Little Miss Muffet VS a Raptor

Little Miss Muffett vs a Raptor

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Drinking her Diet Sprite.
Along came a raptor,
Who came there to catch her,
And ate her in one giant bite.

The discussion usually happens around every October. As Halloween approaches, my students and I often enjoy chatting about all things scary -including scary movies. This is the nice thing about the art room, as long as we continue to work on on our project and speak respectfully, we can all enjoy a conversation about neat stuff like that. Anyway, a fave question of mine is, “What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?” Some kids like the made-for-kids type of Halloween movies like Spooky Buddies (in which, btw, I played a hypnotized mom in a Queen of Hearts costume -see my post Doodling on the Movie Set, from way back) and some kids love to brag about the questionable horror movies that they likely sneak-watched on Netflix.

So when I’m asked what the scariest movie is for me, I usually get (understandably) laughed at because, well, it’s Jurassic Park. The first one. Since almost every kid on the planet has watched the Jurassic movies and lived to tell the tale, I can see why they find it funny that I am so wimpy about a dinosaur movie. But when I first watched Jurassic Park in the movie theatre, remember that scene with the puddle water vibrating from the thunderous step of a tyrannosaurus rex, well, I wanted to go home right then. But I hung in there… and for what? Because that later scene with with the raptors was so much worse! You know, that raptors-chasing-the-kids-in-the-kitchen scene. Yikes! Ever since then, raptors have scared the heck out of me.

This is why I decided (and perhaps, for cathartic reasons) to start writing a series of dark little nursery rhymes, all starring at least one raptor. And why not? Don’t stark contrasts make for intriguing scenarios? Not to mention, some very interesting illustrations could come out of it. And so, Four & Twenty Raptors was conceived.

Over the school year, I cobbled together over 30 little rapto-rhymes, created one sample illustration (Rub-a-Dub-Raptor), and a few months ago, sent a query off to a literary agent in New York. I didn’t think anything would come of it because, admittedly, it is a pretty weird concept for a kids book. But I received a response the very next day. My first query! The agent said he loved it…..So, at this point, you are thinking this was supposed to lead to a sun-shiny happy ending, but alas, it didn’t as that particular agent did not pan out. A bummer, yes, BUT, that agent’s initial response was super-encouraging for me to keep trying. And I will, folks, because who wouldn’t want to see Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater get eaten by a raptor (serves him right anyway for sticking his wife in a pumpkin shell).

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Art Teacher, Art Studio, & Art Lessons!

Well, folks I went out and did it. I got my dream job teaching art to kids! No more background acting (it was fun but it soon wore me out). For the past five years, I’ve been teaching visual art part-time at Arts Umbrella, a non-profit art school in Metro Vancouver. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve neglected posting these past few years. I mean, I really got into the teaching! It’s awesome. For a while, I was teaching 7 classes in 5 different locations. Each class required a new lesson plan for each session; Fall, Winter, Spring & Summer. So I was busy both in the classroom and on my computer -and me the slowest keyboarder on the planet. Thank goodness for Pinterest!

However, I have since made the decision to cut back my work hours and am now working 3 days a week teaching 3 classes (and assisting one extra). I have been more than happy to offer up my former classes to my younger colleagues who not only have the energy to handle numerous classes but I know they could sure use the extra money.  So what have I been doing with my extra time? Well, I have been setting up my new studio in my garage for one. It’s actually the Studio Version .02 as it had been my studio many years ago, and then not my studio for about 4 years, and now it’s my studio again. It’s a long story.

Anyway, I am a happy camper as I now have a space where I can make a creative mess again. This includes: jewelry-making, painting, drawing, and parade float designing (will explain that one later!) I can also write out here without anyone bugging me. So here’s to more creative output this year. I guess I better also renew my SBWI membership again and join an illustrator group, pronto.

Me and my Vancouver Tap Society classmates on the night of my first tap recital! I am second from the left and the cute gal with the glasses is my daughter, Amanda.

I almost forgot, I also practice my tap-dancing in my studio. Yes, at the grand old age of 55, I took up tap dancing. I even performed in a tap recital last summer with the Vancouver Tap Society. Do what scares you the most, I say.

Anyway, I better move on with the best bit. I now have dozens of terrific art lessons and I’d like to share them with you! Many of the lessons are hand cobbled by yours truly and many are also inspired by or created by other wonderful art teachers & parents who generously share their lessons and ideas online. It goes without saying, that I will post the links to the sites of these creative art teachers & parents if a lesson has been perused from their site. I presently teach three age categories: Mom & Tot classes for ages 2-5, a 6-8 class (grades 1-3), and a 9-12 class (grades 4-7) so that’s how the projects will be organized on my site. Just click Kids Art Lessons on my banner to find them. I will try to share at least one or two lessons a week. This week, I have added a colourful George Littlechild Beautiful Horse project for the 6-8’s and a Claude Monet-inspired lesson for the 2-5’s. Please check them out!

I am so glad to be back! 🙂

Info About Arts Umbrella:  https://www.artsumbrella.com/

Vancouver Tap Dance Society: https://vantapdance.com/

 

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Traditional vs Modern Colour

When I bought my watercolours in Italy almost  two years ago, I was really, really excited. I had been told by an artist friend about the paints sold at, Zecchis, an art supply store that sits tucked away on a centuries old street called Via Dello Studio in the heart of Florence. The acacia honey and gum arabic watercolour paints were created from original Zecchi recipes and made with the same materials used by pre-Renaissance and Renaissance painters. So when I purchased my paints at the tiny cluttered store (think Olivander’s wand shop in Harry Potter) I was thrilled. And, yes, I was very pleased with the handful of tiny scenic watercolour paintings I made during the rest of my Italian trip. But I have to say I was not as enthralled with the paints when I applied them to kids illustration. To me, the colours looked washed out and sad. Though I admit its possible I am just not a very good water colourist. I also now realize that my aesthetic has been formed by the times I presently live in. A time where any colour you can imagine can be purchased and printed. I do love kids’ book art with vivid eye-popping colours and my sweet-smelling honey paints just don’t cut it. I will continue to use my Zecchi watercolours for scenery or portraiture, but for my kids art I believe will stick to the bolder and the richer colours of my time.

This picture was coloured with the watercolours              And this one was coloured digitally

And the smallest bed was just right!

Goldilocks checks out Baby Bear’s bed
pencil/water-colour

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks checks out Baby Bear’s bed
Pencil/digital

 

 

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Searching for Chinese Picture Books

Beautiful Chinese picture book

A New Year’s Reunion by
Yu Li Qiong and Zhu Cheng Liang,

Last October, my father, sister, and I went on an amazing dream trip to China. My dad, who is the inspiration for Stephen and the Lake Monster, was born in Shanghai and moved to Canada when he was twelve. He had always wanted to show us the country where he was born and so we booked a tour with China Spree. The emphasis of this particular tour was to showcase Chinese history and culture. The tour guides kept us on our toes; six cities in sixteen days! I jokingly referred to it as our Chinese Culture Bootcamp trip.

Bookstore & restaurant in Gulin

The restaurant-bookstore in Guilin. You can read or eat to lovely zither music!

 

 

Through the flurry of touring, one of the things I kept my eyes out for were Chinese picture books. But because of the tight schedule, I didn’t get the opportunity to seek out any book stores. Fortunately, while in beautiful Guilin, our tour group had dinner in a restaurant  that also happened to be a bookstore! While there, I found a couple of wonderful books both published by the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. These two books were fairytales with English translations. I have to admit, I chose them for their gorgeous artwork.

 

The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats, in Chinese and English

The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats, in both Chinese and English

Lotus Lantern, a Chinese fairytale.

Lotus Lantern, a Chinese fairytale. Written in English and Chinese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, though, I found that among the children’s selection, there seemed to be an emphasis on dry educational material. Some were also just translations of western fairytales like Hansel and Gretel with the illustrations depicting European (not Chinese) children. Many of the books were illustrated in an anime style, which is okay, but I know that a vast richness of artistic styles abound in China. It’d be lovely to see that reflected in children’s literature.

Chinese Picture Book

Two pages from The Boy Who Outfoxed a Fox. From a Beijing Airport bookstore.

The second place I managed to find picture books was at the Beijing Airport. The selection there was far better but, again, there seemed to be an emphasis on the educational-type material. However, I found two exceptionally illustrated books. Both were written only in Chinese.  It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the English title of the book, A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li Qiong and illustrated by Zhu Cheng Liang, published by Hsinex International Corporation. A breathtakingly poignant story of a migrant family’s New Year get together. The gouache artwork is nothing short of stunning. I was also thrilled to recognize that the story is set in Tongli a unique water village that we had the pleasure of visiting on our China tour.

The Boy Who Outfoxed a Fox by Xin Yi & illustrated by Cai Gao. I've yet to find a translation for this story..

The cover of The Boy Who Outfoxed a Fox by Xin Yi & illustrated by Cai Gao.

I have yet to find out the storyline for the other book I bought at the airport, The Boy Who Outfoxed a Fox by Xin Yi & illustrated by Cai Gao, also published by Hsinex. At a recent get together with some illustrator friends, we marvelled at the unique and engaging style of Cai Gao’s artwork.

My overall impression of Chinese kids’ books is that the children’s market is only just starting to blossom and now that China is opening up to the world, we can look forward to many more wonderful titles to come.

 

A New Year's Reunion by Yu Li Qiong and Zhu Cheng Liang,

A page from A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li Qiong and Zhu Cheng Liang. Stunning Illustrations.

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Going Digital With Sketchbook Pro

Tiny Grace tries to fly the witch's broom in 'The Witch of Golden Acres'

Tiny Grace tries to fly the witch’s broom in ‘The Witch of Golden Acres’

I really love drawing and painting but I have to admit that colouring in my inked illustrations is my least favourite thing to do. Once that paint brush hits the paper, it’s done. No going back and sometimes that permanently placed colour turns out to be oh-so wrong. What to do…

After (jealously) examining the works of other illustrators’ fabulous online portfolios, I figured it was high time I learned to how to apply my colour digitally. I did not want to spend the big-bucks on Photoshop and put the time in to learn how to use it. I am writing a novel, after all, which is taking up more than its fair share of time! So, Sketchbook by Autodesk was a good fit.

At first, I tried the free version, Sketchbook Express, to get a feel for the program. I played around with it for a few months but became frustrated by the fact that it did not have a transparent background option. This is an especially important option for artists like me who chose to start their drawing on paper and then import it to a program like Sketchbook to finish it there. When I wrote to Autodesk, I found out that the transparent background option was only available in the paid version, Sketchbook Pro.

So I paid the $60 (not a bad price!) and downloaded Pro. So far, I have to say that I am very pleased. I still have to put in the time to learn the program which I am doing by watching video tutorials and just jumping in and ‘learning by doing’. The illustration (above) is a ‘learning’ piece as I am sure the next twenty illustrations I work on will be.

The best thing is now I can fearlessly look forward to colouring my work without concern for placing down the wrong colour. I also love how the strong digital colours really pop and turn a simple black and white inked drawing into a visual delight!

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