Happy Birthday, Brennan!

 

26 years ago today, my life changed joyfully, and forever.

Brennan Wolff Russell was born, after a long labor, at 4:16 in the morning.

brennanbaby

Like many new mothers, I was basically clueless, but the learning curve has been continually fascinating and will never end.

pencilsketch

When I love something, I draw it. hobbyhorse

Some drawings were done from photos like this one, but sometimes I caught him live. This was almost always while he was reading, drawing…

readingsunburnBrennaneatingchips

or eating!

I love you, B, and look forward to the rest of our journey together.

XOXOXO, Matb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Nemo in Vermont

“Superstorm” Nemo bore down on the North East last week, accompanied by some truly scary hype. In the end Connecticut and other coastal areas did get hammered, but Central Vermont got away with a mere 6 inches. During the storm I ventured out to the old farm on South Street Extension where I learned to ride and care for horses back in the 1960s. Back then, it was owned by a rather odd woman named Doris Eddy. She taught everyone everything and was a very no-nonsense sort of person.

Doris is gone now, but someone runs the old farm and lots of horses are still there.  They were all out in the pastures near the road, covered in coats and eating hay, while the snow quietly piled up on every flat surface.

Nemo_1

saltblock

whiteHorse

The Story of Good Dog Zip

This is the story of Zip, a young wire haired Jack Russell Terrier from a good family.

zipsnow

zippyIt is a sad one, because handsome Zip became very ill and had to be put down.

I made a life-size memorial icon in his honor. I have made several of these, for beloved dogs who have gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Each one is a labor of love.

I begin with photos and drawings.

zipinProgress_10

I had a lot from the time I knew him, but Google images contributed some generic Jack Russells for body detail.

zipinProgress_8

I played around with poses, but decided on the classic “sit,” and made a life size drawing.

zipinProgress_6

After rubbing graphite onto the back of the drawing, I transferred it to a board, cut it out with a saber saw, sanded and primed it.

zipinProgress_4

I decided in the end to ‘flop’ Zip and paint him facing to the right.

zipinProgress_2

After many hours, layers of paint, small brushes for his wiry hairs, a careful attention to his eyes and gaze  and several coats of matte varnish…

ferns

Zip looked back from the Mother Fern in my garden.

He now ‘lives’ with his family and helps to remind them everyday of their Good Dog Zip.

I have been making these animal portraits for many years. Here are a few more:

Bear_1

 

My sister’s beloved German Shepherd, Bear. Painted in 1990.

BeniconMy mother’s Border Collie, Ben.

 

The Next Big Thing Blog Tour

According to Eric A. Kimmel:”The Next Big Thing is an author blog tour. What’s a blog tour? A blog tour gives those on the tour a chance to meet different authors by way of their blogs. The Next Big Thing began in Australia. Each week a different author answers specific questions about his or her upcoming book. The answers are posted on authors’s blogs. Then we get to tag another author. On and on it goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Next Big Thing went around the world a couple of times.”

The next Big Thing for me is Baby Bear Counts One.

I hope bears can hop, because this is my 1st “blog hop” posting on what is still a “baby” blog.

I was 1st tagged for this by my Hollins friend, Jan Godown Annino, invited me to write a post that addressed this specific set of questions. She wrote about her book about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, still in progress.

My Author/Illustrator friend, Nina Laden, tagged me the 2nd time. She wrote about her new poem picture book: Once Upon a Memory. She was tagged by Eric A. Kimmel, who wrote about his new fractured fairy tale: Little Red Hot, a chili totin’ Red Riding hood straight from Texas!

I’m going to write about a book that is already finished, but not yet pubbed.

What is the working title?

The working title of my coming book is also the final title: Baby Bear Counts One.

The cover image, minus type looks like this:

BBCOJacketfront:small

Along the way I toyed with changing it to Baby Bear Counts Two, so as to rhyme with Baby Bear Sees Blue, but eventually lost the urge to be too cute. Two being such a versatile word, some suggested calling it Baby Bear Counts, Too.
Where did the idea come from for the book?

I got the idea after publishing Baby Bear Sees Blue. This cub seemed endlessly curious, so I wondered how he’d react when confronted with multiple animals preparing for winter.

I DO know that bears, unlike dogs, can see colors and there is scientific evidence that they can count too!
What genre does your book fall under?

This book, like all my books, is a picture book. These pictures are done using linoleum blocks, printed with black ink on Arches Cover paper, which are then painted with gouache.

The unprinted blocks look like this:

image

Most of these blocks were carved and printed at Hollins University where I teach in a fabulous Summer Certificate Program. If you want to take your illustration skills to the next level in a highly creative and fun learning environment, check out Hollins.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

If there were ever an animated movie of Baby Bear, (and I can’t imagine this, since there is no possibility of a chase scene,) I’d choose Meryl Streep to play Mama Bear and some young actor with a little growl in the voice to play Baby.

image

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

As winter approaches, Mother and Baby Bear search for food, while noticing all the other animals doing the same.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

If I have a good idea, a 1st draft can be fast. What is slow are the hundreds of revisions that follow. That being said, as the author AND illustrator, the pictures are what really take the time!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Baby Bear Counts One and its predecessor: Baby Bear Sees Blue, both owe a huge debt to my favorite book from childhood: Blueberries for Sal.

image

image

I was way more interested in the bears than I was in Sal and her Mother, though I looked just like Sal as a kid!

image

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Life works in mysterious ways. I was working through multiple problems on a different project, one stage of which involved researching and drawing bear cubs. I kept the page of sketches on my wall and it, along with other visual alchemy, eventually inspired Baby Bear Sees Blue.

A true “silver lining” story.

Now I get to tag an author and I choose my dear friend Christy Hale; an extraordinarily talented author, illustrator and teacher.