A House for Dreaming Big Dreams

collage, acrylic, ink

Greetings, My Lovelies ūüôā

Happy Almost-Friday! ¬†I’ve decided to share with you another new art piece that I’m excited about. ¬†This piece helped fuel my inspiration and basically makes me happy every time I look at it. ¬†It opened doorways that allowed me to re-envision an ongoing art project that I put aside for quite some time. ¬†Yata!

What I love about the technology age is that there has never been a better time to be an artist. ¬†Why? ¬†Because we have access to so many styles and tutorials at our fingertips. ¬†No longer must one simply go to an expensive art school to learn traditionally. ¬†There is certainly nothing wrong with going the traditional route, but in today’s fast-paced, modern world, not everyone has time or money for this. ¬†Even if they do, everyone can benefit from additional education and opportunities for growth.

I learned this collage technique from artist¬†nicoletta zanella¬†in this video. ¬†I encourage you to go online and find some art classes or web videos to watch. ¬†Engage. ¬†Be curious. ¬†Take on a new challenge. ¬†See where it takes you and how you can incorporate it into your own personal style. ¬†And in the end, you may find that you’ve expanded your world and you can be more YOU.

Happy Friday from Petunia Owl!


NJ SCBWI Conference 2014

Illustrator Floyd Cooper teaches us how to use negative space to create a painting.

So I’m back from a recent SCBWI conference in New Jersey. Can I just say, wow! Action packed. I’m still processing it. Some people call it conference hangover ūüėČ The travel alone was an adventure. A quick recap on that. I took a plane from Detroit, but my first flight was cancelled. I had to shuttle over to another terminal to check in a second time with another airline. I then took a taxi to the hotel because it was too late to take the train. On the way back, I took the hotel shuttle to the train station. Then had to take another shuttle to the airport. Then another shuttle at the airport to my terminal. Then the plane ride back. All while carrying a backpack, an art portfolio, and a small suitcase. But was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

This conference focused a lot on illustration. I appreciated the¬†chance to take actual mini art classes as well as attend lectures. We also had a lot of¬†opportunities¬†to connect with industry professionals. Yet the conference had an intimate setting, which was nice. Sometimes you feel like a small fish in a big pond at these types of events. But NJ, it’s like my sister group now.

There’s a lot I could share with you here, but I think what would be most valuable would be to share some quotes from the final keynote speaker, Rachel Vail.¬† She wrote an adorable picture book called Piggy Bunny and a middle grade series about a worrier named Justin Case.¬† (Get it?¬† Just in case…LOL)

She said she learned that bravery isn’t the opposite of worry.¬† (Translation: It’s acting in the face of worry.)

Vail also shared a wonderful Van Gogh quote that I’d never heard before.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Other advice:

1. Beware of nice lunches.  (They might serve bad news with a smile.)

2. You can survive ground zero.  (Translation: You can start over.  Revise your entire manuscript.  Fix your painting.  Write another book.)

3. Sometimes you have to chip away at your creation with your fingernails.

4. Listen to children.¬† (They have their own stories to tell.¬†¬†Let them know they matter.¬† Try to remember the first adult who listened to you…)

I remember being like Justin Case.  Thinking and worrying.  Imagining.  Quietly observing.  My grandfather listened and taught me about poetry and art.  My grandmother listened and taught me piano lessons.

Did it make a difference?  Yes.  Do I still worry?  Sometimes.  But am I also brave?  People tell me so.

My wish for you:¬† Go forth and be brave!¬† But you have my permission to worry, too.¬† It’s the¬†secret ingredient that leads to success when coupled with action.¬† May your worries fuel your creative work.¬† YOU can make it happen!



Telling a Story with Pictures

Japanese sumi-e ink and collage on rice paper

Japanese sumi-e ink and collage on rice paper

Happy Friday!¬† Welcome to my current style.¬† I’m also practicing the idea of carrying a character from illustration to illustration.¬† What do you think will happen next???



The theme for this year’s Tomie¬†dePaola¬†children’s illustration competition couldn’t be more fitting with the current weather we’re having in the Midwest.¬† We had to illustrate a poem titled “Sneeze” in full color for babies and toddlers.¬† As you can see, I got a wacky idea in my head (or should I say nose)¬†for this one.¬† I chose bold, basic colors and a simple image for this age group.¬†¬†Children can count the train cars and learn their colors while identifying the familiar train image.¬† Kids love trains!¬† It’s reminiscent of Donald Crews’s Freight Train, but with a twist ūüėȬ† Older siblings will appreciate the oddity of the situation.

Click here to check out other amazing entries.  Apparently, great minds think alike.  See if you can find another image with a similar concept as mine.

Stay warm!

Practicing Patience: Favorite Inch by Favorite Inch

watercolor collage painting

Let’s start with an exercise, shall we?¬† “Breathe in trust.¬† Breathe out fear.¬† Breathe in trust.¬† Breathe out fear.”

What does this teach us?  To calm down.  To be in the moment.  To practice PATIENCE.  But why?

Making art is a lengthy process.¬† I should know.¬† This particular piece took 10+ hours and several class periods¬†to complete.¬† At times, it looked¬†so abstract that I feared nothing would come of it.¬† But as¬†fellow artists know, once you’re in the middle of¬†a project, you¬†only have two choices.¬†¬†Quit¬†to¬†avoid failing (which actually translates to an automatic failure) or continue on the path and see¬†how it turns out.¬† I chose the¬†second option because I’m just stubborn like that ūüėČ

The process of watercolor collage painting involves dyeing handmade paper using liquid watercolor paint.¬† Then you have to let each piece dry.¬† Meanwhile you sketch your scene.¬† Then you painstakingly glue each colored piece to your paper using matte gel medium.¬† You can’t be sure if you’ve colored enough pieces for each section.¬† Also be aware that your hands will become dyed and glued very easily!¬† All you can do is trust the process.

What can I say?  The end result was satisfying.  But is that always the case?  Sometimes you reach your destination after a lot of hard work to find a breathtaking sight.  Other times, you feel discouraged by your work.  You may also feel like it goes unappreciated.  But patience and perseverance are always the keys.

‚ÄúKnowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.‚ÄĚ — Hal Borland

If you don’t feel up to it, try this exercise:¬† “Find your favorite inch.”¬† I learned about this at a recent workshop at the Mazza Museum for children’s illustration in Findlay, OH.¬† One of the speakers mentioned that when you’re feeling down about your art, search for your favorite part inside a piece of art.¬† You can also use this exercise when viewing art at a museum or gallery as a learning tool.¬† There must be one part you’re satisfied with in your work.¬† It could be an interesting line or angle, a character’s expression, a unique color.¬† Something is always working in a painting.¬† It is your job to find it, which can be extremely difficult when self evaluating.¬† Once you identify your sweet spot, work from that.¬† Think of it¬†as a stepping stone.¬† Achievement always begins with a single step.¬† In this case, a single brush stroke.

Let’s review:¬†¬†Breathe in Trust; breathe out fear.¬† Practice patience.¬† Find your favorite inch.

And when all hope is lost, just remember:

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” — Harriet Tubman

As the new year approaches, keep reaching!