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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s Studio Tour

Tuesday Tours has been on an impromptu hiatus for the last few weeks because I was on vacation, and although I thought I could handle getting a post done while I was away, the weather was just too beautiful to be inside on a computer 🙂 But, the wait is well worth it because today we have the fabulous author and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton sharing her studio in North Carolina. Vanessa’s images bring instant smiles and joy, and her scenes are the kind of images I’d love to jump inside. She has created an amazing amount of work—over 20 picture books, which have been inspired by her celebration of self-love and acceptance of all cultures. Growing up with a musical and creative family also influenced her art and you can read a little about it in her bio on her site

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

My name is Vanessa Brantley-Newton and I am a freelance illustrator. I love and adore all things retro and old! I work in traditional and digital mediums to create my brand of art. I workout out of my make shift office in my dinning room right now as we are looking to move very shortly.

 

 

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My family moved to Charlotte, NC about 3 1/2 years ago and while it’s been wonderful and good for us, we still haven’t gotten settled just yet so that has been interesting to say the very least. I do make it my first business to find a big apartment or town home where I can stretch out and create a workspace for myself. We have moved twice since we have been here and it could really throw you a curve ball if you a creature of comfort which I am! LOL!! When I am not settled and happy it does affect my work. I try not to let it, but creative people are wired that way. My husband really gets a handle on it tho and comes beautifully to the rescue by setting me up with my computer and the very important and immediate things that I need to get to work. That helps a great deal and gets me to moving forward in the creative process.

14Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Yes I do. I am a woman of faith so I do take about an hour or so and really mediate, cry, pray and listen. I sometimes burn essential oils which help me to get creative and focus. Listening after prayer helps me a great deal. I believe that what we think about we bring about so I really take time to think on good things and beautiful things. I daydream for a bit. 5I say affirmations over myself. Things like, ” Every word has power. You have been equipped with every good and perfect thing. Today is filled with greatness and you are a part of that. Dream big and then dream bigger. Good, better, best, never let it rest, till the good is better and the better gets best!” These are just some of things I say. I get daughter and husband out and I start with my emails from the day or night before and I try to answer as many as possible before 9am and then I start working on whatever project I happen to have on my desk and there are many.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
It was in the former apt we had here in Charlotte. I had just finished putting away all my pencils, markers, paints and fabric. Everything was in it’s place and the felt really good. Then I got a call from Scholastic asking me to make a book for an employee that was leaving. I make handmade storybooks. I went in and pulled out everything that I had just put neatly away and had the best time creating! It was awesome and the book came out so beautiful!!!
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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My watercolors, oil pastels, and my fabrics. These are things that you will see a lot of in my office, but my all time favorite thing to have in my space to inspire me are BOOKS!!! Children’s books, art books, how to books. Just books of all and any kind!

What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Artist friends that call during work hours and there are few. LOL! One illustrator I talk to every day sometimes 2 and 3 times during the day. We are super close like siblings.
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What are the three best things about your studio space?
It’s cozy, bright, and filled with the things that I love!

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Oh there are so many, Alex T. Smith, Michael Robertson, Yasmeen Ismail, everything Beatrice Alemagna! and those are just the illustrators. Writers, Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, David Cali, Lauren Castillo, Lauren Child and so many, more.

If you could add a new tool or piece of furniture to your studio, what would it be?
A Cintiq 24hd Graphic monitor!!!! Yeah Baby!

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
It doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to create a cute personal space. Look around and see what you have first. Maybe take an old desk and paint it white or whatever color suits your fancy. Use large peach or tomato cans and take scrapbook paper and cover them to give them pop! Store your pencils and what have you in them. Find creative ways to store things that you are going to need like fabric and papers. Find somewhere that has light!! That is really important. Bring the things that inspire and make you feel creatively fabulous after all it’s your personal creative space.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I am working on so many wonderful projects. A few new books are due out later this year: Sewing Stories (Knopf Books), A Birthday Cake For George Washington (Scholastic Books), The Plans I Have For You (Zondervans). My site is being rebuilt, but you can visit my active blog Oohlaladesignstudio.blogspot.com and Painted-words.com and my facebook page at Vanessa Brantley-Newton@facebook.com.

Thank you for sharing your studio with us, Vanessa! Your daily meditation and mantra practice is inspiring, and your positive spirit shines through in your artwork, which is gorgeous! I can’t wait to read Sewing Stories when it releases. I love picture books about artists!

RowboatJoin us next week when we have debut author/illustrator Rowboat Watkins showing us around his studio. 

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Amy Ward’s Studio Tour

Amy picToday on Tuesday Tours I’m thrilled to showcase my friend Amy Ward! Amy’s Illinois basement studio is completely covered in her personal touches—from the faux brick painted walls, to the beautiful rug she created from painted rubber matts, each part of her space has been altered by her creative touch. What I love about Amy is she’s alway creating art out of things that are accessible—like using Crayola crayons and watercolors (tools of her trade as an art teacher) to make her beautiful illustrations. In addition to offering ideas on her blog, she’s published a number of how-to crafts in Family Fun magazine and soon Highlights magazine. Amy demonstrates that there’s no need to run out and spend hundreds of dollars on supplies to create a space, instead you just need a dash of creativity and a little elbow grease. It’s possible to make beautiful and sophisticated artwork out of classroom materials, or create functioning and attractive objects out of things around the house, and Amy is the perfect example of how to do it well.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I teach art to 3rd through 8th graders and I love the way they create and the mediums they use successfully. So crayon and watercolor were a natural choice for me. I love wax resist and the textures that can be created with it. And I love the fact that crayons and watercolor are accessible to everybody. Here is a project from my website that used crayon and watercolor for a project we do in my classroom.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?  I have had it for about three years now. It has streamlined my process because I no longer need to spend time cleaning up (see the picture of my messy art room below)! If I am trying a new technique with crayon and watercolor, I can play and experiment until I am tired and then I can just turn off the light. It’s kind of nice.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
Rituals? Not sure this is a ritual but I usually have to clean up some space so I will have room to create! Traditional art takes up a ton more room than digital!

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What age did you become interested in art and who encouraged you to pursue your dream?
I think I was born with scissors, crayons, and paper.  I remember making doll clothes on the sewing machine when I was 3 or 4. I remember doing art in kindergarten. We would do a project, and then I would re-create the project at home. I still have an arts and crafts book from second grade! I keep it in my book shelf in my art studio.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
I LOVE the musical WICKED so I started collecting the happy meal toys with the Wizard of Oz characters. When I couldn’t get anymore, I went to Ebay to get the rest.  Am I a good witch or a wicked witch? Depends on the day.  But that musical inspires me.

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What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
My paper cutter! I use it for my classroom, for decorating my house, (see amywardcreates.com) and making book dummies!

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If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do? 
Heat it better! In the winter, it is sooooo cold because the brick is actually the poured concrete wall for the basement. I actually painted it to look  like old bricks.  But I don’t want to insulate the room because I would have to say goodbye to the brick. So more heat would definitely be my improvement. Oh, that and paint the ceiling but leave it exposed.

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What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
Take a look at my inspiration board above my sink. Those are my favorite colors. Pinks, greens, fushias, oranges, creams… my hues.

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Which other artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Dan Santat, Will Terry, Jake Parker, Eric Carle, and Booke Boynton Hughes.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative? 
Put yourself into it. It doesn’t take a ton of money and do what you want, not what will fit with your house. My studio is in our basement. I put it together on the cheap. I painted the walls to look like brick, like a big city loft studio. I used up some of my old acrylics and painted an old kids’ play-mat with a giant rug on it! My husband, (bless him!) made my coffee table double as a storage for paper. See the big drawers? He also installed the wood walls…some warmth! The cabinets are stock cabinets from Menards that went on super sale one weekend. I bought cheap rag rugs ($2, I think) and sewed them together to make a rug for the entrance. I painted all the cabinets and put different pulls on each one.   It really is my space.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I am working on a tree frog book called Crunchy, Not Sweet and a new chameleon story that doesn’t have a name yet. Also, I started a comic called Frankie and Chip about a brother and sister and their competitive natures with each other. I have only done eight panels so far but those are on my website. Take a peak and leave a comment!

Thanks, Amy! I love your studio space and I’m looking forward to sharing a space with you when we bunk-up at the SCBWI LA conference this summer! 

Join us in two weeks when author Sue Schmidt will be sharing her studio on her ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Harriet Muncaster’s Studio Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Harriet’s mascot Celestine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sophie Page’s Studio Tour

photo of meToday on Tuesday Tours we have illustrator, story maker, and sculptress Sophie Page sharing her studio in Boston, Massachusetts. Sophie creates her illustrations by sculpting three-dimensional characters, placing them within scenes and sets, and then photographs them. She’s a recent graduate of The Rhode Island School of Design and has an Etsy shop where she sells her work.
She’s working on two new book projects and seeking publication for her first book, Marjory and the Juniper Tree.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m an illustrator from rural New England. I recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and since then I’ve been working as an illustrator and art teacher. I create multimedia sculptures, which I then photograph, and manipulate the digital images to make 2D illustrations. I work with clay and found natural objects, and I’ve been increasingly interested in working digitally as well. I feel like my work falls somewhere between children’s lit and art books, and that’s fine with me. I’m still discovering my niche. It’s an exciting time.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’m very much in transition lately, so I haven’t been in my current space for very long. I’m working on renovating a barn/garage space in Ipswich, MA and that’s kind of a dream project. But for right now I’m renting the attic of a very lovely historical house outside of Boston. It suits me very well. studio4The owner of the house is a great pastel painter, so we can critique each others work and there’s great energy. I’m very inspired by the space, but sometimes I feel like I’m living in one of my sculptures and it can be overwhelming.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Lot’s of coffee. I’m very into caffeine. Mostly I just spend some time checking my email, go for a run, and then get started on my current project.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Well that would definitely be my cat, Hephzibah. She’s a really wonderful cat but she is always trying to claw her way onto my lap when I’m trying to focus. Honestly I’m still figuring out how to get her to settle down while I’m working, but every once in a while she’ll fall asleep in the armchair next to me and everything is great.work4

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Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I always listen to music while I’m working. Lately it’s been a combination of 80’s new wave and Nicki Minaj, which is a lot better than my Barry Manilow phase, that’s for sure. As for books, I just finished reading Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, I found it very moving and would recommend it highly.

studio9Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My friend who is 84 years old told me about an elaborate game her mother played using crude handmade dolls, sometime around 1913. For my birthday this year she gave the dolls to me. They are really just balls of false fur with skirts, and I’m fascinated by how simple, rough, and well loved they are. I try to imbue my work with that kind of sentimental quality.

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Kiki Smith, Marlene Dumas, and Francesca Woodman. My little sister, Isabelle Marina Page is a constant inspiration. She is currently a student at the Cooper Union school of art and her work is fantastic. The Guerrilla Girls are another longtime inspiration, and recently the radical performance art duo Darkmatter has been majorly on my mind.

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What are the three best things about your studio space?

My cat is there.

The history of the space.

I play music pretty loudly and I have yet to receive a complaint.

Share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.
Occasionally friends and family will leave bits of dried plants or driftwood for me to find. That’s especially nice because I can use them in my projects and it makes the work feel more precious.

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

Make sure it’s a place where you feel really comfortable and safe. It might sound tacky but you should have a good feeling about the space, like you can see yourself bopping around at 3 a.m eating gummy worms in that space.

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

Lately I’ve been full of stories. I’m working on two simultaneously. One is about a girl with too many pockets, and one about a girl with three eyes. I am currently seeking publication for my first book, Marjory and the Juniper Tree. You can check out more of my work at sophiegenevapage.com. I also sell prints and sculptures through my online shop.

Thanks, Sophie! I love your work and I hope to see Marjory and the Juniper Tree in print soon—the illustrations are stunning!

Join us next week when author/illustrator Harriet Muncaster will be sharing her studio in Hertfordshire, England.10

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.)
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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

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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!”

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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!

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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.

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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.