Monday, April 30, 2012

Flickering my art on Flickr

Bare with me as I try and add my Flickr account to the side bar of my blog. When I can (there seems to be a programming glitch right now), I'll be able to share with you a rolling, changing portfolio of recent finished works. Meanwhile, you can get a preview here!
Spring in Japan, 2012blackbirdluna moth a certain vehicular behaviorWhere Do Birds Live? OystercatchersUniversity of Iowa Press, 2010
Fawn and violetsA Prairie Valentinemousedetail of Japanese SpringPeacock

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sweet Workshop

Back in the studio after a week in the Northwest. My eyes are adjusting to the bright prairie light, after all the dense green Pacific lush.
Part of the reason for flying to Seattle was to attend a Western Washington SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. A roster of top-notch editors, agents and authors filled the faculty, but my big pull was taking an illustrator's workshop with Melissa Sweet, one of my favorite illustrator/authors. Ever since becoming aware of her work (The Boy Who Drew Birds, River of Words, and most recently Balloons over Broadway), I've adored her collaged watercolor style and fresh color palette.
Last Friday afternoon, several illustrators gathered together with a pile of collage-able materials (fabric, papers, magazines, etc.). Melissa was a gracious, engaging presenter and soon she had us in her world of semi 3-D creation. Many beautiful, everyday objects inspire Melissa's work. If she loves it and it can be glued down, it's going to be part of her art; buttons, snippets of old photos, maps, textiles, old book jackets. She is a recycler extraoridinaire. She's a lover of old-type faces, and a connoissuer of shape and color. A philosophy from a mentor, to make something new by lovingly vandalizing something old, informs her entire process.
As I listened to her, I wrote in my notes "Pinch me- this is Melissa Sweet." It was then our turn to try collage ourselves. We explored using quilt-like squares from all the workshop participant's art samples. I soon found myself with a really boring grid piece, unable to get free and "loosen up" as Melissa says collage does for her. I was exercising design muscles not used often enough.
I had brought some great old photos picked up at an Iowa auction years ago to share and work with. After my practice collage, I used a photo of a couple (circa midwest, late 1800's) as a starting point. I visualized the place this couple was from, a grassland inhabited with plains birds, wild winds and new beginnings. Added a little room for text. And voila. Satisfaction.
The other attendees shared their work and I loved the diversity in our pieces. Some of us had to puzzle through thinking differently in layers and textures. Others were born to this mixed medium, to stunning results. The basic elements of illustration, of balance and color and individual style certainly came into play. We all left with new tricks in our illustration bag, and a few Sweet reminders of a creative afternoon. What a great event!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Illustrations in giant full bloom!

Last summer, I worked on a project that involved many illustrations from the Tallgrass Prairie ABC book, and new ones, too. Now this work is part of the main lobby and children's area exhibits in a new natural history museum in Manhattan, Kansas. The Flint Hills Discovery Center opened it's door April 14th, and now interprets the beautiful native prairie (similar to our own Iowa Tallgrass) in a lovely, spacious facility. My work was enlarged into a big mural. You can see it on the mezzanine that surrounds the lobby. Don't let 8 foot-high Greater prairie chickens scare you off!

Here's a photo of the mural taken by Kansan studio Szel Photography. It's the first I've seen of the finished interior. Looks fabulous! I can' t wait to go down in early summer to see the place in person.

Thanks to the Szels for letting me post their photo:

More information on the new Center:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Around the Studio

Sometimes a group of objects or a scene or an image will captivate solely on how its color vibe speaks to me. I'm alway on the look-out for a good palette. I was pulled (no pun intended) by this cache of heart-shaped magnets recently. I like their honesty in how each hue related to one another; take one away and something seems missing from the spectrum.

You are what you color.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Animal Soup

A recent project had me creating a cover for a Opera/Classic music CD that included 26 animal images! It's a bit like a strange zoo collection. My favorite is the little wart hog. Bottom left. When the CD is launched, I'll post on the details.

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