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SCBWI_SWTX Ilustrator’s day at the San Antonio Zoo!

I am the Illustrator Coordinator for the the Southwest Texas society of children’s book writers and illustrators. We held a sketch crawl at the San Antonio Zoo. We spent the morning sketching all the different kinds of animals. Here a few highlights from our day.

(L to R) Illustrators: Akiko White, Leticia Rocha, Catherine Garant and Jeff McDaniel
Taking a break, watching the Hippos
Here are some of my sketches

And a few more
Lety’s Sketches
Cathrine’s Sketches
Jeff’s Sketches

The highlight of the day was having our picture taken with an aspiring artist!

ASBA-Show this Weekend!

Come and join me and several other bovine artist for a paint out! The American Society Of Bovine Artist Show in Gruene, Texas this Saturday and Sunday, October 22-23. We will be on the grounds of Cactus Jacks in Gruene. Check out my new painting just for the show!

Bovine Buddies. 60″ x 48″ for sale at Cactus Jacks
This is a painting of our neighbor’s bulls. Big Head and Alamo. They were so fun to see everyday as I drove by their pasture. Big head was approx 11 1/2 years old, and about 2,300 pounds….a Big boy. Our neighbor Ron had him for about 9 years and would spend many sunsets afternoons in the pasture sitting on Big Heads back. Big head passed away a year ago and was buried in Ron’s back pasture. After Big head’s passing, Alamo was distraught, so Ron found him a new home with a nice herd to call his own.

Here is the photo’s that I used to paint this painting. In the original photo Alamo had his head on the ground. I used photoshop to put his head upright and then used that photo as my reference.

 Original Photo
Alamo alone 
Photoshop image for reference 

Photoshop is a great tool. As you can see there is still a small part of the original horn from Alamo in the photo. I didn’t feel it was necessary to spend too much time cleaning up this reference photo since it was just for my own use.

Maybe sometime I will be able to put on a photoshop workshop through our SCBWI-SWTX group.


I am so glad to be back home from our 4500 mile trip across the western states! We went to Carlsbad Caverns, Disney, California Coastline, LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. What a memorable trip!

As some of you know I am working on illustration and writing children’s books along with my painting career. During our road trip, I attended a conference for children’s book writers and illustrators. Here are some of what I would like to share from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in LA. It was their 40th year for this conference. I met so many incredible writer’s and illustrators at the conference. My head is still spinning. Here is the link to the blog if you would like to hear more of what I learned. 

Lisa Medway, Me and Jerry Bennett

I made some best friends also while I was there. Lisa Medway and Jerry Bennett were first time attendees also. Lisa is a professor and a writer. Jerry is an illustrator and the Illustrator Coordinator for the OK-SCBWI. At the 2011 Golden Kite Awards Luncheon, other attendees at our table asked how long we had known each other. We all said, “Only 3 days!” I guess we are kindred spirits, because it felt like we had known each other for much, much longer!

The first speakers that I met were Pat Cummings is and Illustrator, Writer and Instructor at Parsons. Priscilla Burris is the National Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI. They both were a wealth of information. Both of them had some great advice; make your characters charming and memorable, send new postcards with your name on the front every 3-4 months and never send the same image to the same person twice. These are things that I will keep in mind as I search for my own “Editor Soulmate”.

We all loved hearing the keynote from Libba Bray Author of Going Bovine and Beauty Queens. She is a interesting character, I am sure her books are quite interesting. I bought one for her to sign. A quote from Libba, “We are our stories, successful stories will come from ourselves. Be true to yourself.”

Paul O. Zelinsky

Paul drew Emma a Hello Kitty version of Rupelstiltskin.

Paul O. Zelinsky has illustrated some beautiful books. One being the book Rumplestiltskin. His advice, “research all possibilities and find the right person for your character.”

Sarah Stewart and David Small

Another Keynote speaker was David Small. He has several Picture books and a new graphic novel out called Stitches. What I really enjoyed was meeting his delightful wife Sarah Stewart when I was getting David’s autograph. She is a wonderful soul with an amazing outlook on life.

Our surprise speaker was none other than Judy Bloom of the Judy Moody book series. It was a delight to hear about how she became a writer/illustrator. She was a mother and had done everything right. She had raised her kids, been a good wife and paid her taxes, but felt there was something missing in her life, that is when she began to write. Judy, I can relate!

Jon Sciezska

Other speakers that I had the privilege to hear where Laurent Linn; Art Director most notable for his career designing puppets for Jim Hensen’s studio, Gary Paulson; author of Hatchet, Jon Sciezska;  author of Space Heads, Steve Malik; writer and illustrator agent, Martha Rago; Associate Creative Director for HarperCollins and Richard Peck; professor and writer of many books.

Emma with Jerry Pinkney

Even though I missed hearing Jerry Pickney‘s speech, Emma and I did get his autograph. He even drew a little mouse next to his autograph. I’m beginning to think it is better to be a little person when getting autograph from writer’s and illustrators. Jerry has been illustrating for over 40 years. His images are beautiful.

Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborn was missed also, but I got her autograph for my little girl. She is the author for the Magic Tree House series. All my three children have enjoyed her books. How wonderful to have gotten to meet her. She also autographed a book for my daughter’s preschool teacher thanking her for sharing her books with her class. What a nice lady!

Last but not least, I put my portfolio in the showcase. There were 1500 at the conference, 200+ Illustrators, and 180 showed in the showcase. I am glad that a few people picked up my promotional cards.

What I learned from this conference is that I will have to go above and beyond to get noticed. I am a little neurotic when it comes to my work so I should do fine. I am looking forward to giving it my best and making connections in the children’s book industry. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Can’t wait for the next conference!

I will close with a quote from Richard Peck, “Unless you find yourself on the page very early in life, you will spend your life looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”

Hop on over to the show!

I have placed a link to an article that was posted to the Blanco newspaper. 
Come join us for some social time and enjoy my animal paintings!
Closing reception will be Friday, July 22. From 5-7:00 p.m.
This is a painting of our little Rex bunny. I have such a funny story to tell about little Rex and his friend Floppy. One afternoon a year after acquiring little Rex, we sat on the porch relaxing and looking out at the 2 bunnies in the bunny cage. We had decided that the two bunnies must be just females or just two males. We figured that we probably would have had baby bunnies by that time if they weren’t. We’ll they proved us wrong for the very next day little Floppy had 6 little nude babies. What a surprise! They were so tiny and pink.

Enjoyable Gallery Show!

I had a very enjoyable show in Blanco, Texas during the Lavender festival. I even finished a painting during the show. Many people stopped by to see the progression of my dog painting that I did.

This show is up through July.

This is a painting of my dog Lumpy. We named him that because he was such a lump at birth. He was the biggest of the litter and just seemed content to just sit around. He is a 6 years old Pyrenees. This breed of dog is so loving and laid back. We have 4 dogs now. Two of them, Ozzy and Lumpy, protect our yard and the other two, Lily and Angel, that protect our livestock.

It is amazes me how the livestock dogs work together. One of them may go out with the sheep while the other will go out with the goats. If Angel comes up to the house with the goats earlier than Lily then she will bark to call Lily to bring the sheep. What an amazing duo! I hope to paint them sometime soon.

Please join me at my show this Saturday June 11, at the Blanco Art Center. The Lavender Festival of Blanco Texas will be going on during this time. Lots of vendors and delicious lavender enhanced food will be on the square. 
When you need to cool off head down to the Blanco Art Center to enjoy my paintings. I am planning to paint on the porch in the morning. Come and watch my technique. I will be sharing the show with an artist Janet Brooks. She will have a few of her art pieces hanging in the gallery. 
Here are a few more of my paintings that I have been working on for the show. All of them are for sale. Commissions are welcome. If you have a pet that you would like reproduced in my style please contact me for pricing.
Little Calf
This little guy is one or our neighbors calves. He is now grown up and living in luxury with many beautiful warmblood horses at Red Pony Farm. I enjoyed painting this little guy on a two inch gesso board.
Little Colt
I was on my way home one day when I noticed a little colt at my neighbor’s house. I was anxious to meet the little guy so I stopped by and knocked on my neighbor’s door. When I asked if I could go and visit her new little colt she was surprised, and said “I don’t have any babies yet.” I told her that I was pretty sure that I saw a small horse in her pasture. We both bolted to the pasture and sure enough this little stallion was up and nursing off of his mom. Apparently he came a few weeks earlier than anticipated. What an amazing site to welcome a new baby into the world.

Painting of Harry (281)

This fuzzy guy is 281. He was found on Hwy 281, hence his name. He was bottle raised by a friend, moved in next door, and came to us 3 years ago. I have recently found 281 a new home and they renamed him HARRY or is it HAIRY? They are planning on spinning his coat and making fun things with it. He is a very sweet Angora/Cashmere Goat. Such a character, we do miss him!

My new Paintings!

I am diligently painting for a show that will take place during the Lavender fest in Blanco, Texas.

Come and join me at the Uptown Blanco Art Center on June 10-12. My daughter will also be showing her ceramic animal whistles and rattles. Everything will be for sale.

Here is a little preview of the things I have been painting:

This is Alamo. He was one of our neighbor’s longhorn bull. He is now living with a nice herd of cows somewhere in the hill country.

This is a painting of our little black bantam chicken. She is sitting on eggs in this image. She now has a small chick that she clucks away at. I think she is a little mad that I disturbed her. That’s why she is so fluffed up. Cluck…Cluck…
This Bull, Paul Blart (from Mall Cop) is another one of our neighbor’s pets. He is always getting into trouble! One day I heard the cops siren going off in the front of our property, when I walked outside to find out what the commotion was about it was Paul Blart out cruz’n the neighborhood with a police car following him. Needless to say he did not get a ticket but he did have to go back to house arrest at his home pasture. 
Paul Blart is not the first to escape our neighbor’s beautiful hill country pastures. Initially a billy goat had figured out how to open the gate by wiggling the wires on the box to the gate opener. He taught Paul how to do this and he has been escaping ever since.
Yippee-i-a Cow Patty! 

Painting With A Palette Knife

Here is a photo of our cat Callie. She is the subject for my next painting. I will show you the process that I go through to get a completed palette knife painting. This painting is a 20 x 20 inch square. It took me about 4 hours to complete. I have to work quickly in order to get anything done. I like to be able and finish what I have started in one afternoon. I have a difficult time coming back to something. There is always something unexpected that comes up and I wouldn’t know when I would be able to return to my painting, let alone have the inspiration to finish it.

I will start out with a very clear color photo of my subject. This gives me lots of option for details that I can add into my painting. I may or may not use what is in the background. In this case, I left out the ugly water tank in the back. I also added a tuft of grass in the lower left corner. Sometimes I might combine my images to make one painting.

Here I have drawn from free hand using the photo of the cat as my guide. I use a 2B pencil.
As an illustrator I have learned that there are other ways that one might get this initial image on the canvas. You can put the photo into photoshop or another design program and blow it up proportionately to your canvas size. Then you can tile the work and print it to size. When you have taped a full size image you can add graphite to the back of the printed tiled work and retrace on top of where you initially had an image. This will transfer the image with exact proportions to the original photo.
I always work on my easel. I also try to work in the early morning or early afternoon in a well lit room. Today it was a bit cloudy, it was perfect for picture taking.
Here I am putting down some colors that I will use in the background. I first use a fairly large brush watered down with the turpenoid to apply a base color to the background. I am not picky with the type of brush that I use. I usually try to find the one that is not all splayed out from one of the kids using it. It is a rarity if I find a good brush anywhere in my house. This is why I chose to paint with a palette knife. Not to mention that it is easier to tote around one palette knife then a large group of brushes.
I used mainly Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna for the browns and Sap Green with a mixing white for the trees. Prussian Blue with the mixing white is used for the sky. These are the base colors that I begin to lay down on my canvas.
The paint is laid down around the main subject. It is not necessary to be so careful at this stage. The paint should be somewhat translucent.

Now that I have put on the base coat for the ground I will work on the trees and the sky. I make sure that I add color to the sides of the painting also. The brush strokes can go any direction. They will be covered once I start to add the paint with a palette knife. The base coat just helps to cover areas that I may miss while I am painting with the knife.

Next I add the sky and the trees in the background. Again I am not worried at this point which way the brush strokes go.

Here I have started to shade in some darker areas on the cat. I also added the fence that she is sitting on.
Now I begin to add the paint with my palette knife. I wanted to show you the close up of the texture that the palette knife makes. I love the way it looks! I add and mix my colors directly on the canvas as if it where a palette. I use a paper towel to clean my knife when it gets too saturated with the wrong color of paint.
I try to put most of my background color onto the canvas. I then start to add some of the lighter tones and the mid-tones onto the cat. This is Yellow Ochre with a touch of the Burnt Sienna in it.
She looks a bit funny here but it will all come together in the end. When painting I try to pay attention to the light source. This is what makes a painting look realistic. I also do not use black. I mix the cooler colors (blues and purples) for the dark areas and I use warmer tones (reds and yellows) for the highlights. I also make sure that I pay attention to the light blue reflections in the shadows.

 Now she has a face. There is still a lot of detailing to add. I am careful with where I add color at this point because the paint is very thick. Especially if I want to add a lighter tone. This is why I don’t put color on the canvas where there may be white. If I put too much of a color I don’t want I will just scrape it off with the palette knife and start over on that section.

Here I start to add more details of the cat’s stripes. I also add more to the background and the grasses on the ground. I also add more details to her eyes.
Almost done! I just need to add the whiskers and my signature. It is alway so much fun to see the final image. I always surprise my self with the final result. It’s hard to imagine what the painting is going to look like when there is just a blank white canvas staring you in the face.
Finished! Yeah! What a fun painting. She looks like a really fat cat! Callie really isn’t as fat as she looks in this painting. It is just the angle that I took the photograph. I like these close ups of animals. I feel like it really shows their personalities. Callie looks a bit like the Cheshire Cat in this painting.