Sunday, March 29, 2009

Collage Done Right

Now that I've got my mind on collage, I seem to see it everywhere. Of course, collage and children's books have gone together for a long time (think Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats, and Leo Leoni). But I've recently gotten my hands on two beautiful picture books that combine collage and painting in a really exciting way.

Wow, is this book fun to look at. Shelley Jackson uses the perfect combination of fabrics, photos, stitching patterns, and painting. My favorite is the illustration depicting the main character trying to "think all kinds of chicken thoughts" so she can sneak up on Miss Hen. We see her squinting out of one eye at the chicken while photos of corn kernals, worms, eggs, corn bread, and corn cobs swirl around her head.

Then there's "A River of Words." This book absolutely took my breath away. In the back pages, Melissa Sweet explains how she turned to a box of used books she bought at a library sale for inspiration when creating the collages for this biography of the poet William Carlos Williams. Among other things, she uses star charts, spelling books, and prescription pads in her collages and often paints right on the covers and end pages of those used library books. Combined with Melissa's quiet, simple paintings, the result is brilliant. No wonder this book won a Caldecott Honor.

Finally, I was in Barnes and Noble the other day when I bumped into this book:

Now, Louis Armstrong is kind of a hero in this household, so I was so excited to discover that he was a fellow collage artist! The yellowing Scotch tape somehow fits perfectly with the cut up photos of jazz life and newspaper words. Satchmo's love of life and of music comes through loud and clear.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Words and Pictures

Here's a portion of another collage I did in Laura's class (only a portion because of my dinky scanner). The assignment was to put the character we created earlier in a setting and have that character show a different emotion. It's amazing how this simple assignment got the wheels spinning, churning up story ideas. After several false starts, I've got a plot outline I'm really excited about now. The hard part is coming up with the words to turn that outline into a rip-roaring good story. I usually do alright building the tension toward the climax of the conflict, but it's SO tricky to create a convincing and satisfying resolution. Still, I'm loving the challenge -- so far.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Adventures in Collage with Florence Finnicker

I've been taking this fantastic class with author/illustrator extraordinaire Laura Montenegro. Laura has a wonderfully sneaky way of pushing you outside of your comfort zone in order to find wellsprings of creativity you didn't know you have. We've been working with collage, and it's a blast! One night in class I created this character who I'm naming, for the time being anyway, Florence Finnicker. I've been working on a picture book story based on her which may or may not go anywhere. If anyone's interested, maybe I'll post updates on Florence's whereabouts in upcoming days.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Tree Pose

Well here it is, my first actual blog post! I'll keep it short and sweet. This is an illustration from a beginning chapter book I'm writing about two best friends and their adventures. Hopefully one of their adventures will be to FIND A PUBLISHER! In this chapter, Cleo (the cat) convinces her friend Copper (the dog) to try Yoga. I won't give away the ending, except to say it involves Copper chasing his tail.