Scott Campbell’s Studio Tour

On this week’s Tuesday Tours Scott’s Campbell takes us inside his Brooklyn studio where he creates his hilarious illustrations. I feel like the best way to introduce Scott is to share this video he made to advertise his new book Hug Machine.

I haven’t personally met Scott yet, but after watching his promotional video and admiring all of his amazing illustrations (which often make me laugh out loud) I can tell he’d be a pretty fun person to share a studio with. The lucky folks at the Pencil Factory in Brooklyn get to do just that, as his studio is part of the well known building that houses a diverse group of creative people. In addition to just releasing his first book as author/illustrator, Scott is also the illustrator of the Zombie in Love books, written by Kelly DiPucchio and East Dragon,West Dragon, written by Robyn Eversole. He has a witty illustration series called Great Showdowns, and he’s art directed a number of video games (not for children), including Psychonauts and Brutal Legend

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
My name is Scott and I paint pictures of pleasant creatures, usually enjoying themselves. Sometimes they do not get along, but most of the time they are buddies. I have been painting in watercolor for the past 10 years or so for gallery shows, comic books and magazines, and most recently children’s picture books. I have also created concepts and art directed a number of video games for Double Fine and Lucas. I am known for good vibes depictions of things because I myself am a fairly good natured fellow.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have worked out of my studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for about a year and a half. Before that I worked out of my house and before that I worked in a games studio in San Francisco. I very much enjoyed working at home, I felt I could get so much more work done than when I was in the games studio. But I did begin to miss being surrounded by creative people. I was recently blessed with the opportunity to join up with a space in a building in Greenpoint that is sort of legendary in the illustration world because of the array of incredibly talented artists that work there. It is called the Pencil Factory. It was an actual factory that made pencils way back in the day. You can even see number 2 pencils in the molding on the outside of the building! It is a pretty exciting place to work. There are not just illustrators in the building, there are production companies, music companies, design blogs, carpenters, all kinds of cool things go on in there. IMG_0695I share my particular space with a typeface designer, book jacket designer, and an illustrator/fine artist. I absolutely love being around such talented people. It really gets me so pumped to make cool things. And I feel like I am finally in touch with things going on in the illustration world. There is a camaraderie at the Pencil Factory that I just love so much. I enjoy talking with everyone and getting their opinions on business things as well as creative endeavors.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Once I had moved to New York about 6 years ago and started to work at home, I began to very much enjoy that moment when I step outside my front door into the morning air for the first time each day. I am a morning person, so I scramble to get out of my house as soon as possible in the morning and head to a local coffee shop to relax and read and come up with ideas. I do not usually come up with ideas and brainstorm in my house or studio. I do that out amongst people I do not know in a coffee shop or library. IMG_0636I enjoy being around other people working on their own things with whatever music and chatter is going on. I begin my day by reading whatever book I am reading, to relax my mind a bit and take it elsewhere. Give it some time to collect itself. Then I start scrawling notes and drawings all over my pieces of copy paper. I spend about an hour or two working on whatever I need to work on at the time then I look at my to do list and make a little list for the day of goals to meet. I journey into the studio in the late morning and that is when I begin to check my email. I paint whatever I need to paint that morning or in the late afternoon. I know that my golden hour of working is about 9 – 11am and then about 4 – 7pm. That middle zone is a no-man’s land of distractions! But I let myself have that time to do other random stuff. I can sometimes riff on ideas later in the day on my computer if I am feeling in the zone. I think I get stuff done at the end of the day because it is like extra credit stuff. Whatever I can get done is just an added gift to the day.
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zombi 2 coverDescribe a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
When I hit my stride on a project and am just painting everything up over the course of a few weeks, I am just super happy. The most recent zone like that was when I was painting the pages for the next Zombie In Love book called Zombie In Love 2 +1.  I enjoy listening to podcasts and books on tape when I am in that homestretch zone and this particular time, I got addicted to Mark Maron interviews. I learned about comedians creative processes and just interesting life experiences for a few weeks. It was great. And I forced myself to take lunch breaks and coffee breaks with my studio mates.
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Who are some of the picture book illustrators that have had an influence on your work?
Well, the book that inspired me to actually become a picture book illustrator was Stinky Cheeseman by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. That was the first time I realized how clever a book could be for the enjoyment of adults as well as children. I wanted to appeal to absolutely everyone after that. But some of the illustrators that have directly influenced the look and feel of my stuff through the years are Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, the Provensons, Arnold Lobel, J. Otto Seibold, and my friend Jon Klassen!

What’s your music of choice while you work?
When I need to use my brain, I usually listen to silence or real repetitive electronic music.  Music that acts like a brain massage.  But when I am in my zone, I listen to all kinds of things!  80’s music, new indie sorts of jams, soul music, ska and rocksteady, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Velvet Underground, the Ramones, The Smiths, all kinds of things.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Honestly, not really! I have been using the same little plate as a paint palette for the last 8 years, so I suppose that holds some sort of superstitious value to me. Most recently, my friend gave me a hand carved wooden dude that looks like he is eating a hamburger and holding a beverage.IMG_0721 I have that guy next to my keyboard looking right at me as I work on the computer. Oh, and I love my flat file. It is my favorite thing in my studio. I have always fantasized about having one and once I moved into this space, I found a couple in a warehouse scavenged from an old Chrysler plant that had closed down.

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If you could add a new tool, piece of furniture, or machine to your studio, what would it be?
A hammock would be nice. But I have no place to put it.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I would recommend creating a space that is not next to your bed. IMG_0668Get out of the bedroom and out of the house if you can. But really it is all relative to the person. Do whatever makes you cozy and relaxed. Pack your area with stuff if that makes you feel good. Make it super sparse if that clears your mind. Put stuff all over the walls if you want. I would just try a bunch of stuff out. I am sort of superstitious about creativity, so if something goes particularly well for awhile and ideas flow nicely, then I examine all of the aspects of what I went through and try to maintain that until I need to find a new way to get inspired.

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What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?Interesting. I don’t really have one particular color that inspires me. There is lots of white and black around me in my space. I like the warmth of old wooden furniture, but I am not really surrounded by that in my space. So who knows.

Hug MachineWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
Hug Machine is the first picture book that I have written as well as illustrated and that is in stores now. Zombie In Love 2 +1 (written my Kelly DiPuchhio) comes out at the end of the year. Everything else I am working on is top secret! I update my site as regularly as I can and I now have a new shop where people can buy my prints and books directly from me! And I am still updating my Great Showdowns site, but not as regularly.

Thanks, Scott! Your space, and especially how you describe working in it is so inspiring! Can’t wait for Zombie In Love 2 + 1 and I absolutely adore Hug Machine!

Maggie Rudy's 'I Wish I Had A Pet'

Maggie Rudy’s ‘I Wish I Had A Pet’

I’m excited for next week’s guest, artist Maggie Rudy. We’ll get to explore the curious and creative space that she uses when creating her three-dimensional characters and sets that illustrate her picture books!

 

Deborah Underwood’s Studio Tour

I’m happy to feature children’s author Deborah Underwood’s writing studio on today’s Tuesday Tours. Deborah, a New York Times Bestselling author, has created some beautifully written books, including one of my favorites The Quiet Book. Deborah had a busy Spring with the releases of two of her books–Bad Bye, Good Bye and Here Comes the Easter Cat both coming out within a couple months of each other. But, in the midst of writing and promoting her books, she took the time to write and perform a few songs with the band Erin Murphy’s Dog, which includes some of her mates at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Their single Editorial Delay had me laughing out loud. As did the picture below of Deborah and her cat Bella.

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Bella (the cat) and Deborah - David Peattie version!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I write books for kids. I also sing, and I dabble in various artistic mediums. In the past, I’ve made jewelry, done paper marbling, thrown some lopsided pots, and taken classes in watercolor and drawing. Right now I’m taking a life drawing class, which is by turns fun and frustrating.

 

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your writing process?
I work in my apartment in San Francisco. When I got this place years ago, I had no idea that eventually it would become a home office, so my living room is a mishmash of normal living room stuff and all my writing things and art supplies. The writing stuff–papers, files, notes–tends to take over. I could use a visit from the Organization Fairy! I pull out a card table when I need extra workspace.
Deborah Underwood5I’m lucky in that I have big windows that get a lot of light, and I love looking out the window as I think. My scrub jay pal Fred comes by regularly for peanuts, and hummingbirds stop by, too.
Deborah Underwood3Even though I’m not as accomplished as my artist friends, I like having my own work around so I’m surrounded by manifestations of my own creativity; they serve as useful reminders during those creative dry spells! So I have my own watercolors and sketches on the walls, and some of the pottery I made sits on my table.

 

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start writing?
Sometimes I am disciplined about meditating 20 minutes in the morning; sometimes I’m not. I do find that when I meditate daily, I see benefits. Likewise, I am forever giving up coffee and then falling off the wagon, but I always have either coffee or English breakfast tea before I start working.

 

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Walk us through your writing process.
I usually start writing shorter works like picture books in longhand. I like the feel of the pen against the paper, and I am freakishly picky about the specific pen I need for a particular manuscript at a particular stage. Sometimes ideas materialize almost fully-formed, but sometimes I have to really fight for them. After I have the basic plot or concept, I’ll type in a draft, and from then on, it’s just print, edit, print again, edit again, ad nauseum. (Sorry, trees!)

The exception has been for the Cat book series, which started with me drawing rough illustrations in pencil and writing text to go with them. The stories are very dependent on visuals since Cat communicates by holding up signs, so sketching was the easiest way to get them onto paper.
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We’ve seen recently that in addition to your writing, you’re also musical. Do you listen to music while you work? What kinds?
I sometimes listen to music (classical, Celtic, new-age, indie) or my public radio station when I do busy work. But music–especially music with words–distracts me when I’m writing. Sometimes I can edit to instrumental pieces.

Deborah Underwood8Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you? 
Lots of things! A picture of my family. Gifts from friends–I especially love having art by my friends around. I have a small stone that I found on the island of Iona in Scotland when I was there for a personal retreat; it sits on my desk (except when my cat Bella knocks it off) and grounds me somehow. And I always try to have fresh flowers around. Bella inspires me, too. I got the idea for the Cat books because she was sprawled in front of me as I worked.

 

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Is there a book or writer that has been a source of admiration or inspiration for you? What are you reading now?
I have so many writer and illustrator friends now, and I find them all inspiring! One of the best parts of this job is being surrounded by so many talented colleagues. In terms of writing inspiration, I really liked Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Right now I’m reading and enjoying Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will. I recently finished and loved Conrad Wesselhoeft’s Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways To Fly.
Deborah Underwood6What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space?
My favorite colors are blues and greens, and unfortunately they are not well-represented in my apartment. My walls were gray when I moved in, and although I keep threatening to paint them, I haven’t yet. Someday!

 

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Be mindful of what works for you and what makes you happy. Let your gut, not your head, guide you. It doesn’t matter if the most logical place for your writing studio is that free space in the basement; if you thrive on natural light, you probably won’t do your best work down there.

 

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What’s coming up for you?
Here Comes Santa Cat (illustrated by Claudia Rueda) will be out in October 2014, and Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat the following year. And Interstellar Cinderella (illustrated by Meg Hunt) comes out in 2015, too. Please visit me at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com!
 
Thank you for sharing your writing space, Deborah. I’m looking forward to reading more of your lovely books, and hopefully hearing some new music from Erin Murphy’s Dog! 

 

Susan Eaddy’s Studio Tour

In this week’s Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to feature the studio of artist Susan Eaddy who lives and works in Nashville. Before starting her studio, ClayThings Illustration, she worked as the Art Director for an educational publisher and later, for RCA for Records Nashville, receiving a Grammy Award Nomination for her art direction. Susan creates the most magical illustrations out of clay. I’m a big fan of nontraditional art methods used for picture book illustrations, so I was drawn to her work right away. Susan’s newest illustration project has been on my radar for awhile because I have connections with the author, Julie Hedlund, through Julie’s 12 x12 challenge, and with the publisher Little Bahalia out of Milwaukee. I’m anxious to get a copy when it comes out in September.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I work/play upstairs in my attic studio and create all of my illustrations out of clay. Most of my illustrations are clay relief rather than 3D and my favorite medium is plasticine. I do use Sculpy from time to time, the advantage being that it can be baked and it’s a permanent medium. Not so with plasticine–it melts in heat (not so great for my attic studio!). But plasticine’s advantage is that it’s so darn fun to work with and to watch my hands turn turquoise or bright green, and to be able to craft small details–I love the colors and the textures. There are several steps to my process. After I research, I do tight drawings, create the clay relief, photograph and finalize files in Photoshop.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I have had this studio for 20 years! Hard for me to believe. It started out as just one corner of our finished attic, and I have gradually taken over every inch of space. I have basically three different zones–one for clay, one for photography, and one for computer work. clay table shockingly clean photography area                 susan eady art2 susan eady art 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating? Breakfast. I must eat breakfast.

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I can’t listen to anything when I am problem solving, working out characters, or pacing. But when the sketch is complete and I get to start the clay, I listen to audiobooks of all kinds. I have listened to the entire Harry Potter series at least three times. It’s a story so well told and beautifully narrated by Jim Dale. There’s comfort in knowing the story and not having to concentrate too hard so I don’t get distracted from my work. I often listen to children’s books I have already read, or “cozy” mysteries. susan eady art5 I just finished listening to the Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict which I loved! Another favorite series is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, which is beautifully narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Listening to books really puts me in the zone and keeps me in my chair, as I do not allow myself to listen if I am not working. I’m always reading several books at a time. Right now I’m reading Mary Poppins by Dr. P.L Travers, She Wrote, by Valerie Lawson My Reading Life by Pat Conroy and The Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson.

Susan hand painted her couch

Is there any special trinket in your space that inspires you? I’m kind of a crow, and I can’t help but collect objects–shiny or not. My entire studio is filled with toys, books, shells, rocks, seeds, clay leftovers, flowers, handmade animal sculptures, and much more!

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do? Ummm… insulate the old part of the attic. Unfortunately its not so much the money that’s the problem,  it’s the fact that I would have to tear off the beadboard walls in order to get insulation into the space. Ugh.
susan eady 5What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Oh, I have worked in all kinds of spaces since college–closets, back porches, corners of a bedroom. It’s amazing what you can do with a tiny space. Actually I have a friend, Claudia Williams, who’s a master at working in the tiniest of spaces–her space is brilliant! I feel so fortunate to have my large space now, but really, one can work ANYWHERE!

Are there any new projects you’re working on and where can we find out more? I just finished all of the illustrations for Julie Hedlund’s My Love for You is the Sun. Wow! Does that feel good! The book will be out in September, 2014 and is published by Little Bahalia Publishing. You find our more about me and my work at http://www.susaneaddy.com. I also love to fool around with iMovie, so I have a YouTube channel. And, I love to travel and keep a travel sketch blog.

Thank you for sharing your lovely studio, Susan. The illustrations for the new book are gorgeous. I can’t wait to see the entire book when it comes out in September!

Miranda Paul’s Studio Tour

Thus far I’ve featured illustrators and artists on Tuesday Tours,  but today I’m excited to share the first writer’s studio tour featuring children’s book author Miranda Paul. I met Miranda this past October at the SCBWI Fall Conference. After a day of seminars and critiques, I ended up in Miranda’s dorm room with a bunch of other writers. It was my first conference and I didn’t know many people, so the opportunity to have a pseudo slumber party was a lot of fun! In addition to writing picture books, Miranda has a number of other roles: she volunteers with Books for Africa, a foundation that collects, organizes, and ships books to the continent of Africa; Miranda founded RateYourStory, which is a website that allows writers to submit their stories and have them rated by other published authors; and recently, Miranda worked with a group of writers and professionals in the kid lit world to organize the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign in early May.  skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

MirandaPaulTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a writer, so I suppose my creative medium is spiraled notebooks. I write many of my ideas, storyboards, and first-drafts on cheap, lined paper. I’m often more productive getting raw ideas down in notebooks, because it’s harder to edit myself (no delete key!). Notebooks allow me to feel free to experiment or think up alternate possibilities that come with the creative “play” stage of writing. When I type up drafts, I use the default font. Once I’m getting close to a final draft, then I change the font to Times New Roman and double-space it. Now it’s time to look at the story in a different way—more editorial, professional, technical, serious.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My amazing husband built me this dedicated space in late 2012, but it took me a while to really settle in. I’ve been using it for almost a year and a half now.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
My office is literally an “Underground Lair” and I live in Wisconsin. So, I turn on the space heater 8-9 months out of the year. I cannot work if I’m cold—my fingers turn white, which is actually a condition I have dealt with for years.

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Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working?
I relish the sound of absolute silence. My brain is generally a very noisy place. Having the quiet around me allows for a sort of osmosis. The point, really, is for things to flow out from me. As a mom, a wife, a reader and a teacher, I have enough input and distraction. My office is a place where I pour things onto paper or screen. Cleaning my office is a different story: I crank the music as loud as possible. I listen to rock, hip-hop, reggae, pop, and even Celtic and folk ballads—a well-rounded mix of everything.

Miranda Paul 11 Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Back in 2012 I attended my first SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles. One night, my friend and I went down to the boardwalk and saw the original Zoltar machine from the movie Big. For $1, I got a little yellow card that read, “You have a very fine mind, and if you cultivate it properly, you will be very successful.” I sold my first book three months after that. I also have a copy of a picture book I made in second grade. Lastly, since my brain didn’t come with the proper “neat and organized” genes, I have a plaque above my desk that reads: A Clutter Desk Is A Sign of Genius.

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A page from one of Miranda’s first books—written in second grade.

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If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Install really large windows. My office would no longer have that secret-underground-lab feel, and I wouldn’t be able to hide as easily, but I love sunlight.

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After countless library fines, Miranda’s come up with a crate system for keeping library books separate from the books she owns.

Miranda Paul 1What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Don’t stress out if you don’t have an office or space. There’s something to be said about learning to adapt and work in different environments. Lucille Clifton, my first professor in children’s literature, wrote at her kitchen table with six kids buzzing around her. When I need a change of pace, I take the laptop upstairs to the sunroom (with huge windows on all sides). I’ve written a few stories on airplanes, too. That said, having a dedicated place to work has improved my routine and established a much-needed separation for my family regarding “Mom’s job.” My office is in a faraway corner of the basement—perfect for a writer with young kids who needs a place where there is no laundry, no dishes, and four solid walls. I can’t even hear the upstairs phone or the doorbell ring from in here.

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What are you working on now?
I’m always working on something new, and continually revising my older manuscripts. I have several forthcoming books, but two that release next year (2015) I am particularly proud of— One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia (Lerner/Millbrook) and Water is Water (Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Books). The second one was written right here, on the floor of my office, using a mix of pens, notebooks, and computer paper before working out the final draft on the computer.

I also love helping other writers through critiques, and a site I run called Rate Your Story. I meet a lot of new writers each week who are looking for a fresh pair of eyes on their manuscript—and many of them connect to me via my website http://mirandapaul.com.

Miranda’s daughter made her a sign a few years ago, which Miranda keeps on her bulletin board pinned to her rejections folder so she can remember her daughter’s good advice.

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Thanks for sharing your writing lair with us, Miranda. I’m looking forward to reading all of your new books when they’re released!