Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Studio Tour

This week’s Tuesday Tours features the Toronto studio space of Debbie Ridpath Ohi, the illustrator of some pretty cool kids books, and soon to be illustrator and author of some pretty cool kids books. Debbie has a busy future ahead of her working on multiple book projects, which include Sea-Monkey and Bob by Aaron Reynolds (Simon & Schuster Fall 2015), Ruby Rose on Her Toes by Rob Sanders (HarperCollins Children’s, Winter 2016), and Mitzi Tulane: Preschool Detective by Lauren McLaughlin (Random House, Spring 2016). And of course her debut book as an author/illustrator Where Are My Books? which launches from Simon & Schuster in the Summer of 2015. With a schedule full of deadlines, Debbie has learned to stay on top of things with the help of her cork board tower. Even so, I’m amazed at everything she seems to accomplish each day. She blogs regularly, offering up advice or interesting information to fellow kid lit writers and illustrators, she has an online comic, and she creates enchanting found object doodles almost daily. After doing all of that, I’m honored she could find the time to show us her basement studio.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a children’s book writer and illustrator based in Toronto. ​My illustrations appear in picture books I’m Bored (NYTimes Notable Book) and Naked! (2014), both written by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, as well as ten Judy Blume chapter books and middle grade titles reissued by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. FinalCoverI’m excited about my debut picture book as both the author and illustrator, when Where Are My Books? launches from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Summer 2015. I mainly work digitally but have recently started experimenting with non-digital art as well, including watercolor, found object art and shadow art. My other creative interests include writing and playing music. I play, with varying degrees of competence: piano, flute, Celtic harp, tin whistle, guitar, and assorted bangy percussion instruments. I used to teach piano and flute part-time, and I am a member of the Toronto-based filk/folk music group called Urban Tapestry.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve had my current office ever since my husband Jeff and I first moved into our house nine years ago. I could have chosen my office space on the second floor of our home, which is full of light and space, and has a nice view of our neighborhood. But, instead I opted for the basement because I like the privacy, and I never look out the windows anyway. My husband nicknamed the space The Office Cave, and the phrase suits me fine. When people visit our house, they often  compliment me on my exquisite sense of design. Most of the house is in painted in relaxing earth tones, with lots of empty space on the walls. Then our visitors come down to the basement and peek into my office. One person said, “Wow. I think there’s more stuff in your office than in the entire rest of the house!” The truth is, the tasteful interior design in the rest of the house is my husband’s doing, not mine. Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy it and I appreciate the decor. But I LOVE my basement office. I love the mismatched furniture, the piles of books, the riot of colors, and being surrounded by books and craft supplies and musical instruments and photography equipment. I also enjoy knowing that if I put something down on the carpet, it’ll still be there next time I go into my office. Early on, Jeff and I agreed to some ground rules–I would contain my creative clutter to my office, and in exchange, my husband agreed NOT to move anything in my office unless I gave him permission.

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Jeff rigged up a system on Debbie’s office ceiling with string and pushpins and clips, to make it easier for her to hang up her sketches.

In the beginning, I tested (tortured?) Jeff by leaving a clearly misplaced book or pen lying out in the middle of my office floor. I could tell it was a struggle for him not to put it away (he’s a very, very neat person–you can imagine what an adjustment it was for both of us when we first moved in together) but to his credit, he left my clutter where it was. Anyway, my Office Cave makes me feel safe and wonderfully isolated and in turn, that makes it much easier to focus on creative pursuits.

Before Jeff put in my hanging system, I used to taped things up.

Before Jeff put in Debbie’s hanging system, she used tape to hang things up.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I’ve always been envious of those who have creative rituals, like brewing a cup of tea or sharpening their pencils. It sounds so calming. Sadly, I have no ritual. If I’m struck with a creative idea for a found object doodle or a story, I’ll usually drop everything to write it down or (in the case of a found object doodle) create it right away.
If you’re talking about how I start my work day, I suppose I do have a ritual, although it’s not one I’d especially recommend for anyone else. I usually start each work day still in my pajamas, going straight from getting up, to walking down two floors to my Office Cave. I’ll check social media and email, then I’ll figure out what exactly I’m going to work on that day. Partway through the morning I’ll realize I’m hungry, and go get some breakfast. I usually eat it in front of the computer while I continue working. After breakfast, I’ll finally go up and take a shower and get dressed. I’d like to think that someday I’ll settle into a ritual that sounds much more appealing when answering a question like this one. It will probably involve a cup of tea and perhaps sitting out on our back deck and enjoying the outdoors for a few minutes before starting my work day. Perhaps a jaunty walk!

Well, whatever your routine is, it seems to be working :)
UrbanTapestryAwardsFluteMusicIs there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you listening to now?
I find it depends heavily on what stage of what project I’m working on. If I’m writing, I usually prefer silence or unobtrusive ambient noise (I use Coffitivity sometimes. Ditto for when I’m at the very early stages of illustrating a book project, when I’m figuring out the basic layout of scenes and doing thumbnail sketches. At all other stages, especially when I’m doing anything repetitive and detail-oriented (like flat coloring before adding textures and shading), I listen to music or audiobooks, or even have a DVD of a movie or tv series I’ve already seen playing in one corner on my second monitor. I know the latter (movies/tv shows) sounds odd, but I found it worked for me when I have really long (e.g. 12+ hours) work days. The trick, I found, was to find movies or shows I had already watched at least a couple times before or had a lot of dialog rather than action, so I just needed to listen and not watch. AND it needed to be as different in tone from the project I was working on as possible, so it wouldn’t influence the project. Since the beginning of the year, I have worked my way through all the seasons of Supernatural, West Wing, and partway through Babylon Five. More recently, however, I’ve been listening to a lot of music instead. Music’s also great because I like to take officecrazydancebreaks. I’m a terrible dancer, but I find it extremely liberating and fun to regularly turn up a good tune in my office and then go into officecrazydancebreak-mode, where no one can see. Or I’ll sing along at the top of my lungs, mostly offkey. Some recent favorite workmusic: ELO’s Time album, Ookla The Mok’s Evil I album, Ed Sheerhan’s X (Deluxe Edition). Recently, I asked my FaceBook friends for suggestions for my new officecrazydancebreak playlist, and here’s a sampling
What a great idea, and what a rockin’ playlist. I love getting new music suggestions!
EthanImBoredLetterIs there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you? 
My most inspiring office item is a handwritten letter that I received from a young reader. It reads: “Dear Debbie, I love your book because it reminds me about myself sometimes and when its about me it makes me want to read more. From Ethan.”
Something in my office that gives me joy, even though I don’t see as much of it anymore is a tree I painted in the corner of my office when we first moved in. Once I started getting multiple book projects, however, I decided that as much as I loved looking at the tree, I needed storage space even more. 
I still know the tree’s behind all that stuff, and that makes me happy. :-)
What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Apart from my computer, I’d say the project deadline cork-board that my husband made for me. I have multiple book projects with multiple publishers, and I had trouble finding an easy-to-use software solution. Jeff made me a cork-board to fit on the one remaining blank wall space in my office, and I turned it into a project deadline reminder system. It’s situated so that I can easily refer to it while I’m at my computer.
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If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I’d figure out a way to get more efficient ceiling lights. The current ceiling lights came with the house and provide poor light and are poorly positioned. I’ve compensated by getting floor lamps and more desk lamps, but I would love to replace some of those with better overall lighting. Hmm…though I suspect that would cost much more than a couple hundred dollars.
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Besides your studio, what do you feel is the most creative room in your home?
My husband’s office, on the second floor. He’s a computer geek, not an artist or musician. Having been a programmer/analyst in my first career, however, I know how creative computer geekery can be. He’s also an excellent writer, and I’m trying to convince him to post on his blog more regularly.
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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Find out what works for YOU. Don’t try to create a personal space that you think other people would find creative. Also, be flexible. You and your habits may very well change over time, and you’ll want to adjust your creative space accordingly. Remember that a creative space isn’t just physical. You may be a working mom with children and limited funds or living space, frustrated that you aren’t able to have your own office. DebPaintingOfficeDoor
Do whatever you can to carve out some regular time to be creative, and then create your own personal space. It could be a corner of a dining room table, a coffee shop, the library. Bring sound-reduction headphones, or listen to your favorite work music as you create. And finally, don’t despair if your workspace isn’t as beautiful or sunlit or organized like others you see online. Just take a look at the photos of my cluttered basement workspace and remind yourself that people find their creative joy in different ways. I love my Office Cave so much.
I love that! Great advice.
So run us through what’s coming up and how we can find out more.
Naked_coverI had some fun illustration projects that recently launched: Naked! is a fun new picture book written by Michael Ian Black and published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers.
My illustrations appear in three Judy Blume classics, reissued by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster: The Pain and the Great One, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, and Freckle Juice. I also provided the cover illustrations for the above three books and seven Judy Blume classics reissued by the same publisher as middle grade, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
People can find out more about me and my projects at DebbieOhi.com and on Twitter at @inkyelbows.
2014-05-24-JudyBlumeCoversHorizThank you, Debbie for sharing your Office Cave with us! Looking forward to seeing your new books, and of course re-reading I’m Bored–one of our family’s favorites!


Stop back next week
when Canadian author/illustrator Barbara Reid shares her lovely Toronto studio where she creates her vibrant plasticine artwork.

Rina Yoon’s Studio Tour

This week’s Tuesday Tours features the studio space of Rina Yoon, a Milwaukee based artist and Professor of printmaking at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. I’ve had the pleasure of showcasing Rina’s work in two of the exhibits I’ve curated. Her beautiful figurative prints evoke a very ethereal quality. She says she uses the medium of printmaking, not only to make multiples, but to use the techniques as a way to build up layers, and through that process, create a type of meditation. 

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Rina Yoon 7Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I was born and raised in Korea. I came to U.S. when I was 17 and I have been here for 32 years. My primary medium is printmaking, particularly intaglio processes. I love the incised lines embedded in paper and the tactile quality.  Recently I have been exploring installations and working three–dimensionally.

Rina Yoon 2How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have had the studio since 2000 and recently I did a major renovation to convert to live/work space.  It was difficult to be in the studio before and now I have windows to look outside and lots of natural lights. It allows me to bring studio practice into my daily life, moving seamlessly from the press to the kitchen, and to the garden.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I don’t have any special rituals. After years of doing this, studio practice has become more about the discipline. I start my day with a good breakfast and sit down to work. I like to pace myself and to work steadily.Rina Yoon 6

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working?
When I start a new image, I don’t listen to anything. In general, I prefer silence. But when I do more production work, like printing or making a plate, I listen to either NPR or TED Talks.

Rina Yoon 3Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
What inspires me is tending plants and vegetables outside. I used to have a large yard and I would spend hours tending the garden.  Now that I’ve moved to the studio, I only have a small container garden, but it is still very important for me to have that connection to nature.  Because Milwaukee has a very short growing season, it is more precious, and I try to be outside as much as possible.

Yes! Our winter was particularly long this past year. I’m savoring the summer.

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What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
My etching press.  Having moved the press four times was very difficult but it is nice not having to bring the plates back and forth between the studio and school.

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
For a couple hundred dollars, I would add more track lighting.  My eyes are beginning to show signs of aging, so more lighting would be helpful.

Do you have other creative rooms in your home?Rina Yoon 4
I tore down all the walls in the studio.  It is designed so that I can look at my art from anywhere. My work table and the press are in the middle of the space and I walk pass them all the time. It is a constant reminder to keep me focused in producing work. Everything is in the open so I can integrate living and working.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
For me, I need to be able to look outside. Before the renovation, the studio had no windows. When I was doing a residency in Paris several years ago, I had a huge window in the studio. What a difference it made!  Sitting at the work table was pleasant and inviting. So my advice is this: Don’t save the best space for your guests, make it yours. Take the best space you have in your home for yourself.

Great advice! I know I always save the biggest and nicest room for guests. As our kids get bigger, the house feels smaller, and I’m rethinking saving these great space for the sporadic guest or party.

Where can we see your work?
I am going to have a solo show at the Elaine Erickson Gallery next March, 2015 and at the James Watrous Gallery in Madison in November, 2015.  Currently I am exploring combining prints, video and three-dimensional surfaces.  My website is: http://rinayoon.com/home.html.

Thanks for sharing your space, Rina! Your new work is stunning!

Tania McCartney’s Studio Tour

I was introduced to Australian author and illustrator Tania McCartney through her 52-week Illustration Challenge, in which people create a new illustration each week and post it on the challenge’s Facebook page. Tania set the challenge at the beginning of 2014 to saturate herself with as much artistic inspiration as possible, and she asked if others would like to join her. Now halfway through the year, there is over 2000 members! The 52-week Illustration Challenge has been so successful that Tania was recently invited by Arts Brookfield–one of the world’s largest exhibitors of art in public spaces–to curate pieces from challenge submissions to be used in an art exhibit March 2015 taking place in Perth.
Each week has a theme, so on any given week you can peruse the site and see hundreds of interpretations on the theme. It’s an inspiring challenge, both to get feedback and support on your own work, as well as to see the work of so many talented artists. Tania  writes for both adults and children and is the founder of Kids’ Book Review–the number one children’s literature site on the web. This week’s Tuesday Tours features her beautiful studio, which is full of light and color — I can almost hear the birds singing out her window when I look at the pictures!

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Tania headshot I - CopyTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m an Australian author of both kids and adult books. I live and breathe books; I’d eat them, or even live in one, if I could. They’re my everything. I’ve lived and worked in France, England and China, as well as almost every Australian state, but currently live in Canberra with my gorgeous family—husband and two kids aged 11 and 14. I’m really fortunate to be a full-time creator, and I work from our sunny, quiet home.
My creative mediums are words, pictures and paper—all three a lifelong obsession. I drew a lot as a child and young adult, but writing took over in my adulthood. I’ve been writing professionally for over 25 years now, in varying genres from magazine feature articles to reviews, picture books, history books, and both fiction and non-fiction (adult, young adult, middle and junior).
Picture books are my deep obsession and are the reason I’ve recently returned to illustrating after a 20-year hiatus. One of my career goals is to illustrate some of my own picture book texts, and this is the singular reason I created the 52-Week Illustration Challenge—to hone my long-lost skills. Well, that, and the desire to immerse myself in beautiful imagery and reconnect with my heart and soul! My artistic mediums are varied but I’m quickly settling into two distinct niches—digital and watercolour/pencil/ink. I love quirky, whimsical pictures, and creating these has brought me untold joy. I would love to explore printing techniques next.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?We moved into this house 5 ½ years ago, after four years in China. The silence was deafening! Part of the reason we chose this house was the quiet situation, the established garden, and the beautiful studio at the front of the house. It’s the most heavenly place to work in because it’s bright and sunny and overlooks our front garden.IMG_9373
In this space, I’m surrounded by things I adore—photographs, treasures from our travels, cards and notes from beautiful people, a divine rattan settee I snaffled in China for $100, a handcrafted paper mobile with a five-foot drop (created from my papery treasures), and of course, books, books, books. All of these things inspire and uplift me. I feel nurtured in this space and I know this brings out the best in my work. I’m not currently using the space for my artwork, but I hope to reconfigure things a little and change that soon, as I’m currently overtaking our large dining room table and the family has been very patient!

Probably because they get to live amongst all of your beautiful creations!

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I always have a coffee (barista style) or tea (Earl Grey with milk) and a large glass of water. I don’t eat while I work, and I need complete silence. I always work at my computer and rarely write anything longhand (seems I’ve lost that ability!).
I try to exercise (aerobics or yoga or walking) every day before I start working, and I always start my day with a green smoothie—it’s serious brain food, and fires my creativity. I’ve recently invested in a Varidesk—a desktop contraption that allows you to raise your computer screen and type while standing. I try to spend at least half the day standing, if not more. It’s vital.

I agree. I think the worst thing about being a writer is all the sitting! I’ll have to check into a Varidesk soon.

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working?
I never play music! It distracts me, alas. I instead listen to the kookaburras or magpies carrying on outside my window.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Only one is impossible! But my most precious and most inspirational are our travel photos (which I’ve printed as polaroids and collaged onto the studio walls). My kid’s drawings. Books. My wooden NYC skyline. My terrarium plant. The tiny, bronze See/Hear/Say No Evil statue. My paper mobile. My enormous tin flamingo.

Tania McCartney watercolourWhat’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?
Eeep. That question’s so hard! It’s more about creators than books for me—I have creators I’m in love with, and I simply adore anything they produce. They include Serge Bloch, Jen Storer, Blexbolex, Emma Quay, Suzy Lee, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Miroslav Sasek, Gus Gordon, Lane Smith, among countless others. Two of my favourite book series of all time would be M Sasek’s This Is… picture book series from the 1950s and beyond, and The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. Right now I’m actually reading more adult books than I usually do. On my nightstand are: Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang, The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester, Cook: from Sailor to Legend by Rob Mundle and Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock. I’m about to start the latest Jackie French middle fiction novel, too—I Am Juliet. Oh, and I simply love reading cookbooks.

IMG_9367 IMG_9362What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
My computer. It drinks in all my text and all my imagery (when I’m creating digitally) and it allows me to run my business (and my life) in a virtual way that means I can be home for my kids and still ‘travel the world’ with my interactions and my collaborations. It’s like a magic genie. Whack in some text and imagery—a year or three later—pop! out comes a book, delivered to your door in Real Life. Wonderful stuff.

week 25 dots Tania McCartneyWhat colors inspire your creativity.  Are those colors incorporated in your space?
Wow, great question. Colour absolutely inspires and affects my creativity. I love lots of white space, which I can then pepper with pops of colour. It’s interesting that my penchant for certain colours have changed over the years, as I’ve developed and changed. I also think we’re drawn to colour according to what stage we’re going through in our lives. As we reach middle age, we’re deeply drawn to creativity, and, sure enough, I’ve rekindled a love of yellow and orange of late, which are highly creative colours.
My all-time favourite colour is pale green (I wore it for my wedding—this raises eyebrows, but it was truly beautiful!) and I also adore duck-egg blue and snippets of red. My studio has little pops of multi-coloured fragments everywhere, and I can’t explain why, but this just makes me happy. And happiness makes for much creativity.

IMG_9368Yes! Happiness and creativity go hand-in-hand.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Try to designate a space you can close off and call your own (ie: not the dining room table or a corner of the living room). If you can’t dedicate an actual room, perhaps consider making this space a corner in your bedroom, so you can still ‘close it off’ if you need to. Closing that door and immersing is so important because it not only limits distractions and puts you in auto-creative mode, it makes it clear to family/housemates/colleagues that this is important to you—that you absolutely need and deserve the time and space to create.

Great advice!  I know how much closing the door has helped me in my own work.  

a cover FINALAny news that you’d like to share? Where can we find out more?
I’m delighted to be releasing my thirteenth book this September (lucky 13!). It’s called Tottie and Dot (EK Books) and has been illustrated by my talented friend Tina Snerling. We’re also working on our next book, Peas in a Pod, out 2015.
I’m a National Library of Australia house author, and my next book with them, This is Captain Cook, will be out March 2015. It’s illustrated by another talented friend, Christina Booth. My next exciting project is one I’m writing and illustrating—it will be on Australian designer Florence Broadhurst. Other than that, I have another three picture books in production, a large publisher is considering my first illustrated picture book, and I’m continuing to work on both Kids’ Book Review (which I founded in 2009) and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. I was thrilled to be asked by Arts Brookfield (Perth) to curate a public exhibition of Challenge artwork, which will be shown at Brookfield Place next March. It’s kind of huge, and it’s hard to believe all that is happening with the Challenge, after such humble beginnings. But then, such is the power of creativity! You can find out more at www.taniamccartney.comwww.kids-bookreview.com, and check out the 52-Week Illustration Challenge at www.facebook.com/groups/418616991575037.

Thanks, Tania! Good luck with all of your projects. I hope to make it out to Australia sometime and maybe even meet you, but until then, I’ll enjoy seeing your artwork on the Challenge page!

 

 

Page Remmers and WCAP Studio Tour

WPCA_Page portraitI met Page Remmers close to ten years ago at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Page came to UWM as a non-traditional student, obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts after a successful career as a Speech-Language Pathologist. During her time at UWM, Page created beautiful hand dyed fabrics and fiber sculptures, but her dream was to open up a non-profit in her city of Waukesha, offering free art classes to middle school students. After graduation Page founded the Waukesha Community Art Project (WCAP), an after school program that offers a creative and safe place for students to express themselves. The tagline for WCAP is Make friends. Mark art. Make a difference, and that’s exactly what this envioment offers. Students that participate in the free classes at WCAP, like Rock Band Camp, Advanced Screen Printing, and Theater Improvisation, also share their art and ideas with the community, through a community component, such as performing in the open mic night at a local cafe. Since its opening in 2007, WCAP has been recognized as a community leader and given a key to the city–which is considered the highest form of municipal honor. In 2011 I saw first had what an impact this space offers to area teens when I had the chance to collaborate with them to create one of the illustrations for my book Squircle. I’m thrilled to feature their amazing new space on this week’s Tuesday Tours.

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WPCA4Tell us a little bit about yourself and your organization WCAP.
Waukesha Community Art Project (WCAP) is a nonprofit providing free arts after school programs for middle school students.  We were founded seven years ago, to provide middle school students a safe place to create art and connect with their community. We started with visual arts classes, meeting two days/week. This year we are providing classes in visual art, drama, music, dance, and creative writing five days/week. To help the students recognize their individual power to affect their world, each class/unit has a community component. This activity can include the students making something for another organization, performing a drama production, or exhibiting their artwork.

WPCAfree libraryHere is an example: Wood working Class–The students learn the skills and techniques of using wood working tools. They make their own creations using their new knowledge.  For the community component they decided to make Lending Library Boxes for other nonprofits. They practice their writing skills as they contacted the nonprofit of their choice to determine if they would like a library box. For each nonprofit that accepted a box, the students met with a representative from the nonprofit to find out how to design a box they would like. Then as a team they worked together to make, paint, and deliver the box.

Wow! What a great cohesive project. 

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Mud stencils

Using mud stencils to decorate the exterior

Mud stencils How long have you had your space and how do you think it affects the students’ creative process?
Although WCAP has been open for several years, we have been in our current studio/classroom for just a year. We started the program in a room At St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. They let us use it for free, which was awesome, but we needed to pack up after each class.  Being in our own space means, we can have our supplies readily accessible and the student artwork on display at all times. This new space also has the look and feel we wanted for our studio/classroom. It is a wide open space, with a lot of color and natural wood floors. It give us all the feeling that this is a place to make art.

KnitBombing

Knit Bombing in downtown Waukesha


KnitBomb4 KnitBomb3 KnitBomb2 Are there any kind of rituals the students do before they start creating?
Each day the after school program starts with snack and time to visit with friends to shift them from school to art making. After that we play a game. The games help us to get to know one another better,  laugh and relax, and warm up for art making. We end our daily ritual with a meditation/focus activity.

Is there anything you all like to listen to while you’re working?
When the middle schoolers are present, I hear them working together, supporting one another, laughing, and of course, playing their favorite music. Sometimes I close my eyes so I can take it all in and listen to WCAP’s mission in action.

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Applique banners created by the students

WPCA9 Is there any special item/trinket in your space that’s a source of inspiration?
The artwork that is the centerpiece of WCAP is the quilt that you (Andrea) made with the students for your book Squircle. It is near the front of our space, and it is usually the first thing people see when they enter. They all love it and when we tell the story of how the quilt and your book were made. People really appreciate how you included WCAP participants in Squircle’s creation, and all the skills they learned while working with you, like applique’, embroidery, hand sewing, and the process of building community while creating art.

That’s so nice to hear. I loved working with all the talented students on that project!

 

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Quality art supplies–we can never have too many!

Page at A@LWhat advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I am going to change this question to “What advice do you have for people who want to make a space where teens/the community can be creative?” And my answer would be to hire excellent teachers that love what they are teaching. When something is taught with passion, students learn so much more than new skills or techniques.
They learn a new way to express themselves, interact with the world, and how to apply that knowledge to what they are learning in school and life.

Anything new coming up at WCAP?
WCAP will be open for Downtown Waukesha’s Art Crawls on the first Saturdays of August, October, and May. This coming Fall we will be adding Creative Writing and Dance classes to the Visual Art and Drama classes to the lineup of our after school programs for middle school students. Our website is www.wcartproject.net It is currently under construction, so there is only minimal information. Facebook is a good way to find out what we are doing www.facebook.com/wcartproject

Thanks, Page! I’m so impressed with the amazing space you’ve created for middle school kids to express themselves. Thanks for being such a positive influence in our community!

Evey accepts her PBS Kids Award!

My daughter Evey accepted a second place award for her book My Silly Sister Celi at the PBS Kids Write banquet. She loved seeing all of the other award-winning books and her silly sister Celi was thrilled that she was the star of a book! The winning stories will be aired on MPTV throughout the summer.

I encourage others kids to take advantage of this opportunity and submit your picture book. It happens every year and takes place around the country. The first place winners compete nationally. Kindergarten through 3rd grade students are eligible to enter. More information can be found at http://pbskids.org/writerscontest/

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CommuniTree’s award medal and stickers arrived!

CommuniTree book awardI was disappointed that I couldn’t attend the Indie Book Awards in NYC, but today I received a surprise in the mail–the Finalist Book Award medal and stickers for CommuniTree!

CommuniTree was created in collaboration with 686 students (K4 – 8th grade) from Dover School and Tippecano School for the Arts & Humanities, during a time when these two separate schools were merging together to form Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts. In an effort to take an active role in building their new school, students worked with me to develop a children’s picture book about community.

Tara Lazar’s Studio Tour

This week on Tuesday Tours I’m excited to feature mid grade and picture book author Tara Lazar who makes a comfortable space in her New Jersey home that gives her the ability to write books, blog about her experience as a writer, and encourage other writers through her created challenge PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I found PiBoldMo a simple but brilliant challenge to create new ideas for picture books over the course of 30 days, although this is a challenge that can keep on going long after the month is over. This year was my first time participating in the challenge, and it yielded me an amazing trove of ideas that I go back to again and again, either to inspire a rough draft or add a new idea. Tara’s ideas have turned into a number of books, such as her currently available Monstore, as well as four new titles coming out over the next few years.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
My name is Tara Lazar and I saw ladies in half! Therefore, my creative medium must be…ladies??? No, sorry, kidding. I do that. Joke around, not saw things in half—unless you count words. Then, yes, definitely, I’ve been known to saw words in half and cobble them back together to create portmanteaus. I’m a children’s picture book author!

unmadebedworkspaceHow long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My space doesn’t necessarily lend me creativity—it lends me comfort. It’s my own bedroom, which I’ve had for almost 10 years, since we moved into this house. But I believe comfort begets creativity. I sit upon my bed to write, with a comfy husband providing back support. No, my husband Alan does not sit behind me all day. I mean a pillow husband. My lucky husband actually has a home office! Yes, we both work at home. People wonder how we don’t drive each other nuts. A staircase separates us. And, there are picture books on the staircase! So I often get distracted on my way down to see him and plop down to read.

staircasebookshelf

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
Not really. I’m not a routine type of person. I enjoy a mammoth mug of Earl Grey or chai from time to time, but I don’t need it like some people need coffee. Or donuts. Hmm, on second thought, maybe I do need donuts. With rainbow sprinkles.

donuts

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?AHHHHH! No! I absolutely cannot create while listening to music. Or games of Marco Polo, which is what I hear all day long because the community pool is right behind my house. Who invented this game? It’s positively maddening!!! When I’m NOT writing, I’m listening to classic rock, which is what they call Nirvana these days. NIRVANA is CLASSIC ROCK. mccartney8n-1What kind of wacky world am I living in? I’d also like to give a shout-out to Ed Sheeran. I adore him, my ginger god. I have been singing “Sing” for weeks now, much to the chagrin of my two girls. They love the song, too, but I’m woefully out of tune. I was actually dancing to the song in delia’s earlier this week, which greatly embarrassed my 11-year-old. I live for those moments. Right now I’m reading “Man on the Run” which is about Paul McCartney in the 70’s, after the breakup of the Beatles and during his Wings resurgence. “Band on the Run” is one of my favorite songs of all time.

miniaturebearIs there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I tend to buy trinkets AFTER I’ve begun writing something, for good luck. A tiny talisman. This is the miniature bear I bought after I began writing I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S, 2015).

How often do you rearrange your space to make it more functional?
Um, never. I just pile more things on the floor. Again, kidding. Sort of. I bought this funky mid-century magazine rack on ebay last year. It keeps some things off the floor. I also recently bought this antique curio in which to house miniatures. I had a glass menagerie as a child, and I’ve always been fascinated by tiny little things, but haven’t had anywhere to let them live. I plan to paint it cream and hang it on my bedroom wall.magrack

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I’d buy this art deco bookcase I’ve had my eye on. It’s tricky because I have a limited amount of space, but this bookcase has the perfect dimensions to fit between my bedroom door and my closet door, as long as I pick up the dirty clothing overflow.

A place for Tara to store her knickknacks, like the frog statue

A place for Tara to store her knickknacks

 

 

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space? My favorite colors are turquoise and periwinkle blue. My bedroom is cranberry and cream. Makes sense, no? (NO.)

 

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I think you can be creative anywhere as long as you’re comfortable. Heck, I’m at my most creative in a hot shower. I’ll be the first in line for a waterproof Mac.

monstorecoversmall Bear Book final coverWhat’s up next for you and where can we find out more?
My debut picture book THE MONSTORE is available now from Aladdin/S&S. Next up is I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK in August 2015, followed by LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD in October 2015. More books are on their way in 2016 and 2017…phew! My website is http://taralazar.com.

Thanks for sharing your creative space with us, Tara. I’m looking forward to seeing your new books when they’re released!