Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 5 July 17, 2009

Brian Pinkney comes from a family of children's author/illustrators. His parents are Jerry and Gloria Jean Pinkney, his wife Andrea is a writer/editor and his brother Myles and sister-in-law Sandra are involved in photography. Pinkney was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York. He became involved in the picture book business when his father solicited his help in creating the image of a ghost--for which his father modeled. Brian frequently served as a model for many of this father's books.
One of Pinkney's art instructors introduced him to the scratchboard technique. Pinkney decided to take a chance to see if any publishers would like this style. He adds an oil pastel overlay to the engraving and gets a rich, luminous finished product. Apparently the publishers liked this style as many of Pinkney's books are created with this technique. The Mazza Museum is fortunate to have one of Pinkney's original scratchboard pieces on display in Gallery One.
Pinkney has won several Coretta Scott King Awards, as well as earning Caldecott Honors for two of his books. He considers his artwork "another gesture that's going to make another impression."

It was the good fortune of the Mazza Summer Conference to have Grace Lin as a speaker!
Lin also hails from upstate New York and shared with us that her family was the only Asian family in her hometown. Lin did not appreciate being singled out when the book Five Chinese Brothers was read to her class. She has since recreated and illustrated a Chinese folktale Seven Chinese Sisters.
When Lin was young, she dreamed of being an Olympic Gold Medalist ice skater. Her illustrations of this fantasy actually helped launch her career as a children's book author/artist.
In the sixth grade, Lin entered a contest in which the winning book would be published. Her "Dandelion Story" earned her a $1,000 scholarship. However, another well-known children's book illustrator won the contest with his rendition World War Won. After this, Lin decided to seriously pursue a career in illustration.
When a publisher contacted her to see whether she had a story to accompany one of the paintings in her portfolio, the book The Ugly Vegetables sprouted. Lin now embraces her Chinese heritage and many of her books enlighten us about her cultural background. Her young adult novel, When the Mountain Meets the Moon pays homage to European and Asian fairytales. Her travels to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are also reflected in much of her artwork.
Lin concluded by explaining the significance of the "swirls" in her artwork. These echo the celestial motion of the heavens, representing the endless circle of enlightenment, elegance and infinite wisdom. She attempts to always have her swirls turning to the right.

The conference concluded with the distribution of fortune cookies to all the participants. Each one contained the message "May you be fortunate enough to return to MAZZA again!" Lucky numbers: 7/12-16/2010.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 4 July 16, 2009

Julie Downing is ready to move to Findlay! She shared with us her appreciation for being surrounded with people who are enthralled with children's authors and book artists. According to Downing, she never intended to become an author/illustrator. However, the career blends her love for research and incorporates acting/movie directing. Growing up with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys brought out the detective in her. Playing with Barbie dolls enhanced her dramatic creativity. She shared that her love for reading also helped prepare her for what she is doing.
Downing has two teenage children, who frequently serve as models for her books. She also relies on photo images. Since she is allergic to animals, her family cannot have pets. So she puts pets in her books so she can enjoy them vicariously. According to Downing, she is drawing the same things now that she drew in kindergarten--animals, people, landscapes and snowscapes.
Illustrating and writing are all about revising. The illustrator needs to make the book move forward with the page turn being an important element. Downing utilizes a variety of media in her books, including watercolor, colored pencils, crayons, pastels and acrylics.

Q. What children's author/illustrator was born in the back seat of a New York City taxicab?
A. William Low! Apparently Low's parents never shared this information with their son until he needed a birth certificate and in the box for birthplace was the designation "en route." Low's father was outraged to receive a bill from the doctor who had played no role in the delivery. His father was a naturalized American citizen who returned to China and with a matchmaker's help, found the prettiest girl in her village. The family owned a laundry business in New York City and they spent alot of time people-watching. Low is still fascinated with the sights, sounds and smells of the city and appears to be a tourist when walking the streets of New York.
Low spent a great deal of time reading comics, particularly Spiderman, the Fantastic Four and Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos. He and his older brother made up their own comics, which was the beginning of his fascination for drawing.
Low was accepted into the High School of Art and Design where he was introduced to the great American classics. He admired N. C. Wyeth's powerful paintings and wanted to illustrate like him. He was also influenced by Edward Hopper's style. Low is now a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and teaches digital painting. He discovered that the golden ticket to the land of opportunity results from having a dream and working hard to achieve that dream.

Like Julie Downing, Stacey Schuett never intended to be an illustrator. Instead, she had aspirations of becoming a veterinarian. However, an incident with an injured animal changed her mind. She opted for a career that was less dangerous and not as messy. Schuett became an artist. Her grandfather had a great imagination. Since her family lived near her grandparents, she was able to spend a great deal of time with them when she was young. Her grandparents often framed her works of art and mounted them on their walls. Schuett was paid by her grandfather to paint Native Americans and she credits him for teaching her to be disciplined in using her time effectively.
With the encouragement of an editor, Schuett wrote Somewhere in the World Right Now. She relies more heavily on images in her memory than photographed images. Photos tend to make her feel stiff and she prefers using her imagination. Schuett loves painting animals. She uses a variety of media--oils, pastels, colored pencils, chalk, and some watercolor. She likes the depth of liquid acrylics. Her new medium is digital painting. Thus, her style is becoming simpler. She has tried her hand at doing a graphic novel since her children really enjoy Manga.
In her closing thoughts, she shared that kids need to be reminded that every artist was once just a little kid. Schuett wishes to affect kids they way she was affected. She lives by the creed that "perfection is over-rated!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 3 July 15, 2009

What an awesome day this was! We first heard from James Gurney as he described his journey along life's path through the eyes of an artist. His presentation is multi-generational and according to his wife, Jeanette, "today's audience was not as squirmy as kindergarteners!" I think that could be due to the fact that we were awestruck by all his accomplishments!
Gurney met his lovely wife while they were in art school together. Jeanette still carries a sketchbook when they travel and uses pen and ink with watercolors to sketch interesting people and buildings. The Gurneys have two sons and the couple resides in the Hudson River Valley.
During his brief stay at the Mazza Conference, Gurney was busily sketching some of the other artists, as well as the museum director, Ben Sapp, and Jerry Mallett, curator of the museum.
While working for National Geographic, Gurney traveled extensively and met world-renowned scientists, including many paleontologists. In addition to his fine arts works, he has designed dinosaur postage stamps and illustrated for Ranger Rick Magazine.
He is best known in the world of children's literature for his Dinotopia series. (Dinotopia is a portmanteau for the words "dinosaur" and "utopia") The target audience for these fantasies would be grades six and beyond. Gurney mentioned that one of his favorite childhood books was Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. James Gurney is definitely a modern-day Renaissance Man!

Many Ohio residents are familiar with Bruce Langton's B Is for Buckeye book. This was Langton's first children's book. It was followed by V is for Volunteer and H is for Hoosier.
Langton is actually now a Hoosier as he resides with his wife, Becky, in Granger, Indiana. They have two sons, Brett and Rory, who frequently appear in his artwork. Langton was born in Minnesota and raised in Wisconsin.
Langton aspired to be a Disney artist and the book Oliver's Travels; an Ohio Adventure by Cynthia Reynolds has illustrations by Langton which he considers his "Disney adventure." The drawings of Oliver the mouse and the critters he encounters are very Disney-esque. In addition to the fourteen children's books which Langton has illustrated, he has also provided illustrations for eight hunting and sports books.
Langton's other interest lies in the area of music. He's in a band called Zonixx. You can hear him jamming on his guitar at his address. Langton enjoys listening to his IPod while painting. His mantra is "Life is short...just do it!"

Originally from Peoria, Illinois, but now a resident of Berkeley, California, M. Sarah Klise spiced up the afternoon session with her tales of growing up in a large family. Their father was a writer and also founder of the Thomas S. Klise Filmstrip Company. Their mother was an art teacher, who agreed to pay their college tuition as long as they each wrote a letter home once a week while they were away.
The children made home-made gifts for one another. On one holiday, Sarah and Kate decided to create a book together. This was the first of many children's books on which they collaborated. Sarah rues the day when letter-writing as a form of communication does not exist. Another family tradition was a letter written by their parents and presented on each of their birthdays.
Most of Klise's books are set either in Missouri or California. The books are considered epistolary novels, as they are written in the form of letters.
Why Do You Cry? was their first picture book. This was followed by Imagine Harry, a book about an imaginary friend. Their most recent book is entitled Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother. Klise concluded her presentation with a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the statement, "It's not the thing you plan, it's the thing you end up with!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 2 July 14, 2009

This morning we met the illustrator of the cover for Yolanda's Genius, in addition to many other well-known titles. Raul Colon's earliest memory of drawing in his family's New York City apartment was drawing a tractor-trailer at age 4. During his childhood, he struggled with asthma and thus missed alot of school. During those times, he absorbed and studied comic books, particularly Marvel Comics, and specifically Spiderman.
His family moved to Puerto Rico--thinking that this may improve his health. It was in Puerto Rico where he studied art with Mr. Cortez. When the family moved to Florida, Colon spent 10 years working with the Instructional Television Center where he learned the crafts of puppetry, animation and set-building.
In 1988, Colon returned to New York City to begin his career in illustration. He spent time with Sony Records, New York Times and Business Week. While doing conceptual art for the corporate world, Colon was contacted by an editor about illustrating children's books. His first children's book was entitled Always My Dad. This was followed by My Mama Had a Dancing Heart. His poignant book Tomas and the Library Lady was based on a true story.
Colon shared with the audience his secret to his textured technique. He begins the painting with a gold wash. Then he does the sketch and adds warm sepia colors. At this point, he uses a "scratcher" to get the textured effect. This is followed by adding color with colored pencils. The finished product definitely has a unique and appealing look!

We were then introduced to Keith Graves, whose mantra is "Fun is what it's all about!" He has been described as a visually entertaining illustrator. Keith is originally from New Orleans. He migrated westward and ended up in Austin, Texas. where he resides with his wife and thirteen-year old twins. He shared with us that his favorite childhood book was Curious George.
In addition to writing and illustrating children's books, Graves composes songs, poetry and stories. He loves monsters and horror. One of his favorite movies is The Young Frankenstein.
From this came the idea for Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance. He even included a dance diagram on the endpapers of the book. Graves also likes outer space.
Graves paints with acrylics and uses Prism colored pencils and occasionally oil paint on the top layer. His current project is a spoof on the Chicken Little tale.

This afternoon, Peter Brown had us in hysterics by sharing some embarrassing moments which served as the inspiration for his first children's book Flight of the DoDo. After growing up in the countryside in Hopewell, New Jersey, Brown traveled to the west coast to attend the Art Center College for Design in Pasadena, California. He now resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Brown's first book which he created as a child, was inspired by a sad incident with a happy outcome. When the family dog, Buffy, ran away, Brown's mother suggested he express how he was feeling, so he made a book about this. Fortunately, Buffy showed up at the front door the next morning.
Brown described his art style as a combination of a Pixar look with a naive drawing style. While in high school, he had aspirations of working for Disney. Because of this, he did many animal sketches. When Brown moved to Brooklyn, he was lonely and thought he wanted a dog. While sitting in a coffee shop one day, a bull dog came meandering in by itself. The independence of this dog inspired his book Chowder.
Brown's latest book A Curious Garden was inspired by an abandoned railroad station, The Highline, where nature was taking over man-made places in an unlikely way. Brown photographed this and noticed in his world travels how gardens sprouted up in unlikely places. This book has actually inspired school children to create gardens around their schools.

Floyd Dickman shared "Picture Books Worth Noting." Many of these were hot off the press.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 1 (July 13, 2009)

Many of us have heard of the painter Grandma Moses. This morning I had the opportunity of meeting her great grandson, Will Moses. Will lives in the same house his famous ancestor lived in. He recalled visiting her in her laundry room studio where she would explain what she was painting before giving him a molasses cookie and sending him on his way.
A few of his favorite childhood books include Scuffy the Tugboat and an early Disney book entitled School Days. He also appreciated the works of the Brothers Grimm with Hansel and Gretel being one of his favorites. He liked the color, details and richness of the classics.
The medium that Will works with is oils. Even though it takes longer to dry, he likes the finished product better than acrylics. His art is described as folk art, primitive art or naive art. Will's first painting was done at age 4. His grandfather encouraged his artistic endeavors, much to the dismay of Will's parents.
His first children's book for which he did the artwork was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He added that Washington Irving was paid by the word for his writing! His favorite book which he created and illustrated is Raining Cats and Dogs, which is a book of illustrated idioms.
Following his keynote presentation, I assisted him with the autographing session.

This afternoon's speaker is a prolific writer of more than 100 books for children. Jan (pronounced Yon) Wahl, painted pictures for us with his words. After living in Denmark and Mexico, he returned to the Toledo, Ohio area where he currently resides.
As a child, Jan collected words like other boys collect baseball cards. At age four, he called one of his least favorite aunts a "radiator." Wahl also had an imaginary childhood friend, whom he named "Garage." (because it sounded French!)
His first book Pleasant Field Mouse was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Over the course of forty years, he wrote The Enchanted Sled. He commented that Margaret Wise Brown wrote Good Night Moon in twenty minutes.
Jan's favorite adult author is Willa Cather. He cited Charles Dickens as the "master of the names." Wahl prefers writing about the joys of life, rather than focusing on negative issues confronting today's children.
His German sister-in-law (a countess) once asked Wahl, "When are you going to stop writing those stupid children's books and grow up?" Wahl concluded his presentation by reciting The Enchanted Sled and commenting that he hopes the countess is wrong!
I also assisted Jan with autographing. That gave me an opportunity to speak with him one-on-one. He shared some interesting childhood tales.