Illustration Station, Inspiration Island, Kidlit County

The Main Event: The 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference

This past weekend was the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. It not only marks the one year anniversary of my little blog, but is also one year since all of this book industry madness began for me!

Tomie dePaola honors this year's Tomie dePaola Award recipients. Who knew author/illustrator of one of my favorite children's books (Strega Nona) was so sassy!

Tomie dePaola honors this year’s Tomie dePaola Award recipients. Who knew the author/illustrator of one of my favorite children’s books (Strega Nona) was so sassy!

When I saw the conference schedule was only Saturday and Sunday (aside from optional intensives on Friday), I winced. Why so short?! Then I realized that it had been the same way last year, and, by the time I had made it to lunch on Saturday, I remembered just how compact and dense the little weekend was. Though I couldn’t possibly talk about everything that happened (especially since I need to get back to work), I will share my favorite highlights (for more specifics, you can check out the conference blog!).

Our opening speaker was the delightfully snarky Meg Rosoff (How I Live Now). Her speech was entitled “So When Are You Going to Write a Real Book, You Know, For Adults?” It was brilliant. She is brilliant. And her point was that books written for youth are just as important and hard to make as books written for adults. Meg eloquently told non-believers to sit-n-spin while inspiring an audience of children’s book and YA writers to be proud of their creations, and to go bravely forward against the naysayers with heads held high and middle fingers drawn because we are indeed necessary. She wins the Mike Curato Badass Award. (Ooo, maybe I should make that award a regualr thing on my blog! thoughts?) Continue reading

Designland, Illustration Station, Inspiration Island, Mikesville

Christmas List

Season’s greetings to all of my Santas, Elves, and Hanukkah Harries! As you all start scurrying around to procure holiday gifts this year, I thought I would share a little list of my favorite makers of things with you. Why not spend your money on a truly unique gift from talented people instead of buying the newest mind-numbing device at your local capital crazed mega store?

leNebulous Jewels is run my good friend Ruthie. Her pieces are a beautiful combination of shapes and materials, perfect for someone with a modern fashion sensibility. All of her creations are hand assembled.


leNebuous Jewels

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Inspiration Island

Coo-Coo for Cocuzza

One of my favorite people in the world is visiting me in Seattle at the moment. Julia Cocuzza is one of my college besties, and has remained so throughout the years. We spent a lot of time talking about art, critiquing each other’s work, and partaking in all forms of tomfoolery. One of our favorite pastimes was pointing at something and challenging the other to come up with the proper color palette in order to paint it. Did someone say “nerd alert?”

Julia lives and works in Brooklyn, and was born and raised in Reading, PA. Her work is mostly acrylic, oil, and/or spray paint on canvas, but she has also branched out into installation. She has experience in the illustration and fine art worlds, as well as overseeing urban mural projects. She also co-founded Griot Apparel, a t-shirt design company committed to “keep[ing] people’s history alive through talking about it.” Check out her Etsy store where you can purchase prints. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of Julia’s…

Williamsburg Bridge, Brooklyn Side
oil on canvas / 12×24″ / 2007

Under Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Side
oil on canvas / 17×25″ / 2007

Manhattan Cityscape (Springtime)
oil on canvas / 9×50″ / 2006

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Illustration Station, Inspiration Island, Kidlit County

Highlights from ICON7

Well, I am feeling thoroughly inspired, thanks to attending last week’s ICON7, a bi-annual illustration conference. This one took place in Providence, Rhode Island and was my second time attending (I got to go 6 years ago in San Francisco). So much happened, and I met so many awesome people, so forgive me for condensing into a few highlights (though not all of them actually happened at ICON, but everything is relative, no?):

Lynda Barry having a moment with my Elly postcard!

Lynda Barry is amazing. That is an understatement, but I’m not really sure how to expand on that. She’s that rare person that I wouldn’t mind sitting and listening to talk for hours while I don’t say a thing. You can actually see the energy bounding out of her. I took her writing workshop, which proved to be a revelation. She introduced us to a method that she’s used almost her entire life (which you can fortunately experience on YouTube, though it doesn’t do justice to her in-person presentation). Also check out her Tumblr. Again, mind=blown, me=speechless.

I took another workshop facilitated by Josh Cochran and one of my artsy heroes, Chris Silas Neal (who I have been cyber stalking for years). We all made zines in two hours. I’m pretty proud of mine! Check it out.

Jessica Hische preachin’ the “creation story”

Jessica Hische is everything I dreamed she would be and more. I’ve drooled over her work for that last year or two, but what I appreciate even more is the sincerity and frankness with which she spoke at ICON. Two mantras she shared (which I need to write on my studio wall in permanent marker): “Learn what you need to learn to make what you want to make” and “Make things you wish existed.” She also coined my new favorite word: Procrastiworking.

I ran into Murray Tinkelman, my former professor at Syracuse University. The man is ancient. When I said hello and explained that I used to be his student he replied, “Congratulations!” Classic Murray (although there was no use of the F-bomb).

Speaking of former professors, I didn’t know that Tim O’Brien was going to be speaking. He was an adjunct professor for a month during my senior year. I shared a moment with him from college, when he said that my painting was good, but did not live up to the promise of my original sketch. That haunted me for years. Often, I would look at a painting I finished and be weary that it was not as good as the drawing. Then one day something clicked, and I thought, “Why don’t I just draw?” Duh. Tim said that he’s glad he haunted me.

Matt Goening showed up as a special guest, and spoke with his old friend and my new favorite person, Lynda Barry. Lynda and Matt took turns reading some of their comics. Here’s a clip from Matt’s strip Life in Hell, which he just stopped writing last week:

I also picked up an autographed copy of The Homer Book for Dan:

The Real Deal.

Some other speakers who really got me jazzed were Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson of Idiot Books, a husband and wife team who left all their grown-up comforts to start a subscription based press, where he does the writing and she does the art. It looks like they have an awesome time.

I got to meet some amazing folks at the conference. Here are some links to a few illustrators that I got to know over food & drinks: Denise Gallagher, a sassy red head from Louisiana who has graced the pages of Communication Arts. I tagged along while she hunted down her list of art directors. Isabel Roxas, who I met via the interwebs a few months ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see her at the roadshow, and we ended up people watching together at the bar! Kyle Lindholm, who I met at the hotel bar when I had to sneak out of a talk to eat some dinner (you know me and my demanding tummy). He actually spent time in Afghanistan documenting in his sketch book. Ana Isabel Ramos, who flew all the way from Panama. We talked about client-designer relationships, working from home, and cultural differences in all the cities and countries we’ve lived in. Not bad considering we had a little over an hour for lunch.

I also got to spend some quality time representing Seattle with my pal Mark Kauffman. You’ve seen his stuff in the Stranger, Seattle Weekly, and some old rag called the New York Times. It was good to have a reliable wing man at the conference, especially when it came to 3AM food truck excursions.

Sunday, after the conference, I met up with my family at a half-way point in New Haven, CT, for some yummy Spanish/Mexican food. We haven’t all been together for Father’s Day in many moons, so it was a special treat. Another special treat was the batch of “crack brownies” that my mother made for me to bring home.

The apples and the tree.

I also need to give a shout out to my friends Sarah Jane Lapp (who I wrote a post about a few months ago) and her man Rick, who were good enough to host me, feed me, and save me a bazillion dollars in hotel bills.

And now I leave you with an awesome clip of the band What Cheer Brigade and some larger than life puppets who helped start the conference with a bang.

Inspiration Island, Mikesville

Chronicles of an Elsewhere Studio Mate: Sarah Jane Lapp

SJ & me in our old studio, circa 2007

Now that I have a blog, I am very excited to share all of the artists who I have either had the pleasure to call a friend or who have influenced me as an artist. Sarah Jane Lapp has been both friend and inspiration.

I met my friend Marc on a plane from Newark to Seattle about 7 or 8 years ago. We hung out one day, and he said he had a friend who lived just two doors down from me. Enter Sarah Jane, curious and wild-haired. Unlike most keep-to-yourself Seattleites, Sarah Jane immediately invited herself over and asked to see my art, and we have been friends ever since.

SJ's famed loveseat that you see us sitting in above. This piece hung in our studio until Sarah Jane moved away.

We would sit in her kitchen almost daily, and plot out our lives while she would make some tea and vittles from her random cache of twigs, greens, and legumes. We had big plans to have our own art “destination” where we would make things, and somehow sell them to people who would be lured in by the scent of our fresh-baked cookies. Surprisingly, this did not come to pass. However, we did become studio mates and remained so for four wonderful years. We have seen each other through the highs and lows (and very lows) of our personal and artistic careers.

This is one of my favorite pieces by any artist. I just want to jump into it and turn into a burst of bright colors.

Sarah Jane is a film maker/illustrator, working in ink and gouache. The honesty of her line matches her genuine spirit. Some of her pieces have a minimalist approach that capture such a depth of feeling with just a few strokes. Others marry her line with bursts of colors that I can only describe as alive.

Still from Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist. A character study of these birds hangs proudly in our dining room.

I had the honor of watching her work on and complete an animated film that took her nearly 11 years to create, Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist. When she was done, when all of the frames were stacked in one proud pillar, the film stood more than half her size. It was an entire film handmade with ink and gouache and edited in Final Cut Pro. Eulogist went on to screen at South by Southwest and the Seattle International Film Festival.

Op-Ed piece for the Post Intelligencer

Meanwhile, SJ also did op-ed pieces for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (RIP), and sold her art to the masses via a booth at Pike Place Market. This was always funny to me; I wondered if customers understood that the woman in the Russian faux fur hat that they were purchasing handmade greeting cards from was a genius. I am in awe of the various fellowships and residencies Sarah Jane has been accepted to, not to mention teaching at several universities (including a little place called Harvard). I do want to note that I am totally butchering SJ’s resume by leaving out her other lauds, but these are the moments that stick in my mind, the ones that make me proud and give me hope as a creative.

The title of this is "This Is A Total Catastrophe", but to me this is a total illumination.

SJ would always say to me “be good to yourself,” and it’s something that I try to impart to others. She is always trying to connect people, always trying to learn and grow and be a good human.

When you're Not Here, starring SJ's loveseat and the void where her ink seat used to live. (by me)

SJ left Seattle over a year ago, and it hasn’t been the same without her. She’s currently living outside of Providence, plotting new adventures.