homesweethome

Ghosts in the Sheetrock

Using only a carpenter’s graphite pencil line and a finger to smudge it, one evening I discovered a little fox face peering out of a mudded, sanded seam in the sheetrock. He said “Hi.”

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After him ran a cocky hound with a stubby ear,

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Followed by a bear who ate all the brownies.

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Two birds admired each other,

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and a stork drank lemonade, while a mouse preferred harder stuff.

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For a brief period my new home progress included vast areas of gray sheetrock and joint compound. Every evening, after the workmen left, I discovered new characters on the walls. Some were rather grumpy.

This fellow’s hat made him feel important,

youdon't say

and this fellow didn’t like his neighbor.

Hi

This gent was more genial–

excellentpoint

He tried to soothe the worrywart.

ohdear

But someone was always suspicious or

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feeling put out,

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Until Molly appeared and told everyone to

blow

“put your lips together and B L O W !”

Finally I discovered myself, holding my new home in my two, cupped hands.

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I can’t wait to go home and enjoy it.

I know all those ghosts are still there, under a fresh coat of Marscapone cream paint.

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Hay Season

That smell is in the air.

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Hill farm hayfields,gouache

Especially at dawn and dusk I smell fresh cut grass. Along the highways and back roads the fields are striped with swaths of it, lying in fluffed, pillowed rows.

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In my Champlain Valley neighborhood the flat bottom land allows for long, easy to mow hayfields.

hayfield

hayfield

Cornwall Farm/watercolor

Freshly cut, the alfalfa, trefoil and grasses lie flat, but before this grass become hay it is handled many times. It is wuffled by the tedder, raked into windrows, and finally baled or rolled or stacked for storage.

HayRolls

Hay rolls/watercolor

Is it Home Yet?

I hate moving.

In the past 16 months I have moved my mother twice and myself five times. One would think I’d gain mad organization skills and each move would be easier, but no.

Somehow I managed to get everything mixed up and scattered and actually bought a few new things to add to the pile. Now I am moving from a rental into my new, not-close-to-done, year-round house in Vermont. I’m not going to share current pictures of the chaotic process.  These vintage watercolor paintings from 1988 will have tell the story.

pumpkinmotherhoodweb
remodeling

The End of May…sigh

Another school year is skipping, ambling, screeching, and wildly cheering to a close. Everyone is restless and eager for release. Erasers are worn to nubs, and so is patience, but, as much as I look forward to summer, I love being in school…

especially on Author Day!

Ash-Canadianweb

“School” for me might be in Vermont, or California, in Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio. I’ve been to schools in Utah, Texas, Alabama and far away in New Delhi, India.

I have been to rural schools and urban schools, big and small schools.

I am always excited to arrive

CalpellaCub

Because now I get to share how I struggled to read, to understand math and to achieve what my 5 year old self really wanted to be–an artist!

ash age 8

When I explain how the words Passion, Practice, Patience and Perseverance became my 4 Ps, I’m hoping every child can think of their own passion; that activity or thing that makes work into fun.

More than talking about books, I talk about where stories come from.

My books grow directly out of who I am: a daughter, a sister, a mother, an animal lover, a reader, and, most important– a child at heart.

McCoppin1

When we’ve talked about where stories come from, we make up our own. As I draw animal characters based on their names and ideas, I explain how an illustrator works.

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We discuss ideas such as forward momentum, attention to detail, setting, mood, time of day and point of view. They learn to merge text and illustration and how to use the whole page to tell their story.

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I arrive early and I leave after all the students have gone. I sign books and pass out bookmarks.  I marvel at how the work in school happens every day, even if I just get a one day glimpse. How do teachers muster the energy to come back every day?  I need a huge latte to recover for the ride home, but I always have a good day in school.

ashinmustard

Click here for information on inviting me to your Author Day.

jacketproof

On Illustration Notes, By Liz Garton Scanlon

Wow! No wonder I love her books!

Liz wrote this post for Eastern Pennsylvania’s SCBWI blog.

On Illustration Notes, By Liz Garton Scanlon.

It is about a subject close to my heart. As a writer as well as an illustrator, I hope I see this issue from both points of view. Every summer I teach picture book writing at Hollins University. My students are mostly “just” writers, and I feel their anxiety about trusting an illustrator with their words.

Will an illustrator understand what they see as they write?

Will the illustrator do the proper research and be accurate enough?

Will the illustrator make it into  HER/HIS book and leave the author behind?

These are all real worries and I am sympathetic, but listen to what Liz says:

“For me, one of the best parts of being an author is receiving the artwork for one of my books. And that thrill isn’t because it looks exactly like what I dreamed it would look like, but because it looks like something beyond my wildest dreams.”

I am honored to have illustrated a new book with Liz, In the Canyon, due out in August 2015.

I can report that we had a real give and take over the text and illustrations that resulted in what I think is the best book possible.

Here is a sneak peek at my favorite page16-17

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norikocrop

Painting a special “Thank You” Card

I was artist-in-residence at my favorite Children’s Museum last week.

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While there, I’m able to do at least one art workshop for children and their families.

Treehouse Museum, in Ogden, Utah, serves children and families by providing interactive, hands-on exhibits and programs focusing on family literacy, children’s literature, the arts, and the humanities. Treehouse seeks to be the magical place where children “Step into a Story.”

One way they do this is with a village of houses from the different countries in which the stories are set. I have been lucky enough to paint some of the children who “live” in the houses.

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To thank my friends at Treehouse, I always send a special card. I based this one on the Japanese girl we named Noriko.

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I begin with a light pencil drawing

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The rest is done in layers of gouache.

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I can’t wait to go back and have more fun in The Treehouse!