bethrommel.com

Fine art and illustration.

Writing Process and Illustrating!

 

Barbara Barth recently invited me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour.  This kind author and blogger has included me in her “tribe”. I am honored!
Barbara’s memoir, The Unfaithful Widow, placed as a finalist in the 2011 USA Best Book Awards. This book will make you smile as you follow Barabara through the trials of being a new widow. With the help of 6 dogs she makes her way through challenging times. In addition, Barbara has written Danger in Her Words. I stayed awake way past my bedtime enjoying this novel, a little detective, a little naughty, and a lot of fun. Visit her website for more information!
And now for the questions I have been posed about my writing process.

1. What am I working on?

I am working on several children’s books. One has been critiqued several times by outside sources, one has been reviewed for accuracy, but is still in phase one of editing, and there is another that is a good idea, but I just haven’t started the rewrites. I will illustrate all of them.

The first is about equine therapy based loosely on a stable where I volunteer. The second is about explaining death to children. And good old George Washington is the featured character in the third.

The calendar says July, but little children’s hearts are beating faster as they think about starting to attend a new school. With this in mind I will begin some promotions for my book Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School. In rhyme, Melvin’s first day at school is described in a non-threatening way. The illustrations are warm and friendly and a little quirky.

photo 3

In addition to this, I am starting a company with Leighanne Schneider, talented illustrator of Doublefly Designs. We are offering illustration for self published authors. Both of us are asked often to do this and have decided we should make it official with Lucky Cat and Friends. Our website is coming soon. Of course, you can also email me at beth@bethrommel.com for details.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Writing: While in middle school and high school in New Orleans I had the greatest English teachers. There was a lot of writing and constant reading of every type of author. After becoming a mother, working with children as a librarian, and as an editor for an elementary yearbook, I caught the “writing for children” bug. With all of that being said, I am writing books that explain scary or unfamiliar situations to children. Things that might bring unease to a child, as in Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School.

photo-6

Illustrating: I entered the art world with a degree in studio art with emphasis in communication design. That was in the days of cutting and pasting, nobody taught photoshop or anything remotely related to computer skills in an art department. Therefore I entered the advertising, graphic, and publishing worlds with hands on experience and dangerous skills with an exacto knife. These all served me well in the fine art world as well. I could paint with real brushes and a variety of paints. My photoshop and InDesign skills are self taught, they are my second language while fine art is my first. I use this combination of skills to illustrate.

photo 1 (2)

3. Why do I write what I do?

I enjoy writing for children and explaining things to them in a way that is kind. I aim to not preach. The brilliant agent, Marietta Zacker from the Nancy Galt Literary Agency, told us recently at a Southern Breeze/SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) event that characters need to speak with their own voice not that of the author. I hope I can do that.

photo 2

4. How does my writing process work?

I start with an idea, then mull it over for several days. If it is still interesting to me, in one crazy moment, hour, plane trip, sitting, I write everything down. I am impetuous. Often the illustrations are coming to me too so I sketch a storyboard as I write. After letting it sit for a while I go back and edit. I ask other writers, friends, artists to read it and give me input. I listen and edit again. I read it aloud to hear the sound of the words. I love the rhythm of words and enjoy when there is real music in hearing their flow. With children’s books there are suggested word counts so I keep that in mind when I edit, translates to cut cut cut.

photo 1

The storyboard is then redrawn to fit the 32 pages allowed for a picture book. I do character studies to figure out who my characters are, where they live, how they dress, how they stand, and how they interact with each other. I then begin art for each 2 page spread. It is drawn, redrawn, painted, collaged, and painted again to reach a style I am happy with. This can be done repeatedly to find the right look and to make the characters sing. Now I scan, photoshop, adjust, add copy and print the spreads to see how it looks. I often hold my artwork up to a mirror to see it from a different point of view. It may be backwards, but the elements of design will still dictate what looks right.

As this post concludes I invite you to now visit Kim L. Siegelson.

Sheis author of several fine award winning children’s books. Kim was recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000 for her book In The Time of the Drums, illustrated by Brian Pinkney.  She is also a member of SCBWI and a part of the Southern Breeze region.

Home Sweet Home

I was commissioned to do a painting of a home. The painting is for a realtor to give a client as a thank you gift.

The home I painted is the one the family is leaving behind in the northeast. They loved this house so much.

Watercolor of Home copyright ECR 2014

Watercolor of Home
copyright ECR 2014

Having never met the owner of this precious house I didn’t know what style they might like.

I had a little extra time so did another one that would reflect my sometimes quirky style.

Acrylic Painting of Home copyright ECR 2014

Acrylic Painting of Home
copyright ECR 2014

I had a wonderful time painting these and experimenting with two different looks.

The first one, the watercolor is the one that was chosen. It is framed and ready to go.

Hope they like it.

Texas My Texas

Most of you know I have a long history with the great state of Texas.

My children were born in San Antonio.

I lived in Texas longer than any other state.

My father and his side of the family were from Texas. Cowboys and colorful types pepper the family.

A friend in Atlanta asked me to create a painting for her husband. They were originally from Texas and were moving to Washington state. She wanted a little Lone Star color to take along.

I included a building she loved from her Dallas days, added some Texas souvenirs; an armadillo, a Dr. Pepper, and a longhorn or two. Of course the sunset is burnt orange because, as legend has it, God is a Longhorn (as in University of Texas alumnus).

Texas My Texas for Sandy

Texas My Texas for Sandy

I have also added an oil rig and oil well, Big Tex from the state fair, bluebonnets, the Mobile Pegasus and lyrics from Deep in the Heart of Texas.

New Orleans is my hometown and will always be in my heart, but Texas is who I am. Say what you want, there is no more optimistic and hospitable place on the planet. If you have a dream you are encouraged to “go for it”. If you need help there are large hearts waiting to help you.

The states we have lived in each have their own strengths. Texas, however, has all of them. Texas, My Texas.

Please Put Down your Phones

My horoscope said to turn off email, facebook, etc.

I did.

I go to my dance class and people rush to their phones for water breaks. I go to a restaurant, everybody is on their phones. I stand in line at the grocery and the person in front of me is on the phone while the checkout lady looks on.

Come on folks, take a breath. Hang up the phone, nothing is so important that you must read it this second.

The time worn phrase, “what did our mothers do?” is so apropos. Shoot, what did we do?

Speak to the people around you, please no phones when you are talking to your loved ones, please no reading the computer screen when you are on the phone with your friends or loved ones. We can tell when you are.

You will be amazed how nice the people around you are. How much a little connection to a real warm breathing person can mean. Smile.

I was just doing some sketches of two people I have never met. Studying their faces was fascinating. How much eyes, noses and mouths speak without saying a word. On a cellphone you will never be able to hear it.

copyright ECR 2014

copyright ECR 2014

version 4

 

 

Those Cats

Last year Chad W. Beckerman, Creative Director at Abrams Books suggested I do more of these cat paintings for illustration so I thought I should begin to bring some of them to light.

You have seen this one…

Mice copyright ECR 2013

Mice
copyright ECR 2013

and this one….

Timmy Felt an Unsettling Presence

Timmy Felt an Unsettling Presence

Here is what I face every night…or maybe try not to face every night.

Sleep copyright ECR 2013

Sleep
copyright ECR 2013

Before the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators SpringMingle at the end of March I will share more of these.

 

 

Working Drawings

I am working on a wonderful project that is walking me step by step through the process of illustrating a children’s book.

One of the steps is “Working Drawings”. I realize the working drawings I do for myself and what needs to be done for another set of eyes are two radically different things.

Here is what I do for myself…

Life Carried Her Away copyright ECR 2014

Life Just Carried Her Away
copyright ECR 2014

Life Just Carried Her Away Complete

Life Just Carried Her Away
Complete

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large Angel Sketch

Large Angel Sketch

Large Angel

Large Angel Complete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protector of Sailors

Protector of Sailors

Not Sure What was Happening in my Head

Not Sure What was Happening in my Head

Mother and Children

Mother and Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the sketches are just sketches and nothing transpires, hence the reason for sketches.

Mother and Child Sketch

Mother and Child Sketch

Mother and Child Complete

Mother and Child Complete

I have a stack of these sketches. Most of them are on the paper that was used to pack our belongings when we moved to Atlanta. Yes, almost three years ago and I still have a box of paper neatly rolled up in my studio closet. It is very close to being newsprint which is what artists often start drawing on when they take life drawing in college. Large 24″ x 36″ sheets that allow one to really stretch, in more ways than one.

The Sneeze

Many years ago I attended a conference in Findlay, Ohio at the Mazza Museum on the lovely Findlay University college campus. This museum has the largest collection of original children’s illustration in the world.

I have seen the elephant!

It is a phenomenal treat to walk into a space and see the original paintings or collages that are from your favorite children’s books. The friends you grew up with. I saw an original Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, so so many treasures.

While there I listened with illustrators, librarians and educators from across the country for a week of stories and information from greats like Ed Emberley and the brilliant Pinkney family.

One night I joined a casual dinner at a local restaurant. There was one seat left. I knew not a soul at this event and to even attend alone was a stretch for me. As I sat down I looked around the table to find myself sitting next to Ed Emberly and across from one of the speakers. I was panicked. What was I doing here? I was a librarian from a small school in Florida who had painted for years. No credentials that made me a brilliant dinner companion.

All of my worries instantly dissolved. I had found “my tribe”! There was not an unkind word spoken. These creative gentlemen were just that.

Creative and kind.

A eureka moment!

It has taken years to wind through jobs and obligations to be full time at my drafting table and computer creating my own illustrations and books.

A month ago I sent an illustration to a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators  (SCBWI) competition. It was to illustrate a poem called The Sneeze by Tomie Depaola. He would judge the entries. I did not win, but I put my pen to paper and created this.

The Sneeze copyright ECR 2014

The Sneeze
copyright ECR 2014

Another competition sponsored by SCBWI in our Southern Breeze region I did actually win. If you are a long time reader you have seen this one.

P.J. Tried and Tried to Make Friends with the Horses

P.J. Tried and Tried to Make Friends with the Horses

Last year I was part of a mentorship program overseen by the brilliant Mark Braught. The assignment was a self portrait using visuals from different times, places and adding some interesting animals.

Self Portrait copyright ECR 2013

Self Portrait
copyright ECR 2013

This year as the Spring Mingle conference approaches I am participating in a mentorship with the wonderfully generous Loraine Joyner from Peachtree Publishers. I am learning so much from this experience. It has been filled with experiments, research for facts and images, and putting self in  chair and pencil in hand and drawing scenes from a pre-Civil War era. It is a dark time in our history, as far from my dear Melvin Fine Mouse as is possible. A stretch and a challenge I am enjoying every day.

Thank you SCBWI and the wonderful world of children’s illustration for another transformative experience.

 

 

Faces 101

This week I am taking an on-line class from Carla Sonheim.

It has been so much fun, Faces 101. We will create 101 faces by the end of the week. We have used a variety of materials and worked from different source material.

Watercolor and pencil

Watercolor and pencil

This was our first day’s project: watercolor and pencil…. painting little blobs for face and little blobs for hair then adding features. This was from our imagination.

Ink painted with eye dropper.

Ink painted with eye dropper.

Day 2 found us using an eye dropper and ink to draw a face from a photo or other source material.

Pencil and eraser.

Pencil and eraser.

Today was a fun scratchy pencil drawing where we removed pigment with eraser.

Pastel and eraser.

Pastel and eraser.

We finished today with using pastels and erasers, always fun to complete the class with color.

The classes are extremely reasonable, this one is $35. If you need a little creative recreation check out Carla Sonheim’s offerings.

 

Big Cats

For Christmas I wanted to give my daughter a painting of her cats, her big cats. She had wanted one for several years. The time was finally right. So I began with a large canvas, 30″ x 40″.

Step 1 for Big Cats

Step 1 for Big Cats

I painted the background with a yellow gold acrylic, just to get started. I sketched the cats in with a pencil then started using my oil paints.

Big Cats Step 2

Big Cats Step 2

The cats are the way I want them so it must be time to begin the background.

Big Cats Step 3

Big Cats Step 3

I began to tear paper and form what would represent an Oriental rug and feline pillows. This is a meditative process for me. Tearing and fitting and gluing. The piece presents itself and unfolds as I go.

Big Cats Step 4

Big Cats Step 4

The paper is on.

Mia and her Big Cats. copyright 2013

Mia and her Big Cats.
copyright 2013

The background colors have changed. The cats are touched up and given extra texture and color with a fan brush. A few toy mice and a piece of string are added to the composition.

Gina’s Beach

This year I accepted a commission to paint a place beloved by a lovely lady.  Her husband brought me photos of this place, their family at this place and their bicycle, in this place.

Months passed as I sketched, conferred,  and designed this piece. It was 30″ x 40″.

in the beginning...

in the beginning…

So here we go with the ground to build the painting on.

The beach is roughed in.

The beach is roughed in.

I am enjoying the light in the white oil paint.

Adding the life guard chairs and the hotel in the background.

Adding the life guard chairs and the hotel in the background.

Looks like some people on this beach.

Looks like some people on this beach.

The family is appearing on the canvas as they take in a day at the beach.

Now the feline friends.

Now the feline friends.

How to present the cat that is living and a representation of the ones who are not?

Hmmm.

Hmmm.

The family pets who have passed away are hidden in the clouds. The water takes on more color. The blue walkway and grasses move in as the kitty in the foreground takes shape.

The family is painted in on their blanket and on the skim boards.

The family is painted in on their blanket and on the skim boards.

The photos for this painting were taken around 20 plus years ago so this is a compilation of memories and images. The pink bicycle has moved to the other side of the canvas.

The hotel has taken on color and landscaping.

The hotel has taken on color and landscaping.

This was a wonderful experience. We printed note cards so there would be a way to share the image.

Thank you dear friends for this opportunity.

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