Got Crayons?

For me, there is something about a fresh box of crayons that immediately brings me back to my childhood and days spent coloring with my sister.  It was a sensory experience: the smell of new crayons is so unique and the texture of the wax as it spread color on the paper.  Pressing hard to make dark lines or accents, a light touch to shade areas.  How can such a simple invention bring so much pleasure?

When we were done with the OLD CRAYONS…my sister and I melted them down into an empty soup can and used the wax to make our own candles.  Waste not, want not.  Now there is something else you can do with those unwanted crayon stubs.

Now through AUGUST 2nd, AC Moore Arts & Crafts stores will recycle your broken and unwanted crayons. IN partnership with the Crayon Initiative, they’ll donate them to children’s hospitals and keep them out of landfills.

To learn more, visit: http://www.Parade.com/crayons     

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Shake Off the Winter Blahs.

 I recently visited the Art Museum on the Princeton University campus. It was great for three reasons. First of all, it’s free. There aren’t many places of culture and enlightenment nowadays that can boast that. And, the collection has something for everyone.  There are sculptures and pottery over 4,000 years old, paintings done by ANDY WARHOL, and everything in between.

The third reason it was a great visit is because where else but an art museum provides peace, quiet, and contemplation along with some magnificent objects of beauty? Being in such an environment frees the mind and allows all sorts of creative energy to enter. Writers who are struggling with writer’s block might find inspiration looking at any painting or sculpture, and stories begin to spring into mind. WHY did the artist choose such a subject? WHAT IF the subject were alive today? WHAT would she/he have to say?  The possibilities for story are endless.

Let the kids go on a SCAVENGER HUNT, searching for specific art pieces throughout the day.  Many museums have programs geared specifically for children.

So, if you feel as if you’re in a rut and need some CHANGE to jump start the muse, visit the Princeton University Art Museum – or ANY art museum and let your imagination run wild. Take notes, snap photos and just doodle in a notebook. You never know, it may be the start of something wonderful. artmuseum.princeton.edu

Didn’t someone say “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

Don’t Throw That Away…Make Folk Art!

There is no question that we are a throw away culture.  Just stop by any neighborhood on trash day or on any college campus during moving in or out day.  Many of us don’t see value in reusing everyday objects once their purpose has been served.

But thankfully, there are also some unique artists who use everyday materials in their art and create some amazing things as a result.  The definition of FOLK ART is:

“artistic works, as paintings, sculpture, basketry, and utensils, produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill and marked by such attributes as highly decorative design, bright bold colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning.”

A more simple definition is: Turning what other deem as junk into works of beauty, whimsy and fun.  

Haitian folk art iguana made from recycled steel drum.

Haitian folk art iguana made from recycled steel drum.

There is no end to the creative expression found in this art form.  Every medium is used, from glass, metal, paper, wood, stone, shells, clay.  Visit the Coral Castle, a Bottle Village, or the Magic Gardens of Philadelphia.  These are just a sample of some amazing folk art installations throughout the US.  Here are some more:

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/10-unforgettable-folk-art-environments

You might also want to check out these roadside attractions made from recycled materials…including a house made entirely from beer cans.

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/photos/8-roadside-attractions-made-from-salvaged-materials/must-see-places

Have you ever tried your hand at Folk Art?  Or seen some amazing examples?  Tell us about your favorites.    

"stash" doll made from fabric scraps and vinyl film.

“stash” doll made from fabric scraps and vinyl film.

 

 

Deborah Zemke Talks about Illustration, Writing and Her New Book.

My first picture book, The Way It Happened, came out in 1988. Though long out of print, I still read/show it during school visits to demonstrate how we “read” pictures, and also because it’s fast, fun and a good read aloud. The curious thing is that the story progresses through a narrative line and through speech bubbles, which is also how I wrote/pictured my newest book, Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures. That didn’t dawn on me until recently when I was reading My Life to second and third graders. It’s funny how much you discover about a book when you read it aloud even after you’ve spent a year creating it. So from my first book to my last, I’ve come full circle—though maybe it’s a widening circle as My Life is a 134-page chapter book with close to 200 illustrations.     mylifecover

 

I’m thrilled that My Life has been so well received and am simultaneously at work on the second (finish art) and third books (writing/sketching) in the series. The second book is based on the first story that I wrote, though completely and utterly revised. My agent suggested I develop that story into a series and that’s when Bea Garcia truly emerged—to expand beyond a single story line meant painting Bea with a fuller brush, as it’s her humor and imagination that drive the stories. As the Kirkus reviewer noted, There isn’t anything real or imaginary that the endearing Bea cannot draw; she straddles fantasy and real life…and even more gratifying to me… Readers will find inspiration to write, draw, explore, and imagine.

 As I tell kids, I love words and pictures and what happens when you put them together. I love letters, too, and have done a series of doodle books in which letters of the alphabet are turned into pictures. It still seems like magic to me that you can turn an A into an Alligator!      mylifewishAs author and/or illustrator, I’ve produced over 40 books, from poetry to humor to picture books to drawing books. I enjoy illustrating other writers’ stories. People sometimes ask if I wouldn’t rather just do my “own” books, not understanding that these are very much my own books!  Illustrating a book is not visually depicting the words, it’s visually telling the story. Imagining other people’s words and worlds takes me places I wouldn’t go on my own. I’m currently having lots of fun sketching out the second book in Robin Newman’s Wilcox and Griswold mystery series.  

You can visit Deborah at:   carrotcake_cover03

www.deborahzemke.com

www.beagarciabooks.com

Zemke, Deborah ds

Zemke, Deborah

 

 

 

 

April Chu: On Illustration, Art, and Picture Book Success.

I had the pleasure of meeting picture book illustrator APRIL CHU at the 2015 American Library Association Convention in San Fransisco (ALA).  We shared a table and signed books for our publisher CRESTON BOOKS. Since then, April’s books have been earning recognition for the beauty and distinct quality of her illustrations.  Here she is to talk about her process and how the books came to be.

  1. Tell us a bit about your background and art training.

I studied architecture at UC Berkeley and worked as an architect for over ten years before I decided I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. I never had any formal art training, but I don’t think I went a day in my life without doing some sort of doodling.

2. What brought you to illustration?

I’ve always loved drawing but I didn’t know how to channel that into something I can do professionally. Then in 2009 I took a children’s book illustration course at the UC Berkeley Extension and I fell in love with the whole book making process. A few years later, I decided to pursue illustration seriously.

3. Two recent books you’ve illustrated – A VILLAGE BY THE SEA, and ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE –  are with CRESTON BOOKS, which happens to be my publisher as well.  How did you end up working for Creston?

I met Marissa Moss at a book party that she was hosting. She had just started up her press, Creston Books. I brought along my portfolio and she thought I’d be a good fit for a manuscript she had just acquired called IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA (Muon Van, author).   Village Cover (1)

I read the story and knew instantly that that was the project for me! After completing the artwork, Marissa offered me another book. This time it was an intriguing biography about the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Byron Lovelace. Working with Marissa and Creston Books has been such an amazing collaborative effort. I hope there are many more collaborations to come!

 

  1. The books mentioned have been earning a lot of praise and well-deserved starred reviews. How has that changed things for your career?

It has been great! I am usually working on my artwork alone and I only really get feedback from my editor and my husband. So once the book is released into the world, it’s such a relief and wonderful feeling when it’s welcomed with such warmth and positive attention. As an illustrator, the reviews and feedback definitely help me stay in the business.

5. I adore your illustration. They are so richly textured and three dimensional.  I feel like I can touch the drawings and everything will come to life.   Tell us a bit about your process.

Thank you! Before I begin sketching, I will read a manuscript many times so that I can do some initial brainstorming. For nonfiction stories like ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Laurie Wallmark, author) there is usually some extensive research involved.    Ada Cover

After brainstorming and researching, I begin working on the thumbnail sketches, then the book dummy, and then the final sketch. This process can be quite lengthy with lots of revisions along the way. To create the final art, I scan the final pencil sketch into the computer and color the image digitally.

 

  1. What’s a typical work day? 

I usually wake up whenever my 6 month old wakes up, which is usually pretty early. I take care of her and then have a cup of coffee and something healthy for breakfast. I try to sneak work in while she naps which can be half an hour at a time or a few hours at time.

12717661_1009706785742341_2311830562856379838_n

My husband helps out when he’s home so I can get some extra work done, but usually I am pretty exhausted by then. Basically my work day currently revolves around my daughter! I am still getting used to the new mommy routine and I don’t really have a typical work day anymore.

 

  1. Any words of advice for would-be illustrators?

My advice would be to have a good website with a solid portfolio. And try to get your work out there and don’t be afraid to network! You never know who you are going to meet. It could lead to your next job.

8. What’s next?

I am working on my next picture book about America’s first female detective, Kate Warne. The story is written by Marissa Moss and the book will be published by Creston Books and released Spring 2017. Then afterwards I am illustrating a sweet story about a boy going on a fly fishing trip with his grandfather. This book will be published by Abrams and released Spring 2018. When I am not illustrating, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family.

April Chu Headshot (2)Website: www.aprilchu.com

Twitter: @AprilChuART

Let in the Birds! 3 Dimensional Paper Craft

Today’s craft is inspired by all the colorful birds that are back in town thanks to spring.  It’s a simple craft that even the youngest kids can do with a bit of direction.  Everything you need is in the photo here:

Matierials for bird paper craft: colored construction paper or card stock, scissors, stapler.

Materials for bird paper craft: colored construction paper or card stock, scissors, stapler.

Cut One Inch strips of paper (11 inches or longer) from 5 assorted colors.    Place them on top of each other and staple together at one end.  This will be the birds beak.  To form the head, pull the bottom strip straight, and then gather each additional strip a bit looser than the one below it so it forms a head as shown in the photo.  Staple together.  Do the same thing to form the body, except the loops will curve downward rather than upward.  Staple together.  2015-04-11 02.07.42See photo below:  

To make the tail, cut the tail pieces into thin strips, stopping at the staple.  Curl the strips by wrapping them around the pencil.  To form feet and wings, cut one inch wide strip about 4 inches long and fringe them as shown in the photo.  Staple in place.  Roll up a small piece of paper and slide it into the head portion for an eye.  See photo below:

2015-04-11 02.13.13To hang the bird, tie sting under the mid section and under the hear portion and bring the two strings together in the middle as shown:   2015-04-11 02.17.30You can vary the materials as you like.  Try using real feathers for the wings and pipe cleaners for the feet.  Make a MOBILE of colorful birds to decorate for a party or to make a room look like spring! 

Why not bring the birds indoors and let them fly!

Origami Bunnies…1…2…3…Easy!

When I saw this beginner origami project online, I couldn’t resist posting it.  ORIGAMI is the Japanese art of paper folding.  If you haven’t already tried your hand at it because you thought it might be too difficult for young children to learn (or for some of us grown-ups…myself included), this project is a perfect place to begin.

All you need is some clean squares of paper.  The nifty video below will show you the steps to create these adorable BUNNIES.  2015-03-04 23.20.41

Just in time for spring!  They make great party favors, table decorations,  greeting cards.  HOPPY SPRING!

http://www.redtedart.com/2016/03/02/easy-origami-bunny/