Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

As promised, I'm posting the final Chinese New Year's piece. This'll be my last post before the big conference and I'm so excited! I'm packed with my new portfolio, postcards and buttons! I'll be tweeting at @shirleysillos so swing on by to Twitter..or I will try to also post to FB if I can figure this all out on my phone. :)

'til then, I am wishing you all well and thanks for stopping by! I'll do a full recap when I return!
~ Shirley

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My version of "Tea-painting"...something new!

Hi Everyone! Hope this finds you all well..and getting ready for Super Bowl Sunday! I am so excited to know that just down the freeway, all of the festivities are ready to start..the whole Bay Area is jumping and I plan to listen/watch the game while I continue preparation for the New York SCBWI's coming up fast and I'm starting to get excited. It's the final stretch and I'm taking a tiny break from my work to share a little something that I tried the other day...and that is "tea-painting". Well, so I'm not sure if this is a bonafide way of doing this, but I found it to be something to add to my repertoire. If anyone knows of the proper technique, please do let me know...I'm continually in a quest to learn and grow, so thank you in advance.

I sketched this new piece thinking about how my mom used to play "Go Fish" with my girls when they were little. Boy, would they have the best games! Many times they'd end up in giant balls of laughter..such wonderful times. Excited to celebrate Chinese New Year tomorrow, I grew up celebrating the holiday at my grandparent's home, and then at my parents..we celebrated with laysee (red envelopes), special foods and candy, stories of firecrackers, watching the Chinese New Year parade on t.v. and live in San Francisco. What great memories..I'll be celebrating tomorrow and wish you all a Gung Hay Fat Choy!

I scanned the sketch into the computer and enlarged the sketch to fit on an 8.5 x 11 sheet. I printed it and layed it on a light table, and retraced the sketch onto a sheet of Fabriano Hot Press, towel dried the sheet, then stretched it on a board..then I made a hot cup of Tazo Earl Grey tea, poured the tea into a small cup, grabbed my widest brush and started painting. It gave it a wonderful golden-tone. I found that if I let it dry, and go over the area once again, the tone would become even more golden-tan. At the end of the painting, I made another cup of tea, and added more of the golden tone to areas I needed to bring in to make the piece more cohesive.

Here's a snapshot of the piece..

I'll post the final piece closer to the start of the conference....hope you all have a wonderful Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Monkey, my brother's year...yay! Best to you all ~ Shirley

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A gift found in a single word...courage.

Though 2016 has already started and we're rounding towards the end of the month, I am wishing you all a belated happy new year! I'm sending out a special wish to those I know who are moving through incredibly difficult times. Much love, peace, and strength to you!

It's been awhile and as I sit here mid-January with a project just completed, and a new one starting up tomorrow, I wanted to share something I've been thinking about lately, and that is, courage. As the holidays came quickly upon us, I found myself tending to my whiplash and after-effects of my first-ever car accident on Dec. 15th. Thankfully I escaped without permanent injury and am SO grateful that the father (driver) told me that morning that he believed his teenage son would be "ok", though he had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital for a hip injury.

They say there's a silver lining in everything, right? As I desperately tried to get right back to my usual routine of busy-busy, my body (and my husband, thank goodness), kicked some sense into me. I slept and slept some more. The very next day, I did the same thing. After two full days of rest, I resurfaced and I decided that a lot of the holiday hustle and bustle that I usually get pulled into, I'd let myself just take each day, one day at a time. As the days ticked on I worried less and less about getting everything done in time. I allowed myself a pass for the holidays. Holiday cards?, not this year. Holiday promo piece or thank you gifts? Not this year as well. What was I thinking about? Courage! Christmas came, and it was as wonderful as ever! My children, husband, and extended family all came together and we all worked together as a team. Courage to just say no..and let it go? A silver lining indeed.

Before the accident, I must have had that word in my conscience because I had to make a big decision about a submission to the annual SCBWI Tomie dePaola Award contest. I've entered for years, and have never placed or won anything, always toiling and worrying as I created one illustration to submit in the quest of satisfying Tomie's prompt. Each year I'd ask, "what would Tomie love?". Each year, I'd hope and in January would be disappointed, but happy for the winners as I could see why they were chosen. Though never placing or winning, the challenge for me has always been rewarding and worthwhile. This year's prompt (I'll post the full text below) ended with Tomie's final statement:

Best of luck and good work.  And, as I’ve been saying a lot lately, “COURAGE!” 

Those words resonated! It inspired me to just create..sketch and sketch and paint, start over, sketch and paint again. It allowed me to be "free" from all of the preconceptions of "what would Tomie love?" Honestly, I still wondered "what would Tomie love?" as I created these illustrations, but it didn't stop me from putting concepts on paper and just go for it. His statement, that word, were gifts to me.

The winners were announced this week, and I am so happy for them. I really am! Lisa Cinelli's grand prize winning piece was endearing! I see why Tomie chose her piece and that makes me feel great that her work successfully illustrated the prompt.

One of the best things about entering this contest each year is seeing all of the entries in the Unofficial Gallery - spearheaded by Diandra Mae. She works incredibly hard on this each year and it is such a great thing that we are all able to see everyone's submissions.

I received a lot of great feedback from my peers and agent, and in the end decided upon #3 below. #2 was a close one, but I took Tomie's advice and had courage to submit the piece that made me feel closest to the Little Red Riding Hood I wanted to share with the world. One that loved her little red cap so much that she wore it all the time, even in the bathtub.

I have a big month ahead... I'll be attending my first ever big SCBWI biannual conference, the NYSCBWI event in February and I cannot wait! I'm excited, and a bit worried that I won't have enough time to prep for the portfolio showcase, but I will continue to lean on this word, courage, as I press on and try my best.

As the year unfolds and we've lost loved ones already, and know of those who are suffering, I am wishing for peace, and love. Life is precious I tell you, and my appreciation for all of my blessings grows deeper each day. I am grateful to belong to such a wonderful community..thank you all for sharing your lives and gifts with me, and MANY thanks for reading/visiting and for indulging me in sharing this very long post. Here's to a year filled with courage! ~ Shirley
Here is the 2016 Tomie dePaola Award Prompt:
One of the biggest and most important challenges the Children’s Book Illustrator faces, over and over again, is the UNIQUE VISUALIZATION of the MAIN CHARACTER.

So often, I have seen illustrators resort to generic depictions of the star of the story–too “designed,” too ordinary, too much like characters already seen in media, especially on TV and video games.
The assignment is simply to illustrate a moment from the following passage from Philip Pullman’s version of “Little Red Riding Hood” from FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM (Viking, 2012).  (You may want to read the entire story.  It is an excellent book.)
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was so sweet and kind that everyone loved her. Her grandmother, who loved her more than anyone, gave her a little cap made of red velvet, which suited her so well that she wanted to wear it all the time. Because of that everyone took to calling her Little Red Riding Hood.
One day her mother said to her: ‘Little Red Riding Hood, I’ve got a job for you. Your grandmother isn’t very well, and I want you to take her this cake and a bottle of wine. They’ll make her feel a lot better. You be polite when you go into her house, and give her a kiss from me. Be careful on the way there, and don’t step off the path or you might trip over and break the bottle and drop the cake, and then there’d be nothing for her. When you go into her parlour don’t forget to say, “Good morning, Granny,” and don’t go peering in all the corners.’
‘I’ll do everything right, don’t worry,’ said Little Red Riding Hood, and kissed her mother goodbye.
Her grandmother lived in the woods, about half an hour’s walk away. When Little Red Riding Hood had only been walking a few minutes, a wolf came up to her. She didn’t know what a wicked animal he was, so she wasn’t afraid of him.

Your task is to make me “FALL IN LOVE” with your illustration and especially with Red Riding Hood.  I want to “meet her” for the first time. Best of luck and good work.  And, as I’ve been saying a lot lately, “COURAGE!”

So with all of that in mind, I got to work, sketched a lot, and came up with three illustrations:

I created two options for this passage:
" ‘I’ll do everything right, don’t worry,’ said Little Red Riding Hood, and kissed her mother goodbye.
Her grandmother lived in the woods, about half an hour’s walk away. When Little Red Riding Hood had only been walking a few minutes, a wolf came up to her. She didn’t know what a wicked animal he was, so she wasn’t afraid of him."


and #2

The second concept (below) came from this passage:
 "Once upon a time there was a little girl who was so sweet and kind that everyone loved her. Her grandmother, who loved her more than anyone, gave her a little cap made of red velvet, which suited her so well that she wanted to wear it all the time. Because of that everyone took to calling her Little Red Riding Hood."
My entry for the 2016 Tomie dePaola Contest

Friday, November 13, 2015

Presenting: Hopkins & Friends™, a new rubber stamp line by!

Hello everyone! I am SO excited to present to you my very first line of rubber stamps!

Hopkins & Friends
Clear Stamp Sets and Cling Mount Background Stamps

I recently received some samples and wanted to share this with you as it has been, for me, a very exciting, and interesting project. I have had the pleasure of working with my newest client over the past few months, and though previously slotted for 12 sets in total, we decided to embark on the first six with a launch of them in October.

October came, and it was almost over, and I hadn't heard from my client, and so something just didn't feel right. I've had a lot of super projects through the years, and I've had some disappointing and difficult projects as well, and I thought it was curious that I hadn't heard a peep from the outset of the launch. I decided to write to her, and ask for feedback of the launch. A few days passed, and finally I found out that she was also disappointed with the initial launch of the sets. My hunch was correct, but it was completely fine, as this is a new product/project/client, I wanted ultimately to gather feedback. Positive feedback always feels great and successful products are the goal, but as I continue on this journey, I always have to find out the nitty gritty (when possible) so as to learn and grow and do better the next time. (I hope there'd be a next time or chance!).

Anyway, with further feedback (that my little creatures were a bit more complicated than what is currently hot in the market), my client asked if I'd like to pursue something completely different, and so, I'm currently working on 6 more sets for this wonderful company. I can't be more grateful! I'll be lettering and designing, and hopefully in the future, these little critters (or iterations of them) will continue on in some form as stamps.

I am so honored to have this opportunity and to be able to share my work with all of you. They're available to order online, which is so exciting for me to share. I just stamped with one of my creations, and it is the most rewarding experience.
All of the six sets and a test stamp of little "Button" bear

"Caramel, Eggnog & Patty Penguin" Clear Stamp Set

The clear stamp on it's's really cool! :)
"Sal & Button's Christmas" Clear Stamp Set
"Christmas Time Bunnies" Cling Mount Background Stamp
Handy dandy instructions and such :)

And here are some wonderful sample card created using products and the new stamps:
A sample from of their fabulous card product options!

Though Hopkins & Friends™ didn't have the best initial launch, I'm hopeful that you'll find them worthy of a look, and perhaps sharing with others who might like these stamps for their collections and creations! I'm super happy with the quality of their stamps...they ink, and wash so completely and cleanly.

I'll be in touch with the next 6 once they launch...thanks friends for your continued support of my work, I greatly appreciate it! All my best ~ Shirley

* * * * * * * Here's where you can find the stamps * * * * * * * 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

9th Annual SCBWI Illustrator's Day at the Fort Mason, San Francisco - PART 1 of 2 posts

Hi everyone - I wanted to share this very belated post on an incredible one-day workshop/conference I attended in September as frankly, it was one of THE BEST events I've ever attended. I had missed the last two Illustrator day events, but I knew I must attend this one as two incredibly gifted and hard-working giants in the industry would be presenting: Molly Idle & Kelly Light! Kelly Light & Molly Idle!  

This post will be the first of 2 posts as I wanted to share some of the wonderful content we experienced, and the 2nd will be my personal quest to get to the event and share some of the portfolio I presented and such....stay tuned for part 2 this week.

Woohoo!, what a wonderful day! Here's what we had in store for us: 

Creating Captivating Characters and Storytelling in Picture Books
Join us for a wonderful day on the San Francisco Bay to learn more about illustrating children’s books. Are you ready to be inspired? We’ll pick up new tips and tricks, not to mention hear the latest about the industry, meet and reunite with other children’s book illustrators, and – most of all – have some fun.

We are fortunate to have two incredible author/illustrators to show us how they work and help us all to create winning, captivating characters. They will also demonstrate how illustrations can enhance and enrich the words in a picture book, making it a delightful story telling experience. This Illustrator's Day will include interactive and productive drawing time with our speakers. 
Illustrator Day Faculty:

Molly Idle Caldecott Honor Winning Author/Illustrator
Molly Idle is the creator of the Caldecott Honor-winning, wordless picture book, Flora and the Flamingo. She is also the creator of some books that have pictures and words in them, like Tea Rex, Camp Rex, and most recently, Sea Rex. And sometimes, she creates pictures for books with words that other people write, like Zombelina. Molly lives in Arizona with her fabulous family, where she can be found at her desk, scribbling away with a pencil in one hand and a cup of espresso in the other. Visit for more information.

Kelly Light Author/Illustrator
Kelly Light is the creator of the Louise series of picture books from Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins. The first book Louise Loves Art, came out Fall 2014, with the next book Louise and Andie, coming out Spring 2016. Louise has recently been made into a doll by MerryMakers and will have her own leveled reader series. Kelly has illustrated Elvis and the Underdogs and Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee, and the Quirks series by Erin Soderberg for Bloomsbury.

Kristine Brogno Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books
Kristine Brogno is an award-winning art director and designer and is currently the Design Director of Children's Publishing at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She’s had the great honor of working with a broad range of children’s artists — from first-time book illustrators to seasoned veterans, including Carolyn Conahan, Ward Jenkins, Calef Brown, Tom Lichtenheld, Andy Rash, Melissa Sweet, Jen Corace and Meilo So, among many others. When she’s not reviewing sketches and looking for the perfect typeface, you can find her exploring the Bay Area and beyond with her two young sons.
Paid Portfolio reviews offered by:  
Molly Idle Award-Winning Author/Illustrator, Kelly Light Author/Illustrator, Kristine Brogno Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books, John Clapp Professor of Illustration, San Jose State University, Abigail Samoun Agent – Red Fox Literary, Simon Stahl Art Director - Creston Books, Dana Goldberg Freelance Children’s book editor – Exploratorium, Julie Downing Author/Illustrator and children’s lit teacher, Mira Reisberg, Ph.D. Children's Book Academy 

The morning started with the incredible Kelly Light! Her presentation entitled "Continuity of Character" gave us insight about what makes a character great and memorable. Continuity of character means that "if you draw the character, the character will always look the same, feel the same, and convey it's personality through the ages."
She asked us to close our eyes, and think of Snoopy, his manerisms, his "voice", the way he moves, think about Bugs Bunny, tall, lanky, his swagger. Think of Mickey, his smile, his happy tone, the shapes that these characters convey all come into play to convey specific attributes of their character and personality. 

Kelly spoke of Chuck Jones' great question: What do you WANT to do? Speaking from her personal experience, Kelly told us of her background from dreaming of working for Disney, to working for the animation and cartoon merchandise industry, to her path to creating characters all of her own and making books and characters that tell her stories.

A few notable quotes:  
"Find what is unique about a person or an object."
"Think AS the character, not OF the character."
Kelly's love of animation, especially the animation of decades ago and her personal story of how much she loved cartoons was infectious and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her convey how that love of cartoons as a child has brought her to the joy and love of what she's doing now, creating characters all of her own. It's incredibly wonderful and so fitting that Kelly is an International Ambassador of Creativity for The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.

After Kelly's great presentation, throughout the day, we were able to view other's portfolios and chat with friends old and new about our paths in this industry. One of the BEST things about these events is to get to see wonderful people I've come to know as great creators and great people in their own right, including Joy Steuerwald, Casey Girard, Susan Rankin-Pollard, Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop. It was also great to meet fellow artists/cool cats: Fuzz E. Grant, Sarah Anderson, Maile McCarthy, Pamela Goodman, Ruth Korch, Josh Nash (so great to meet you in person), and so many others! I wanted to give a giant THANKS to Laura and Tracy, & Lea Lyon and her fabulous crew (Naomi Kinsman, Tim McCanna, Kristi Wright (Lea, let me know if I've missed anyone and I will update this post!) for bringing this fantastic duo to San Francisco. 

Two great presentations followed the break, one titled "Friends of a Feather Publish Together" by Molly Idle and Kristine Brogno. The two spoke of their challenges while working on the Flora series of books (Flora and the Flamingo, Flora and the Penguin, Flora and the Peacocks). They spoke of challenges describing how the book's flaps would work, the book format itself, issues about a wordless picture book, their desires to create something librarians could keep in libraries without worry of flaps disappearing or being too flimsy, and how it was sometimes far easier to Skype with each other than email so that they could see inflections in their faces as they came upon questions or issues about the book. It was great to see how closely they worked with each other and how throughout the entire process, Kristine stated that if there ever was a question they needed answered about the story, they would always resort to: "What would Flora do?" Character was, and is, key.

Molly & Kelly gave a wonderful presentation titled "Character Design" in which they described various aspects of how they view a story/picture book to be, and how they both compare it to film-making. It was fascinating! Truly fascinating when Molly showed images from classic movies and directed our attention to how the masters of film have very purposefully composed shots for us, the viewer to see and understand quickly. The film director/art directors designed their films with attention to lighting (Gone with the Wind), and incredible composition (Casablanca). She stated that she viewed her books as film features. Kelly spoke of various aspects of a book that were very similar to film in that your characters were the cast of your get to design them, create visual cues that tell their personality, and ways to do this, like creating model sheets. Here are some great quotes:
"Draw until you get the essence of the character that is appealing." 
"Think about how your character holds a pencil, how they sit..."
(Kelly describes getting down on the floor and drawing, just like her infamous Louise, drawing on the floor, to get the right body positioning.)

"Do all of the expressions, not just the easy ones! Try suspicion, sadness, curiosity...
the tough ones."
It was at this time that we were very fortunate to see Kelly and Molly sketch LIVE in front of all of us for different tasks during the workshop - 30 second gesture poses and Kelly demonstrated the "turnaround" (a term in animation). 

quick "turnaround" but I didn't have time to draw the "back" view.
The entire day went by too quickly, for there was much to be heard, viewed, and enjoyed. Discussions of the industry, time-management, personal journeys, and wonderful presentations that left us wanting for more filled the day. I had a wonderful 20 minute review with Molly (I'll share more in the next post), who beyond her enormous artistic talent, is incredibly generous, funny, sincere, and so full of encouragement that her words lifted me up upon hearing them. It was awesome to see Kelly again (I had the wonderful opportunity to visit her on her Louise Loves Art book tour). Kelly is as amazing as she sounds from her blog and posts, and her drive and honesty, perseverance and true passion for the industry is infectious as well as so heartfelt. Seeing the two women speak of their process, their history, their both having worked at Disney stores :), and their passion for the industry and their craft were true gifts they gave that day.

I personally learned so much from all of the speakers and am so grateful that the opportunities that the SCBWI offers each year, continue to inspire me on this journey.

Stay tuned for part 2. Thanks for reading! ~ Shirley

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Emily Lost Someone She Loved wins a 2015 Bronze Moonbeam Award!

Wow, what wonderful news! I'm overjoyed to let you all know that Kathleen Fucci's Emily Lost Someone She Loved, has received a 2015 Bronze Moonbeam Award. It's been such an honor being a part of bringing this important book to children and parents everywhere. Congratulations Kathleen & Kristina! Thanks everyone for your wonderful support. ~ Shirley

The Moonbeam Children's Book Awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children's books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading. The Awards recognize and reward the best of these books and bring them to the attention of parents, booksellers, librarians - and to children themselves." 

From Kathleen Fucci, author:
We are incredibly honored, and thankful to God, to be among the recipients of the 2015 Moonbeam Awards. We pray this book, and the rest of the Hope for Kids in Crisis series, will be used by God to comfort kids and strengthen their faith, even in the midst of devastating life circumstances.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

3) "Copying a master's work" (or attempting to re-create as best as you can)

Next in my "personal challenge" practice tips, is something I've always heard other artists speak of while in art school. While I personally had never heard of this practice while in school, I often thought that it would be a very useful and fascinating way to focus on technique as well as determine various aspects of your own personal work in comparison to your "hero's" work.

This was an incredibly fun and also very sobering practice for me in that the weaknesses in my skills are even more apparent as I attempted to re-create a personal art hero of mine, Holly Hobbie. I've been a fan of her's since the Hollie Hobbie lunch box I used to carry around back in elementary school, and more recently, her incredibly wonderful Toot and Puddle series of books. Who can resist those wonderful pigs! 

I'm hoping someone who's worked on their own "copy" of a master's work can help me here, and correct me if I'm wrong in this approach, but from what I believe is the task, it is to try to re-create exactly what the master has created. In doing so, especially by laying paint down, you can more clearly see how the master has created shadow, contrast, lighting, detail, and specifics such as determining which colors they've used to create shadow, etc.

One of the images I've loved from the book Toot and Puddle, is the page of spot illustrations of Puddle "preferring to stay home".

I decided to take a stab at the first image, with a twist so as to not completely "copy" her artwork. I must say, I'm quite the honest gal and had a really hard time with the concept of copying, but in this task, I felt it was in an effort to learn and is also because I admire her work so sincerely, that I hope that she wouldn't mind my attempt.

OK, so the first thing I did was google "old comfy antique chair". I found this wonderful image on the internet from
I then sketched the chair and added my little pig character and gave him a container of popcorn, just for fun and to make it different than Holly Hobbies'.

As I painted with watercolor (determined by reading the interior credits of the book), I started very lightly. I was timid at first trying to capture the exact tones of her pig to my pig and then realized that my brushes weren't tiny enough. I still question how she paints her thins so thin! I even tried my 00 Sable. Here's my first attempt:
As I stared and stared at her work, you'll see that she doesn't leave any pencil work in her paintings..I'm thinking because she paints all the detail work and doesn't need to sketch it in (cause that's how a master rolls! :) ) But in my effort above, you can see my stray pencil lines.
In her wonderful work, her detail of the chair is crisp..see those very thin brown marks? Do you think they were painted, penciled, or inked? I decided that maybe it was ink on top of the paint, so in my attempt, you'll see the very noticeble sepia ink marks (especially in the chair).

Being disappointed with my work, I decided to call it a night.

I picked this up again the next day and decided to re-paint some of the detail and add even more contrast as I noticed that side by side in "Preview" on my mac, you can completely see the difference in contrast between the master and the novice. Her Puddle's face has such detail and shading, and so I thought, wow, I better add some more pigment!

I also noticed there was more shadow in the chair cushions which definitely added depth and solidness to her piggy, and when viewed small, her image pops off of the white backgrounds so beautifully! I decided to add a little more contrast to the cushions. I then went and added the tiny dots to the fabric to add a little more depth to the piece. I think it helped a little! I also added more blue in the shadow below the chair.

Here's the 2nd attempt:
Here are the before and after side by side. I really like being able to take a quick screen capture to see the difference quickly!

Overall, I have a long ways to go, but this practice of "copying a master" (or at least a semi-version where you study a master's work and add your own twist to it), gives you another way to look at your work in comparison to someone's you strive to reach toward. While trying to paint Holly Hobbies' pig tones, it became even more apparent that she pays incredible attention to shadow, light and form. Something I've forgotten a lot about while painting characters. It's fascinating to think about how if a light source were hitting the top of the pig's head, how would the skintones be painted to show the effect of diminishing or increased shadow as the form is hit by light?

Also in this exercise, I now realize that my specific Sepia ink will bleed on top of a dried watercolor painting. I knew that it was not waterproof before and that it surely would bleed if painted over the ink, but I did not realize the reverse was true. For some reason I thought it would have stayed more crisp.

I am sure that when I try another piece to "copy" that I will learn more and more about what not to do..and perhaps that's a great way to learn as well while honing in on your own personal technique!

I'm really enjoying the journey, and I hope this might be useful to you.
Have a great rest of the week everyone! ~ Shirley