Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meeting a "Real Live Author"

When I was growing up, I never had the chance to meet a “real live author” and it never occurred to me that writing or illustrating books for children was something that I could do for a living.  I hope that some of the children I meet when I do author visits to schools might be inspired to consider writing or illustrating as a career.
     I enjoy school visits because they put me in touch with my audience.  Now that my own children are grown, it is good for me to meet kids, to hear how they talk, find out what interests them, and get a sense of how they are using books like mine. In my presentation, I try to show them that what I do when I write my books is exactly what they do when they are writing a story or report in school.  Just like they do, I start with an idea, then I do research, and then I write, and rewrite, and rewrite, the story.  Recently, at a school visit, one boy asked me what was my favorite part about writing.  My answer was, when I’m done!  Writing is hard work.  A lot of people think that because I’m a professional writer that writing is easy, I do it really fast, and it comes out perfect the first time.  I wish it did.  Writing isn’t easy, I don’t do it fast, and it never comes out perfect the first time.  But when I’m finally done, and every word is just right, it is a terrific feeling.  Then I know the story is ready to go to my publisher, and hopefully, to be made into a book.
     When I visit schools, the kids are always enthusiastic and full of questions at the end of my presentation.  My favorite question came from a boy who wanted to know if I had the chance to meet one extinct animal in real life, what would it be?  I’m still considering the answer.  I’ve written about quite a few extinct animals–dinosaurs, pterosaurs, mammoths, giant sharks, and more, but I’m not sure I’d really like to see a real one up close.  Perhaps a small, feathered dinosaur might be fun.
    For information about my school visit programs and how to book a visit to your school, go to my website at .

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Art Show at the Blue Dot

On left, original cut paper illustrations for Who Has More? and Who Is Bigger?
My art show is up at the Blue Dot Café in Alameda and last Saturday we had a lively opening reception.  While the adults chatted, viewed the art, and enjoyed snacks and drinks, the children, supervised by my brother Tom (an artist himself and a third grade teacher), colored, cut and pasted and made their own wonderful art creations.  It was a very enjoyable party and I thank all of you who came to celebrate with me!  And special thanks to James and Megan Hume, owners of the Blue Dot, who have now invited me twice to exhibit at their wonderful well lighted café with walls perfect for setting off my art. The show includes prints of the cut paper illustrations from my animal books published by Picture Window Books as well as original art from my folding books for young children, Who Has More? and Who Is Bigger?  The show will be up for six weeks, until February 29th, so if you are in the Bay Area, please stop by the Blue Dot to take a look and sample their delicious food. The Blue Dot is open for breakfast and lunch. Hours: m-f, 7:30-5:00; sat, 8:00-2:00; sun, 8:00-2:00. Phone: 510-523-2583. Address: 1910 Encinal Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501. For directions, go to . Most of the prints on exhibit are also available at my online gallery at
Blue Dot Cafe and Coffee Bar, Alameda, California

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Art Process: From Sketch, to Collage, to Giclee Print

My cut-paper collage illustrations are created by first drawing the animals, using photographs as a guide. I then cut paper into the necessary shapes before assembling and gluing the pieces together. I prefer using heavy colored paper that I buy at the art store, but I will use anything I can find if it is the right color. I like the thickness of the art paper which, as pieces overlap, gives a three-dimensional quality to the illustrations. In a few cases, if I cannot find the right color of paper, I use my printer to create the color I need. My illustrations are the same size as the printed pages in the book.
      I like using cut paper collage as an illustration technique because the pictures are bright and colorful and the art allows me to convey information about the animals and their environments that I could not do in any other way. I can make the animals big or small, change their positions, and place them exactly in a visual environment that best shows where they live.
      I chose the cut-paper collage technique for my Picture Window Book animal series because the books are intended for children in the primary grades. The bright colors and large scale of the illustrations make them ideal for beginning readers or for reading aloud. The pages are big enough that children in the back of the room can see the pictures when a teacher or librarian is reading the book aloud.  Facts at the beginning and end of the book and in sidebars provides addition information beyond the main story.
     To make fine art prints from my illustrations I use a printing process called giclee, a French word meaning "sprayed".  Giclee prints are created from the original artwork by making very high resolution scans and then printing them with a professional quality printer onto fine art paper with archival inks. The technique allows for an extremely high level of detail and a print that is very close to the original art.  Even though the paper of the print is flat, it reflects the three-dimensional quality of the layered paper of the original art.
     You can see and purchase my prints at my online gallery at .  All prints are limited editions and are signed and numbered.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

David Diaz: Ten Easy Steps to Draw a Face

My drawing following David's guidelines
How hard is it to draw a face?  Not hard at all if you follow illustrator David Diaz’s ten easy steps!  I recently watched him conduct a workshop with fifth graders at Paseo Del Rey School in Los Angeles.  Using black markers on white paper and following his example, the students began with a large “O” for the head followed by a squiggly “M” for the eyebrows and nose, footballs and donuts for eyes, until finally, after drawing the nose, lips, ears, neck and shoulders, they had a face!  They then added hair of their own choosing.  By breaking down the process into simple, do-able steps, David made each student feel successful.  Not only had each student drawn a face, each one had created something original.  Every face was different and revealed its own personality.

David then showed examples from his many books, showing how he had used this method for his own illustrations.  It was a delight to meet David and gain some insight into his own creative process and to see him teach art to children.

David Diaz has illustrated more than forty books for children.  He won the Caldecott Medal for his illustrations in Smoky Night by Eve Bunting.  With author Amy Novesky he will be receiving the 2011 FOCAL Award for their book Me, Frida.  FOCAL is the Friends support group of the Los Angeles Public Library. The award luncheon will be held January 28, 2012.  Go to the FOCAL site for more information.