Saturday, December 15, 2012


I submitted my illustration for SCBWI's Tomie dePaola, with only 10 minutes to spare. I'm incredibly grateful the drop-dead time was in Pacific Time.

I chose to illustrate the famous white washing scene. As you see above, the illustration was intended to be in black and white, but I found I could control the contrast better working in full color and then just "gray-scaling" the finished illustration. Also please ignore any and all "wonky" looking colors. Again, I was pushing for contrast.

Fingers are crossed!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Frida In Me

Left: Frida Kahlo's "Girl with Death Mask", 1938; right: Samantha Grenier's "Death with Girl Mask", 2005.
I was just reading another blog post featuring the art of Stephen Mackey, and it triggered a little nostalgia. I don't know if it was in the lighting of his paintings, or maybe the tone, or my (slightly) morbid appeal, but something brought me back to a Halloween assignment from my graduate studies.

My painting was not well received at the time. I think the assignment was something along the lines of making a Halloween or depict a horror scene. Trying to be clever, I created a nod to Frida Kahlo's painting "NiƱa con Mascara de Muerte". Since this was for an illustration class, something a little more "illustration-y" was probably expected. Probably. I didn't get it at the time, but sometimes it's difficult to separate the "artist" from the "illustrator". 

I was always proud of my little painting, so I had the urge to share it again. I tapped into the Frida (parody) in myself so naturally back then, I am wondering if I could do it again. Poking around my digital archives, I unearthed my acrylic tribute to Frida.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Picture Books: Nov. 11, 2012

Library Day tomorrow (if the Library is open... pretty sure it is!)

This week's collection includes:

  • Me... Jane, but Patrick McDonnell
  • Ginger, by Charlotte Voake
  • Katy Did It! by Lorianne Siomades
  • The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-To-Be, by Mini Grey
  • The Sticky Doll Trap, by Jessica Souhami
  • Coco the Carrot, by Steven Salerno
  • The King Who Wouldn't Sleep, by Debbie Singleton; illustrated by Holly Swain
  • Sarah's Little Ghosts, by Thierry Robberecht; illustrated by Philippe Goossens
First of all, loved Me... Jane! I choked up a touch at the end. I most certainly agree the Caldecott Honor is well deserved. I'm very happy that I happened upon The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-be, because I'm in the crosshairs of writing my own version of the "Princess and the Pea," and now I'm thinking I want to take my story into another direction.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Nooking Around and Library Day: Nov 4th

This past week I finally discovered how to check books out from the library with my Nook. Yes, it's tougher than it sounds, because Barnes and Nobles doesn't want to you engage in anything that's FREE. There is very little information on library checkouts, except for maybe the Kindle. I finally figured it out through the NH Downloadable Book Consortium (via the New User blog page). Very helpful (if you're glued to NH library, that is.)

My mother surprised me with my Nook for my birthday. (Make a note that my birthday was the end of March - it is now November and I've only had to re-charge the battery once!) I've purchased a few books through B&N, but I've been dying to dabble into the library's system for a cheaper alternative. It does require some extra software with the computer, but with a simple little USB hook-up, the Nook downloads are incredibly easy... and fast.

My first library engaged Nook-Book checkout is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. Since I'm attending the Winter SCBWI conference, I'm going to take a shot at the Tomie dePaola Award.  This year's book selection is really up to the illustrator, but there were 3 book choices. My initial instinct is to read The Yearling, because I thought "Oh! Baby deer!" However, due to its unavailability and my time constraints, I'm shifting to Twain. I'm only on chapter 3 and my head is swimming in imagery!

I did have a "Library Day" this past week, which I failed to document. (Sorry!) So I'm calling this November 4th books, but in reality, they were from October 24th:

  • Toot and Puddle, by Holly Hobbie
  • Everybody Bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Sarah McMenemy
  • Uh! Oh! by Rachel Isadora
  • Splash! by Ann Jonas
  • The Quilt Story, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Tomie dePaola
  • Neville, by Norton Juster, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
  • The Heart and the Bottle, by Oliver Jeffers
  • Caramba, by Marie-Louise Gay
Happy reading!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Down to the last page of notes...

Last Saturday I attended the New England SCBWI Encore Writer's Workshop. I am 0 for 3 for successful navigations of Providence, but I am inspired and knowledgable from the experience, so I call it a win!

There were a TON of key notes that all authors/writers can really benefit. The workshop had a Middle Grade-Young Adult edge to it, so there wasn't a lot of focus on the Picture Book writing, but I can see how I could apply the advice to my personal writings. Some of the key points addressed:

  • Write, write, write, write and then write some more.
  • READ! <-- Pretend that was shouted. Read everything you can get your hands on... specifically works from your genre.
  • Read it, even if you think/have heard it's going to be crap. LEARN from that writer's mistakes.
  • Uh, re-write... a lot.
  • Critique groups are necessary; start one or one! You need someone other than your mother/friends/coworkers/etc. playing the editor's eyes and giving you concrete criticism. <-- This is actually a big bullet point to took away from the "Overcoming Obstacles" panel I attended about 3 weeks ago.
The bullets here barely graze all my notes. The majority of what took away from this workshop was specifically about dealing with dialog. This is most certainly something I need to work on. Outside of High School, I have limited practice with writing classes, so dialog isn't an area in which I am formally trained. I walked (or rather drove,) away from the workshop intrigued with some of the notes I picked up that day. 

The 12+ pages of chicken scratch I cart around now will receive some more note friends in a couple months: SCBWI Annual Winter Conference is just around the corner. I'm all signed up and eager to learn some more. That will require a new notebook.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Website Update!

I've updated my website! I've changed the overall look of the site and swapped out a few pieces.

In other news, I am planning to attend the SCBWI's Winter Conference again... you know if I can sign up. Just remember that 10am PDT = 1pm EST! I will be all over registration on Friday! Hope to meet some of you there!


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Library Day: Oct 9, 2012

Early trip to the library! 9 picture books to flip through this fortnight:

  • Ella Takes the Cake, by Carmela & Steven D'Amico
  • Mitchell's License, by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile
  • Augie to Zebra, by Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants
  • When My Baby Dreams, by Adele Enersen, spot ills by Jennifer Rozbruch*
  • Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes
  • Dog in Charge, by K.L. Going, illustrated by Dan Santat
  • The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein
  • 999 Tadpoles, by Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami
  • Mary Had a Little Lamp, by Jack Lechner, illustrated by Bob Staake
* My goal as an illustrator is really to get a sense of other illustrators' styles, familiarize myself with classic and modern stories, and learn about the flow and composition of a book. For this, I typically gravitate towards illustrated picture books, of a "traditional media". I've included this in my picture book selection to get a grasp on Enersen's inspired thinking. When My Baby Dreams is a recent release and the talk of the town in pop culture. The concept behind this book is clever, and let's face it, incredibly cute: 

Though I'm attracted towards illustrations, this is a smart idea for children's literature. For me this is new media/sculpture. Still-life, 3-Dimentional illustration, and sculpture have been around for... forever. Using life as props/sculptural elements to complete a story from page-to-page is well done here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Spinal Project

So since JUNE (last post date,) what I have I been doing?

I want to say I've been sitting at "one of those box-y things, with the four legs and writing/drawing" That's where I spend most of my time: the desk. 90% of my summer was eaten up by sitting and looking. And then I wonder why I'm so out of shape....

My concrete answer: I've been pushing around a heavy load at work-work, on top of the usual doodling and reading I preform at home. I've grown an addiction to the library which only becomes inconvenient when my "Lie-Berry" day lands on a Holiday or extended weekend. I think I can make it about 10 days before I throw my hands up into the air and cheer out "LIE-BERRY DAY!" I plan to share "Lie-Berry" day with the blog world, as I do with my other read'n blog: I want everyone to know what I'm reading/admiring.

So what is "Lie-Berry" Day? This is the day I head over to the town library and pick out a stack of picture books (usually about 10-12) and gawk at them. A standard picture book is about 32 pages, so I usually get antsy for a new stack of libros every 7-10 days.

Honestly haven't been tracking my Children's Lit picks as closely as my "grown-up" reads, but I realize that needs to change. Flipping through the cubbies of books every week or so, I'm lucky I can identify those read, with those yet to be visited. To fix this I plan to shoot the book spines and post them here.

This week is a little thinner than usual, as I picked up some non-picture-esque research books as well (those aren't quite as exciting). I'm reading:

  • The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster; illustrations by Chris Raschka
  • The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson; illustrations by Axel Scheffler
  • Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola (a & i)
  • The Little Piano Girl, by Ann Ingalls and Maryann Macdonald; illustrations by Giselle Potter
  • Mei Li, by Thomas Handforth (a & i)
  • Squids Will Be Squids, by Jon Scieszka (a), Lane Smith (i), and design by Molly Leach

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Promotional Pieces Re-Imagined

It's been a slow start for me, but I do have a couple more pieces hoisted up on Scribed for downloading and printing. I've reconfigured my promotional postcards to make them accessible to everyone for personal use. Yes - simply for the enjoyment of cutting and pasting/assembling things. It would have been easier just popping the postcards on the website as they were, but I didn't want weirdos calling or stalking me, so I had to adjust the postcards a bit. I also had to scale them down a touch to fit for the every-day household printer.

In the "Playground" the Printable Giraffe and Turtle are linked to my Scribed account for public downloading... or you can click the links here ;-)

Have fun playing!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Recovering Project

Participating in the Doedemee charity book cover project brought me back to my old book re-covering exercise from several years back. I've decided to pick the project back up again, and I've just begun taking my old sketches, and turning them into full-scaled finished pieces. By "full-scaled" I mean 12" x 18" posters.

Other than the Scarlet Letter, you'll see my most recent conquest (Moby Dick,) which was one of the original classics from my old exercise. Hopefully to follow: The Great Gatsby, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Lolita.

My "Recovering Project" is helping me ease back into my cut-paper methods. Moby Dick here is comprised of torn paper and digital media.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Been working here and there on a book (re-covered) project for the DoeDeMee cover project for illiteracy. Below are some of my sketches rendered as I read through my book choice, The Scarlet Letter.

As of a few nights ago, I had my poster looking like so:

... But something was missing. I picked this novel for the sake of the story's message on identity. Upon looking at other covers throughout time, there were a couple recurrent themes: Hester & Child (Pearl) and the big red "A". These characters actually become what the "A" symbolizes and I wanted convey with the cover. I think I did this rather successfully transforming these two characters into an "A". 

However, there's another character that's typically ignored for cover art, and I really wanted him to have at least a subliminal presence, because without him, there would be no Pearl and thusly no evidence for the need of that adulteress mark: Reverend Dimmsdale. He too was afflicted and writhing in guilt. In the end of the novel, he tears oven his shirt to reveal (allegedly) a wound/scar of an "A" etched into his chest, covering where his heart lies. 

The original cover has implied fleshiness, but I really wanted Dimmsdale's chest:

Quiet, but illustrative, I even managed to slip in a little nipple!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

SCBWI New England Chapter Conference

THRILLED to have gone, but a little bummed I couldn't attend the entire weekend. With work, travel and a tight-tight budget (so that we can attend the LA conference,) I was only able to join for the Saturday workshops. Though I take away a lot from my single day on site, I still wish I could have stayed for the full conference. "C'est la vie!" To really get the most of the conference my advice to myself and other potential goers:

1. DO the poster contest (illustrators)
2. DO the portfolio/manuscript review, especially that quick-query. I didn't meet a single person who felt it was money wasted
3. Don't get the chicken (lunch)
4. Do the portfolio showcase (illustrators) - ALWAYS show that folio when an opportunity presents itself
5. Take more pictures for more visual interest when you go back to Blog about your experience so that you don't just end up hoisting your business card up on the site for recognition

The only real negative I take away from this years conference is the general feeling of being rushed. Every faculty member made a comment of having such limited time. Each shot through their presentations in order to make room for questions. However, there was limited Q&A on all the workshops I attended. There was no time.

The highlight of my day was when I went to check out the free-promo table to see how my postcard packets were doing and found them all gone! Though I had a few left on me, I'm saving those for future mailers. Since I was toting around a some pieces, I passed a couple out to my table buddies. Their reactions were delightful ranging from gasps, to "How CUTE!" and "Precious!" Those positive reactions are the little confidence boosters everyone needs every now and then. I should also mention that I will be hoisting up a printable version of the postcards in the Play Ground section of my blog very shortly.

The entire conference was refreshing and inspiring. It's exactly what an illustrator (or author) needs for a little jab in the back to keep working. I'm really looking forward to the LA Summer Conference and I'll keep my eye on the New England chapter bulletin for other local workshops throughout the year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shopping for dead butterflies

Butterfly Sketches - 2/2012
Not to come off as creepy or Damien Hirst-like, I am currently on the market for dead butterflies. I believe the official term is specimens, but from what I've been shopping, I'll be receiving dried corpses so... same difference! I'm hunting these little buggers down for my next personal illustration project, which has been inspired by my recent trip to RISD's Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab, for a live animal study session. Amongst the live animals were many not-so-live animals, including a couple cases of mounted butterflies.

My illustration project is simple: I want to make faux mounted butterfly illustrations using my cut-paper technique. I want to make scientific renderings rather than generic forms, so I need to be able to study the real things. Since I am no butterfly expert, (though that does sound pretty sweet to me now!) I am plotting a trip to Cambridge to visit the Museum of Natural History. If they allow me to sketch, sketching will probably be it. Ideally I would be able to sit with a few samples of mounted butterflies and make up some color studies and measure the specimens, but I doubt that's an option.

I'm actually quite taken by the idea to mount my own butterflies. I'm slightly petrified - for one, if anything falls off the dried specimen, I'll probably cry out of guilt, claiming I further "injured" the critter. Also I'm not too keen on handling the dead flutter-beasts... especially those big ones! I considered for a moment, to go so far as to grow so butterflies from caterpillar to flutter-state, but again, I would feel bad when they passed. The cool idea behind this though would be that I could show the specific stages of the metamorphosis. Another downside is that it seems I could only legally (or easily) grow Painted Lady butterflies, which aren't always as pretty as they sound.

I haven't seen much in terms of literature on butterfly spreading, though YouTube has a bunch of clips, though everyone seems to have a different method of doing so. Below is my favorite of the bunch, though I'm nervous about the use of slides versus tracing paper tacked to the board.

So I'm headed towards a new hobby and illustration project. I'm not sure if this is classified as "taxidermy", but I am intrigued. Trust that you wont find me stuffing mammals and sea creatures anytime soon, but I am tempted towards spreading some pink-winged grasshoppers!

Psst! I hoisted a few watercolor sketches from my RISD trip into the Sketchbook page.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scanner Shopping

Well, I'm behind on what I would have thought to be a quick re-start to my "Thumbnails" blog. I've been trying to get the old illustration-y stuff going, but we've run into a minor issue: Sam (still) hasn't purchased a scanner yet {blush}!

So how did I do this in the past, you ask? I do own a scanner... it's about |  -- yay --  | big. At nearly a decade old, its not exactly what I would call reliable in the fields of quality-scan and software. The software (probably) pre-dates Mac and PC compatibility, so I wouldn't even dream of looking for disk. Also, it's attached to an old laptop RIDDLED with viruses and malware, so to be blunt: it is dead to me. I think I could tolerate the scale of the flatbed, if it were at least able to scan over 500 dpi.

Most recently, to finish my portfolio I scanned all my artwork in from work, of which I felt guilty through the whole process. Sam's big fat conscience doesn't want the "Day Job" and freelance stuff co-mingling, even if it is working off my own clock. I don't need ethics muddying up my regular pay check and shot at health insurance. I value my job just as much as I value a nap after a large breakfast or spinning class. (If you know me, that's saying a lot!)

So to sum up, I'm in the market for a scanner.

I'm looking for advice on specifics. Epson has few stitches in my heart (in a warm and nostalgic way.) The scanner from work is an Epson and then of course most of the printers and scanners I ran through college were by Epson, so there's a bond of trust. I just equate this brand with quality, but I am open to suggestions. I'm currently eying the Perfection V500. Ignoring all PRAISE, I jump into the negative reviews just to get the public's honest opinion on the thing. I'm looking for an affordable (under $200 preferred,) color scanner which will render quality SHARP scans from either a sketchbook or some painted butcher's paper that I've just slapped down on the bed. So easy, yes?

If you have a recommendation please let me know.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

New Beginnings

I'm currently in the starts to remodel my blog. Just to give you an idea as to what's going on, you'll see a collection of new PAGES, which will allow users to take a peek at the "happenings" in my illustration world. Some new big features will be added to the site. Some of these include:

  • "Story Time" tab is "HOME" or the main Blog page. This will be my regular journal. I plan to allot at least one or two posts per week, but to start out with, I'll probably be posting quite a bit.
  • "Sketchbook" is... yes a spot to show off some of my doodles. I promise I won't be as obsessive about this, as when I held the "Thumbnails Sketchbook" blog post. It's not a "Doodle-a-Day"; I plan to post to this page maybe once or twice a week, just to share what I'm working on.
  • "Playground" is where I plan to have some Downloads for sharing. They're essentially paper cut-outs, toys and coloring sheets for the classroom, parties or just simply to admire. Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to get a little PDF Downloader do-hinky installed, where I'd like them. I probably won't be updating this more than a few times each season. The items you see here will be modified self-promotional materials.
  • "Show and Tell" is where I HOPE you all will email me photos of the paper goods you constructed from my site, so that I can share them with everyone. I have photos to share of my own right now... I just hope others will want to show off their fun-makings as well. To add a little allure to this offer, I may be willing to link your imagery to your blog sites.
  • "Time Out!" is my artist's disclosure page... you know- legal junk!
So that's what's-what at the moment. I just really didn't want to leave my blog completely NAKED!