Saturday, November 30, 2013

Musical Interlude: Olafur Arnalds

I've got to tell you, I love Spotify. It just keeps giving me good stuff. 

I often (not always) tend to like moody, melancholy stuff when I write, because it usually gets me into the zone very fast. Cello and piano really do it for me; those of you who read my blog already know what music I tend to put forth as good music for writing. 

This is what I'm listening to right now. It's working like a charm. And I like this video, too.

Does music work for you? And if so, what kind?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Website and Interview

It's a happy day!

I have been interviewed over on author Joanna Marple's Miss Marple's Musings blog, which I was quite thrilled to do. Joanna regularly blogs about illustrators, her traveling adventures, and kidlit in general, and I suspect she might love kayaking almost as much as me. It's worth following, so check it out. 

If that weren't cause enough for thankfulness, I've also just launched my new website, which you can view by clicking on the Wordy Bird Studio tab above, or by clicking here. It is still a work in progress, and I look forward to completing its evolution with a page just for kids, and the Wordy Bird Studio store, where you'll be able to purchase giclee prints of my work and other items. 

AND... I also have a new Wordy Bird Studio Facebook page, where I'll be posting links about writing, publishing, illustrating, and all sorts of kidlit goodies. You can find and follow it here

Thanks for dropping by the birdhouse. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coming this week... new website!

Stay tuned...

In the meantime, enjoy a little song. 

From the Mouth of an Injured Head, by Radical Face.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I am still glowing from an illustrators’ retreat and kids’ book illustration extravaganza weekend, staying in the Berkshires with my fellow illustrators Hazel Mitchell, Russ Cox, Carlyn Beccia, Greg Matusic, Sean Bixby, Kevin M. Barry, and Teri Weidner. It’s hard to explain just how good it was, but I’ll give it a shot.

On Friday afternoon, I drove down a steep gravel road through woodland as early wintery darkness set in... 

...and finally found my way to an old barn converted into a warmly lit and inviting home, mere footsteps from a lake surrounded by soaring wooded hills. 

The company was inviting, too, and although I knew everyone but Teri, I didn’t know them well. But we were soon sipping cocktails and laughing, enjoying a gourmet dinner cooked by Russ, poring over the many picture books we had brought to share, and sketching when we felt like it. The boys may have flattened Teri and me at the Foosball table (sorry Teri!). Carlyn read my fortunes in the crinkles on my palms. She knows why 52 is my lucky number, but will never tell. I fell asleep to a jaunty banjo and laughter upstairs, which continued well into the wee smalls. 

Greg and Russ 
The next day, after a veritable feast a la Hazel, I enjoyed a solitary woodland walk. 

Carlyn, digital painting master, gave us a Corel Painter demo, convincing the skeptical that it is, indeed, awesome.

There might have been second breakfast, followed by elevenses, and a hearty lunch. And then a low key afternoon of sitting around drawing, with music, occasional chatting, and an afternoon tea or two. If you’ve ever quietly enjoyed making art among a group of like-minded others happily doing the same, you’ll understand the wonderfulness. And to top it off, Hazel's haunting rendition of the Skye Boat Song on some kinda wind instrument took my breath away. Perfection.

On Saturday evening, we put on our glad rags...

...piled into two cars, and went to New York State…for all of 30 seconds (I was excited), and then we turned around, returned to Mass, and the opening of the Wendell Minor Retrospective* at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I did plenty of drooling over Rockwell’s paintings. 

...and Russ did some hard pondering.

Carlyn and I did manage to slip in some sneaky, creepy author stalking. She was successful...
Carlyn pokes David McCullough  
...but I never did find the elusive Buzz Aldrin. If I had, no doubt I would have poked him, too.

And Hazel? Well she's a networker extraordinaire!

Hazel, David McCullough, and somebody else.   
On Sunday, after another Hazelian feast, we cleaned our home-away-from-home and trundled off to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, where we perused the Mo Willems* exhibit...

Mo Willems's progress charts. Works of art in themselves. 
heard Chris Van Allsburg speak... 

Here we (sans Greg) are waiting to hear C.VanA. speak. From left to right: Kevin, Hazel, Sean, Sleepy Carlyn, Somnambulant Russ, Teri, and me. 
...and as we had the night before, stood in a very “popular” line to have our books signed. For quite a while… Simply an occasion for more chats and bonding, and that long wait is actually one of my nicest memories from the weekend.

Sean and Chris (VAN ALLSBURG!), just, you know, two dudes hangin'. 
And from there it was onto the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton for the 24th Annual Children’s Book Illustration Exhibit*, where we hobnobbed...

...with such esteemed book creators as Caldecott winners/honorees ChrisVan Allsburg, Mordicai Gerstein, and Tony DiTerlizzi, and where my critique partner, Dave Bird, was honored for winning the R. Michelson Galleries EmergingArtist Award in the NESCBWI 2013 Poster Competition. I also caught up with some kid-lit friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Published authors & illustrators at the show. Image courtesy of R. Michelson Galleries, Seth Kaye photography. 
It was such a fabulous weekend, and I can’t wait to do it again. It just underlines to me how important it is to find and spend time with your peoples, the peoples who are on the same journey, who “get it,” and who are in it for the long haul. It’s an effortless and frequently hilarious way to make new friends, not to mention get a lot of art done, eat, and make much merry. 

Tablecloth evolves... (I think this is Russ Cox's section)
And evolves... (Sean Bixby's section)
...and ends up like this.
Thanks so much, Hazel, and to all of you. When are we doing it again?

*Each of these exhibits are running, and are within an hour and twenty minutes of each other in Massachusetts. Well worth the trip.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Cover Illustration: My Process for "The Genie's Gift" by Chris Eboch

I have just completed a most enjoyable project: illustrating the cover for author Chris Eboch's new middle grade book, The Genie's Gift, soon to be released, and I thought I'd share my process with you.

Chris provided text from the scene she wanted illustrated and some notes about the characters. In order to get a feel for her taste, get a fuller sense of her vision, and to see if we were on the same page in terms of what we liked (we were), we looked at a variety of middle grade book covers. Pinterest is a wonderful tool for sharing ideas.

I immediately formed an image in my mind, and used Pinterest again (I like to use a “secret” board while I’m actively working on a project), compiling reference images and images whose tone spoke to me in some way.

I wanted to give the genie an imposing air, to have him hanging in the air above the protagonist, and inspiring awe in both her and the viewer. Concurrently, I did some very rough sketches and thumbnails, which I then refined until I’d come up with six possible designs:

Once a design was chosen, I did the line drawing, scanned it in, and threw in some color to further convey my vision to Chris.

Chris had stipulated that the genie not be demonic or scary, and so we settled on this kind of face and expression:

I redrew the line drawing, scanned it in, and then the painting began. I use Corel Painter, which is an extraordinary program. One of many great things about Painter is that you can combine mediums such as pencil, water color, and pastel with oil paints, which you’d have a difficult to impossible time doing with traditional media.
By this stage, Chris had decided she wanted a wraparound cover, so I extended the drawing to the left. The book designer was, of course, involved at various stages along the way as we took various aspects such as title and byline placement into consideration.

Since gold was going to be a predominant color in the painting and would provide warmth, I laid down a gold gradient on the lowest layer (which you’ll note in the image below), with the highlight behind where the genie would sit. On top of this (but under the pencil layer), I began an underpainting, throwing in the basic tones and colors. (I have found Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner by author/illustrator Carlyn Beccia invaluable as I have learned to use this program. The book is equally weighted toward those who prefer to paint using Photoshop.)

And from there, it was a process of layering paint, over many hours, until I achieved the look I wanted. I was very excited about painting his shimmering pants:

Mr. Shimmerpants
 Here’s the very blue-green genie before I did warmer glazes on top. Using cool tones allowed me to give him form without losing light:

Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy 2013
At multiple stages of the process, I sought feedback from my critique partner and my artist mother, who both provided invaluable input. If you’re serious about illustration or writing, get yourself a good, trustworthycritique partner(s) or group who won’t just say “It’s great” but will lay it on you as it is. So even when you think you might be done…

Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy 2013

 …you’re probably not, as some trusted other eyes should tell you. 

Here is the image ready for cropping and text. YAY!

Final cover illustration for The Genie's Gift by Chris Eboch
Image Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy 2013


And here's the cover with text in place:

Learn more about Chris's side of the cover design process in the March/April edition of the SCBWI Bulletin. The Genie's Gift is available HERE

And be sure to visit Chris's website and check out some of her other books. I'd also highly recommend Advanced Plotting, which I have found an excellent resource for working out narrative kinks and strengthening story-line.