On My Mind

-thoughts of a wife, mom, author, illustrator, juggler, toy designer, teacher, camp director, ...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Author/Illustrator - Julie Rowan-Zoch


 How long have you been creating art for children?

I don’t know if I ever thought of myself creating art specifically for children. I don’t see illustrating picture books as just for kids. But I hope my illustrations will inspire kids to create, and always have!

How long have you been writing for children?

I have worked as a graphic designer, but I have thought about making picture books for a long time, and began to scribble in earnest in 2011.

Can you share a bit about your publishing journey?


Where do you do your artwork? 

Wait, let me shoo the dust-bunnies first! Ahh, good thing for me you asked: just found a missing sock as the d-b’s scurried under the sofa! I don’t have a studio space in our small home, but here is where I do most of my artwork on paper. Otherwise I use the computer for digital work.

Please tell us about your illustrations. Can you describe your creative process for us? How would you describe your style?

I am not sure I have a style! I suppose a friend could identify my work, so maybe I do! I’m a graphic designer, and a lot of my work is what one might call graphic, but my pencil drawings are not ‘graphic’ to me! (Although I recently attempted some abstract landscape sketching on a weekend in Rocky Mountain Nat’l. Park:

I’ve heard that’s what publishers want: one illustrator, one style. But just as an editor will look for a match, I need to be able to feel that the style of illustrations are right for what I write – and as of yet that can be quite varied! I have been writing an awful lot since the 12x12 challenge started, over 35 ms drafts, not including pockets full of idea-Schnipsel (German for scraps of paper). If I felt I was not able to illustrate one of my stories well, I certainly would be open to pass it on to another illustrator!

Recently I sent this competition entry in to my local SCBWI chapter for the Fall Conference poster. The theme is The Future is Now:Surviving and Thriving in Today's Children's Book Market. Even with this kind of thing I look for words to give me inspiration. I browse the dictionary, the thesaurus, look for idioms or quotes. Sooner or later, there is a spark and I run with it. In this case I remembered a word I had illustrated for illustrationfriday.com: heights. The girl’s eyes had what I wanted to convey: http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/illustrator-friday-heights/. I actually like the energy from the sketch better! I completed the final using markers as a first layer, then colored pencil and graphite pencil for contrast/depth.

Which comes first - the story or the illustrations?

I don’t think I can separate that. I think, I see visuals of characters in my head, they talk and I get to know their story as well as their appearance. I might begin to write down their story, or begin with the drawings, but they were born at the same time. As I participated in NaPiBoWriWee I thought I’d try a different approach: with no preparation I sat before a blank word file (except for #7, the idea appeared in my head months ago!). I shook my brain cells and let a story ‘happen’. Each draft is quite different from the rest. Let’s see if I can better relate with my thoughts: “Day One, page one...one.....one is the loneliest number.....“ And that is how the story began! Okay, so that was easy, AND I really like what came out, but I saw all that happen in my head. So you tell me – what came first?

Julie can be found at:

Please leave comments and questions for
Julie Rowan-Zoch
in the comment section below.

Come back every Wednesday all summer to see the
Featured Author/Illustrator of the Week!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Author/Illustrator - Helga Pearson

How long have you been creating art for children?
It really depends on what you call 'art' but I've been a creative little monkey since the very beginning. This picture of me at 4 yrs old, shows one of my more spontaneous body-art creations.

My younger self (the one of the left) was thinking, how fabulous would it be to use charcoal and cover my entire body from head to toe? Not satisfied with just this, I then enlisted the boy from next door as my next subject and proceeded to the paint him in charcoal. Ah, the hubris of the young creative mind.! My mother thought this was hilarious, which is why this photo exists, the boys mother was however not so easily amused. Not even when I explained to her that we were meant to be soldiers seeking our fortune, or a fight, whichever came first.
I only started taking drawing seriously when I put aside my wildling ways, picked the leaves and twigs out of my hair and donned a uniform to go to school. When I was a bit older, my father came home one day with nibs and ink and for ages I became obsessed with ink pen illustrations as well as lithographs. I never quite got the hang of colour, not until much later and not for want of trying, believe me! Without any formal training, I tried every pigmented art medium I could lay my hands on but the results were always  disappointing. I eventually stumbled upon oil pastels and finally found a medium I could connect with.

How long have you been writing for children?
Not long at all! *laugh. It wasn't until I signed up to the 12x12 challenge that I even thought about writing as well as illustrating children's books. I'm 34 now and if I'm honest, I'm only at the very beginning of my journey. I keep reminding myself though that Julia Child only started cooking when she was 37 - anything is possible!

Can you share a bit about your publishing journey?
I spent most of my twenties working in the advertising business. I started out designing leaflets for a national supermarket chain. I soon realised however that art and leaflet advertising are very different things. When it came to placing hundreds of products and accurately pricing them, my ability to focus was zero. I moved on to help out in the market research and strategic planning departments, which was a lot more interesting. I learnt a great deal working in advertising, specifically how to use design programmes like Photoshop and Freehand which has really come in handy over the years.
After I left advertising I tried a few different things but the one I loved most was being a bookseller. I'm a bibliophile of epic proportions, so working in a book store and sharing my passion with others was a perfect fit for me. I had also been producing fine art pieces with oil pastel in my spare time but although I adored illustration, I really didn't believe I was able to produce them myself. The trouble was, I had convinced myself that all illustration came from the imagination and try as I might, I couldn't produce work straight out of my head. Once I discovered the truth however, that most illustrators use a great deal of reference pieces for their work, it all kind of fell into place. I'm still learning everyday but at least now I feel like this is something within my ability to do.

After I had my son, I stopped working full-time and signed up for a illustration course with Mark Mitchell. He has been such a inspiration as a professional illustrator and invaluable as a guide and teacher. I recommend that anyone starting out with a desire to illustrate sign up for one of his courses. It was through the people I met on this course that I was inspired to buy a digital Wacom tablet, now a lot of my illustration work is done digitally.

Where do you do your artwork? Would you describe your space?
I have a small studio... ok, it's our spare room and laundry corner, but let's not quibble. Would you like to  see it with our without the overflowing ironing baskets?

Please tell us about your illustrations. Can you describe your creative process for us? How would you describe your style?
My process seems to be refining itself more and more with every passing day. I start out with thumbnail sketches for the entire story and then tackle each thumbnail individually and flesh it out. First off, I'll look for as much reference as possible for the elements I've included in my thumbnail and from this, I might do a few character sketches and then start drawing out the full-sized compositional sketch. Lately, I've been doing a lot of my drawing with my digital tablet, as well as my colour work. I'm not sure if this will always be the case, I sometimes miss the tactile yumminess of working with oil pastel and paper.

This composition comes from the picture book dummy I'm currently working on, called 'Goodbye Mom'. After writing the story I got down to quickly scribbling thumbnails for every page, these are just a few of them.

I then focused on 'Tea with the Lion' two-page layout and started looking for reference that might help me draw this.

Using these reference images, I drew up a few Character and Reference Sketches.

I start putting together the final composition sketch that shows the placement and look of everything I want in the final illustration

Once the final sketch is done I decide on the palette or colours I want to use in the final piece. I did this by referring to finished pieces I had already done for the book and making sure the colours I used didn't stray to far from these for continuity purposes.

My first attempt at a digital colour composition for this layout was somewhat disastrous but I learnt a great  deal from it. I'd just gotten my digital tablet and was still in the process of finding my feet. I tried again after making a few adjustments, I feel the second attempt is actually stronger because of all the mistakes I made initially. (6.First Attempt 7.Finished Work)

Which comes first the story of the illustrations/sculptures?
For me, the story has always come first. I adore anything that tells a story, a picture, an object, a song – it's the essence of everything for me. Perhaps it's why I love illustration above any other form of art because it's sole purpose for being, is the story. How cool is that? Methinks pretty cool.

Helga can be found at:
Twitter: @helgapearson

Please leave comments and questions for
Helga Pearson 
in the comment section below.

Come back every Wednesday all summer to see the
Featured Author/Illustrator of the Week!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

New Picture Book - One Day I Went Rambling

Terri Murphy, illustrator for One Day I Went Rambling, stopped by my blog and answered a few questions about illustrating and publishing a picture book for a traditional press (Bright Sky Press).

Terri is the SCBWI-IL Illustrators Network Coordinator and one of the first professional illustrators that I met in the writing and illustrating for children world.

Her latest book, One Day I Went Rambling (see below) is about a little boy who sees the creative potential of everyday odds and ends he finds. His friends don't see it but slowly they come around and join in the fun.

Terri,congratulations on your new book release. Can you tell us a little about the process of how this book came to be? 

Thank you, Alison. I was lucky to have illustrated a picture book with Kelly Bennett previously with the same publisher, Bright Sky Press, so when they acquired the One Day I Went Rambling manuscript, Kelly requested me as the illustrator. Happily history repeated itself.

Did you get to meet or speak with the author during the illustrating process? 

Although Kelly and I know each other and have met before, we don't communicate during the illustrative process. It's not that I'm opposed to it, but there is a certain implied trust if you allow an illustrator to have free reign. If I had a question or was unclear about what she was trying to communicate, I would call her, but such was not the case. The publisher did show the sketches to Kelly before I went to finished art, and in addition to ooohs and aaahs, she suggested I include Zane's mascot, a color-changing chameleon, on every page in a hide-and-seek way. I had the chameleon on most pages, but all pages was definitely a good call!

How much time did you spend on the illustrations from sketches to final? Can you explain a little about the back and forth process of the book coming together? Were you given illustrator notes at the beginning or did you have more freedom to create?

I was given one illustration note, a suggestion really, that the "smooth brown vest" Zane finds could be a grocery sack. And so it was! It took about 5 months to complete, from receiving the manuscript, to creating sketches, to final art sent to the publisher. The interesting thing about working out a visual story line is that ideas come throughout the process. Everything is not clear-cut in my mind from the beginning, but more of an ebb and flow of possibilities. Whenever I go on school visits, I tell children the two most powerful words in creating something is "what if." Some of the "what ifs" I went with are "What If I hand-letter all of Zane's imaginative pronouncements and use them as a design element? What if I give him a mascot? What if I box all the friends' unimaginative reactions to his treasures and drain the color?"

Here is a look at a sketch and color illustration from One Day I Went Rambling.
Thanks for sharing these, Terri!

Now that we have heard a bit about your exciting new book, can you share a bit about your other books?

I've illustrated several books, but the one I mentioned above authored by Kelly Bennett, "Dance, Y'all, Dance," is a peek into a yesteryear romp-and-stomp dance hall that twirls the reader through several country dance steps and family-fun situations.  Kelly writes about themes that resonate with me as an illustrator, and I await to see if that muse strikes a third book in our future!

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog and share a little about the process of illustrating and publishing a picture book.

Head on over to her BLOG to enter to win a signed original illustration of the chameleon from the dedication page, a color changing cameleon, or a signed copy of the book!

Terri Murphy can also be found at her website www.terrimurphyart.com 
Twitter:  twitter.com/terrimurphy5
FacebookFan page

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Author/Illustrator - Jennifer Thermes

How long have you been creating art for children?

Professionally, for almost 19 years, but I've been drawing since I was a little kid.

How long have you been writing for children?
As with the art, I've been writing in one form or another my whole life. (There are many angsty pre-teen journals in my cupboard!) I started writing seriously for children after my illustration work started to take off, at the suggestion of an editor who was interested in my work.

Can you share a bit about your publishing journey?

I began my illustration career by creating illustrated maps for various publications. My first book came about through an editor who admired my map art, and suggested I try writing stories. We went back and forth for about a year on an idea that was ultimately rejected, but in the meantime I'd also been working on a book about a very old house and the changes it had seen over time. That became my first book, When I Was Built.

Where do you do your artwork? Would you describe your space?

I have a studio at home. (I love calling it a "studio!") In reality it's a small room crammed full of two drawing tables (one for standing and one for sitting), my computer, bookshelves– with sketches, art, and random inspiring stuff taped to the walls. Usually there's a cat (or two) and the dog hanging around, as well. I'm a big fan of cozy clutter.

Here's a picture of some of the final art for my most recent book, Maggie & Oliver, or A Bone of One's Own, hanging in my studio. It took up most of the wall space. (Don't judge the mess on the flat file!):

And here's the book!:

Please tell us about your illustrations. Can you describe your creative process for us? How would you describe your style?
I work in pencil and watercolor, and pen & ink with watercolor for my maps. For illustrations, I try to picture the overall look in my head, while making lots of thumbnail drawings. Thumbnails are one of my favorite stages of a project, because there are so many puzzles to work out, and so many possibilities. Once the ideas have been narrowed down it's a matter of enlarging the sketches and refining them, and then doing the final art. I'm not sure how to describe my own work… I'm probably too close to it to have perspective!

Here's the beginning of a sketch. My thumbnails are usually much messier!
Final sketch:

Transferred to watercolor paper, with the first layer of pencil:

And beginning to lay in the color here:

And the final piece:

I did a series about creating this piece on my blog, if you'd like to read about it in more depth:

Which comes first the story of the illustrations/sculptures?
It depends on the idea. For me, stories arrive in all different ways– from a doodle, a phrase, or a word, or an image that pop into my head. After the initial inspiration comes the work of figuring out what the story is actually about. I like to bounce back and forth between the words and the pictures as the story takes shape.

 Jennifer can be found at:
Twitter: @jenthermes

Anything else you would like to add about your art, your writing, or your road to publication?

I'd just say– find the thing that brings you joy about writing or drawing, and treasure it. Have fun with your art. Take pleasure in the process!

Please leave comments and questions for
Jennifer Thermes
in the comment section below.

Come back every Wednesday all summer to see the
Featured Author/Illustrator of the Week!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author/Illustrator - Cynthia Iannaccone

What where your early years like?

As a child I carried around a picture book, ready to hand it over to any available adult to read out loud. During story time, I remember sitting on the floor looking up at our librarian, mesmerized by her voice, the way she held the book, showed the pictures, and turned the pages.

My mother complained I was reading too many horse stories and not enough classics like Little Women. Well, at least I was reading and my teacher agreed.

Once I took a book from my parent's collection and secretly read Thunderhead by Mary O'Hara. It had very few horse pictures, but enough to grab my interest.

When I opened my father's books I couldn't understand why he would want to read a book with not one picture, just solid blocks of tiny type.

I guess I was a visual learner. I worked with clay and drew all the time.

What kind of writing and illustrating do you like to do?

I write and illustrate picture books, and poetry.

Do you have any published work?

Two electronic picture books, I Am Me and An Elephant Named Fiesta and I recently collaborated with eight other illustrators. We illustrated an old Mexican folktale for an educational publisher.

How did you get started in writing and illustrating?

I was accepted into the medical illustration program at collage but my advisor thought I'd be happier in a more creative field. He suggested I go into children's book illustration. I'm so glad I listened to him.

Can you describe your creative process?

The story idea comes first. Sketches help to push it further. I bounce back and forth between words and pictures, then complete the final art in gouache on arches hot press. Sometimes I work with other mediums.

My first portfolio was done with Photoshop, but I didn't like the process. I still use Photoshop to resize, etc. but paint traditionally and exhibit.

Where do you create your art work?

I use the living and dining rooms as studio space. The entire house is actually studio space shared with my husband who is also an artist and our five pets; two cats and three dogs.

Cynthia Iannaccone can be found:

Illustration website: www.cynthiaillustrate.blogspot.com

Twitter @cynthiai 


If you have questions or comments for Cynthia Iannaccone, please leave them below.

Come back next Wednesday (and every Wednesday all summer long) to see my Featured Author/Illustrator of the week.