A color sketch from work on my next picture book. As a friend pointed out, the panda does look like he's been poisoned & knows he's done for. Although these are mostly a preparation step, I love them for their unfinished wobbliness (and some I love as much as their finished counterparts.)
I'm always losing my mind a little bit over a lot of things. Right this minute, it goes something like: thoughts of my next picture book, balloons, Manet's portraits, Babar, muffins, girls in blouses, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, sewing dresses, the Bears film etc. etc.
These old friends are one of my favorite sights in one of my favorite places.
They were the first thing I saw when I visited the Museum of Natural History for the first time, ducking out of the hot, crowded New York Summer and finding inside the magic, dark and cool, of that magnificent place. It found me when I most needed it, nearly ten years ago, when I was just out of college and lonely and restless and out-of-place in the city. I walked in on a rare quiet day (it's never been so quiet, ever, on any of my further visits) and laid eyes on this diorama and tears crept into my eyes. We don't have a word for the particular way you love a place, but we need one.
I don't expect it to make sense what the museum means to me, the spell it has, no matter how many times I visit. I keep it in a safe place beneath my ribs, where we keep the books that found us at just the right time, the films and albums, the feeling of being understood, of being loved when you least expected it.
If you ever want to find them, the bears wait for you, huge and grand, in the Hall of North American Mammals.
I found this 1930 edition of my favorite Colette book today (the first of the Claudine series, Claudine at School.) It was just sitting there, waiting for me at Powell's & I think it cost some king's ransom like six dollars.
I check the shelves of my favorite authors on most trips to used book stores, because even though I start off with modern editions of most favorite books, I always try to trade up to nice oldie (but readable) copies as I find them.
Plus, old books come with heart-melting little idiosyncrasies like abandoned library card pockets and bookplates (in this case) and sincere inscriptions from aunts and mentors (in other cases). I'd pay extra for those little things.
I have been using watercolors lately and I really love them. They are so different from my usual paints, which are all building and layers and varnishes. Silk chiffon vs. wool.
I was wishing for something a bit lighter & airier to work on a few different things I've got percolating. One thing I'm using them for is to make pictures for a new story I'm writing (like the one above).
This will soon be a black mushroom cavern, all inky and dark, but I liked it white & bright as it is, too.
I'm in the midst of lots of behind-the-scenes work right now. Lots of it is bookish: I'm writing of an expanded novel from a favorite fairy tale, making sketches for my next picture book, but my mind and sketchbook are also filling up with a few series of new pictures.
I will, of course, share dispatches! Happy Spring!
One of the most unusual old children's book's I've brought home lately: a nineteenth century chromolithographed book about two girls in florida, a bow & arrow, and a snake. I love the image on the cover so much (and the pamphlet-style book is quite brittle and delicate) so I think I'll probably frame it to keep me company here in my studio.
There is nothing quite like the colors they achieved when printing chromolithographs. There's an irrepressible brightness in the colors and a softness in the shadows...it's hard to define, really. I only know that they're some of my favorite, favorite illustrations and that boxes of postcards and game pieces and scrapbook bits printed this way make me go out of my mind a little.
I don't even know exactly what it is or how it works (neither did the Ebay seller) but I want to know its secrets. The Magic Box is not mine but I will probably be looking for it for the rest of my days.
Sometimes when I am feeling a little beauty-starved, I binge on Tim Walker.
His heart is, I think, like my favorite people's hearts: that is, full to bursting with everything all at once, exuberance and shadows and wonder and love and magic. A devout maximalist, a baroque day dreamer, and obsessed by decadent beauty in a time when it isn't terribly fashionable to be any of those things. He's also quite good on mermaids.
Pictures, his monograph, is one of my most prized among my big shelf-breaker books. Above are just a few windows into his rabbit hole (the shadow creatures up top remains my all-time favorite.)
There are hundreds more, too, all beautiful little cakes to eat greedily & make yourself sick in the loveliest way.
This antique glass slide came from my valentine this year.
The little labels, with their perfect script...my stars. And the actual anatomical slide itself (heart tissue, looking so much like a tiny, delicate sea fan) make my own heart beat less like The Human Subject and more like a hummingbird.
I couldn't help breaking out the glitter set and making a total mess before I sent these out. Vermilion glitter for the hearts, sparkly white for the mermaid's pearl and the bee-wings, sparkly black for bee-fur and top hats.
You can download these in the post right before this one (here's the link, just in case.)
Any excuse to feature some of my favorite oldie superlatives. I've been excited to post these, and since many people's Valentines live far & wide (lots of mine included), I figured I really better do it.
The sheet is sized just a smidge smaller than standard 8.5"x11" paper, so they should be easy to print without fear of cropping, etc. (I'd recommend printing on any card stock your printer can easily handle.)
And of course, these are given for personal use only and cannot be sold or used in any way for commercial or nefarious purposes.
Last week, very out-of-the-blue, I got a wonderful package in the mail from one of my favorite people. Inside the wonderful package was the drawing above, an original Garth Williams sketch of the Little Fur Child from Little Fur Family, my all-time favorite picture book. I know I might've said all of the rest of this before, so bear with me if I'm repeating myself!
I remember there was an auction of most of the original artwork a few years ago, and I wanted so badly to swoop it all up. Feeling wistful about that made me all the more beside-myself to have an original Fur Child of my own. I love sketches in general, and I know this little guy (and his perfect little hat!) will be close beside me in my studio for forever. I just have to find the perfect frame for him!
My three favorite things about Little Fur Family:
- What a bunch of misfits the family is, but how perfect they are together. The little one is very bearish, the papa is a Scottie-dog/bearish creature, and the mama is...? A bush-baby? The grandfather (not pictured) is also very terrier-like, so I'm assuming he's on the father's side.
- The papa's outstanding singing-face in the lullaby scene (top R)
- And my most, most, most favorite thing of all...in the book but possibly just in general: the moment the Fur Child finds a tiny version of himself (top L)
"Then he caught a little tiny tiny fur animal, The littlest fur animal in the world It had warm silky fur and even a little fur nose So he kissed it right on its little fur nose And put it gently back in the grass And the little tiny tiny fur animal Ran down a hole into the ground.
The subtly frantic look on the tiny tiny fur animal's face really makes it, I think.
EDITED AGAIN: Hooray! The 10 winning comment numbers courtesy of the RNG!
6, 21, 36, 51, 73, 85, 121, 148, 158, 166
I'll be getting in touch with the owners of these numbers to get your addresses soon. Thanks again for your entries & pie-thoughts & kind words!
EDIT: Comments are now closed - thanks for much for entering the giveaway! I loved reading so many different thoughts about pie. So much so, that I've decided to give away 10 copies, rather than 5 - so I'll be drawing 10 numbers & letting you know the results shortly!
To celebrate, I'd like to give away copies of this brand-new edition (along with other bits, like maybe some postcards, bookmarks, etc.) to 5 commentors below.
This strange and wonderful place is very special to me, and I hope that this new version lands in the backpacks and nightstands of small people who will get to meet, for the first time, the strange and wonderful inhabitants who call Oddfellow's home
-Just leave a comment letting me know your favorite kind of pie (I won't be sending you pie, but I'm just curious.)
-Please make sure there is a working email attached to your comment, so that if your number is drawn, I can write you for your address
Hokusai'sWave gets all the attention, but lately I've been having a moment with his unbelievably beautiful and delicate flower paintings.
They're both ethereal and substantial, somehow.
I'd like to make more posts here about other people's pictures. It would be nice sometimes to chronicle who's hypnotizing me at any given time, since my eye has an easy heart and falls in love over and over and over again.
My art-book-buying has been a little outrageous lately - the evidence of my crushes pile up all over the place in little stacks. Sometimes I get very voracious about pictures, sometimes I am more reserved.
In the age of curating your infatuations online and tumbling and pinteresting them, I'm still quite tactile with mine. Even if I find an image online, I'll usually print it out and tape it or paste it into a scrapbook so I can go back to it in the leisurely way I like.
And then it can all be integrated into my revolutionary filing system - the Little Stacks™ method.
Since I remembered I gave a little peek of Dream Animals, I wanted to share a peek at some of the small people who populate my next picture book, Day Dreamers (the sunny companion to our nighttime dream book.) It will be out this Fall from the excellent Random House Kids!
The book is full of magical beasts and the imaginings of little dreamers, and I can't wait to share more as we get closer to the release...
Around 12 pieces of original picture book art (including 5 of the big dream spreads, like the Kitchen Dream below!) will be posted for sale on Monday in my shop at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific.
They are all framed up in my favorite gold frame - it was quite the endeavor framing the biggies, which clock in at a whopping three fee wide! (And a side-note to my dear International customers: because of the enormous size of the large horizontal paintings, they won't be available for international shipping. The square images, like the Fox Girl above, will.) And one or two paintings from the book are being reserved for various purposes, but the lion's share of book art will be there!
Each original Dream Animals painting will be sent on its way accompanied by a signed copy of the book!
They make for nice, little, quick(ish) presents. I sent these boxes out a week or two ago, so they're (hopefully) long since eaten.
Maybe you still need a little something to give someone? The marshmallows would be especially nice with a tin or jar of hot chocolate mix, homemade or store-bought. I make these at least once a holiday & both of recipes have never let me down.
I hope your holiday season is off to a nice start! It's bustling over here as I finish up my next picture book (Day Dreamers - the companion book I mentioned for Dream Animals) and we ship shop orders like mad (thank you, dear customers!)
We have a tree, which is hypnotizing me with its glow every time I pass by, and I have designs on making some caramels & marshmallows very soon. And the freezing cold outside just makes the coziness indoors all the better!
It is finally getting to where the air is cold enough to sting your toes & bite your nose, so I keep thinking of this, one of my all-time favorite oldie cartoons, Jack Frost from Ub Iwerks. It concerns mostly a stubborn little bear who refuses to hibernate (I can't fully relate to this, because even when I was a little bear, I loved to hibernate.)
I wrote a few things/did interviews that are elsewhere this week. If you have any interest in the picture book I wrote when I was seven or what I was into in college or how my books have come about, maybe you'd like to read them?
Julie, who runs Seven Imp, has a wonderful & voracious eye and writes really smart, thoughtful posts that emphasize art and illustration. The fact that it is reliably an art-party over there (and her thoughtful & thorough way of approaching illustrated books) makes it probably my favorite picture book place online. Besides, it's one of the only places I've ever come across a write-up on the work of my favorite Japanese illustrator, Komako Sakai.
If you hop over there, I can't be responsible for the rabbit hole you'll almost undoubtably fall down! There's so much to read & so much to see.
This Saturday, at one of the sweetest bookshops in the land, I'll be reading & signing & making mischief (and, of course, have a treat or two in tow.) My Oddfellow's reading there last year was one of my favorite things about 2012, so I'm excited to be there again.
And we'll be drawing our own Dream Animals...I can't wait to see what creatures are chosen!
If you live in or around Portland, we'd love to see you!