Archive for June, 2010
Dear Reader who wonders how I have time to do creative things,
What you need to know about being an Artist and a Mom and a Book Maker:
You will be absolutely lousy without help.
May I introduce you to man who makes things happen around here? Oh, and have I mentioned he happens to be the most amazing man on the planet?
Say “Hi” to Kenneth. He’s the love of my life. Not only has he been on kid duty while I finish up the book at full speed, but he’s the King Gardener, Fixer-Upper, Royal Chef, Fort Maker, Grocery Shopper, and Make-Believe Player and even does the dishes. He is basically makes this whole book making process wonderful. That, and he is a writer and storyteller himself, so he understands how this all works…and enjoys it too! We don’t live close to either of our parents, and with 3 young kids in the mix, having long stretches of time to do anything is out of the question. But thanks to my school-teacher husband who has the summer off to let me work, it’s been amazing. And on top of all that, he keeps things fun around here. He is the one that keeps me laughing when I get too stressed and knows how to have a good time when things are a bit crazy. I am seriously in love. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend. Like, really blessed.
The kids think so too.
So, when I look at my life and wonder why I haven’t cracked yet, it’s cause of him.
PS: New summertime art is in the shop today!
We moved into our first home about 3 months ago. We have done hardly any decorating…mostly fixing up the place to make it livable (it was quite the fixer upper!) But the first things we did do were to establish the reading corners throughout the home. We read a lot. And I realized just now as I am writing this that we have 6 designated reading spots in the house. I love that several times a day, I’ll find the kids reading in one of our book nooks. My office has large book case full of mostly children’s books, we have a library room (it’s really the living room with a wall to wall bookcases), the kids have bedside books, Ken and I have bedside books with books for the whole family, and we have a basement bookcase full of children’s books. That’s a lot of books! So that makes 5.
But the 6th place was added a few weeks ago when we purchased these picture frame shelves from IKEA and made a display book case. It was an interesting thing: For as many books we had through out the house, so many of the picture books that were crammed into bookcases just weren’t getting read unless I displayed them in baskets, or pulled them out for their reading piles.Think of it like browsing in the bookstore and not having any books on display, and only getting the spine to entice you to pull it down.
This bookcase has solved that problem! We rotate the books every other day or so, and the kids pull them down so much more often than before.
And besides that, it’s just pretty. It’s really like displaying art! Really good art at that!
There are so many ways to make display bookcases.
Here are some other ideas if IKEA isn’t available (although, I hear Target has the same kinda thing)
A MacGyvered bookcase from old wire and such.
Clever IKEA hack that keeps the books from falling off but still give the visual punch.
We have plans to do more….like make the closet next to the shelving into a reading cave complete with curtains and flashlights to make for a dark cozy reading spot …but more on that later.
So question: How have you made reading time fun at your house?
It’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything to the shop! And with the hot summer weather, and with a potentially second summer of not being in the ocean, I have needed to get these water images down on paper. I come from a long family history of mermaids. My Grandmother’s nick-name was “The Tan Mermaid.” My mother is a Mermaid, I am one when I am any body of water (meaning I don’t get out) and now, my daughter:
From the very beginning of my shop opening, my Addie hasn’t liked much of what I had to offer her. “Mermaids, Mom. I want Mermaids.”
But I was always stumped. Mermaids just didn’t seem to “fit” in the shop, yet at the same time, all the illustrations of mermaids that were available were Disney or the like. Why can’t there be sweet vintage Mermaids? Well, they are here now, and I can’t wait to do more.
And with mermaids, whales have been on my mind a lot lately too. We’ll see how many I get out between final art pages. But these are serving as warmups, quite literally, since the book I am illustrating takes place at Christmas…and I am starting to get really cold!
Expect to see them in the shop next week! Stay tuned…..and have a wonderful summer weekend!
Last week I was so fortunate to attend the FOR YOUNG READERS conference in Salt Lake City, UT. Having gone the year before, I knew what I’d be in for: a really intense week full of content based lectures, 20 hours of mentoring and illustration projects, lot’s of homework and an overall stimulating experience. In fact, a couple of classmates and I joked that we weren’t sleeping well at night because our dreams were so vivid from all the visual stimulation our brains were getting. It was that awesome.
So, I mentioned before Kevin Hawkes was the illustration instructor for our small class of 12 students (Have you seen how cool his website is, by the way?). From 8:30am-12:30pm each morning, I had the chance to work along side super talented illustrators and get feed back and critique from Kevin and his assistant Julie Olsen, a wonderfully talented illustrator as well. As a young mom who doesn’t even get out to go to the movies, getting a week of intensive illustration time with amazing mentors was more than life changing. Kevin Hawkes is one cool guy. Kevin had a lot of great content heavy presentations, but all in all, I was impressed with his story and his slow but steady rise to the top of the children’s book scene. He was such an inspiration. He is a family man (5 kids!) which meant a lot to me especially after writing this post on keeping your creative mind fresh and active while managing a growing family!
He admits that he is the king of altering his style for the need of the book, which also inspired me to really take risks and follow my own intincts. He is a master at his craft, and it was seriously an honor to work with him. And he even signed the books we own of his to say “To the Wright Toddlahs” for how much i love his latest books. How cool is that?
My husband participated in the Picture Book Writing intensive, and he just soaked up time with his mentor Bonny Becker. Again, like working with Kevin, it was a bit surreal to be tutored by the same author who has charmed our bedtime story routine for 2 years now. Bedtime for Bear, a New York Times bestseller has won tons of awards, but Kenneth and I bought this the month it first came out once we realized what a treasure it was. And it is just that.
It was so delightful to hear Bonny read out loud her own book that we have read so many times ourselves. It was just as amazing to see her reveal the process of the over 30 revisions that led to it hitting the shelves. The children’s book industry aint’ for sissies-that’s for sure! But Bonny is a wonderful talent as well as editor. She loves freelance editing and has an awareness of the craft of writing for children that a lot of picture book writers don’t have. It was such an honor to work with her! And if you love Visitor for Bear, you’ll LOVE the other 6 books she is contracted to write about Bear and Mouse that will be will be trickling out soon. We got to read Sleepover for Bear coming out this fall, and analyze Christmas for Bear that won’t even come out for 2 more years and isn’t even finished yet. It was truly inspiring! Oh, and I have to put in a plug about Bonny’s assistant Jed Henry who I also got to meet, who is himself a budding author/illustrator. Great contacts and great experiences.
This conference has been going strong for 11 years and is one of the best there is. If you get a chance to go next year, I can promise you won’t be disappointed!
We have a tradition in our family that sort of just happened by accident. When the babies turn 1 they are initiated into the world of chocolate. Ok, if you were to ask my husband, he’d whisper so that I can’t hear and tell you he’s been sneaking licks of cocoa since solid food started. But since I don’t know that, the first birthday is a really fun moment.
Ella has never seen a cupcake before cross her high chair tray.
“Why are they taking pictures? This is no different than green beans and Cherrios!”
“Oh, wait. This is SO not green beans and Cherrios!”
“This is something else. What is this stuff?”
“Oh Ya. I’m sold. Being 1 is going to be so great.”
“Oh Ya, Baby! Chocolate here I come!”
*Note to overly cautious parents: we don’t feed our babies chocolate for breakfast. Just birthdays. Well, if you are my husband, for dinner when mom’s not looking. No worries.
So, I need to tell you where I am at the moment. Well, I am here, at my computer of course. But I am in the middle of the FOR YOUNG READERS writing and illustrating week long course in Salt Lake City, Utah. Which basically translates to: I’m in heaven and I don’t want to come back. My last post about having to balance family and creativity? This is one of those weeks where I get to feast on days mostly full of creativity, and I hope the meal lasts a long time!
I’ll share more about the experience soon, but before I do, I wanted to share some of the books I have come to love this week.
Kevin Hawkes is the illustration instructor that I have been so fortunate to spend 20 hours with this week, along with 12 other talented students who are just as hungry as I am for learning.He is a brilliant artist, father of 5, loyal New Englander and has a great sense of humor. It is really delightful to spend the week with someone who has spent over 20 years painting at home (in an open studio by the way….with kids around and all) who not only loves what he does, but is wonderfully successful.
So, if you are at the library or bookstore this week, you will LOVE THESE:
You may know him from this New York Best Seller. One of our family’s favorites.
He wrote and illustrated these “Toddlah” books about a baby in Maine who is exceptionally large and all the funny ways to deal with raising him. My kids love it. They even say it with the accent, and it’s delightful.
And, the sequel (which I was able to see in class, but won’t come out until April 2011) is even more delightful:
Other books of his you will LOVE:
This is perfect for spring time and summer with all the butterflies out. My daughter slept with this book last night, she loved it so much.
This is a wordless picture book which is really fun to spend time looking at. I love the colors!
You’ll love the whimsicality in his illustrations and his attention to really fun details. Happy reading!
“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am in the final stages of this book, and it’s taken a lot of dicipline for me to get work done. But in this case, my work isn’t typical “work.” It requires a very lucid and creative mind, which under the normal pressures of mothering young children, is usually the first thing to go out the window.
It’s made me think a bit:
How can I keep my creativity from sagging while spending most of my day in exhausting responsibilities? Especially motherhood responsibilities?
I am a young mother. I’m 30. I have 3 kids all at home, under school age. That means from 6 am – 8 pm I am 110% with my kids. Feeding, playing, cleaning, teaching, driving, disciplining, scheduling, paying bills, calling, observing, making lists, and then feeding, playing, cleaning, kissing and bedding. For 14 hours a day. And then, at 8pm (lately 7pm since my husband is on kid duty for all the “I can’t fall asleep” moments) I am illustrating. Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE motherhood. I absolutely adore being with my kids, and we love being all together. I am so blessed to be a mother, and try and live every day in gratitude for these 3 precious blessings. We have a lot of fun around here. But….let’s keep it real. Motherhood is hard work.
This I know: Nothing kills creativity more than 1) exhaustion and 2) scheduled mundane responsibilities
How does a young mother with so many responsibilities all day, shift into “play mode” herself when the exhaustion sets in?
I can’t say I have the answer, but I have found one. And since I think (I hope) there are others of you out there like me, I hope this helps.
Living in the present.
What I know about creativity is that it flows freely when we are loosed from the past and not gripped by the future. We must be fully present to have full access to our creativity. This might seem obvious to some, but what tangles it up are the duties of motherhood which so easily catch us up with worries about the future, thoughts of the past and how fast our children are leaving it, and the duties of the present day which often lead to exhaustion and what I call “robot mode:” going through the list of to-do’s as quickly as possible but finding by the end we feel like a machine; a feeding, cleaning, cooking, running around machine.
How often, for instance, are you talking on the phone and getting your kids dressed and making breakfast on the stove? Happens a lot around here. Nothing is wrong with multi-tasking, but it can keep us from being present minded.
But how, do you ask, can we stay present minded when there are so many responsibilities pressuring us all around?
1) Be aware. Notice the chubby legs when you are putting them through those pant holes. Listen to the sound of the scrambled eggs popping. Watch the leaves blowing when you are on a walk with the kids. Feel the soft cotton when you are folding clothes. Your senses will be hightened even amidst routine work, and your mind will focus on the ‘now.’
2) Slow down: Look at your list of things to do, and knock out half. You will most likely only get a few done anyways, so don’t let your mind worry about more than it can handle. Do one at a time and do them well and to completion.
3) Breathe: Taking time to center yourself physically is vital. It doesn’t have to be yoga or a full hour of mediation. Even just 10 deep breathes with your body in an open, strethed position can wake up your cells to a full sense of being alive.
4) Have gratitude: Love what you do and embrace what comes every day. When you are doing the dishes be grateful for the food you have. When you picking random clothes everywhere, be grateful for fun loving children, that though messy, are yours. This turns work into joy. This brings your mind to the present and frees you of unnessesary stresses.
5) Notice how children see the world: Children are creative beings by definition. They are constantly living in the ‘now.’ They can’t comprehend the future, and they aren’t capable of digesting the past. They are in a constant state of awareness and discovery. Notice how their work is their play, and their play is their work. They can find joy in a simple accomplishment. They can find joy in a simple beauty. Adults can re-learn this skill and in doing so, discover creativity in their daily work.
This is my focus this month. I will be honest, and say that these 5 things are easily forgotten in this crazy world. But I do know, that by letting myself be present minded in my daily work as a mother allows for creativity to shine through what would normal squish it. It’s a challenge for sure, and it takes constant reminding. But it works.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too. It’s a journey that I think so many of us are on, and we can learn so much from each other!
“The living moment is everything.” - D.H. Lawrence
Love to you all,