Monday, August 14, 2017

Trip to Michigan

Apologies for falling off the grid.  We went on vacation.  I make it a point to never post vacation pics while I'm on vacation because it's basically broadcasting to everyone, "Hey - I'm not home!  Come rob my house!"  So I wait until I'm back.  But now I'm gonna lay some photos on ya!

We went to Michigan, the upper left part of the mitten, on Lake Michigan.  The weather was glorious!  High 70's.  It might not have been the greatest for swimming, but it was ideal for everything else.

The cabin is right on the Betsie River, and right across from the river is a dead tree where a bald eagle likes to hang out - and we got to see him!  Thanks to an awesome zoom lens, I got a good shot.  But I assure you, he was not close.  Isn't he gorgeous?


One day, we took a nice little walk along the Betsie.  Here's a shot of Magoo with his Nana Pam. Pam is great with plants, so she was pointing out all the different kinds of ferns there were along the way.  To me, they were all just ferns.  Shows what I know!
 

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.  We had intended to rent a dune buggy and drive them, but it turned out to be a very popular activity and we hadn't made reservations.  So we walked the dunes instead - and it was GREAT!  The cool weather and breeze made it an ideal day to walk on the sand.  It was so smooth and warm on the feet.  We really had a great time.





There's a lovely little town called Frankfort by the cabin.  We ate asian cuisine at The Fusion, visited the super fun shops (we all got Frankfort sweatshirts because of the cooler temps) and made our way out to Lake Michigan.  Here's the lighthouse.


And here's our sweatshirts.  Stylin!


We had a great vacation.  It was SUPER RELAXING! And we're really psyched that the grocery store in Benzonia has a great natural foods selection.

I'll leave you with a selfie of Magoo and I, because it turned out kinda cute!


Thanks for stopping in.  Hope you are all having a lovely summer as well!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Art Camp: Asian Exploration

The theme of last week's art camp was Asian Exploration.  We had a smaller group of only 7 campers, but it was okay because they were on the young side.  Usually we get 5 and 6-year-olds, but last week there were three 4-year olds.  4-year-olds are charming and cute, but they need a lot more help.  So the smaller number of campers combined with the younger age all evened out pretty well.

One day we learned Chinese brush painting.  This is a great lesson to start off the week because the campers learn a bit of brush technique.


Look at this adorable cat!


Another day we mixed collage and origami to make kimonos.



Printmaking can be a bit of a challenge with younger campers.  For starters, they sometimes have a more difficult time pressing deeply into the foam.  But because there were so few of them, my assistant Grace and I were able to make sure everyone had good, deep impressions.  And it's so much fun to pull prints!



On our final day we painted monkeys.  Some do better than others handling the wet watercolors, but all of their monkeys were lively and charming!



What a wonderful week!  This week the theme is African Adventure.  I'll post the pics when the week is through.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Have a great week -
Julie

Monday, July 3, 2017

Art Camp: Creating Creatures

The West Hartford Art League's summer art camp program has begun.  This past week we kicked it off with a new theme: Creating Creatures!  I read stories and did art projects about mythical and imaginary creatures such as mermaids, dragons, and unicorns.  Here are some pics.


On Day 1, I read the campers a story about the Loch Ness Monster and we made collage sea serpents. This is the kind of project I love because it's a lovely combination of lesson and freedom.  I always try to find a way for the kids to have some choice and to make their projects their own.


On Day 2, we made clay monsters.  This is the first time I've worked with polymer clay with campers.  Since there's no oven in the School House, I had to take the projects home to bake.  But we had success!  All the monsters made it home and back without catastrophe and the kids did a great job with the clay.


Day 3 was mermaids & mermen.  This project took longer than I'd anticipated, so we had to finish it on Day 4, but that's okay.  It's all part of the process when I do new projects.  I assess the time things take and make tweaks for next year.


Look at that sweet mermaid!


Day 4 was Dragon Eggs.  This was a project that I found on Pinterest and it looked really cool.  But, in retrospect, I think this is a better craft for older kids.  The prep for this was time consuming since I have to paint bases on all the plastic eggs and cut and paint holders so they wouldn't roll.  Then, if you really want the egg to look good, you need to be able to work with hot glue and paint some texture.  My campers weren't ready for that, but they did a great job with metallic paint and glitter glue.


Day 5 was Unicorn Day.  This was a mixed media project.  I taught them how to draw a unicorn, then we covered that unicorn in tissue paper squares.  We cut it.  Pasted it to another sheet of white paper. And then finished it off by drawing rainbow manes and tails.  So we had pencil drawing, cutting, collage, and some marker work.  They did a fantastic job with it!


Here I am with most of my crew.  They were awesome and it was a wonderful first week!


Thanks so much for stopping in!
Hope you're all having a great summer!
Julie

Friday, June 16, 2017

PBJ: The Waiting Game


I am currently waiting to hear from my agent.  He is probably currently waiting to hear from editors to which we have sent book projects.  It's frustrating, but it's part of the job.


This is an image of me waiting for a Skype visit.  Skype visits are both awesome and frustrating.  They are awesome because I don't have to travel and I don't have to lose a whole day and I get to connect with students who are far away.  But I don't charge for 30 minute Skype visits, so I get tremendously frustrated when I have made sure that I am there at the appointed time, but the class isn't ready for me.  My time is being wasted.  But what can I do but wait?

This isn't meant to be a whiny post about Skype visits, but rather another glimpse into this profession.  There's a lot of waiting.

If my agent sends out a project, he might have to wait two weeks-to-two months to hear back from an editor (probably depending on how well he knows the editor.)  But if I were to send out my project sans agent, I could be waiting 6 months-to-a year, and that's if they even bother to get back to me.

Do you know why?  Because I'm not J. K. Rowling.  That's why.

Believe me, J. K. Rowling's agent gets back to her lickity split!

So what do I do while I wait?  Well, if it's a Skype visit I check in and wait for ten minutes.  If they're not ready for me within ten minutes - See Ya!  For anything else, I pull out another project and get to work.  It's always good for me to have a few projects in development so I can jump from one story to another if one is with my critique group, my agent, or simply giving me a hard time.

Just keep busy.
Just keep working.
Don't lose momentum, or your work habits.

Hopefully I'll hear from my agent soon.

Thanks for stopping in.
Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

New Drawing Series

In the fall, I'm participating in a group Black & White show.  As the title suggests, every thing must be in black and white.  So, after giving it some thought, I decided I'd like to do pen & ink drawings of pop culture images in an Edward Gorey-ish style.  I'm calling this collection: Gorey Pop.

Eleven from Stranger Things    2017     j. c. phillipps

Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat       2017       j. c. phillipps

Suzy and Sam from Moonrise Kingdom      2017      j. c. phillipps

Mia and Vince from Pulp Fiction        2017       j. c. phillipps

Max from Rushmore             2017               j. c. phillipps

I'm really enjoying working on this series.  I plan to do way more than I need, and then hand pick the best ones for the show.  I've had a lot of great suggestions from other people, but I'm mostly drawn to movies from the 80's & 90's, Wes Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino films.  I'm trying to branch out though, so if you have any ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Thanks for stoping in.
Have a great week, everyone!



Friday, May 26, 2017

Picture Book Journal: Be Our Guest



Sometimes I wish there was a book offered to schools called, "How to Host an Author."

Some schools don't need this.  (Most schools don't need this.)  Some schools are very excited that an author is coming and they treat you like a respected guest.  They prepare the kids and put signs up saying Welcome! and just treat you like you're the best thing since sliced bread.  And that feels great!

Other schools ... well, sometimes you're just a person sitting in a stairwell.

I'm not a fancy gal.  I don't expect the red carpet.  But there should be some basic rules of etiquette that are met.  For example, when an author goes into a school, there should be a host to meet them, give them a schedule, show them where bathrooms are, where to get lunch, and take them to their first location.

Sometimes you get a student escort - that's fun.  Most of the time it's a teacher or media specialist.  On my last visit there was no host.  Zippo.   Nada.   Well, that's not 100% true.  I knew I'd need someone to help with the computer set-up so I made a request for help, then someone led me to the stage.

What we didn't know, because there was no host, was that I was in the wrong location.  I was supposed to be in the library.  Who knew this?  I did not know this.  The school secretary did not know this.   It was unknown.

Someone eventually found me waiting patiently in a room with no students and escorted me to the library and I did my presentation.  It was the exact same presentation that I did there last year.
Sometimes this doesn't matter.  If I only present to one grade, I can present the same material year after year to new students.

However, this was not the case.

I was presenting to the Kindergarten and the first grade, just as I had last year.  And I should have caught on to that earlier on, but there was such a huge gap in communication between booking my date and letting me know what they wanted me to do.  I think eventually the person handling it just said, "Uh yeah.  Same as last time."  I didn't think anything of it until the week before my visit when I realized that half the group would have the same presentation as last year and the same art project.

I relayed the issue and pitched a different art project, but I never heard back.  Okedokee.
So some kids got double ninja learning.  Not the worst thing ever.

I know this post sounds whiny, and truth be told, it was a fine visit.  The kids were great and the teachers were super helpful in the classroom.  What this visit needed - what all visits need - is a stage manager.  Someone who is in charge of it all, someone who knows how it's going to go, where the author should go, and who can host the author properly.

I'm a professional.  I'm there for the kids and I'll get the job done.  This post is just to shed light on the realities of the job.  Sometimes it's not very glamorous.  I guess most times it's not very glamorous, but a good author visit can really make you feel like a rock star.

And sometimes you're just the person sitting in the stairwell.


Friday, May 12, 2017

PBJ: Follow Through


I like new projects.

It's fun to get a new idea and start developing it.  It's like buying a package of seeds from the store.  You plant them in fresh soil.  Maybe even in a pretty new pot.  And it's your baby.  You water it and love it and bring it to life.

That's a first draft.  First drafts are great!  It's 100% creativity and 0% editing.  (I should be specific when I say that I am speaking of picture book first drafts.  I imagine that those who write novels edit a lot while they are working on their first draft.)  But not picture books.   Picture book first drafts are all love and ideas!  They are the thrill of when sprouts first pokes up out of the soil.  But it is only for a fleeting moment.  Because then you have to show people your story, get notes, and rewrite.  And rewrite.  And rewrite.

The revision process is more like keeping a garden up.  The weeding!  Therefore, if I have a story that has taken me some time and I still can't get it just right, I tend to put it away.

Sometimes it's the best thing you can do.  Some stories need to rest in the soil like a perennial.  But then the tricky thing is to come back to that story  - and water it, and prune it and love it - instead of working on an exciting new idea.  That's what I'm doing now.  I'm pruning.





I have several stories that I have been working on for years now.  And they are soooooo close.  So, instead of starting fresh, I have pulled out a story that has been oddly difficult for me to nail down.  It's nearly wordless, so the story has to be very simple and very clear.  It's all art, so I can't explain anything.  It's super visual.

About 5 months ago (after already working on it for years and putting it away), I submitted a new revision to my crit group and got a ton of wonderful notes, but at the time, my heart just wasn't in it.  So two days ago, I was finally ready to pull my "gardening gloves" out and do some weeding.  I printed up the notes.  Pulled out my dummy pages.  Wrote all the notes out on post-its and put them on the corresponding illustrations.  And now I am slowly and diligently working through the story page-by-page.

I must admit it feels good to get back into it.  I love this story so much and, if given a chance, it could be a lovely book.  But first, I have to do my part.  So I am following through.

Thanks so much for stopping in.
Wishing you a lovely weekend and a very Happy Mother's Day to the moms out there.