Archive for November, 2010

Children’s Book Advent Calendar

I’ve been wanting to do this advent calendar for years…and I finally get to do it!  This will be our first Christmas home since having children, and I’ve wanted to have this be a family tradition of ours since I saw this idea from a neighbor of mine years back.

Children’s Picture Book Advent Calendar: What is it?

24 Christmas Picture Books, all wrapped up and marked for each day leading up until Christmas. This way, we will be reading one Christmas story a night!

Now don’t panic…getting 24 Christmas Books isn’t as hard as it looks. When you can check out Christmas books from the Library for 3 weeks at a time, it makes it rather simple….you may need to renew one time in there, but it still makes for a lovely tradition! And inexpensive too!

And Book #24……is the Bible, so that lessens the load a bit. But you’d be surprised how many Christmas books you already have.  Really, I am sure you have more than you think you do. I think books on winter can even count too… And don’t forget any Christmas Anthologies with short stories in there too.

Here’s a list of a few of mine in there:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

The Polar Express

The 12 Prayers of Christmas

Christmas In the Manger

Christmas is Here

Christmas Day in the Morning

Snowmen at Christmas

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree

God Gave us Christmas

Who is Coming to Our House?

Olive, the Other Reindeer

Oh there are SO many Christmas books that I want to get my hands on….I have so many favorites that I don’t even have own yet! But this year, most of the books in our Advent Calender we DO own (thanks to the need to have a few books for “research” when working on my book) but even still….to the children, these books will be like new since they are all wrapped up.

These books are now in our open bookcase in the basement (thus the really lousy photo…sorry!) But this way, they are in plain visibility. Another good place is the hearth of the fireplace…or in your child’s bedroom.

Anyways…I wanted to share in case anyone needed a good idea for an advent calendar this year. And the best part? It’s either “rented” or a good reason to add to your already established Christmas collection.

Have any of you ever tried this one? It’s a new tradition for us this year, and I think this one is here to stay!

Happy Christmas!

xo

sarah

P.S. And don’t forget! The Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale in the shop ends tonight at midnight!

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Cyber Monday & Tuesday!

Yes! We are joining in on the throngs of sales going on this week! Buy 2 Get 1 FREE this Monday and Tuesday….so have fun & spread a little holiday cheer!

You know the drill:

*Purchase 2 items in the shop

*Mention the 3rd item (of equal or lesser value) in the Message to Seller Box

*Don’t purchase the 3rd item!

*And we’ll send you all three for the price of 2!

Enjoy…and Happy Holidays!!!

xo

sarah

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Winter Paper Dolls!

O Frabjous Day! Callooh, Callay!

Yes, I have new paper dolls! This only took, oh like  year….but I think you’ll love them!

There is enough for each little paper doll to have their own little story: Playing Santa, playing in the snow, Christmas Caroling and even something as wonderful as bringing a winter pet home from the woods.

There are PDF and paper versions available! So either perfect for stocking stuffing, or print your own so you can let the kids rip them up without worry.

There are more coming…I really hope! But in the mean time this is what we are playing with at our house:)

enjoy!

29/11ART
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Thankful.

{image via Daniel Hurst Photography}

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We’ve been finding lazy days here. It’s a nice change! It’s odd….I’ve been madly art making these past 3 months, but since it’s all for books and fabric, I just can’t share any of it! But I’ve been thick in deadlines for the past while, so it’s been nice to veg.  Oh how I love eating lunch in my pajamas and eating popcorn in bed. Heaven.

Well, there’s been some hiccups too that has included emergency home maintenance (let’s just say that this being our first winter has led to some big “Oh, Man!” moments: like pipes freezing and other major plumbing issues. Never a dull moment in an old house needing lots of TLC!)

But, so much to be Thankful for. This has been a very busy and big year for us, and with so much going on, I’ve learned the importance of stopping and counting my blessings. Especially when things are a bit challenging.

So here’s a short list:

I’m thankful for….

* Crisp fall air

*A house.

*Birds that greet us each morning

*Amazing wonderful parents

*Ella’s whalespout and pixie nose

*Ian’s dramatic story renditions

*Addies wrap-around hugs

*My husband and his touch of magic in the kitchen

*Soft pillows

*Tea on cold nights

*A fireplace and free wood from our neighbor

*My drawing table

*This music

*My faith

*And wonderful friends who have stuck by me even though I don’t have much time to socialize as of late

There is so much more….of course….

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

**And make sure to stop by next week: we’re having some LOVELY giveaways all week…and some great Cyber Monday deals!

xoxo

Sarah

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The Sarah Jane Story Part II: Finding my Voice

(pencil drawing, age 10)

The past few months I have actually been rather pensive as I’ve looked back on the journey I’ve been on the past 3 years. I had this idea in my head of what I wanted to do (open a shop selling artwork and stationery for children) but in looking back, I realize how unconventional my path was, as well as how unexpectedly I found my artistic voice. I’ve written and rewritten this post over and over…it’s a rather hard thing to write about since I am still in the thick of it! But I wanted to share some of my thoughts as well as some of my path to how I ended up learning how to find my voice as an artist.

I mentioned in the Part I portion of the story, that Sarah Jane Studios began with the intention of getting my husband through a Masters program as well as my need to open up my artistic side. I’ve always been an artist, and though I am mostly untrained, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life being a mother and living creatively with my art. Ever since I can remember, I’d planned on being an artist and a mother..a children’s illustrator even. And when I found myself at that age, my decision remained unchanged.

See, I had put my art on hold, while I spent 5 years studying Musical Theater at BYU, and then a few more years after that while I taught voice lessons to support my husband while he finished his Bachelor’s Degree. I craved getting into my art again, but it just wasn’t the right time. I had other areas I wanted to develop in myself, and other arts to explore. And looking back, I am really glad I didn’t study art. As hard as it was to not take an academic art class in college, I learned more about expressing myself by studying theater.

But when it came time to get back into art again, I was ready to make a living off it. Well, I wasn’t ready. That was the problem. But I was in a position where I had to. I knew I could do it, but I also knew that it was going to take time to find my “voice” that was real and truly was my own. That was going to take time.  And I will say right now, that I am still finding my voice…and that my voice is changing…but I needed to find, at the least, an authentic place to start. And I didn’t know where.

Pencil Study, 2003

The kind of art that I was familiar with would be considered Fine Art. The classes I had taken and the studying that I had done on my own, was classical in nature: Figure Drawing, Oil Painting, etc. And I loved it. Here are a few sketches that would be considered the work that I studied at home. I’d read books and sketch and paint, teaching myself the best I could.

Profile of Kenneth, 2005

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’d spend in Fine Art galleries with goosebumps all over me from a pencil sketch of the movement of the human figure and the mood that it created from just the gesture. Or the way that an oil painting, when painted with layer upon layer of a certain glazing technique would motivate me to start a new painting.

Portrait of a friends house, 2004

Not only did I love this style of art, but that is also what I had studied. Most, if not all of my art created up to that point, was hours and hours and hours of work.

Portrait of Kenneth, 2005

This portrait for instance, created when Addie was just starting to walk, was the last oil painting I did to date. I started painting in oils when I was 10 years old, so it’s very natural for me because it’s where I started painting. But in trying to decide a medium of art to make money off of,  I knew that oil painting wasn’t for me because 1) it took too long, and 2) I didn’t have the academic training to keep up with gallery artists. Academic painting takes years and years of studying and time. Something that  young mother of 2 babies and a husband who was teaching and going to school didn’t have time for. And to be honest, I didn’t really want to. I wanted to do something in the children’s industry. But what?

I started exploring with what I knew was popular. This was an interesting road. If you ever want to know what do NOT do, do what you think is popular! But I had to start somewhere. And just as I studying and copied artists as a teenager, I learned that when you are starting out, it’s important to see what has already been done, so that you can venture off and do your own thing.

At the time, hand painted personalized wall art was the rage, so I tried to take my own spin on that.  Ugh. It was painful. I knew I wanted to stay in the children’s art world, but how? This was an interesting time in my life. I had a deadline for opening a shop by October 2007, and it July. I realized after a good 2 months of this that it just wasn’t me, It wasn’t challenging enough, and that I wasn’t born to do what everyone else seemed to be doing at the time.

That realization left me with an entire summer of doing nothing. I had spent a good 6 months creating art that I thought would be marketable, but never enjoying a second of it. I had to find MY voice. And it just wasn’t coming. This was a really hard time for me, because if you know me, you’ll know that I get really excited about things, and I tend to go all the way with it. I don’t like giving up on dreams. It’s very depressing. But I wasn’t finding what seemed to fit me, and what I could market. Taking time off was the only thing I could do.

But by early September, the inspiration started to come. I decided to start drawing again…in the way that I enjoyed most. I wasn’t worried about what it looked like, or what was going to be “good.” Here’s a portrait of Ian during that time, when I was just illustrating from my heart.

Portrait of Ian at age 18 months

I realized, by stepping back, my true voice was in illustration. As much as I enjoyed fine art and painting, what I enjoyed the most was line work. Most of what I studied and was attracted to as a child was illustration and print. And though I had spent a lot of time learning about the fine art side, the way my brain saw the world was in a much simpler form….line drawing and more simple illustration. And as a mother, I noticed that so much of art decor at the time was painted  canvas type art, but where was the illustrative art? (This was over 3 years ago, remember).  Old School, retro and vintage was trending again, and my favorite illustrative art was vintage picture books. So, it seemed to make sense that I needed to focus my art in that direction. After all, it was what I enjoyed most, and there seemed to be a need in the market.

(E.H. Shepherd study, age 14)

I was going through my art files, and I pulled this illustration out. I had done this ink and pastel drawing when I was 14. This isn’t traced, but an enlarged study from the Winnie the Pooh stories we had in our house growning up. At around 14, when I stopped taking art lessons, was when I began to spend hours in my room at home studying the line work of illustrators: not fine artists, but illustrators. I went through a short phase as a teenager of trying to build a portfolio in illustration (I wanted to be a Disney animator!) and I had forgotten about that. And I’ve always been inspired by Maurice Sendak, Rie Cramer, A. A. Milne, and the work of other brilliant illustrators with a gift for line work as well as story telling. That, I remembered, was what I wanted to do.

I felt a door had opened up…as though all those years of fine art, studying theater, having babies, collecting vintage children’s books taking time out to just live my life authentically was coming together. I realized I had something to say in a voice that I knew how to say something. I wanted to illustrate childhood: the simple, timeless aspects of childhood that are appreciated so much in books we collect and consider vintage now…but to add my own voice to it. Fresh color, simple line, etc.

Here are some of my first illustrations I created for the shop: These paved the way for me to start with what I already knew…but allowed me to ask myself an important question:

How can I apply what I already know so I can market myself in the world of design, decor and print?

Asking myself this question was the best thing I could have done, because it opened up my creativity to applying myself in marketable ways.

“Storytime” 2007

“April Showers” 2008

“Winter Cheer” 2009

“Take me for a walk” 2010

I feel a bit awkward talking about my “voice”…I mean, if your voice is a natural extension of the person you are and the things you believe in, then isn’t is always changing? It should…because you change. I have changed. And my art continues to change.

But for me in 2007, I needed a place to start. A place to feel that I could put myself out there without feeling like I was riding on the coat tails of someone else.  I needed to start with something I already knew, something that would be marketable but an adventure in learning at the same time!

So, that’s how I got started!

While I was in theater, I learned something very important: I learned that the best performance is when you aren’t stepping in the shoes of someone else, but rather letting the person you are portraying influence the person that you already are. And I look back at my 30 years, and see that the art that I was surrounded by, and the art that I studied had it’s place in giving me the tools to ultimately find my own voice. That lesson alone was better than any art degree.

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Handmade Giveaway: Tickled Pink Knits

**Each weekend through Christmas, I’ll be offering giveaway’s from artists and artisans with a simple wish that we can all support handmade this holiday season! Enjoy!

This weekend’s giveaway is from a shop that I have grown to love, love, love! I’m wearing the cowl above right now, and I’m so super warm:)

Tickled Pink Knits offers luxurious handmade knitwear and accessories (scarves, wraps, cowls, hats, mitts, and fiber jewelry), all made from fine natural materials (alpaca, merino wool, cashmere, silk, and fine cottons) featuring all original designs, each piece of wearable fiber art is created one stitch at a time by Elena Rosenberg in her New York-based studio.  Wedding accessories orders (shawls/wraps) and other custom orders are always welcomed.

Visit Elena here:

Pattern Shop

Knit Shop

Flickr Site

Tumblr

GIVEAWAY DESCRIPTION:

This week, there will be THREE lucky winners! One winner will receive a gift certificate to her shop, and two winners will receive a free knitting patternIn addition to that, Tickled Pink Knits is offering FREE SHIPPING to all Sarah Jane readers. Coupon Code (in message to seller) is SARAHJANE.

Giveaway instructions:

  • Leave a comment making sure to enter your name and email where it asks you to
  • Comments will be closed on Sunday Nov. 21st at Midnight EST
  • THREE winners will be chosen
  • Winners will be contacted via email

Best of luck to you!

19/11.
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Books You’ll Love: Christmas is Here

Ok! It’s time to start reviewing Christmas Picture books! I can’t wait. We have LOTS around here, and I have to tell you about my new favorite.

Just out this year, Christmas is Here is illustrated by one of my new favorite illustrators, Lauren Castillo. Maybe you’ve seen some other books of hers. This book is a favorite in our house. Her style is so fresh and different than anything else we have in the house, which is so attractive to me. My kids love her books, and will look at her illustrations so closely. Though they are loose and naive in a sense, the illustrations almost seem to move and come alive. I love it.

So, Christmas Is Here is super special because it is the text from the Bible! Straight from Luke, this is the story that most families read every night on Christmas Eve as they are acting out the nativity. I have never realized up until this point, that I’ve never seen a picture book depict the Biblical text before! And only the text…no add-ins, or summaries. The first few pages are wordless, because it starts with a family walking past a live nativity, and the rest is the little boy imagining the first Christmas as it is being read aloud to him. So precious.

So, I see a Christmas Tradition starting: Reading this book at Christmas around the tree. We’re starting our Christmas reading on the 1st, and I am so happy this is part of our collection!

This is a new favorite, because it’s the story that we all know and share. It’s also really dear to me, because the book that I illustrated, Christmas Goodnight coming NEXT Christmas, has some similarities that were fun to notice too.

You can get Lauren’s book here .

And let me mention too, that Lauren is taking a trip  to Romania where she is giving away 500 books to orphan children this Christmas. It’s even being translated in Romanian! But to help with the funds, Lauren is donating 100% of her ETSY shop sales to the cause. You can visit her lovely site here, and know that for every print you get, a child will be getting a picture book of the biblical story of Christmas!

Thanks Lauren for this wonderful book! Hope you all enjoy.

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Birds get fast food.

So the conversation started like this:

IAN: Where do earffworms go in the winter, Mom?

ME: Um, I don’t know. I think they freeze. Or maybe they hibernate. I’ll read about it.

IAN: What do birds eat in the winter then?

ME: Well, they find whatever they can.

IAN: Ok. I’ll start collecting.

1/2 hour later Ian comes to get me with his collection pictured above:

IAN: Look mom. This is for the birds to eat in the winter!

ME: Oh! That’s great! There’s one problem though. Birds don’t eat rocks. Or flower petals. Maybe we can collect something else.

IAN: Like what? How can we feed them mom? The earffworms will freeeee-eeee-eeze (insert hyper shivering child here).

ME: Hey, I know…let’s talk to Dad when he gets home, and maybe we can have a family project to build a bird feeder this weekend. We can go to the store…and…

IAN: Is Dad home yet? I’ll wait on the porch.

4 hours later:

Evidently, Kenneth didn’t even get to come inside the house. While I was getting Ella up from her nap, I came out on the back porch to see this. The man was building before he even had time to put his bag down.

OK. Don’t freak out and send me hate mail. Yes, my almost 5 year old is inches away from a scary blade…of course he was never close to it while it was on. He was in charge of marking the wood. But we’re of the school of thought that if you teach children young, they understand danger and how to act around it. Ian learned how to saute onions on the stove at age three, for instance…attended by an adult of course. But anyways….I have to cover myself because, you know, this is the internet and I’ve been sent hate mail for things like having my 1 year old in point shoes. Anyways…I digress….

So what I thought was going to turn into a fun weekend long project, took exactly an hour. We had scrap fence pieces laying around, and some tools to boot.

It got quite loud…but never boring.

Ken built a little hinged rooftop so we could pour the seed in and out easily. And the large tray would allow multiple birds to eat at the same time. (We have some big birds around here, and the last thing I wanted was to encourage fighting. Can you tell I’m a mom of 3 children under 5?)

And Voila. A simple solution to frozen earthworms.

It took a about 3 days for the birds to figure out it was there, and to come often. Now, we have birds we’ve never even seen before! Namely the really tiny ones that stay hidden. I’m going to have to start learning more about birds now…and it makes me so happy. Ella yells, “Ba! Ba!” and the children have learned to stop talking (yelling) at breakfast when they see the birds in the feeder so they don’t scare them away.

Perfect. I’m starting to feel ready for winter already. We’re keeping the birds happy in our corner of the earth. Or at least we’re keeping the birds close to us so we can feel there is still life when winter erases most of it away. Either way, I’m happy.

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