Sunday, January 31, 2016

SCBWI Bologna Shortlist 2016

I just found out that my painting here made the shortlist for the Bologna Book Fair!

Owl did that happen?

I don't know, but I'm thrilled!! This means it will be included in the exhibition on display at the fair. So exciting.

A want to give a shout out to a few friends and peers that I know who also made the shortlist:

Tom Casmer
Melissa Iwai
Holly Hatam
Rodolfo Montalvo

And now, check out the work! It's all beautiful and amazing.

SCBWI Bologna Book Fair 2016 Illustrator Gallery Shortlist

Friday, January 22, 2016

Happy 2016!

Well hello, it's time for an update!

The new year is off to a great start so far. I just returned from a weekend in Miami at the SCBWI Florida conference, and it was fantastic (always is). Editors Grace Kendall and Christian Trimmer were in the house, along with several rock stars such as author/illustrator, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, author Jonathan Maberry, and the highly entertaining and hilarious children's book author, Tammi Sauer.

Some of my talented author/illustrator friends whom I greatly admire were there, such as Zebo Ludvicek and Fred Koehler, and I had the chance to reconnect and also meet quite a few new people, including illustrators Hannah Mericle, Steve Asbell, Daniel Blik, and Angel Alvarez. One of my students from Ringling, illustrator Kayleigh Castle, also attended for the first time. It was a great group altogether, and made up the best part about going in my opinion, which is being inspired by each other and knowing you're not alone in the joy and pain of making books!

A few highlights for me were:

1. Seeing Kerry O'Malley Cerra receive her Crystal Kite Award for her debut MG novel, Just a Drop of Water (of which I had the great honor to illustrate the cover).

2. Attending Grace Kendall's "The Non-Fiction Picture Book" workshop, and Debbie Ohi's "Social Media" workshop. Learned things about Twitter that I never knew!

3. I received Second Place in the Rising Kite Illustration contest for my painting "Owl Creatures Great and Small". It was created in response to the contest prompt, "Sam was the smallest of all, and that could be handy." It is painted in gouache (love gouache!!)

2016 is also off to a busy start in the studio - I'm working on a picture book with Peek-a-Boo publishing, and have another book in the works/on the horizon. Below is a sneak peek. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Highlights of St. Lucia

I just got my copies of the December 2015 issue of Highlights magazine for kids! I had the privilege of illustrating a short story called "The Lights of Saint Lucia". It's such a sweet story, and it's always thrilling to see one's work in print. I don't think it will ever grow old :) I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the editor-in-chief spotlights the story in the "Dear Reader" section. I highlighted the part below ;)

 Look for it at your local bookstore!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cardinal Christmas

I'm making new work for an upcoming holiday show and was recently inspired by a story a friend told me about Cardinals, and how they appear to some people as signs of hope during dark times.

So, the beautiful red bird found its way into my first painting for the show. This is painted in gouache, 11x14.


I've been exploring acrylic gouache lately and I think I like it more than oil painting. Yes, I can't believe I just said that, but for illustration work, it is true in my case. I repainted this image to see the difference and I like it SO much better, not to mention it was about 5x faster.

I really am drawn to the velvety matte finish, how it covers the paper quickly with nice flat color, how it dries in 10 seconds or less allowing one to see the painting develop quickly and gauge progress. It's easy to paint from dark to light just like oil, and best of all I don't get all caught up in blending it to death. It's actually great for making design shapes and motifs, which creates a nice optical blending.

So, onward with the gouache painting I go!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

NYC 2015 Highlights

Hello! There's a lot to share with this update, all very exciting! I will try to keep it short...

I recently went to New York City because a picture book that I illustrated, I Forgive You, written by Nicole Latiaf, won a Christopher Award! The awards ceremony was on a Wednesday evening, which of course was very out of my normal routine! I had to keep telling myself, "you are actually here and this is happening" as I stood in a room with decorative people and giant windows looking out across the city.

Nicole and I both won an award for creating a book that "affirms the highest values of the human spirit" (the motto of the Christopher Awards). I met Nicole a few years ago at an SCBWI conference in Miami, and her vision reflects my own philosophy of bringing something new, something beautiful and something filled with light into the world. It has truly been an honor to have collaborated with Nicole on this powerful book and have it be recognized as something that "shines light in the darkness" by teaching children how to forgive just as Christ forgives.

I stayed a few more days in the city and made arrangements to meet with two publishers, creative director David Saylor at Scholastic, and editor Julie Matysik at Skyhorse. They graciously spared some time to review my portfolio and offer feedback. It's so nice to meet people in person since all we do nowadays seems to be via email. I had met David once before when he was a guest juror for the Best of Ringling show at Ringling College last year. And it was my first time meeting Julie, who was the editor for Kerry O'Malley Cerra's book Just a Drop of Water, of which I illustrated the cover.

I also made it to Sketch Night at the Society of Illustrators! They had a themed modeling session described as "human kinetics", where two dancers wore a sort of stretchy red costume that connected them to one another. They would use the tension of each other's body weight as a counterbalance that would allow them to assume really dramatic poses. So cool! For the first 20 minutes, they continuously moved at a very slow pace, so I tried to capture a sequence of gestures.

I also did some sightseeing. 

I visited the 9-11 Memorial Museum. When I visited NYC in 2012, the One World Tower and museum were still under construction, so I was looking forward to seeing the progress and paying my respects. The museum was sobering. Everyone walked through slowly, quietly, as though in a daze of disbelief that such a horrific event actually took place. You could see people's own recollections of that day on their faces...people from all over the world. It's a struggle trying to describe the feeling of being there, but this motto from the gift shop says it best:

 On the other hand, the One World Tower was stunning! I was one week early of it's grand opening so I didn't get to go inside, but will next time! 

Did I mention that the weather was BEAUTIFUL? Clear skies, sunny, a light jacket required. And spring was in full swing at Trinity church with blooming irises (I'm fascinated by the centuries old graveyard, I visit it every time). Later on, I was delighted to see a small traveling collection of Van Gogh's irises and roses at the Met. Interestingly, Vincent experimented with a different red pigment and over the years it completely faded and left the roses white.

I also visited my ALL TIME FAVORITE thing in NYC - the dioramas at the Natural History Museum! They are world class and oh so beautiful! The background paintings and the seamless integration into the foreground create such a realistic illusion, I stand in awe and marvel every time! I found myself sketching in good company with a few art instructors and students from Syracuse.

Late one night I decided to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It was awesome seeing Times Square at night from up there (so bright!)

I could go on and on about other *almost* buying this cute dress I found at Saks 5th Avenue (LOL yeah right!)

But that's pretty much all the highlights it in a nutshell! And before I close and get back to work, I do have two more quick exciting announcements:

1. I Forgive You also won an "Excellence in Publishing" award from the ACP! (Association of Catholic Publishers)

2. Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O'Malley Cerra won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award!

As for me, I am currently finishing up a small picture book called My Pet Spider and illustrating an article for the December issue of Highlights magazine. Here's an almost finished sample:

Thanks for reading!