I love November. And not just because of Thanksgiving (which is my favorite holiday). The last few years I've participated in Picture Book Idea Month over on Tara Lazar's blog. If you haven't heard of it before, the idea is that you write a picture book idea down for every day in November. I love the brainstorming. I love the discipline and deadline. I love the play that comes out with my later ideas. I love it all.

And best of all...
This year I've already written two new picture books as a result of PiBoIdMo. Woo hoo!

Cheers to anyone else who took the challenge.

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.


Screen time gives way to a happy something else

Do you ever feel like the NOW around you is way too full of screen time? I gave up nearly all television years ago. Not because I didn't enjoy it exactly. Just because I realized I enjoyed so many other things so much more. I guess I've had a bit of a wake-up call recently with another sort of screen. You know the one. You are looking at it now if you are reading this.

But the internet is sooooo darn useful.

So I won't give it up. I haven't disappeared. But. I do have a very good reason to have stepped away a bit and to be so absent recently from posting on my blog.

Here's why:

His name is Lars Archie. He was born on August 5.

(Ahem. Like I said, I know I'm late to post).

He likes to be held in his Mommy's lap (while she reads actual dead-tree books). He doesn't like the car and usually cries like crazy when he's in it. He seems to like being outside and I like being outside with him. His big brother makes him happy. When I play the ukulele for him, he coos along with me as though he's singing. When his daddy burps him, he belches like an old man. His smile can make one melt.

Sometimes being a mommy to a newborn is also super super painfully hard and tiring. But maybe because I've been here before I know that the hardest stuff doesn't last long.

And neither does the super sweet precious little-tiny-baby stuff.

So posting may stay a bit spotty for a bit. But pretty soon baby will have to share me with the outside world more. Pretty soon I'll have a bit of childcare and the siren song of my art and studio will nudge me into sharing with the world more regularly again.

But meanwhile I'll relish this very lovely moment.

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!

A Mother's Day Treat

Yesterday when I picked my son up from school he had a belated Mother's day surprise for me.
 He had painted a flower planter yellow (my favorite color) and planted yellow flowers in it for me. 
 He also gave me a special drawing/card that made me melt.
That picture is of us in my studio making art together. He said: "There aren't faces on us Mommy because those are the backs of our heads." 

So sweet!

I think I'll read him an extra story today to celebrate children's book week!

Delicious Spring

I love journaling.
Often I think the act of keeping a journal helps me look out for things worthy of journaling about.
Blogging is no different.
Increasingly though, I find that this often takes a non-written form. I look for color or light that's just so. And that's somehow what I feel like recording.
 And so sometimes my camera is my journal.
And so I share some snippets here on my blog of moments I've spent recently, relishing spring.
This is my nephew, Richard.
I'll catch up with posting some drawings or process pieces for recent illustrations and current illustrations I'm working on soon.
But, as hopefully most out there know, sometimes life is too rich to spend too much time plugged in or online.
But it is nice to stop in now and then and share/record the richness.

Whew! A whirlwind month of new work

A couple months ago I set an ambitious goal to try to nearly remake my entire portfolio for the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrator's conference here in Washington State.  (Which was last weekend; it was FANTASTIC as usual!)

The last few weeks I have been working all kinds of crazy hours to meet my personal goal (which is why I haven't posted in awhile).

And I'm proud to say...

I did it!

I'll try to post some fun process pictures in the upcoming few weeks.

Meanwhile you can check out my updated portfolio here on my website.

This week I'm taking a deep breath and catching up with regular life. But I'm looking forward to sorting out what my next big goal will be too.

Cheers to working hard and making fun new art!

Kjersten's photo on the NYT website

A few weeks ago I submitted a few photos from my time in Kuala Lumpur to the New York times for a project they are working on about living in high-rises. Last week I got a nice note back from an editor saying my pictures were exactly what they were looking for. Cool!

Check out the submissions page. One of my pictures is an example! (You can't see it from a mobile device). Can you tell which one is mine?

(For anyone who doesn't know me personally, it's the one with the mom and her kid with the sun streaming in behind them).

A few new black and white portfolio pieces

It's been about a year since I first started experimenting with adding black and white images to my portfolio.
I'm still sort of finding my voice with it but I've been enjoying the process. Here's a couple of pieces I like from the last few weeks.
This second one was an experiment in play. I used a rough sketch from about a year ago that I had already turned into a color piece (in fact the color version is still in my portfolio over on my website).

I felt compelled to play with the sketch from this piece because while I liked the drawing a lot, I thought the tones were a bit off in the color version. So I decided to play and see how or if I could improve it in black and white. I tried drawing some of the patterns I used in my collage papers. (Something I'd like to do more of in the future).

The unexpected result: I think I like the finished black and white piece better than the color version.

It's fun when play leads to work you really like.

Making it my own

Here's the old sketch of a memory I took to that Nikki McClure paper-cutting memories workshop I blogged about a few weeks ago:
Here's what I made at the workshop:

And after experimenting with paper-cutting in new ways for a few weeks I decided to take what I had been practicing and finish off my workshop piece in my own way.
I'll share more new stuff soon. I haven't had a chance to scan everything yet.

I should mention that if you happen to be in Bellingham, WA (where I live), on March 23rd, Nikki McClure will be at Village Books speaking about her new picture book How To Be A Cat. I won't be able to be there but I thought I'd share in case others were interested. I can't wait to check out the book!

Battling the inner critic with deadlines

I've had a hard time ignoring the inner critic this past year for some reason. It sucks. 

But I suppose it's part of the territory sometime or another if you are any sort of artist. 

Lately this has been my balm:
Giving myself firm (and crazy) deadlines.
Then diving forward and drawing like a mad-woman to meet the deadlines.

The result?
Despite the inner critic still paying me lots of visits, I've been going through sketch books fast enough that I've abandoned them in favor of reams of paper. 
I've been trying my best to just keep drawing. Just keep working. Making stuff and ignoring the voice that says it sucks or no one will ever care. 

And the deadlines feel like permission to do so. Because something has to be made to meet those deadlines. What I'm saying is deadlines allow me to feel the fear and plunge forward anyway.

And I have to say, the plunge is nice. It feels good to shove Ms. Perfectionist's noise aside in favor of listening to Ms. Get-Something-Done. And to be honest I mostly think it it feels good because I love drawing. I love drawing even when I don't know if I like my drawings very much. I want permission to draw even if my drawings aren't perfect. This is (I think) why it works for me.

Right now I'm making myself get a bunch of new work done before a conference. I also have that beautiful deadline called my "due date" (as in for my current pregnancy), which is certainly a motivator. 

Now if only I could harness this same idea with submissions... That's something I'm going to have to try (that perfectionist can be pretty brutal when it comes to submissions).

What helps you when your inner critic is hounding you?

Brian Pinkney plays a drum

This past weekend I attended the 10th annual Western Washington University Children's Literature Conference where I sat back and soaked up inspiration and fabulous stories from four great writers and/or illustrators: Brian Pinkney, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Michael Grant, and Katherine Applegate.
The highlight for me was listening to how Brian Pinkney uses creative play and other creative outlets to inspire his work. He showed us an example by playing a drum! He said he often drums on the back of his studio chair when he feels a little stuck or needs to loosen up.
The conference was Katherine Applegate's first conference to speak at after winning the Newbery for The One and Only Ivan! What a lucky group we were!

Attention all Washington State Kid-lit junkies:


It's fantastic. I'm not even just saying that because it takes place in my own town of Bellingham. It really is fantastic.

I hope I'll see you there next year.

Necessary things

  "Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas." -Henry Ford
 What if we all took a minute to ponder what feeds our enthusiasm for our own work...
Go ahead. Do it.

Now ponder what kills it? What leaves us feeling half-there when we show up and sometimes drains us to show up at all?

Consider it.

And what about those things that do both?

Like parenthood.

Or striving to be the best.

Critique comes to mind.

How do we embrace the lovely tension of wonderful things that both feed us and drain us?

These are things I delight in and wrestle with as I approach my own artistic work. They haunt me and heal me. They usually feed my enthusiasm but sometimes they dull it.

They also all seem completely necessary to my life.

 What about yours?

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

 I love heart photos. The above picture I took in Chang Mai, Thailand. The below picture I took here in Bellingham, Washington when I was home visiting while living abroad.

 And the below screen shot is from a link my hubby sent me this morning to his Strava page where he tracks his bike routes via GPS watch. This was the unconventional route he took to work and sent to me.

Isn't he sweet?

 How about, while I'm anyway posting a valentine's mash-up, I also post some pictures of my other (littler) valentine making cards for his class.

 Oscar wanted to make a rocket-ship valentine this year "with hearts coming out of the bottom instead of flames."

I drew the rocket for him. He cut out the hearts. I sewed the hearts. He made the heart stickers and put them on the front. 

I wonder which one of us had more fun?

I heart crafty projects with my son.

One more Heart note. If you are unfamiliar with the site

Boy Sees Hearts

, maybe today's the day you should check it out. Eric Telchin posts lots of pictures of Hearts he finds EVERYWHERE. I've heard he has a

cool photo book

out too. Hmm... I feel a valentine's day trip to the bookstore coming on.

Have a great day!

She's Nurturing A Dream

I made this collage using some of the paper-cutting techniques I've been experimenting with since attending the Nikki McClure workshop a few weeks ago.
She's Nurturing a Dream
I made it as a celebration as well. Big news: I'm expecting another baby! I'm due in July. If you look closely at the picture of me in the last post (the one at the end where I'm standing next to Nikki and holding up the picture I've made) you'll (maybe) see my blossoming bump.

I've had it in my mind for awhile to start making collages that are a bit more journal-like. Or a bit more like my own journals, which are full of torn bits and discarded (and then reclaimed) evidence of regular life.

I should note that this is just a lousy snapshot picture of the collage. I still need to scan the image for best quality. But I wanted to share now.

More in the works! Fun stuff!

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 BuyOlympia.com (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.