Go APE for Art!

23 Feb

APE

Recently I was honored to be included in a local small works show sponsored by Glens Falls NY’s  Art In The Public Eye (APE).

1534996_10202951338165727_739774810_n

Art In The Public Eye is a not-for-profit group whose mission “is to cultivate a partnership between the area arts community and local businesses, to promote established and emerging artists and local commerce, and to create greater access to the arts through cultural activities and public exhibitions.”

Gallery 99 is kind of a guerilla art exhibit, occupying a different vacant storefront in Glens Falls every year. The event was headed up by the super-team of Liz Wilcox and Jennifer Kraft, APE’s executive director and director of marketing. These dynamic women co-own Samantha’s Cafe and Catering. (By the way, for you foodies out there: In my experience, Samantha’s is Glens Falls’ most highly recommended restaurant, with good reason. Standard Glens Falls greeting = “Nice to meetcha! Been to Samantha’s yet?” <– well-deserved!

I met Liz and her adorable daughter Daphne at an Isabella’s Shoe Studio promo event at Sketch Design Lounge in Glens Falls a few months ago (click here to read more about that).

1511409_682129018493284_2047674134_n

Photo by PJN Photography

Soon after, Liz invited me to Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, 2013’s APE fund raising auction /costume party, whose theme this year was vintage circus—fun!

Later, Ms. Wilcox invited me to participate in Gallery 99. Despite an over-busy schedule I was able to take part, because I had painted a series of shoes for the event at Sketch, and they were just begging to be shown again—in a box, ready to go. All I had to do was to drop them off.

spectator

guitarThe Gallery 99 show included a broad variety of art—paintings, jewelry, hats, batik scarves… even a cigar box guitar and matching amp! Many of the artists rent space in Glens Falls’s Shirt Factory—definitely worth a day trip, if you’re in the area.

All participants helped out, volunteering a few hours manning the gallery. Our schedules overlapped, giving us all a chance to chat and get to know one another. Spectacular people, each and every one.

Glens Falls has got it going on, Class. I hope you all can come visit some day.

Meanwhile, *like* APE’s Facebook fan page.

__________

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.15.41 PM

*

Like the shoe paintings? A few are available for sale as greting cards at my store on Zazzle.com. Click here to check it out.

SKETCH!

15 Nov

SKETCH sign

Recently I had the pleasure of co-hosting a party at SKETCH design lounge in Glens Falls, NY to promote Isabella’s Shoe Studio (duopress/2013), a Doodle Storybook™ which I wrote and illustrated.

bw groupShop owner Rianna Hogan-Cerro did most of the heavy lifting, advertising in the local paper, and ordering cupcakes, books and art supplies. Together we concocted the following fun activities for the party-goers:

Felt City Wall

city wall 2

Let’s face it—Isabella’s Shoe Studio is (unintentionally) a bit gender-biased toward the pink end of the spectrum. We certainly didn’t want to exclude boys from the fun! I suggested putting paper on the wall so that everyone could work together to draw a city mural, an idea that was no doubt influenced by the many Doodle books I have illustrated for duopress. Rhianna took that idea and made it a million times better by suggesting that everyone draw with washable markers on pre-cut pieces of felt. As the pictures clearly show, she is a genius.

Felt Shoe Wall

baby lily shoe wall

This was all Rhianna’s idea—a little something in felt, for our tiniest guests. Kind of like shoe colorforms, for the wall.

Isabella Paper Dolls

paper doll in colorI cut out free-standing paper dolls for all of the girls (bonus: they looked adorable standing on the craft table before the party started), and printed activity sheets featuring a variety of outfits for everyone to color and cut out for the dolls. The girls were instructed to design shoes to go with each outfit, and were given examples to get their creative juices flowing.

*

Shoe-Design Worksheets

shoe pageRhianna and I each created activity sheets to get everyone designing shoes. On the advice of my friend Jodie Fitz, I added a written activity, asking participants to draw their favorite shoes and then explain their affinity for those particular shoes: Were they a gift? Hand-me-downs from someone you love? Have you worn them somewhere special? Or do you love them just because they are beautiful?

drawing pigtails 3

Illustration Demonstration

As everyone was drawing and gluing glitter and eating cupcakes and generally having a fantastic time (the place was slam-packed!), I started chatting with some of the girls at the activity table. The teacher in me r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to help them with their shoe drawings, so,  I stood at my easel. With my Pentel pen-brush and soft vine charcoal, I began drawing the shoes that they were wearing, and then began drawing each of the girls, as if they were characters in Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

In between drawings we took book-signing breaks.

signing with Viv

In short, the party was an amazing success.

One of the moms sent me a note the next day:

I was at the party today at Sketch and wanted to thank you again for such a wonderful time! You were kind, gracious and attentive to each of the children. We will promptly be framing the drawings you did for us… She is very honored.

My very best regards,

Liz Wilcox

__________

Violet Lemay tailors events for schools, libraries, and bookstores. To check availability, send her a note.

__________

SKETCH is an amazing place! Rhianna teaches sewing and drawing classes, and also hosts parties and sells a variety of incredible inspirational books. If you’re ever in the Glens Falls area, you have to stop by! Meanwhile, click here to follow SKETCH on Facebook.

__________

Thanks to Rhianna, my husband Fred, and my friend Laura Conklin for all of the photos in this post.

cross-promotion: Mail Me Art

17 Sep

MMA_cover

This past spring I was invited to participate in Mail Me Art: Short and Sweeta gigantic group show that travelled to three London galleries over the summer: The Framers Gallery, Factoryroad, and Croft Wingates. The events, all for charity, were organized by my friends Darren and Jane Di Lieto.

posters

The following description, written by Darren, was taken from Mail Me Art‘s website:

Mail Me Art is a fun little project that was created by Darren Di Lieto of The Little Chimp Society in late 2006. He was looking for a way to connect on a real world level with all of the brilliant and talented illustrators who had become part of his community and network. Mail art was the perfect way to accomplish this task. The Mail Me Art project has held exhibitions up and down the UK, and was published as a very nice book by HOW Books. It has also been featured or mentioned by Digital Arts, Computer Arts, Design Week and The Telegraph over the years. Mail Me Art is still going strong to this day and there seems to be no stopping it!

5books

When I got the call, time was in short supply. I was up to my eyeballs in work, rushing against no less than five book deadlines at once for duopress:  Doodle AmericaYummy Food DoodlesSan Francisco Baby,  Let’s Doodle Around Baltimore (a special project for the Baltimore school system), and Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

I couldn’t say no. Darren has helped me out many times in the  past, sharing his knowledge with illustration students in my classroom live from the UK via Skype—despite a rather hefty time difference, and his own busy schedule. We are friends.

Also, I have taught self-promotion classes for many years, and I try very hard to practice what I preach. I would advise a student in a similar situation to just DO IT! Short-term pain, long-term gain. And anyway, Mail Me Art was a charity event, so I wasn’t going to turn it down.

From the moment I accepted the challenge, I knew that I would paint a wing-tip shoe on a manila envelope. Thanks to overlapping deadlines, I was swimming in a sea of shoes! Happily exhausted, other ideas were not exactly floating to the surface in abundance.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 9.08.46 AM

When my art made it across the pond, Darren asked, “Why a Shoe?”

He asked several of us to write about the inspirations behind our envelopes, for possible inclusion in the book that would accompany the exhibit. I was more than happy to oblige. From the moment I accepted the written challenge, I knew I’d be talking about Isabella’s Shoe Studio, because that was my honest answer. My contribution to Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet was a shoe, and the reason was Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

MMA cover

The exhibit has come and gone, but the book Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet lives on, and is available at amazon.co.uk. It is beautiful and I am honored to be included. Please click the link, have a look, and take a few minutes to write a review. Darren and I would both be grateful.

MMA_interior

Isabella is in there—she seems to be everywhere that I go, lately.

Gans Saratoga*

As a bonus, there are a bunch of photos in the final pages of the book (contributed by Yours Truly) of my envelope beginning it’s journey here in Saratoga Springs.

__________

The moral of the story, Class, is cross-promotion: promoting others and self simultaneously, and all (in this case, anyway) for the greater good.

delicious irony

3 Sep

Last February I was busy making art for several duopress books, including  Yummy Food Doodles, which, at long last, is available in bookstores. Hooray!

YFD_Cover_Med

This is an exciting announcement deserving of fancy hoopla, but all I have to offer is a blog post—so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a little about me, my association with my favorite publisher duopress, and this project’s history—in celebration, and just for fun.

ficus

first, a bit about me

My husband, who is extremely witty, likes to compare me to a ficus.

He hugs me and says, “My ficus.” Sweet, right?

Don’t be fooled. A ficus is lovely, for sure, but aesthetics factor only slightly in his analogy. As a rule, the ficus is so delicate that its leaves pop off whenever you move its pot. The ficus is super-sensitive, and that is his point.

We’ve been together for nineteen years, so I can’t exactly argue. To know me is to love me, and he loves me very much, despite my finicky nature. My skin is sensitive—I can’t be anywhere near poison ivy, oak or sumac without breaking out in a rash. It’s true, I don’t even have to touch it. Poof! Rash. My eyes are sensitive—no bad art, please; it keeps me up at night. And my stomach—my poor, poor stomach. About my gut, I could write a book.

Technically I have I.B.S., a title I avoid because it connotes all manner of disgusting imagery. Frankly, I feel that is nobody’s business. (If you want our friendship to continue, don’t make that into a pun.) After years of trying to come up with a better descriptive for my bad digestion, “sensitive” is the only word that sticks. There are entire groups of food that I have to avoid, and I don’t eat much of anything in a single sitting. I can’t, because I have a sensitive stomach. That’s all anyone needs to know. It’s annoying, and maybe even a little sad, but as far as medical issues go, at least it can be easily managed. And unlike most of my peers, I don’t have to worry about cholesterol. As a result of my health problem, I am actually super healthy! Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

and now, about the food books

Here’s another dose of irony: The girl with a sensitive stomach is developing a habit of making art for books about food. (Another topic about which I could write a book: God’s sense of humor.)

Violet InterviewThis is a still shot of me trying to make a video promo for My Foodie ABC, the first book that I illustrated for  duopress. (By the way, I hired a film student to help with that project. After months of struggling he wasn’t able to deliver, which made my stomach lurch and gave me an opportunity to practice forgiveness.)

and, the author!

My Foodie ABC was written by Puck, who is actually Mauricio Velázquez de León. Puck writes specifically for kids, but Mauricio writes specially about food for Saveur magazine, the late Gourmet magazine, and the food sections for many Lonely Planet books (including the upcoming The World’s Best Spicy Food). Yum!

MF_C-E

My Foodie ABC is charming, educational, and will definitely make you hungry. I made the art and also laid out the colors, textures, patterns and scans on every spread. Whenever I open it, my sensitive eyes are delighted. We did a great job with that book.

placemats_bookNext came My Foodie ABC Placemats, also penned by Puck. The placemats book was equally beautiful; as a bonus, it was interactive. Recently My Foodie ABC Placemats went out of print, which is sad, but it paved the way for duopress’s hugely successful DOODLE book series. duopress has produced eight DOODLE books, with more on the way.

So, that about brings us up to date.

8 doodle books

Yummy Food Doodles

YFD_Cover_MedAs I mentioned earlier, last winter, we made Yummy Food Doodles: words by Puck, art by me, and design by Charla Pettingill. We’ve been promoting it for a while because the book debuted at Book Expo America in NYC last  spring and has been available on-line ever since, but it is now available in bookstores—an announcement worthy of hoopla, indeed!

Click here to get a copy for your favorite foodie today, or, better yet, order it from your local bookstore! And… bon appétit!

pasta

baby, let’s go OUT

7 Jun

WheelerforLamay&Duopress-1

Last fall, my family moved to a new city. I introduced myself to the manager of the neighborhood Barnes and Noble, showed her my books, and got invited to participate in two in-store signing events. The manager, an advocate of the arts, slipped me an invitation to exhibit the books at a larger event: the Chronicle Autumn Leaves Book Fair in Glens Falls, New York. My stuff was set up across the aisle from the table of The Hyde Collection, a local art museum. The B & N manager, my new FRIEND Beth, had told me to find them and introduce myself, because you just never know.

It was a busy day but I made sure to stop by The Hyde’s table, show my books, and drop a card or two before packing up. The lovely young lady at the table—Courtney Nettleton—told me she was about to leave her museum job to throw herself full-time into PJN Photography, the business that she ran with her husband Pete. But. She loved My Foodie ABC enough to buy a copy, and we stayed in touch.

Courtney is heavily involved in Glens Falls, New York’s thriving arts community. I think she is the unofficial mayor of GF, actually, and I have no doubt that we will collaborate somehow or other in the future. Meanwhile, she and Pete are using My Foodie ABC as a prop in their photo studio, to the delight of baby Sadie, her mom Shannon, and, of course, my favorite publisher, duopress.

__________

WheelerforLamay&Duopress-3*

Class: Illustration can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of local, regional, and national groups to join—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Society of Illustrators (NYC or LA)—groups that thrive on semi-regular meetings. If that’s not your cup of tea, you could participate in a show, teach an art class at your local community center, or assemble an artists’ group in your town. Getting out will not only stimulate your creativity and nurture your soul, but could also further your career.

In his book Imagine, How Creativity Works, Jonah Leher describes the importance of “interpersonal collisions” (p190). It’s important to get out because you just never know who you might meet, and what will happen as a result.

__________

I visited PJN Photography’s studio and can’t recommend it enough. Fun, unique, artful photos, made by wonderful folk. Check out their on-line portfolio, and be sure to like them on facebook.

collaborate

26 May

ISS_Cover

A while back, after having made several books together, my publisher friend Mauricio Velázquez de León (owner of duporess) invited me to a Skype lunch. While he sat at an outdoor cafe somewhere in Baltimore with a tasty-looking sandwich, I ate a salad in a Savannah Panera, and we talked about this and that.

Before he let me go, he asked what made me tick, artistically—a very interesting question that threw me off guard, and really made me think. I love to draw cities, and kids, and animals…. but if there was one thing we weren’t already doing that made my artist’s heart sing, it had to be SHOES.

During the rest of that Skype lunch and for a long while after, we talked about shoes, and how to make them into a book. We shot ideas back and forth leisurely for quite a while (one year? two??), and then somehow or other “The Shoe Book” made it onto a tentative production schedule. We were actually gonna do it. So, I had to write it.

love_lossNow, I’m not a writer, I am an illustrator, but I can string a few words together in a pinch. With a vague idea in my head based on the amazing classic Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a book I had read years earlier, I spent a week or two typing up a charming little manuscript. Mauricio called the draft “lovely” or something to that effect, and, despite my bent toward self-deprication, I agreed with him. It was a lovely manuscript. (In keeping with my amateur writer status, it was largely auto-biographical—so predictable!) But it wasn’t a book for duopress. Not yet. After thinking about it for a while, he came back with suggestions.

Duopress publishes innovative books for curious children. “The Shoe Book” had to be an innovative. Maybe even interactive. My original manuscript was very nice, but there was nothing innovative about it.

I started over, converting the words into an activity book. Letting go of my original approach wasn’t easy, but I trusted Mauricio and forged ahead, trying to combine his ideas and requirements for the project with my initial inspiration. The result was more than a manuscript for an activity book, because it had a voice: there was a story, told by a little girl. Her name changed a few times but eventually became Isabella. Page by page Isa shared not only her love of shoes, but her obvious love for her family and friends, and for the process of design.

“The Shoe Book” was becoming not only innovative, but special!

partySCANWith a working manuscript I made some art samples, including this painting. Although this watercolor didn’t come close to making it into the book, it helped me find the look of the book. Just part of the process.

Mauricio and I went back and forth revising the manuscript too many times to count, making changes even as I was up to my elbows in ink chasing that drop-dead-absolutely-final art deadline. It had to happen that way, because the book was innovative—something totally new and different—and every spread generated more creative ideas. Input from duopress’s copy editor, distributor, family friends, and our beloved designer Charla Pettingill also helped form the final product.

The result: Isabella’s Shoe Studio, which will be available this fall. We will be promoting the book this weekend at Book Expo America.

My name is on the cover, but Isabella’s Shoe Studio was most definitely a group effort, a true collaboration. The project evolved,  and we rolled with it. What a pleasure.

__________

The story about how this doodle storybook came to life has two morals:

First, for publishers: Get to know your team and encourage them to explore their passions. You’ll be glad you did. (It may interest you to know that Mauricio only owns 3 pairs of shoes, and two are exactly the same! If he hadn’t asked what made me tick, it’s doubtful that duopress would have a shoe book on the horizon.)

Second, for my fellow artists: Don’t be afraid to collaborate. Good ideas can always be improved, and they may die if they aren’t allowed to be shaped by smart people who are in the position to do something with them.

__________

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!

Ecclesiastes 4:10, from The Message by Eugene Peterson

revisions

22 May

baltsun-beachguide-0522I am currently teaching an on-line class which includes discussion questions about REVISIONS. While my students’ answers are generally insightful and well thought-out, I have to say, they also make me snicker. Just a little bit.

Revisions are a normal part of the illustration process. The job is not over until the art has been approved, and often that involves making changes.

A common misconception among many students is that being asked to alter your art is a bad thing. On the contrary, requests for changes are coming from smart, savvy folk who have a good eye and can see things in your illustration that you cannot, because you are in too deep. You’re too close to the project and, admit it or not, are probably also ready to be done with it.

Your submission has to please not only your art director, but editors, publishers, and possibly others as well. A committee! AND, the image (especially if it’s a cover) has to work with a type. When your A.D. asks for color or placement changes, it is for your benefit, because she is doing her best to make the cover kick some serious derrière. So, don’t resist. Trust!

A few weeks ago I was contracted to make cover art for a section of The Baltimore Sun, which was published today—that’s the cover, at the top of this post. The job involved several rounds of sketches.

Round 1

The client provided a concept: a close-up of a lady at the beach with several items reflected in her glasses. The list of possibilities for the reflection was long, which made me nervous. I wasn’t sure how I could fit everything in such a small space, and make it read well.

beachSketches_1

I showed two options (top row) with some of the stuff on the list—fireworks and a family playing tug-of-war—in the background. In the two bottom options, I played with arranging the tug-of-war and fireworks with other items from the list (wine and sundae tasting) in the lenses. Knowing this was to be a cover, I left the top of the art fairly simple to accommodate the title, making a mental note to keep the value and color contrast up there minimal.

Round 2

After several days my A.D. (Tracie Rawson) responded. The folk at The Sun liked the idea of putting some elements in the background rather than in the lenses, but could I please replace the wine and sundae tasting with classic foods from Ocean City? You bet. Two new sketches:

beachSketches_2

Round 3

Response: Love the kid eating fries, but the branding has to go. How about kid eating fries on one side, and carousel or roller coaster on the other?
beachSketches_3

I made options showing the carousel, the roller coaster, and (anticipating yet another change) a roller-coaster/carousel combo. But the client chose the carousel.

Round 4

beachFinal_1After submitting the color final (with plenty of room on all sides for the color to bleed), Tracie asked me to take out the half-tone screen in the sky behind the lady’s head, and to zoom in the carousel in the lens and tighten it up.

Because I work in editable Photoshop layers, these revisions took all of five minutes to make—it was no trouble at all—and her request improved the art. Once she began placing the type she wrote back and asked me to move my signature to the area above the curl in the lady’s hair on the right. Again, a quickie task. Not a big deal. And, as you can see at the top of this post, the result is amazing.