Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wishing You All the Sweet Delights of the Holiday Season!

Sometimes I think the anticipation is the best part. However you celebrate this season, I hope you treat yourself to sweet comforts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Do kids have penpals anymore? When I was a kid, I was penpals with my cousin in Canada. I never knew when a return letter would arrive, and it was always such a thrill when it did!

When my son was in second grade, his class was assigned penpals from a class in rural Maine. It was very cool (although it made my son really want an all terrain vehicle to ride around on after that). I think middle schoolers and high schoolers should have distant penpals too. Then they'll figure out that Facebook isn't all that. (Although it's great for keeping in touch with Canadian cousins -- hi Lori!)

Monday, October 24, 2011


Long time no post! Seriously, I think this is the longest I've gone without posting since I began this blog 3 years ago. It's been a crazy 3 months, but I'm finally ready to return to the blogoshpere, now that life has settled down a bit (just in time for the holidays -- eep!) This is modified from an illustration I did for a Korean publisher called Happy House. (Isn't that a great name for a children's publisher?!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

So Long, Space Shuttle!

Well, despite the iffy weather, the last space shuttle launched safely at 11:29 this morning, marking the end of an era. When I wrote "Blast Off Day!" way back in (gulp) 1990, the space shuttle program was in full swing, and there was high demand for books on the subject. Now I see on Amazon that you can buy a used copy for 58 cents! I had so much fun writing this book, contacting people at NASA to learn how astronauts eat, sleep, and work in space.

I've written over 20 educational books for kids, on subjects ranging from animal camouflage to the Roaring Twenties to the changing seasons, and I can tell you there's no better way to get a clear understanding of a subject than to write a kids' book about it. First you have to delve deeply enough into it that you're sure you have it clear in your own mind, and then you have to distill it into words that curious young minds can digest. It's a great challenge and great fun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peace Mural for Chicago Cares

Fun and scary ... scary and fun... those are the two words I'd use to describe this latest project. A while back an organization called Chicago Cares contacted me and asked if I'd design a mural for a Chicago elementary school and supervise a group of volunteers who will help me paint it for their 18th annual Serve-a-Thon, which takes place this Saturday, June 11th. I'd never heard of this event, but I've since found out it's a HUGE operation! Thousands of volunteers arrive at Soldiers Field bright and early and then are bussed to schools all over the city that need a little extra tender loving care.

Well. The paintings I usually create are measured in inches, not feet, and they end up in the pages of books, so if you don't like the look of 'em, you can close the book. This mural is going to be 12 feet by 8 feet, on the front of a school! Gulp.

The theme I was given is "Internationalism and Peace," and let me just state for the record that I am totally down with that. Now, these volunteers (about 8 of us total) will only have 4 hours to paint the pre-drawn mural, so I decided to go with a coloring book kind of simplicity that can be added to if time permits.

Fingers crossed, prayers said, offerings made, I hope it goes well. When I think of those school kids on a day like today, when the heat index is 103 degrees, sitting in classrooms with no AC, it REALLy motivates me to do a good job. I'm sure the finished product will look different from this (we're painting on bricks, after all) but one thing's sure ... it'll be colorful!
(P.S. the words say "peace" in Polish, Swahili, Urdu, and Mandarin.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pink Monsters!

These are some fun little characters I developed for a puzzle project recently. I discovered that I like drawing monsters!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Let's all do what we can. (Get it? Can?)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Draw, Draw, Draw

"Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worth while, and it will do you a world of good."(Cennino Cennini)
In an effort to follow the wise advice of Mr. Cennini, I've decided to change my habit of always carrying a book to read whenever I anticipate having to wait somewhere and instead bring my trusty little sketchbook. Here are some results:

This was done at the barber shop. (Why can't I ever get my kids on the same haircut schedule?)

And I shared the waiting room at piano lessons with this little chap. I didn't know how to illustrate the sticky goo all over his face and hands from the lollipop, but trust me, it's there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hello Spring! A Digital Experiment

I haven't posted lately because I've been feverishly playing with my new Wacom tablet. Wow, is it exciting! As an avowed Luddite (I still don't own a cell phone) I am surprised by just how much I'm loving digital art making. I owe a huge debt of gratitude for this to Will Terry, whose online tutorial I can't recommend enough. I learned about Will's tutorial from fellow PBAAer Marion Eldridge (Thanks, Marion!) and I like it so much, I also purchased his general tutorial on Illustrating Children's Books. I'm almost halfway through that one, and it's enormously helpful. Onward!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Illustration Friday: "Sweater"

This little drawing is actually a twofer: it fits the Illustration Friday theme of "Sweater" AND the PBAA blog's theme of "Wooly." Does this make me lazy or efficient?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Secret of Kells

I finally got around to watching "The Secret of Kells" last night. The story is very ethereal, and I wonder if young children would like it, but the animation is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

"I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places." Wonderful thought.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Illustration Friday: "Surrender"

When my boys were little, they often had to surrender their weapons. By the way, this was created digitally with my new Wacom tablet! I'm taking baby digital steps. (As always, click on the image for a larger view.)

Monday, January 31, 2011

From the Sketchbook

I always seem to see this woman and her dog at the same place and time once a week as I'm driving by. I took artistic license with the matching pants and doggy coat.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ape on the Moon Tutorials

I recently listened to an interesting interview with illustrator Alex Mathers on the Escape from Illustrations Island podcast. (If you don't already know about EFII, it's a fantastic resource for all kinds of inspirational and instructional info.) Mathers is a very enterprising fellow, with lots of pots on the burners. Among them is Ape on the Moon, a website devoted to contemporary visuals arts. Among the many great facets of this site is a collection of tutorials. Have I mentioned what a sucker I am for tutorials? I highly recommend the Bigfoot Poster Tutorial. Very cool.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Sketchbook Project - Finished!

Just in the nick of time, I've finished my Sketchbook. Some of you may have seen my earlier post explaining The Sketchbook Project and my plan for my submission. Basically, I enlisted the help of a first grade class to come up with ideas for the theme "In Five Minutes..." You can see my sketchbook online here. I had a great time experimenting with different media, and when I brought it in to show the kids last Friday, they were so excited! What a fun group they were to work with.

I can't wait to see the whole collection when The Sketchbook Project Tour comes to Chicago! All 28,000 sketchbooks will be on display at the Hyde Park Art Center from July 14 - 17. So be there or be square!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

The new year is like a gift, waiting to be opened. Will it be just what I always wanted? I hope so. Speaking of New Year's, my agent, Nicole Tugeau, has made a resolution to keep the T2 blog more active this year, and one way she's doing that is by interviewing her illustrators, starting with me! You can read my answers to her five questions here.