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Some Recent Blog Posts

New Fawn

This morning, the year's first white tailed fawn wobbled out of the ferns in our yard. I love this time of year. He looked like he didn't quite know how to balance on those long legs. Mama licked him and sent him back to the ferns to hide. I didn't want to miss a moment by getting the camera, so I thought I'd share this drawing instead - it's in my upcoming book, BORN IN THE WILD, out this fall with Roaring Brook.

fawn2

born-in-the-wild_500s

Best Children’s Books of the Year

Thank you Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature for selecting HOW BIG WERE DINOSAURS? as a book of outstanding merit for The Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2014 Edition.

How Big Were Dinosaurs?

Link to the 2014 list of Best Children’s Books of the Year from the Bank Street College Center for Children's Literature.

A Call to Teachers!

Please join us in creating an activity for Flight School!

One of the most fulfilling aspects to my life as a creator of children’s books is when I hear how teachers are using my books in classrooms to excite kids passion for reading, creating, and learning. I have been fortunate that so many teachers have given their time and energy to create activities and lessons around my books. But often I only hear of these efforts through perusing others’ blogs. I thought it would be wonderful to collaborate a little more directly with teachers.

Flight

A collaboration of this kind seems appropriate for Flight School. This is a story about a little penguin with the soul of an eagle who finds his way to a place where birds teach birds to fly. Only through the perseverance and kindness of his teachers does this little penguin get to lift off in the wind. In the spirit of the book, I would like to work with you.

ToadApril

Any teacher that would like to participate is welcome! Please create a craft or activity around the book, Flight School, and post it to your blog, pinterest, or facebook site, or just share it with your fellow teachers and classes. And send me a copy of the activity so I can post it to my blog and website. Photos of your classroom activities that I can post, to share with my readers, and inspire others, would be much appreciated!

Then as a huge thank you, to show my appreciation for the work you do, I will send you a signed limited print from an illustration in the book to share with your classroom.

Create Activities for Flight School!

Download these printable instructions to get started.

FlightSchoolActivity

Sketchbooks

I spent Easter Sunday looking through old sketchbooks, dreaming about new ideas from old thoughts. I love sketchbooks – they have the ability to keep ideas and memories alive. I also find when creating them, I'm much braver while on an adventure than in my studio, to try different things. My journal is a place where I explore, and do a little re-inventing. Sometimes things just sit between the pages of a sketchbook forever, but occasionally they leap out a decade later and prompt a new story or direction in my work.

Here's an example of a painting I probably would never create in the studio, but it was just a moment of joy captured within the pages of my Paris journal. I passed this little dog each morning on my walk into the city. I thought he had both panache and whimsy so I played with a brightly colored sketch on the back of a little blue paper bag that held a scarf I had just purchased. It's fun to try new things.

Paris Puppy

Sketches from Sweden

I'm just settling back to the easel after a trip to Sweden. It's always good to get out of the studio to see and draw new things. Here are a few of the sketches done in my sketchbook while away. I wish I could spend my whole life wandering around this beautiful world looking at art and sketching.

Our first day in Stockholm – snow blanketed this cemetery. I loved the stark gravestones and cross against the white and brilliant yellow of the church.

StockholmCemetary

Wedding spoons of the Sami people – carved reindeer antlers

SamiSpoons

Swedish Folklore design

StockholmFolkloreDesign

Flight School

Oh the joy and expectation of a new book soon to be released! I live a quiet life tucked in the NH woods, crafting stories each day with pencil and paint. But then a bright sunny day of expectation comes bolting toward me on the calendar, when a new character will soon join my family of book characters I've been fortunate enough to create.

Here's a sneak peak.

Flight School will be released on April 15th!

Good Morning to ME!

I just finished the jacket art for my next book, Good Morning To ME! It's always a great feeling to bring a project to this stage. After more than a year of sketching, and revising, and re-sketching, then painting up a storm, at long last, the art and words are in place and the book is taking shape.

I've written a lot about how the animals I love and draw inspire my stories, but this story came directly from my household of critters, so I look forward especially to sharing it. A real team effort this one is!

Coloring pages for How Big Were Dinosaurs!

I'm woefully behind on providing an activity around my book, How Big were Dinosaurs?, but some dear young readers have inspired me. So I have just created coloring pages from the book. These can be downloaded as a pdf file from my website or from my pinterest site. I hope they offer a launching off point for activities in classrooms and at home with little ones who are interested in the topic of dinosaurs. I remember as a youngster, I drew and drew and drew, mostly dinosaurs. I believe this passion is what led me to take the plunge into a career as a writer and illustrator. So I plan to provide more activities in the future around my books, in hopes they foster creativity and imagination with my young readers.

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HowBigColoringPages1

Download these new dinosaur coloring book pages for How Big Were Dinosaurs. Includes Velociraptor, Ankylosaurus and Stegosaurus.

In the Path of Those who Came Before

Painting and drawing intensify life for me. Last spring Dave and I traveled to Paris to sketch and savor art in the museums. I expected to be moved by the paintings of my favorites, Vulliard and Bonnard, and so many other great painters. But then we found ourselves in the path of treasures that moved us in ways we didn’t expect. In the Louvre, we found ourselves gawking at ancient ceramics turned from clay, and small glass vessels fired from sand. The craftsmanship of the ancient artisans combined with time had built a richness into the patinas that no modern craftsman can replicate. Iridescent blues, greens and golds reflected back at us as we moved slowly around each tiny sculpture and vessel.

Ancient glass vase from Iran

Painting in the Louvre with watercolors is not allowed, but I couldn’t resist. I had to pull out my paints and sketchbook. How could the guards say no when one is in the midst of such delight. I think my enthusiasm was contagious because soon a flock of kids gathered around as I tried to capture thousands of years of beauty onto the slender leaves of my sketchbook. Some of the kids were in giggles as I sat with as many as 4 paintings at a time precariously balanced on my lap, waiting for each puddle of watercolor to dry while diving into another. Soon kids from all over the world, who spoke different languages, surrounded me. We laughed together as they played lookout for guards, and held my paints, and even teased me for having too many paintings going at once. And then we shared my discovering of some small detail of a carving or glaze and got caught up in it all and urged me to start another sketch. The guards discovered us of course, but just shook their heads and smiled. How grateful I was they didn’t interrupt.

A close up of a ceramic plate

Inspired from Egyptian carving

The attempts to capture the iridescence of ancient glass or ceramic glaze on paper always falls short of course, but the act of trying has a way of solidifying it in one’s imagination and memory far deeper than a photo or passing glance would. And most of all, to take part in creating, that’s the best thing to come of it. These pieces sculpted by an artisan long gone, his or her name lost to time - we are separated by thousands of years, but their art and life fuels mine. How fortunate we are when we take the time to soak in beauty created by artists who came before.

A close up of glazes from an Iranian ceramic

Home and Studio: A Creative Space

I finally did it - I decided at long last to check out pinterest a few weeks ago and I have to say, I like it. It's a great way for artists to store reference and show creations. And even better, a place to discover the work of other artists. So I just thought I'd mention it here today. I just created a new board (here's my pinterest link) sharing some images of my home and studio and how I set about creating a space in which I find inspiration to work and live. I'm a novice at this new pinterest platform, but finding it fun.

Working from a studio connected to home presents both challenges and luxuries. The down side is that escaping work can be difficult, it's so easy to sneak into the studio at all hours of day and night and feel the pressing need to work on projects in progress. But it's also a luxury to go to work simply by trotting down the hall with your favorite birdie and puddy cat as companions. It means having a lot of discipline and focus to maintain sane hours, but I really love it and feel fortune to have worked from home most of my adult life. But I didn't always have such surroundings in which to paint. I spent years working on kitchen tables of cramped homes, painting in poorly lit spare bedrooms, or in the middle of living rooms. Our early house was cluttered with paintings, frames, easels, crates, panels, and the smell of wet oil paint stifled the air. The scent of baking bread never had a chance over turpentine. Now I'm spoiled, I have a spacious studio filled with light and beauty (and I dropped the toxic oil paints for the lovely soft scent of watercolors). I saved for years for this studio, feeling in my heart that creating a space to work in was an important part of the act of creating. And not just the space became meaningful, but all the totems and art objects that fill our home and studio. Today, as I start a board on pinterest that'll focus on the home and studio, I'll share a few photos of where I work and the art totems it holds.

Click here to see more...

Beginnings

The beginning stage of creating a book is such a delightful time for me. Lots of unanswered questions of course, and yes, many doubts, but it's also the high octane exciting time of creating. Knowing which idea, from hundreds that occur to the one that becomes the main focus of a year's work, can be a bit of a mystery as well.

Some of my books have come from true life events that I wanted to record, or consider more deeply, or share with others. More and more my stories are completely fictional, growing out of my own imagination. But these still have true life experiences and emotions that rest close to the surface. I find for me the most important thing that allows me to "notice" or "grow" a story is just to be open to the beauty around me. To do this I carry a sketchbook just about everywhere, recording life through drawings and writing. I try never to judge the work when writing in a journal, just record. More often than not, I'm so completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the thing I'm recording, there's no time to judge. Later is the time for thoughtful contemplation and a "going over" of these ideas. That’s when the "one" rises to the top and becomes a full fledged story.

Notre Dame, Paris

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Flight School F&Gs

It feels like forever since I started the book that will be my next release – Flight School. But at last, the F&G's are here!!

I can't remember looking forward to the release of a book more than this little one! The idea for Flight School sparked when I learned dear friends were expecting their first child. Everyday, I wished for this little one to be born healthy and strong. But what I wished most for her was that she be blessed with a sense that life was full of wonder and dreams and that she could make any future she envisioned for herself come true. This story started as a prayer for her before she was even born. She'll be 2 when the book is out next spring, and I hope she loves the story!!

It's also an homage to teachers. I’ve had some remarkable teachers throughout my life, people who have cared enough to offer up their talent, wisdom and heart so that others, including me, could realize their dreams. Flight School is a thank you to anyone who works each day to help kids become the best they can be.

It always feels like a long wait after I finish a book until its release, but slowly the months on the calendar pass by. Now it feels like the release is coming up soon enough – next April. Still feels like a long time. But of course I'll stay busy working on painting and writing the next book.