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: - 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: or email: / Follow my blog at

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!