Worker Bees

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back from Christmas in Connecticut, on the heels of a blizzard, and right to work on the new studio. It's day three and it's really coming together! I am trying to contain my spastic glee, can't wait to make art in this new little space! Here's a peek inside:

Having a handyman helps...

And a handycat...

Joyeux Noël!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy holidays, my friends! Fall term of French class ended last week to resume again as part deux in January. On our way out our professeur taught us to say "Joyeux Noël!"

I just want to thank you for all the little kindnesses this year: your notes, words of encouragement, emails, inspiring ideas...they mean a lot when you are making art and writing things and hitting Enter and sending it all out into the "void" (à la Kathleen Kelly) I've really enjoyed visiting with you here at The Cinnamon Rabbit. Hope you have time to relax, be with loved ones and be filled with new inspiration. See you again in 2011!

Much love+gratitude ♥

Just Being Audrey

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One day last week there was a knock on my door. I peeked out, grabbed the bundle waiting there and ripped it open (and danced around)...Audrey had arrived! First advanced copy:

I wake up in the mornings now with nervous excitement for the release of this title (January 25th is almost here!) I am nervous because I know my representation won't ever do justice to the life. On the other hand, I am so excited because just cannot wait to share Audrey's story, told by Margaret Cardillo. To study a life like Audrey's was life-changing. She was an inspiring soul I grew to know, respect and hold dear over months of research; a beautiful muse and almost a maternal presence while I worked. I always tell Matt that Audrey feels like my fairy-grandmother! I really miss her now that the book is done...

Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1955

Audrey told me in a dream recently that "giving is what makes the work worth it" as she wrote checks out to empty waiting hands, giddily smiling from ear to ear (dressed, of course, in a well-cut yellow pants suit and matching broad brimmed hat!) I've been trying my best to carry the feeling and message of that dream with me through the holidays, especially. Apart from her "look", Audrey's intense need to GIVE and the joy she experienced doing so was one of her most stunning characteristics. I'm looking forward to seeing her again on shelves and in hands and hopefully inspiring a new generation.

Oh! AND! we've created a Just Being Audrey book page, so come join us here:


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Please excuse the saw dust sneezes–we are under construction. My new studio is on the way...!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maybe the best part of a holiday is in the preparing for it. Therein lies the COZY factor. I love to imagine floods of people right now getting ready across the country, and all at the same time, bundling up, packing cars, baking pies, burning pies, maybe getting stuck at airports, but all still somehow ending up somewhere, hopefully in a warm little place together, sharing food and stories and laughing about it all.

This how I'm preparing in Quincy, Massachusetts, just towns away from where the first ever Thanksgiving feast occurred at Plimouth in 1621!!!

Click here if you can't read my squirrely recipe card & try them out at your feast. Recipe's foolproof (I've changed it by using whole wheat flour, adding 1/4 tsp of salt to the dough, and herbs like thyme and rosemary-you can get creative) Makes 12-15 terribly tempting little biscuits.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, whatever you are doing and wherever you may be!

Meet the husband!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I am really thrilled to announce the new blog, "AKAperly" by lead character artist, and my husband, Matt Perlot (known to many as Perly). I am not a video game guru, so this is how I describe what Matt does: he invents people. Have you seen this commercial?

This is Harmonix's brand new dance-based music game, "Dance Central." Matt designed and created the characters for this game, from sketch to what you see in-game: visual appearance, names, attitudes, "social hangups" as he puts it, and personal storyline. It is absolutely magical for me to see his invented people all over the place now, inviting people to play! Oblio "commences with the dance":

Matt's always been an amazing artist, with a signature style full of sharp angles and edge. What's really interesting for me as a fellow artist, is to watch him take his characters from concept sketch, to hyper-stylized/urban/iconographically flat art, to a fully rendered 3d person alive on the screen and standing (or dancing) in space, while maintaining the character's vibe and personality. I am continually inspired by his work, and its fun to share our love for character while I work on books and he works on games. We are always helping each other to push our own visual styles further too. Matt's got a good eye and you better believe I get a full crit on my art when I ask him for one or he'll brainstorm page design with me if I'm stumped. He's a good guy to have around :)

He kicks off his new blog here:

Playing Pretend

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I realized today I reference my own childhood playtime constantly in my art...specific games and characters or feelings I'd made up with my sisters (semi-annual mud-day above!) I hold them (both pretend things and real sisters) very dear to me and consult them regularly. Can you remember those hilarious settings and characters you dreamed up? The way certain colors or sounds jumped out at you when you read a picture book, the utterly cozy way it felt to make a world of your own? While we twirled in crazy dress up, "moved out" into our own tiny houses in the corners of the living room, recorded radio shows, and played some serious Barbie games until late in the night, we were not only learning but developing a muscle that many people stop using as they grow up for various reasons.
It's a muscle I guess I'm childishly still using, and have been through adulthood with no intention of stopping. Now I make a living doing it too. It's helped me survive some dark times, encouraged me to stay enchanted, and help me focus on possibilities. I don't think I'd even be able to MAKE ART without still allowing myself to let go and "PLAY PRETEND". Imagining what could be. I'm doing it all day. Picture books are for children, ages 0-200.

There is also something transformative about how we are when we are pretending, isn't there? It levels every heart to that same ageless, joyful, simple and accepting state. Imagine the world, our relationships with more playtime. We really need to keep doing that in one mode or another, as grown ups, so we can remember how to imagine. Imagining lets us realize that we CAN shape our lives in any fashion we'd like; allows us to tackle the impossible, befriend the intangible, tap into a level of old magic that exists in the every day and push us forward. Children do it best only because they practice daily, grown ups can do it too! It's as essential as exercise.

I think there are few things more important for the human spirit at any age, than playing. So, let's! ♥


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hello on this grey little day. So I just wanted to let everyone know about my Facebook page, because I don't think I've ever made a real post about it. I'll be using it a bit more frequently than the blog, for the day-to-day wonders and news, so if you are a Facebooker, you can join me

Life continues at a fast clip. See you very soon with art from the new book coming in 2011, I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn! Do you want to take a quick peek inside the closet of the little girl who lives in the book?...

DOTTY Giveaway!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good morning, it is wonderful, magical Friday already! And wonderful, magical Sarah Jane of Sarah Jane Studios is graciously hosting a Dotty book giveaway today!

Check out the DOTTY giveaway here. There are stickers involved :

While you are there, become inspired by her cheery blog, check out her shop, and especially her darling new line of "travel" art, called Children Around the World (see below for her latest installment). She's also working on a textile line and picture books, so keep your eye on this talented lady. Thank you for having Dotty over to visit, Sarah!

Au revoir!

Monday, October 11, 2010

So I've gathered necessities (paper, chocolate, etc.) around me to hibernate and finish art for a number of book deadlines. We will be constructing (with the help of a contractor) my in-house studio at the same time too! It's gonna get wild!

There are some exciting outside-world events to pepper the worky weeks ahead. One: The Society of Illustrator's Original Art reception next week! It's a magical night bursting with original art from picture books of 2010/wine/cheese/publishing industry stuffed into two small rooms on East 63rd street. Come and see! Here's their FB event page. Grandma's Gloves made it in this year, thank you to the wonderful folks at Candlewick and the jury at the Society ;) Sidenote: my #1 NYC goal: find Madeline in Bemelman's mural at Bemelman's Bar.

Au revoir for now! I apologize in advance to the family, friends, grocers, pedestrians I come across in the meantime...I'll probably resemble a small hurricane.

Enjoy the rest of fall, soak it in!

Meet Rose Casson

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm repackaging a series with Simon and Schuster by Hilary McKay, and I'm in love. It's a brilliant jewel of a series about a quirky British family with children named after colors (Permanent Rose, Indigo, Caddy–for Cadmium–etc.) In a list of adjectives because I am at a loss for words, McKay's writing is sweet, complex, witty, poignant, and hilarious. I feel as though I've always lived in that chaotic Casson house, and I am especially blue (moved to tears!) that I've reached the end of the last book. I'm comforted to have the series of covers ahead to continue living among the Cassons for a bit.

The first cover I finished was for Forever Rose (below). The lovely title type work was done by Michael McCartney at Simon and Schuster. Michael's been one of those art director/designer combos an illustrator hopes for: stellar typographer, carefully committed to accuracy (he's definitely read his Casson!), in tune with mood of the series, and inspirational in fashioning the characters and cover compositions in a fresh way, while leaving me a lot of room to dream them up. Forever Rose's painting soundtrack was Let Your Love Grow Tall by Passion Pit. Next up: Indigo's Star!

Wild (and Permanent) Rose Casson wormed her way right into my heart. She is the youngest of the Casson children: fierce and vulnerable, passionate and real (sort of reminds me of the rose in the Little Prince, if the rose were a little girl, of course!) She has her own blog. She is also a blossoming artist, creating murals on the kitchen walls, tagging along to her artist mother's "young offenders" art class for misguided youths (where she steals her infamous "Crime Pays" tee) She holds grudges, will not wear her glasses since she prefers to see the world slightly blurred, eats paint to taste color. Rose Casson is fab. Here's a sketch I did of her on my own time (click to enlarge):

And, as if she needed to do more to win me over, she exhibits flawless taste in picture books on page 277 in "Forever Rose" (it's Lauren Child's I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato) . Here Rose describes drawing with charcoal in such a lovely way:

"My charcoal is made of willow sticks. It is a dark and silvery gray color. The sticks are so light that you cannot feel the weight of them in your hand, but they are solid too...The sound of it drawing on paper is like a rustle. Like an echo of leaves. If you look carefully at a stick of charcoal you can see where the leaves once hung; they have patterns like grains of sand, as if a minute bubble burst there and left its shell behind. It is lovely stuff to draw with. You can layer it into darkness or brush it away like a dream. You feel like you are drawing with shadows."

I urge you, reader of any age, to PLEASE go and meet the Casson family straight away! You will fall in love too.

Fall Is Here

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yes! It is officially FALL! Here is a painting on wrinkly computer paper because I had to capture the feeling without any good paper of those absolutely cozied-out moments, I think McPartland's cover of "A Ship Without a Sail" was on, smell of possibility was in the air, bright colors floated in my mind, left over back to school jitters shivered. I tried to capture it via a lime-yellow park, school bus, Mary Janes and composition notebook. Ohhhh there is nothing like Fall in the city!

Happy new season to you. Enjoy it where you are

Put on your jacket and take a walk.
The first day of fall is here...
You can hide in a pile of leaves.
But not for long.
Someone is sure to find you!
-The Provensens

Thank You!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just a quick note to say thank you for all who bid and participated in the Eyewitness Reports auctions for 826LA. Over $5,500 was raised for the kiddies! It will be put to good use on expanding writing skills and creativity...I love this 826 Time Travel Mart video. Many thanks again!


Monday, September 13, 2010

The (mostly British) word "twee" has been following me around. I think I could use it in place of "cute"– yes? no? Hm. I scanned these little shoes in for the book I'm working on. I daresay things are getting rather twee over here.

Breakfast at the 7-Imp Diner

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The magical Jules Danielson interviewed me at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Click here if you want to read. I am so honored to be sharing the breakfast table with her! A million thanks, Jules. Surprise treat: also joining us are lovely authors, Cecil Castellucci and Erica Perl!

P.S. Breakfast regret: I have since acquired a grown-up coffee addiction so I'm bummed I ordered mint tea and didn't get to drink out of that imaginary little coffee cup (above) she always puts on each interview. Darn. I bet she makes a good brew too!

P.P.S. ULTRA SECRET: Jules revealed to me her own breakfast of choice, which I'd always wondered about. It's a "toad-in-the-hole"!


Art Auction TODAY-September 3rd

Monday, August 30, 2010

Auction Part 2 of the Eyewitness Reports project is on TODAY!

"Winning bidders receive the winning art piece along with an official police report filled out by the artist, a copy of OH NO! signed by Mac Barnett and Dan Santat, and an exclusive limited edition print."
Proceeds go to fund 826LA, a non-profit writing and tutoring center for children, an amazing place that fosters creativity.
So, why mayhem/destruction/robots? check out my blog post about the theme here. My painting features Dan's heroine from OH NO!, atop a taxi in a bumbly traffic jam with her cut-out homemade sign, urging her giant (unseen) frog to DESTROY said robot.

Click here to check out the auction and bid!

For Our Grandmas

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ok, get ready for some goosebumps and watch this movie Cecil Castellucci made in honor of her Grandmother for today-the release of Grandma's Gloves! I love this little movie so much:

I think I should take a moment for my own grandmas too. When I got the manuscript, both of them had just recently passed, and both were very close to me. It was difficult at first, but cathartic to paint through it. I had brilliant models for my Grandma's Gloves grandma: Pocca and Nana.


Pocca was Scottish, an accordian player/mother of 5/saint who spoke in the softest southern accent, hugged with the strongest arms, and had a love of endless puns, JOTTO, and children. She let me name her anything I wanted which was "Mocha Pocha" for no apparent reason, so she became Pocca (pronounced "polka") to us all. She always put playtime, imagining and her strong faith before anything "real" and would defend these things fiercely. We lived downstairs for a while, and she and Pop Pop lived upstairs. She had painted toenails. She was one of those high-cheekboned southern beauties in the reel-to-reels, and her family traces their roots back to the Scottish Munroe clan with a castle. She was adept at drawing children's faces and painting cats. One of the last memories I have of her is saving a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. Above: Pocca, Pop Pop, sisters and I on our front porch.


Gloria Denos was my red-haired grandma; an Italian, sauce-making, trend-spotting, feisty little lady with a sarcastic sharp wit and a generous and vulnerable heart. She made us a giant Christmas tree out of presents every year, and called jeans "dungarees". She loved CSI, late night TV, and was more private with her spirit and thoughts, but we later found her journals full of dreams about angels. One of eleven children. She was always our honored guest at Thanksgiving and she saved every single tiny card or drawing from every child, we found them all organized in albums after she died. She would do anything to protect what she loved. She teased, demanded kisses on the cheek, and wore slippers when she came to visit us (and it was the coziest thing ever if Nana came to visit). Her teasing nickname for me was "Shirley". Her handing writing always slanted to the left. Above: Nana and I on the back porch circa 1983.

These ladies loved me in a way that formed me and my art-making.

When I sat down with the manuscript many times, I would just watch flickers of them. I cried a lot too. Due to this emotional struggle and the invigorating stylistic challenge (you can see my growth in the concept art all the way back to 2006 below) this book was the most pivotal work for me of any assignment thus far. I remember beginning and drawing grandma after grandma on loose pieces of paper. I struggled with achieving the "perfect grandma". Concept work 2006-2008, click to enlarge:

The line I loved most of Cecil's in her description of Grandma, was "I run to her and she folds me in her fleshy arms for a big kiss." I decided to make my starting point those soft arms because I knew them well (they were Pocca's). The long string that attaches her glasses belongs to Pocca too. Grandma's spunk and short haircut is Nana's and she is most present in that kitchen scene with her chin in her hand, taking a gossipy story in.
I think a lot of the gardener element and funky clothes, especially in the sunflower scene, are my own mother. Because of her, no matter where we lived, or what our situation was, we were spoiled by her spilling wildflower gardens. She is a passionate gardener and mother. She is not a grandma yet, but she is part of that maternal love that follows you around into stories when you are illustrating things like hugs, and children. The book is dedicated to her for that reason.

I gave this book to Pop Pop (Pocca's husband and my grandfather) for his surprise 80th last weekend. I told him he'd be able to spot Pocca and the "old days" in there. So grateful to have him.

So this a post for the GRANDMAS! For Nana and Pocca and Cecil's grandmother who gave her rich stories in a toaster, and of course for all of the grandmas with us or gone ahead. And Grandmas: your grandchildren will always remember you at your best times, the time you made for us, what your hugs smell like, and how you never forgot to water your violets

---"She's forgotten it all," Mama says sadly.
I tell Mama and the nurse that Grandma didn't forget to water the plants in her room.
They are big and green, and the violets are blooming---
August 10, 2010