Pat Zietlow Miller’s Studio Tour

I’m excited to welcome award-winning author Pat Zietlow Miller to Tuesday Tours. Pat wrote one of my favorite books–Sophie’s Squash (illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf)which is one of those beautifully told stories that, as a parent, you don’t mind reading again and again when your child just can’t get enough :) Today Pat shares her Madison home office where she’s worked for the last seven years during her road to publication. Her story is truly inspiring–she heard 126 no’s before she got her first yes, but she didn’t let the rejection stop her. In her mind, it just meant the work wasn’t ready yet, and she loved writing, so she kept plugging away. Now, after the great success of Sophie’s Squash, Pat has seven new books coming out, starting this April with Wherever You Go (illustrated by Eliza Wheeler), a beautiful looking book about the possibilities that lie beyond the next bend in the road, which is the same road that also leads you home. skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

PatTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium. I write picture books. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I got serious about it seven years ago, and it took me four years of writing, revising, submitting and being rejected to sell my first book, Sophie’s Squash, to Schwartz & Wade. Sophie’s Squash did well, winning the Golden Kite award and being an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. That was thrilling, and now I have seven other picture books that will be coming out in the next few years. It’s really been a dream come true. I hope to be doing this for many, many years to come.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?I’ve had this space for four years or so. Before then, I wrote throughout the house. I still do that, but it’s nice having a spot that is specifically mine and that can be a permanent home for all my book-related stuff.
book cover 4Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I know it would sound much more impressive if I said I ate green eggs and ham, chanted the text of Goodnight Moon and then bowed in the direction of Kevin Henkes’ house before I started writing, but I don’t. I just open my laptop and start. Usually, I write in the evenings because I work during the day.

What’s the biggest distraction when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
My biggest distraction is the rest of my life and finding time to write. I have two very active kids, an upcoming high school graduation to plan, a full-time job, endless piles of laundry and a house that seems to cause groceries to evaporate within seconds of their arrival. Sometimes, I just have to ignore all the stuff I think I should be doing and write anyway.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
I don’t listen to music while I write because it’s too distracting. But when I’m not writing, I love music. Show tunes, Top 40, a cappella, oldies. My current favorite song is “Uptown Funk.”  Listening to it makes me smile. Plus, it has great lines like “Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.” (Feel free to hum along …)


Pat ZM4Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have several items that belonged to my aunt, Faye Clow, who was the director of the Bettendorf Public Library. Two of my favorites are the nameplate from her desk and a piece of artwork that shows a chair by some bookshelves. I like to imagine I’m in that chair reading quietly. Faye loved books. She always gave me books when I was growing up and was very supportive of my writing. unnamed3I also have a sign from my day job at an insurance company that says “Preparation = Confidence = Success.” It’s a good reminder.
And, I keep some of my very favorite books on my desk in hopes their good writing karma will rub off on me.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
I normally don’t eat or drink while I’m writing. That happens when I get stuck and I get up and wander around by the pantry.

What are the three best things about your writing space?
1. It’s warm and comfortable. 2. I can lose myself in whatever I’m working on. 3. My cats sometimes sit next to me while I write.

How do you organize your books/bookshelf? Is there a formula you use?
I organize books by height, with the tallest on the left down to the shortest on the right.

Pat ZM6What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
While it’s nice to have a specific space that’s all your own, you can be creative anywhere. Don’t be so worried about creating the perfect space that you forget to do the creative work. I’ve written books largely at my kitchen table surrounded by dirty dishes. It’s nice to have somewhere nicer, but it’s not necessary.
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book coverWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My second picture book, Wherever You Go, comes out April 21 from Little, Brown. It’s a book about all the paths you can take in life. I wrote it in anticipation of my daughter Gwen’s high school graduation – which is in May. It’s for young children, but it also contains a lot of things I want Gwen to remember and know as she moves on to college. It’s illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, and her artwork is truly, truly lovely.

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I have other books coming out after this one, and you can learn about them at my website, I also blog about picture book writing at with some other talented book creators. Check us out!

Thank you, Pat for sharing your writing space with us. I’m really looking forward to reading Wherever You Go and Sharing the Bread. You have busy year of releases ahead of you :)

Join us next Tuesday when we get a chance to see the beautiful studio of another Wisconsinite, illustrator Carol Schwartz!

A few dates still available for Spring 2015–book now!

I have a few dates available for Spring 2015. If you’re interested in having me visit your school, please email to schedule a program.

I love visiting schools to share my experiences as an author and an illustrator. I have a number of presentations, workshops, and art residencies available. Below is a preview of some of my programs, but a higher quality PDF of my full program listing can be viewed here — Andrea Skyberg Author Visit Program Sheet (Full Version) 2014

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Bridget Birdsall’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours we’re welcomed into the writing space of author Bridget Birdsall. Bridget’s newest book Double Exposure is the story of intersex teen athlete Alyx, who after moving from California to Wisconsin, starts a new life as a girl and eventually makes the varsity basketball team. Alyx’s feelings of fitting in don’t last long when one of her classmates attempts to expose her secret. Double Exposure brings to light complex gender issues, teenage insecurities, and overcoming all obstacles. It has been nominated for a Teen Choice Book award and has been recognized by Publishers Weekly who named it to the List of Anti-Bullying Books. Hanging out with Bridget is like getting a burst of energy and sunny positivity. She has a strong belief that one of the most effective ways to cultivate connection, empathy, and understanding is through sharing our stories, and I couldn’t agree more. Bridget will be signing copies of her books at Boswell Books in Milwaukee on March 1, 2015 at 3pm.


Bridgett Birdsall 9Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am a multi-faceted artist. I earned my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College in 2005. I’ve struggled with dyslexic challenges most of my life, therefore reading, writing and school never came easy. I always loved art, and though I’ve had no formal training, I do paint when I feel stuck in my writing. I also doddle a lot in my journals, but right now, my primary creative medium is words, and creating images with words through poetry and prose. Many, including myself, never thought I’d pull it off as a writer, yet it’s been a secret dream since I was eleven years old. It was then that I read the The Sojourner by Marjorie Kinnan Rawling. Bridgett Birdsall 7Not a children’s book but it changed the course of my life. While I was growing up, I was constantly told that artists starve and thus, my undergraduate degree is in Marketing Management from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. I attended on a basketball scholarship. Today, I live in Madison, Wisconsin, with my partner, Roseann and our dog, Sophie. Madison was a great place to raise my son, who is an avid reader and budding writer himself. He now lives and works in New York City.
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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?We’ve lived in this house for about four years. It’s a small house, perhaps, too small at times. My office is a wonderful space, but I have dreams of doing more with it. In the past, I have always had space where I could slop paint when I got stuck with my writing. This office is just off of our living room, so it is too nice to slop paint, but I am working to clear space in the basement near the laundry sink.
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Describe a typical work day. Do you have rituals you do before you start creating?I’m not sure I have a “typical day” but when I get up in the morning I do start my day with some journal writing, prayer and meditation. It’s a time to get myself centered. Often ideas will come to me before or after sleep, and if I can rouse myself enough, I write them in my journal, which I keep by my bedside. I’ve filled thousands of journals over the years, most illegible to the eyes of others, but incredibly healing and creative for me. I have a fireplace in my office, which I shamelessly admit turns on and off with a switch, and puts out a decent amount of heat in the winter. Often, I turn it on before I go into my space to work. Sometimes I will do yoga. This past year I completed a yoga teacher training course and I’m proud to announce that I can now stand on my head for two minutes or more unassisted! Though, just in case, I stay near the wall. Not bad for a late-blooming baby boomer. Everyday, I do go through my schedule and cross out time for writing. Sometimes I must be flexible with this, because if my partner is home it is terribly distracting, and with no door on my office it can be hard to keep a boundary around my work. But this leads to the next question.
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What’s your biggest distraction?
This is easy, my partner and my dog! Having other beings in the house, who seem to want attention every time I sit down to write has been a problem. I wish I was one of the writers who could get up at the crack of dawn, but I’m not. I’m dealing with the partner part, by getting a door on my workspace to signal a visible boundary: YES, I AM WORKING. Please stay out, even if it appears to you I am not working, or that I am doing yoga poses, or I’m taking a nap, this is what writer’s do sometimes, stare at the screen until something comes, the important thing is for me to keep focused on my work, keep my mind fertile and stay in the flow. I can get distracted enough on my own! The other big life distraction, and I’m not alone among writers, is the need to sustain myself financially. It just seems that even very successful writers have a hard time making a living with their art these days. A few do, but they certainly seem like the exception rather than the rule. Someone told me, we now live in a “gig” economy, and so today it’s more about “streams of income” so perhaps in the future my income will come from a combination of things. Hopefully advances and royalties, speaking and teaching, book and art sales, but I keep my real estate license active just in case. And I’m back in the classroom teaching high school seniors how to write plays, which I love.
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Bridgett Birdsall 8Does music influence your work? What’s on your playlist now?
Huge yes! I sometimes crank the music super high (after my partner leaves for work) and I work with theme songs. For Ordinary Angels it was Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. For Double Exposure it was Five for Fighting’s Superman, and the Doggies, Who Put the Dog Out, and more recently, Lady Ga Ga’s, Born This Way. For cleaning up my office it’s usually anything by Mavis Staples, but especially, Eye on the Prize. When I was growing up I was crazy about Elton John.


Is there any special item/trinket that inspires you?
The picture of my son when he was young, the painting by my friend Ellen of the Honey Creek Owl, one of the first paintings I ever did above my fireplace called Healing Waters and a shamanic healing stone left to me from my late Aunt B.
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Is there a favorite drink or food that have while you work?
Tea. Gave up alcohol, coffee and soda, when my son was born. Sometimes, pistachio nuts, however other than that, I try not to bring too much food into my office. It forces me to get up and take breaks.

What are the three best things about your writing space?
(1) I have one. (2) fireplace (3) big window, with great light.

Bridgett Birdsall


How do you organize your bookshelves? Is there a formula?
Usually, by genre, and I learned that by stacking the books, I could fit more in the shelf while using the books themselves as bookends.My basic formula is two-fold; first I, OCD arrange them, by weight and size and of course, visual appeal. Then, I use them and it becomes interrupted chaos –until I’m inspired once again to straighten them up. Because, yes, I do use my books and I try to read as much as possible. I also read my fellow writers work, whether it’s published traditionally or independently. And I try to buy my contemporaries books and pass them along, so they don’t sit forever on my shelf collecting dust, and we keep the words flowing.
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What advice do you have for people who want a creative space?
Commit to it. Don’t wait as long as I did to demand a door. Let yourself make a mess when needed. Make sure you are comfortable and it supports you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Clean it up, change it around, do whatever you need to do to keep the energy flowing and having fun. Crank the music when you want too. Make it yours. You deserve it!

Bridgett Birdsall 10What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
Please come support local authors and independent bookstores and join me at Boswell Book Company on Sunday March, 1, 2015 at 3pm where I will be reading from my new YA novel Double Exposure, about an intersex teen athlete who learns to stand in her personal power. Check out my website which I’m learning to build and maintain myself. Keep writing my friends, it’s up to the poets to save the world!

 Thank you, Bridget! Congrats on your award nominations for Double Exposure! I’m looking forward to seeing you at your Boswell Books event on Sunday :)

Join us next week when award-winning Wisconsin author Pat Zietlow Miller shares the place she pens her picture books.

Denise Fleming’s Studio Tour

Last fall my daughters and I were a few of the lucky participants to sit in on a paper-pulp art making workshop with the renowned Denise Fleming during the Sheboygan Book Festival. We were complete taken with Denise’s creative way to illustrate, and when we got home we had a lot of fun mixing toilet paper with colored water to create some Denise-inspired paper art! I’m excited to find out more about Denise’s process and take a look at her studio space today on Tuesday Tours. Denise Fleming’s the author and illustrator of eighteen picture books, and she won a Caldecott Honor award for her book In the Small, Small Pond. Denise works in clay, creates art from tin cans, makes art dolls, paints, and of course creates rich illustrations using paper pulp. Her giant studio in Toledo, Ohio is the perfect place to dive into whatever medium suits her fancy.


Denise FlemingTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Most of my work is done using a paper making technique called Pulp Painting. Colored fiber floats in water. I pour the fiber/water mixture onto a screen, the water drains through, the colored fiber stays on top of the screen. Using squeeze bottles and hand cut stencils I build an image using the wet fiber. Denise Fleming15I love process, seeing how images are created, so this technique appeals to me. I also love the physicality of the process. The big buckets of water and pulp that I use. When the cotton pulp arrives it is white and damp. Pulp beaten medium forms the bottom sheet. Pulp beaten very fine is what I use to create the images. I add more water to the pulp, then retention aid and color pigments. I use a palette of twelve basic pigments.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have had my present space for over twenty years. My husband and I built it ourselves. It is fairly large – 24 x30 feet. As I work in a wet medium it has a sink and a lino covered concrete floor. It is accessed off our living room by two sets of french doors. My husband is an artist also. So work and life just run together. Originally, I had half of the space, but I needed more room, paper making takes a lot of space, so we took down a center wall.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
There is no typical work day. Bookmaking just blends in with my life. I write my own books, so time is spent doing that. I also work in other art forms and have other studios for those endeavors. As far as rituals go, a big glass of water and a big glass of iced tea are always at hand. Music or books on CD are playing. I used to always work in PJs, now I wear big baggy pants and T-shirts.
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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
Just recently, I started back with printmaking. I had a ball trying all sorts of materials that are new and non-traditional. I had to move the printmaking out to the art doll studio, because I just started the art for a new book in pulp and the printmaking was too much temptation. Broke into my focus. Also some years back I had a group of book lovers from Delaware, Ohio visit and we all made pulp paintings. That was great fun.
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Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
When I am writing, I play nature sounds or classical music, when I am designing I tend to like drumming or chanting, if I am tracing or cutting stencils I listen to books on cd or favorite artists which vary greatly. Pulp painting calls for Paul Simon, Norah Jones, Annie Lennox. And all are on old fashioned CDs.
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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have a shelf of solar figures that dance in the sunlight. They create a happy mood in the studio. They click away as they move.
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How do you organize your books/bookshelf? Is there a formula you use?
Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha. Do they all fit? would be my formula. Books are everywhere. In bookcases, on shelves, in trunks, in big cheese boxes. Oh, that is a funny question.
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What are the three best things about your studio?
LIGHT, SIZE, and the SINK.
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Where & how do you store your finished work?
My husband is in charge of this, so the storage of finished art is organized and done properly. I have a closet with shelves and archival boxes in which the art is stored with special tissue.

If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
No one. I would never share my studio. Another person would use up too much of my oxygen. Quite revealing, eh? Not even David Hockney. He could have a studio next door.


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What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
China markers, which I use to sketch and draw all my designs. Or 8B pencils.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Hang a curtain if you have to, but rope off your space. Put your bed in the tiniest bedroom and keep the biggest bedroom for your studio. That is what we did in the beginning. Studio space always came first. You can eat on TV trays, keep that big table for your art. I started on a folding card table, as we didn’t have a kitchen table and I was working in pen and ink so I didn’t need much space.

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What’s coming up and where can we find out more?
Ashley Wolff and I are leading a workshop at the Highlights Foundation, April 9 through the 12th, Color, Light, Line, and Texture – a hands on workshop. Which is going to be fabulous, really fabulous. You don’t have to be an artist. It is open to people that love creating. We want you to expand your knowledge of illustration techniques. Alternative printmaking, pan pastels, gouache resist, collage, creating decorative papers, mini edition books, and transfer techniques are all part of the workshop. For information and registration My website is or write me at This has been a hoot. Still laughing about bookshelf formula!

Thank you, Denise! Such a fun interview and what an amazing studio space! I love how you have such versatility in so many mediums. I bet your workshop at Highlights is going to be very inspiring!

Join us next week when author Bridget Birdsall shares her cozy writing space in Madison, WI.

Stephanie Graegin’s Studio Tour

The way I came about knowing the work of this week’s featured guest Stephanie Graegin, was through her debut illustrated picture book Happy Birthday, Bunny! written by Liz Garton Scanlon. Funny then, that yesterday was Stephanie’s birthday, which we’ll celebrate today on Tuesday Tours! HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY STEPHANIE!!!


Stephanie’s adorable illustrations have graced a number of pictures books including Forget Me Not, written by Nancy Van Laan, You Were the First, written by Patricia MacLachlan and Water in the Park, written by Emily Jenkins. She has also illustrated mid-grade books The Art of Flying, written by Judy Hoffman and Don’t Feed the Boy, written by Irene Latham. Stephanie finds inspiration wherever she goes, and never leaves her Brooklyn apartment without her trusty moleskin notebook and her graphite pencil. But when a big project comes along, her studio is a pretty good place to settle down and get creative.


StephanieGraegin2014Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’ve been illustrating children’s books, mainly picture books, for the last 4 years. I studied Printmaking and Fine Art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I spent my childhood in Chicago, Fort Wayne Indiana, and Houston. Illustrating picture books is something I’ve wanted to do since I was about 6, I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to pursue it. I’ve worked many odd jobs over the years—working in bookstores, walking dogs, doing admin work, working on websites. PeaceIsAnOfferingI prefer making picture books to anything else. I currently have four picture books out in the world: Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan (Schwartz & Wade), You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan (Little, Brown), Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins (Schwartz & Wade), and Happy Birthday, Bunny! by Liz Garton Scanlon (Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster). My medium is a mix of traditional and digital. I sketch in pencil, make layers of texture and shading with watercolors and watercolor pencils on Dura-Lar (a clear paper), scan all these in and compile and color them digitally in Photoshop.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the past 10 years, but have only been in my current space a little over 6 months. I work out of my apartment, which is convenient, but I end up always working anytime I am home. Because my workspace is also a living space, I tend to do a lot of cleaning and organizing at the end of the day or the beginning of the day.



Describe a typical workday. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I’m a night owl; my studio time starts late and ends late. If it’s a office day job work day, I’ll spend my subway commute doing tiny sketches and brainstorming. I try to do at least 1 small drawing (about 2 inches tall) a day that is just for me and not for a specific project. My studio time will start right after dinner, and depending on deadlines I work about 5 – 6 hours a night, usually until around 1–2 am. thanksgivingCardIf it’s strictly a studio workday, I spend the morning with busy work—emails, scanning drawings, errands, etc. After lunch I start working on my picture books with a break for exercise and dinner. And then it’s back to the drawing table. I’m usually working on multiple books at once, so I’ll alternate between books each day. I’m a big fan of lists so one of the first things I do is consult my calendar. I keep a schedule of all my projects in a program called xPlan. I can break everything down by each book page, check things off as I work, so I know exactly whether I am on track for deadlines, and that I am giving equal time to each project.


Can you tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
I love the very beginning of projects when anything seems possible and everything is exciting. Those first sketches done to figure out what new book characters look like are so much fun to me. Here’s this child or bunny or bear coming to life on paper that I get to spend the next 6 months to a year with.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
Yes, I’m either listening to music or a podcast while I’m working. If I’m doing something that requires more brain power—such as plotting out a book, I prefer classical piano or silence. Drawing and painting things that have already been planned out, I listen to a wider range of music and/or podcasts. My playlist at the moment:  Boards of Canada, Beirut, Philip Glass, Erik Satie, Beach House, Bibio, Nils Frahm, Atlas Sound, Debussy.

What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I’m inspired by my favorite authors and illustrators of my childhood: Arnold Lobel, Ed Emberley, Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, Beverly Cleary…I love to be surrounded by books. I always keep a framed postcard of Ramona Quimby from Beverly Cleary on my wall. Beverly Cleary was my absolute favorite author as a child—I wrote to her when I was six and she actually wrote me back! It’s one of my prized possessions.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Cookies, I really need peanut butter cookies around in order to work. And caffeine; green tea or coffee.

What are the three best things about your studio?
1. My cat Bustopher is always there.
2. Lots of work surfaces (desks and tables)
3. Location, I’m steps away from Prospect Park. It’s a great place to take a break when the weather is nice.

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
A couch. There’s no place to lounge. But I would have to have a bigger space in order for a couch to fit, so maybe what I should really wish for is a bigger space!

What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I love warm, muted fall colors and tend to use them most in my work, but my walls and furniture are mostly all white.  The color in my space comes from the shelves and shelves of books, and random things; a yellow lamp, a turquoise cushion, an orange cat.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
A large table that you can get messy or multiple work surfaces to spread projects out on is helpful. The ALEX Drawer Unit from IKEA is an affordable storage solution for anyone who illustrates. I dedicate a drawer to each book I’m working on. Having your ‘own’ room is ideal, but really any space can become a studio, as long as you have a table, good lighting and a comfortable chair. Invest in good noise canceling headphones if you share your space with others or live in a loud city.


What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My next picture book, Peace is an Offering (Dial/Penguin), written by Annette Le Box, is out March 10th. I’m currently working on 4 picture books, all in various stages at the moment. One of them is the very first picture book that I have written. It will be published by Schwartz & Wade / Random House in 2017. You can visit me on my website, on Instagram, or on Facebook.

Thanks, Stephanie! Your space is reflected in your work—bright, cheerful and heartwarming! Congrats on the new books, especially your debut picture book as an author—how exciting!

Join us in two weeks (taking a week off for my birthday!) when we explore the colorful workspace of multi-faceted author and illustrator Denise Fleming

Chris Sickels’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to share the Indiana garage studio of multi-faceted artist Chris Sickels. I love seeing artists who push the modes of illustration and Chris’s approach is definitely inspiring—he incorporates a multitude of materials, both 2D and 3D, to make his pictures come to life. Chris’s work has appeared in advertising (Nickelodeon, Target, Pepsi, Neiman Marcus, Microsoft), magazines (Forbes, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Wired), books (covers for Tor, Scholastic, Osborne McGraw-Hill), and animation. He has been honored by numerous illustration awards, including his recent Gold award in the Institutional category from the Society of Illustrators for his animations Holding Polluters Accountable PSA. Under the title of his studio—Red Nose Studio, he’s the illustrator of the children’s picture books  The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home, written by Jennifer LaRue Huget’s and Here Comes The Garbage Barge, written by Jonah Winter. When he’s not creating magic in his studio, he’s soaking up inspiration while riding his 1965 Harley-Davidson Pacer.


Chris SickelsTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
At heart I am an Indiana farm boy. I grew up on a small family farm of about 500 acres, raising horses, cattle, swine and various crops. I went off to Cincinnati in the early nineties to study art and it wasn’t until my sophomore year when I discovered illustration. Around that same time the Wallace and Gromit shorts were on the animation fest circuit, Nightmare Before Christmas came out and from there I discovered the work of the Quay Brothers, Jan Švankmajer and further back to Vladislav Starevich. I graduated as a painter and my work eventually evolved into the 3D work I do today, from a process of slowly finding a way to combine my passion for puppet and set fabrication with my love for illustration.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have been in this garage for 13 years. It gets a little smaller every year, but it keeps my work on a manageable scale. If I had a larger space my work would be larger and more unwieldy.

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I take the kids to school in the am and do my best to get as much as I can done before 5-6 pm. But other than that, not really, just beating my head on the table as I draw out ideas and digging around for the right piece of junk to use on any given day.
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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
It’s always something different, and that’s one of the reasons I like using so many creating aspects to what I make. Somedays the drawing is the best, somedays its the mess of painting large backdrops, and somedays it’s the quiet hand sewing that brings me peace.
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You’ve brilliantly mastered combining three dimensional objects and characters with two dimensional drawings and paintings. Do you think illustrating and selling nontraditionally illustrated books is more challenging?
3879-RNS_gondola_FINAL_loresArt making for me has always been a challenge and I think that is what draws me to it. Sometimes my process can intimidate a client, or get in the way of the concept. So I feel that my communication skills have to help a client see that in the end its really just a 2-D painting/image—similar to many other illustrators out there. Illustrated books are another beast, although I think my work can survive in the kids lit world, I am not always sure that I can. For me it has to be a book that I can get 100% behind. Illustrating books is one thing, selling them is a mystery to me.3879-RNS_PolarBear_FINAL_lores

What do you do with all of your characters and props when you’re finished photographing them?
They get ‘filed’. I have shelves for the characters/ puppets and drawers for the props. It’s getting crowded in here…RedNose_Archives copy

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If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
I have always admired the material experimentation of Tim Hawkinson. I think we could both share a messy space.
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What is your greatest source of inspiration as a writer and artist?
Honestly I think it’s when I get out of the studio that gets my gears turning, that seems to be what gets my sketchbook moving.

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
I think an extra arm or two would suffice.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I don’t trust super clean and organized studios. No matter how much I admire them I think I would be stifled in such a space. My advice is to work with what you got and let it evolve as your work evolves.
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Year End Reviews LA Times

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
The Secret Subway is a kids book that I illustrated coming out in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade. There is an animated short called Creosote that I hope to finish up shortly, about a stranded car that leaves its driver scanning the horizon for help. The driver finds a centaur with a drinking problem who offers a unique repair in exchange for a favor.

I also created the award-winning animated PSA, for Holding Polluters Accountable.

Other animation work can be seen on my Vimeo site and my Youtube site. My illustrations can be seen at: and And news and some of my process can be found on my blog and on Twitter.

Thank you, Chris! I love getting a chance to see all of your characters lined up on the shelves. Congratulations on winning the Illustrators Society award for your Polluters PSA—it’s a powerful piece!

Join us next week when illustrator Stephanie Graegin shares with us her cozy Brooklyn studio and some of her adorable illustrations.


Jane Yolen’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, prolific author Jane Yolen invites us into her home to see where she has written over 350 books. Jane received her first book contract on her 22nd birthday and she hasn’t stopped since. Instead, her tenacity for creating a variety of work—picture books, poetry, fantasy, science fiction, non fiction, and historical fiction, has won her numerous awards, and she’s been given six honorary doctorates in literature. Jane currently splits her time between writing from her house in Western Massachusetts, and a lovely home in Scotland, where she lives about three months of the year. She has made her books a family event, co-writing some of her newest releases with her daughter and sons.


Photo by Jason Stemple

Photo by Jason Stemple

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am an author and I always call myself a short form writer—poetry, picture books, short stories, song lyrics. But the other day, about to be on a panel of historical novelists, I counted up the number of novels I have out there (for middle grades, for young adults, for adults) and it was over 60. Gulp!

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My space has changed with my age, the needs of my writing, the woes of my body, and who is living in the house. When my husband and I were first together, we lived in an apartment in New York. We carried a lovely $25 dollar used/antique store oak rolltop up to our second floor apartment and I worked on that. Eventually I outgrew it, though when we moved to the country, after a year living in a VW bus through Europe and the Middle East (it was the 60’s of course!) we carried only two things out of storage to our first house in Massachusetts—the rolltop and our brass bed. I didn’t do any of the carrying, being 8 and a half months pregnant at the time!

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We eventually made a built in-desk with bookcases on both sides in a lovely downstairs room in our third house where I could watch the children playing out the window or later when they walked home from school. That room is now the music room and those bookcases, glassed in, hold first editions of my 350+ books. Jane Yolen3

When my father, ill with Parkinson’s, and moved in with us, plus his round the clock nurses, we redid the attic as a writing space for me and it was there, for the next 20 years, I wrote. We called it the Aerie, it was my eagle’s nest.Jane Yolen1

Now, after back surgery and a laptop, I work (as I recover) on a stuffed chair that folds back and has lumbar support. I have been six months there, but I’m looking forward to graduating. Where will I work next? It doesn’t matter. I carry my head and my ideas wherever I go. I also spend three months every summer in a house in Scotland where I work in a sunny room and carry my teacup out into the garden when the ideas need an airing.

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Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I have an hour of exercises I am just getting back into (after surgery) and then a cup of tea and off I go.

Jane Yolen8Do you listen to music while you work?
I need absolute silence. As I am very musical, even sang for money in college and a bit after, I get caught up in the rhythm of the music and not in the music of my writing.

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Jane’s house in Scotland where she writes part of the year


Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Nope.Though I have a LOT of stuff! Living in the same house for 40 years will do that to you!

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What is your favorite book?
It changes on a weekly basis!  What are am I reading now?  A medieval midwife mystery, and the second book of the WICKED quartet. Also Scottish fairy and folk tales for as project about to go to contract, and stuff about the Lodz Ghetto for a novel I am writing.

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What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space? 
Nature, not indoor colors.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Make it yours and not a space that needs to be cleared away for others every time someone wants to eat or watch tv or chat.

Jane & daughter Heidi

Jane and her daughter Heidi

What would you say is the greatest source of inspiration to you as a writer? 
Being engaged with the world. Addicted to nature. Loving story. Being touched by a lucid and lyrical line. Eavesdropping.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?

Trash MountainI had three novels and a nonfiction (ish) collection come out this past fall:  THE LAST CHANGELING, (2nd book of THE SEELIE WARS trilogy, written with son Adam), PLAGUE OF UNICORNS,  a medieval fantasy, and CENTAUR RISING, a historical fantasy set in the mid 1960s. And NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S ANIMAL STORIES, a volume written with my three (grown) children.

you nest here with meThis spring and fall I have a short animal fantasy out—TRASH MOUNTAIN, and several picture books, including SING A SEASON SONG, HOW DO DINOSAURS STAY SAFE, YOU NEST HERE WITH ME (written with daughter Heidi),  THE STRANDED WHALE, and THE STONE ANGEL (a pictute book about Paris during the Nazi years). You can find out more at

Boy are you busy! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your lovely home with us, Jane. I’m looking forward to your new books, especially STONE ANGEL, which looks like a very interesting story and beautifully illustrated!

Please join us next week when author and illustrator Chris Sickels, mastermind behind Red Nose Studios, invites us into his amazing studio garage.