Working on Book Three

 Page Two

December 31 2011

Happy to report that all is well with Plain Jane Black and her 5 little chicklets...hmmm it seems like only yesterday Jane was complaining about the lack of eligible roosters in the Hollow.

 By the end of today, I will have finished all 4 of these illustrations and will be moving on to a page I am longing to draw... Because... I get to draw dear LIL MIZ MOUSE again. Now, her real name is not  Lil Miz Mouse... I just haven't  yet. decided upon her REAL name. I have some contenders, perhaps soon I will ask my readers to  help me choose between my favorites.

A little more tweaking is required, but I have my 4 illustrations and enough space for all my text.

Today, one of my peacocks came to visit me... through the window. I do not know if this is Moses or Hans. One of the boys has a longer tail. than the other. I love this guy! He flies up to the roof and walks right up to my window, checks to see what is going on.., how things are progressing and lets me know that his corn pan is empty and don't I think it should be refilled?

Hey, it is almost a 2012!

Okay,,, Now it IS 2012 and I am starting a new page... Let me show you from the beginning. First off, I have already decided which  story text goes on this page so I must type it out in the correct size and style  of font and determine how much space it will require on the page


January 2,

On this full page spread, I want to express many images. Mopkin outside the pantry door planting tulip bulbs, Mansey inside the  Pantry with Lil Miz Mouse, an underground tunnel,,, and Mamsey's root cellar.

 This is going to be a blast! I have a fullpot of REDROSE tea and I am listening, as I work, to Charles Dickens, "A House to Let".


Here is an example of me breaking one of my own rules... The rule is "do not paint/draw in the "gutter" The gutter being the very center of the page.

For obvious reasons you do not want artwork in the gutter, it is where the book is sewn together and you don't want anything "IMPORTANT" there, as you may loose a little of it. Here I have a little underground door which is way to close to my center line. That is what erasers are for.

I have erased the entire door and started over just about 1/2 inch from the center line.

Here, you can see that the little stairway leads up to a hole in Mamseys pantry floor, where Miz Mouse accepts a sweet cup of tea.

To the right of the underground tunnel, will be Mamseys root cellar, not yet drawn. On the left side of the page is Mopkin. she is outside the pantry door, in a garden.

She sits on the step with her garden fork and a basket of bulbs.

You can see where the words will be.

 Framed in the foliage. If you have any of my books, you know that I put a lot of tiny details in every page. Remember too, that I still must go back to each of these drawings and paint them. Then, the detail will increase even more,

Some people wonder why I put so much effort into a Children's book. And my answer is this, first, I think children deserve interesting, good quality art in their books. Books are usually a child's first introduction to art, and often , an illustration seen as a child, stays with one for life. Secondly, my books are not just for kids, they are for anyone with an imagination who still has a heart for the world of make believe and fantasy. And thirdly, I believe that whether my work were to hang in a museum or live, simply, between the pages of a book,, it should be done with as much care, skill and attention to detail as any great piece of art.   Since I have been selling my books, six years now, I have met countless folks, who have it in their minds and hearts to " illustrate and publish a children's book". I am surprised at how many  hundreds of people want to be a children's  book illustrator.   But, the fact is, storybook illustration  AND self-publishing are not right not for everyone.,  ARE you an ARTIST? Do you have something extra special to add to the wonderful world of illustration? IF you did a book, HOW WOULD YOU SELL IT? Do you have ANY experience in selling artwork? Unless you are a celebrity, your book will not FLY off the bookshelves, even though you think you have a "one in a million" book idea. Books do not sell themselves, and successes like "Harry Potter" are a rarity, It takes a ton of dedication ,perseverance and time away from home to promote a book. Why else would I spend at least 100 days per year OUT promoting my work? IF ONLY books could easily be sold from websites and blogs, I would be able to stay at home and create more new books, but I can assure you, this in not the case.  Unfortunately, most book people, putter away in obscurity, even when their books are  good.

     You must ask yourself if you are willing to put out the effort needed AND do you really have the artistic ability, OR a UNIQUE look, to make it worth your while. You can always test your product by doing a "Print on Demand" book.

 I am not trying to be HARSH, I am  being REALISTIC AND HONEST. As a professional  freelance artist since 1982, I know a bit about marketing and have had plenty of failures. If you go into the book store, you will see a lot of BAD to AVERAGE art in CHILDREN'S BOOKS.. You may say to yourself, "Well, I can create illustrations as well as that!" But you see, that is precisely the problem... too many books contain mediocre illustration, where WE WANT to see Great ILLUSTRATION. I can tell you from first hand experience that what sells a book, is the illustration....not the story. No one knows how good your story is, they only have the first impression provided by the artwork. So, examine your motivation for doing a book. People tend to romanticize what it means to be a Children"s Book Author/Illustrator,  They think of Beatrix Potter and Tasha Tudor, and all the celebrity they earned. The fact is, it is a lot of work,, Tasha Tudor, for example worked a lifetime to achieve her success. In the beginning, she created greeting cards just to put food on the table. Beatrix Potter was  a wonderful artist, AND an excellent business woman. I don't claim to be a great illustrator, far from it, but I am trying to become  a Good one. I know I can sell my books, because  they are in their 4th and 7th printings.  Since I make my living at art, I must strive ever the harder. If you are a WRITER and you really believe you have a great story, but you are not an artist, hire a professional. Join SCBWI, you will find many illustrators for hire.

  Now, on with the show....



With a little more cleanup. this drawing will be finished. I used this little Antique toy stove as a model (and the tulip bulb, as well).I'll be doing a lot more detail work on the little stove in the drawing and I have changed it a bit. The bears do not have gas.. they cook with wood. and their stove is used for canning.

 The words will be on this page,  where you can barely see the pencil lines. The bottles will be painted glass of a bluish and greenish hue, mand the text will easily be read through those bottles.

Tomorrow I will be drawing Hopalongs! Do you know that I painted over 400 rabbits in my first book?! I couldn't believe it when I went back and counted them. I vowed I would never write another story with only one kind of animal. But I am happy to be able to draw my dear little bunnies again .

 I 'll be referring to my first book a lot in this drawing, so I have marked a few pages.



January 7th

Sometimes, the most difficult thing is starting a new page. There are many ideas sketched in the green leather notebook, and swirling about my mind, but still... I never know quite where to begin. And so, I sit and ponder and stare at my blank page... until finally, I brazenly draw my first few lines..

So far, these look like meaningless scribbles, but tomorrow I will show you what they are meant to be.

January 8th

 I will be drawing for at least 12 hours today, starting with TREES> One of my favorite things to draw and paint!

I used to HATE drawing trees, I really struggled with it. Then I had to do a painting of 27 birds in a tree. I went through the woods gathering branches, twigs and all manner of bark, moss, lichen and leaves. I piled them down on my table and just studied them. So many variations in texture and color. Such a wonder of nature, those glorious trees, each with it's own character and uniqueness.  Just observe the silhouette of  dozens of trees on  a hill during the winter, when all the branches are bare. Notice how incredibly they twine and twist against the sky. They are as individual as people are and I have loved illustrating them ever since.


 And of course, in the Hopalong Hollow, there are many, many trees..





  Obviously, there is a lot more to do on this page..... but I am indeed having fun!

Almost as much fun as my little bunnies on the teeter totter!

Almost,.but not quite....

What would you like to see this little bun doing? Reading a book? Eating a carrot or drinking tea? Do you have an idea? If so, e-mail me and I might just use it.

In the meantime, I will work on the right side of the page.

I mentioned before, that I usually have something going on in the way of movies, books on tape or music while working. I don't like to work in silence. This week I've had "War and Remembrance" in the DVD player. Not exactly contusive to  drawing a jolly, happy page. However, I watch this series, (runs 30 hours) at least once a year. As a history buff, World War II has always been of interest to me. Herman Wouks novel, on which this mini series was based, was a magnificent and accurate portrayal of this devastating time in world history. If you have never seen this, RENT IT! Some of this is hard to watch, but I am of the belief, that we mustn't forget our history or "we are condemned to repeat it".

 NOW, I am choosing something  more light hearted as I continue my page.... let's see... how about... AH! SHERLOCK HOLMES< with the great and wonderful Jeremy Brett

Guess who has been visiting again today....

That's right! Neither rain, nor sleet nor snow will keep dear Moses from my window.

Honestly, I wish he would go to his barn where it is dry and cozy, but he loves to look at his reflection in the glass. He has been here ALL DAY! I felt bad about it, so I gave him some cat food through the window... his favorite treat. And what is equally silly, is that his brother Hans, is standing on the roof outside the bedroom window on the opposite side of the house. ( He got some cat food too)

 Okay, today Jan.12th, I finished this page ( except for that little bunny. My thanks to those who sent ideas, please keep them coming because I still haven't decided!) On the right side of the page is a view of Croaky Toad creek,,,, from a frog perspective. I drew 18 frogs, 2 turtles, and 2 salamanders for this section.

I will show you the entire illustration AFTER it is painted... Because, well, without the painted water, it just doesn't have much OOOMPH!


 This small area is about 2 inches square.

January 13th

Here we go again, New page time!. I am going to tell you a portion of the text for this page,( unedited, at this time) and ask you to visualize an illustration that would go with it. This is what I do every time I prepare for a new drawing. WHat do I want to emphasize in this picture? What can I show the reader that IS NOT in the text? What kind of atmosphere am I trying to create? So many  things to ponder....

  Here are the words : "Mamsey set out in her canoe, and paddled down the winding river. Every few miles, she paused along the shore and scooped her large paws s deep into the sand, gathering small shiny pebbles, colorful shells and interesting little pieces of driftwood. She wrapped them carefully in her kerchief. Then, she glided further downstream."

 I've been pouring over photographs of streams and rivers, the wildlife that dwells on the shores and how a canoe looks while whirring through the water. Water is one of those TRICKY things to paint and draw . At least for me, it is!

First, I took many photographs of our running creek.

 I want to observe the way the tree roots set into the water and beneath the bank,  the shadows and ripples in the water. Isn't it wonderful? When I start painting, these will be invaluable.

I have been working on this for 3 days, It could turn out to be my favorite illustration so far. My idea at first, was to have My Bear, gliding down the river, head on, right towards the reader with nothing around her but water, and towering trees.  BUT...As I started with my first huge tree... I began making carvings in the tree...

and it became a major component of this illustration... The Beaver's Tree.

 There is a tiny Shrew Village along the river, and of course, the indication of shells and pebbles along the shore.

Here is a partial view of the page..

Instead of gliding towards the reader, Mamsey glides past the reader along a shore strewn with shells and instead of a solitary scene (Mamsey and the water, alone) we have a very busy riverbank filled with activity.

So, even though I started with a specific idea in mind, it completely changed as the page began to unfold. before me.

 Here is a book I recommend to any artist or naturalist. It is my constant companion at the art table for referencing animal and plant life of all sorts.

 I have marked a number of pages here, with plant life that grows along the  water and blooms till October in colors of yellows and reds,  And  river shore birds. These plants will be drawn along my foreground

 And what is playing on my screen today? FABULOUS SERIES!!!!! " Pillars of the Earth" Medieval England! Love it.

January 19th

The next few drawings feature a dear, sweet friend I once had, Fionna Goosefeathers. Fionna was a singular goose, born with only one eye.  I brought her to our Hollow when she was very young and as she grew,she became a very  protective goose lady. She watched over all the ducks and chose me as her favorite person. Whenever I was around, Fionna came running ,and could detect my presense from far across the meadow. I would swoop her up in my arms and carry her about, something she didn't mind in the least... I think she rather liked it. Unfortunately, she didn't care for anyone else, and in fact. attacked, with gusto, any other human who came close to her.  Everyone was afraid of her!

 I wrote her into my story, because I loved her so, and she had a distinct personality. I purchased this little  antique bonnet just for her, so that I could draw her accurately .


When Fionna met her unfortunate demise in an accident, I cried for days.

Weeks later, I went to a flea market and found a baby Fionna, brought her home, and named her Fionna the 2nd.

 As she  has grown into a lady goose, she looks exactly like the original, except that she has 2 eyes.  She is a White Chinese Goose, they always develop a very prominent hump  on the bill as they mature.  She mothers the ducks but doesn't have any affection for me. Still, I find the new Fionna to be very sweet.There will never be another Fionna the 1st, but she will live on in my book.  Time to draw FIONNA GOOSEFEATHERS.

  I am still working on her. I will have 3 drawings of Fionna on these 2 pages. Today I got some GREAT photographs of Fionna the 2nd. It will be difficult to choose which ones to use. I might just draw tiny Fionnas all over the endpapers!

 And the Bonnet...


 I think she is beautiful...


 When she is painted, she will be ever the more lovely... But I really like her as a drawing too, so I am going to make some prints of her just like this.

Here she is walking through a woodland of Blue Lobelia.

        January 26th and a new page to begin. I really had to think about this one.  It is a market scene with lots of little tents and booths and woodland folk of every sort. This will be a LOADED Full page Illustration. In order to accommodate everyone, I will have to make some of the creatures quite small. I think this is the kind of illustration my books are know for. hundreds of tiny details and hidden objects. Lots of fun to create a page such as this!

And what should I put in the DVD player today? "Cranford" !!!!!

  January 29th.

 Oh dear, I am having the most dreadful brain freeze. I have redesigned, erased and fussed over this paper for days!   When I find myself in this artists BLOCK, I know what to do. I start pouring over my collection of illustrated books, of which I have hundreds. I find that studying , enjoying and being utterly awestruck  by artists I admire, often helps me with my inspiration. There are too many to mention, but some of my favorites are Inga Moore, Michael Hague, Jan Brett, Arthur Rackham, Jill Barclam , Helen Ward, and Richard Jesse Watson and the dear Eloise Wilkin...just to name a few!

March 1st


My little computer crashed and I lost my web page program. I now have a new computer and was able to reinstall my program.

 Lower right hand corner of Market Day in the Hollow

Lower left hand corner of  Market day

 Please visit my blog to see how I thawed out the little chipmunk to help me draw this next page.

39 little squirrels and chipmunks grace this page and acorn-packin action is what we see!

I now have only 2 more full page drawing to do, plus my book cover and endpapers. I am so close to being finished with these drawings and almost ready to paint! 

 I have not posted any drawings from the last 3 pages of the book because if I did, it would completely give away the ending of the story.... even though you don't even know what the story is!!!

 I am skipping ahead to my endpaper art and will photograph, step by step as it is created. Today I have a blank page and an idea. Have you ever seen the famous painting by William Beard entitled "The Bear Dance" ? It was painted in 1870 and is WONDERFUL>


 I am inspired by this piece to do something similar on my endpapers. I do so love dancing animals! This brings me to the subject of "copying" versus "being inspired by". This is something artists sometimes have to grapple with.  Most artists do not wish to be carbon copies of another and yet we all have to admit that we are sometimes struck by another artists idea and wish it had been ours.  So how can we take an idea, and make it our own?

REMEMBER that there is "nothing NEW under the sun"... There really is NO original idea, everything has been done before.  What an artist must do, is use their own imagination to make an artwork 'UNIQUE' to them. Do not try to copy the work of another using a style which is not your own. Add your own twist, your own color scheme, your own special look. Yours should be a variation on a theme, not a COPY.

 For example, Tasha Tudor created wonderful little underground homes for mice...

as seen in this painting from print,  " Todays Christmas Stockings "

And Jill Barklem created marvelous  " rooms inside of trees ",

such as this scene from her book  " Autumn Story"

My Hopalong Hollow Burrow is the one below:

Making use of a hollow tree and the roots beneath.

  The ideas are similar but the results are quite different. 


Working On Book Three:

Page One     Page Two    Page Three    Page Four     Page Five





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