Kari Couture & Kim Loper’s Studio Tour

We’re in for a special  Tuesday Tours today, because we have not one, but two fabulous artists! Kari Couture and Kim Loper share their studio in the Walker’s Point area of Milwaukee. In addition to being an artist Kari, manages the Milwaukee Public Schools Partnership for the Arts and Humanities program. Kim, a collage artist, also works as an art educator with several non profits throughout the city. Both artists admit that working in the same space seems to influence one another’s work and it also makes for a playful work envioroment. Between the tarot card readings by Kari, the snack shelf full of mustard and pretzels, and Kim blasting Beyonce music, it seems it could be more of a party than a work space. But, this fun vibe ads to their art, giving real meaning to the belief that when you love what you do, it’s never really work.


Kari at workKARI COUTURE
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I moved from Eau Claire to Milwaukee in 2000 to go to school at MIAD where I studied printmaking. When I graduated, I entered the Public Allies program which validated my thoughts about and empowered me to start doing community, youth, and non-profit work. I have met and worked with some really amazing artists and arts organizations in this city that have all played a part in my formation as a socially conscious artist, community arts administrator and arts education advocate. My “day job” is managing the MPS Partnership for the Arts and Humanities and MPS Arts Internship programs, both related to engaging children and youth in out-of-school time arts experiences. In a lot of ways I consider this an art form just like my studio practice!

Kari’s corner

In the studio, I have moved away from printmaking and more toward drawing, collage, mixed media type of work. Since moving into this studio, I am really just getting back into a regular art-making practice so I’m enjoying doing things that are a bit more immediate. I use a variety of drawing materials and I like to layer and play with how they interact with each other both physically and visually.

Yes, you’re right. I think the community work is one of the best kinds of art forms!

by Kari Couture

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
Kim and I moved into this studio in February 2014 and it has been AMAZING. This is my first studio outside of my house. I consider it a great privilege to be able to have this space!  It has encouraged me to make art more regularly and allowed me to work much bigger and much messier than when I was working at home! I also LOVE that I don’t have to finish things in one sitting. At home I have two cats and my studio space didn’t have a door so if I left anything out and unfinished, they would walk on it, lick it, lay on it – you name it! So when I got to just leave my first few studio projects unfinished and lying out at the end of the day, I was so thrilled!!

Tarot Cards

Kari uses a set of tarot cards made by her artist friend Rebecca Schoenecker, which can be found at: http://rebeccaschoenecker.com/tarot.html

It also provides me with a place to just be. Sometimes I come here and just listen to music or relax on the couch or have friends over or read. I’ve also been practicing reading tarot a little and the studio has been a great space for that. My work is a lot about human interaction and relationships and how we navigate through knowing ourselves and each other. Tarot has an interesting way of opening up people’s stories.

That’s so interesting! I’m in the middle of writing a young adult novel that uses tarot as a way of telling stories. I find the cards to be an amazing tool for connection.  

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I’m actually a very social person so I love the buzz of having other people around. The times when I know I can spend all day at the studio are the best. I like to bring food and be around Kim or invite other people to stop in and visit. I love to talk about life or art or about what’s happening related to my work in the community. I really enjoy when others bring projects they are working on and we can just work simultaneously. Or when kids come and visit! This winter my nieces spent an afternoon there with me and we totally destroyed the place and danced—it was fantastic!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
What I listen to varies a lot depending on my mood and what I’m working on. When I know I’m going to be in the studio for several hours at a time, I like to settle in with some podcasts, usually Radio Lab or Savage Love. As far as music goes, I had a lot of friends ask me what I might want for “studio-warming” presents when I moved in and I said make me a music mix or playlist so I have a good variety! Left to my own devices, I’ve mostly been listening to Estelle, Common, Mos Def and Raphael Saadiq.

Kari's grandma's reproduction of 'The Gleaners'

Kari’s grandma’s reproduction of ‘The Gleaners’

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Honestly, I don’t know. I feel like I would have to just say the space itself. It is very empowering to be able to make a mess or not make a mess, to start something new before finishing something old, to hang stuff and take stuff down, to play loud music or just be quiet, to really push myself or give myself a break, to gather people or to just be alone – all these options really allow me to create exactly the kind of atmosphere I need in the moment.

Studio pets

Studio pets

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
We are snack-aholics! Seriously, I think the mini-fridge and the “snack shelf” where probably the first areas of the studio to get truly established. There are a lot of pretzels and mustards, nuts, anything spicy and always a little candy. Ginger beer and coconut LaCroix are staples.

What are the three best things about your studio?

Kari's desk

Kari’s desk

I love the big window! The southern sunlight is really nice, we’ve got a bunch of very happy plants and we have a great view of the Allen Bradley clock tower.

The location! We are right near the train tracks and I love to hear trains going by. At night I like to watch the Amtrak because if passengers have their lights on you can see in and it feels like you’re watching a movie (I hope that doesn’t sound creepy!). I also like that we’re within walking distance to an art supply store, coffee shops, frozen yogurt, great Indian food, some nice bars, and the lake—everything you could need.

The building. There are a lot of really cool artists in this building! Between my dear friends Val Tatera, Eric Koester and Mary Osmundsen down the hall, the musicians next to us, the Alphabang Collective, a photographer, woodworkers in the basement, Live Artist Studio upstairs and Continuum Architects (who I rarely see in the building but I have seen them out at meetings around the community), its just a really diverse and creative place to be.

It sounds like a very cool place to work!

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I think we could use better lighting, maybe a new table that isn’t so wobbly and a good stereo to bump our music on! But mostly any “extra” funds I might come across I would probably put into supplies!

Robes of Gold by Kari

Robes of Gold by Kari

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I am definitely going through a gold phase right now, well, I guess I have been for a couple of years. I can’t even think of a piece that I’ve made recently that doesn’t have gold or a golden yellow color in it. I just like its warmth and its reference to things that are sacred.

The main wall on my side was blue when we moved in and I really wanted to paint it red, but we spent a whole day priming it, going up and down this HUGE ladder and after that, we decided to just leave it white!

Kari's altar shelf also featuring work by Rebecca Schoenecker and Della Wells

Kari’s altar shelf also featuring work by Rebecca Schoenecker and Della Wells

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Do it!! Whether it is a corner of a room or a whole room in your house or a separate studio space—do it! Give yourself space where you can focus and be away from everything else. A place where you can make a mess and be free.

Kari just messin’ around with marigold seeds

What are you working on now and where can we find out more?
I will have a piece in an upcoming show on November organized by the great Jeff Redmon! Along the lines of the recent Culture Jam MKE show, Easily Discarded will be a show of work that challenges dominant notions of the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. One night only: Saturday November 22nd, 2014 from 7:00pm until 11:00pm at 228 S. 1st St, Milwaukee, WI.

I don’t have a website! Maybe that’s what I should spend my “couple hundred dollars” on!!

Thanks, Kari! Good luck with your upcoming show!

Kari and Kim

Kim Loper and Kari Couture

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I’m a youth worker and art instructor with several non profits in the city.I work with cheap materials that are easy to get ahold of—magazine and paper collage on large wood surfaces. There’s a very fine line between my work and my play, I learn things from my teaching practice that influence my personal fine art practice, and conversely, learn things from my fine art practices that influence my teaching.

Kim's corner

Kim’s corner

I’m a painter by trade and currently call myself a collage artist. And actually, the move from paint to collage happened accidentally. When I came back to Milwaukee after college, I didn’t have any space to paint in, so I literally just substituted magazine paper for paint. I map out my images on a wooden board, and fill in those parts, like a paint by numbers, with color coded swatches of paper. Currently I’m really interested in people, human anatomy and biological configurations and I explore this by cutting strips of paper and reassembling them to create muscular structures.IMG_6907

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
This studio came to me at the most perfect time, when I needed a space of my own to unload some emotional messes I was going through. It was new and sort of served as my creative fairy godmother. Consoling me, nudging me to go deeper into my practice, letting me know everything was going to be ok, giving me confidence and courage. The studio saved me. The work that I produced during this time was survivalist and is some of my most prominent and proud work to date.

What a great metaphor—I love the idea of a studio being a creative fairy godmother!

Kim's corner close up

Kim’s corner close up

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Most fun? I think it was when I first got the studio and was cranking out work that totally impressed me. For like the first time ever. That’s fun. Oh, and also, parties with Kari! She has the best food, best tunes, and best tarot card sessions.IMG_6904

Yeah, that sounds like fun!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
My work is really meticulous—cutting swatches/strips of color from magazines and working large scale on wooden boards often over 4×4 ft, so I listen to a lot of podcasts to pass the time. Lots of Savage Love, TED talks, Planet Money, The Read, This American Life. And when I really get serious is when the music comes out. Currently: the new Flying Lotus Album—You’re Dead and Kelis’s most recent album—Food; both have been playing exhaustively on repeat. Also, lots of SBTRKT, Kendrick Lamar, The Internet, etc.. and Beyonce. Always Beyonce. Always.

IMG_6910What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Glue. Nothing would happen without the glue.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Kari has become recently obsessed with mustard and pretzels and so I always eat all of her food. We have a snack shelf that we try and keep stocked with delicious treats. What’s on there now…. Old popcorn, pretzels (what’d I tell you!), candy, sriracha cashews, chili lime pistachios… We eat pretty good in here. We’re also a big fan of whiskey gingers and wine ‘round these parts.

Kim books

What are the three best things about your studio?
Our beautiful plants (mine’s dying, but lets not talk about that).
The amazing nap couch that will swallow whole you in one bite. With no remorse.
My studio mates advice.

IMG_6905If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Probably a bear skin rug (faux bear of course, Kari’s a vegetarian so I’m not too sure she’d be thrilled if I brought back dead animal skin).  Really, something to cover the floors because it feels a bit bare at times, especially when it’s cold.

Better shelving or organizational structures for my materials. I have lots of paper clippings and other small items that could use some discipline.

And actually, I’d buy as much glitter as I could afford. How much glitter do you think I could get for a couple hundred dollars? Enough to change my life I bet.

DSC_0401What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I’ve been working with bright colors—black, teal, peach/pink, red, and gold. Lots of flowers and patterns in my work. It’s pretty bubble gummy right now. Very playful and light.

Kari’s side has a different feel, with different colors and is reflective of the type of work she does. I guess one common strain in both of our work, is our use of profiled, bald figures. Subtly, I think I’m definitely influenced by having her work up. We both kind of explore human relationships and interactions but use totally different color palettes. There is a lot of gold in our studio though, throughout. It’s mysterious and magical in here.

IMG_6912What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Don’t get the internet. Create a space that have your studio be a mystical space that doesn’t look like anything else you’re forced to deal with in the outside world. Allow yourself to sit in it for hours, sans actual work. Make sure the nap conditions are optimal. Have other smart creative people in it often to talk about art and gossip. Oh, and probably get some books. Make it safe so you can play and explore as freely as possible.

Great advice! Especially about the napping conditions and the lack of internet. 

Kim's piece 3

Where can we find out more?

Thanks, Kim for sharing your space!

Join us next Tuesday when Caldecott Honor-winning artist Molly Idle will share her lovely studio in Arizona!


Highlights from SCBWI Wisconsin Fall Conference


I just returned from the fall conference. This was my second year attending and it was amazing! I was so much in the moment that I didn’t take a single photo, which I’m definitely regretting now, but luckily I’m able to share a few that were taken by the SCBWI publicity coordinator Sandy Brehl. Here are my highlights—

cafebeneluxHaving lunch with Kekla Magoon and David LaRochelle at Benelux in Milwaukee before heading to the conference.

Seeing all the friends I met last year, including my fabulous roommate Amy Ward, and staying up way too late drinking wine and talking. I think we fell asleep mid sentence :)

Meeting many new friends. It’s so refreshing being immersed in a group of people who care as much about children’s books and art as I do.

Being dazzled by Andrea Tompa’s presentation, The Making of Ghetto Cowboy: An Inside Look at the Editorial Process. I learned so much about how she edits a book, which I know will advise my own revision process.

Faculty SCBWI Fall conference 2014

Faculty SCBWI Fall conference 2014: Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Martha Rago, Andrea Tompa, Kekla Magoon, David LaRochelle, Sharyn November (image courtesy of SCBWI-WI)

Capturing an abundance of quotes from Kekla Magoon’s presentation, Evasion of Privacy: A Series of Personal Questions. My favorite quote, which Kekla used but didn’t know where it came from was Authors are very private people who run around naked in public.

Playing for prizes, while learning about successful school visits at Christine Esser’s breakout session Cracking the School Visit Code.

SCBWI Sucsess table

SCBWI-WI Sucsess table featuring books published by members (photo courtesy of SCBWI-WI)

Talking hairstyles, books, art, and getting feedback on my YA manuscript with Sharyn November.

Hanging out with Martha Rago and Amy Ward in our suite enjoying a glass of wine, while discussing portfolios, children’s books, Italy, and children.

Attending the Diversity Meeting and discussing how we can make our SCBWI chapter more inviting and inclusive to all writers and illustrators.

Winning an honorable mention for my cover illustration of A Heap of Hexagons, written by Patricia Lessie during the SCBWI-WI Illustrators Challenge. I’ll receive half off of my conference next year!skyberg-heap-of-hex-web



Yuyi Morales’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to feature one of my favorite illustrators Yuyi Morales.  Yuyi is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books and has won the ALA’s Pura Belpré Gold award four separate times—the most times this award has ever been given to one artist. It’s exciting to see her winning awards for her work, which is filled with dream-like scenery, lovable characters, and sometimes, multimedia approaches. For her newest book Viva Frida, Yuyi created three dimensional characters and sets. She sculpted the figures, sewed their clothes, and even welded together props. Her husband, photographer Tim O’Meara photographed the scenes. This approach was used by Yuyi once before in My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston. I’m a huge fan of artists who go beyond the traditional modes of illustration, experimenting with cutting edge ways to bring stories to children through art. My family’s all-time favorite book illustrated by Yuyi is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng. My daughters ask for this book again and again and they’re captivated (as am I) by Yuyi’s ethereal illustrations that offer us a small entrance into the magical unknown.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I make children’s books. I dream them, write them, illustrate them, and love them. My most common medium for creating my illustrations is acrylics on paper, but I am very experimental. My latest book I created with 3-D illustrations utilizing puppets and figures.

I love how you experiment with art, and even when you create something with very different mediums, I can always tell it’s your work. 

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My current studio is pretty new to me, although it is a very old construction. It is in the city of Xalapa, Mexico, where I was born. I remodeled what is called in spanish as a casa antigua, or an antique house. It was in chambers. But now it is my favorite place in the world. I just began working in this space in February. ventana_rain

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Breakfast at my desk is how I start my work. I check emails and do most of my communication at this time. Then there is always african dance class, either in the morning or in the evening. The dance studio is only a few blocks away from my place, so I am quickly back at work after a shower. Most of my administrative work is done  during the first part of the day, I take several short breaks, mostly for meals. I go to the market just down the block and bring fresh produces for the day. I usually eat at my desk so that I can keep creating at any time. My studio is by the street and I have a large window where many visitors, sellers, and neighbors stop-by. The rest of the day I create, I draw, I paint, and do a lot of daydreaming until the evening. I might run errands, or see friends, or walk my dogs, but I usually go back to work for a few more hours until it is time to go to bed, never before midnight and almost always past that hour.

I’m a night owl as well, which isn’t always so easy when my daughters wake me up at six in the morning!


Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Since this studio space is new to me, I have had only a short experience working here, but I am in love with what happens at this place. Construction work is still happening these days, and I often sit work with the street-doors open so that material and workers can come in and out (my dogs tide to my side). During several afternoons, while I am distracted working, I realize that people have come inside my studio. They are usually staring at the books on the wall, holding them open, or looking around trying to figure out what this place is. It is my dogs who  alert me of a visitor. Mothers with children, old men, teenagers, kids coming from school, and all sorts of people are there when I lift my eyes from my work. What is this place? They always want to know. Is this a restaurant? Is it a cultural center? How much are the books? Do I have books about electricity work? Do I have puppies to sell? You name it! The questions are wonderful, I always make new friends, some of them come back next time.

'Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased' written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

‘Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased’ written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

That must offer you some great inspiration for future stories!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
Music is the beat of my work. The first thing I do when I get up from bed is to come to my computer to start the music. In my playlist right now is the Cuban musician Silvio Rodrigues, Alt-J with their album an Awesome Wave, The Colombian group Bomba Estereo, the local Son Jarocho group Ensamble Marinero, LCD Soundystem, Natalia LaFourcade, the California group Quetzal, and also my son with his creations at Wax Poetic.



What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My original source of inspiration was my son. He was just a little baby when I began dreaming of making books. He was my model, my audience, and my whole inspiration. I had a great desire to pass onto him all the stories I had brought with me when we immigrated to the USA. Nowadays, now a young man studying in NY, he is still my inspiration, but I am also very inspired by celebrations. And so I set up to start my day as if everyday is a fiesta. I celebrate the view from my bedroom window that looks at the rise of the sun, the lush wildness of my garden, the frolicking of my dogs as we start the day, the children who stop at the window to pet my dog Mojo, the sunlight coming trough the skylights in my studio, most days we celebrate the rain too. And surrounded by all this light and all these colors, I set to create.

estudioIs there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Oh, yes, I live off yogurt, pineapple, and peanuts. There is also a man who comes to my window and sells me fresh cheese. At the organic store around the corner they sell me tangy arugula which I ate by the bunch. These day we are in prickle-pear season, so I eat it while I work, sprinkled with chile powder and lemon.

What are the three best things about your studio?
The window to the street where a lot of my daily social life happens, the stone walls that make me feel like I am inside a castle, and the high ceiling with its giant wood beans and the skylights that let both the light and the rain drizzle in.library

Yuyi--use this image for ladder
‘Ladder to the Moon’ written by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
A place and equipment to do fire. An oven, or a melting station. Until now, both here in Mexico and before in California, I have had my studio inside my home, simply occupying the living room and making it my working space; as you can imagine that creates limits of what I can actually do in those spaces. But what I want is to have a space where I can do all kinds of rough and messy work, and perhaps even bake ceramic or melt metal. I also want it to be a place where other people can come and join me to create. That is why I am in the process of building a new room in my backyard where I will be doing all kinds messy work.

I’ve also found that working out of a home can create limitations, but I love your plan for an outdoor space! If I lived in a warmer climate, I might give it a shot.closet

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?My favorite color is Mexican, hot pink, and yes, I incorporate it in my space as well as in almost anything I do.sirena

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
The very first studio I had was in my apartment in San Francisco where I lived with my husband and our son. For a long time my working space was the dining table, which needed to be cleaned and used in so many different ways during the day. I would put away my materials when we would eat and then when we were done I would bring them out again. Later, we moved to an slightly bigger apartment and my husband helped me to condition an small closet space with a drawing table and a stool. My first book, Harvesting Hope, was created in that tiny space. What I have learned from going from minimal working places to having the studio of my dreams is that what really maters is how I feel inhabiting such a space. And so, I would tell any one who wants to make a personal space where they can be creative, is to make sure that it is a functional space, but also an inspiring one. Have all what you need to create physically, your furniture, your tools, but also have the colors or even things that simply make you smile when you are in their presence. Creativity is already a place that we inhabit. No matter how tiny or limited it might be, make sure that such a place is the most amazing place in the world for you.

Great advice! Inspiration is a huge factor in creation, and having a space reflect that makes a tremendous difference.


Yuyi’s husband, photographer Tim O’Meara shoots a scene from Yuyi’s newest book ‘Viva Frida’.


What are you working on now and where can we find out more about you?
My latest book is Viva Frida, a picture book I illustrated with puppets, paintings, photographic work from my husband, and digital work. I would call it an ode to Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, because this is a book I created in admiration of her creativity and work. Right now at my table there are sketches for a book written by one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexi. This is Sherman’s first picture book and I have the honor to create the illustrations for this story. You can find out more about me on my website.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring space with us, Yuyi! And best of luck with your upcoming book!

Sneak peak: Shimmerling

Shimmerling-Skybebrg-Cover-yellowA magical creature is born from a feather that’s been sowed into the soil. As it grows, it discovers that it has characteristics of both a bird and a tree. The mighty oaks, only tall enough to see the creature’s trunk, believe it’s a tree and that it should stay grounded. The birds above, only able to see the creature’s mass of sparkling feathers, believe it’s a bird and urge it to take flight. The creature struggles between the two worlds until it sees itself as it really is—a new kind of being, a Shimmerling.

‘The Making of Shimmerling’ is a behind the scenes look at how, with funding from Arts@Large, I collaborated with students in two Milwaukee Public Schools—West Side Academy and Bethune Academy to create the illustrations for my newest book the Shimmerling. The main character is a wearable sculpture adorned with over 300 metal engraved feathers created by the children.

Jesse Klausmeier’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we are joined by Jesse Klausmeier the author of Open This Little Book2013 Boston Globe-Horn Picture Book winner. Jesse, believe it or not, wrote the first draft of her award-winning picture book when she was only five years old! This weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival, Jesse is a featured speaker, kicking off the event on Friday night with a presentation of her book followed by a book signing. She’ll also be presenting throughout the weekend and closing the three-day event with a writing workshop for adults and teens on Sunday afternoon. If you’re near Sheboygan, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hi, Andrea! I’m thrilled to be featured on your blog and share my creative space with you and your readers. I’m the author of the picture book, Open This Little Book illustrated by Suzy Lee. I used to work at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio and after that I was an assistant editor at Penguin Books for Young Readers. I have always loved to read and write, sing and dance, and host and attend costume parties.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve had this space for past two years, ever since I moved from NYC back to Madison, WI where I grew up. My writing area is generally organized and pretty sparse. If my workspace is cluttered, my head is cluttered. I do a lot of thinking about my stories while I clean, organize, and file.

It’s that way for me as well—an organized space equals an organized mind :)


Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I stock my space with water and snacks (usually nuts, fruits, and veggies – ok and jerky. I love jerky) so that I can hunker down for a while and focus. Right before I start writing, I do some light stretching (arms, neck, back) and set my intention for that session.

CoverDo you listen to music while you work? 
I can’t listen to music when I write because I’ll either start singing along, or I’ll want to dance. I do, however, love the sound of rain while I write. It sets a cozy, snuggly scene that helps me focus. I use http://www.rainymood.com, which is awesome and free. Yay free!

That’s a great sound to work to. Thanks for the link!

When you write, do you type your ideas out on the computer, start on paper, or storyboard/map out your text? Walk us through your process.

It depends on the project and where I am when I get an idea. I keep a small notebook with me pretty much all the time now, which is much more sanitary and less smelly than my prior method of writing on napkins. I’ll write down initial thoughts in the notebook and then let the story simmer in my head for a while before writing a first draft on the computer. For manuscripts that use unique formatting, like Open This Little Book, I use color-coded text to track what’s happening on each page of each spread.



Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have my original version of Open This Little Book that my grandmother made for me when I was five-years-old. I had this grand idea for a book about books and I just started writing and drawing in the book she mocked-up. I didn’t worry about making mistakes, if it was good enough, or if anyone else would ever see it. As an adult, I’m constantly trying to shed the need for external validation and find that magical child-like sense of creating just for the sake of making something in that moment. Lynda Barry’s book, Picture This is one I come back to again and again when I need this reminder.

What is your favorite book?
GAH! This is an impossible question, Andrea! One book from my childhood that shaped me into the person I am today is Eve Bunting’s Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust. It should be required reading for every human being.OfficeMedium

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Beth Kephart’s Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir. This book is an immense gift in my life right now and I can’t recommend it enough.

NeverAlonePrintWhat colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space? I’m not an artist, so I’m probably butchering the term (is it even a term?), but dusky colors have always inspired me. They’re soothing and hold a bit of magic. It isn’t until the sun goes down that we can see the stars, even though they’ve been out all day long. These colors hold the promise of secrets about to be revealed, and that’s how I feel when I’m creating. There is a print in my office that perfectly captures this magical quality called, Never Alone by Christy Andres.

I love that description and comparison of dusk and writing! What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
First and foremost, invest in a comfortable chair. Next, pay attention to what’s in your line of sight. Get the bills, paperwork, and that pile of stuff you need to go through far, far away (preferably in another room). If you don’t, it’ll stare you down, demand attention, and suck out all of your creative juices. Third, surround yourself with items that inspire you on an emotional level. I have loved the works of Beatrix Potter ever since I was a young child. Having some of my Potter figurines on my desk takes me back to that enchanting world where anything could happen.BeatrixPotterandJaneyCoverArt

What would you say is the greatest source of inspiration to you as a writer?
My greatest source of inspiration (and I know this could sound saccharine) is children. Their joy and optimism, their (sometimes brutal) honesty, their resilience and capacity to evolve is completely inspiring. I feel most inspired when crafting a story that centers around a topic or character that resonates with me on a deeply emotional level. In these moments, my goal is to create a book that certain kids will feel was made specifically for them. Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle is a picture book that accomplishes this beautifully. FanMail


What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I’m working on a couple new picture book projects that I’m super excited about and a memoir about my struggle with endometriosis. Hopefully I’ll be able to share news about them soon! You can find out more about me at my website or on Twitter @JesseKlausmeier.

Thank you, Jesse! I’m excited to hear your presentation this weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival!

Join us next Tuesday when we get a look inside the studio of Yuyi Morales, who just released her beautiful new book Viva Frida!

Mary Sullivan’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we’re fortunate to get a tour of award-winning illustrator Mary Sullivan lovely Texas home and studio. Mary’s book BALL was a 2014 ALA Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book and has also landed on the Notable Children’s Books list. BALL is such a fun book, it’s impossible not to smile while thumbing through the pages. And after seeing the fun things that surround Mary as she works in her studio, it’s no wonder the book is so light and energetic—it’s reflective of the beautiful space where Mary creates her work. In addition to Mary’s children’s book illustrations, she has worked with Highlights for Children, Scholastic, Innovative Kids, School Zone, Oxford Press UK, Pearson, and many more. skyberg-tuesday-tours-logome
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

This is a job Mary did for Highlight's High Five Magazine.

This is a job Mary did for Highlight’s High Five Magazine.

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. While I raised my two kids I made a little money here and there doing random illustration jobs for logos, T-shirts, brochures and stuff like that. When the kids were grown and my life was less chaotic, I decided to hone in on children’s illustration and in about 2002 I got my first job was with Highlights Magazine.
Since then, I’ve done tons of educationaI illustration, several PB’s and finally published my own book BALL in 2012.  It won the 2014 Geisel Honor. I begin most jobs in pencil on Strathmore drawing paper.  I color digitally in Photoshop.

Welcome to my studio

The entrance to Mary’s studio/home.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have been in this space since 2000. I knew right away that it was going to be special.  I went on a creative binge immediately after moving in. I am sensitive to light and sound. Lights must be low and sound must be almost nonexistent. My home/studio has that and more. My studio is not one room. It is spread out into the whole of a tiny house.

Where Mary has her morning coffee.

Where Mary has her morning coffee.

I flow throughout the spaces that surround me, indoors and outdoors. Each space plays a crucial role in nurturing my creative mind. The pics I’m sharing are not of trinkets and what-nots or books or special toys. They are big things. Things that I can put body into. A cozy chair, a sauna, a soaking tub, an outdoor shower. These are the things that I absolutely must have. The things that get me to that place in my mind where I can let go. The place in my mind where creativity happens.

What a great way of talking about your space! It really is in the entire space that the work is created. The small things add comfort and inspiration, but the spaces we can, as you said, put body in, are highly influential to the creative spirit. desk

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I took a bunch of giant newsprint and charcoal. I put on some Rammestien (totally opposite to what I normally listen to) and made a huge charcoal mess. It really helped me unclog. I think i should do that again!

Yes! Freestyle art hour—a great way to get unstuck :)

Mary's favorite place to sit and draw.

Mary’s favorite place to sit and draw.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
I listen to Brian Eno Radio on Pandora or some Mantra music pretty much all the time.  Towards the end of the day, after work, I might switch to something more upbeat. But while I work, I really have to have quiet music.  Some days I just can’t listen to anything.  My thoughts can get really quiet. They almost whisper and any sound is is distracting.


Who are some illustrators that have influenced your work?
As a child, I was completely enchanted by the illustrations of Arthur Rackham. Also, Norman Rockwell and Denise Holly Ulinskas had a huge influence on me.  

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Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
For drink, I start my day with a small cup of coffee with cream, then I move on to Earl Grey tea, which is my most fave drink.  Fave food is definitely curry tofu and toasted nori seaweed. And no, i am not a vegetarian.  :-)

Mary's very own unsafe playground equipment! She LOVES this piece from the trash at a daycare. She says, "Just having it around makes me feel happy. And anything that makes me smile, helps me create.

Mary’s very own unsafe playground equipment! She LOVES this piece that she rescued from the trash at a daycare. She says, “Just having it around makes me feel happy. And anything that makes me smile, helps me create.”

What are the three best things about your studio?
My space has two doors that are opposite each other.  I love opening them both and letting the breeze blow through. I love having my animals around me when I work. I have easy access to the outdoors….which is my main source of inspiration.

Mary's outdoor shower--sometimes a quick rinse outside is all she needs to reenergize.

Mary’s outdoor shower–sometimes a quick rinse outside is all she needs to reenergize.

When she needs to solve problems she takes a soak in her tub.

When she needs to solve problems she takes a soak in her tub.










This is where stories happen. At 140 degrees they just back out of Mary's brain.

This is where stories happen. At 140 degrees they just bake out of Mary’s brain.

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?Right now, I have everything I need!  But that may change tomorrow.  :-)

She's currently working on a book of spaceships.

She’s currently working on a book of spaceships.

What colors inspire your creativity.  Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I do love Yellows, Oranges, Pinks and Greens. I do not care for blues.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My space sort of formed itself around me.  I didn’t really plan any of it.

A page from Mary's book BALL!

A page from Mary’s book BALL!

I love when that happens! And especially when it happens so beautifully. 


Sketches from Mary's book about Frankie.

Sketches from Mary’s book about Frankie.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My next book FOOD (a sorta sequel to BALL) will be out in Spring 2016.  I have another book called Frankie that I have “almost” sold that I’m really excited about.  And, I may be doing one more one-word book titled TOY, similar to BALL and FOOD.  But that will be the last of the one word books I think. You can find me at http://www.marysullivan.com.

Thanks, Mary! I look forward to seeing your upcoming books. Frankie looks so lovable!



Book an author visit!

I’m currently booking for the 2014/2015 school year. If you’re interested in having me visit your school, please contact me 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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