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, Microsof), 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.
RedNose_MiniBooks copy

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.
RedNose_HeadStorage copy

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

RedNose_Drawers copy


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.
Winter Lovers

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.
RedNose_Tools copy

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.


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

If you’re interested in having me visit your school, please contact me to schedule a program. Booking for Spring & Fall 2015.

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

Author visit_Andrea Skyberg

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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!

Jane Yolen

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.


Katie Davis’s Studio Tour

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Today we have a bit of a twist on Tuesday Tours with featured author and illustrator Katie Davis. Instead of our usual format, Katie is going to share her studio with us by video. This style of communicating is nothing new for Katie—she offers a number of video tips on her website and even created a program for newbie videographers to discover the tricks of the trade. Katie has written and/or illustrated 11 books for children. She also helps other authors and illustrators discover ways to better promote their books through her eBook How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller, as well as producing and hosting the podcast Brain Burps About Books. If you’re someone who’s interested in learning some strategies to market your book, Katie’s graciously offering a free marketing checklist. To access the checklist, click on the link at the bottom of the post.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Thank you, Katie for sharing your creative environment with us, and for offering your marketing expertise via your marketing checklist and worksheet! Having a video tour was a fun change of pace!

Please join us next week when prolific writer Jane Yolen shares the inspiring places she creates her award-winning books.

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Special offer from Katie:

Click here to get Katie’s 21 Ways to Market and Promote Your Book Checklist & Worksheet Kit FREE.


New videos from Stories Shared exhibit with Faith Ringgold

Last spring I was lucky enough to have a joint exhibition with the legendary artist and author Faith Ringgold at the Arts@Large gallery featuring artwork from my newest picture book Shimmerling, which was created in collaboration with two Milwaukee schools. Meeting Faith and exhibiting artwork right alongside her in Stories Shared was certainly a highlight in my career. I’ve been an admirer of Faith’s work ever since undergrad (even before my picture book career), so this exhibit was an extraordinary experience for me.

Faith & gang at La Merenda

I just got word that some of the interviews Faith did while she was here will be airing on Milwaukee Public Television this Thursday (January 15) at 6:30pm. I also received a link to an interview that Faith did with Black Nouveau, which I’ve also inserted below. My artwork is in the background during some of the interview. I love what Faith says during the interview about peace only being achieved when women from all over the world and of all races are in positions of power, both politically and in religious organizations.

Black Nouveau featuring Faith Ringgold
* Faith is covered from 13:15 to 19:04 on the link below


Nina Laden’s Studio Tour

After a brief holiday hiatus we’re back in full swing with not one, but two studio tours today on Tuesday Tours! Award-winning author and illustrator Nina Laden has created a number of successful picture books, some of which have been translated into many languages and are available in various countries around the world.

Nina Laden12Most of Nina’s books have been created in her city studio in Seattle, but recently her imagination has gotten so big, she’s expanded her creativity into a second studio in her small cottage on Lummi island in Washington State. I think this smart lady has given herself the best of both worlds—a dynamic studio, which is inspired by the surrounding city life, and a contemplative studio, which soaks up the natural environment.

Nina Laden16Nina’s books are a lot like her environments—at times feisty and eccentric like The Night I Followed the Dog, and at time quiet and contemplative like Once Upon a Memory (which, by the way, is one of my family’s favorite books, and one in which I almost always end up wiping a tear away by the final page).


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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a writer and an illustrator, but I really consider myself an artist, or just a “human being creative.” I work in as many mediums as possible, except I don’t do digital art. I have wanted to make children’s books since I was two years old.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
Right now I have two studios. I’ve had my little studio-shack in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, behind my city home for over 17 years now. It is nice to have a separate space to do art. I can write anywhere, though. My city studio is a sweet place, but it doesn’t have plumbing, so I have to walk to the house every time I need to change my paint water. This can be a pain in the wind and the rain.

City studio in Seattle

Twelve and half years ago we bought a small cottage on Lummi island in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. In 2012 we finished a huge studio/garage building and I’ve been gradually moving into the space there, which has a working sink! Eventually I will have two complete studios. I know this is a wild dream come true. I’ve worked very hard, and I’m still working hard to make it happen.

Lummi island studio

Lummi island studio

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Coffee. Very strong coffee. This is my daily morning ritual. Checking in with my social network and email happens in the morning, too. Here is the real truth: I don’t have a typical work day. I am not a slave to any schedule, but I honor my deadlines. I switch hats between writing and illustrating, so my days depend on what I need to focus on. When I am on a book illustration deadline, I have to warm up my city studio. The propane stove takes sometimes an hour to get things toasty. I drink coffee and read the newspaper (yes, a real paper, not a digital one) while my studio is warming up.

City studio in Seattle

Like cooking, before I create, I set my “mise en place,” I gather the tools I need and get everything lined up, turn on the music and start working… and hope that I won’t get interrupted.

Lummi island studio

Lummi island studio

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Isn’t “fun working” an oxymoron? Just kidding. I don’t really think of what I do as “work.” It is just who I am. When I did the very complicated collage and painted illustrations for my book, Roberto The Insect Architect I was totally absorbed in the process.Nina Laden17 Each spread took over a week to do, and at night my dreams were made of little pieces of collage material. I guess that was fun, or was it torture? You have to enjoy the journey no matter how hard.

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
Music is a big part of my life. I’ve played guitar since I was 8 years old. I write songs. I also play ukulele. I still have my old turntable and play both vinyl and discs in my city studio. My taste in music is very eclectic, but I’m partial to the blues. I play a lot of blues, world music, and a lot of indy/alternative stuff.

City studio in Seattle

City studio in Seattle

What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
It’s hard to say what my greatest source of inspiration is. The short answer is: my imagination. But my imagination was sparked by my mother. She was a fine artist and an art teacher. She died 29 years ago and never lived to see me get published. I call her my Avant-Guardian Angel, though and I think she watches over me. Years ago I did a painting of her and me from memory in oil paint on paper, and wrote something she told me. It hangs in my city studio.Nina Laden10

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
I don’t eat or drink while I work, in fact I forget to eat and drink. Then my husband interrupts me and makes me go back into the house to eat so I won’t get “hangry” (hungry and angry for those who don’t know).

Lummi island studio

Lummi island studio

What are the three best things about your studio?
City Studio: 1. It is cozy and funky. 2. It has a dream loft. 3. It has great built-in work areas with long surfaces and very cool drawers.

City studio in Seattle

City studio in Seattle

Island Studio: 1. It is palatial. 2. The view doesn’t suck. 3. It has a work sink!

Lummi island studio

Lummi island studio

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?Right now I am shopping for a huge new drafting/drawing table for the island studio. I love my old Boeing Engineer’s table in the city studio (I found it at a yard sale for $40). As I’ve gotten older, I also need to get magnifying swing-arm lamps. I miss my visual acuity.

City Studio in Seattle

City Studio in Seattle

What colors inspire your creativity.  Are those colors incorporated in your space?This may sound bizarre, but colors don’t inspire my creativity. I want a neutral background, like a blank sheet of paper. The things I create, the things I collect, the art supplies themselves are what brings life to my space, and allows me an environment to bring my visions from my head to my hand to the surface I am working on.

Lummi island studio

Lummi island studio

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I can honestly say that it doesn’t matter where you create, as long as you do create. I’ve worked in a corner in a bedroom, I’ve worked on a portable drawing board in a hotel room. I feel that wherever I go, my journal goes, and it is like a tiny studio in a leather cover. For a studio to be a studio it needs a chair, a table, a lamp, and a person with an imagination who wants to turn nothing into something. A studio is a place in your mind where art is born.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
In the last year, I had two board books, Peek-a Zoo! and Daddy Wrong Legs both publish with Chronicle Books. In 2015, a picture book that I wrote, Are We There Yet? will publish from Chronicle Books, and Peek-a Boo!, the third book in my board book series that started with Peek-a Who? will come out. I have a picture book, If I Had A Little Dream, that Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster is publishing—I will not be illustrating that one. I am working on a stack of picture books that I’ve written, and now need to do sketches and sample illustrations so my agent can submit them. I have a middle grade novel that I’m working on, and a completed adult novel that I have not sold yet. My website is: My blog is:

Wow! You’re busy! Thanks so much, Nina, for sharing your studios with us today and best of luck on your upcoming projects!


David LaRochelle’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m happy to share David LaRochelle’s studio in White Bear Lake Minnesota. I met David at this past year’s SCBWI Wisconsin annual conference. David was on faculty at the conference and he was a big hit the first night with his funny presentation about his work as a children’s book illustrator and author. David has written or illustrated thirty books, including picture books, puzzle books, craft books, and a very well-received young adult novel Absolutely Positively Not.  His books have won numerous awards, including the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Award, and the Minnesota Book Award.


DavidTell us a little bit about yourself.
For four years I was an elementary school teacher, but for the past twenty-five years I’ve been working as a children’s author and illustrator. My recent titles include How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans and Moo! At the start of my career I was doing more work as an illustrator. Watercolors were my main medium, with a lot of black and white line work. My very first book was illustrated with linoleum block prints. In recent years, I’ve been working mostly as a writer, although last year I released my first book as both author and illustrator–Arlo’s Art-rageous Adventure.

David LaRochelle

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I just moved this past year so my workspace is relatively new. In fact, agreeing to this interview was good motivation to finish getting things on my studio walls!
The first several books I illustrated were done at a kitchen table in a very small apartment. For the next twenty years I had a small alcove where I crammed my writing desk anddrawing table, with my computer in my bedroom and art supplies overflowing into the hallway. Now, in my new townhome, I have an entire room as well as a loft area devoted to my workspace. I have a built in window seat with storage areas, shelves where I keep sketchbooks and drafts of stories organized in folders, and cabinets with wide flat drawers to store large sheets of paper and drawing tablets. All of this space feels like a luxury…and I love it!

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I am by no means a handyman, but this summer I lined two of my studio walls with cork, something I’ve always wanted. This allows me to pin up sketches while working on a book. Being able to come back to these sketches over and over throughout the day is very helpful with my thinking process as my ideas need a long time to simmer. The cork wall also lets me display postcards, photos, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, anything that reminds me of a happy memory.David LaRochelle14
In my living room I have several large bookcases where I keep my collection of children’s books. I often sit there and write. Having easy access to my favorite authors and illustrators is both inspirational and motivational. Before I moved, all my books were in towering stacks on my bed’s headboard. Trying to access any book was like playing a game of Jenga!David LaRochelle3

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
If I’m not visiting a school to give an author visit, I usually start the day by swimming at the YMCA. When I get home, having a can of Pepsi and a cookie is my reward for sitting down to work (I suppose this is counterproductive to going to the Y!). Staying away from the Internet is imperative. Once I start checking my email, I can say good-bye to being creative for the rest of the day. Writing, drawing, and generating new ideas is best done earlier in the day before I attack business correspondence which I try to leave till late in the afternoon or evening.

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Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I’ve only been in my studio a short while, but this summer I was working on creating puppets for a program the illustrator Mike Wohnoutka and I are presenting to preschoolers based on our book Moo! It was so nice to have large areas of space to spread out my supplies…and to be able to leave them out without worrying they’d be in the way of making dinner!

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Who are some of the picture book writers and illustrators that have had an influence on your work?
Each new book by Mac Barnett (Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Count the Monkeys) is creative in a different way, and I greatly admire that. Phyllis Root (Rattletrap Car, Plant a Pocket of Prairie) is a master at writing beautiful picture book text. Marla Frazee (Roller Coaster, All the World Over) captures entire stories in the expressiveness of her characters. All three inspire me to do better work.David LaRochelle5

What’s your music of choice while you work?
It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m writing or doing the initial creation of a project, I need to have quiet. If I’m at the stage where I’m doing mid-level sketches or final paintings, relaxing instrumental jazz, folk music, or show tunes are my favorites. David LaRochelle10

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you? Please tell us about it.
Pinned on my cork wall I have a name badge from my mother and a business card from my father’s welding service. Both of my parents have been gone for many years but these reminders make me feel like they are still present in my life.

If you could add a new tool, piece of furniture, or machine to your studio, what would it be?
I would love to have a computer desk that feels comfortable. I have not yet figured out the proper height for my screen and chair, and consequently I end up achy after several hours of working.David LaRochelle4

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Include things that make you happy, not what you think other people would tell you to include. I have book awards and fan mail from students on my walls to lift my spirits during those stretches when the writing is difficult and rejection letters are all that I seem to receive. Don’t feel like your personal space needs to be perfect before you can start work; your studio can be a work in progress. The main thing is to start doing the work that you love.

David LaRochelle6


What’s new for you now and where can we find out more?
I’m excited that my book Moo! was just released as a board book. I have several books under contract, but it still might be a year or two before they appear on bookshelves. Even though it’s past Halloween, your readers might enjoy seeing my creative jack-o’-lanterns at

Thanks, David! I love the cork wall and all of your storage. You seem to be very organized, especially for someone who just moved!