Tag Archives: Joy Chu

Awestruck by teaching, part 1

Glove cat and sock cat, created by Ella German
One of the bonuses of teaching at UCSD Extension is the diversity of the students themselves. It was a pleasure getting to know them through the work they produced in class.

For their final project, a 32-page book dummy, I gave my students the options of (a) working with their own original story; (b) re-illustrating an already published book; or (c) re-telling a traditional folk tale.

Here’s a peek into some of of the results…




"Pearl and Bear" , sock kittens created by Ella GermanFollowing a positive portfolio consultation with David Diaz at a SCBWI-San Diego One-Day-Conference, Ella German was eager to further develop the characters she drew from the sock kitten characters she created (right, and above top).

Ella brought her sock kittens, Pearl & Bear to class, plus a story outline. The manuscript went through several revisions. We discussed the motivations behind all the characters involved against the setting itself, and the theme of her story.

After numerous weedings, she rendered thumbnail sketches before moving on to her  book dummy, which she actively shared with multiple critique groups that formed within our class.

“Let’s visit the SCBWI Summer Conference in L.A.!”



Illustration by Anna Guillotte

Illustration by Anna Guillotte

Anna Guillotte's original illustration, "Le Petit Pessimiste"

Anna Guillotte's original illustration, "Le Petit Pessimiste"

Another participant was Anna Guillotte, an accomplished fine artist who brought her own story about “a little pessimist,” an anxiety-ridden little girl. Anna wanted to encourage children there are ways to rise above everyday situations they could be anxious about.

We discussed how her  story would need to spotlight a tangible challenge her character wants to overcome. And demonstrate how her “little pessimist” could triumph over her situation through her own actions.Getting ready for a math test

Anna decided to have her character face an upcoming math test (right), which became her character’s challenge. A secondary character, her favorite stuffed bunny, was created as her alter ego/reactor.

The little girl’s studies, on top of her own anxieties, envelope her on test day. On her way to school, she encounters a Math Monster….

Math Monster by Anna Guillotte

Here’s a book trailer Anna created to highlight her book premise:




Cover from "My Penguin Osbert", written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Cover from "My Penguin Osbert"

Freelance illustrator/video game programmer Charles Eubanks chose to work on a story his own kids loved, My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.

Charles jumped into producing storyboards. Then he cut-and-pasted the text manuscript into a landscape format, marking page breaks. Corresponding thumbnail sketches  were placed next to each text block.

Preliminary text breaks for Charles Eubanks' book dummy

Ms. text breaks for Charles Eubanks' book dummy

character study - 2 by Charles EubanksCharacter studies were followed by a 32-page book dummy.

Preliminary character studies by Charles Eubanks

Character sketches by Charles Eubanks




Little Red Riding Hood by Andrea Zuill

'Little Red Riding Hood by Andrea Zuill

A needlepoint design by Andrea Zuill

Andrea Zuill displays and sells her work through Etsy and many craft fairs. In class, she’d regale us with stories about her world of hand-crafted art creators, online and in person. Threaded throughout her work is her sly humor.

Snow White by Andrea Zuille

Andrea's 'Snow White & the Usual Suspects'

sketches by Andrea Zuill

"Say Hello to Zorro" by Carter Goodrich

"Say Hello to Zorro" by Carter Goodrich

For her class project, Andrea chose to illustrate her own version of Carter Goodrich’s Say Hello to Zorro!.

Andrea Zuill's dogs for "Make Way for Zorro"
Andrea captured canine personality through close observation of her own dogs, rendering many sketches.

Andrea's dog, and its reaction to cats in boxes

Andrea's dog, and its reaction to cats in boxes




To be continued….

Wonderstruck by story-telling!

I’ve been blown away by the book dummies turned in by the  extraordinary students at my latest UCSD workshop. An amazing group that worked so hard, and shared so much, in just 9 short weeks. We’ll take a peek at some of their explorations here, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out this book trailer by Brian Selznick on story-telling, and being Wonderstruck. My students embarked on their own journeys, exactly as Brian Selznick’s characters did. . . .

On illustrating middle-grade novels

Creating illustrations for "The Grand Plan to Fix Everything"[click on image to enlarge]

Recently, author Uma Krishnaswami informed me about her upcoming middle-grade novel, due out May 24, 2011, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. She wrote:

“Is your focus exclusively on picture books?  [The Grand Plan to Fix Everything] has cover art and wonderful, quirky illustrations by Abigail Halpin, which add marvelous humor and substance to the story…”

Since many picture book illustrators work on middle-grade novels as well, it seems only fitting that we look into this aspect.

Please join us here on May 23 to meet illustrator Abigail Halpin, and Uma. We will also learn about the making of the book trailer by Nikhil Krishnaswamy.

Springtime is for cherry blossoms and books!

It’s still showering spring books! And alongside the blossoming cherry trees in Washington, D.C. comes a book that tells us how they got there.

More than 3,000 trees were sent as a gift from the Japanese government to the United States, to be planted along the Potomac River.  Author Andrea Zimmerman introduces us to Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, an American journalist and travel writer, who was responsible for getting the trees there.

You can hear her interview about the book with NPR’s Robin Young here. And check out the book’s official website, and learn more about Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore here.

Of special note: Andrea herself wears several hats. She is an writer; an author/illustrator; picture book blogger; and co-collaborator with her husband, artist David Clemesha. See her many celebrated children’s book titles here.

Other Andrea Zimmerman titles

A visit from Anne Rockwell & Lizzy Rockwell!

Great news: Another mother-and-daughter collaboration is in-the-works! Today, we get a sneak-preview right here!

I still receive terrific feedback about our winter 2010 Countdown Interview with Anne Rockwell. Click here to re-live her long time many-faceted career — with her late husband, Harlow Rockwell; on her own as author/illustrator; and her collaborations with many celebrated picture book artists.

Her interview with daughter, Lizzy Rockwell can be found here. — JC

Anne Rockwell: HarperCollins is publishing First Day of School, illustrated by my daughter, Lizzy Rockwell, due out in June 2011.

Jacket art, with type for "First Day of School"

This is the jacket art, with type design by Sean Boggs of HarperCollins.

This is a new title in our series about the children in one particular classroom, the most recent being St Patricks Day and President’s Day.

Lizzy Rockwell: Here are the thumbnails for the opening pages. Also included below are the progressive sketches for the first story spread (pages 6-7); then the final art, with text type in position.

original thumbnails for 3 spreads

original thumbnails for 3 spreads

Joy Chu: [See above] The first spread is of the printed endpapers, or “self-ends,” numbered as pages 2-3. Page 1 will be glued to the book cover board. Pages 4-5 is the title page spread. The story begins on pages 6-7.

sketch for pp 6-7 of FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL

dummy sketch for spread 6-7

revised sketch for spread 6-7

revised sketch for spread 6-7

finished art for spread pages 6-7

finished art for spread pages 6-7

Lizzy Rockwell: On the opening spread, pages 6 & 7, Nicholas has a reckoning with his unruly end-of-summer hair.

Joy Chu: That added self-portrait of Nicholas — which first appears in the revised version of your initial sketch, is an inspired touch!

From a story telling standpoint, it serves as a clever means for us to feel his anticipation (and his anxiety) towards that first day. The reader will perceive Nicholas as a real live kid, not simply a made-up character. We can all identify with having bad hair days. It also sets up the scenario of the book’s theme nicely!

Re-issuing classic books

Many publishers will try out a talented new illustrator by commissioning a jacket for an existing classic.

It’s an excellent way to give such an artist’s work exposure in book stores. It’s also an opportunity to establish a working relationship with a publisher.

As for the artist, it’s a one-shot deal; in other words, you complete one piece, and you’re done! With a picture book, the process is on-going for several months. It can seem endless.

Hugh D’Andrade got the assignment of a lifetime: The opportunity to create the cover of a special leather-bound edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. What distinguished this project was having access to the author herself. Wow. . . .

front cover for "To Kill a Mockingbird", illustrated by Hugh D'Andrade

Cover illustration for "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Hugh D'Andrade

Hugh describes the experience on his blog:

“…I have loved this book since I first read it in the 7th or 8th grade. . . Re-reading it a few years ago, I remembered how this book made me feel transported to another time and place, and how it helped me grapple with really difficult questions about morality and injustice. It’s a powerful story, told with such simple, elegant language…

back cover illustration from "To Kill a Mockingbird"

back cover illustration from "To Kill a Mockingbird"

. . . As with most book covers, this one took a lot of back and forth between myself and the publisher. We had to get all those little details right, from Scout’s ponytail, to the type, to the Southern courthouse featured on the back cover.

The biggest surprise in this process was the fact that Harper Lee herself was involved! Yes, she is alive, and though she is careful to stay out of the public eye, she collaborated with Sterling Publishers (a publishing imprint of Barnes & Noble) on this edition, to the degree that she looked over my sketches and gave surprisingly detailed notes.

As you might suspect, they were sharp and insightful, with suggestions on how to ensure that Scout looked as if she were actually tipping up on her toes to view the gifts hidden in the knot of that old tree. . . “

A previous assignment Hugh did for Barnes & Noble was a new edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Cover illustration for "Alice in Wonderland"

Cover illustration for "Alice in Wonderland"

Another recent project was the jacket and interior chapter openers for A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, a New York Times bestseller.

preliminary sketches for the jacket of "Tales Dark & Grimm"

Rough jacket sketches for "Tales Dark & Grimm"

Note the previous working title — it changed since then. . . .

Hugh D’Andrade:

“… the really cool thing is what we did with the wraparound dust jacket for the hardcover (see above). This sort of thing is tricky, because it has to work as a whole, but each panel has to work independently as well…”

title type plus two chapter opener spots

Title type plus 2 samples of chapter opener art

Here is the book trailer that evolved from Hugh’s iconic graphics:

See more of Hugh’s amazing work at his blog.

Timeless themes for picture books

This is the first time I’ve caught a book trailer several months ahead of its book release.

This is for G. Brian Karas‘ upcoming book, Neville (coming from Schwartz & Wade Books October 2011). He’s teamed up with author Norman Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth), a charmed pairing!

Little kids covet their security of home with family, and friends. Safe boundaries! That’s why moving to a new home rattles them to their innermost core. Neville gives us one child’s perspective on this event.

Book trailers can be the ultimate way to promote and create buzz for books. And don’t miss Brian’s application of Google’s 3D drawing app, SketchUp, as a tool in visualizing his drawings of Neville’s neighborhood.

Another artist who sews. . . .

. . . just won a 2011 Golden Kite Award. Salley Mavor has been sewing since childhood, and re-kindled her love of needle and thread while studying at Rhode Island School of Design.

cover from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, illustrated by Salley Mavor

She works in fabric relief, creating a stage-set effect that, in turn, is carefully photographed for reproduction.

an image from Pocketful of Posies

From the Artist’s Note page of A Pocketful of Posies:

“. . . [the artwork] was made from a variety of materials, all sewn together with different stitching techniques on naturally dyed wool felt. I used materials such as acorn caps, stones, driftwood, and objects that I found outside….

another image from Pocketful of Posies

“. . . Other things I found inside, such as buttons, beads, and wire. . . .I made all the parts, including the people, animals, trees, and houses, separately and then sewed them to the wool felt backgrounds, to build a new scene for every illustration…”

You can see the originals via a traveling exhibition currently touring. Check out the itinerary at Salley’s blog.

Joy Chu: It’s lovely to discover something new every time I gaze at one of your pieces! Did you photograph your artwork, or was it done at a professional studio? People often do not realize how tricky this can be — in terms of capturing crisp color and details,  while avoiding harsh or unwanted indirect shadows.

Salley Mavor: Over the years (20 as an illustrator), I’ve had several different professionals take pictures of my fabric art for reproduction purposes.

Joy Chu: I know how difficult it can be to shoot art, as I’ve had to supervise many a session for a variety of publishers. Setting up the lighting alone takes hours! Then there’s color correction, surprise dust bunnies, et al…

Salley Mavor: Yes, the lighting is crucial, as well as the importance of showing every detail. Rick Kyle from Pembroke, MA took the photos for Pocketful of Posies, and he has done the best job of capturing the detail, texture and color of my work. I am happy that the publisher, Houghton Mifflin found him and made sure that the book’s production was excellent.

A good photograph can make all the difference with dimensional illustration, so that the viewer feels drawn in to the picture. In order to have a successful picture book, no matter what the medium, the child needs to be visually engaged.

Even though there is a tendency for adults to comment on my technique, my first goal is to make pictures which will hold the attention of a child and stimulate the imagination. Children aren’t impressed by how well the stitching is executed. They either connect or they don’t.

I wasn’t sure that the book would pass the child test until it came out last fall. I heard from the mother of an active toddler who carried my book around all day, wanted it read to him exclusively and recited the rhymes over and over.

His mother brought him to see the original fabric relief illustrations, when they were displayed in the Boston area.

Since the book was published last September, and the originals have been touring, I’ve heard from many different people. It is gratifying to know that not only women who appreciate sewing and handwork can connect to it, but men, teenagers and children, too.

Joy Chu: What is the size of your originals? That is, do you work same size, or up-size proportionally, relative to the final book trim size?

Salley Mavor: I usually work the same size, but some of the pages in Pocketful of Posies are enlarged from the original. The cover is the only illustration that is reduced in size. The found objects I’m using usually determine the size I work in.

Salley Mavor at work in her studio

Salley Mavor working at her studio

Sow your ideas…or sew them!

Art is seeing the everyday with fresh eyes. Today we’ll look at two books that feature illustrations made with fabrics.

Celebrated librarian Jeanette Larson joined forces with her friend, artist Adrienne Yorinks to create Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas.

Double-page spread from "Hummingbirds"

Double-page spread from "Hummingbirds," sans text

I met Jeanette when she attended the ALA-Midwinter Meeting in San Diego as a first-time author to promote her debut picture book.

Jeanette Larson: [Adrienne] does not work from sketches. There are some studies–pieces she did and then discarded — but she works directly on the fabric. It’s pretty interesting to watch!

Adrienne Yorinks: To briefly describe my process, I create small gesture drawings to see how the flow is for the entire book and then for each book, I figure out which method I use.

baby hummingbirds

Baby hummingbirds

For Hummingbirds, I used all different ways to try to capture these exceptional creatures. I knew from the start that I wanted to create different art between the factual parts, and the folklore pages.

from "Hummingbirds"In the folklore section I knew I would do double spreads, and for  the facts, the art would be tighter.

A text page from "Hummingbirds"

A text page from "Hummingbirds"

Final jacket for "Hummingbirds"

Final jacket for "Hummingbirds"






Anna Grossnickle Hines wanted to write a book about peace. Inspired by her writer friends, she set herself a goal to write one poem per day, with peace as her theme.

After many months of writing, revising, sifting and sorting, she felt she had enough poems to form the basis for her latest book, Peaceful Pieces.

Front jacket from "Peaceful Pieces"

Front jacket from "Peaceful Pieces"


Anna Grossnickle Hines
:  Peace has always been important to me, all kinds of peace, from an inner calm to the end of wars all over the earth. . .”

"busy brain" / inner peace

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. . . I knew I wanted to illustrate the book with quilts, and I knew that would be a new challenge. The poems, though all about peace, are varied in content. . .

peace on a larger scale

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Some immediately suggest an image . . .

for hamster sequence

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. . . but others are more abstract. How was I going to translate these concepts into strong graphic images?

dominoes concept

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And how was I going to create a collection of fifteen or more quilts that would feel like they belonged together in one book and not be too jarring as the pages were turned?

After quite a few rejections, I found editor Sally Doherty at Holt, who in turn, enlisted book designer April Ward.  I sent them samples and sketches. They liked some but were disappointed in others. . .

For several months we went back and forth. I was grateful for their helpful comments, and had a much better vision of many of the quilts. . . .

I decided that it would help if the colors and patterns of the fabric could carry over from one page to the next, a bit of something familiar with each page turn, along with the new image.

"entrance" concept

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Joy Chu: Anna’s website is a plethora of information about both the children’s book process, and the work behind her many titles. For those of you wondering about making the transition from traditional art materials to digitized imagery, you can find out how Anna acquired new skills for the creation of her previous book I Am a Backhoe, here. Click here to visit her website.

More about the making of Peaceful Pieces on this webpage. And check out the genesis of a sample spread here, at the publisher’s website.

Often the editor and designer, alongside the rest of the publishing team will reserve a conference room just to view finished art sequentially. Here’s Anna’s final art, being viewed and reviewed by all:

Viewing final artwork in sequential order

Viewing final artwork in sequential order

A bonus! Here is the book trailer for Peaceful Pieces, created by Anna and her husband, Gary Hines:

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Another illustrator-who-sews wins a Golden Kite Award!

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Spring forth with books!

It’s showering spring books here. Here’s a few, sent in by friends.

This one is from Marsha Wilson Chall, with illustrations by debut illustrator Jed Henry. Check out Jed’s blog, too.

Pick A Pup front jacket plus flap

jacket front plus flap

Pick A Pup back jacket plus flap

back jacket plus flap

Many graphic designers enjoy exploring picture book vernacular, distilling the everyday into simplicity. Children see the world with fresh eyes, and so do many designers. Patricia Intriago demonstrates how DOT can be fun in her upcoming book.

sample spread from DOT

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another sample spread from DOT

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3rd sample spread from DOT

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"Dot" cover by Patricia Intriago

And finally, a correction to an earlier post.  I had mistakenly posted the U.K cover for the delightful Kristy Dempsey/Bridget Strevens-Marzo book, Mini-Racer. Bridget writes:

“. . . I noticed you put the yellow UK cover online.  Attached is the full Bloomsbury US cover – they kept to my original grey-blue textural “road” cover which I like best. . . “

U.S. edition of MiniRacer cover

U.S. edition of MiniRacer cover

rough storyboard for MINIRACER

Bridget's rough storyboard for Mini Racer

Character studies for Mini Racer

Preliminary character studies for Mini Racer

Mini Racer- monkey out

Sample spread: "monkey out"

From Mini-Racer: "mouse out"

Sample spread: "mouse out"

From Mini-Racer: "rabbit out"

Sample spread: "rabbit out"

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Tomorrow: Illustrating with quilts

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