After some recent revisions, I made a few more color illustrations of my favorite anti-hero, Bad Balloon.
I had another lovely visit at the Bowers School in Manchester, CT. This time I talked about Writing Narratives. I spoke a lot about personal narratives and told stories from my own life. One story is called Pants Problem and it’s about a time when I wet my pants in gym class. The students all giggled and laughed like it’s the most embarrassing thing ever. But for the rest of the day little kids approached me to tell me their own pants-wetting story. I replied, “Maybe you’ll write about it some day!”
I have workshops will all the students over the next two weeks, but today I worked with the first graders. I know it’s difficult for the little ones to think of a good story from their lives when writing personal narratives. I wanted them to learn that moments with strong emotions often lead to a good story. And since the younger students often draw their stories out, I wanted to teach them how to draw emotions. We did happy, sad, angry, surprised, confused, and proud. I could have taken 100 photographs of all of their wonderful work! But here’s one example.
Tomorrow I work with the Kindergartners! I can’t wait to see what they draw!
JUMP is a project that I worked on a couple years ago. I got some great feedback from an editor, but then I needed to take a break from it and let the new ideas germinate. I’ve pulled it off the shelf and am working on it again with energy and enthusiasm! I LOVED painting that bee. The water in the pool (below) was a bit challenging for me. I don’t paint a lot of swimming pools, so I had to research and decide what approach I wanted to take.
For one of my newer projects, I’m working with a loose, energetic watercolor style. This dog is on the run and I want the illustrations to capture that energy.
I love doing my thing at school visits. When I present a large group presentation, I know I am putting my MA in Theater Education to work, because I can project, I can entertain, and I can read the crowd. (And it’s pretty much the only time I’m using that degree.) I also love doing writing and art workshops in classrooms and working more closely with the students.
But sometimes … sometimes I get a surprise. During my last school visit at Whittemore Elementary in Massachusetts, I had a 20 minute long break. I found myself a little chair to sit in and rest my voice. Then my friend Meredith Charles, who is the drama teacher there, saw me in my leisure and invited me to sit in on her drama class with the Kindergarteners. They performed a Wishy-Washy play, based on the Wishy-Washy books, in which things, animals, and people get dirty and Mrs. Wishy-Washy cleans them.
It was very sweet and fun, and I wanted in. So when they did it a second time, I asked to be the duck. I got the part!
I play the role of Farm Duck who has carelessly paddled in mud causing a huge mess. (This is after Cow and Pig have rolled in the mud.) Mr. Wishy-Washy has discovered our mishap and has put us in the tub, one-by-one, to clean us. See my wings, see my vacant, yet slightly distressed eyes. I am committing to this duck role. Acting!
The audience erupted, much like they do at the end of Hamilton I assume, and the cast and I took our bows.
I had THE BEST time in that short 20 minute break. SO MUCH FUN. Big thanks to Whittemore School for having me, to Meredith Charles for hooking me up with the gig, and to the lovely children who allowed me to be silly with them.
Who doesn’t love fan mail? It’s one of the best parts of the job. You’re at home. The mailman comes. Instead of a handful of bills and a flyer for 40% off chimney cleaning, you get a big envelope filled with love and appreciation. It’s kinda awesome!
Yesterday, I got just that. Let me share a few.
In addition to the action and energy here, I love that the artist has drawn himself in the art. This means I’ve done my job. I’ve created a character and a world that the reader wants to participate in. Love it!
This young artist drew a ninja on her Thank You note, then added that it was much more difficult than she thought it was going to be. :)
This my favorite. This note speaks directly to my presentation, not my work. Kids, like many adults, are often under the misconception that because a picture book is shorter and intended for a younger audience, that it is, therefore, easier to make. I stress to the students how hard I work on the writing, how many drafts I do, the time I put into it. And then, I talk to them about all the different aspects it takes to compose art that helps tell a story.
I LOVE making books, but they are so much more difficult than even my biggest, best, and most complicated paintings. Like this one:
Painting this was cherry cheesecake compared to making a picture book.
And whereas I never want to make it seem like making a book is an insurmountable task to any young artist or writer, I do want them to read a book and appreciate all the work, craft, and talent that has gone into it.
A note like this makes me feel like I’ve done my job well.
I had a wonderful author visit at the Bowers Elementary School yesterday. When they contacted me months ago, they said the students were interested in learning about character development, so I created a program just for them. The presentation talked about character analysis, voice, consistency, and character choices. I love to make the presentations as fun and inclusive as possible. I created a game called Lucy or Charlie Brown in which students come up to the front and are given a paddle on which one side had a picture of Charlie Brown and one side had a picture of Lucy. They students were then shown – with no context at all – a quote. They had to decide, based on the word choices and tone, if Charlie Brown said it or Lucy. They did a fabulous job with it!
I did some workshops throughout the day. With the Kindergartners, I did OUTSIDE/INSIDE worksheets. I read LOST AND FOUND by Oliver Jeffers and we talked about the outside of the character, Boy, and what he was like on the inside. I gave the students symbols to represent caring, smart, brave, calm, etc.
The second graders had a different task. We created two characters with opposite character traits, then I assigned them a short scene to write. Their goal was to try to shape the voice of their characters to inform the reader/listener of their character traits. This is a difficult task to accomplish in 30 minutes, but they did a great job! Here, I am reading a scene with a student about two video game characters and mine just went BOOM!
I had a fabulous time with all the Bowers students and I’m really looking forward to returning and working with the older grades! THANK YOU BOWERS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!
THE SIMPLES LOVE A PICNIC
The Simples want to go out and have a simple little picnic, but things become horribly complicated: The dog chases after a squirrel, the cat reveals its hiding spot in Lulu’s backpack, there are too many ants and birds, and one food item send the whole park into a tizzy! What will the Simples do?
From the artist and author J. C. Phillipps comes this hilarious little picture book with a big heart to remind us that picnics are just a little about food and a lot about family.
I bet your bottom dollar that if read correctly The Simples Love a Picnic by J.C. Phillipps could be one of those books a classroom of first graders fight to the death to check out from the library. The lie is in its very name: “Simple”. As a quick perusal shows, what Phillipps is able to accomplish here is anything but simplistic. After all, writing funny books is no easy task, yet The Simples Love a Picnic blows that notion right out of the water. Highly hilarious stuff.
-Elizabeth Bird, Fuse 8
A funny family story packed with mayhem and good spirits. - Kirkus
MONKEY ONO is available at AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, POWELL’S, or at a bookseller near you. This title is also available for your Kindle.
It’s World Read Aloud Day! Yay! I celebrated by speaking with 60 lovely and well-behaved Kindergartners, reading Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap, making a horse collage, and seeing some fabulous student art. That’s my kind of party!
These two illustrations were made for my current work-in-progress. I don’t normally go super realistic, but after discussing the project with my agent, he thought the previous illustrations (unseen) were too stylized. Now we’ve heard from someone else that these may be too realistic, so I’m off to find a happy medium. Still, I kinda love them. Creating samples like these take a lot of work, so it can be frustrating not to use them, but every piece of art I make brings me closer to the characters. It’s all good.