Sunday, December 19, 2010

A review of my school presentation

Back in November I visited Brown Elementary School in Natick, Mass, A few days later I was home, and discovered that someone in the audience was taking notes for her blog.

Here is a link to her blog,
and here's a copy of what she wrote. (Obviously I am flattered, or I wouldn't be sharing this).


John Steven Gurley comes to Brown Elementary School, Natick, MA

Today I volunteered for the Cultural Arts Committee at Brown Elementary to sit in on the visit by John Steven Gurney, the illustrator for the A-Z mysteries and writer/illustrator of other books Dinosaur Train (and to our delight we discovered he has also illustrated games such as "Guess Who? and jigsaw puzzles.

Mr. Gurney began his presentation by telling the students the many different projects he has illustrated, over 120 books now! He told them how he came to be an illustrator and an author. He talked about his childhood love of drawing and how that grew and expanded as he became an adult. I liked that he said "pictures tell a story". He explained that first he reads what an author has written and then using his imagination, he draws his own artistic interpretations. This is his form of communication and he notes that a good picture should tell you what you are looking at but a really good picture keeps revealing more details each time you look at it.

His Power Point presentation began by showing one of his illustrations and his talking about his use of symbolism to communicate what the picture is representing. He explained he needed to think of colors, lighting and character design for each illustration. I liked that Mr. Gurney showed the children an interesting career path and he allowed that many paths can come from a love to draw and that this was only the path he chose and that going to college helped him make wise career choice. He used beautiful strong words, such as imagination, originality and inspiration (both loving to inspire and to be inspired).

He explained when he illustrates that he has to ponder some points:

1. What is the illustration going to be used for?

2. Character Design

3. How to get the characters in the illustration to relate to each other

For a book cover, consider:

1. Main Characters

2. Not to give the ending away, but show what the book is about.

3. Make the reader curious!

The best part of the Power Point was his layout of the rough draft to completion of the book he both authored and illustrated "Dinosaur Train". It was very informative and gave a real slice of life of the journey he took.

I really enjoyed this presentation especially in connection to the fact that the third grades' next monthly book project is "making a book jacket for a book they have just read. Mr. Gurney is soft spoken, but had the children listening to what he had to say. Even at times when the kids began to squirm, he found a way to pull them back in. I was impressed at how focused this whole group of 3rd and 4th graders were. I recommend his visit especially for the 3/4 grade level as I can see how pertinent his presentation was to their curriculum.

The event ended with some fast and fun group drawing activities that had the all the kids (and me) laughing and collaborating and enjoying themselves.

Monday, December 13, 2010

...and a Partridge in Pear Tree

This was a promo piece/holiday card from a few years back based on the 12 Days of Christmas (the Partridge in a pear Tree). This is in my "cartoony" style. I did this with pen and ink and watercolor, but I'm working on recreating this style using digital tools.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa's Stationery

Since I'm starting this blog in December, it seems logical to post my Holiday pieces. Since I have never been hired to do any Kwanzaa or Hanukah illustrations (although I did illustrate the cover of 101 Jewish Read Aloud Stories) that means Christmas.

Two or three years ago I did an illustration for a company that wanted to let parents order an official letter from Santa, complete on North Pole Stationery. I was hired to create an illustration for the stationery. As I was writing this post, I thought I would try to find the website, but i forgot the company's name. So I googled "letter from Santa" and I found lists and lists of websites that had the same idea (most of them without investing in original artwork). Who knew there were so many North Poles out there?

The company that hired me was Click2Mail, and the product was Remind Santa.
Here is the website:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cards of Christmas's Past and Present

Well, it's December, so I'll post my Christmas cards from the past few years. When you're an illustrator your holiday card is part seasonal greeting, part promotional piece. At least the other years it has been. This years card is just fun, using Photoshop to Convert our Sears portrait studio family portrait to an elf family portrait. I think some people thought we actually put on rubber ears and hats and posed for the photo.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

High Five illustration Sky Transplant

I recently painted a cover illustration for Highlights for Children's High Five Magazine (May 2011 issue). The illustration featured kangaroos jumping rope, while a bunch of jumping mice engage in parallel play. I finished the oil painting, and I was about to take it to my photographer to convert it into a digital file, I noticed the sky on an old "Big Apple Barn" illustration of mine. I felt like I was lazy on the sky I painted for the kangaroos, so I had the Big Apple Barn illustration shot too, then I did a "sky transplant" in photoshop.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Attempting to post an illustration.

I did this illustration as a sample piece. It's been a long time since I got any humor/fantasy assignments, so I thought it would be a fun scene to illustrate. What exactly is going on? The dwarf on his flying scooter is trying to get away with that confused weasel, and the boys on that dragon have been searching for him. Someone commented that the dragon's wings aren't big enough to carry his weight, but I image the dragon's belly is filled with some sort of gas that keeps him buoyant, like a hot air ballon, and the wings are just kind of for directional purposes.

Still trying to figure out how a blog works

I'm pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to set this thing up. I'll probably delete these early posts once this thing is up and functioning, but maybe I'll keep these early entries up to chronicle my growth as a blogger.
I'm going to try to add an illustration that I just finished of a floating dragon being ridden by two boys over a cityscape, chasing an elf ride a flying motor scooter with confused weasel on his back.