is a writer who just came up with a great idea for a picture book! 




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rowing away

Making progress through the waters of a busy summer. Saying farewell to my Alaska book with one last illustration. I've put away the research boxes, stowed the original art, filed the sketches, etc. It's a bit like letting go of a child as they begin their lives, independent of your control (although a hell of a lot easier on your blood pressure!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

For Cindy

I think of you tonight,
as the fireflies light the way on the gentle July breeze,
guiding you safely home.

Cindy Heims
1961-2014