I couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by this year without mentioning Gray, my only child, who happens also to be my occasional co-conspirator in the realm of book illustration. This ginger fellow may be taller than me now, but is barely a teenager—he turned thirteen last fall, just a few months after he contributed drawings to one of my latest book endeavors, duopress‘s 100 PABLO PICASSOS. Summarizing the incredible life of Pablo Picasso for a 32-page children’s book would be a difficult task for anyone, but author Mauricio Velázquez de León made it look easy. There are 14 two-page spreads in the book, each devoted to a different topic: Picasso’s Blue Period (above), his Rose Period, the years he spent chumming with the likes of Max Jacob and Henri Matisse in Gertrude Stein’s studio (below), etc. The first spread in 100 PABLO PICASSOS is devoted to the artist’s early life—and this is where Gray comes in. Gray is an amazing artist—he made the above sketch, which is such a tiny sample of his overall body of work that it is laughable. In my house, storage tubs filled with thirteen years of this kind of thing are stuck in every closet and under every bed. Because of my son’s particular interest in architecture, duopress contracted then-nine-year-old Gray to doodle some famous Big Apple buildings for the web component of Doodle New York (by Puck/illustrated by Violet Lemay/2012). A handful of QR codes are sprinkled throughout Doodle New York, which are linked to downloadable coloring pages—several of which were drawn (with a blue ball-point pen!) by Gray… whose professional name is Graham Fruisen. The coloring pages are still available, but you can only see them if you buy the book and scan the QR codes. When you do, imagine a skinny, freckled, bespectacled teenager groaning with despair. “That is not my best work!” As soon as I read Mauricio’s manuscript for 100 PABLO PICASSOS, I knew I would enlist Gray’s help for the “Picasso as a boy” spread. The mom in me was excited because school was out for the summer, and I was looking stuff for Gray to do. I asked him to contribute drawings of donkeys, doves, and bulls—not Gray’s typical genre, but he was willing to dabble. My hope was that my new assistant would just draw them already! As a boy Picasso drew in a classic style, very similar to the way Gray tends to draw—but my son went the extra mile. He researched Picasso and did his best to draw donkeys, doves and bulls as he imagined Picasso (the grown up, world renowned artist) would have drawn them. The result (below) is beautiful, even if it isn’t exactly what I had in mind. But hey, this is what happens when illustrators pay their assistants with Little Debbie Swiss Rolls and blueberry freezes from the corner Quickie Mart. Our resulting collaboration, 100 Pablo Picassos, is newly available everywhere books are sold. Click here to order your copy today! And THANK YOU, Gray! You’ll always be my baby. Mama loves you, boy.
100 Pablo Picassos is a 32-page children’s picture book, every square inch of which is crammed with full-bleeding spreads as well as tons of spot illustrations.
After the release date, I’ll write a nice long post about how we made the book, which is the brainchild of the author Mauricio Velázquez de León.
It is February as I’m writing this post, three months before the official release date of 100 Pablo Picassos; however, hard copies are already available for pre-order and will actually materialize everywhere books are sold in April, and the e-Book versions are good to go now. As a contributor, it’s time for me to start making some noise!
Making Some Noise
Thanks to my former life as a professor of self promotion, there is a small part of my brain that is always clicking away, trying to come up with innovative ways to publicize whatever project has been holding my attention. The obvious first step is always social media, because it is easy and free.
Use Existing Art
Perhaps most obvious way for an illustrator to promote her upcoming book is to generate interest by sharing the art that she’s already created for the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and etc. I’ve been taking advantage of the plethora of illustrations that we created for 100 Pablo Picassos, posting little bits of it daily—along with interesting photos and facts of Picasso’s history acquired from the internet—on my Violet Lemay Illustration Facebook fan page. I’ve been pacing myself, “leaking” the art slowly, a task made easier for 100 Pablo Picassos because it contains many, many spot illustrations; however, the same approach can be applied to a book whose every page is covered with full-bleeding two-page spreads. The artist of such a book could tease her audience and draw out the promotion process by posting close-up detail shots from each spread, leading up to the big moment when she posts the whole image in its entirety.
Make New Art
One advantage that book illustrators have over authors in the area of promotion is that, for any given project, we can create as many additional visuals as time and interest allow. As you can imagine, immersing oneself in the history of Pablo Picasso, one of the world’s most colorful and prolific artists, was both humbling and inspirational. Picasso’s life and his work drew me in as an artist, inspiring a bevy of personal work aimed at promoting the book.
Portraits of Friends
First, I dabbled in acrylics creating Picasso-esque portraits of friends and family members for some upcoming gallery exhibitions.
This was so much fun, and was one of those roads down which I had to walk—it was either that, or die. You artists know what I mean. Some inspirations tickle a little and make you twitch; others come at you with a whip.
I will write about those portraits and the gallery shows in greater detail later this spring as the dates get closer. Or perhaps after, so I’ll have photos to share. Let’s wait and see.
Portraits of Picasso’s Ladies
More recently, spurred on by the approach of Valentine’s Day, I’ve been working on a series of small, quickly-done watercolor portraits of Picasso’s many love interests.
Even a tiny bit of digging into Picasso’s romantic life produces results that can only be described as spectacular. Because 100 Pablo Picassos is a book for children, the author handled the entire topic with grace, tact, and an absolute minimum of words.
We show only one of Picasso’s many lady friends in 100 Pablo Picassos, so I had only one existing painting on the topic to share for Valentine’s Day (above), which features Picasso’s first girlfriend/muse, Fernande Olivier.
Knowing the truth about Picasso’s romantic life as I do now—so many women, all who had an impact on his art in a profound way—the idea of posting only a single image on the topic seemed underwhelming. I could have devoted my daily facebook posts to photos of all of his varied wives and paramours, but I am an illustrator after all. Instead, I decided to paint them—quickly this time, and much smaller that my previous Picasso-inspired portraits.
The result is a new and ever-growing series, including this watercolor portrait of Eva Gouel.
I will be posting my portraits along with interesting photos and facts about these lovely ladies (including Bridgitte Bardot, the object of a Picasso crush!) on my Violet Lemay Illustration Facebook fan page, as well as on Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest—all for the cause of promoting the upcoming release of 100 Pablo Picassos. I would love it if you’d follow along.
If all of this has piqued your curiosity about the women in Picasso’s life, you may enjoy reading Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (Harlequin MIRA, 2014). Madame Picasso, a novel (historic fiction), tells the story of Eva Gouel; it’s a fascinating read that slows down a few years in the life of this great man, whose timeline is regularly assessed in large spans. Click here for more details.
To order 100 Pablo Picassos, click here.