New England Blood

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ah! December? Where is the time going? How have you all been?

I've been writing my novel (thanks for the encouragement!), revising fairies, heading south for research interviews, and getting lost in journals of people that lived hundreds of years ago. Before the holidays totally consume us, I wanted to quick get this old post up. Because it's all about Almost-Winter in New England, which is one of my favorite times, and it's nearly done already.

During this particular time of year, the land here is enchanted:

(I tried to paint it last week, out the studio window.)

The palette across our land here in New England becomes rich and complex during this season. Out on an echoing walk through the hollow woods you can see mulberries, purples-bruised-to-blacks, plums, poisonous reds on neutrals, rumbling umbers, steely evergreen and that perfect hard-to-mix slate blue sky. It is soggy under your feet, the light is long and a little bit sad, the air is dense and sweet with the smell of leaves turning to earth. You think about the people who have felt home here too, over thousands of years, and everyone, for a moment feels connected and alive. The deciduous trees become ringed kings topped in copper crowns. They are as many ghosts as there are trees...and Christmas will settle into the land if you cue a Coventry Carol or two!

At the very edge of night and day, was when we'd love to go out and play in it, wrapped up in old table cloths for "old-fashioned dresses", "stewing" our rotten Halloween pumpkin in the burgundy dark over a flashlight, pretending we were putting up onion grass for the long winter under the deck, being chilled to the bone so when our mom would call us in for soup, it would be an unimaginable luxury...

My sister in Connecticut copper.

I think the season sounds exactly like Goldmund. Here's a song.

I actually wrote and re-wrote this post about a dozen times, because it's nearly impossible for me to talk about my landscape. So, I usually don't. My relationship to the land here is personal and bone-deep. I have entries saved about New England in the summer, the spirit in the land, the seagulls and the green. But I'm always stopped from posting by two things: (1) the belief that no one would want to read about things like seagulls and ocean! and (2) I am always at a loss for words, re: the land. Sometimes something is too beloved to explain.

(If you have read this far already, you should have a copper crown yourself!)

When I view hazy New England hills on a car drive, my reaction is always immediate. It's from the center of my chest. Peace settles through me while I scan the stacked golds and fire-tinged sphere against sphere. Is it having been born here? Having been lulled to sleep in the backseat watching them roll since I was born?  Maybe. I will probably always always live here, I don't think I'd ever be able to part with them (the hills-or the ghosts).

Sometimes just doing a little painting unlocks the language of the land for me, keeping my imagination planted firmly in the cold wet dirt while I write.

Is there a place that bewitches you, where you live?

The fairies have descended...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

and Fairy Bell Sisters final art has begun! 

Can you imagine the mess that a flock of fairy sisters (and each with her own pair of wings) might make in your house? Well, imagine it, and you've got my studio for the next few weeks! The music is loud, inky bristol board is everywhere, and if you come to the door, I will greet you in all my sans-make-up-scary-haired-brow-furrowed glory, while whisking my collection of old tea mugs away to the sink, Kathleen Kelly style.

I also become slightly non-verbal in final art mode, it's strange. For days, my eyes and hands converse via line, shape, and value. In my head it sounds a little like this: "WIDE GREY THING, CHALKY EDGE THERE, SPLATTER!, BRING THE DARKS OUT, MUTE WITH OPAQUE, DEFINE LINE." Like a render machine. Am I making sense? No? Have some toast...

 (Fairy fuel)

This coming Saturday, I'll have an excuse to put pants on and remember how to talk: I'll be speaking at Foundation For Children's Books "What's New In Children's Books" with authors I admire, Grace Lin and David Yoo. Details HERE. Would love to see you, come say hello!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It is a magical day for black kitties everywhere! Mine is hamming it up over here (juggling pumpkins, growing extra arms...) I hope you have a sweet little Halloween.

October is...

Monday, October 22, 2012

October is a yellow sweater, turtle toenails, and a great big STORY...


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer in Wisconsin! It is surely appreciated right now (to be frank and honest). This author/illustrator thing is sometimes a tough business. We don't talk much in the social media sphere about the doubt and bad days and dry spells and all the other delicious mental quandaries we get ourselves into. Presently, my art and writing are like two squabbling (growing) kids over here, after years of being told to "shush" while I worked, they are very fussy and jealous and would both like all of my time, which sometimes lends to making nothing at all. Then I get stuck. 

I got stuck today and called my mom. Besides being the most creative person I know, she is the best listener, someone who will walk into the thick of it with you and make you laugh at yourself. I told her writing my novel and making my picture books just can't happen at once. I told her switching my brain from one to the other is like singing Christmas carols in the springtime and it just won't work. She understood, and suggested something neat. She said that "maybe you just need to properly introduce them to each other." 

I'm also not used to not producing final products at a rapid-fire rate, so this year of stepping back (yes, it has been a year without picture books) has been so vital for me. To remember WHY I make, and what I REALLY REALLY WANT to make. To make like I did when I was a kid, for the fun of it. A year of learning to be patient with myself, and learning that creation comes when you throw expectation out the window and remember JOY. 

In these months I've "raised" (because they really do feel like your kids) a dozen picture book concepts, and a novel that came out of nowhere and needed telling. But this time around, there is no deadline, art director, editor, no agent, yet. It's just me right now. It's a frightening prospect. Are the stories worth it? Good enough? Can I do it? Should I go get a job in the city instead? These are questions as creators we will always ask ourselves, I bet.  So there's some honest-to-goodness truth. Thanks for being along for the ride, friends. I'll be at the drawing board (and keyboard), working at the blank white 

Class Picture Day

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Good morning class! 

It's class picture day today in Room 23. Everyone is dressed in their best pose, plaid, and pencils.  I have good back to school memories, do you? The morning air has a cool edge while you wait for the bus, the smell of new erasers overpowers your jitters over gym class. A shout-out to my sister, Anna, for whom the blonde was named! More children's fashion HERE.



Tila and her crazy pencils.


See You Soon!

Monday, August 27, 2012

(Stop 1: Lake Winnipesaukee, NH)

Driving off to Maine this morning. Between the two of us: four states, two coasts, one week! Woosh! See you soon–XO

Seri Speak

Monday, August 20, 2012

Last week my studio was turned into an all-hours kitty hospital of sorts. My steadfast and whiskered coworker got himself a life-threatening case of FLUTD. He came into the studio as I finished a book cover, hung his head and cried. Off to the hospital we went. A week of invasive cat hell ensued. But he is home now and recovering! Thank you, Hancock Animal!

The hardest part of Seri's ordeal was encountering my human frustration with the animals I love: not being able to speak to them, especially in times of need. It would be my SUPERHERO POWER of choice. Interspecies communication is mind-bending and heart-melting when you think about it: To converse, we slowly construct a common language together with eye contact, voice, and patterns of touch. But there are moments of fear and heartbreak, when you would give anything to SPEAK CAT or RABBIT or DOG, just so you might explain. Luckily, after all he went through, Seri was still wagging his taped-up little tail when I sung to him from across the room. He was still speaking our "language" and that's the most humbling thing.

Do you and your pet have a "language" together?

Editor in chief:
 Ay! Get to work!

Hopefully he'll be back to his usual "wild foal" energy levels next week (thanks Boggy!) :

Yes. That IS a cat on a leash. 

Go Seri!

Space & Time.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The second president of the United States once lived down the street from our house:

View of the Adams' Peace Field, Quincy MA

This morning, one of his letters came to me by Twitterfeed (not messenger, horse, or carriage) thanks to the MHS. The letter is an antiquated thing dotted with agelessness. From his spot in the 18th century, from our spot in the 21st, especially this week, we are sharing something pretty fantastic: WONDER. He asks the same grand questions about our universe, ones we are still shouting out into space today. Considering his level of excitement over the view of the Milky Way via Sir William Hershell's new-fangled "glass" (telescope), let's imagine what he would have thought of the view from the Curiosity! (I'm taking historical liberties to imagine he'd probably yell "Great Animalcules!", drop his pen, have a merry fit and then sit down to feverishly write some new correspondence...) 

View of Mars

In his letter to Cotton Tufts:
London June 2. 1786

"...Herschell indeed with his new Glass, has discovered the most magnificent Spectacle that ever was seen or imagined, and I suppose it is chiefly as a Spectacle that his Discovery is admired. If all those Single double, tripple quadruple Worlds are peopled as fully as every leaf and drop is in this, what a merry Company there is of Us, in the Universe? All fellow Creatures Insects Animalcules and all. Why are We keept so unacquainted with each other? I fancy We shall know each other better, and shall see that even Cards and Routs, dancing Dogs, learned Piggs, scientific Birds are not so despicable Things as We in our wonderful Wisdom sometimes think them.

The Bishop of Landaff, has made the Trees, not walk, but feel and think, and why should We not at once settle it that every Attom, thinks and feels? An universe tremblingly alive all over. The more We pursue these Speculations the higher Sense We shall have of the Father, and Master of all, and the firmer Expectation that all which now Appears irregular will be found to be Design. 

But where have I rambled? 

Your Fnd
John Adams"

I am glued to the Curiosity feed HERE. I hope that through all times, in all centuries, that we will always wonder. 

Summer Visits

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happy August! How have you been? I've missed you so, blogger buds! 

Work has really ramped up. The blog and house have grown quiet except for the sounds of tweeting and talking to my cat to keep sane (do you Tweet? let's Tweet...@JuliaDraw). 
Matt is also art lead on his company's latest video game project so our little family is running an art marathon together! WOOSH. There are dreams of vacation in September (Virginia or Nantucket–any hotel recs. welcome!) but for now, summer exists in savored little visits: blueberry farms, escape-for-lunch dates, late night walks on Wollaston beach ("around town" Quincy pics to come). My work-away-from-home spot : Crema Cafe in Harvard, where the food is artful, the tables have a charming wobble, and the people are tip top...

Speaking of little visits, I just had two virtual ones. One was at The Girls of Summer blog by two award-winning authors and women whom I greatly admire, Gigi Amateau and Meg Medina. The other was an interview with the very gracious Rosa St. Claire for Monday, I real-life visited a beloved spot with my talented lady-friend Amanda Atkins, The Curious George store in Harvard Square. We met the lovely manager and buyer, Broche Fabian, and friendly staff and I signed some stock. As you know, this was my first place of employment in Boston, under the original owners. I'm so glad the space has reopened as a bright spot again in the heart of Harvard Square. It's beautiful!

And for a dose of beautiful, skip over to Anita Silvey's Book-A-Day Almanac where she is featuring Natalie Babbitt's unforgettable description of "August" today...Till next time!

Milkweed Slippers

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SUMMERTIME! I've been out exploring the wilds of Massachusetts. In the studio, I've been drawing a lot of little girls and wings for an upcoming project (eee!) Have you ever touched the inside of a milkweed pod? I can't remember if I have, but it's one of my summer goals.

Oh, Alice...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Have you spotted Alice McKinley in the wild yet? I was invited into her zany world by the good folks at Simon & Schuster to repackage  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's classic series. They're out in bookstores now just in time for summer reading. Alice's voice is so blushingly honest and true through the entire ordeal of growing up, so I tried my best to zoom in on her open heart. She is the queen of quirk and awkwardness, the best mixture of courage, freckles, and innocence. She cracked me up. I loved meeting her. I hope you will too!

Big thank yous to the talented Jessica Handelman for her introduction to Alice and her fresh take on the design (don't you just love her san serif punchiness?) It was fun going bold, graphic, and candy-colored for this series. I painted these in watercolor, with a background in one layer of acrylic paint. These Alice covers made third place in the 2012 New York Book Show, for Trade Paperback Series! 

"The kiss went on so long, I wondered when I was allowed to swallow. What we the rules about this? Should the boy let you up for air every ten seconds or were you supposed to sort of keep your nostrils to one side?" –Alice's second kiss, Alice In Rapture, Sort Of

Click on the image to see them up close on my website...

Till next time!

Making the Cover: Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Monday, June 4, 2012

 "The earth spins at a thousand miles an hour. Sometimes when I remember this, it's all I can do to stay upright – the urge to flatten myself to the ground and clutch hold is that strong."

I'd like to describe Summer of the Gypsy Moths as haunting and moth's-wing delicate...Sarah Pennypacker deftly weaves an impossible balance between the macabre, innocence, and balmy summer vacation. Stella and Angel are two abandoned girls who summon incredible courage during one fateful summer, and learn how to survive together.  I am so afraid to give anything more away! I read it in one one cast its spell and I didn't look up again until it was time to make dinner:

Many thanks to Amy Ryan and Donna Bray for their keen eyes, design and careful direction. And congratulations on a stunning piece, Sarah Pennypacker! Published by Balzer+ Bray.

Why I Love Making Book Covers!

I presented to Lesley University this weekend (mother university of my alma mater, The Art Institute of Boston) and spoke on the creation of a book cover. I admitted to the audience that book covers were possibly my favorite format because of the challenge they pose: the challenge of funneling the entire written work, and characters you've become attached to yourself, into that one gripping moment at 5x7. This cover was the stage for Stella's moment.

There are many elements that need to be working together for that goal I'm working toward... I think first about choosing style: it needs to aid the moment while also translating the author's voice appropriately. Then, working closely with the art director, we work on design of the limited space, trying to make every millimeter counter and mean something. Color palette needs to be activated as a second voice and used with intent. I save character rendering for last, because that's where the spirit of the work lies. It's my most favorite and personal part, and once all the mechanics are worked out, the expression of that person is free to "be". 

During all of these steps though, I'm always watching "the moment" in the back of my mind...the personal moment, the first impression that the viewer, bookstore customer, library peruser of any age might have when they see it on the shelf. Hopefully, they pick it up and it makes a bridge from that person straight into the pages. I'm always wondering: did I do it? It's a thrilling challenge to make a book cover, one that I hope to tackle again and again!

First pass:

I dove into airy pan pastels for this cover. I wanted the sea and sand to feel dry and textural, and they provided the atmosphere I was hoping for. I ended up lightening the entire piece under Amy and Donna's direction to achieve a little more "hopefulness" and wonder...though it is a dark story, there is undeniable youth and life surging through.

Final approved sketch:
We talked a lot about Stella's character and her fashion choices, Angel's resistant spirit too.
Some prelim sketches :