Christina Forshay’s Studio Tour

Christina Forshay - 3Welcome back to Tuesday Tours! April’s studio tour with Kwame Alexander has been rescheduled for August. Make sure to check back for that. In the meantime, I’m happy to showcase illustrator Christina Forshay’s studio in California. Christina’s newest book A Morning with Grandpawritten by Kidlit 411 co-founder Sylvia Liu, just hit the shelves! It beautifully tells the story of a grandpa and granddaughter sharing tai chi and yoga with each other. Christina and Sylvia will be touring around virtually with their new release. To see where they’ll be visiting, check out the schedule HERE.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I was born and raised in Southern California and always knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort when I grew up. In elementary school, I always “ooh-ed” and “ahh-ed” over the new box of crayons the teacher handed out to me on the first day of school. I think what my creativity really comes down to is wanting to create worlds the viewer can get lost in and think “I want to go there!”
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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
The story of my creative workspace is crazy! It’s definitely been an ever-changing situation. As my family has grown, my desk has moved all over the house from this room to that room and into the living room to accommodate my kids. I even spent a few months last year in an actual office space in an office building because a great space at a great price came up. Since then, we’ve purchased a bigger house where I will eventually have MY OWN studio room again! Yay! I say “eventually” because we are in the middle of a major renovation and my soon-to-be studio is currently housing our refrigerator, boxes, and a lot of dust! So for now, my studio is in the corner of the living room in a small duplex where we are temporarily staying while our new house (and my new studio) is being remodeled.

I also work remotely now and then at my local Starbucks, the library, and even at my son’s soccer practice. I’ve worked on preliminary sketches and even bits of my final art either traditionally in sketchbooks or on my SurfacePro while out and about. Overall, all this moving and inconsistency really doesn’t affect my creative process because as long as I have my tools and some peace and quiet every now and then, I’m good to go. Of course finally having my own dedicated room in a few months (that I won’t have to share) is going to be a DREAM! I’ll finally be able to hang all the artwork from fellow illustrators I’ve purchased over the years! Visit me in six months to see the end results, haha!Christina Forshay - 10
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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating? 

Being that I work mostly from home and I have two very busy kids ages 6 and 9, I don’t really have a typical work day. Also, my husband is a firefighter and his atypical schedule means I have to be very flexible with my work time. I’m hoping that once my youngest starts first grade and is in school full time in the fall I’ll be able to have a more systematic work week. But I do have somewhat of a ritual every time I sit down to work. First, I look at all my social media sites because, I don’t know, maybe I’m addicted? 🙂 Then, I find something to listen to. What am I in the mood to hear? Sometimes its a podcast, sometimes it’s music, sometimes its a movie or tv show. Next, I do about 15-30 minutes of warm-up drawing and painting to get the “uglies” out and then I get to work.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?

The biggest self-imposed distraction is definitely social media. How I deal with that is by giving myself a good 15 minutes or so to binge on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and then I turn on the Self Control app. Self Control is a computer app that blocks any websites for a specified amount of time. However my really REAL distraction is trying to figure out how to balance life as a mom of young kids with life as an artist. Over the years, I’ve tried dealing with it in many ways, but I think at this point I’m dealing with it by convincing myself that there may never be a true balance and that that’s OK. I’ve gotta go with the flow! If I have a serious amount of work to do and/or a deadline, try to schedule out my work time on our family calendar for the week so that everyone knows that I’m going to be working and I need uninterrupted work time.

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What other artists, writers, or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Oh, there’s so many! One of my Pinterest boards is a treasure trove of all the artists I love. Right now I’m in awe of Cory Loftis’ work. His drawings are so expressive and I just love his use of color. I’m also in love with painter Carol Marine’s work. Her paintings are luscious and full of amazing colors and textures. These are qualities I’d like to incorporate a bit more into my work. You can see all the work that gets my creative juices flowing at my “Illustration Candy” Pinterest board.
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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?

Since my creative space seems to be always moving and changing, the one thing I really consistently need is TIME. Time to get in the zone so the work begins to flow. That can happen anywhere I can find alone time: at the coffee shop, the library, or the park. Another thing I ALWAYS have or bring with me when I work is a pile of picture books. I get super inspired by the work of my current faves!

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I recently illustrated a few covers for a Simon & Schuster middle grade series called Angel Wings by Michelle Misra. The first book in the series comes out in June, 2016 and the rest will be released every few months. And, I’m always working on a couple of story ideas that have been percolating for a while now! You can find samples of my work and book info on my website. I’m all over the website with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram!

Thank you, Christina, for sharing your studio in the middle of a busy move! I love your practice of getting the “uglies” out—I’ll have to give that one a try!  Best of luck to you with your book A Morning with Grandpa, and your upcoming release Angel Wings!

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New Year! New Residency! New Book!

I’ve been working with Milwaukee Environmental Science Academy to create a new book this year. Over 200 kids along with the entire staff are working with me to write and illustrate a picture book based on their school’s character traits. The staff started the project in early January, collaging and designing the cover for our book. The school’s mascot is the yellow jacket, which is why we chose to feature them on our cover. In the next two months, the students will work with me to illustrate the interior page spreads, as well as write the story. Each page spread will feature text created around one of the school’s character traits, combined with the image of a tree and a Wisconsin animal. The big idea in the book is that just like a tree needs water, air, and nutrient rich soil to grow, we need character traits like integrity, grit, stewardship, respect, leadership, and craftsmanship to grow into strong and beautiful additions to the earth. While these illustrations will serve as the page spreads in the book, we will also have them enlarged and printed on 4′ x 6′ vinyl to be used to decorate the school. The project is made possible through funding from Arts@Large.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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: whoislauralee.com

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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Visit Me at the Sheboygan Book Festival in October!

I’m really excited to be leading an art workshop on October 11th at 10:30am at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI as part of the Sheboygan Book Festival.

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It’s a fantastic line-up of authors and illustrators this year, including Ann AngelLaura Lee GulledgeLita JudgeJoAnn Early MackenKenn NesbittMiranda PaulJustin RobertsChristian RobinsonLiz Garton ScanlonMichael Spradlin, Tricia SpringstubbTui SutherlandStacy Tornio and Ken KefferAshley Wolff.

Gallery tour photos - Shimmerling 1Art-making workshop with author/illustrator Andrea Skyberg
Create an original metal engraved Shimmerling feather with Andrea Skyberg, based on the artwork in her book SHIMMERLING. 10:30 a.m. at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Book Signing to follow workshop.

 

Charles Santoso’s Studio Tour

I’m excited to have Charles Santoso sharing his studio in Sydney, Australia today on Tuesday Tours. A couple of months ago I discovered my newest favorite book I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso and I knew if I loved the book as much as I did, I’d love a look inside the creative space where the images were created. I Don’t Like Koala is one of those beautifully illustrated books that points at a classic while remaining fresh and original. It’s also a great example of a picture book that allows children the space within the images to connect the dots, as well as witness a secondary visual storyline in addition to the text. To me, this book is a clever and child-appropriate take on horror–it has just the perfect dose of creepiness without being scary. My four year old has requested it repeatedly over the last month and I’m happy to oblige as even after the 100th read, I’m still chuckling at the ending. In addition to illustrating I Don’t Like Koala, Charles has also illustrated picture books Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent written by Jessica Young and Peanut Butter & Brains written by Joe McGee. He also works as a concept artist and art director and is credited on feature films like The Lego Movie, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, and The Legends of the Guardians.

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charless_profile_photoTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hello! I’m Charles and I’m an image maker that creates illustrations for picture books & novels. I also work as a visual development artist at an animation studio in Sydney, Australia. My working tools include pencils (my favorite), pens, watercolors, and acrylics for traditional medium. I use Photoshop for my digital work.

 


charless_work_04How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I currently live in a two bedroom apartment and I use one of the room as my home studio. I’ve lived here for about four years now. It’s not big but I love it. I try to put things that inspired me in my working space. Things like books, artist’ artwork, and interesting objects work great. My aim is to have a mini library-gallery-studio type of space.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Most of my weekdays I work in the animation studio for about nine hours and then continue my 2nd shift home to do my book and personal projects. When I have a full day to do my book projects home, I start around 9am and have an hour break around midday and continue until my brain or hand tell me to stop. Between breaks is when I usually try to doodle some ideas for personal projects (very important). As for rituals, not so much. I think about stories and art non-stop, so my mind and hand can jump into creating mode in a short period of time.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
I have fun most of the days working in my home studio. The best time is when everything flows as what is intended—when ideas, stories, and pictures dance in harmony. Unfortunately this best scenario rarely just happens, and I usually wrestle with these elements a lot before decent things starting to arise. I enjoy the whole process though.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
It’s hard to choose one or two special ones. Letters and drawings from children are greatly inspiring. They make me really happy! I also collect and display original artwork from artists that I admire. Some of whom I can call friends, which is amazing and very humbling.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Working from home can be a little bit tricky in the beginning as the boundary between home and work space is a bit blurry. There were many times when my procrastinating brain asked me to do home chores or to have a quick nap (which can turned into a long nap in the end) instead of work. To deal with this, I forced myself to work on daily schedule, similar to the daily session at my animation studio work. I have to-do list everyday which ‘guide’ me to get through the day.

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What’s the most useful tool in your studio?
My pencils and Wacom Cintiq (Graphic Tablet).

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Oh, it’s impossible to mention just two or three names for this! I keep getting inspired by lots of different people every day and this keeps changing too. I was reading a book by Quentin Blake the other day and got really inspired. Watched documentaries on Studio Ghibli, Saul Leiter (one of my favorite photographer), Maurice Sendak and Road Dahl make me really happy. Wes Anderson films spark ideas in my mind. charless_space_06
Listening to Iain McCaig’s latest interview gave a huge boost to my motivation. Norman Rockwell, Bill Watterson, Frédéric Back and Yuri Norstein work give me never ending supply of stories and joy. The list is going on and on and on. And most importantly, I get inspired by unique stories from different people that I’ve met. A few months ago, my wife and I had a random conversation with an 83 years old writer/editor in a casual restaurant in Tokyo, and I’m still super inspired by this chat session even today.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
Yes! The right music for the right kind of work will give added values to the process of creating my work. I do like quiet moment without music in my initial idea generation process. At this preliminary stage where I need to fully concentrate and try to find a unique solution to a particular project, I find music can be an extra distraction as they have embedded creative values in them. As I move along to the next step (finishing stage), I usually choose music that suits the project—happy music for happy themed projects, sad music for a more emotional themed project, etc. The music that I like ranges from jazz and ambience to film soundtracks. Occasionally pop, classical, and rock can be fun too.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I personally find that having things that I like around my working space can greatly boost my productivity and happiness level. Books, interesting objects, and pin-boards with images are critical to keep me inspired. I cycle and mixed them up every now and then. I also sometimes try to put something that’s out of my usual taste too. Doing this has helped me cultivate my personal taste and more importantly, helped me to get to know myself more.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
A few of picture books that I illustrated were out recently (2015). These include I don’t Like Koala (Simon & Schuster), Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent (HMH), and Peanut Butter & Brains (Abrams). They are all different from one another and I had a really fun time working on them. I just finished a picture book called Ida, Always (written by the lovely Caron Levis) due to be released in Feb 2016 by Simon & Schuster, and I’m also currently finishing The Snurtch by the same writer as I don’t Like Koala book, Sean Ferrell! You can find updates and my personal work on my website and on tumblr.

Thank you, Charles. Ida, Always looks amazing and I can’t wait to see the next collaboration between you and Sean Ferrell!

Please join us next week when we visit the California cottage studio of one of my all-time favorite illustrators Marla Frazee.

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Maggie Rudy’s Studio Tour

I’m a sucker for picture books that go beyond traditional illustration, so I was blown away when I saw Maggie Rudy’s fantastical mouse environments that make you want to jump into the pages of the book. Maggie started creating these little creatures as a project to help incoming kindergartners make the transition to school, giving them an object to connect with, and from there it’s turned into a empire she calls Mouseland. Maggie’s first book The House That Mouse Built is a takeoff of The House That Jack Built. Her newest book, I Wish I Had A Pet, places her mice into contact with other animals, as they offer their advice on pet care. Maggie’s illustrations in both of these books have the ability to turn me into a kid, trying to see all the little things in the pages and reminding me of when I was young and could very easily imagine worlds of wild creatures creating little homes out of discarded human material.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Illustrating children’s books has been an unexpected career for me. I worked for years in pastels and acrylics, and I showed at Mark Woolley Gallery in Portland, Oregon, where I still live. I also made little felt mice to entertain myself, and later as a project with my sons’ school. I began taking photos of the mice, and to think about using them as illustrations. My second book was published in July. To make the mice I only need a few things…grey felt, pipe cleaners, cotton and beads. But their environments require lots of materials to choose from, so much of my studio is taken up with bins of fabric, paper, wooden boxes, cloth flowers, old books and miscellaneous salvage.
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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?

I set up my studio in 2010, in a room over our garage. I call it Mouseland. Having a home studio means that I can work anytime I want, without having to get in the car. I love being able to go up at night and look at what I’m working on, so it’s in my mind before I go to sleep. I’ve gotten a lot of ideas that way.
I need to have my materials and tools out where I can see them, otherwise I’ll forget what I have. Plus I’ll often get an idea when my eye falls on some random object.
Another bonus is that we live in the woods, so I can go outside and collect materials easily.

drawersDescribe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
I usually get in the studio by 9:00. I do my best work in the late morning, so that’s when I’ll work on things that are particularly small or detailed. I break for lunch at noon and then go back up. If I’m shooting that day I’ll figure out the lighting and take pictures, or clean things up in Photoshop. Otherwise, I’ll just keep making stuff.
I try to remember to get up and walk around every hour, and I’ll take my dog for a walk most afternoons. The only ritual I have is turning on the heater at 8:30, because the studio isn’t heated! Plus I use it to dry things that I’ve glued or painted.


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Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.

The most fun time is when I stumble onto a new technique or idea, which usually happens when I bollix something up. Then I get a huge surge of creative energy.potato forest


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Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?

Music helps keep the flow going. I have an eclectic mix on my ipod. Radiohead, Amalia, Iris Dement, & Beck are some of the latest things that played. I also listen to Desert Island Discs, on BBC 4. They have an archive going back to the forties, and the interviews are fascinating.
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Drawing by Maggie’s son Sam.


What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?

My best inspiration is the natural world. I also have a drawing that my son made for me, of this little creature sitting under a tree, holding a steaming cup. It’s hanging in my studio and it always makes me feel encouraged.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Any drink I take into Mouseland ends up with a paintbrush in it, so I’ve learned not to do it!

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What are the three best things about your studio?
It looks out into the trees, it’s a 10 second walk away, and I don’t pay rent.

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If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
I have more tools than I need..what I’d really like is a storage space or a ceiling that doesn’t slope, so I would stop whacking my head!
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What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
Since my workspace doubles as a photography studio, I keep the walls and ceiling white.
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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?

A big, beautiful studio is every artist’s dream, but we don’t usually get them right away. It’s a big step to graduate from the kitchen table! So you may just start out with a dedicated corner of the living room that you can screen off. Have a window if possible, and spend some money on great lighting. Start calling it “my studio” and make it off limits to anyone but the artist (you). Sit there every day, even if you don’t know what to do. You can make great art there, just as you will someday make great art in your big beautiful studio!
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reading petsWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My latest book is called I Wish I Had A Pet. I post new Mouseland pictures every week at my blog, MousesHouses.

Thank you, Maggie! It was a delight getting to peak into your studio. Just like your illustrations, your studio is a feast for the eyes, with so many things to look at. Best of luck with I Wish I Had A Pet! It’s adorable!

Join us next week when we’ll get the chance to visit the studio of Milwaukee painter and art educator Tia Richardson.

Yuyi Morales’s Studio Tour

Today on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to feature one of my favorite illustrators Yuyi Morales.  Yuyi is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books and has won the ALA’s Pura Belpré Gold award four separate times—the most times this award has ever been given to one artist. It’s exciting to see her winning awards for her work, which is filled with dream-like scenery, lovable characters, and sometimes, multimedia approaches. For her newest book Viva Frida, Yuyi created three dimensional characters and sets. She sculpted the figures, sewed their clothes, and even welded together props. Her husband, photographer Tim O’Meara photographed the scenes. This approach was used by Yuyi once before in My Abuelita, written by Tony Johnston. I’m a huge fan of artists who go beyond the traditional modes of illustration, experimenting with cutting edge ways to bring stories to children through art. My family’s all-time favorite book illustrated by Yuyi is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng. My daughters ask for this book again and again and they’re captivated (as am I) by Yuyi’s ethereal illustrations that offer us a small entrance into the magical unknown.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I make children’s books. I dream them, write them, illustrate them, and love them. My most common medium for creating my illustrations is acrylics on paper, but I am very experimental. My latest book I created with 3-D illustrations utilizing puppets and figures.

I love how you experiment with art, and even when you create something with very different mediums, I can always tell it’s your work. 

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My current studio is pretty new to me, although it is a very old construction. It is in the city of Xalapa, Mexico, where I was born. I remodeled what is called in spanish as a casa antigua, or an antique house. It was in chambers. But now it is my favorite place in the world. I just began working in this space in February. ventana_rain

Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Breakfast at my desk is how I start my work. I check emails and do most of my communication at this time. Then there is always african dance class, either in the morning or in the evening. The dance studio is only a few blocks away from my place, so I am quickly back at work after a shower. Most of my administrative work is done  during the first part of the day, I take several short breaks, mostly for meals. I go to the market just down the block and bring fresh produces for the day. I usually eat at my desk so that I can keep creating at any time. My studio is by the street and I have a large window where many visitors, sellers, and neighbors stop-by. The rest of the day I create, I draw, I paint, and do a lot of daydreaming until the evening. I might run errands, or see friends, or walk my dogs, but I usually go back to work for a few more hours until it is time to go to bed, never before midnight and almost always past that hour.

I’m a night owl as well, which isn’t always so easy when my daughters wake me up at six in the morning!

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Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Since this studio space is new to me, I have had only a short experience working here, but I am in love with what happens at this place. Construction work is still happening these days, and I often sit work with the street-doors open so that material and workers can come in and out (my dogs tide to my side). During several afternoons, while I am distracted working, I realize that people have come inside my studio. They are usually staring at the books on the wall, holding them open, or looking around trying to figure out what this place is. It is my dogs who  alert me of a visitor. Mothers with children, old men, teenagers, kids coming from school, and all sorts of people are there when I lift my eyes from my work. What is this place? They always want to know. Is this a restaurant? Is it a cultural center? How much are the books? Do I have books about electricity work? Do I have puppies to sell? You name it! The questions are wonderful, I always make new friends, some of them come back next time.

'Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased' written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

‘Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased’ written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

That must offer you some great inspiration for future stories!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
Music is the beat of my work. The first thing I do when I get up from bed is to come to my computer to start the music. In my playlist right now is the Cuban musician Silvio Rodrigues, Alt-J with their album an Awesome Wave, The Colombian group Bomba Estereo, the local Son Jarocho group Ensamble Marinero, LCD Soundystem, Natalia LaFourcade, the California group Quetzal, and also my son with his creations at Wax Poetic.

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doorway

What is your greatest source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My original source of inspiration was my son. He was just a little baby when I began dreaming of making books. He was my model, my audience, and my whole inspiration. I had a great desire to pass onto him all the stories I had brought with me when we immigrated to the USA. Nowadays, now a young man studying in NY, he is still my inspiration, but I am also very inspired by celebrations. And so I set up to start my day as if everyday is a fiesta. I celebrate the view from my bedroom window that looks at the rise of the sun, the lush wildness of my garden, the frolicking of my dogs as we start the day, the children who stop at the window to pet my dog Mojo, the sunlight coming trough the skylights in my studio, most days we celebrate the rain too. And surrounded by all this light and all these colors, I set to create.

estudioIs there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Oh, yes, I live off yogurt, pineapple, and peanuts. There is also a man who comes to my window and sells me fresh cheese. At the organic store around the corner they sell me tangy arugula which I ate by the bunch. These day we are in prickle-pear season, so I eat it while I work, sprinkled with chile powder and lemon.

What are the three best things about your studio?
The window to the street where a lot of my daily social life happens, the stone walls that make me feel like I am inside a castle, and the high ceiling with its giant wood beans and the skylights that let both the light and the rain drizzle in.library

Yuyi--use this image for ladder
‘Ladder to the Moon’ written by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
A place and equipment to do fire. An oven, or a melting station. Until now, both here in Mexico and before in California, I have had my studio inside my home, simply occupying the living room and making it my working space; as you can imagine that creates limits of what I can actually do in those spaces. But what I want is to have a space where I can do all kinds of rough and messy work, and perhaps even bake ceramic or melt metal. I also want it to be a place where other people can come and join me to create. That is why I am in the process of building a new room in my backyard where I will be doing all kinds messy work.

I’ve also found that working out of a home can create limitations, but I love your plan for an outdoor space! If I lived in a warmer climate, I might give it a shot.closet

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?My favorite color is Mexican, hot pink, and yes, I incorporate it in my space as well as in almost anything I do.sirena

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
The very first studio I had was in my apartment in San Francisco where I lived with my husband and our son. For a long time my working space was the dining table, which needed to be cleaned and used in so many different ways during the day. I would put away my materials when we would eat and then when we were done I would bring them out again. Later, we moved to an slightly bigger apartment and my husband helped me to condition an small closet space with a drawing table and a stool. My first book, Harvesting Hope, was created in that tiny space. What I have learned from going from minimal working places to having the studio of my dreams is that what really maters is how I feel inhabiting such a space. And so, I would tell any one who wants to make a personal space where they can be creative, is to make sure that it is a functional space, but also an inspiring one. Have all what you need to create physically, your furniture, your tools, but also have the colors or even things that simply make you smile when you are in their presence. Creativity is already a place that we inhabit. No matter how tiny or limited it might be, make sure that such a place is the most amazing place in the world for you.

Great advice! Inspiration is a huge factor in creation, and having a space reflect that makes a tremendous difference.

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Yuyi’s husband, photographer Tim O’Meara shoots a scene from Yuyi’s newest book ‘Viva Frida’.

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What are you working on now and where can we find out more about you?
My latest book is Viva Frida, a picture book I illustrated with puppets, paintings, photographic work from my husband, and digital work. I would call it an ode to Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, because this is a book I created in admiration of her creativity and work. Right now at my table there are sketches for a book written by one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexi. This is Sherman’s first picture book and I have the honor to create the illustrations for this story. You can find out more about me on my website.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring space with us, Yuyi! And best of luck with your upcoming book!