Thursday, September 11, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Artists Around the World" Blog Hop

I think one of the greatest things about the internet for me has been my ability to enjoy works of art from all over the world. Truly, this "virtual museum" delights, entertains, encourages, and inspires me each day. This year, I've been taking Lilla Roger's Make Art that Sells course, as well as Bootcamp, and more recently, I've just been happily creating a piece to enter into the Global Talent Search. Whew, it's been a whirlwind of action (and a colorful mess) in my studio. :)

I was asked by the multi-talented, super sweet and incredibly hard-working, Melissa Iwai, to participate in the "Artists Around the World" Blog Hop, for which I am so honored! I've known Melissa before the MATS courses, as an accomplished children's book author/illustrator, and more recently have been so delighted to see her amazing pieces during our fellowship in Bootcamp! It's been incredible to see her gorgeous illustrative storytelling in her assignment pieces.

Her debut picture book, Soup Day, is a beautiful example of Melissa's work:

Melissa's latest book is titled Truck Stop, by the incredibly talented author/illustrator, Anne Rockwell. Melissa's work flows with gorgeous color and are some beautiful examples:

I first was introduced to Melissa's work at the wonderful site, - here is one of her super recipe/illustrations, and here is where you can find more of her great illos!:
Please visit Melissa, and discover so much more of her fabulous characters and work at:, and for a wonderful post about her more current work and her process, please visit her blog here: Thank you so much Melissa!

As part of the blog hop, I was to answer a few questions: here goes!

1. What are you working/writing on?
I am currently working on new pieces for my portfolio. I'm excited for this period as I have spent the better part of this year really playing with techniques, mediums, and processes. I've thoroughly enjoyed my sketch-a-day personal project, and so I've been incorporating a lot of that into the work as well. I've also been working on a few manuscripts, polishing, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing. It's one of the most challenging things I've committed to, and I'm enjoying this new journey. I must say, I have a lot of books to read, a lot of writing to do, and a lot of work ahead of me, but it's been great. I've also been working steadily with my current design clients which has been fabulous, as well as incorporating some new lettering clients along the way. Boy, I've enjoyed these new projects!

Developing this you like rhino's too?
Her stor(ies) are in the works... : )

2. How does my work differ from others in your genre?
One of the most generous comments I've received from those around the world on the internet has been one from a woman in the Ukraine. She was very kind to say that my work reminded her of a time in her childhood that was gentle and uncomplicated. I've been told that my characters bring about a feeling of a "simpler" time. I hope to create stories that bring about those kinds of memories as well as create new ones with complex and warm characters. While thinking about this question, I wanted to share a very small list (of a very long list that's growing), of some of the fine artists I admire: Beatrix Potter, Jill Barklem, Helen Craig, Arthur Rackham, Richard Scarry, Alice and Martin Provensen, Arnold Lobel, Mary Blair, Ernest Shephard, Renata Liwska, Lane Smith, Brett Helquist, R.W. Alley, Jan Ormerod, Freya Blackwood, Carter Goodrich, Lizbeth Zwerger, Lillian Hoban, Holly Hobbie, Melissa Sweet, Lee White, Christopher Denise, Colin Stimpson, Gus Gordon...and the list goes on. :)
3. Why do you create?
To express myself to others. A sketch, a word, a gesture. With a pencil and paper, I am able to communicate in a way that I, as a physical entity, sometimes cannot. I realize I am a private, used-to-be-much-shyer-than-now, kind of person, who is very visual. After sketching last year, it is now my go-to-relaxation-technique, each day, and it truly brings me joy.
4.  How does your creative process work? 
If there's a project assignment, I start by fully reading the entire assignment and goal, and then start sketching with pencil and paper. As the days pass, I'll sketch and think wherever I go, and sometimes find myself jotting things down first thing in the morning if a word or visual comes to mind. I then take the thumbnail sketches, refine a few (if there are worthwhile ideas!), or go back to the thumbnail stage and sketch some more. After the refinements (laying them out to 3/4 size or so), I either work directly on the final (if it's a personal piece), or submit the linework to the client for review. Once the linework is OK'd, I'll start the final piece. If a watercolor, I'll make sure the piece is large enough for the final printed artwork size, and then create a final pencil for it. I'll then rub graphite onto the backside and transfer that to a watercolor paper block. I love Arches Cold Press 140# for my watercolor work but have been recently trying their Hot press as well, for new techniques. I'll paint the final and scan into the computer, and clean up some areas on the computer as well as increase the tiny white highlights in eyes, and such. If the piece is more design, or lettering, there are similar steps, but I always get the approval "to go" to final, before starting a final. It's so hard not to have the command Z button on a traditional painted piece. :)
This little guy has a story in the making, too...

Well, that's enough about me, I wanted to introduce two wonderful artists who are also joining the blog hop...first up, Mette Engell. I met Mette in MATS A this year, and we hit it off while working feverishly on our assignments each week. From fabrics, to wall art, to children's books, I found myself asking for feedback and thoughts, and Mette was eversokind to do so..and she has been super to bounce things off of while doing the GTS recently. She's an illustrator born and raised in Denmark, who if not is drawing, is running by the ocean, cooking or playing with her kids, and is often at the beach! She often posts beautiful pictures of her surroundings and time at the water. Lucky!

Here is a super piece created and highlit in Lilla's review during MATS A, for children's books:

and here are further of her rich and vibrant illustrations, I just love those whimsical characters!:

Here are some fabulous pieces she's created recently...loving all of her patterns!

To discover more of Mette's work, please visit her at her site, Looking foward to seeing your huge body of work coming up, Mette! :)

And now, please meet, Antoana Oreški-džafić, from the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia. I have known of Antoana's work for years now as we have become blogging buddies! I've had great joy watching her grow through the years, and trust me, her artwork is booming! It's been so fun to have her in class too (Bootcamp) and to see what she comes up with in her own wonderful style. I've applauded her recent wins in competitions for Tigerprint, have a look!:

 I've also loved Antoana's characters, especially her classics, like this piece:
and I have great admiration for her pattern work..check out these pieces:

There's lots more to discover over at Antoana's site, here.

It's been a pleasure sharing the wonderful work of Melissa Iwai, Mette Engel, and Antoana Oreški-džafić!

Thanks for visiting here and leaving your kind comments everyone, I really appreciate it! The world can be so very complicated and difficult at times, and so I find for me personally, that it's a bit of a bright spot to have a bit of visual inspiration each day. It's been an honor to share my work and process with you as well share these wonderful artists work!

Friday, August 8, 2014

SCBWI Tomie dePaola Contest entry - Curious what you think this sequence is about! :)

Each year, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( sponsors the Tomie dePaola Award, given annually to an illustrator of promise chosen by Tomie himself. I have entered for the past 4 years as I have found that it's been a great opportunity for me to work on something that could become a new portfolio piece. I really enjoyed working on this piece because I have been writing a bit more, and trying to develop characters and stories, and this exploration of a character-driven prompt was right up my alley!

This year's prompt was to create a visual sequence of a is the brief:
Visual sequence is key to conveying feeling, action, storyline, interest and character, especially in children’s book illustration.
One of the hardest things to do is to know your character so well—what he, she, or it looks like, how they move, how they project emotion, and at the same time to make the character immediately recognizable and consistent —all without resorting to a generic depiction, but making sure your character has charm, individuality and special qualities that make young readers fall in love with them. All of this is the same whether your character is human, animal, and yes, even vegetable! (Maybe inanimate as well)
The task is to create a six-panel sequence that has a beginning, middle and an end that is obvious, featuring a character of your own invention. It can be funny, sad, dramatic or ordinary, but interesting and with lots of invention and finesse.
I understand that there are computer programs that make “sequence” easier than good old-fashioned drawing. But, I don’t know any of them. I leave it to you.
SPECS:       4 to 6 panels – illustrator’s choice
SIZE:          8 ½” x 14” – horizontal or vertical *Please note–this is the size of the entire piece, not the individual panels.
COLOR:      B&W or Full Color – your choice

Please view the Unofficial Gallery here, for all (most of?) the entries to this year's contest, and here for the 10 semi-finalists, Mr. dePaola has chosen to move on to the finals. Best of luck to everyone!

Curious if you can tell what's going on in my word-less sequence...your feedback would be greatly appreciated for my personal development as a visual please, be as critical as possible, I can take it! :) And thank you! ~ Shirley

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Graceful little elephant Bird Dancer

She is inspired by the wonderful 1930's bird dancers in the play, "Side Show".

Sending out a huge Congratulations to all of the fine performers in the performances of Side Show this year. Sierra, I'm so proud of you, and so impressed with all of your dances! Bravo!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Last assignment for "favorite" beverage, The Bellini!

July marks the last assignment for Lilla Roger's Assignment Bootcamp. We were asked to create a piece "for yourself" of your favorite beverage. Now please don't think I'm a heavy drinker, alright? My choice is truly just an ode to one of the best memories I've ever had of an amazing drink that just took me away. There are certain food or drink moments that stick with you, and this was one of them....have you ever had one of those food or drink moments? I hope so!

While in Venice, Italy with my hubby many years ago, we stumbled into Harry's Bar and ordered up the infamous Bellini. They are served in a classic tumbler, not a stem glass, and Harry's is such a tiny place that it was served without much fanfare.
We took a sip, and ahhhhh...refreshing! What a lovely not-too-sweet, not-too-dry beverage to enjoy when you've been out walking the wonderful streets and corridors of Venice. I loved it.

To commemorate that fond memory, I celebrated with some girlfriends in Vegas (also many years ago now), with Bellini's and though they were presented in stem glasses, they did a fantastic job, and I thoroughly enjoyed their version, as did my dear friend, Renee.

I really enjoyed being able to just create when the moment struck. I sketched some thumbs, then started pencil sketching the shape of the tumbler in words about the history and the instructions of how to make a Bellini. From there, I took my Vidalon Vellum pad, and placed the pencil underneath and just started can see where I veered from the sketch but that is the fun part about inking..which is just to let the pen do it's thing.

I also painted the components of the drink, but in the end just chose one of the white peaches to highlight in the composition I finalized in Photoshop. I think this is called "not quite sure what to do with these pieces parts (composition fail!), so just use one a flourish." :)

I've loved these assignments, the generous community, the inspirational posts from Lilla and Beth, and the renewed sense of discovery I have about my art path. I'm continuing on from here to try out the Global Talent Search coming up in August..and then finally the 2nd part of the Make Art That Sells course (part B) in the fall. In between these assignments, I'm rapidly trying to write more and more and sketch and work on my portfolio...long ways to go, but it's been awesome and exciting all the way through. Thanks for visiting and hope you get some time to visit all of the wonderful artwork at the gallery here!

Have a super rest of the week! ~ Shirley