Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Drawn to the Story" @ Pensacola Museum of Art

81 Pieces of my original picture book illustrations are on
exhibit at the historic Pensacola Museum of Art from
September 16 to November 6, 2011.

Pensacola Museum of Art is a dynamic organization with
exciting exhibits, interesting events, and an engaging staff.

I've never seen an old jail put to better use.

It was a cool, clear Friday night, with a 3/4 moon. The
scheduled Gallery Stroll in downtown was back after a
hot summer break, and art lovers were keen to enjoy the

One minute the museum galleries were quiet and the next
minute they were filled with music and laughter and light.
Whole families strolled through Drawn to the Story. It was
the most fun I've ever had at one of my exhibit openings.

Meet David and Cindi Bear. Mr. Bear and I both served on
the Florida Arts Council, but his term ended when mine
began, so this was the first time we came face to face. I've
always heard his name mentioned with respect. No
wonder. They are kind and generous patrons of the arts
and Pensacola is lucky to have them.

I spoke at the Creative Learning Academy that morning,
where the headmaster made sure her students knew they
could find me at the museum for the opening reception. That
night we chuckled over and over again as parents (dragged
in by the hand) reported their students wouldn't even let them
finish dinner, so excited they were to rush to the Museum for

I signed piles and piles of books and by the time we turned
off the lights over 300 people visited the exhibit in it's first
few hours.

I LOVE Pensacola!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcome to my studio!

Welcome to my studio! This is my dog, Bing. Her job is to keep me company, she works for treats, which makes for a good partnership. See the stack of books in my arms? I have fourteen titles now. Some are books that I have written AND illustrated, some of them are books I've ILLUSTRATED that were written by others. Not so long ago I used to stand in line at the post office with my manuscripts and sketches carefully wrapped and addressed to editors - I longed for the day one of my stories would find a home with a publisher. Now those postal clerks are my friends. They come to my booksignings and while they wait in line to have their book(s) signed for their children or grandchildren I've overheard them tell others, "I remember the days when she kissed the back of her envelopes before handing them over to mail."
You've come to visit at a good time! I'm always excited when a new book is released and FISH FACTS is my latest. It landed on the shelves about two weeks ago. It was written by Geoff Swinney, the curator of fish at the National Museum of Scotland, and published by Pelican Publising Company. I've loved fish ever since I first learned to dive in 1972. Imagine how thrilled I was to illustrate this book. I spent months sketching and painting these creatures I hold so dear. If you have been snorkeling or scuba diving, then you'll know what I mean when I say to those who haven't, "It is like flying over an alien landscape...the colors...the creatures...the perfection in it all...ahhh." Even though I've studied fish all this time I still learned a lot from this book.

Dr. Al Dove, the Sr. Scientist from The Georgia Aquarium (the world's largest aquarium) says, "Well researched and brimming with unique and beautiful illustrations, FISH FACTS is essential reading for all budding young icthyologists, and some older ones, too!"
I created this art with markers, color pencils, and touches of acrylic gouache. Each page features individual studies of the various creatures, and these kept me engaged throughout the project. It takes a long time to create the art for a book, and make no mistake, it is work. I love what I do, yet still, I have to find ways to keep myself enthusiastic, so..... I buy new supplies, brushes, papers, soft pencils, and I work in different media. (I make my living with books, my royalties pay my overhead, and like everyone else, the money comes in, the money goes out. But spectacular color combinations? The perfect brush strokes? The exact turn of a line? These are the discoveries I deposit in my own personal artist's account where I make withdrawals as needed.) The feeling I had as a little girl - when I couldn't wait to break open a new box of crayons - that feeling never left me. FISH FACTS treated me to the jumbo set of Chartpak markers, and the thrill of those colors carried me through the illustrations for this entire book.

When I write, any audio distraction completely destroys my concentration. But when I paint, I turn on an audio book, don my headset, and I'm off. A lot of illustrators I know can multi task like this. Here's a tip: audible.com - I download two audio books per month for a fee, and over the years it's developed into quite a collection. With a good book, read well, playing directly into my ear, I will stay at my drafting table for long lovely periods of uninterrupted time. I "come to" when my husband calls me in for dinner, or when Bing must be let out.
Here you see the original art for the FISH FACTS. When I'm working on a book, I keep all of the art pinned on this big cork board in front of my drafting table so I can see everything at a glance. Each one begins as a wall of white paper with very light line drawings on every page and I watch as it fills in with color little by little, day by day.

FISH FACTS has 48 pages of art, while my other picture books have 32. Multiply that by fourteen (the number of books I've published so far), subtract some of the paintings which were sold to collectors, and that's how much original art I have. A few years ago we framed 100 pieces and created a solo exhibit that has traveled to many cultural venues around Florida. Last year the exhibit hung in the 22nd floor gallery of the capitol building in Tallahassee for three months. Right now it is at the Dante Fascall Visitors Center in Biscayne National Park where it has been up for the summer and will come down on September 11, 2011. We are changing the title to "Drawn to the Story", adding some more art, and shipping it to Pensacola, Florida. This new exhibit will open at the Pensacola Museum of Art on September 16, 2011, and remain until November 6, 2011. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville will host it in 2012.

And finally, I speak at schools around the state. Talking to kids is among my most favorite of things to do - right up there with buying new art supplies, finishing the art for a new book, and playing with Bing.
Here is a peek at the thumbnail sketches for my next book, OCEAN COMMOTION; CAUGHT IN THE CURRENTS (third in this award winning series.)

(I still kiss the envelopes before I hand them over to be mailed.)

For more information on the traveling exhibit, or to schedule a school visit, go to: www.JaneenMason.com or email: Janeen@JaneenMason.com / Follow my blog at www.JaneenMason.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A project between projects

This is a paravent, according to my Swiss friend. I would have called it a room divider, or a great giant art toy. Paravent, however has an elegant ring to it.

It is piece of art commissioned by a collector of mine. Overall it measures
about 7' tall x 7' wide. The art is mixed media on maple laminate. The big tarpon is silver leafed. Look closely and you'll see glass eyes on those fish.

The colors, the depth, the play of light, the reflection on the underside surface of the water all make me smile. The fact that you
can slide it around the house and create new spaces with it makes me laugh. It is like a giant art toy. A great big gorgeous art toy for an adult.

Would you like to look at the back? Two pieces of art for the price of one, actually. The back is gold leafed with a school of threadfin herring in silver leaf. As it happens the tarpon and the threadfin herring are related (evidenced by the long streamers on the dorsal fins of both species).

It has taken up residence in my living room while waiting for delivery arrangements to be made. I love this piece, and will be sad to see it leave...

Going from working to scale on children's picture book illustrations (17" x 11") to working at 84" x 84" feels luxurious. Although, my next book project is underway, and even if it is small in scale, it's still a delight to ready my materials for "Ocean Commotion: Caught in the Currents". More on that as it progresses.

Thanks for reading my blog, and If you know anyone interested in owning a paravent, send them my way. I'd be delighted to create another - unique, elegant and functional. What's not to love!

Monday, July 25, 2011

FISH FACTS is released and Dad of Divas likes it....(but he didn't use my name...ah well.)


Book Review - Fish Facts

About the Book

A brilliantly illustrated guide to aquatic life.This vibrant guide is saturated with information on fish of all shapes, sizes, and habitats. In-depth research dives into the different classes, orders, and genera of aquatic creatures, making this book a resource for both children and adults.

About the Author

GEOFF SWINNEY is research curator of lower vertebrates and mollusca for the National Museums of Scotland. He has contributed scientific articles to the Journal of Fish Biology, Journal of the History of Collections, and Journal of Zoology.

My Take on the Book

Bursting with brilliant illustrations and interesting trivia about fish, this book provides a fun way for children to learn about marine life.

The book begins with this quote by David Attenborough: Three quarters of the world's surface is covered by water. Three quarters of the world belongs to the fish.

As I read the book I was captivated with the facts about the various fish species in our world. I would like to share a few surprises I found:
  • A large female ling can lay nearly 30 million eggs a year. However the ocean sunfish lays the most eggs at one time: 300 million.
  • Hagfish are blind elongated creatures that look like worms. They are predators and scavengers. They eat dead or dying fish from the inside.
  • Adult lampreys are vampires. Their sucker like mouth armed with horny teeth clamps onto a victim to drink the blood and tissue that flows from the wound.

The author did an excellent job of organizing the book so you could see the various fish in each specific class. He described the characteristics which were similar or different and the illustrations displayed the text beautifully. The short sections of text made for not only easy reading of the information, but also kept the flow of each page smooth.

I would recommend this book to anyone. I see this book as a valuable resource for children as they learn about the animals who share the Earth with us.

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Janeen Mason's DRAWN TO THE SEA exhibition opens at Biscayne National Park Gallery

Date: May 31, 2011
Contact: Gary Bremen, 305-230-1144, x007

Janeen Mason writes and illustrates award-winning children’s picture books, including Ocean Commotion: Life on the Reef and Ocean Commotion: Sea Turtles! Original art from her many books forms the core of a new exhibit in Biscayne National Park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center Gallery. Drawn to the Sea opens on Friday, June 10 and runs through Sunday, September 11, with two “Meet the Artist” opportunities: a reception with refreshments, a silent auction, readings and book signings from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, and children’s art activities, readings and book signings coinciding with the park’s celebration of the National Park Service’s 95th birthday from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, August 21. The Gallery, located at 9700 SW 328 Street, near Homestead, Florida, is open seven days a week from 9-5. Admission is free.

"Children's picture books are a primary source of inspiration which have enormous consequence in our culture,” says Mason. “They provide the introduction to a lifetime of creative imagination and appreciation for the arts. This is powerful juju in a landscape of ever accelerating technology."

Mason’s books have won numerous awards, including the Ben Franklin Award (silver), the U.S. Maritime Literature Award (gold), the Moonbeam Children's Book Award (gold), the Mom's Choice Award, the iParenting Award. Mason has received a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from the Arts Council of Stuart and Martin County. Her large scale fine art hangs in the collections of Burt Reynolds, Reba McEntire, Evan Lloyd and S. Kent Rockwell. Ms. Mason was recently featured with the MacArthur Award Winner, Dr. Edith Widder, on NOVA Science Now.

Mason is active in the arts, recently finishing her second term as a member of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, as the Vice Chairman. In April, She was appointed by Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning to the Board of Directors of Citizens for Florida Arts. Memberships include the Board of Directors for the Arts Council of Stuart and Martin County, the Board of Directors of The Friends of the Blake Library of Stuart, Inc., the International Reading Association, the Florida Reading Association, and the Children's Book Council. As the Illustrator Coordinator for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Florida for five years, she created and produced annual "Illustrator Intensives" for nationally known contemporary children's book illustrators working as guest instructors in small workshops.

Drawn to the Sea is part of the park’s Community Artists Program, started in 1997 as an outlet for the works of both established and emerging artists who are inspired by the beauty of Biscayne National Park. The program is made possible by the South Florida National Parks Trust through the generosity of Sedano’s Supermarkets and the Miami-Dade County Division of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.

For more details about the exhibit, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/bisc or contact park ranger Gary Bremen at 305-230-1144, x007. For regular updates from the park, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BiscayneNPS.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This little piggy went to market... well to Hope Rural School's annual fundraiser in Indiantown. It was hard to let her go! When she arrived in my studio she was an old piece of yard art, grey and flaking big chunks of fiberglass. It was love at first sight! We patched her up with Bondo and magic took her to my friend, Mike Kirkhart, at New Wave Taxidermy. I know, I know, TAXIDERMY? Yes. New Wave Taxidermy has a world class reputation (go look at www.newwavetaxidermy.com), and through the years they've seen just about every critter come through their doors, but this was their very first yard art pig. Brilliant artist that Mike is, he knew exactly what she needed, and in a couple of hours this little piggy had a pair of custom wings. I splashed her with a coat or two of paint and some special wax for effect, we cut a slot in her back and plugged her belly with a big black stopper. Now she's going off to earn her keep as a (piggy) bank for the donations made to Sister Mary Dooley's kids at Hope Rural School. For more information on the school (which serves the children of migrants), their students (134 brilliant boys and girls), and their only fund raising event of the year go to www.hoperuralschool.com.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hope Rural School's Annual Fund Raiser!

I had the good fortune to spend a morning last week with these talented girls from Hope Rural School in Indiantown. We met by the river and painted a piggy bank together. They were fun and smart, and well, just look at their sense of design! Every year Hope Rural School has a fundraiser to support their amazing programs, and this little piggy is going to be one of the auction items. Their fundraiser is held on Sunday, March 20, 2011. Did you want to bid on this lovely pig? You can find more about the school, the children of migrant workers who attend, and Sister Mary Dooley, who runs it. Go to www.HopeRuralSchool.org . Reminds me of my favorite quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WILD ABOUT WORDS (AGAIN) -http://donnagephart.blogspot.com/2011/02/6-12-tips-to-help-you-create-picture.html


6-1/2 Tips to Help You Create Picture Books with HeART by Author/Illustrator Janeen Mason

I've had the pleasure of knowing Janeen Mason, artist and friend extraordinaire, for more than a decade. Janeen has a remarkable spirit of giving, and today, she's sharing her favorite quotes, a peek behind the scenes at the making of a picture book, a precious photo and wise words.

As if that weren't enough, please enter for a chance to win Janeen's brand new book -- GIFT OF THE MAGPIE. (Details at the end.)

"Look at a child's face as you read an illustrated book to him. He is utterly lost in the pictures, his mouth is open, his eyes are wide, it's as if his mind has left his body. It's as complete an immersion into a work of art as a human being can ever hope for. It is pure seeing." - Zora Charles

Janeen Mason writes and illustrates award-winning children's picture books. She uses her brilliant sense of color to transport us through each one, and she's now on her fourteenth. Mason says "Children's picture books are a primary source of inspiration which have enormous consequence in our culture. They provide the introduction to a lifetime of creative imagination and appreciation for the arts. This is powerful juju in a landscape of ever accelerating technology."

Janeen is a popular speaker on radio, at schools, libraries and in workshops. Awards for her books include the Ben Franklin Award (silver), the U.S. Maritime Literature Award(gold), the Moonbeam Children's Book Award (gold), theMom's Choice Award, the iParenting Award, and in 2010 she was a finalist in the Book of the Year Award. Mason has received a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award.Her large scale fine art hangs in the collections of Burt Reynolds, Reba McEntire, Evan Lloyd and S. Kent Rockwell. Ms. Mason was recently featured with the MacArthur Award Winner, Dr. Edith Widder, on NOVA Science Now.

Ms. Mason is active in the arts. Appointed by two senate presidents, she is serving her second term as a member of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, currently as the vice chairman. Memberships include the board of directors for the Arts Council of Stuart and Martin County, the board of directors of The Friends of the Blake Library of Stuart, Inc., the Florida Association of Public Art Administrators, the Florida Reading Association, the Children's Book Council, and SCBWI. As the Illustrator Coordinator for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Florida for the last five years, she produced annual "Illustrator Intensives" where she hosted well-known contemporary children's book illustrators as guest instructors in retreat settings.

A solo exhibition of 100 original picture book illustrations from her books visited six Florida museums and galleries and is scheduled for three more in 2011. In 2010, her art celebrated a one-woman exhibit for three months in the 22nd floor gallery of the Capitol Building in Tallahassee, Florida.

6-1/2 Tips to Help You Create Picture Books with HeART

by Janeen Mason

"Artists effortlessly speak across time because the technology of the human soul does not change." -Wynton Marsalis

Truer words have never been spoken. But creating a beloved children's picture book that will be enjoyed over and over again requires sophisticated tools, tinkering and tenacity.

1) Start with a story idea that you love, love, love. "Gift of the Magpie" presented itself as an idea when I worked in a studio that was built in 1926. It was near the Manatee Pocket on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, where the wind whistled through the high windows and through the 20' door in the back. At a certain time of year crows would flock to the power lines that stretched across the courtyard in the back. Their cacophony every evening made me stand at the door and wonder "WHAT?" Clearly they were reporting the results of their daily quests... and I wondered, what if you were a crow whose wings didn't flap to the same drummer? What if you were interested in... say... shoes instead of green beans?Would you tell your best friend? Would he understand?

2) Sketch thumbnails with joy and abandon. Remember when you were a child who was too innocent to fear failure and brave enough to feel emotions?

3) Take your story to your writer's group. Don't have one? Join SCBWI and find one. Workshop your material with other children's writers and illustrators. Attend conferences. Meet people who can help you polish your work to perfection. Be open to suggestions that resonate. This particular story was originally titled "Max and Regina", but when one of my brilliant writer friends, Jill Nadler, read it and whispered, "It's like Gift of the Magi", I thought she said "Magpie", and a whole new vista opened! Max and Regina turned from crows into their corvid cousins, and "Gift of the Magpie" was born. Magpies, by the way, with their white breasts and white striped wings are much more graphically interesting on the page.

4) When your work is ready and the members of your critique group smile and nod and offer up their blessings, it's time to submit. I recommend buying the Annual Exhibition Catalog of the Original Children's Picture Book Art Exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in NYC. You'll find the names of the editors and the art directors who worked on every book in the exhibit. It is a concentrated way to shop for who might be interested in your style, your sense of humor.

5) A contract arrives, you've read it carefully, sought counsel if you were sans agent and found yourself confused... (I type every contract into my computer. It is the only way I can "read" legalese. When I find something that confuses me, I highlight it and bring that up with my attorney.) When my sketches are approved, the work on final art begins... In my studio everything goes up on the wall in front of my drafting table where I can watch the whole book come together like a puzzle. It will never be seen this way again, but I am comfortable weighing it as a whole composition, darkening - lightening, working on balance.

6) "The best picture books are more than text and art bound together. They are small movable sculptures: a combination of kinetic art and performance art." - Lolly Robinson.

Let me introduce you to my boss . . .

(This is Keira, one of Janeen's grandchildren.)

1/2) Back to work! You've gotten this far, surely there is another idea that is scratching at the door now... whining to get out.

To win a copy of Janeen's delightful new book, GIFT OF THE MAGPIE, about which Kirkus says, ". . . the artwork is an impressive display, as riotously colorful as a bowlful of jelly beans," simply click the follow button on the right and leave a comment below.

The winner of the autographed book will be announced Thursday, March 3rd, so please check back to see if you've won.

Thank you, Janeen, for sharing your art and heartfelt words with us.


Karin said...


What a wonderful inspiration and story of creating a picture book that has such heart...art.
And I must say, the picture of the boss, Keira, priceless!!!

Pat Zietlow Miller said...

I love the story about how the title of your book changed based on your friend's comment.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

Thanks for the wonderful advice! And your inspiration is perfect.

Thanks for posting the interview and contest.

Anni Matsick said...

What a lucky grandchild to be holding that lovingly-worn book! I can see she and her dolly are having a cozy time!

Will Orser said...

Looks like a fun book! I'm not an illustrator, but learned a lot about story and observing from Ms. Mason in a conference last year.

Congratulations on the book!

Freddie Levin said...

One of the best book covers - I love the colors and design.

Lyn Martin Illustration said...

What a wonderful book!