Monday, August 15, 2011

My Jewelry Design Book!

One of the reasons for my absence on this blog lately is that I've been working away on preparing for the launch of my first jewelry design book!  It's out this month and available at Amazon now.  It will be in stores at the beginning of next month - you'll find it in Barnes & Nobles, Michael's and Hobby Lobby. 

The book is all about making jewelry, inspiration and nature - it's so me.  Along with the jewelry I have some of my sketches from my sketchbook and inspiration nature photos from my travels.

I have been scheduling classes, retreats and more to celebrate the book.   It's a fun time and an interesting process promoting the book now that it's officially landed in my hands! 

    My favorite is a weekend long retreat at a beach house in Michigan next month - life is so good.

Friday, July 29, 2011

SCBWI Conference Tips for Newbies

Unfortunately I'm not able to attend the SCBWI Conference in LA this year.  Pouty face.  But I will be following along on the Conference blog and wishing everyone a great time!  With a sold out event and celebrating it's 40th anniversary, this conference will be an event to remember.  Did I mention the pouty face?

I thought I'd share a few tips with illustrators who are attending the conference for the first time.

1. The Portfolio Display is More than a Competition - Sure you want to get noticed and maybe even win, but once you are at the conference it's time to let it go.  Be confident in knowing you are showing your best work.  But look at the portfolio display as more of a learning opportunity than a competition.  As you go through the display, take note of what catches your eye - what images really stand out.  Take a few moments to pour over the portfolios that have a crowd around them - why are they so appealing?  What postcards make an impact on you as you go from portfolio to portfolio?  Pick up your favorites. 

Be inspired, be encouraged - do not go away from the display thinking "I'm not worthy." (yes, make sure you say that in a Wayne & Garth tone of voice.) Everyone is at a different place in their creative journey.  If you feel like a beginner, don't feel overwhelmed.  Get excited - you are just starting out and have a fun path ahead of you!  Learn from the best, they will be all around you during the conference!

2. Don't be shy - Go to the Illustrator's Social on Friday and talk to as many illustrators as you can.  Just jump in and join a conversation.  Introduce yourself - share your business card or postcard.  Bring your portfolio.  In fact, my best advice is to talk to as many different people as you can through the whole weekend - you never know what friendships may be forged or what you might learn! 

3. Go team!  Each chapter has a time they meet at the conference, look through your welcome packet and find out when your local group is meeting and go say hi.  It's nice to see a familiar face at the conference and you'll find out what's new in your region.

4. Listen to the Authors - Don't miss events with the keynote speakers even though they are writers - you will learn something.  I have heard the most inspiring and soul-stirring speeches from today's top authors.  They share lessons that you will never forget.

5. Party!  Okay, don't go crazy, but do put on your pajamas and head to the costume ball on Saturday night.  I know it may feel awkward at first, but just start talking to people.  Everyone is friendly - this is your tribe after all.  Dance, enjoy your free drink, have fun people watching.  You need to unwind during the event and let your brain rest - this is the place to do it.

6. Pick Your Sessions Wisely - There is always a great illustrator's track, but there are tracks that have illustrators or art directors that aren't designated for illustrators - so I'm assuming they will share a more rounded talk about picture books for author/illustrators.  After looking through the schedule I would have a hard time picking a session.  If you are with a group of illustrators, you might want to break up, attend different sessions and compare notes.  And take good notes throughout the conference, it's so easy to forget the pearls of wisdom.  Check out the conference app to help you plan your days.  Study the faculty to learn more about the speakers before the event.

7. Follow Through - After the conference, make your list of editors and art directors and send out a packet to them.  Thank them for speaking at the conference.  Or send all the editors & AD's a thank you postcard after the event with your best image on the front.  Touch base with illustrators and authors you met and keep in contact after the conference.

Have the best time ever - the conference in LA is always my favorite SCBWI event!  I will look forward to reading the reviews on everyone's blog.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3 Simple Projects for Eco-Friendly Celebration Banners

Whether it's a spring soiree, birthday party or Easter celebration, a fabric or paper banner can add a festive touch and keep things green for the special day. 

Here are my top three Banner Tutorial picks:

Sew a pennant banner using fabric scraps.  Make something special that you can pull out year after year with this simple sewing project.

Create an adorable no-sew fabric banner with small scraps.  In a hurry?  Whip up this no-sew banner with some fusible tape and an iron.  This is a great project to use up tiny scraps of fabric and one the kids could help create.

Sew a paper bunting using up scrap paper or pages from old books. Recycle prints, old maps, music sheets and scrapbook paper into an fun banner that would look so cute in a bedroom or studio all year round!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

5 Simple Ways to Enjoy Spring

Is the sun peeking out today?  Have the birds returned and little leaf buds are starting to pop out on the trees?  My yard was covered in dandelions last week - I know I should be disgusted as a home owner, but the kid me was rather giddy about pucking one up and making a few wishes of my own!

Even though I'm a mom of teenagers now, I still declare unplugged days where no computers or Ipods are allowed.  No matter what age your kids are, get them outside enjoying nature and help them find ways to have fun without gadgets.

Here are 5 simple activities to welcome spring.

1. Make wishes blowing dandelions. I know they are weeds - but they hold all sorts of charm for kids.  Find a wild field to explore or a park where you can get a hold of some of these fluff balls.

2. Make bubble magic with giant bubble wands.

3. Create a sidewalk chalk mural.  You can pick up a box of sidewalk chalk for just a few dollars.  Come up with a theme and draw a giant picture with your kids.  A circus, zoo or underwater scenes would be fun.

4. Jump rope - here are a list of silly rhymes for jump rope play.

5. Make paper airplanes and see which designs fly the farthest. This would be a fun way to use some of the junk mail before it flies into the recycling bin!

Click on the links for more inspiration.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eco Super Heros

Help your kids live green.

The 3 R's never get old:

Teach them to recycle household items.
(They get to help save the world every time they throw something into the recycling bin.)
Donate gentle used goods to a local thrift store or charity.

Reuse cast off items to create craft projects.
Make stuff animals from old t-shirts, socks or single gloves.

Repair broken toys and mend clothing rather than replacing them.
Teach your children the value of living simply and enjoying what they already have.
Create new toys & make games together instead of shopping for them.
Enjoy nature walks as entertainment.

Click on the links above for tons of great ideas.

Books for kids about recycling:

Written by Lara Bergen and illustrated by Betsy Synder

Written by Molly Smith and Illustrated by Tad Carpenter

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bedtime Stories

These two little fellows popped up in my sketchbook yesterday.

Which had me thinking about when my girls were little and our bedtime rituals. 
Which of course, included a nightly bedtime story.

One that sticks out in my mind that captured my heart when my girls were little was Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest and illustrated by Anita Jeram.  Anita illustrated Guess How Much I Love You, this book is night and day from her light and playful watercolors.  It's filled with rich, painterly color and a sweet night time, fall-inspired mood that makes you feel all snuggly.

If you haven't had a chance to read this one, take a peek at it.

My youngest was 5 when this book first came out and we enjoyed cuddling up for a good snuggle while we read this story together.  Sometimes my older daughter would read it to us.  Those days passed so quickly.  I wish I could have slowed them down and spent more time in those moments.  It's funny how a picture book is now a little snapshot of that time, with it's words and illsutrations it can conjure up those memories and feelings. 

What an amazing honor to be a part of a family's history in the form of a beloved bedtime story.  I hope one day new moms are reading my stories and sharing my artwork as they tuck in their precious little ones at night.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Do What YOU Do Best

This week I was looking around at illustrators' blogs and websites and had that old sinking feeling again.  You know - those jealous inklings, feelings of inadequacy.  You hear Wayne & Garth in the back of your head chanting, "We're not worthy."  

I was feeling a little old. My 30's are fast coming to an end and I was feeling decidedly unhip.  But guess what - that is not a productive mode, so I knew I had to snap out of it. 

I have never been one to follow the crowd, not as a kid and not as an adult.  So why would I concern myself about not feeling like I'm following some super cool illustration trend? 

Why would I want to be one in a sea of the same - hip or not? 
So I asked myself a simple question - what do I do best and am I doing it?

What I do best is inspire folks to be creative - big and little folks.

I've had 14 years of solid practice of inspiring kids to live creatively.  My artist daughters are the proof of that.  That top photo is my youngest daughter who decided last week she wanted to try painting with her toes.  You have to love the irreverent and kooky preteen years!
So what do I do best?
Live Green
Make Stuff
Breath Beads

My work will never be hip, it will be sweet and sensitive.  Honest and creative.  That's me.

A promise to myself:

I will not waste time any longer thinking of what I can't do or compare myself to others.

I will work everyday to inspire, help families life creatively and bring my crafty goodness to as many kids as possible!

So what do you do best?  Blog about it and share your story with me.

P.S.  Hip work can be sweet and sensitive, honest & creative - but it wouldn't be if I were doing it because it wouldn't come from a place of authenticity for me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cooking with Kids: Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

This recipe is modified from the one on Martha Stewart's website.  Enlist your kids to help, I bet their favorite part will be painting the chocolate into the bottom of the paper cups.

(ingredients listed above)
1. Combine butter, sugar and peanut butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium.  Put the mixture in a pastry bag or use a large freezer Ziploc bag - simple cut off one of the bottom corners when you are ready to pipe the mix into the cups.

2. Melt the chocolate in a double broiler.  Keep the chocolate over the warm water when working with it.

3. Use a small paint brush to paint the inside of the paper cups with chocolate, coat the bottom and sides well. Place the cups on a baking sheet when you finish each one.  Put the baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes until the chocolate cups are firm.

4. Remove tray from freezer and pipe the peanut butter mixture 3/4 way full into each cup. Spoon melted chocolate on top of the peanut butter.  Return to the freezer for 15-25 minutes.  Store in the freezer until ready to serve.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Illustrator's Sketch Day

Yesterday our SCBWI illustrators packed up our sketchbooks and pencils and headed to the San Jose Mission here in San Antonio.  This is a reoccurring event for our group, gathering at different locations in the city to sketch for a few hours, chat and enjoy being out of the studio.

The mission is a beautiful place, while the Alamo is the most famous mission in San Antonio, the San Jose is the most impressive.  It's a massive fort, still mostly intact.  And it also the site of the oldest church west of the Mississippi river.

Our Sketch Days are loosely based on the International Sketch Crawl idea.  Check them out - you may decide to start a sketch day of your own.

Our first Illustrator's Day was at the zoo, our next one will be at the Botanical Gardens.  We try to pick visually interesting places where we can also sketch families & kids with the attractions.

I took way better photos than sketches, but that's okay.  It was good to get out of the studio and meet up with other artists.  Not every day has to have a finished product - it's okay to enjoy the process with no end results.

Before we started our sketch session local painter Terry Puckett gave us a refresher on perspective.  She brought along a book on Maurice Utrillo to share with us.  I had never seen his work before.  I love his colors, playfulness of line and strong perspectives - he was a bit obsessed with one point perspective in his work. 

Click here to read a short biography on Utrillo and here for a list of his paintings online.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Website Woes & Tips, Part 2

Here are some tips to personalize a Carbonmade portfolio to make it feel more like a website.

Customize Thumbnails Into an Image Grid:

You can use the Carbonmade template as is for your website, with different thumbnails for each category (like the image below) or you can break up a larger photo for more visually impact.

For the most dramatic and successful use of this tweak, check out the amazing portfolio from Kristen Ulve. This portfolio uses the wide thumbnail option.  There is also this one from Gilad Seliktar that uses a grid of three thumbnails.  And my portfolio uses the 2 across grid format.

(My first version of the website and here is the new one)

To change the thumbnails, first go into your Carbonmade account and hover the cursor over the thumbnail image, a 'change thumbnail' button will appear. Click on it and it provides the dimensions of the thumbnails.  With  photo imaging software break up a larger image into boxes that fit the thumbnail dimensions.  

Turn Projects into Pages
With the paid portfolio you have 50 projects or pages.  These pages can use html to create pages that offer more information than what you may want to include in the About page.  I also think the about page can get overlooked and some things - like a "contact page" or 'services offered" deserve their own space. 

A few extra pages I included were: contract, follow me (with my social media links), presentations and books. 

HTML Cheatsheet - add images to your page, live links, make text bold or align your page with a few basic lines of html code.

Take Advantage of the Footer
Under the 'Personalize' tab you can add your name with a copyright date.  This area also accepts html code and you can add in the code for your newsletter subscription box, contact information and links to your blog, twitter and facebook.  This footer shows up on every page.  So at the very least, as your contact information here to so your clients can easily reach you. 

Customize Your Banner
Under the same 'Personalize' tab you can add in your logo to brand your website.  I use a hand-lettered logo that appears on my blog and print materials for a cohesive visual.

Your Own Domain
In general you don't want your portfolio to address to be - this is called a subdomain name, which is the default.  Carbonmade offers the option to use your own domain name so that your portfolio will publish as  It's more professional to have the domain name.  There are directions to follow and help available through carbonmade to set this up.  Another option would be have your domain name forward to your portfolio.  Check with your hosting company for details on how to set up a domain forwarding. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Website Woes & Tips, Part 1

So I started my weekend off with every intention of creating a new portfolio website.  I had looked over my options and thought the most professional way to go would be to self-host a Wordpress blog/website combination that featured a gallery of my work.

I bought a new domain name - it was time for a change. I knew that Go Daddy had hosting support for Wordpress, so I purchased the hosting package.  After getting things set up, I went off to find a template that fit my needs

Okay - fast forward to 3 hours later.  I could not find a template under $50 that fit my needs.  I settled for one I thought I could do a little adjusting with and purchased it.  Off to Go Daddy to install and start posting.  Only wait, it's not easy to hack.  It's not intuitive and I quickly realize I have no idea what I'm doing here.  I need a tutorial, I need a manual, I need a class, I need a designer!  5 hours into the ordeal I say to heck with it.  I'm going with a portfolio site.

An hour later, new website is up and running and ready to go.  With a little help from Godaddy, I transferred the domain name to the portfolio site and created a subdomain for my blog.  Everything now publishes under

I went with Carbonmade for my portfolio site for a couple of reasons:
  1. I had tried their free version and liked how easy it was to set up.
  2. Great value - for the same price I was paying for a 10 page website. I get 50 projects (pages) and 500 images.  It's ad free, they have tech support and you can have private projects that aren't published on the site. Oh and it looks good on mobile devices and has a separate page for each image.
  3. I saw that Julie Fortenberry was using it and liked the way it looked, it was nice to see someone else using it.
  4. I knew from looking at some of the examples that you could do some tweaking to customize the site to make it look less like a template.
So my advice - if you are not a designer and are looking for a webite option, I recommend going with a portfolio site that you can customize and use domain forwarding.

Why torture yourself with trying to design a website?

Find something that is simple to use and minimal in design so that your artwork is shown in a professional manner.  Then after you get a big juicy book contact, by all means hire a brilliant designer to create the website of your dreams.

Join me tomorrow, I will share some little cheats that I did to make the Carbonmade template more like a website.

*I'm not affiliated with GoDaddy or Carbonmade - just happy they exist!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Painting

Working on these two characters for a series of new portfolio pieces.  I think I may try again in a different color palette, something that offers a little more punch with the colors.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Upcycle Valetine Cards

What to do with all those store bought Valentine cards your kids will bring home?  Here are two fun crafts to upcycle them. 
Movie Reel Bookmarks

You'll need black construction paper, valentine cards, a glue stick, mini-hole punch and a thin ribbon.
Cut the construction paper 4 1/2" long by 1 1/2" tall. Cut 4 cards 1" long by 3/4" tall. Glue the cards onto the construction paper evenly spaced out. Use the hole punch to create the reel marks along both sides of the construction paper and create a hole for the ribbon.  To finish tie on a ribbon.

Silly Tales Story Books
Create little mini books with Valentine cards following the directions above.  After you are done, sit down with your kids and make up the silliest story possible about the pictures.  Write down the story for them on the back of the card or leave them blank and tell new stories with them when you need to pass the time.  These would be a fun way to pass the time waiting in line, at a restaurant or during long car rides. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hugs and Kisses Necklace: A Valetine Project for Families

Here is a fun project you can do with the kids tomorrow after school or anytime really - we need hugs and kisses year round!

white polymer clay
small letter rubber stamps
toothpick or thick wire
liquid acrylic paint
paint brush
paper towels
7.5 mm jump ring
18" chain or ribbon
flat nose pliers

Skill Level: Easy
Recommend Age: 7 & up

All supplies can be found at your local craft store.
1. Roll a large pea-sized piece of clay into a ball.
2. Flatten the ball with your finger slightly, turn it over and flatten more.  Do this 2-3 times until your charm is about 1/4" thick. (2b) Don't worry about being picky about the sizes.  *See the note below if you are working with younger kids.
3. Gently stamp the letters into the clay.
4. Pick a hole at the top of the charm with a toothpick or thick wire. Bake according to the manufacturer's directions and let cool completely.
5. Brush on a coat of paint and rub off the excess with a paper towel. (5b)  The darker color will stay in the stamped area and paint will stain the over clay a pretty light color.
6. Open the jump ring with the pliers and your finger by pushing the jump ring open. Always open jump rings by pushing them away or toward you.(6b)  Don't open them by pulling them apart.  Slip the jump ring through the charm (6c) and close the jump ring.(6d)
7. String the chain through the jump ring.

Safety Tips:
Polymer clay is safe for kids, but I recommend following a few safety tips.
  • Cover the table with plain paper.  Clay can ruin furniture surfaces, so don't let it sit on your dining room table! 
  • Bake the clay according to the directions on the package and do not burn it
  • Use a disposable tin pan to bake your clay or a pan that will be for the clay only.  Do not use kitchen items for food once they are used with the clay.
  • Wash hands after working with the clay.
*If you are working with younger kids, work a little larger - it's easy for small hands to work with bigger and thicker pieces.  If the piece is really thick skip the jump ring and tie ribbon or yarn through the hole to make a necklace.

Design Tips:
Use letter stamps to create initial necklaces - perfect for slumber or birthday parties!

Try using automotive sandpaper in 800 grit to rub off some of the paint for a different look, like the example on the right.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Goals

My laundry list:
Sketch daily
Take a watercolor class
Create a watercolor portfolio
Finish 3 dummy books
Submit those dummy books
Send out 4 postcards
Submit a kids craft book proposal
Create a holiday licensing portfolio

How to accomplish a goal:
1. Write it down
2. Give it a deadline
3. Break it down into baby steps
4. Schedule time for those baby steps
5. Reward yourself for goals accomplished