See you out there!
The last few years I’ve written my year-end review and new year goal setting inside this journal.
I always start the year’s end/begin ritual by making a year-end collage with ticket-stubs, playbills, kid-drawings, and whatever other debris made it’s way into my box of interesting bits I save just for this occasion.
Then I look back on the previous year and reflect on challenges I met, places I fell short, and accomplishments I can celebrate. From there I look toward the new year with new goals and a new orientation of my compass.
It’s a joy to spend time in this book. The pages are chunky, uneven, colorful, and playful. I made them that way on purpose. They match my house, my family, my life.
Keeping my year-end review and New Year’s goals in the same place for several years has opened my eyes to certain patterns. And new patterns pop out at me every year. Last year I noticed that focusing on play whenever I feel stuck literally has ALWAYS paid off. Noticing that and using that knowledge moving forward made my coming year better. It made my work better too.
This year I noticed in looking back that whenever I’ve chosen to face the stuff that’s hard and made a conscious effort to point my ship into headwinds, and then actually gone into those headwinds, I’ve strengthened the boat.
So this year I’m heading into the headwinds for 2017. I’m facing parts of my work that are hard for me. I’m taking on some personal challenges like heading to New York for the SCBWI conference in February, and planning a dummy and drawing challenge for myself in the months after. Hopefully I’ll be dipping my toe back into the world of craft shows before long too.
But most important to me is that I’m working at letting go of my own perfectionism in order to share my work more.
In other words I’m owning it. Headwinds and all.
This is who I am.
This past weekend, illustrators from around Washington and Oregon gathered to retreat, play, and learn on the water in Dumas Bay, Washington, and I was among them. We were honored and thrilled to have illustrators Christian Robinson and Catia Chien guide us in our play. What a line up!
Indulge me a minute while I express how giddy I personally was to sign up for this retreat. I am a huge, huge, dinosaur-sized, Christian Robinson Fan. When I pour over his collages I feel the same joy and wonder as I did when I was a child pouring over THE SNOWY DAY and other books by Ezra Jack Keats, my childhood favorite author. And at the same time Christian's work is fresh and modern in a way that offers me joy in the here and now too. Plus it doesn't hurt that LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET (illustrated by Christian and written by Matt de la Peña) is probably my son Lars's favorite book.
Lars, who is 3-years-old, takes the bus in the morning several times a week with Daddy. He is especially excited when his favorite bus, the purple one, is the one that picks him up at the curb. You should see the light in his eyes. But even when it's just the regular bus he loves to climb on and sit by the window and talk about all the noises and people and moments on the bus. LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET is called THE Bus Book in our house even though we have several other bus books. Lars likes to close his little eyes the same time the main character, CJ, does. He closes his eyes and listens to the music, wherever the music is in his heart.
So this past weekend I got to go to Dumas Bay and connect with the music in my own heart. And I got to share that experience with many other illustrators. And I also got to learn from Catia Chien, whose work I was less familiar with ahead of the retreat with but now am excited to love.
I gained insights about my own work and practices as I always do at SCBWI events but the thing that probably will stick with me most was just the realization that no matter what happens externally in the world or my own life, I am an artist and I will always make art. That is the music in my own heart. I don't mean to make it sound like a new commitment, rather a quiet acknowledgement of the obvious and what is already there at a time when so many things in the greater world feel uncertain.
We children's book creators will continue to do this thing because it's what we do. And we will do it with heart and passion and even when we take years to get published, or never are published at all, or are banned, or make mistakes, or whatever, we collectively will keep working to make the world brighter and better through books.
Many thanks to my local SCBWI chapter volunteers, especially Tina Hoggatt, for all the work you did putting this retreat together. And many thanks to Catia and Christian for sharing your light with the world and with us this past weekend.
Oh God. What have we done, America?
Yesterday America voted for a bully to be our new president. And today much of the world is in a state of shock and anxiety. Deer caught in headlights is the image that comes to mind.
I've been struggling with what to say but at the same time my heart fiercely feels that this is a time where it's unacceptable to be quiet. And that's the main thing that comes back to me, over and over. This is a time where it's unacceptable to be quiet.
My little blog and website combined make only a teeny, tiny corner of the universe. But, like I said, I'm overwhelmed today with the feeling that now is one of those times that it's not okay for even teeny, tiny corners of the universe to be quiet.
I feel heartbreak that my country has made this outrageous and dangerous choice. I feel anger toward people I know who I suspect may have supported this choice for America. I feel bigger heartbreak for people I know who have been the target of hate in this election. And I feel shame, so much shame, for not speaking up or doing more.
I know we all need to be brave. I know we have work to do. Lots. I will fight along others so this doesn't define my country forever. Just like when I try to find a good first line of a picture book, I will brainstorm ways I can immediately make the world brighter.
But I also mourn. And because this is my little corner of the universe I'm saying so here. What happened yesterday in America breaks my heart. And the first step I'm taking to making the world brighter is to challenge you, who've happened upon my little corner of the universe, to find a way to make the world brighter too. And for love's sake, please speak up when it's unacceptable to be quiet.
It's an all caps kind of day here in Kjersten's studio —HIP HIP HOORAY!
Because my manuscript HOW TO BUILD A ROCKETSHIP IN 10 EASY STEPS is the official winner of the 2016 Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Most Promising Picture Book Award! HAPPY DANCE! HAPPY DANCE! Maybe just this once I can even get away with TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!
Attending SCBWI events over the many years I've been a member has been like unofficial graduate-level training, only with friends and sometimes cookies.
Thank you to the editor who nominated me and to all who were involved in choosing this piece for recognition. I'm honored and excited to receive this award and I can't wait to get going on the dummy for this piece. This boost means the world to me. Thank you for everything SCBWI!
Here's a screen shot from SCBWI's announcement:
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!
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!
It's nice to see my art in print, but especially in a thoughtful place. Yay! This is my labyrinth piece on the cover of Brain Child's new issue of
. The articles I've read from Brain Child all have left me thinking. This magazine looks good too. Check it out!
I had a FABULOUS time at the recent SCBWI conference in L.A. I loved the new location, I took away great thoughts for my work, I got to see muppets in action (!) and I was nominated for the Sue Alexander award.
I've been busy busy busy fixing some work. Sometimes I need a break from the Internet when I'm hard at work/play (am I the only one that feels like the Internet can be an echo chamber?). But I felt like it was long past time I at least posted these pics
Isn't this bookstore amazing? Their art section was my favorite. Although they had a stellar comics section too.
Cheers to a playful and promising summer's last few weeks.
This is making me wonder if it isn't time to start planning for some craft shows again before too long...
I posted this on facebook but thought I'd post here too.
Starry Starry Ride...
This week I'm celebrating the magic of getting back in the saddle after a setback. I cut this collage out before
last summer. Needless to say, I had no desire to finish it after my crash.
But this past week I decided to follow through. I glued it to mark the week I finally got the courage to get back on my bike (a little over a week ago now).
Cheers to getting up and trying again after a crash.
*Please note that I re-wrote the intro to this essay a few days after I posted. Why? Because I didn't like the old one.
|New Piece (after revision)|
I've been trying out my new technique with some old pieces I liked in the past as an exercise in revision. Here's an example. Above is the new piece. Below is the old version (a poster I agreed to make for a Christmas event quite a few years ago). When I get to compare two pieces like this, it makes me want to pat myself on the back and believe in progress. This is probably a sign that I need a humbling critique to put me back in my place. (Only kidding. Sometimes it's nice to check one's critic at the door and just appreciate progress even if there's always more progress to be had.) Onward!
|Old piece (before revision)|
Sometimes I've run into bumps but I love the process of brainstorming to smooth out the bumps.
I've also been doing some unrelated paper quilt collages. I'll post a few before long.
Meanwhile here's a "new" illustration. This time I used an old drawing but gave it color. It may be hard to tell and I'm not sure if it really matters, but pretty much all the color in this image is scanned from paper (why I still call it collage).