Thursday, June 9, 2011

Society of Children Book Writers & Illustrators Part 2 (finally)

So as I mentioned in Part 1, the first scbwi conference I did not meet any new friends. 
Now, if I attend a conference I am blessed with being greeted by my wonderful and growing tribe!  How did that happen?


It was not something that I forced. I didn't walk up to a group of people and push myself into the center. I didn't stand on the sidelines and melt into the wallpaper either.  So how? 

It happened naturally. 
I met some local authors and illustrators, I went to another conference, I sat with one person I recognized from a local group and who I really got along well with. That person knew a few others. We kept in touch. 
We went to a conference together. 
We met more people we liked, and so on and so on.
Why am I bringing this up? 
Because you go to a conference with hopes of publication, hopes of discovery, signing up for critiques, hopes of meeting editors, hopes of finding new friends, and I can tell you all those things can happen, but not at one conference.
Not at the first conference. 

YOU invest in a meaningful friendship.
YOU focus on what you have to GIVE, not get.
YOU treat everyone as you would want to be treated.
YOU share your story. No, not that story. The story of YOU.  (not in a creepy- "let me tell you all about myself" way) but in a genuinely interest of sharing way.
Then maybe you will find a friend.
This is how you find a friend.
This is how you find a spouse, wait, we aren't talking about that. But lets. This IS how you find a spouse, isn't it?
YOu be you. YOu be open. YOu share your interests, and your time. YOu don't look at people as though they have something for you. 
You are not a  creepy predator. 
If you want a relationship, personal or professional, you have to be genuine.  
Be patient. 
Meeting one friend. One good friend can mean the world.

So now you went to one conference and soaked up the advice, and you went to another and met one friend.

Now you may also want to submit a story for a manuscript critique, or a portfolio for review. 
That is going to be Part 3 ! : )

Monday, May 16, 2011

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators / part 1

Do you want to write or illustrate a children's book? Then you may want to belong to 
the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 

I can't say enough for this organization. I was so glad I had the opportunity to thank one of the founders, Lin Oliver, this weekend at the New England conference. Her encouraging energy has a wonderful trickle down affect!

This group is based on mentorship. The current members openly share their experiences with newbies. The website is packed with information including a blog page that keeps you up to date with the latest information.  Oh, and the conferences I must tell you about the conferences!

Years and years and years ago, I signed up for my first regional conference. If you are a newbie, I think the regional conferences are definitely the way to go.  Obviously they are smaller than the national conferences (which are awesome) but I think a huge benefit to that small size makes connections with other writers and authors easier.

There are agents, editors and art directors at all of these events. Many a writer or illustrator goes with first pages or portfolio in hand hoping to be discovered. Which is fine and quite normal. But more often than not, something more magical happens, or can happen if you pay attention. You might find your tribe. Which for an artist or writer is no small thing. It is HUGE. Finding your tribe, can change your life in the best possible ways.

Now, I did not find anyone at that first conference. I was alone. 
Being alone is not the worse thing to happen to you. 
I left inspired by all the wonderful work, but I didn't make any new friends. Not one. Which was fine. I wasn't really looking for them either. I was in awe of the process.
That first conference, was the first time I went away alone, without my husband or kids. It was new, it was liberating and I needed that time to think about the work and what I wanted to do.
I think if you go into a new situation without an agenda you will find magic or morsels of inspiration.

~end of part 1, more to come..

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ducks # 3

Working out my painting style for this illustration.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Retreats so Sweet!

Last fall I was invited to my friend's house for our annual writing retreat. But I couldn't go. So, we planned to get together in the spring and this weekend was finally our chance to re-connect!
She lives almost 6 hours away in the country, on the water, outside a beautiful little New England village. The setting is perfect for connecting with nature, and really regrouping after a long snow-filled winter. The only thing she didn't tell me, is that the foot bridge is out.

Normally, it looks like this..........

But, instead we had to cross like this........(and we had to carry luggage and food across too!)

That is our cabin the back ground, I was crossing to get back to the car. The logs would shake up and down as I stepped. I said I would wade through the water, rather than fall in the muddy water.. But, my John (my husband) and Robin (writer friend) said I could do it.
I am not an adrenaline junky by any stretch. I am not a fan of heights or falling into rivers!
but, they kept me going, and 
I looked up, and step by step I made it across!

I think I crossed over these tree logs 6 times during the weekend. 
Each time a tiny bit braver. 
I was a little less terrified. 
I stopped thinking about falling in the muddy river.
I stopped thinking about what I didn't want to do.
I stopped doubting.
I just kept moving.
finally, on the last rip across, I looked up!
Nothing about the logs changed from the first walk to the last.
Nothing about the logs changed.
I wanted them to change.
I wanted the logs to be a bridge.
But they stayed logs.
I changed.
I looked up
I thought about where I was going.
I thought about the other side,
the destination.
I can't say I was ever thrilled to face those logs.
But in the end, I have to admit, it felt good to do something I didn't think I could.

Friday, April 29, 2011

NIghtstand re-do......

This is the nightstand BEFORE. It belonged to my grandmother. See those tacky silk flowers? Those were a gift from my 4 boys with this sweet sentiment,"These flowers won't die, so we never have to buy you flowers again." they are so practical! : )

The nightstand got primed, painted, and polyurethaned. I tried to replace the drawer handle but it is small, and I will have to order one. I can't part with my "forever flowers" so I cut them down and put them in a small lenox vase, much better.  
It looks fresh, and now I am anxious to repaint those green walls.  Why oh why did I paint the walls green? 

It's spring and house projects are blooooming!!

I would love to have two bathroom renovations.
But, for now we are working with facelifts! (not my face, the house's face!)

BEFORE old bathroom cupboards....
 and the bathroom cupboards AFTER.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Giving old furniture a new lift!

I almost forgot to take a  BEFORE picture, so I stopped priming and took a quick shot.
This trunk belonged to my grandmother, the veneer top is all chipped and dry.
So, I decided to paint it white (linen white) and see if I could freshen it up.

This is the scary middle. It is when the whole thing seems like a huge mistake.  I use Zinsser primer, because you do not have to sand it first! Which is awesome!!! But doesn't it look horrible, all primed.

There is Gibbs, my furry assistant. He didn't lick the paint, which amazed me! He likes to taste just about  everything!
I let the primer dry and set all day. Then, I painted thin coats of linen white, softer than a bright white.
I love it! Fresh-clean and less of a giant blob in the middle of the room.
Next is the night stand in the far corner!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

new processes...

My order of lusciously beautiful acrylics arrived!! 
I am planning to add new painted art to my portfolio--at long last. 
I am enjoying the process of sketching it all out between other projects!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Enough with the rain already

My studio ceiling is leaking! Last week, I moved all the paintings and watercolors off table 1 and put them on table 3. And the leak is over table 1!!! How lucky was that!

Moved everything out of the way. covered the tables with plastic to catch any more water so I can dry the carpet, and called the landlord. Hopefully roofer comes tomorrow!
So we are not having a repeat of the roof leaking-flood of 2008--where so much was lost......

flood of 2008 picture.

Friday, April 15, 2011

We interrupt this artist blog to announce our little winner..........

We cannot say enough about our molly mutt doggie beds.
They are durable, washable and beautiful!
They are lovely duvets that contain our old clean pillows, t-shirts, and sleep bags! Go Recycling!

here is the blog, and you should click around and check out the patterns and sizes!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Acrylic ink vs. clay illo

Okay, I am playing around with acrylic inks for my new portfolio pieces.  Below is a lion I doodled in ink and below that is the lion illustration from my portfolio -- what do you think?
a. stick with clay
b. keep doodling, and work in acrylics

Much thanks for your input!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Congratulations ......

............... to the Cincinnati Zoo and the new baby Giraffe!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


It is with great relief that I hit SEND and emailed my revised story to my mentor.
Now, I wait for her to read it , make lots and lots of notes and send it back!
if feels good to get passed this step. Even though I think it will take at least 3 more rewrites to get it to a place where I can call it .... a novel.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My studio story is featured in SUNDAY SPACES

Thank you Sonya!  Check out Sunday Spaces:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

THE RED WALL is now...........


you can see the studio RED wall in the previous posts.
I also painted the table legs aqua.

How my studio found me! part 2

................ So, we left off from yesterday with an appointment to go see a warehouse space.
Now since I was sick for almost a year! I did not have a healthy art bank account, and my idea was to just rent something for 2 months in the summer.

I was surprised when the nice preschool teacher called back to say that her husband owned a row of warehouse buildings and that they wanted to show me a space.
What could I say? I had to check it out and I figured I would just say it wouldn't work out, since I really had no money.

The next day I met Mark the building manager who was a really nice guy.
 He opened the door to this long narrow room with only a small path to walk through it. It was filled with old, crumbly, smelled like mildew boxes from floor to ceiling.
The space was being rented by the local movie theatre and they were using it for storage. It looked like long abandoned storage. Boxes were old and falling all over each other.
I couldn't even tell if the space had windows, it was like walking through box-hoarders!

We walked through the first long room, down the hall into a small second room, still filled with boxes. Mark turned to me and said, "Which room would you want?"
I said, "Um. Well, I guess the first room so I wouldn't have to walk through that mess to get to the second room," knowing I was probably not taking it anyway.
"Um, so how much is it?"
This is the question that was going to lead me to say I couldn't take it, or so I thought.  Mark turned around and made a phone call.
"My Uncle must like you, he said I should empty the whole space, and give it to you."
I didn't know what to say.
"Um, well, how much is the rent?"
"Well since the space needs cleaning and painting, nothing for the first months, then 100 a month after that."
WHAT? 100 a month? I could do that. I could figure out 25. per week!
It was too good not to do it.

I sent the landlord/preschool teacher's husband a heartfelt thank you letter. I went from recovering on the couch to scrubbing that space. My whole focus changed. I was looking to my future.

Turns out my landlord wanted to help someone else who was starting a new business!
He is one of my angels.

For the next months, after the boxes were removed, we cleaned and scrubbed and primed the walls. We pulled the smelly carpet off the floors and scrubbed them over and over.
When they were finally clean, I primed them and painted them with floor paint in a soft grey.
And then I painted that block wall red.  Million Dollar Red was the paint name.
 (that's the wall that is getting painted today!)
This is the studio after a good long scrubbing............

This is the first picture I took after I finished cleaning and moving into my studio.

That is how my studio found me.
I still cannot believe that I made ONE phone call and ended up in this wonderful space. 
I feel very very blessed.

Doesn't that make you wonder what you should ask for?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How did my studio find me? (sorry this is long) let's call it part 1

My studio is tied in to my cancer. Good things and not so good things seem to go together.

In 2003 I was finally diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I say finally because I was sick for 10 months, constant choking and coughing all night long before I found my cancer.
~ okay, side-bar for a quick cancer story....  I was sick, and first we thought it was a virus, then maybe bronchitis, then maybe an allergy, I coughed and coughed, I couldn't sleep, I was exhausted.
I had just starting seeing a therapist, my mother had died and I was struggling with my grief and my family's grief.  It was Dr. M. who first noticed how long I had been coughing. "You have had a cough since you first started coming here." oh, I thought, true it has been long.
"I have been feeling exhausted like I am trying to run through water, so tired."
"Have you thought of listening to your body?"
No. I had not. I had not thought of listening to my body, I was too busy pushing myself.
Two days later, I woke up and felt a tiny pressure in my neck. I was listening.
I opened my medical book (that I first had for taking care of the kids) and found an article about thyroids.
Take a drink of water.
lean your head back and swallow it while looking in the mirror. Is your neck symmetrical?
No, it was not. I had nodules on my thyroid.
Most nodules are NOT cancer.
But, I was sick. I fractured 2 ribs coughing! I was sick. I knew.

Okay, that is it. I found the nodules, called my doctor, had an ultrasound, had a biopsy, had surgery.

Now, back to the studio.

I was recovering from surgery. I was tired and they had to find my balance of synthroid (thyroid hormone replacement) and that took some time to get right (actually I am still tired!).
So I had a lot of time to think.
What do I want to do? Really do with this life, with this one life that I have been given?
Of course my first priority was my family and our sons. I hoped to be able to raise them.
But what about me? What do I want?

My studio was in our spare bedroom. It had actually moved around the house. First in a larger room off the playroom, then we moved the older boys into that room, so I moved into the kitchen, then the smaller bedroom.
So what do I want?  Asking myself this over and over.

I had an idea.
What if I called my son's preschool teacher and asked if I could rent the preschool space for the summer when they are closed. Then I could work more in the summer--away from the boys and their friends and I could leave projects set up instead of cleaning it up every day.

I called her and asked if I could rent her space. She owned the little building and said she would talk to her husband and call me back.  When she did, "Here is an address, you can meet our property manager and he will show you a space."
I did not know this, but they owned a series of buildings on a warehouse street.
I did not have a lot of money, since I had barely worked in months. But I asked, so I decided to meet him and just turn down the space.

maybe this is too long.... I will post the rest tomorrow!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Studio Tour!

As I mentioned in the previous post, my studio is on a warehouse road about 10 minutes from our house.
My studio is the door on the far left by the white car.

You can see my studio is long and narrow-ish. There are my windows up the side of the building.
When you open the door... you are can see my first room, ending with my red glass block wall.
(That wall is getting painted on thursday! YAY)

When I first moved in the place was a gross wreck. I cleaned and painted everything including the floor.
My landlord- angel, gave me the first months free because it needed so much work! Totally awesome!
 Below is the shelves that are on the left when I open the door.
I painted the whole thing white and added the shelves. The glass doors were found in the back of the warehouse, so we guess they were from that space, but not sure why it was never painted or shelved and why the doors were in the warehouse--and so glad to find them!

At one time there was a doorway between my space and the office warehouse space, they closed in the door, but left the door there with a 5 inch space. 
Just last year, I painted the interior space black and shelved it, so now it is a paint cupboard..and I love it!

Two years ago the studio ceiling leaked over my drawing table and desk, it flooded while I was away and I came back to a lot of ruin.  I am a little afraid to put my desk back int he same spot, so I left it blank and brought in this chair and coffee table. This is where I sit and write with my feet up and my laptop on my lap. I love this cozy corner.

There is a second room that I use for storage and I have a table with a small frig and my keurig coffee maker, behind the glass block wall. I have a lot of supplies for arts in education school visits there and storage of completed artwork.

I used this long hall as an experiment with blackboard-magnetic paint. It is great as a blackboard, but needs another coat to be more magnetic. I want to use this wall to hang picture book sketches.

This is the small bathroom. I was experimenting with a band of design in the center of the wall. I like it, except I think I would like it more with a white glaze over the whole thing...

Thank you for touring my studio! I will post the re-painted red wall on Thursday!

Friday, March 18, 2011

What I've been doing........

Bogged down by art that I need to get finished, with a book that needs revising, with licensing artwork that needs creating... and school visits that need organizing.
Sometimes I wonder what have I been doing? Where have the years gone?

First we have a busy family life with four sons.....
...things changed when I moved my studio out of our house and into a warehouse space, that needed work......................

this was a huge transition. I was so used to working in the middle of the night, that working during the day seemed.. odd.
It is great beyond words to be able to leave work in progress out all over to come back to later! I love that.

... and I have used my school and teacher development programs to support the studio, which has been an amazing blessing. I work with 500 students-whole school programs, huge projects that I love!

... and I have been neglecting my wonderful jewelry kiln--Lola! Isn't she lovely? 
As soon as this revision is finished, and my art deadline is met, I am going to make some pieces, I have some exciting sketches that need to become lovely silver pendants!

and plans, I have been making plans... for opening the studio, for licensing artwork, for my book projects! Thanks for all your support and encouragement as I work toward my goals!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Goodbye RED WALL!!

Five years ago when I moved into my studio I had to do a huge--HUGE renovation of it. Mostly cleaning, ripping out carpet and painting.. but it was a HUGE GROSS mess!
I have a glass block wall that separates the art area and a storage room. I painted it red (see below)

I used to love opening the door to all my white walls and my bug shiny red wall. But now I don't really see it anymore. It has become part of the landscape I guess. So I think the solution to breathing new life into this space is to paint that wall!!

This is the palette I am choosing from. It is the old Ralph Lauren Sport collection.
I saved this old one because I knew I love these bright hues and find them so inspiring......
So the question I have thrown out into the world is.... 
what color would YOU choose to paint the red wall?????????????????

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The 100 days program!

Yesterday I started the 100 days program. I invented this program for myself and for you, if you need it.
I read blogs of many artists who are just having their first babies. Just starting their families. They feel stretched and vulnerable.
I can say it is that way at both ends. I have been an artist while raising our four sons and now that they are older,  we have bigger issues than dirty diapers and teething.  Real, big life with real big problems. Problems with employment, car troubles, relationship challenges, college loans, master's programs, friends in trouble..... these years have stretched us out and there is no more vulnerable feeling then having your child, drive away in your car. Or get on a plane for a semester abroad.

As some artists are trying to learn how to work around, revolve around a baby or small children.
I am spinning the other way! It is challenging to put me first. I am so used to revolving my schedule around everyone else.
Believe me, I don't regret that one bit. But that is over....
And so,
the 100 day program.
I need to get into the pace of putting me first.
This is about getting happy, healthy habits!

100 days of working out
100 days of revising my novel
100 days of artwork

Creative happy healthy habits for the new year!

we added a bouquet of flowers to the table to combat the dreary winter! 
This one is for you!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Studio interns.... what do you think?

I am thinking of bringing an intern into my studio. I might even know who she may be.

Have you ever interned?

Does anyone have an intern?


I would love advice.

What tasks does your intern do for you?  I am not exactly sure how/if I can delegate!

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4 paintings up on my etsy page so far!

I am posting a few each day this week.

Thank you everyone for your support that has made this possible.

Friday, January 28, 2011

on the easel...........

This is another painting heading to etsy next week!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Twenty two paintings!

I write a lot.

I do not submit much. I have to be very sure that I think what I have is ready to go.

I paint a lot.
I do not sell my work much. I don't spend a lot of time marketing them. (actually zero!)

There is a confidence that it takes to say something is ready. That work is what it is and that it needs to move on.
I sold some paintings to people who were at my art show a while ago.  Mostly, the paintings were put in black frames and hung in my studio. 
They represent a time, a mood, a place in my life. They are like photographs of me on the inside. It was hard to let them go.

At first I liked being surrounded by my artwork. But lately, I think I need to make space for new work. 
I need the open space. 
I hope they all find new homes soon. I don't like long goodbyes!

So today I took the first step. I unframed and photographed 22 paintings.
It is time to let them go.

I hope you will help me spread the word, when I post them on etsy next week! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The lesson on Sylvester

See this shirt? This is an old pink shirt I had in 7th grade. I drew that picture of Sylvester the cat on the shirt and then embroidered it. Cool, right? Wrong. 
This shirt didn't really fit me well when I drew on it. I wouldn't have tried this on a 'good' shirt. 
I wouldn't want to ruin it. But this was a safe shirt. I could throw it away if I messed up.
What I didn't think of was....
I was planning for failure.

When I finished it. I loved it. I did a great job on it. I have never worn it. It didn't fit well and is old and faded. 

Isn't that a lesson we need to learn.
 Don't be afraid of ruin. 
Don't be afraid of a mistake. 
Don't be afraid to try something you have never tried and risk it being imperfect.
What if you try and it is great!
What if you try and it is perfect!
Don't be afraid to try and fail.
But certainly don't plan to fail.
Don't be afraid to try and SUCCEED!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LK Madigan

photo by Lisa Madigan
One of my fabulous writer friends Lisa Madigan delivered some hard news last week that broke my heart.
Lisa is the author of award winning FLASH BURNOUT and THE MERMAID'S MIRROR

I love Lisa. I love Lisa's books
You can show your support for Lisa and her family by buying her books.. buy them for you, buy them for your library, for your friends, for teens that you know and love.

And while you are buying Lisa's books, maybe you can send a prayer her way.

with love, Laura