My art at the convention center

On Saturday I finally got a chance to see Western Washington SCBWI's illustrator show at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Here are a few pictures for show and tell.

I loved seeing my Alligator Brothers piece there.

Saturday was the day we gathered for the family Draw-Along, inviting the community to bring their kids and come make art with the illustrators.

I brought a cut-paper exercise that I've with my art students at the Montessori school where I've been teaching art. 

Here's a picture of the mess we made at my table. Fun day!

Meet the illustrators and come to our Family Draw-Along

If you are in Seattle this Saturday stop by the Washington State Convention Center anytime from 12:00 - 2:00 pm for a family Draw-Along with children's illustrators from Washington State. Bring the kids! (although you don't have to). Materials will be provided. It's the perfect time to check out the SCBWI Illustrator art show in the same space, up through Sept 29th (the poster says the 30th but that's wrong. It ends the 29th). I hope I see you there!

Art Show at the Washington State History Museum

 If you are anywhere near Tacoma, WA, in the next couple of months, please consider stopping by the Washington State History Museum. The Western Washington Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators will have an illustrator exhibit there from November 19, 2014 to January 18, 2015.

We also have an opening this Saturday, November 22, from 11:00am-2:00pm. Come stop by and meet the artists!

Here is my piece for the show:
It's called Dreaming of the Summit, Mt. Baker, Early 1900s.

Here's what I wrote for the show about making the piece:

I was inspired to make this piece after looking through a book about early mountaineers in Washington State. The early gear looked so low tech; I was intrigued. Later I began wondering about early women mountaineers. When did women start climbing Mt. Baker or Mt. Rainier? What did their gear look like? I decided to find out. The photos and stories I found fascinated me; women were mountaineering in Washington State in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It seemed incredible that women climbed mountains and scaled glaciers wearing what they wore in the pictures I found. This art piece imagines what it would have been like to be one of those early female adventurers: a young Whatcom County woman (I’m from Bellingham), dreaming of the summit of Mt. Baker. I imagined her to be inspired by stories of Fay Fuller, the first woman to climb Mt. Rainier. 

Drop me a line if you stop by. Let me know what you think.

Happy Thanksgiving! Go see some art!

I fully admit that I should have posted this BEFORE the family open house that was on Oct. 27 (my bad). BUT! It's not too late to check out this fabulous illustrator exhibit anyway. It's up through January 8th, 2014 in Downtown Seattle at the Convention center.

I have a piece in the show. Here's a cheesy picture of me with my piece:

I also posted some pictures of the family event from the end of October on the SCBWI Western Washington Website (I've joined their blogging street team as a part of getting back into the swing of things after having my baby).

Anyway, especially if you happen to be in downtown Seattle this weekend enjoying holiday festivities, swing by the convention center and enjoy our show!

I look forward to catching up with many bloggy friends soon. I just started getting a good childcare schedule going and I've been enjoying the last few weeks of Picture Book Idea Month (more on that soon!). Still, babies are sooooo fun to have around. I have so many things to be thankful for this year. I hope you do too.


A day of fun at the Eric Carle Exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

Pardon the lack of posts the last few months. I've been busy getting ready for baby #2 (could be any day now!) as well as catching up on some personal projects after I put in such a push with my illustration work over the spring. 

But I thought I'd check in and post some pictures from a fun day I spent down at the Tacoma Art Museum a few weeks ago. I went to see their latest Eric Carle exhibit and also partake in a fun afternoon of collage with other Eric Carle fans.
 We made our own paste papers in an upper work room of the museum.

 It was a jolly fun time of paint and messes. I felt like I was my son's age again! Fun!
 Here's the two collages I made. The paper we glued on wasn't taped down or stretched so the collages desperately warped (I suspected they would while making them), but it was still a fun exercise in play.
I hope you are getting some play in this summer too.
Happy Summer!

Workshop with Nikki McClure

I've followed Nikki McClure's art since the early 2000's when I stumbled upon her paper-cut work on (one of my favorite early indie craft web sites). Paper-cuts always catch my eye, but Nikki's work especially did so because of its intimacy and heart. Her pieces capture the warm lovely feelings of everyday beauty and relationships. She has a nearly spiritual way of elevating the ordinary through her images that appeals to me. Well that, and it is paper art.

Over the years I've sought out and bought a couple of Nikki's annual self-published calendars and I smiled wide when I saw that she had broken into children's illustration a few years back.
So I was thrilled this past fall when I got an email from the Bellevue Art Museum advertising her then forthcoming (and now nearly over! quick rush to Bellevue this weekend!) exhibit. I immediately went to the Bellevue Art Museum's website to see if they had any special events. They did. In early December I attended a great lecture and slide show and then a couple of weeks ago I attended an all-day paper-cutting workshop that Nikki McClure instructed!
Watching another artist at work always helps me gain invaluable insights into new ways I can approach my own work.
Nikki McClure's workshop was certainly no exception.
 The day was just the right mix of instruction and play.
 I cut this fish as a warm-up exercise.
 I've always favored using a scissors to a knife in my own collages, but after using a knife that tightened at the bottom (as opposed to where you grip the knife) I felt liberated.
 Who knew such a thing existed? Um... Can I just say sometimes you don't even know that you should be looking for something?
 We can get stuck in ruts and used to working on things our own way with our own methods. I have so long ago rejected using a knife that it had never occurred to me I maybe had never tried using the right knife. Looking outside our usual perspectives can be so, so, valuable.
 I've had some ideas for my collage (for a LOOOONG time) that involve a paper-cut aspect and this workshop has helped me break through the technical side of my ideas so I can make them reality. Cheers for shaking things up.
 I've been playing over the last week. I'll post pictures soon. Meanwhile, here's the piece I made during the workshop (using a drawing from a memory).
 And here's me with Nikki!
Thanks Nikki McClure, wherever you are, for your fabulous workshop, for the inspiration, and for the lovely art you bring into this world! Cheers everybody! Go check out Nikki's work.

SCBWI Malaysia

I finally connected with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in Malaysia!
They put up a booth at the Kuala Lumpur Book Fair that I attended several weeks ago (I went knowing they would be there). The top photo is of the SCBWI booth, the next two are random pictures from the book fair.
I chatted for quite a while there with the wife of a renown Malaysian Illustrator, Yosof Gajah (fun fact: Gajah means elephant in Bahasa Malayu, the Malaysian language). Yosof's wife, Zakiah, is an artist in her own right and offers batik classes. It was lovely to chat with her. Hopefully I'll get to try one of her classes out while I live here.
Then, last Monday, the chapter had a special get-together (they are just starting to organize regular meetings and haven't officially started having them yet) to greet Steve Mooser, one of the co-founders of SCBWI!
It was a fun get together and I'm happy to have mingled with some other artists and writers from KL as well as Steve and Sally.
Thanks to Linda T. Lingard, the local Regional Advisor, for organizing.
Cheers to SCBWI!

Visiting a Shadow Puppet master's workspace

Painting detail by Yusoff Abdullah, a Malaysian artist
My favorite artist workshop I visited during my recent trip to Kota Barhu was the Shadow Puppet Master's space.
Here it is! Right on a river.
It was quite the task to find it, and when we arrived, it was locked up. But my taxi driver asked around until a beautiful old woman (I think she was related to the puppet master) with smiling eyes opened the shop and showed me around.
There were two stages, one I could see from the outside (a window) and one was inside.
The smiling-eyed woman even shut out the light and turned on the oil lamp to show what the stage looks like.
here's behind the scenes:
This is actually the third shadow puppet master's studio I've visited (I visited one in Bali and one in Thailand).
They all use drums to keep the rhythm of the story going.
Here's a pile of the puppets (above) and a puppet that's partially made (below).
This is the window stage from the inside:
In Malaysia the traditional shadow puppet art is known as Wayang Kulit.
Now, if only I'd been able to see a show.
(I have seen them before, both in Bali and in Thailand -- the biggest treat is to see the puppet masters in action behind the curtain. It's a beautiful art).

Kite Maker or Collage Artist?

Last week my family took a short trip north to an area of Malaysia called Kelantan.
Many artists around one of the main cities of Kelantan, Kota Bharu, are especially known for practicing several traditional Malaysian handicrafts. The painting above and detail of it below, done by a Malaysian artist named Yusoff Abdullah, hung in the airport at Kota Bharu. The painting depicts many of the local handicraft traditions*.
One of my favorites of these traditions is known as Wau, or kite making.
Kite makers use large wooden frames that they bend out of thin sticks:
And the patterns on most traditional kites are intricately cut out of colorful papers and layered over one another.
Here's an artist at work cutting a pattern using an exacto blade on a folded sheet of foil.
I watched him use a blade sharpener. It made me pause because most paper artists I know back home throw out their blades rather than sharpening them. (I personally most often use a scissors, FYI).
Here's a close detail to give you an idea of the layers of paper. Every color below is a different colored paper, glued on top of one another.

* The signature here is from the painting at the top of this post. I mentioned that the artist's name was Yusoff Abdullah, a Malaysian artist who I could find little information on, which is why the uncertainty and the lack of links. Please accept my sincere apologies if I've given credit wrong! Also, please correct me, if someone out there knows better, I'd prefer to properly give credit and links if they exist.

Malaysia National Craft Day

I live just down the street from Kuala Lumpur's craft complex, called Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur (basically that means Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex in the local Bahasa language). 
Recently they had a big festival full of artists and craftspeople from all over Malaysia, selling their wares and also offering demonstrations.
I only took pictures in the demo area, but my favorite tent to walk through was the tent full of colorful batik clothing.

Picture an entire gymnasium crowded with booths of swirling bright colors and floral water-color like patterns.
Many of the artists offering demos weren't around when I took these photos, but I was able to go back and watch others later in the day.
I especially liked the kite maker, who cut impossibly intricate designs out of foiled paper and layered the designs onto paper stretched over a frame.
Hmmm... it just occurred to me that it might be fun to make an illustration sample with one of those kites included.

Did I get that idea from the craft complex or by blogging about it? Either way, I'm grateful. It's fun to be inspired to make an illustration sample that's a perfect match for your medium and your current adventure.

Paper made from Elephant Dung

Did you know paper can be made from elephant dung?

 Indeed it can. 

I learned all about it earlier this month at the Pinnawala Elephant Dung Paper Products center in Sri Lanka.

 Elephants apparently have very inefficient digestive systems. 

 They eat tons of plant material (literally), but much of it goes straight through them. That is, after being chewed and pulverized in their stomachs (essentially beaten like one beats paper in a paper beater or blender). So paper-makers gather elephant dung, boil out the "impurities,"rinse the fibers, 

 beat the fibers (as I mentioned, the elephant got this process started in its stomach) using traditional paper-making beater machines, 

dye the fibers, 

 and strain them through moulds just like I do with my handmade paper.

 The paper-makers let the paper dry on the mould and then, depending on the desired texture, either leave the paper as is (rough) or ring it through a paper press.

 Then craftswomen and men make the paper into all sorts of handmade goodies: journals, stationary, picture frames, etc.

Who knew that *waste* could be so useful, interesting and lead to such crafty goodness?

So there's a *fresh* perspective on recycling for you.

(Note: did I really just write that and leave it for the world to see?)

Back to cleaner subjects next post.

When the Subway is Beautiful

I collected these mosaic pictures last time I was in Singapore.
They were all on a wall in a subway station.
 I like pausing for public art.
 It's right there to take for granted every single commuting day.
 Like the huge old Banyan trees I pass in the park daily.
 Rich with color and texture and life.
 Making my life better at the boundaries of my vision, even when I don't stop to notice.
  But when I do stop to notice...
Those colors are even more sweet.

I dare you.
This year:
If you don't already,
Stop and notice little bits of color in your peripheral vision.

Success can be measured in goals set and met
(a New Year's sort of thing, no?).
But it also can be measured in moments noticed and treasured.
And no one controls the success of the latter but you.

Woods in the Books

When I was in Singapore last week I stumbled upon a happy little bookstore called "Woods In The Books."
It was a picture book store, carrying what they called "picture books for all ages," meaning they carried lots of visual novels, graphic novels and arty journals in addition to picture books.
 The store was so lovingly curated, from the books, to the music playing in the background, to the art on the walls and exhibit in the back. Just knowing such a place exists makes me so, so, so happy. You can bet I spent a lot of time treasure hunting there. I also read some new picture books I'd been anxious to read but hadn't found in Malaysia yet (too bad my son slept through the whole experience, I think he would have liked browsing there too). I left with a very happy bag full of books and a skip in my step.
When I first moved to Malaysia I was rather cynical about the picture book market here. But I've started to realize that even though there isn't as much of a market for picture books as where I'm from, there actually is huge potential for growth here. And after being here a while, my very unscientific intuition tells me the probability for that growth actually happening seems pretty real. Just seeing what exists in a more developed market that's relatively local, like Singapore, is refreshing evidence. So there's a little dose of hope for you all today. It's not only Malaysia, either. Much of SE Asia is developing fast. Perhaps the market for picture books will develop and grow along with it.

My cheerleader is in town!

 I've had my mom visiting here for the last two weeks!
These are pictures from the Islamic Art Museum.
 I had to share one of my favorite art spots in Kuala Lumpur with my mom!
 My mom's my cheerleader. She always brings out my inner little engine that could.
 She's also an ex-English teacher and an extremely helpful copy-editor. It's good to have a copy-editor on your team.
Laini Taylor put up a great post about cheerleaders a few weeks ago. Maybe you saw it? 
So who is your cheerleader?

Me As A Muppet

Have you been to the Jim Henson exhibit at Experience Music Project in Seattle yet?
You only have until August 16!
I put this quote from one of the exhibit's signs in my journal:
"Jim Henson described his characters as his palette."
The best part of the day: I GOT TO BE A MUPPET!!!!!!
I even got to play in a Muppet band a few times.
Lest you think I'm exaggerating when I tell you that this moment was a dream come true, here is a picture of me from high school with my favorite puppet that I made back then:
The puppet's name is Boris. He lives above my drawing table (next to a few other puppets) and distracts my muse when I should be working. Or maybe he reminds me to use my characters as palette. Ya, that's the ticket!

As a bonus after I checked out the Jim Henson exhibit, I also checked out the exhibit: American Letterpress: The Art Of The Hatch Show Print.
I'm sorry, I failed and am blogging about this after the show is over.
But if you like letterpress work, here's a cool video that was at the show about Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest letterpress companies in the US:

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Notetaking in Museums and Art Pilgrimages

Have you ever taken a pilgrimage for art? How did you document your trip, if you did at all?

In 1999, fresh from graduating from college, I was lucky enough to go to Europe to spend 3 months looking at art (I spent all my frequent flier miles to get there -- I had a lot, I was an out-of-state student, plus I also think I used some of my mom's miles, thanks mom!).
I spent on average about 8-10 hours a day in museums (honestly), planning my day around what museums opened earliest and which ones closed latest. I often didn't stop for eating (not a good idea -- unless you want to loose a lot of weight fast, which I did; my sister wanted to know if I had an eating disorder when I got home).And everywhere I went I bought postcards. While I was at the museums and galleries, I took copious notes that I transferred onto the backs of the postcards at night. I thought I'd have a little booklet of postcards by the end of the trip. HA! I had 4 enormous binders full (I ditched lots of stuff from my pack as I went along, to make room for my journals, by the end of the trip I was REALLY sick of my 2 shirts).
Anyway, it was a dream trip. I spent days in places like the Prado, the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and countless others. I spent entire hours in front of single paintings (like Guernica).By taking notes, I forced myself to slow down and really look at all sorts of things, color, texture, composition. The notes were silly (and are tedious to look back at), but the act of taking them helped train my eye to look. After all, I had to look for something to write about.I also made a point to never spend longer reading or writing than I spent looking. Looking took precedence. And making a point to spend more time looking also trained me to look. By the end of the trip I took hardly any notes at all. It was like meditation. I would just loose that side of my brain and be a part of the colors and vistas before me.
Because I only had three months, I edited lots of locations from my initial itinerary. I wanted to enjoy the places I did go, and look at ALL the art I wanted to see in each of those places.

My biggest regret from the trip (save for missing things that were closed for renovation -- it seemed that many places were closed for renovation in 1999 -- prep work for 2000?) was that I skipped out on a few amazing art towns in Spain.
Like Toledo, and Bilbao.
While I planned the trip I took to Spain this past February, I swore I would make up for lost time.
It didn't end up working for us to go to Bilbao, But I made my Grandma skip Madrid so we could spend time in Toledo.
Unfortunately when we got to Toledo, quite a few places were closed for renovation (go figure!) but what was open turned out to be the perfect amount to see in the amount of time we had there anyway.
This time I didn't take notes while I looked at the art at all. I just soaked it all in.

P.S. Interesting side note to this post: I took something home other than 4 enormous binders of art postcards from my trip in 1999. I fell in love on that trip. No kidding. My husband and I met in Rome and then again in Venice. And then again in Paris... And then again in Seattle. Bryce was touring around checking out the spring classic bike races (his biggest passion is bike racing). Our first kiss was in front of Claes Oldenburg's Buried Bicycle sculpture in Paris:

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Plans and Surprises, in travel and in travel journaling

When I travel, I like to research like a madwoman ahead of time, and then be completely open to dumping all the planning once I get somewhere. I do the same thing with my travel journals: prepare, prepare, prepare and then welcome surprises.
Before we went to Spain, I researched interesting places to stay in a rather intense manner. It paid off so many times.
I found the most amazing hotel in Sevilla. It was called Hotel Amadeus. It was a small hotel on a tiny hallway of a street with a classical music theme. Every room was named after a composer (we stayed in the Verdi room). All of the art was music related:

And best of all, our room had a piano. The room was even sound-proof so my husband could play music whenever he wanted.
Nothing is more romantic than your beloved playing the piano, making up beautiful music that matches your day. But it wasn't too likely we would have found such a perfectly matched place without research.

On the other hand, we didn't plan anything about my favorite part of our time in Sevilla.

We stumbled into an amazingly whimsical public-art sculpture show right at the perfect-light time of evening.

What a fun surprise!

Most of my travel journals have been make-as-you-go sorts of affairs. I bring a bunch of loose paper that I'll sew into a book later, normally in a color palette that kind of matches the research I've done (the best research is colorful, no?). I bring an embarrassing array of supplies (see this post). I make a rough plan for how I'll go about my journal (in Spain I had planned on making a collage every day and listing 5 things I had done), and then when I actually am off having adventures I see what happens. If I leave my book un-sewn and basically open to adding whatever, I can I add any sort of paper, place-mat, or brochure and bind it all in place when I get home.

So I plan like crazy, and then stay open to the surprises. Mixing the two can be so lovely.

P.S. I'd love to hear about your own make-as-you-go journals if you've made one in the past. Or let me know how it goes if you decide to try one out while on summer vacation.

SUMMER FRIDAY SERIES: Travel Journals and The Stories they Tell

Every story is, in some way, a journey. And every journal is, in some way, a story. But unlike more polished stories, journals don't always have beginnings, middles and ends. They are messier. More organic. More like a big pile of seeds that haven't been planted. Or else like a big pile of weeds that have (or haven't) been pulled.

But travel journals are a bit more linear, no? They (at least kind-of) have a beginning, middle and an end. And like characters grow in stories, travel often changes people. You don't return home the same person you were when you left. You grow.

(At least so with journey kinds of travel. Maybe not so with lazy vacation travel -- don't get me wrong, lazy vacations are good -- just not usually adventurous).

Maybe due to my Adventure-ess spirit I can't help but often favor travel journals amongst all the different kinds of journals I have kept. I love the unknowns, the risks, the challenges, and the fun discoveries. I love creative play, discovery, and most of all, engaging in wonder. So, duh, I love travel journals.

So anyway, all this is to say that for the rest of the summer (through labor day), every Friday, I'm going to put up a blog post about travel journals. I'll be mining lots of pictures from my personal stash, but I'd love for anyone to send me pictures or links to post of your own if you have them. I think it will be a fun way to keep some focus to my blogging and a way to enliven an old regular feature (journal of the week) that I suspended recently.

And to start? Let's finish up with those collages from Spain...

For those newer to my blog, I went to Spain in February and shortly thereafter started posting pictures of the collages from my travel journal alongside pictures of the stuff that inspired me to make the collages.

Well I left off about half-way through my trip, right before I visited Bodega Tradicion, a sherry bodega with an owner who has a passion for art collecting.

The tiles behind my Grandma were painted by Picasso:

There's an intimacy to small, semi-private, art collections that's often lost at big museums. The owners of Bodega Tradicion display their art in a beautiful long private gallery. They have pieces by Velazquez, Goya and Zurbaran.
And they have delicious artisan sherry. Cheers!