Monday, January 30, 2012

"Hello there, nice to meet you!"

That's what I say sometimes when I'm "scratching" the faces in a final art piece. Although I've already sketched out in pencil roughly what characters in the composition may look like, I never know for sure what final features will form under my
exact-o blade. For this new piece for a current client, publisher Augsburg Fortress, I needed to illustrate a congregation of people at a Lutheran baptism. So I'm conjuring and scratching up a nice eclectic mix of community here, and for one male figure, out pops Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers! And then here comes a friend's son! And then the lady who has the fabulous knitted shawls I sometimes see at the Co-Op! It is part of the magic of illustration, at least my particular practice of it. For certain jobs, set details are important for character's faces. But for other assignments, I love the process that allows this creator a surprise or two!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Randolph Rides Again

I always look forward to the Caldecott award announcement. It's a bright spot of news in the bleak of winter for a children's book illustrator. The 2012 Caldecott medal winner goes to A Ball for Daisy, written and illustrated by Chris Raschka (published by Schwartz & Wade Books).

I heard Raschka speak at Hubbs, the one-day children's literature conference held in St Paul, last February. His talk was as easy going and as affable as his illustration style. Wistfully, I listened when he talked of the line-up of great book projects he had in his studio, and unknown to even him at the time, A Ball for Daisy must have been among these works. I will look forward to looking and studying his lovely, gestural line in this newest member of the Caledcott winning family.

The Caldecott honor books chosen are as interesting and worthy to me, the best of the best for the year, and usually a couple of my favorites are among these. Grandpa Green, written and illustrated by Lane Smith (I am a closet lover of topiary!) and Me … Jane, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell are on this list. I was particulary touched by the latter's pictorial celebration of Jane Goodall's life. I once met Goodall when I was an anthropology student; her story is one I carry close to my primate heart!

So make it a point to find and share these books and enjoy their wonderful story telling achievements; telling stories through pictures is part of our DNA. Ride on, picture books!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

Monday will be the beginning of the Chinese New Year. It's the Year of the Dragon. I'm calling this my official New Year because I missed the whole front end of January and I have a need to start afresh.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated for the next two weeks. Some things I plan to do: 1) Greet my family with wishes of health 2) Give money in red envelopes 3) Eat cool foods (oranges are traditional; if you get a sweet one, then you are lucky in love) 5) Parade with lanterns on the 15th day.

An animal symbolizes each year under the Chinese calendar. What animal were you born under? I'm a rabbit- I'm supposed to be creative, kind and sensitive- I try to live up to this!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Observing a Birthday

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A mild January; late afternoon

A mild January,
late afternoon
(for Uncle Richard)

Winter sun laces through bare branches,
forging the steel light
edge of day
to the velvet hour.
Arching trees frame the eve
like medieval cathedral windows
(Chartres, Notre Dame, York, Cologne.)

Nearby a nuthatch sings his spare song of soltice,
full of grace and reprieve.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

This first stanza from Robert Louis Stevenson's beloved "The Land of Counterpane" (from his Child's Garden of Verses), has always enchanted me. It sets up a sick day as a magic land of comfort; fluffy pillows, endless cups of hot tea, piles of books and magazines close by, a loving parent just a call away. I remember a few of these days growing up, lucky was I to have a mother (British at that) who believed in giving the body time to rest and recover. My childhood Land of Counterpane included hot water bottles, a world of Barbies, marmite toast and a curled-up cat at the end of the bed! But to start the New Year, like I have, with a nasty virus that has driven me under the covers, has not been ideal. I'm countering my pain all right, a throat that feels quite shredded, with Throat Coat and ibuprophen and sleep. So many projects to get to; it's a frustrating January so far! But I'm on the mend. Today, I felt like a couple hours in the studio, so I sign in here, just to say hello to 2012 and share one of my favorite poems. May yours be a healthy start!

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

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