Laura Lee Gulledge’s Studio Tour

Laura Lee - 20Today on Tuesday Tours I’m excited to share the Virgina studio of author and illustrator Laura Lee Gulledge. I had such fun meeting Laura Lee at the Sheboygan Book Festival this past fall where we were both presenting. After hearing about how she was transforming the woods behind her house into art, I knew I had to have her on Tuesday Tours. In addition to her earthworks, Laura has created two fabulous graphic novels—Page by Paige and Will & Whit. Laura’s an active teaching artist, giving presentations and leading workshops for both students and adults. Her collaborators (or what she calls Artners) and herself are at work on turning Will & Whit into a play opening sometime in the new year.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I love art, drawing, and storytelling! I write and draw magical-realism-style graphic novels geared towards young adults. Besides making books I also enjoy performing drawing & painting live. My personal (and therapeutic) creative outlet has usually been illustration, but this past year has taken the form of landscaping. I’ve been carving out a “writer’s grove” in the woods behind my house: building terraces with chunks of quartz, digging a firepit, planting ferns. It’s fun world building. Then my Artners and I (AKA: partners in art) are currently making a musical adaption of Will & Whit for young performers which is an exciting new outlet for me. I also love another form of storytelling: Teaching. I enjoy connecting with students and sparking inspiration. Recently I gave comic workshops through the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and was the Art Director at Camp Sequoia for young men with ADHD.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve been in my current space here in Virginia for a year and a half. I love the big windows and the view of the woods! It’s far superior to the view I had in my last studio in New York: a brick wall. The natural light really, really helps. My last studio was so dark I had to use one of those sun/ion lamps!  So depressing. Here I have deer, squirrels, and birds outside my window. Much more inspiring.Laura Lee - 19

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I have a typed schedule posted on my wall to give myself structure, because when you work for yourself you have to be a good boss! Schedule wise…I typically give myself “computer time” in the morning to handle emails, admin tasks, and internet work. (No internet exploring after this point unless it’s for reference!) After 10:30am is then “studio time,” when I become really cranky if interrupted. I try to make myself get up every hour to stretch or make tea. I give myself an hour “away from the desk” break usually at 4:00 when I take a walk or so something else active. Then 9:00pm is my personal cut-off time for being at my desk, because otherwise I’ll sit there until midnight!
My big ritual before starting work is that I always have to tidy the room I’m in before working so I don’t have any visual distractions. It’s the OCD in me. Then I also usually need to get myself OUTSIDE before settling into to work at my desk. Whether it’s visiting my grove in the backyard for a quick hello or simply walking outside and feel what the weather is, it’s a helpful transition ritual for me as someone working from home.

When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
I had the most fun while sharing a studio with penciller Reilly Brown and writer Chris Irving in Brooklyn while I was making Page by Paige. Our studio, Outpost 54, was down the hall from other studios of comic artists such as Dean Haspiel and Simon Fraiser. It’s the only time I rented out studio space for myself and it was invaluably helpful for me as I was starting out!

Laura Lee - 12

Laura Lee - 10

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I have a lot of whimsical souvenirs from my days working as a scenic artist on Macy’s Christmas windows. From the colorful rainbow circuit board to the giant cartoon glove, they remind me to dream big and work hard! I also have trinkets from other past projects I’m proud of, like the shadow puppet from our debut production of the Will & Whit Musical. I also have images of those who share my dreams with me: my dear friends, inspiring Artners, and my ancestors who I feel are cheering me on in spirit.
I also have a lot of “reminders” in my studio. Laura Lee - 16Some are illustrations I’ve made that read things like, “Stress Doesn’t Improve Production” and “Let’s Be Revelationaries.” (I sell these as prints on my website for $7-10.) Others are post-it reminders to take care of myself, or to “Start with what you know” which is my mantra for when getting the ball rolling on a project (also handy for when I’m having trouble picking an outfit to wear).

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Laura Lee - 14What colors inspire your creativity.  Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I love complimentary colors, colors that vibrate when they’re near each other. Teal green and poppy red is my favorite such combination, salmon orange & sky blue is another one I love.  But I love all colors! Periwinkle blue, the color of the Blue Ridge Mountains here in Virginia is probably my all time favorite hue. These colors appear as pops of color throughout the collection of artifacts that adorn my space. (they used to adorn my walls but my current walls are white) I pepper in a lot of color, especially yellow when I can. Yellow/ gold is always good to create warmth & make a space feel inviting.

Laura Lee - 17

If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
I’d relocate to beautiful Vermont for the Summer because my Artner Lauren Larken lives there. I love the lakes and rivers and especially the creative community. (Plus this plan also rescues me from the muggy hot Virginia in the Summer!)

Laura Lee - 9

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I MUST have music on while I’m working. Lately I’ve been listening to New York radio station WFUV online. Their listener request hour is stellar. If I’m writing or thumbnailing and require more focus, I tend to listen to my Yann Tierson (more instrumental) station on Pandora. When I’m inking & shading I tend to listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I’ve listened to the entire Harry Potter series via audiobook more times than I would like to admit.I’m currently reading the “Lumberjanes” (so fun!) and “Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota.” Before that I read  “Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype” and I cannot praise enough. Next up is the graphic novel “The Story of My Tits” by my friend Jennifer Hayden which I’ve been really looking forward to diving into.

Laura Lee - 18

If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
Definitely Scott McCloud. Not only is he super inspiring, but he and I also get along really well! I could see us having some really good conversations but then also knowing when to shut up and get work done.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?

If you want to make a space to be creative then just CLAIM it!  If your artistic outlet is a priority then you must stand up for your needs. Treat it with respect, keep it tidy, and schedule time for you to spend there. Display things to keep you inspired, such as what I mentioned earlier about personal reminders and images of the supportive people in your life. I’d also say it’s helpful to display your accomplishments in your studio. Whether it’s an award for something big or merely a souvenir from something you did that you’re proud of, I find it really grounding. Because we often don’t let ourselves celebrate out successes! I also enjoy including my fuzzy friend Rory cat in my space, hence there’s multiple surfaces for him to hang out. (as well as the oh-so-essential cat grass) Having an animal around makes working alone at one’s desk feel much less lonely and much less stressful.

A new painting that adorns my wall that was a Christmas gift. It's by a local artist named Erin Murray and I'm obsessed with it!

A new painting that adorns my wall that was a Christmas gift. It’s by a local artist named Erin Murray and I’m obsessed with it!

Laura Lee - 25What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I’m currently working on writing & drawing TWO new books for Abrams and I’m so excited! I’m also developing the Will & Whit musical with my Artners here in Virginia. Then this January I have a residency at the innovative Delta School in Wilson, Arkansas where I will be working with kids making Peace Books. There is much afoot for 2016!  To learn more (and if you’d like to buy prints) here’s my website:

Thanks so much, Laura Lee! Great seeing all of your creative endeavors. Excited to hear you have two new  upcoming books!

Tuesday Tours will be back in February with author and illustrator Lori Nichols who’ll be sharing her studio in Alabama.

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Harriet Muncaster’s Studio Tour

1Today on Tuesday Tours we’re joined by author and illustrator Harriet Muncaster who creates magical worlds by photographing her illustrated characters within doll-size sets that she forms out of mount board and paper. From her studio set on a hill in Bedfordshire, England, Harriet has created the books I Am a Witch’s CatHappy Halloween Witch’s Cat!, and illustrated the Glitterbelle series—which might explain why she has shelves of fabulously-filled jars of glitter.  skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am an author and illustrator of children’s books. Up until now I have worked mainly in 3D – building dollshouse-size sets out of card and fabric and then photographing them.




How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?   I haven’t had my studio for very long. My husband and I just moved into our first house in January. Before that we were actually living with my parents and my studio was just in my bedroom! It’s so nice to be able to have my sleeping space and working space in different rooms now. It’s also a lot less messy. I find that the configuration of my studio can affect my creative process. When we first moved in I arranged everything in a different way to how it is now. It just didn’t work as well – especially my desk being pushed up into the corner of the room. It felt constricting and I didn’t feel compelled to want to go and sit in there and work. I rearranged it all a couple of months ago and it feels so much better now! 

15Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
There isn’t really a typical workday for me. It’s always different, depending on what I need to get done and the workload. There are periods of time that can become more typical though. For example if I’m sketching out roughs for a 120 page book, that might take me about 3 weeks. So each day will become very similar for around 3 weeks. But then I’ll move on to something different and things will change.


When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio? 
The time when I had the most fun working in my studio has been these last few weeks actually. I am working on a project – which I can’t really say much more about right now, that I am so so so excited about. I am really passionate about it and I wake up every day at the moment just so excited to work on it like there’s a fire under my feet! I can’t wait until it’s published (autumn 2016 I hope) and I can talk about it more!



You’ve done a fabulous job of mixing three dimensional sculptures with two dimensional illustrations. Do you think illustrating in a nontraditional way is more challenging? What are some of the bigger challenges?  
Thank you! In a way I don’t think illustrating in a non-traditional way is more challenging. Making models to photograph means you don’t have to worry about depth in the image because it’s already there. Or getting things looking like they are the right perspective. Because it’s just there automatically! That’s not the reason why I do it though. It’s not just laziness. It’s because I have such a passion for tiny things. I have always been fascinated by miniatures and spent my childhood making tiny things. It felt very natural to me to create my work that way. I think I find it easier than drawing flat pictures in fact! There are challenges though, like if you want to create a scene that isn’t a room, a scene with a big landscape, you need a lot of space. Also it can get quite expensive with all the materials and lighting that are necessary to buy. The photography can be a challenge sometimes too. I am not always sure exactly how the scene will turn out once it’s photographed. 


What do you do with all of your characters and props when you’re finished photographing them?   
To be honest they end up dismantled most of the time. I just don’t have the space to keep them all. Also, because they are only made of mountboard and card and paper, they start to warp and fall apart and look shabby after not too long anyway. 


If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?    
I’m not sure I could share a studio with anyone. I would get too distracted. I work much better on my own. I watch stuff and listen to audiobooks while I work. I remember at university working in the big studio with everyone else and I definitely didn’t get as much work done there. I just ended up chatting too much! Saying that, I guess I can share a studio with my little mascot Celestine. She’s very quiet and no trouble. Sometimes she sits and works with me in my studio at her own tiny desk. She’s a jewellery designer.


Harriet’s mascot Celestine.

Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am always inspired by the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. They are my favourite books of all time! I got a big Dorrie poster printed for my studio so I can see her all the time in there. I also get very inspired by Pinterest. I love love love looking at images on there and I love making mood boards for characters and books.


If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?   
I’m not sure there’s anything I would add but I wouldn’t mind it being a bit bigger. At the moment my mac sits in front of my window so I have to close the blind whenever I’m on the computer in the daytime which is not ideal. 


What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Well everyone’s different but I would say surround yourself with pictures you love or that inspire you. I hate blank walls so I have just covered my walls in other artist’s work and also my own work. I like to see other peoples work because it is inspiring but I also like to see my own published work because it boosts me up if I am feeling under confident. I also find it useful to stick up pictures of characters and things that I am currently working on. 

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

My next book—Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat! is out around July/August. I also illustrated a version of The Night Before Christmas in 3D, which should be out sometime this year too. You can find out more on my blog.

Thank you, Harriet! I’m eager to hear about your new project and also to check out Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat! 

Join us next week when author/illustrator and my good friend and conference buddy Amy Ward will be sharing her studio in Peoria, IL.

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Sneak peak: Shimmerling

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

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

Mary Sullivan’s Studio Tour

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

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

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

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

Welcome to my studio

The entrance to Mary’s studio/home.

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

Where Mary has her morning coffee.

Where Mary has her morning coffee.

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

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

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

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

Mary's favorite place to sit and draw.

Mary’s favorite place to sit and draw.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










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

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

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

She's currently working on a book of spaceships.

She’s currently working on a book of spaceships.

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

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

A page from Mary's book BALL!

A page from Mary’s book BALL!

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


Sketches from Mary's book about Frankie.

Sketches from Mary’s book about Frankie.

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

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



Barbara Reid’s Studio Tour

This week’s Tuesday Tours features the studio space of Author and Illustrator Barbara Reid, who created one of my favorite picture books Picture A Tree, which has had numerous starred reviews, been included on some best-of lists, and has been honored on the 2014 Green Earth Book Award Short List. I love trees, as does my family, and when the publisher Albert Whitman announced a drawing contest for kids to create a tree and possibly win a copy of the book, my daughter Evey was all over it. After winning and receiving a copy of Picture A Tree, Evey was so inspired by Barbara’s artwork that she spent the next six months creating a book all of her own out of clay. Evey’s studio, however, is not nearly as put together and organized as Barbara’s!  Barbara lives in Toronto with her photographer husband Ian Crysler, who took all of the beautiful photographs for this studio tour.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Barbara ReidTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am a picture book illustrator of more than 25 books, and the author for about 12 of those. My relief style plasticine illustrations have won numerous awards, including a Governor General’s Award for Illustration and the Ezra Jack Keats Award. As a kid I was an avid reader of both words and pictures. I drew constantly. I drew on paper, walls, school desks, school work, myself, my friends, you name it. I copied pictures from books that I liked, and “improved” illustrations I didn’t like; textbooks were especially tempting. I was a fast reader, so had plenty of free time to daydream doodle in school. computerDesk BulletinBoard BookCase

I also spent hours playing with Plasticine, the original non-hardening modelling clay. While studying illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design, I raided my childhood plasticine stash to create a relief illustration for a project. It went over well, and plasticine art became part of my portfolio, eventually becoming my primary medium. Plasticine is a fantastic medium for expression, and I am still finding new ways to use it.  It is wonderful for creating detail, and the textures encourage the reader to spend time and look closely at each page–an illustrator’s dream. Best of all, it’s a kid’s material. I get a huge response from young artists and see incredible student art in schools and my inbox. I first plan an illustration with drawings, then create the picture by spreading, modelling and adding texture to layers of clay on illustration board. The finished piece is  photographed and the digital files sent to the publisher. My husband Ian Crysler, is a professional photographer who does a terrific job of lighting and shooting all my work. A very handy partnership! Our two daughters have grown up through various roles: models, test readers, consultants, and editors. Very tough editors. It still surprises me that I’ve made a career of doing something that is so much fun. Another happy surprise is the opportunity to travel that comes with being a children’s author. I have met amazing young readers, artists and writers, as well as inspiring teachers and librarians in communities across Canada and the USA . The experiences contribute to my work.supplyCupboard

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve always worked from home, my studio is on the renovated third floor of our skinny brick house in the city. We have lived in the house for 25 years. It’s in a lively neighbourhood and I can walk or subway to most everything I need. There is also a park and ravine system nearby with tons of trees, birds, and wildlife. It’s easy to break the isolation of working alone by going for a walk or running errands. And really, really easy to procrastinate.
Oh, yes. Procrastination is probably the easiest thing to check off the to do list!

 Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating? 
Almost every morning for 15 years I took our bossy little wire-haired Fox Terrier Ruby for a walk in the Don Valley ravine system. Walking in nature is one of the best ways to clear your head and think random thoughts. Ruby was an excellent companion: she made sure I walked whatever the weather, she was always happy to be out, and she didn’t talk. My book Picture a Tree is dedicated to Ruby, as most of the writing took place on our walks. She also makes appearances in Sing a Song of Mother Goose and Perfect Snow. Now Ruby is terrorizing squirrels in the afterworld, but I still try to get out there every morning. It always makes for a better day. That and coffee.

Picture a Tree 22-23

Picture a Tree, by Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada (the fall scene)

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you listening to now?
Classical music on CBC (Canadian national public radio) if I’m writing or drawing roughs. In the production stage of plasticine artwork I enjoy CBC talk radio and lecture podcasts.
ArtDeskIs there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My favourite distraction is a bird bath on the deck outside the studio window. Most days the birds have a little happy hour sort of thing and they all line up and take turns. Distraction and inspiration often go hand in hand. Inside the studio are all sorts of books, souvenirs, stuff from kids, photos, and quotes pinned up that inspire me. It’s kind of a shrine to the Idea Fairies.
I love the Idea Fairies–there’s a new book idea waiting to be created 😉

ToolsWhat would you say is the most useful tool in your studio? 
This will date me! I have an ancient burnishing tool for sticking down Lettraset instant lettering. I use it as a magical 11th finger for making small details in the clay. It is the one tool to rule them all. I have chewed the handle to a stub. It’s irreplaceable and so it never leaves the studio.

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?Pay someone to clean the fish tank.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Be selfish! By that, I mean respect your work by creating the space and time you need to do it in.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada and Albert Whitman & Company

What are you working on now, and where can we find out more?
I’m very excited that my illustrated version of the classic Clement C. Moore The Night Before Christmas will be released in the USA for Fall 2014, published by Albert Whitman & Company. First published by Scholastic Canada, it won the 2014 Libris Children’s Picture Book of the Year, from the Canadian Book Publisher’s Association. In response to the line: “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”, I chose to make all the characters mice– even Santa. The story takes place in the hollow log home of a lively (to say the least!) mouse family. I’m working on some new ideas, but it’s too soon to talk about them. You can find out more about my books, upcoming events, and how-to videos for creating plasticine artwork by visiting my website:

Thank you, Barbara for sharing your beautiful studio, and also for inspiring my daughter (and me) with your amazing and memorable books! 

Stop back next week to see the literary spaces of author Deborah Underwood!

Judy Schachner’s Studio Tour

JudySchachner_portraitI’m really excited to feature the amazing studio of author/illustrator extraordinaire, Judy Schachner on today’s Tuesday Tours! Judy is the #1 NY Times Best Selling Author and Illustrator of over 23 children’s picture books, including her Skippy Jon Jones series. She’s won many awards like the first E. B. White Read Aloud Award.
I had a great time meeting Judy and hearing her speak at the SCBWI-WI Fall Conference last October. She had a presentation full of inspirational images of her own work, as well as work from other illustrators of the present and past. I had a chance to talk with Judy between presentations and was impressed by her ability to speak out about issues that concerned her. I think that as children’s writers and illustrators it may sometimes be hard to find a voice for societal issues, as many times (especially if we’re pre-published) we feel it’s better to nod and smile and not get into anything too confrontational. But, Judy showed me that it’s equally important to speak up, even if no one is joining you. It’s brave and it’s vulnerable, but it’s needed. So I thank her for that. Judy will be a featured speaker at this summer’s SCBWI LA conference, and if you can get to the City of Angels I highly recommend it. I invite you to check out Judy’s amazing space, which I told her, is pretty darn close to my dream studio!


studio1 studio 9

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I have been an illustrator/author of children’s books for over twenty years and  have worked in a variety of media – it all depends on the book I’m working on. My favorites are gouache, acrylics, charcoal pencil, pastel and collage. In my most recent book Bits and Pieces (a story about my 21 year old cat Tink) I used an electric eraser to create the look of fur. It’s fun to experiment.



How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?My space is relatively new.  We were building an addition onto our house and I decided to go for broke (literally) and add a studio. Not one bit sorry.  Since I spend most days and nights in this room I wanted it to be full of light, full of storage, and full of inspiration. I wanted a space that would encourage me to work. It does.

studoi 2

Walk us through how you get started with your day. Are there any kind of rituals you do before you create?
Yes I do have my rituals–I love my coffee and toast in the morning with a side of magazines. I usually do a little bit of straightening and fluffing of pillows (can’t have too many pillows) then I go to work. I like an orderly room so if I haven’t straightened up the evening before, I’ll begin the day by organizing my stuff. I might page through my journals or add to them.

What do you listen to while you’re working?
If I’m not listening to NPR, I’m listening to my daughter’s music, which she composes for film, television, and video games. Her music is my absolute favorite to listen to, and since my favorite genre of music has always been film scores, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with her.

Do you have any special trinkets in your space that inspire you?
My studio should be called trinketville because I have always been a collector of things from “the used world.” One man’s junk is another girl’s treasure. I am inspired by old things, especially sparkly old things. And taxidermy! Somebody’s got to give those old forgotten creatures love and a place to rest in peace.

studio 10Your space is already amazing, but if there was anything to improve, what would you do?
It’s pretty darn close to perfect, Andrea, but it could be just a tad bigger. Does that make me sound greedy?

Not at all. More space is what I think most artists want. Work can always get bigger 🙂 After going though this big redesign of your studio, do you have any advice for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Creative space does not need to be big or fancy or built to a T–creative space can be anywhere.
I sometimes do my best writing strapped into a car or an airplane. For years, my space was a corner of a room or an attic, or when I was little, our bathroom. It was long and narrow and I could tape a huge sheet of rolled out shelf paper to one of its bare walls. I would shut the door and draw and act out my stories to near exhaustion. But I always had a dream of one day having a special room where I could make a big mess and be surrounded by my treasures. It’s so cliché but sometimes dreams do come true.

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What are you working on now?
I just finished the eighth Skippy Jon Jones book in the series called Snow What and it’s probably the silliest yet. It comes out in October. I have a new book in the works about an obsessive/compulsive raccoon. He is excellent at repurposing trash. This August I will be a featured speaker at SCBWI in LA, so if you’re a bookmaker, come and watch me have a nervous breakdown in front of a thousand or so author/illustrators. It should be a blast.

Thanks so much for sharing your studio with us, Judy. Your work space and the work you make in it are equally gorgeous! I’m excited to see the new books, especially the one about the raccoon who likes to repurpose trash–it sounds an awful lot like my oldest daughter!

School Tours, Author Visits, and Art Workshops at the Gallery!

Over the past two weeks I’ve been working with students from four different schools and sharing the story of my newest book Shimmerling. We did a little bit of meditation, danced to Pharrell William’s song ‘Happy’, sang some pretty rocking Shimmerling songs, and made beautiful engraved leaves that the students took home with them. I love doing presentations and workshops in the gallery surrounded by all the artwork from the exhibition. Thanks to Arts@Large for making it happen 🙂