Wood Burning Tool Giveaway!

woodkit Hello and Happy Valentine’s Day! Steve is out of town so I’ve torn my studio apart in an effort to clean out a bit. Before Christmas I tested something for Walnut Hollow, and they sent me this “Creative Versa-Tool” wood-burning kit… but I already have one! So I’m giving this away. And, while I’m at it, I might as well give a self-study online class to go with it (Wood Burning for Mixed-Media Artists). Click HERE for those details. (If you’ve already taken the class, enter anyway… you can gift it to a friend if you win!) Please leave a comment below for a chance to win these two things. I will pick a winner randomly tomorrow, Sunday, February 15th at 9pm PST. (Another 1.5 hours to enter for a chance to win Fred Lisaius’ “Winter Watercolors” online class, which begins Monday! Click HERE. Also, I have put up more originals on etsy this evening. Click HERE for those. Thanks!)

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Winner was #24, Arly!

Arly wrote: “Thank you for generously giving me a chance to win!”

Watercolor Paint with Fred! Class Giveaway

wwatercolorblog Hello! I wanted to let you know that Fred Lisaius (our wonderful watercolor teacher) is beginning his last class of his “Painting Through the Seasons” series on Monday! If you haven’t met Fred before, take a look at this short video where he talks about his art and his life!

Seattle Artist Fred Lisaius from Silly U on Vimeo. And here are a few recent watercolors by Fred: fred1 fred2 fred3 If you would like a chance to win Fred’s class (see details HERE), please leave a comment and I will pick a winner randomly on Saturday night, 2/14, at 9pm PST (if you have already signed up, we will refund your class fee… yay!) Good luck, and please tell your friends!

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Ha! The winner was #113 out of 114 entries:

Rita Barker said:
I soo enjoyed Fred’s video…I bet he is a wonderful teacher!

Congrats, Rita!

My Brain on Tired


How are you doing today?

I’m in one of those states of discombobulation that often comes after a trip. (I still owe you Day #3 of the SCBWI conference, I know!)

All is chaos. In my rush to get out the door nearly two weeks ago, I left everything in shambles… and it’s still that way. And then, there’s the work back-log, and trying to decide where to start. Should I do the dishes, put away the art, answer emails? How about a blog post. I guess that won. :D

I have been noticing the past few days that I have felt down or overwhelmed or sad, and I KNOW it’s because I’m just tired (this comes in middle age… ah, this again!). However, it doesn’t make the feeling pleasant!

I’ve been doing little things to try to help, though.

The first was to spend time with my grandchildren yesterday… each and every one (Liam, 3; Ethan, almost 2; Ellie, 5 months) are so beautiful and wonderful and sweet. I gave Ethan a bath and we read books and ate lots of dried fruit; I picked Liam up from preschool, and when he asked to go to Grandma’s House we made a date to do that Thursday afternoon, just him. And Ellie? Giggles when I move her arms a certain way!

Next Steve and I were starting to have a difficult conversation about business-y things and I said it probably wasn’t the best time to talk about it (me being so tired, etc. — again, middle age wisdom at work, folks!) and went and took a 3-hour nap. I woke up less tired. ;)

Finally, this morning I took some time to write in my journal, which always feels like a dumb thing to do when I have so much “real” stuff to do, but in the end calmed me down enough to actually be able to make a start on something; in this case, a blog post about feeling weird in your skin.


I hope I have cheered you up.


And I hope you are having a better day. Thank you for reading, and if you are feeling like me the past few days, I suggest baby steps. It seems to be working as I’ve now finished ONE thing on my list.

Time to pick up pillows off the floor now!

SCBWI 2015 Conference: Day 2

Doodles while taking notes.


Here is a re-cap of my (very long good) day at SCBWI NYC!

I woke at 10am by a hotel-staff knock at the door, and unfortunately slept through all but the last 10 minutes of author Anthony Horowitz‘ excellent talk. (I believe it was excellent.) He ended it with “Don’t believe anything I say. No one knows anything.” and “Write it, enjoy it, believe in it.” So sad I missed this.

Next up was a publisher’s panel with:

Justin Chanda of Simon & Schuster (“We have to write the books we want to write because we don’t know what will sell.”)

Beverly Horowitz of Bantam Delacorte, Random House (“We need to get little ones to commit to their imaginations.”)

Laura Godwin of Henry Holt (“This is a great time to be an artist or writer of picture books.”)

Stephanie Owens Lurie of Disney-Hyperion (“Without the reader, a book isn’t complete.”)

These four had a lot to say and the main takeaway for me was that the editors and publishers are approachable… the last thing I wrote in my notes was “It’s still just people.”

Next I went to a smaller “breakout session” with Viking Art Director Denise Cronin. She had a lot of good things to say… the main takeaway for me is that “collaboration is key” when creating picture books. It’s a “many-cook” process including the author, editor, illustrator, designer, art director, publisher.

My favorite session of the day was by Jessica Garrison, senior editor at Dial Books for Young Readers. She was entertaining and smart, and we had a lot in common: she had a cold (I have a cold!), and she’s 35 years old (I was 35 years old!).

Jessica spoke about 7 “rules” of children’s picture book making and why we sometimes break them. The “rules” included things like keep books short, make it kid-centered, should have strong characters, wordless picture books are difficult, there should be a “takeaway/moral”, and the artwork should be emotive and expressive.

She then showed examples of beloved and best-selling books that broke each of these rules to great effect. Some examples included “Easter Cat,” which is an 80-page long picture book, “Press Here” which has no main character (or, the reader is the main character), and “Dragons Love Tacos” (“To read it is to love it,” but just a romp, not takeaway really).

As SCBWI attendees we are allowed to send her stuff in the next 6 weeks and she will give feedback… a huge bonus for being here (thank you, Jessica).

Her parting words to all of us, “Be that kid.”


Author/illustrator Herve Tullet spoke again (“Press Here” and “Mix it Up”). I enjoyed hearing about his journey to making books (at 30 he became an illustrator but had a problem: “I’m not a good drawer. [laughter] This is not funny at all. I’m still not a good drawer.”). :D

He said it was “a great discovery to understand that his book could ‘live.'” He then read some of his books, in which he just lit up the room:


And he ended with the sweet, “I love the bébés, because they know everything.”

The last speaker today was Kami Garcia, co-author of “Beautiful Creatures” for young adults (and solo author of many others). The story of how this first book came together was really interesting (it involved her best friend, her high school students, tacos, and a dare). I enjoyed it.

The day ended with another portfolio showing time:


While waiting near our portfolios, I was happy to meet another Seattle illustrator, Amy Hevron. She was fun to talk to, and then she reached over and grabbed her postcard to give to me, and I realized that her portfolio had been my favorite from last night! Her work is awesome (see it HERE). I predict she will win the Portfolio Showcase (last night’s showing was judged; award ceremony is tomorrow).

And finally, we all had a buffet dinner/gathering and I found some other Seattle peeps. Fun times!

SCBWI 2015 Conference: Day 1 Illustrator Intensive


Grand Hyatt Lobby: A Jaume Plensa sculpture is decked out as “Harry Potter”  ______________________

This weekend I’m attending the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) New York Conference 2015. Today was Day 1. Today’s Illustrator Intensive was fun! Author/illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger spoke first with her session “Finding Your Voice: Storytelling with Words and Pictures.”

I resonated with a lot of what she said: That she gives herself “rules” for each book that she must adhere to, that we need to love the books we’re making, and that she employs different art styles depending on what the book and text dictates. And, of course, I was right at home when she showed a photograph of a piece of wood, in which she had found a bear in the design (Blobs!). I found a dogfish:


Next there was a short Editor’s Panel with Nancy Paulsen, Neal Porter, and Christy Ottaviano (all of whom have their own imprints). They all seemed to be wonderful people, passionate about children’s books. I was especially proud when my friend Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw’s book “Same, Same, But Different” was featured by Ottaviano! Congratulations, Jenny!

Next all 200 of us were set to the task to storyboard a 32-page book! It was so quiet while everyone worked hard to finish in time. After lunch, six storyboards were shown and discussed by the above editorial board. They joked that the theme of this year’s conference was “monsters and penguins.” Here is a detail of what I worked on:


The things that came out of that talk were that “endings are always hard,” “don’t overstuff books,” and that it is “always a challenge to keep [books] from being didactic.” Also, “problems with story are an everyday thing,” “develop a thick skin,” and “be fearless.” :D

In the afternoon we got to hear from two author/illustrators: David Ezra Stein and Hervé Tullet (aka in France as “The Prince of Preschool Books”). Both were delightful human beings! We even did a collaborative drawing exercise in Tullet’s session — “flowers”:


My favorite quote by Tullet: “I don’t want to be a painter. I want to be a painter of my books.”

Phew… I’m tired! But between 9-10pm I will go back to the ballroom and view as many portfolios as I can at the Portfolio Showcase!

So that’s it for Day 1!

NYC Sparkly Get-Together


On Tuesday we had a small Spark! Get-Together and it was one of the most special evenings I’ve had in a long time. Thank you to Peggy, Gina, John, Jason and Denise for joining Steve, Lynn and me, and a special thank you to the awesome Jason Poole for composing a special Spark! song just for us!

And here are just a few pics: a selfie of Steve and I, and a Grand Central Terminal “crack”!



Happy Hour + Grand Central Terminal Art Tonight! Join us!



Lynn Whipple and I would love if you could join us tonight in NYC!

We are going to be at Naples 45 this evening from 5-7pm (Happy Hour)… at 7pm we will set you off on a Grand Central Drawing/Art Assignment… and then we’ll gather around all the goodness before we say goodnight (around 8pm).

Everyone is welcome! Please join us! We would love to meet you!

When: TONIGHT, 5ish-8pm
Where: Naples 45, 200 Park Ave (Grand Central Terminal)

(Presented by Spark.)



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