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Posts Tagged ‘How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator’

Grandma's Feathered Bed by Laura Anne Miller after John Denver's Song

Grandma’s Feathered Bed by Laura Anne Miller
after John Denver’s Song

I was going through my art cabinet, purging and sorting when I happened on this old colored pencil drawing I did a few years ago (prob. 2009).  John Denver was a favorite singer of mine (yes, I know, I’m telling my age) and one of my favorite songs he did  was “Grandma’s Feather Bed.”

The song makes me smile every time.    I think because it reminds me of when family would get together at my maternal grandmother’s farm in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.   They had mostly cows, pigs, chickens, and once in a while a horse, a couple of farm dogs and lots of cats.  (We never “stole a piggy from the shed” tho’….ewww)

There were my three girl cousins  up from Chicago,  some of my other ‘local cousins’ and some younger cousins I don’t even remember their names.  At night all of us kids would pile into a huge bed with a high head board. The little ones had to be boosted into it. It had the creaky kind of bed springs (really fun to jump on).   We would giggle and squeal, argue about blankets, have pillow fights and tell ghost stories.

Sometimes the neighbors would come over for singing.  Grandpa got out his harmonica and spoons.   The neighbor lady had an accordion.  My dad had a guitar.  We kids got to sing and learn a little square dancing. Once my grandma even grabbed an empty pop bottle and started blowing into it.  The treat was when my grandpa started doing a little Irish jig.   Usually we were sent to bed before the party was over.  HOWEVER,  that didn’t stop us from watching.

Grandma’s house didn’t have a forced air furnace.  It was heated by an old coal furnace.  There were huge grates in the upstairs floor to let the warm air rise.  We would crowd around the grates, laying (lying?) on our stomachs and peering through to the going on’s below.  We’d start arguing about who was hogging the space and yelling ‘move over’   when one of our parents would yell, “Are you kids out of bed?”   Of course we’d all scramble back in bed (creak-creak-creak) and yell “Noooo!”

“It’d hold 8 kids, and 4 hound dogs, and a piggy we stole from the shed…

We didn’t get a lot of sleep, but we had a lot of fun in Grandma’s feather bed.”

It’s been several years since I did the picture and I’ve taken several art courses since, I think I may try reworking this in both watercolor and digital.

And by the way I HIGHLY recommend these  courses: Mark Mitchel’s   “How To Be a Children’s Book Illustrator” and Will Terry’s online Folio Academy courses on “Digital Painting.”   Folio Academy has many more courses available – I’ve just taken the digital.

Thanks for sharing some memories with me today. (oh-by the way, make sure you find all 4 hound dogs, the piggy and 8 kids [see if you recognize me])

Blessings on your creativity!

Laura (grandmamiller)

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Busy-busy, very full week and exciting events I will reveal in a few days.

[ADDENDUM:…an apology… I thought I had checked to make sure this book wasn’t already on the list….and now I see that it has already been recommended last year…. my apologies….blame it on bad eyes and a thick head.  I’ll leave it up today as a personal pick anyway and you can check out Nessa Morris’ review of the book here.  Mea culpa, Susanna.]

My PPB pick today has been a personal favorite of mine this last year.  I had the privilege to view a video interview of the artist, Patrice Barton, via Mark Mitchel’s How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator class.  I fell in love with her art and technique and Patrice,  and have corresponded with her a couple times.  There is part of the interview on the author,  Shutta Crum’s website listed below.  I’m sure you will enjoy this book.

(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links  on her blog.)

Cover image for MINE!

 Title:   MINE!

Author:   Shutta Crum

Illustrator:    Patrice Barton

Publisher: Alfred A Knopf

Genre: Picture Book

Audience Age:  2 & up

Themes/Topics: Sharing

Opening Sentences: Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!   (you get the idea)

Synopsis:  A story about two very young children (a toddler and a crawling baby) and one adorable dog who don’t want to share a pile of toys.  It’s a delightful playdate as the children and dog claim ownership over every toy and then some.

Why I like it:   When reading this story together it elicited giggles, gasps, awwwws and even ‘oh nos!’, and that was just from me.   My granddaughters love this book, one of the reasons being that they can read it. Mine! only has a vocabulary of two words in the whole book, yet speaks volumes.   The toddler tries to gather all the toys before the crawler can get to any of them.   Then the dog even gets into the action rounding up the toys and staking his claim with a, “Woof!”  The baby is tickled by the antics of the puppy shaking a wet toy, which is my favorite scene in the book and one of the cutest and beautifully rendered baby illustrations I’ve ever seen.   The baby has a final trick up her sleeve tho’ when she claims the final thing as MINE! – but I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.  I first had this book on my e-reader and have read it over and over to the grand girls.  But when I brought the actual book home from the library the 4-year-0ld hugged herself, squealed and said, ‘O Grandma, you got the real Mine! 

For an author to craft a story around a single word is a credit to Ms. Crum’s storytelling ability.  Of course with just two words the strong supporting cast is the art itself, beautifully hand drawn and colored in digital pastels by Patrice Barton.  Ms Barton won the 2012 SCBWI Crystal Kite award for her illustrations in this book.  You can go to her website  to see more beautiful art from the book and a trailer as well.

Awards:       Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibit 2011                                         – School Library Journal Best Books of 2011
– NYPL’s list of 100 Titles for Reading & Sharing, 2011
– Texas 2×2 Reading List
– 2012 Crystal Kite Award, SCBWI

Activities/Resources:  An article about teaching preschoolers to share with several links is here.

Games for preschoolers that teach sharing are here, just scroll about 1/2 way down.

Availability:  The Board Book was just released last year.  Readily available at all book stores.    Amazon    Barnes & Noble

Make Mine! yours – you’ll be glad you did.

Blessings and enjoy the book.

Laura (Grandmamiller)

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