I took the image I just posted today down for a 5 minute fix, and now the Internet problems we are experiencing right now are making me unable to repost it. Sigh. It will be up again soon.
I've posted my very first digital piece to my portfolio gallery! I debuted this piece back in November at Con-Volution, but wasn't entirely satisfied with a few things. After shelving it for a couple of months, I brought it back out, made the needed tweaks, and it's ready for the world.
I enjoyed painting digitally, and I find that I tend to be a bit looser when I work this way. I already have my second digital piece in the works, but since it has 42 characters instead of 2, it might take a bit of time. :)
I've also decided to use this piece to launch my Society6 page. I will slowly be adding more pieces to this site so check back soon to see some of my favorite pieces appearing in the near future.
LBCE is just 2 weekends away! How time flies!! The buttons have arrived, the greeting cards are ordered, and I still need to figure out what prints I'm going to be bringing.
Also, we shall see if I can get anywhere near getting my mini-story project completed in time to showcase there.
I made a sign out of painted foam core and leftover matte board from old framing projects. I sewed all the elements together with twine! The price tags are cut up bits of scraps that I test colors on when painting. I'm doing what I can to repurpose things to cut down on costs, since I have to frame at least 1 more piece of art.
I posted a small new piece on my illustration page. I did this piece for another coworker's nursery. It is unofficially a portrait of her two white cats, but mostly, I wanted to have fun drawing a cardboard box.
Lots of longer-term projects in the works, so my posting has been a bit slow. Never fear, because I have more nurseries to decorate. Upcoming nursery challenges will include a nautical theme and an outer space/rocket ship theme. So many nurseries, so little time!
While I thoroughly enjoyed doing my first book review last month, I've been thinking for a while about a slightly different type of review, centered around the visuals of a picture book based on a single spread, the "perfect pages" of each book that capture the essence of the book. I will do my best not to include spoiler pages.
So I will start with a bang! ...or an exclamation!
Book: Exclamation Mark
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Publisher: Scholastic Press
There was only one possible choice for me when I read this book. While the entire book is sheer genius in its simplicity of design and complexity of concept, I need not go further than the title page--excuse me, title SPREAD--to find my perfect pages. You can't not love an 18-inch exclamation mark! This is honed simplicity at its finest, and it is carried on through the entire book, to the very last page that you won't want to miss.
The author-illustrator duo uses a make-the-rules/break-the-rules placement of both words and pictures to ensure that the reader vividly experiences exactly what the characters experience as the story grows. This is a story teaching both punctuation and individuality in a boldly visual way. Parents can happily read it to their children knowing that it is educational as well as it is fun!
Today I get to participate in my very first picture book blog tour! I'm super excited, so without further ado, the books!
Book Title: The Wooden Sword
Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Illustrator: Carol Liddiment
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Summary: A shah wants to learn more about his people and so disguises himself as a commoner and explores the town, where he meets a poor but happy shoemaker. Because of the shah’s interest, the shoemaker undergoes a test of faith and wit that will take him to unexpected places.
The story’s origins in Afghanistan provides a unique window into a society not often read about in American picture books, as well as a meeting and meshing of different faith systems. This retelling blends well with folkloric picture books from other regions of the world. Although it would have been nice if the main characters had names instead of just titles, this is an interesting tale with a positive and upbeat outlook on life.
The illustrations throughout this book are richly colored and patterned, providing a nice visual immersion that parallels the story. The group scenes have background characters that are very stiff, but there are moments of quiet emotion and depth caught in the eyes of the main characters. The very first scene with the shoemaker and his wife is a prime example. Later, the use of vibrant red and turquoise heightens the drama of the unfolding story.
The repetition of certain elements throughout the course of the book feels slightly drawn out, but it is easy to picture children calling out the repetitive elements along with the person reading the story aloud. Anybody interested in a well-rounded multicultural picture book collection should happily add this title to their list.
Book Title: The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street
Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Illustrator: Francesca Carabelli
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
From the jacket flap: There are lots of cats on Ben Yehuda Street, but it is the friendship between a little grey cat with a red collar and a fluffy white stray cat that brings two lonely neighbors together.
While I’m not necessarily a cat person, the quirky characters on the cover of this book immediately drew me to the book. The cats are all around and lots of fun from the very first page, and the two human characters are distinctive. The story sets a good pacing for the not-quite-by-chance encounters of the two humans until something goes awry. The pace picks up and, well...you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens. Both of the human characters are quite emotive throughout the course of the story, but their different personalities allow them to reveal their quirks and flaws in vastly different ways.
The only minor hiccup I had in reading the story was right when the excitement starts to happen. The point-of-view jumps between cats and humans in the space of a few sentences and the flow of the story stutters a bit before continuing smoothly until the end.
The illustrations fit well with the story, matching quirky cats and quirky characters. The white tufts of hair and white moustache of Mr. Modiano fit his grumpy but lovable character very well. I possibly would have liked some of the other, wild cats to show up a bit more in the outdoor scenes in the story, but that could have just as easily distracted the reader from the main story.
This is a good book for both cat lovers and people who think they are not cat lovers.
Interview with Ann Stampler:
G: While I have done a bit of research and have a slightly better understanding, I have to ask: why Ben Yehuda Street? This story feels like it can take place anywhere.
A: In this book, I tried to reflect daily life in Tel Aviv. The "can take place anywhere" aspect of the story was intentional. So often, when we think of Israel, we think of huge political issues, of nuclear threat from Iran, and of the state of the peace process. I wanted to depict the Israel I saw the summer we lived there, a beautiful place where ordinary people lead ordinary lives full of small, meaningful, personal events, private struggles and triumphs, with pets they love, and grouchy neighbors, and daily walks -- lives to which the parents and children reading The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street could relate easily and fully. And with a picture book, I was able to rely on the illustrator to create Israel-specific art to enhance the story.
G: Have you had an opportunity to visit Ben Yehuda street?
A: Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have Ben Yehuda streets, and I have had the privilege to walk both. The one in Tel Aviv, where this book is set, lies between the main shopping street, Dizengoff, and the ocean. It is a tree-lined street with stores, restaurants, and apartments, busy from morning to night.
G: How many cats claim you as their own? Other animals?
A: My husband has a mild allergy to cats, so alas, our family does not include any kitties. We do have a wonderful, 15 year old rescue dog, who sits with me when I write.
G: The story visits some of the daily activities of Mrs. Spiegel. What are some of your daily activities as a writer? What is your workspace like?
A: I write in spiral notebooks that I cart around with me. At home, I write mostly on a loveseat in my bedroom looking out at Los Angeles through the foliage of a wooden canyon. I write virtually every day, revise virtually every day, and connect with readers, bloggers, and book people with whom I share interests and know through various aspects of social media almost daily. Sometimes I Skype with book groups, and sometimes I visit classrooms, libraries or community centers to do book presentations. I read every day, unless I'm in the highly pressured part of writing to a deadline (I write novels as well.) when I can be so preoccupied with the book I'm working on that I do little else.
G: Do you knit like Mrs. Spiegel does? If so, what are you currently knitting?
A: I don't knit, but my Hungarian Grandma Mary -- who, before I was born, owned a beautiful white, blue-eyed cat named Bootsie -- did. And I heard many stories about Bootsie playing with my grandma's many balls of beautiful, bright-colored yarn when I was a child.
G: Do you enjoy fish like Mr. Modiano and the cats do? If so, what is your favorite fish?
A: I associate fish with Israel, a tiny country that lies along the seacoast, because Israeli markets and restaurants have many varieties of delicious, fresh fish We ate several kinds of fish I hadn't tasted before in Israel; my favorite was a form of talapia called St. Peter's fish.
I've added a new art to my illustration gallery. It was based on a sketch I did back in January that i particularly liked and wanted to see how much further I could push it. It ended up being a very interesting study in technique and style.
Here are the two pieces side-by-side:
There are definitely elements I love about them both.
Original sketch: graphicly simple. The tugboat registers very distinctly, without any excessive shading/highlighting and the monster is large, but the angle of his face makes his mouth a smile as well as a chomp, so he is friendlier from the get-go. The toned paper offers an interesting take on all the colors, and there is something interesting about the ocean having very distinct marks of color.
Finished illustration: vibrant, dynamic angle, interesting textures. I love the tentacles and I achieved my goal of distinct edges and losing edges in some parts of the sea monster. The glow in the water is very nice as well. I like the sky, but in combination with the water it is VERY blue. The candy was added as a last-minute touch after a suggestion by twitter art friend @CarlShinyama. With the new angle on the mouth, the kraken was looking too scary and this added an amusing, off-the-wall element to the picture that takes it to a new level. My least favorite part would probably be the smoke stack, which is not as boldly black as the original sketch.
Which one is your favorite?
My coworker is having a baby, so I made her a custom piece of art for her!
Check it out here: http://nightengailart.com/portfolio/#/woodlandnursery/
It even received a stamp of approval from the toughest of art critics:
February is over! I admit I am breathing a sigh of relief, because trying to figure out WHAT to draw every day while still trying to challenge yourself with things you haven't drawn before for 28 days straight is tough! Don't believe me? Try it next year with me when I do it all again. I'm just glad I chose the shortest month of the year!
This challenge was a great success for me. I have at least 3 projects that I will be developing more as a direct result of these sketches. My favorite, by far, is the crowd of animals that showed up at days 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 14! They feel like ME, they were a lot of fun and I kept wanting to draw more! There were 43 of those animals in total, so with that evolving sketch alone, I exceeded 28 faces in 28 days. I don't feel bad that some days the faces were very quick, or more graphic than drawn, or kinda sloppy. I think that adds to the project, since it's supposed to take you out of your comfort zone anyway.
If I have to pick a fave that is NOT the menagerie of animals, I think it's the knitting squirrel on day 16. He's cool.
I was going to draw more animals today, but on the way to work I saw a guy I couldn't pass up the chance to draw. Black hoodie with a red hood, iPod earbuds, and lots of hair, half black, half blond. All I could see of his face was nose, mouth, chin. But even with the long hair, he had distinctly male features.
I'm REALLY trying not to over think these faces, and think more graphic and flat then I normally work. I need to pull more outfit ideas from period dress, but I think this is a good start to expand on the concept from yesterday.
Also, not quite sure where the la luchador hippo came from, but I went with it. And don't get me started about the clown...
In addition to my rendered animals, I'm starting to work on some simpler animals that I can work on in illustrator with funky colors. This may be the first guy I create.
I watched part of Macrocosmo again today. It rocked! So, you get a bug!
Started drawing a pirate saying "argh!" but ended up with this guy. Think my favorite part is his hair
I tried and erased 3 versions of the dragon dog (dwoggon?) and then I ended up going to a clean page and started fresh before I got the begging posture just right.
Update: apparently, I CAN'T count OR write. In my defense, it was early. Unedited post below.
Apparently I can count and wrote 19 twice. But I still have posted the correct number of faces.
Tried to draw a fox this morning, but instead it felt more like a bunny/deer. Started to explore head shapes then wrote down the animal each shape felt like immediately after. Got fox on the third try :)
She started out as a blind scribble on the page. I tried to keep the energy and movement of the original lines. And try out a new hairstyle.
The faceless faces! Lots of them! Doodle for the nephew who asked for ninjas and superheroes.