Carol Schwartz’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours, we’ll take a look at where illustrator Carol Schwartz creates her art. Carol has worked with a wide variety of clients and her illustrations have been published in magazines, newspapers, advertising, and books for children. Her artwork has appeared in over 50 picture books. Today she shares her beautiful wooded studio in Bayside, Wisconsin, and fills us in on why having a cat sleep on your lap while working, might be problematic :)skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Carol Scwartz_smallTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’ve been working as a children’s book illustrator for 24 years. Before that, my focus was for a wider variety of clients, including newspapers, advertising agencies and institutional venues. I’ve been illustrating for the educational market since college when one of my professors at Rhode Island School of Design put me in touch with Houghton Mifflin. Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, I always knew I wanted to be an artist. It was at the Kansas City Art Institute that I realized artists were creating illustrations for magazines and books and that’s what I wanted to do. I moved to Maryland after college where I was busy raising a family and building my illustration business. There were many illustration opportunities in the Washington, DC area. My clients included The Washington Post, Time Life Books and the National Geographic Society, to name a few. I began illustrating children’s books while there and joined The Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC, which fueled my knowledge and passion for books. I began to enjoy success. One of my first books, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme was selected as an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council. It was also a Children’s Choice for 1992 and selected for the Original Art Exhibition. More than fifty other books followed. One of my highest honors is to say I was included in an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators in New York, Female Illustrators Past and Present. In the summer of 2014 I earned my MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford. My thesis project was a children’s book about the Everglades which I wrote and illustrated. I am now trying to get it published. I have had many studios since living in Maryland. I moved with my family to Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and now Wisconsin. I’ve been in Milwaukee for 7 years. My studio in Bayside, fourteen miles north of downtown Milwaukee, is a sunroom with big windows on two sides, facing East. I look out on several acres of wooded ravine. It feels like a state park in my backyard. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s easy to get caught up in watching a flock of turkeys or several deer grazing on things I wish they weren’t eating. CarolSchwartz9One year we even had a family of coyotes make a den under the deck and have five pups. That’s a whole other story. In the morning when the sun is shining in, getting to work is delightful and I am grateful for such a beautiful view. My illustrations are done in gouache, which are opaque watercolors. I began working with this media in college and quickly learned to love it. I like how versatile these paints are. CarolSchwartz13I can get small details easily which is important for my science and nature work. It can be used in a transparent way as with traditional watercolors or in a more opaque way as with acrylics. I can also put it in my airbrush which gives me a smooth look. It’s great if I need to paint a sky, going from light to darker tones, or a smooth creature such as a shark or whale.
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How does your space affect your creative process?
Having good light is very important so the many windows in my studio give me an open feel and the freedom to create. The studio has a slate floor which is good because if I spill paint, it’s easy to clean up. Because it’s a sunroom in its former life, the studio has a wet bar, complete with a mini frig. I store art supplies in the mini frig and use the sink for cleaning brushes and washing my palette. My drawing board is a World War II era metal monster that can move up and down and tilt to any angle. I have two large lamps that light up my board like an operating room. All the better to get the detail in my work. My iMac computer, Cintiq and large format scanner are in the next room, a den that started out looking like a dark paneled cave until I painted it. All of my traditional work is scanned and then taken into Photoshop where I spend additional time on each piece.
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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I try to start working at 9 am unless I have a deadline and then I could be in the studio at 6 am. I don’t have any rituals. I turn my lamps on and get to work! I teach at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design two days a week so each day is a bit different depending on my schedule. If I have a whole day at my desk, I work till about 6 or 7 with a short break for lunch and dinner. Then I’ll often work till 11 or midnight. I don’t get up and move around as much as I should. I have a cat, Milkshake, that keeps me company. CarolSchwartz14She likes to be on my desk demanding my attention. Often she curls up on my left arm and takes a nap. These naps don’t last long if I need to get to my paint water or my hand goes to sleep. My desk is tilted at about a 30 degree angle and sometimes she digs her claws in to keep her footing. I am not happy when I find claw marks on my artwork. Photoshop has saved me many times with this.
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Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I had two very talented illustrator friends, Paige Billin-Frye and Jennifer O’Connell, visit me from Washington, DC. We spent a day in my studio together experimenting with a new technique. It was fun having company and trying something new. Being an illustrator is often isolating and lonely. Getting together with others is very important.
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Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
I’m not sure how much music influences how I work. I will say that if I am listening to a good beat, I get more done. I get in a zone. My favorites include Beck, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Bela Fleck and any Blues or R&B. If I’m not listening to music, I’m watching, or I should say listening, to, an old movie on TCM.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Everything comes to a stop if I don’t have all my tools. Sometimes I misplace my kneaded eraser or my ruler. There are things I really can’t live without.

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Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
I always start with coffee in the morning and water during the day. You’ll often find me having a glass of white wine if it’s 5 o’clock.

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What are the three best things about your studio?
1. Being able to enjoy the view of woods and wildlife out my window is the best thing about my studio.
2.The way the light streams into my space.
3.Having a room large enough to have all my reference books and children’s book collection right there with me. I have a thousand children’s books which I have collected through the years, many of them vintage. I treasure them all.

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If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
It would be another illustrator. Of illustrators of all time, I’d choose Howard Pyle became he was an incredible illustrator and teacher. What I could learn from him!

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
That is simple, a pencil. It all starts with sketching an idea. Second would be tracing paper. It allows me the freedom to experiment. I begin with a rough pencil sketch. Then I cover it with another piece of tracing paper and refine my image. Sometimes I find I need to reduce or enlarge something. I have an old Canon copier which makes the process quick and easy. I may cut up my sketch and move things around. Whatever it takes to get it right.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find a room where you can be comfortable. Put in it things that inspire you. Make sure you arrange it with everything you need to make the creative process flow and not be interrupted.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
Right now I’m working on illustrations for a book for Sterling Publishing called How Hot is Lava? I’m also working on an educational book about the rain forest and lots of other smaller jobs. For more information about my work, please check out my website at http://www.csillustration.com.
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Thank you, Carol! It was so much fun seeing where you work. Best of luck on your upcoming projects. 

Don’t miss the next Tuesday Tours when famed illustrator David Catrow shares his studio where he created the artwork for one of my all-time favorite books— Aint’ Gonna Paint No More!

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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Amy Arnold’s and Kelsey Sauber Old’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours we get to visit the Viroqua home and studio of artists Amy Arnold and Kelsey Sauber Olds. Together they create wood sculptures, raise their three boys, and share a studio in Southwestern Wisconsin. I happened upon Amy and Kelsey’s work quite accidentally, as I clicked link by link during an online search, and wound up on their website. I was immediately impressed by their gorgeous sculptures, and because I’m all about collaboration, I was delighted to read about their creative partnership. Over the last three years they have combined their creative talents–Amy’s fiber art and Kelsey’s woodworking/furniture design to create beautiful figurative sculptures that they sell across the country at art festivals. Photos by Ray + KellyRichard Bock, and Drew Shonka.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
We are a married team of artists who make our home and studio at the end of a road on a ridge top that overlooks Seas Branch of the Kickapoo River in Southwestern Wisconsin. We live with our three sons currently aged 13, 8 and 7. We five are here together, working, playing and homeschooling ourselves. Over the years as time has passed and our needs have changed, our work and work space has changed as well. Amy & Kelsey5
When our oldest son was small we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. Kelsey had a studio and storefront away from home in which he was making custom furniture and I had a studio in our house where I worked about two days a week making soft sculpture and wool hats under the business name Peepwool. When we moved to rural Viroqua, Wisconsin we had two more children and an increased desire to make our lives more home and family centered. We found a house with an attached three car garage/studio and a finished third floor which could also be used as studio space. With this arrangement we were able to more successfully share working time in our studios and time caring for our young boys.
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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
About three years ago I found myself feeling a bit restless. Our work lives changed such that I was the one who was working more and I felt like I was missing out on my kids lives. I was tired of being alone with my work. The repetitive movement involved in the hand sewing I was doing was becoming hard on my body. Kelsey was missing being in the studio and I was missing seeing him in the studio. All of these things led to us beginning the process of learning how to collaborate in our art work.
Amy & Kelsey19Now, drawing upon both of our experiences we are working together making human/animal figurative sculptures in wood. We each have our own processes and working styles and fitting these together can prove both challenging and exciting. In this new work we are interested in exploring a balance between human and animal; wild and tame; crude and refined; movement and stability; humor and seriousness; adult and child; and toy and art object. Now we’re sharing a work space and are actually are in the middle of setting up a new shop for ourselves that is not in the attached space but across the driveway. It is an very exciting time. Kelsey is over there installing the dust collection system as I am writing this.
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Describe a typical work day.
I love the studio. The time and space is precious. To have a day to oneself is a treat. I can open the doors during the warm months to a sunny day. And I build a fire to keep me warm in the winter. I can see my children sledding down the hill, or playing outside. I can see the birds sitting in the lilac bush outside my window, and the turkeys and deer in the field. I watch the sun move through the sky. I feel connected to my husband who made this space for us to work in together. And whose hands are also going to be on this piece that we are working on. These are things that are really important to me. I don’t like to feel isolated from my family or from the natural world. And because I am content and feel connected in our studio my ideas flow from a place of contented connectedness.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
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As much as I love my work, everything is a distraction! There are so many things that could be happening instead of working in the studio. Sometimes I have to trick myself into settling in by listening to This American Life or The Moth.
A luxury of collaborating is that if either of us is feeling really stuck or called to do something else the other can go into the studio instead.
And the work keeps going. And often the work of the other will generate enough energy that the stuck feeling disappears and the work becomes interesting again. It is a really lovely arrangement.
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Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I like to listen to stories about real people. This can become addicting. And after a day of listening to The Moth podcasts all day my head and stomach hurt and I feel like I did when I was a kid glommed out in front of a TV all day. Kelsey listens to music and sings really loud. I like to sing and learn new songs while I work too. The best days are the ones that I can sit in silence and listen to my own thoughts.
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What are the three best things about your studio space?
1. Big windows and expansive view.
2. Woodstove.
3. Next to home so there are deliveries of tea, lunch and afternoon coffee and snacks.

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Share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.
Last year during the summer we were working for a big deadline and our kids are old enough that they can be on their own, so we were both in the shop for days on end and staying up after our kids went to bed until the wee hours. We noticed that it felt like when we were in college—when being in the studio and making artwork with our friends could fill our whole lives. I remember looking over at him thinking, not only am I really attracted to that fellow who is working here beside me, he is my husband, and this is our beautiful life!

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
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I am inspired by regular people living inspired lives. I get really excited looking at folk art. And things carved out of wood are always exciting because they give us new ideas about what is possible. I am inspired by my farmer friends who stand on the soil everyday and have such an intimate, creative, connection to the earth. I am inspired by people who are asking themselves what they can do to make big changes necessary for the health of the earth. The idea of co-creation—I love this idea that what we can make together is most beautiful. My artist friends who make their lives with their hands. I am inspired by my children and Kelsey whom I co-create with.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My advice would be to be realistic about where you are in your life and what fits. I made the mistake multiple times to try to set up a creative worklife that didn’t work with my life. I tried to set up a clay studio in the basement when I had a baby and not enough support to get myself there. One time I set up an outside-the-home work space when I had a newborn. Both of these efforts were frustrating and demoralizing. A corner of your room that you can commit to being in one day a week can be the perfect set up.
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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
We are going to be doing a number of shows throughout the country this year. Our website will be updated soon with all the venues listed.

Thank you, Amy and Kelsey! Your work and home life is really inspiring, and your work is amazing!

 

 

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 …)

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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.

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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, http://www.patzietlowmiller.com. I also blog about picture book writing at http://www.picturebookbuilders.com 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 home studio of creative couple Amy Arnold and Kelsey Sauber Old’s!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 http://highlightsfoundation.org. My website is http://denisefleming.com or write me at denise@denisefleming.com. 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!!!

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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