Eliza Wheeler’s Studio Tour

Eliza Wheeler Today on Tuesday Tours I’m delighted to welcome Eliza Wheeler, an amazing illustrator and author who’s penned the New York Times Bestseller Miss Maple’s Seeds and illustrated award-wining books like Doll Bones by Holly Black and Wherever You’ll Go by Pat Zietlow Miller. Eliza offers illustrators incredible advice on her blog about preparing a portfolio and she has one of the best blog posts I’ve read recently—The I Suck Dilemma, which addresses how to roll with the continual self-doubt that creators have. Eliza is as delightful as the beautiful worlds she paints, and I’m excited to see what she’ll do when she teams up with Pat Zietlow Miller again on a book called Brave.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logoPainting table
work_Miss Maple
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I grew up in a small northern Wisconsin town, and went to school for graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. While in school, it was the drawing and painting classes that I loved, rather than the computer work that my major consisted of. I didn’t really think that drawing (in any form) could be a viable career option for me, so I finished school with the design degree. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles in 2007 so that he could pursue film work, and I found in-house and freelance design jobs, and drew whenever I could on the side. In 2009 I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference for the first time and it felt like the stars aligning for me. I focused on building and refining an illustration portfolio over the next few years, and in 2013 my first book, Miss Maple’s Seeds was published by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books (which debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List!). Since then, I’ve been working full time to create illustrations for both picture books and middle grade novels. I work with dip pens in India Ink, paired with watercolor paints on Arches paper.
Studio pic
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?

I’ve been living in and working out of a small studio apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles since 2011. My bedroom, living room, and studio are all in one space – and all shared with my husband, Adam. Some people wonder how we don’t go crazy (admittedly, sometimes we do), but being both artists pursuing creative fields, we had to make a choice between having more space and less time (getting jobs to support the space), or living in a smaller way. We decided on the latter.

couch table
work_doll bonesHaving a small space can be restricting to the creative process, and I try (and usually fail) to be as organized as I can. When I’m sketching or inking, things stay cleaner, but once I start painting, the whole process sort of explodes all over the place. The biggest sacrifice in a small space is having surface space on which to spread out. I often fantasize about the day I might have a large studio space apart from my living space – with tables and storage galore! That said, my current space has taught me the art of being able to make things work; to be flexible and roll with the punches in limiting circumstances. Adam built a little lap-table for computer work or sketching on the couch (isn’t it the cutest?), which is a nice break from the drawing table and we can use while watching TV. I also bring work to coffee-shops and the library when possible.

Painting tools

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
The past two years I’ve had heavy project loads, and I usually work from about 10am10pm. Ideally I would try to keep a more normal schedule. My mornings start quiet and unplugged – my two rituals are 1) lighting a candle when I start working, 2) setting a timer every 45 minutes to meditate, stretch or read. If I’m doing something that needs mental focus I listen to music, otherwise I listen to lectures, podcasts, radio, audiobooks and as the day goes along I end up watching (mostly terrible) TV. It has to be entertaining enough, but not too good so as to be distracting!

Drawing with Jen Rofe

Drawing with Jen Rofe

When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
When I first got my agent, Jen Rofe, she came for a visit and asked me to give her a drawing lesson. I didn’t know her well at this point, and I was nervous! I thought maybe she was expecting me to prepare a lesson, but right away she started asking about how to draw a box, so I showed her two-point perspective. That blew her away! It was a hoot. She was so enthusiastic and excited to learn—the dream student.

Los Angeles Apartment_web
If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”― A.A. Milne

Inspiration Board

What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
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Social interactions are by far the biggest distractions. I’m unfortunately the kind of introvert that gets drained by any amount of interaction; face-to-face, by phone, and online. I’ve had to be really diligent and intentional about staying unplugged most of the time in order to allow the kind of creative mental space that I need. I check work email twice a day, and personal email far less. I look at social media one day a week. I found an app (CritiCall) that only allows calls from my husband and my agent. Someday I’m sure I’ll whittle things back down to a land-line and P.O. Box!
Our Baby painting

If you could live inside the world of one of the picture books you’ve illustrated, which one would it be and why?
I love this question! When I illustrated Wherever You Go I decided I was going to draw the world that I wanted to live in – but I do also prefer the quiet country lifestyle of Miss Maple, so it’s a toss-up. So maybe, I would live in Miss Maple’s treehouse, INSIDE the world of Wherever You Go!


What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a picture book biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I’m steeped in both his real world and story world. It’s been a bottomless well of inspiration! I’m also referencing Harry Clarke, Sidney Sime, Franklin Booth, and as always, Lisbeth Zwerger.

LA Library

LA Library

If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
Another fun question—I would choose a river house in the forest by the Brule River in Wisconsin, a river that my family canoed growing up. It’s a beautiful, magical place.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Get creative with your space. Don’t need perfect circumstances in order to work—be flexible and mobile when possible. Be solution-oriented when it comes to having housemates around and needing time to focus. My headphones have become a great tool for letting my husband know that I’m in the zone and shouldn’t be interrupted.

work_CodyWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My newest illustrations out are in Wherever You Goa picture book by Pat Zietlow Miller, as well as a middle grade, Cody and the Fountain of Happinessby Tricia Springstubb. Coming next spring and summer will be two picture books: Tell Me A Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee, and This is Our Baby Born Today, by Varsha Bajaj.
See more online at www.wheelerstudio.com.

Thank you so much, Eliza! The map of your apartment is an extra treat and I love seeing how you use your space to the max! Your advice to people for being flexible and solution-oriented when finding a place to work is fabulous. Looking forward to seeing your upcoming projects!

Join us on November 10th when the talented Matthew Cordell shares his Illinois studio with us.

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Rowboat Watkins’s Studio Tour

A couple of weeks ago I came across the most unusual and charming picture book called Rude Cakes, and fell in love with the storytelling and the illustrations. It wasn’t until I’d re-read it that I glanced at the authors name—Rowboat Watkins. Rowboat? Hmmm… I turned to the bio page and was informed that his wife gave him the name. Intrigued, I went to his website and was thoroughly entertained by his longer bio. I thought it’d be a kick to see where he’s creating all this great stuff, and I’m thrilled he agreed give us a peak at his studio this week on Tuesday Tours! His creative style extends to his Brooklyn workspace, where he wrestles with the option of tackling household chores or creative pursuits each day, and where he keeps company with marshmallows and clay gorillas (you’ll see what I mean).


pic_of_me_1200wTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Although you would never suspect if from looking at me, I’m an incurable neat freak living amongst crumb Visigoths. I live in the middle of a black hole in which all of Life’s unread mail and unpaid bills seem to gather, and in which most of Humanity’s dishes, and spoons, and whisks seem to daily convene in our sink. Which is notable only because there are but three of us living here. And nothing we eat during most days would seem to require a whisk. Or a cleaver. I have no idea why there are fourteen butter knives covered in peanut butter (or jelly) when it is only 10:00am…and maybe one sandwich (that I know of) has been invented since we all woke up this morning. But it is a sandwich which has apparently lived on 6 or 7 plates during its construction. Or at least before its eventual departure or demise. Which is all to say that my preferred creative medium is order. At this point I’m willing to settle for a spotty impersonation of tidiness. And some pencils and pens without syrup on them. Or whatever that sticky stuff might be. And a pad or two. And a window of desk space not occupied by marshmallows. Or little gorillas. The latter, I concede, are no one’s fault but my own.desk1_1200w

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We have lived here for 10 years. My wife and I, that is. My daughter’s only been here for 9 and a half. The dog for 4 and a half. And the marshmallows and gorillas for maybe a year. Depending on who you ask. In defense of my odd familiarity with the migratory patterns of cleavers and whisks, I would like to note that I work next to the kitchen. Out of the corner of my left eye, at this very moment, I can see a synod of greasy spatulas on the counter. A loaf of unwrapped bread. And a gaggle of foggy glasses.


In front of me is a computer screen. Most of the marshmallows are gone. Thankfully. There are a couple stragglers, but what can you do? At least all of the gorillas are back in their boxes. Or over on the mantel. It was starting to look like The Battle of Hastings on my desk. As you might suspect, it kind of becomes impossible to do anything when you are living in the middle of the Norman conquest.



Out of the corner of my right eye I can see the couch. Where my dog is currently asleep. And behind her, the playground across the street, peeking out from behind the trees. The window is open and I can hear the sprinklers sprinkling, and birds chirping, and someone dribbling a ball, and little kids talking on the jungle gym. And the skittering of plastic wheels rolling. And the faint beep of a truck backing up somewhere in the distance. And a plane flying overhead. But it’s all heard softly, and is mostly just one sound of a nice summer day.


Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I wish I were organized enough to have a ritual, but most days are a clumsy dance of getting my daughter off to school or camp, drinking a cup of coffee (or two), walking the dog, and trying to remember worrying about spatulas is not a valid reason not to be making more headway on whatever’s directly in front of me. Things are thrown into even greater disarray when my latest fatwa against Facebook has been repealed for no good reason. The current ban is mercifully still in place, so at least there’s some hope of getting something done before picking up my daughter from camp, and taking her to the orthodontist to see if they can save the retainer she stepped on yesterday during lunch.


When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
Whenever I forget what I can see out of the corner of my eyes, and am drawing in my sketchbooks and not worrying about what everything means, it’s usually pure delight. The same was true when I first realized that, if marshmallows look so fun to draw on, no one but ME was stopping me from drawing on them. Or that maybe all those gorillas I made out of sculpey for no good reason would be happier if they had a rocket ship made out of construction paper? Or a bed? Or a boat? Why? Why not? Fun pretty much never happens in my studio when I’m tarrying over technicalities like WHY.




Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Nope. I have all kinds of things piled around my desk, or taped onto the blackboard, or propped on the chalk shelf over my computer screen. Lucky wheatshaft pennies found in pocket change. Rusty washers. Drawings by my wife and daughter. Drawings by friends. Pink Pearl erasers. Japanese masking tape. I like it all. And it all becomes like a messy bouillabaisse of inspiration.


What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Worrying about dishes. Or that I don’t know how to do what I am doing. Someone else, who actually knows what they are doing, should be doing this. There must be a better way to draw this bed. Or that forest. If I were a different me, I would draw this whatever more persuasively. And Facebook. And email. What are the rules again? Weren’t those yesterday’s rules? Ugh…yesterday’s rules totally sucked. If I had better rules in place I would surely be further along. THERE ARE TOO MANY GORILLAS ON MY DESK! I can’t think with all this crap around my keyboard. With all those soiled whisks in the corner of my eye! If only I were my dog, I’d be living the Life of Riley. Look at my dog over there. Maybe I should take her for a walk? Maybe if I drove a Zamboni over my desk I would be able to see my thoughts again? Maybe I’m not liking what I’m working on because it all feels like TORTURE, and I should start all over, and pretend I am having fun? Wasn’t that the problem with yesterday too? Oh yeah. Torture=bad. Fun=good. I should write that down. I’ll do it tomorrow.


What do you like to nibble/drink when you’re working?
Coffee. Root beer. Pink lady apples. Popsicles. Peaches when in season.


Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
At this very moment, the first two names that come to mind are Joshua Oppenheimer and Petit Pierre. The former is the director of The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. Both of which are too bracing and lovely for words. And the latter is the French guy who spent his whole life making this joyous wonder of a thing.

I only discovered Petit Pierre the other month when my friend Sergio sent me a link. You should watch the link. There are too many picture book writers and illustrators to name, so I won’t even try.


Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
I can’t listen to music while I work. Lately I have been listening to The History of the World in 100 Objects. Which I listened to when it first came out. It is great, but I am terrible at doing two things at once so I either have no idea what I’m listening to, or I am not paying attention to what I am drawing. And I have no idea why I keep putting it back on. But you asked. I’m best served when listening to nothing at all.


What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Hmm…I don’t think I would take advice from a guy who perpetually worries about whisks and cleavers, and listens to podcasts he can’t remember, and lets himself be overrun with marshmallows.



What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new picture book Rude Cakes was just published by Chronicle Books in June. I’m working on two more books for them, which are supposed to come out in 2016 and 2017. But I’m still doing line work for the first of them, so I can’t swear the time-space continuum will necessarily comply. All I know for sure is there are no greasy spatulas or horrific piles of mail in either. You can visit me at http://rowboatwatkins.com.

Thank you for sharing your studio, Rowboat! In addition to laughing out loud at some of your marshmallow escapades, I love the youtube video you shared of Petit Pierre work. Can’t wait to see your upcoming books—maybe some clay gorillas will grace the pages? 

i-dont-like-koala-9781481400688_lgI’m heading to LA for the SCBWI Summer Conference, so Tuesday Tours will return in a few weeks with a look inside illustrator Charles Santoso’s studio in Sydney, Australia.

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Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Studio Tour

JJK_author_pic_Ollie_color_We have the multi-talented author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka joining us today on Tuesday Tours to share his studio in Massachusetts. I’m a big fan Jarrett’s TED talk advocating for arts education–which is a cause close to my heart. After hearing about his famous drafting table, which he received from his grandparents on his fourteenth birthday and still uses today, I knew he’d make a great guest on Tuesday Tours. Jarrett’s popular Lunch Lady series and Punk Farm are both in development to be a feature films. The next book in his Platypus Police Squad series was just released and his newest picture book It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon, will be available in September.


Jarrett K. 2

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am an author and illustrator of children’s books—picture books, graphic novels and middle-grade novels. My picture books are printed in full color, so the art for those are painted or are digital collages of paintings, depending on the specific title. My comics and novels are printed in limited color or grayscale, so the art in those books are created with brush and ink drawings that are scanned and colored/shaded digitally.

Jarrett K. 10

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?We moved in August, so I am still settling. My old space was a detached garage that was renovated to be my studio. While it had skylights and high ceilings, I quickly ran out of space. My new workspace is in the basement. While I don’t have the natural light I had before, I have the space! In fact, I have three rooms—one for writing, one for making art and one for storage, promotional materials and shipping supplies, etc. I’m now able to compartmentalize the various parts of my work. I need very different environments for writing and making art.

Jarrett K. 13

Jarrett K. 6

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
There is no such thing as a typical work day in my life. I have two small children, aged six and three, so they are always throwing me for a loop. I also have to travel quite a bit for my work. As I aim to travel less, I will be able to have somewhat of a structured life. Who am I kidding? Things will still be unpredictable. I’m also at the mercy of deadlines. So my management of time is constantly evolving.

Jarrett K. 9


Jarrett K. 3

What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing/illustrating? How do you deal with it?
Social media. My friend Lisa Yee just introduced me to a new app called Anti-social; it blocks your computer from all the Facebook Twitters of it all. I’m also trying to only post in the evenings, so I hope that helps boost my productivity. My new studio space is also adjacent to the kids’ playroom, but that isn’t much of a distraction, really. I travel so much that it’s nice to be connected to my kids while I am home and working.

Jarrett K. 14

If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
My pug, Ralph, is the only one in the world that I could share a studio space with. As much as I’m an extrovert, when I am working I am as equally an introvert.
Jarrett K. 12

Jarrett K. 7

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
There are a lot of special trinkets. I have many of my childhood toys and books. I have a lot of robots and doodads. I also have a guitar that I keep promising myself that I will learn how to play.

Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
My two daughters, hands down. I love their marks and how they view the world through art. They are so uninhibited. We spend a lifetime trying to get our art to a certain level, and then we look back and realize we had something great working for us all along.
jarrett kids

What are the three best things about your studio space?
I really like the rails that I keep on the walls to hang art that is in progress. I also have a bulletin board that is filled with notecards for every book that I am working on—it helps me keep track of what is due. I also really love having just one chair in each room, so I can wheel myself from desk to desk. (I keep a drafting table for clean media, one for messy media and a separate desk for digital media.)
Jarrett K. 1

Jarrett K. 11

Share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.
That is a difficult question. I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one, but I’d say anytime where I have consecutive hours or days of uninterrupted work. Our furnace broke on a Friday afternoon this past January, and it wouldn’t be fixed until Monday. While my family went to the in-laws house for the weekend, I stayed back and put space heaters in front of all of our sinks so the pipes wouldn’t freeze and just worked. I binge-listened to every single episode of the Serial podcast and just got artwork done!Jarrett K. 4jarrett

Jarrett K. 5

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
You definitely need to draw the line between home and work. You also need to know what works for you—do you need natural light or would you rather be closed off in a box with no distractions? Even though my space is next to the playroom, the kids know their boundaries and don’t come in to the space when I’m not around. We may try to recreate what we had at our old house by building a separate structure in the backyard. There is definitely something nice about walking our your back door, letting the air hit your face and feeling the separation of home and work.
Jarrett K. 8

last panda

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My website is StudioJJK.com. My latest middle-grade novel, Platypus Police Squad: Last Panda Standing, was just published and in September my next picture book It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon will be released—it will be my 30th book to be published!

Thank you, Jarrett! I love how you separate all your creative spaces—what a great way to train your mind to go between different creative pursuits. Best of luck with your new releases and I’ll be watching for The Lunch Lady to hit the silver screen!

Sophie PagePlease join us on May 26th when we’ll get a chance to see inside the studio of illustrator Sophie Page

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David Catrow’s Studio Tour

Stand Tall Molly Lou MelonToday on Tuesday Tours I’m happy to feature the Springfield, OH studio  of NYT bestselling author and illustrator David Catrow. David is the Illustrator of over 70 children’s books, including some of my all time favorites—I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (written by Karen Beaumont) and Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon (written by Patty Lovell). I never grow tired of hearing these stories and absorbing the over-the-top, energy-infused illustrations. My daughters and I laugh out loud every time we get to the end of I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, and the protagonist, who has painted most of his body, decides to drop his tighty-whities and extend his living canvas to his tush—until that is, he runs out of paint. And who wouldn’t love Molly Lou Melon and her buck-teeth that she stacks pennies on, and her adorable short stature?I aint gonna paint David creates fantasy worlds of the best kind in his illustrations–tempting us to see a better reality, one which buck-teeth are beautiful and creative energy can’t be stilled, even by a mom who’s had enough with the mess. I’ve been drawn to David’s work for years, never knowing he was a self-taught artist, but it doesn’t really surprise me–some of the best artists (and most of my favorites) are. In addition to his multitude of books, David is also credited with the visual development for 20th Century Fox’s Horton Hears a Who and Despicable Me. He has worked on the animated television series Stuart Little and Plantzilla (based on the popular children’s book by Jerdine Nolan). His syndicated editorial cartoons have run in over 1000 newspapers across Canada and the US. And his scholastic book series Max Spaniel has sold over a million copies.


headshotscrapbookTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I was born an artist—there isn’t any better way to say it than that. From the moment I was able to hold a crayon in my hand and not eat it, I have been communicating visually. I am comfortable being a self-taught artist, but at times it’s a double-edged sword. The up side is when I am forced to rely on one of my jury-rigged, build my wings on the way down strategies; it’s hell on the gastro-intestinal tract but in the end it yields some truly novel solutions. Life as a self taught artist is also fraught with tiger pits. I often think about the vast amounts of time wasted early in my career searching for answers in an unfamiliar technique or medium; I was like a Neanderthal carpenter searching for a rock to pound a nail—completely unaware that someone had invented a thing called a hammer. Those are the times that made me wish I’d gone to art school.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
While I would love to report that my studio overlooks the ocean from a wind swept hill, that is not the case. My window view is a typical city street with trucks and cars and buses—dogs barking at the UPS guy, kids playing hoop, and airplanes streaking overhead. The fantastic visions that come into my work, in fact originate from within the quiet solitude of my skull—so I think an ocean view would be a distraction.image4andrea10
I moved into my studio in 1991 and as any new space, it needed to be made mine. That process I am sure is different for every artist. Mine, for lack of a better description would be similar to any burrowing rodent or underground dwelling life form. I occupy the space and then proceed over time to cover the interior surface with an organic energy, producing tissue I can draw—this tissue is comprised of anything that suggests undiscovered potential or hints at new possibility. When I stumble upon something it’s like the Richard Dreyfus character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind— sees Devil’s Tower in his mashed potatoes and it means something. In other words, any meaningful thing I can get my hands on, I drag into my burrow.

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I usually begin my day with caffeine. That might suggest a problem but I limit myself to two cups a day. Plus, I don’t think it’s any different from shaman who chew entheogens to put them into a trance to converse with Mother Earth—I just brew mine in a French press and add a dapple of ½ and ½.

If you could share a studio with anyone in the world, who would you pick?image4andrea9

If I could possibly share my space with someone it might be Jackson Pollack, because everything I have read makes me think we might have shared sensibilities. Responding to a critic who asked why his drip-paintings never included nature, Pollack rightly answered, “I am nature!”


Describe how you work. Is there any rituals you do before you start creating?

Initially, the ideas for books are simply favorite characters or environments, and it is from this that the story emerges. Most importantly, I approach the visual story as if words have never existed—all I have available to me is my ability to communicate like the cave artist: visually. In my mind the only difference between editorial cartoons and picture books, is the subject. I believe my work as an editorial cartoonist was most powerful when I could tell a story without any words at all. But I do enjoy word play too, so captions are an important and easy ingredient to help crystalize the joke or the opinion. Outside of picking out my socks, I’ve never actually planned a thing in all my existence on this planet—but my path has always seemed apparent to me as I moved through life. So when an opportunity presents itself, hey you have to leap!


Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
When I was on a mountain bike trip in central Mexico in 2006, our group stopped at a tequila ranch for a breather and a little hydration (no tequila, just water). We were all a little tired so everyone was looking for a place to plant themselves. I found an old stump that had a lot of prickly growth to lean against. When something suddenly poked me in the side, I turned around to see this gnarly horn sticking out of the brush. Carefully parting the thorny branches, I found myself face to face with the most comically evil painted wooden mask I had ever seen in my life. I am not usually this forward but I found the farmer who owned the land and asked him if I could buy this amazing thing—which he agreed to sell to me for 40 pesos (about $20, maybe?). I carried him, piggy back, out of the bush on my bike. To this day, I have absolutely no idea where this object came from or what his story is but he lives in an honored place on the wall of my studio and is, on occasion a muse that nurtures my darker side.


Please share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.

I have many moments working in my studio when there is no better place in the universe to be. Moments when I am discovering what no other person has laid eyes on. Like stepping onto a high ridge to see a vast new alien world for the first time; and then getting to name the planet after me.



What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
My advice to anyone, whether they want to do art, write, be an acrobat, or just create a space where they can explore their interior universe, is to keep searching and moving forward in pursuit of what you love or seek. If you can make some sense of who you are, then maybe the guy standing next to you on the bus won’t seem as dark and threatening as you first imagined. Accepting who we truly are allows us to embrace and appreciate the differences in all the other beings that walk on this planet with us. And what kind of world would that be?

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new book Fun in the Sun Fun in the Sunis a story about my all time favorite thing to do—pack up all my stuff and head out to the beach. Needless to say, my goal was never to make the trip vicariously as a french bulldog in a speedo. I just think anything wearing a speedo is just too funny, and I also thought a french bulldog was a fitting candidate this time around. After all I am a dog person and all of my books start out as a desire to experience something new. I hope you enjoy my new “pet” Fun in the Sun. You can see more of my work on my website or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
David at computer

Thank you, David! I love how you described moving through life without a plan and leaping when you see an opportunity—it’s an inspiring way to work and live.
I’m looking forward to getting a copy of Fun in the Sun and seeing your speedo-wearing dog!

Join us next week when we get a chance to visit the writing studio of teen author and Pat Schmatz.

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.
view of studio 2

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.
computer room

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.
studio desk

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.

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.


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.

studio paints

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.


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.

wet bar

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.


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.

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!

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.


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.

Denise Fleming1

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.

Denise Fleming2

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.
Denise Fleming10

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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Denise Fleming7

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.
Denise Fleming5

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.
Denise Fleming3

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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.
Denise Fleming4

What are the three best things about your studio?
LIGHT, SIZE, and the SINK.
Denise Fleming8 Denise Fleming9

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.


Denise Fleming14

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.

Denise Fleming6

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.

Denise Fleming12

Denise Fleming13

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.

New videos from Stories Shared exhibit with Faith Ringgold

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

Faith & gang at La Merenda

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

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