Sketch a Day

That's what I have been doing - a sketch a day this week as set by my mentor on the NV SCBWI program, Priscilla Burris. The goal was to keep it fast and loose ... well I got caught up in a couple of the drawings, so I worked on those a bit more. I have to work 2 of them into finished pieces. Hmm. Which ones? Which would you choose?

Still in the grip of Monsieur Winter here .... if that Groundhog is WRONG!!

Now where did I leave that shovel?

Toot toot

aka The Wacky Brit.

Nothing new on the beside table. Did watch excellent BBC program (Beauty of Books) about children's illustration, funny thing was, all the illustrators were MEN. Hmm.....

Out with the old - in with the new

Christmas Morning: eating a clementine, wood fire lit, 'im indoors snoring with Sprout asleep in his arms. (Spoilt rotten that dog!). Horses have had their morning hay. Sun is shining on a snowy Maine and it is QUIET. This is how I like Christmas. No drama. No chaos. No mad cooking frenzy. Just peaceful and a little reflective.

This week I purged the studio. I sorted piles that had been spawning for months. I turned out cupboards and drawers. I filled boxes with useless stuff to throw out. Filed away interesting nuggets of scribbles and writings and notes from conferences. Banished dust bunnies. Took down old drawings that were no longer inspiring me and reveled in the bare walls which I know I will fill up with new stuff as it comes into my life. My fingers lingered over photos taken with new friends and old friends. Of business cards and postcards and book markers from those who have inspired me this year and I have been lucky enough to meet. Also from those I have met who are on their way and full of courage. (I wonder if they would be surprised to see their promo materials pinned on my wall?) Of little notes from other illustrators and writers. Brochures from museums I have visited and art shows seen. Even a couple of invitations from exhibitions of my own! All these touchstones reminding me I am not alone on this journey. In all I felt very like Jane Eyre 'cleaning down' Moor Cottage for the Christmas with her new-found cousins.

I tackled 4 boxes of artwork saved from the past six years. I sighed over the hours spent doing work that was not inspiring, and yet it helped to build our house. I discovered a couple of nuggets that might be worth revisiting. The 4 boxes became half a box of artwork that I felt worth keeping. The rest is for burning, a Christmas bonfire. It feels good.

So much for the old.

It's nearly New Year. I'm not much of a one for Christmas, but I like New Year and the promise it holds, the undiscovered and new opportunities. Already I am looking at the dates in my diary and relishing the prospects.

One of the new things is that the book I was working on for Freespirit Publishing is on pre-order!


Written by 14 year old Autistic Kid, Daniel Stefanski, it is aimed at any child or teenager (or adult for that matter), who may come in contact with someone suffering from autism. It is sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but always relevant. Please take a look! This would be a great book to give as a gift to your school or your library. Just want to say WELL DONE Daniel for writing this and Free Spirit for publishing. It was particularly relevant to me personally, because my childhood best friend's sister suffered with autism. Her behaviour was bewildering to me, even though I grew up knowing her, and this would have been a great book to have read back then.

Here's a couple of images from the book:

Also available to purchase now is Marta Moran-Bishop's sweet poetry book 'Wee Three' for which I did the illustrations, mostly in black and white inside, plus the cover:

Congrats Martha ... glad you got it all done for Christmas!

So two new things to celebrate right there!

This week I have been in submission mode. Submitted to several agents, this time as multiple submissions. Nice though it is to give exclusive time ... time passes so quickly and as usually time = $$. How long can you afford to sit and wait around while an agent gets back to you. Not too much. Well, not in my life anyway.

I have finally got around to sending out targeted samples to art directors. I had slated this to start in November. This means researching the publishing house's titles and style, seeing which is a good match for my work. Most of the year I have been sending a mass mailing of postcards, but I decided, with the advice of my mentor, (Priscilla Burris) to be more selective. Instead of a postcard I am making up a small 'booklet' of 5 images mailed in an envelope and held together by a wire and bead. It's quite nifty and I hope may catch the attention, but is time consuming. Art Directors must get so bored with the usual mailings, so I am trying something different. We shall see.

That's the news of the blog. My blog is almost a year old now, (64 posts this year) and I have enjoyed chewing the fat here. Maybe on the anniversary I will have an original artwork give away, so check back in the next couple of weeks.

Y'all have a lovely day, with everything you could hope for. And if it's not quite as you hoped, remember those with no hope and let's be thankful for what we have. (Which in our case is 2 juicy ribeyes, yum!!)

Season's eatings to you
with  love

aka The Wacky Brit

On the bedside table ... nope still nothing new ....

On Inspiration

Sometimes, like buses in England, everything seems to happen at once. Perhaps it is just because I haven't blogged for 2 weeks (due to gadding off to Hollywood) and there is a lot to tell. But I will do my best. First, here is one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever seen:

Mr Ashley Bryan, the closing keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Summer Conference (SCBWI). His poetry renditions were just AMAZING. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. I came home with his tones ringing in my ears, inspiring me to do more! Thank  you Ashley. And I am definitely going to take you up on the offer of a visit to your studio in Maine! I was lucky enough to sit next to him and chat during one of the sessions and eat dinner with him at the Heart and Soul Ball. But I do so wish that I had a photograph of him wearing my nodding heart headpiece, but we can't have everything in life!

The conference was just fantastic.Packed programme, a beautiful hotel, fun and interesting people, great weather. I do love this world of 'children's content creators!' For once in my life I am in the right place at the right time. Other speakers I was inspired by at the conference: Loren Long ... what a funny and lovely person (have you read Otis??). I got to sit next to him in one of the sessions too. I know there is a lot of name dropping, but it is so inspiring to be able to communicate directly with those who have done the hard work and are out there inspiring children! EB Lewis .. no words, because he is a smooth as silk and talent incorporated. Stood next to him at dinner also! (He declined to try on the silly heart headpiece ... you can't have everything.) Dancing with Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted writer), crazy lady! M.T. Anderson (what a singer!), Rachel Vail, Jon Scieska (Stinky Cheese Man) - funny, funny man, Stephanie Owens Lurie (Disney Hyperion Editor - great information on thinking like a publisher), Marion Dane Bauer had me in tears with her poignancy, Rubin Pfeffer (Agent) - great words. And so many others.

But the best part - consolidating friendships and making new ones. They say this is what it is all about, and they are right (these 'they' people.) Because when you are back in your studio or office or workshop, all alone, plodding away at the good work and the not so good, it is comforting that all over the country (and world) are those you are connected to by the thread of INSPIRATION.

We (me and my buddy Sheri and I am happy to say our friendship has survived a week in the same room) arrived a day early and we went to the J P Getty Museum. It was wonderful and fed our souls. What a beautiful building and gardens. Like a medieval castle rearing up from the hillside. All white granite and smooth surfaces. A labyrinth of rooms filled with exquisite work. Saw the Gerome exhibition ... what a talent and so prolific.

And here I am, back home in Maine. 'Im indoors held the fort while I was away and kept the menagerie (including himself, fed and watered.)

Right then, lastly, 3 exciting pieces of news from the world of the Wacky Brit!

1. The LAD (Lovely Art Director) and I have almost finished negotiating on the illustrations on the book on Autism. YIPPEE! Lot's of celebrating ... my first 'real' contract. I will begin the illustrations (it's a 42 pager) first week September, finals for Thanksgiving, so it is a tight schedule. They are all b&w and I will be doing the text by hand too. So stay tuned for more details as and when.

2. Just before I left the conference I received an email from a publisher in the North East! (YOU SHOULD HAVE HEARD ME HOLLER IN THE LOBBY!) Not too many details yet but they are starting up a new company and interested in my style ... oooohhh. So I am excited about this too, as they have done great books in the past. I will know more next week.

3. BUT MOST EXCITING! I have been accepted to be part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentoring Programme that begins in October 2010 until April 2011. You can read about it here. I will be working with PRISCILLA BURRIS, National co-ordinator of illustrators for the SCBWI and a prolifically published illustrator herself. So that means I get to go to Virginia City, NV in October for a meet up and the Nevada Conference. So you KNOW I am jazzed! I think this is just what I need at this stage in my career. Thank you, Priscilla, for choosing to work with me as one of your mentees!

Whew. OK, I am all out of news, and you are all out of reading. I am looking forward to my Brit friends coming to stay next week. We have many fun things planned and it will be good to have some BRIT TALK.

OH ... I have notes from the conference available ... if anyone would like a copy of the whole PDF, please leave me a comment or send an email. Here are a few snippets ....

Hopefully next week I will have some incriminating photos to post.

Right, that's it for now. A very excited Wacky Brit signing off and thanking you for reading along.


PS No new books on the shelf ... exhausted.
PPS No prizes for me in the Portfolio Showcase, but completely overawed by the talent, and congrats to the winners!