bethrommel.com

Fine art and illustration.

Have You Reached Success?

Our SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) local group of illustrators met at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens last weekend. We scattered throughout the park to find something that enchanted. That is always easy at this beautiful site. In October the scarecrow competition was on display, the fall leaves were showing their colors, and the mosaiculture sculptures are everywhere.

Mosaiculture gorilla.

Mosaiculture gorilla. It is hard to see scale, but these are about 7 feet tall.

I had been to the gardens one evening in the previous week. There I scouted for what I would like to draw. These heads representing the seasons were beautiful.

The maquette models for the giant sculptures outside.

The maquette models for the giant sculptures outside.

The actual sculptures are approximately 15 feet tall. They are beyond description, during the day or night they are wonderful and beautiful in their workmanship.

Outdoor sculpture at night.

Outdoor sculpture at night.

Michael Allen Austin, the nicest man in the children’s book illustrating business, had prompts for us to pursue as we drew and wandered the gardens.

I chose to turn my winter sculpture man into a character that was a gnarly sort of Heathcliff. I picture him wandering the moors brooding.

Winter Heathcliff.

Winter Heathcliff.

Heathcliff is on a 14″ x 17″ sheet of 98lb mixed media paper. I used watercolor pencils while at the gardens. Back in the studio I added the water and tried out my new watercolor markers. More color needed to be added with regular watercolor and detail outlined with black ink.

As always, seeing the group is a pleasure and inspiring. This time we all described how we would know if we had reached success. Write down your personal list and check it in five years. We all have a tendency to move the goal post so we never feel we have reached success. Maybe you already have and don’t know it.

Painting at Booth Western Art Museum

I was so honored to be invited to paint at the Booth Western Art Museum last Friday. A fund raiser for the Young Philanthropists organization was  held in the evening. Four artists were creating pieces while music played. We had about an hour and a quarter to finish our work. First we wandered this amazing museum, a jewel box of western art set in Cartersville, GA. The bronzes, the paintings, and the kindest, brightest group of people you would ever want to meet were all there.

I arrived with an easel, supplies and a large sheet of watercolor paper painted with a gray blue wash. The party begins with music playing and attendees mingling and enjoying themselves. I start to sketch.

and I begin....

and I begin….

Pencil on acrylic wash to get a sense of where I am going with this piece.

As the evening goes so does the painting.

As the evening goes so does the painting.

The paint goes on as the cowboy, horse, barn, fence, and trees begin to appear.

Adding some green grass.

Adding some green grass.

The grass, highlights, a few sparks of color to add some zip are the last things to add.

Finished art, Come with Me.

Finished art, Come with Me.

I was so happy to see my friend Kitty Klein at the event. She brought her husband, John and friend, Lee Ann.

Beth with Kitty Klein.

Beth with Kitty Klein.

As the artists finished their paintings cowboy hats were set out for raffle tickets. Party goers could put their tickets in the hats at each artist’s station.

The climactic moment arrived, with painting in hand I went to the stage to explain my painting. Both of my grandfathers had had horses. One was an actual cowboy in west Texas while the other was part of a mounted posse in Arizona. The latter actually passed away while riding his beloved Palomino. Horses have been a favorite part of my life as well.

The raffle ticket was drawn and the winner was the lovely Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and her new painting.

Elizabeth and her new painting.

What a pleasure to see my painting go to somebody who was so excited and pleased to have it.

Thank you so much to this wonderful organization for including me in this magic evening.

 

 

Competition Cat

Last weekend I attended a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Birmingham, Alabama. This meeting was designated as Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK).

As the event draws to a close the prompt for the following year’s competition is announced. In 2013 the illustrators received their information: “Look out P.J. it’s a……” The artist fills in the blank and completes an image to enter.

I thought that I would like to use a flying cat since I had 2 models sleeping in my studio.  With the main character being a cat, the word feline seemed to be an appropriate part of the sentence. With dictionary open on my computer I began to look up science terms. Well, why not work with alliteration as one does in children’s literature. Back to the science terms under the letter F.

“Look out P.J. it’s a flyby feline fission flux.” These are all science terms that could pertain to space.

The Steampunk look was on my mind so off I went. Alli was on the floor stretching beside my chair.

Steampunk Alli sketch.

Steampunk Alli sketch.

Now who would P.J. be? Hmmm, who would be afraid of a flying Steampunk cat? Steampunk mice of course.

Steampunk mice.

Steampunk mice.

Some positioning thoughts.

How do cats fly?

How do cats fly?

How do mice look afraid of flying cats?

How do mice look afraid of flying cats?

One of my favorite tools is the white gel pen. Probably one of the simplest materials to use. It is basically a white ball point pen that is opaque enough to write on paint. On a blue background it would be fun to emulate a blueprint. What could be drawn? Buildings, machines? Oh, flying machines of course.

Flying machine sketches.

Flying machine sketches.

Acrylic on 18" x 24" cold press 140lb. watercolor paper

Acrylic on
18″ x 24″ cold press 140lb. watercolor paper

Everybody and everything is in its place. However, it is looking very flat. I took a photo of the art and opened it in Photoshop. This piece was going to be submitted on line and 8″ x 10″ prints were going to be mailed so the actual painting would never be seen. Now P.J. joins the ranks of digital art.

With shadows and enhancements added digitally.

With shadows and enhancements added digitally.

It neither won nor placed, but I am happy with the outcome. In my quirky art world cats fly, mice shriek in horror, and flying machines frequent the skies. I may be a little too edgy for children’s books. Part of my mission in attending the conference was to see if I could find the right fit for my artwork in the illustration business. I have not found it yet, but “this too will be revealed.”

 

 

and the end of the story.

My character continues on with her story….

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Pages 12-13
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Page 18
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So much of what we do takes courage.

It Took a Little

It took a little inner strength to go to an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Charlotte, N.C. alone. I would be attending an intensive class by myself. Bearing my portfolio and lots of postcards and business cards I went in.  The illustrator of the American Harry Potter series was our first speaker, Mary Grand-Pre. The executive art director, Isabel Warren Lynch, from Random House Children’s Books concluded the intensive. So much inspiring art and experience was shared in those hours.

I am standing with Mary Grand-Pre's original drawings for her new book about Kandinsky.

I am standing with Mary Grand-Pre’s original drawings for her new book about Kandinsky.

We had an assignment to prepare before the class. A sequence of 8 or more pages, maximum 3 colors and 20 words.

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Page 1
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Stay tuned to see what happens to my little character.

Sansli Goes Home

Sansli, a Turkish word for Lucky surely describes this little calico cat. She was found on the streets of a Turkish city by a young woman. The young woman brought her back to the United States where she lived the rest of her days. The story of so many immigrants who would like just that. A happily ever in this amazing country.

So the sketches began for the portrait of Sansli. Yes, they are very rough, but they work for me.

Sketches for Sansli

Sketches for Sansli

I began with a pencil sketch on the 20″ x 24″ canvas.

Sketch on canvas

Sketch on canvas

Now for the under painting in acrylic.

Under painting

Under painting

More color painted on the canvas to define Sansli and her bed of Kilim rugs and pillows.

Defining Sansli

Defining Sansli

Sansli and her bed

Sansli and her bed

I like to use complementary colors in my under painting. By doing this the next layer of paint will have vibrancy that may not be there if painted on a white canvas.

Little calico Sansli

Little calico Sansli

Her little face and bright eyes

Her little face and bright eyes

More detail is added to the textiles that surround the little Turkish cat. These patterns are taken from the actual rugs and pillows brought back to the states.

Colors are changing as the oils are applied.

Colors are changing as the oils are applied.

The patterns on the textiles are now part of the picture.

The patterns on the textiles are now part of the picture.

A metal pot was also part of the collection of Turkish items. It is in the right corner to add contrast to the soft surfaces of Sansli and the textiles.

Coming together

Coming together

Now there is more refinement as I step back and take a look at the canvas. Pattern being added to the left corner, a tassel on the pillow under her right front foot, and more details that only I would notice.

Close up

Close up

Sansli ready to go home

Sansli ready to go home

She will go home this afternoon to her new house in Atlanta. The soul cat of her owner.

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

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