What book are you reading to celebrate?

The 99th annual Children’s Book Week – April 30th to May 6th

Frederick by Leo Lionni was my favorite picture book.

I loved the cut out shapes and textures and somehow related to Frederick before I knew I was an artist.

I believe that a good children’s book should appeal to all people who have not completely lost their original joy and wonder in life. The fact is that I don’t make books for children at all. I make them for that part of us, of myself and of my friends, which has never changed, which is still a child.
Leo Lionni

Celebrate Children’s Book Week and share a book with someone you love!

Or go and reread your favorite children’s book just for fun.

Free Stuff:

teaching guides mindydwyer.com/learn

 Every Child A Reader free downloadable pdf of activites

Happy Pub Day to Chulyen the Raven!

“…visually striking …Dwyer’s use of strong contrasting colors brings a fresh, modern sensibility to this tale, while patterns and motifs are suggestive of traditional Dena’ina art.” -Publisher’s Weekly

“…just perfect illustrations…” – Carl’s Pick, Children’s Book Council

…”Dwyer’s illustrations range from soft tones when depicting the modern-day human characters to stark contrasting colors and bold patterns with Chulyen, the trickster raven. Both entertaining and instructive, a refreshing breath of air from the far north.” (Picture book/folktale. 4-8) -Kirkus Review

 

 

…”In an especially surreal interlude, Raven changes himself into humanesque form, standing on long, black legs and wearing a feathery blue-black beard.”-Kirkus Review

Watch the book trailer!

 

Meet Aurora!

She is a hand made doll, stuffed with soft wool. Her clothes are made of cotton, and her hooded kuspuk has a pocket…

…for her silky Northern Lights.

I love you is stitched over her heart just like a Raggedy Ann doll.

Her boots are made from smoked moose hide that I got from a bead artist in Cold Bay, AK.

The lucky little girl who owns her is my new grand daughter!

Right now Aurora is a one of a kind doll, but maybe one day you can have one of your own.

The books are available in paperback.

Shout Out to Fellow Artists

My new hero is Austin Kleon.

I signed up for his newsletter, and got his book SHOW YOUR WORK from the library.

There’s a lot to like– enough to want to hear from him once a week:

Austin:

-appreciates the creative side of analog, yet is very digital

-draws as he writes

-believes in sharing what you are doing

-sharing what you like about what others are doing

 

So here’s my shout out to Austin! Thanks!

 

Every morning I get my cup of coffee and go to my Thinking Chair (like Winnie the Pooh’s log). I have a small lined notebook where I jot down what day it is, and sketch a little banner sized drawing of the sky,

a short to-do list (sometimes a long one) and then have a space to doodle, dream, scribble crazy ideas and then begin my day.

 

I’ve never been a consistent diary keeper, this practice began as a way to contain the crazy ideas, keep them corralled in a safe place, away from my projects where they get in the way with their silliness and bright shiny newness, pulling at me to procrastinate and be lured away to something fun and absurd. Austin is a believer of these little blurbs and jots. They have a purpose and will grow into bigger things. So now I am happy that I am saving them for some later date when they might come in handy. His are all immediate and posted. Mine are like little seeds in the ground safe in the dark where they are germinating. This practice has now grown into a daily haiku as part of my observation of the sky. At first I wrote whichever 17 syllables popped into my head, now I sit and watch first. I practice observing my surroundings, seeing what I can see and saying something about it in just 17 syllables, 5-7-5. I think I am improving in my ability to observe and accomplish this small task. Every day. Perhaps these small efforts will bloom into something one day?

Along with my thoughts and haikus I added a single frame daily comic. Now I must read the book, How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels Paperback – essays by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden. According to the cartoonist, Ernis Bushmiller, “Everything that you need to know about reading, making, and understanding comics can be found in a single Nancy strip.”

Daily practice leads to doing work no matter how small, to what it is that I like to do, what I am drawn to and this informs where I want to go.

 

I’ve heard that Art Speigelman’s studio is kenetic, like an alternative school class room set up with individual work stations where you can freely move around, creating. As your body moves from task to task your brain shifts its muscle memory. I think better with a pencil in my hand. I use the hands-on tools to create the work, then manipulate and finalize on computer.

 

My three stations:

-comfortable chair for contemplating, doodling, writing

-drawing and painting with real tools (standing or sitting)

-computer with scanner, printer and…a digital pen (standing or sitting)

Now I’ll start paying attention to see where I spend most of my time.

 

Favorite hands on tools:

-number two pencils with a good eraser.

-Flair markers by Paper mate

-For waterproof ink I love the Faber –Castell ECCO pens.

-Parker fountain pen, inexpensive, never clogs!

Artists and writers have favorite pens…what are yours?

Art for Sale!

“Carnival” original watercolor from The Salmon Princess, $100“Swimming Home”, 17″ x 24″ Giclee print, 2 @ $75 each SOLD!“Stepping Into Spring”, 16″ x 18″ Giclee print, 5 @ $25 each“Cleaning Salmon”, 16″ x 19″, Giclee print, 1 @ $45 each“Carousel”, 17″ x 20″ Giclee print, 1 @ $45 each SOLD!“Her Eyes Sparked Like Fire”, 18″ x 28″, Giclee Print, 2 @ $55 each

Please send an email to mindy@mindydwyer.com to purchase a print.

Ribsy Goes Retro

This fall, HarperCollins Children’s Books will reissue hardcovers of Beverly Cleary’s, Henry Huggins series with forewords by contemporary authors and illustrators. They will speak about the impact of her stories, but the best part is that the books will feature the original illustrations by Louis Darling.

I loved her books!

When Cleary was asked, in what year do your books take place? The only answer she could give was, “In childhood.” The Mouse and the Motorcycle passed the two generation test in our household.  Little did I know as a kid in western Pennsylvania that the author was in Oregon and the scenes portrayed by Louis Darling captured the feel of the Northwest, which would one day become my home. 

 

The Children’s Book Council asked authors what are “3 Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Answer?” I wondered, when did I know I was an illustrator? When did I make the leap from coloring books to drawing my own pictures, and did those pictures tell a story? I read an article here that suggests that the original coloring books were for adults. As early as the 1600s coloring was an activity to encourage learning.

“…for the practise of the hand doth speedily instruct the minde, and strongly confirme the memory beyond any thing else.” –Henry Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman, 1634

Read the full article here

Coloring books were a great way to occupy a child. Who knew we were developing our minds and our hand eye coordination? I was a dreamy kid. Coloring was something I did to explore my thoughts. I could daydream and color for hours. My relationship to color began with a Christmas set of 72 crayons bearing color names as mysterious as their visual sensation; periwinkle, maize, bittersweet, midnight, mulberry… colors that inhabited other worlds. I would be dazzled and sometimes overwhelmed by color for the rest of my life. In first grade we were given a gigantic piece of paper that covered our desk and some crayons. “Draw something,” said our ancient teacher, Mrs. Hickman. She wore her glasses hanging on a beaded necklace, and a cardigan like Mr. Rogers, yet for some reason she was frightening. I could fill a stack of coloring books, but what should I draw? I was excited and a little daunted. Just then, the chubby girl with the leotards threw up all over the floor – right next to me! Chaos ensued, the janitor came in with his mop contraption, the wild ropey strings twisting and squeezing through the wringer, like my grandma’s forbidden washing machine. Next came the banana-chemical spray that permeated the nostrils of your memory forever. It was almost worse than the barf. I drew a tiny girl in the corner of my paper and filled the page with fantastic swirls and colors of throw up, with chunks and dots to make a decorative pattern. Could you blame me? Mrs. Hickman snatched up my paper, gave me a disgusting look, wrinkled it into a ball and threw it in the trash. I was dumbfounded if not horrified and insulted. Good thing she didn’t ruin my enthusiasm -all I wanted to do was tell a story with pictures.

Spider Moon

V’s of geese honk across the sky, red and yellow striped-legged spiders make webs in the doorways, and the wolf spiders come into the house. These are the signs of fall in the north. Soon the dewy webs will glisten in the tall grass in the early morning. It is the time of the Spider Moon.

We have no word for simultaneous fascination and fear, and yet I think we all have this feeling about spiders. An enormous wolf spider appeared this morning and we fought the urge to squish it, trying instead to capture it in a mason jar to put it back outside. He was too fast and crawled into a tiny crevice by the door. Are you a spider squisher or one who sets them free? Arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders is real, deeply rooted in our evolution as a response to a fear of venom. On the more playful side, here are a few favorite spiders from my collection.

Charlotte’s Web (Charlotte is probably the first spider to win our young hearts.)

Anansi the Spider (A Tale from the Ashanti)

The Roly Poly Spider (I love the illustrations in this book!)

Sophie’s Masterpiece (Sophie is an artist who weaves a magnificent gift.)

Sugar Spider (from my cartoon titled Housewife Alert #17)

I Know An Old Lady (who swallowed a spider. It wriggled and wriggled and tickled inside her.)

 

 

How Pictures Work

Picture This, a book by Molly Bang was a recent discovery! Nicknamed the “Strunk and White of Visual Literacy,” Molly’s book celebrates its 20th year anniversary. I wondered why I had not read this book until now?

The illustrations are cut from construction paper, using a limited palette, focusing on reducing elements to their most basic shapes. She shows the importance of our emotional response to shape and color, brilliantly proving that we respond more to color than shape. A lot of what you read in her book is intuitive information for an artist, but by embracing the principals you can consciously use them as tools in your work. The book includes exercises in the back to be used in a group setting or for your own practice.

I got out the construction paper and set out to apply her principals to a current book project.  This book project is a graphic novel with an embedded story within a story. For this reason, the book is already tightly designed in the storyboarding phase. Already committed to four different background colors in the book’s design, I had to create four worlds for them to share but keep them connected in a relationship, in a sequence.

The images below represent the storyteller (an elder and her granddaughter) as they appear in the story. The goal of the cut paper exercise was to optimize the emotional impact in the composition using only shapes. Molly says, if one cannot solve the most basic issue in a picture first, which is the emotion, then no matter how detailed and colorful and beautiful you can render, there will be something missing.

1. These two figures are different in shape and size, the larger one closer to viewer (engages us), rounder and softer (approachable) and seated (stable) on the page. There is a connection between the two figures through the color black, they are somehow the same or connected. The child is of a different color, angular (not as approachable), off in the distance (removed), on the move (tension) and facing away from the elder (not engaged).

2. Now the figures are facing each other (engaged), the child on left now (new perspective) stepping up closer to reach the elder (the child has an interest now).

3. The two characters are on the same plane now, (on the “same level” or agreement) facing toward each other (engaged), child stays on left (comfortable in her place with the elder).

4. The figures are now the closest, united in the story and trust, as the child holds her position on the left, and heads lean toward each other.

I knew these principals to be true instinctively, yet I don’t know how conscious I was when sketching the figures into their composition. I was focusing on telling a story visually through the illustrations-maybe caught up in the details. After reading Molly’s book, I am convinced that the emotion of the composition is the most basic and important part of what I am trying to say. There should be something evident in the pictures, even without words or details. I used these rough guides for placement in the final sketches for the book in progress. I will post the sketches and the final watercolor illustrations to see how well it worked. Deadline is coming up.