Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Le Fin


   So we moved home from Paris last Tuesday. I’m sure I’ll be talking about France often as the years go by, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about it today. Mostly, I can’t believe I got to live in Paris for 13 months. I am so deeply grateful and humbled from one year's time.

   I thought I’d answer the question that Lane and I have been getting quite a bit; what was your favorite thing about France. For me that’s easy. Giverny. If I lived 10 lifetimes I wouldn’t see anything as magnificent as Monet’s home and the surrounding gardens he built especially for his work.
Giverny in Spring (left) and Fall (right)

Our friend Fred painting along the Seine
spaceThe other question we hear is: what’s the one thing you’ll miss the most. And oh gosh, it's the art. It’s the way the whole country considers art to be such a huge part of the meaning of life. Time and time again we saw the smallest museums brimming with people of all ages. Even on weekdays and evenings we saw grandparents, government officials, babies in strollers, teenagers and just about anyone of any race and age imaginable strolling the exhibits. Art extends beyond the gallery walls, too. You feel it when you walk around. You feel it when you enter the musky churches with their glorious glass windows, or the elaborate parks with gardeners bustling everywhere, or the avenues with their blooming flower boxes. There's so much tenderness that’s taken in caring for all things as art.

       The spirit of making life into art and caring for things year after year, I will miss the most.

Luxembourg Parc, Fall

   But I must admit I’m ready to be home. I’m reading The Greater Journey and I learned that the song where we get the expression There's no place like Home was actually written by an American in Paris. “Amid pleasures and palaces/ though we may roam/ be it ever so humble/ there’s no place like home,” (John Howard Payne). After a year of being gone we’re ready to be back with the people we love and have missed so much this year.

The shell symbol demarks The Way. And, my heart.
    Our final weekend in France we visited Bordeaux. There's a religious walk to the shores of Spain that travels through Bordeaux. The walk is called the Way of Saint James (or, Camino de Santiago della Compostella). People walk The Way to discover a spiritual awakening, or a newfound closeness to Jesus. In the middle ages when walking The Way was at it’s peak of popularity, Bordeaux was known for its kindness to strangers.  Those passing through could always find food and shelter before heading out again on their arduous journey.  Travelers who were looking for shelter or food carried distinct change purses so people would know that they needed a little help. These purses were also a symbol that you were walking The Way, and the people in Bordeaux especially were open-hearted about helping those on this spiritual journey. I bought a replica of the change purse. It's shaped like a heart.

We took a few steps along The Way and I realized that we had been travelers all year, too. We had gone on our own journey. We moved to this foreign country with no friends or family, just to discover whatever we might find along the months. France took us in and gave us so much. We made new friends and rediscovered old ones. France shared her art, her gardens, her cerulean skies with clouds like I’ll never see again. My heart is all filled up.

Me and my nephew. There's no place like Home.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


When I thought of the word Burst
 I thought of the trees across the street at the park.
Maybe it's because over the course of the year I've watched leaves bud  from bare branches.
Or maybe it's that in the morning you can hear the birds all around
 but you can never see them.
So it sounds like the trees are singing.

Luxembourg Park at the end of winter & at the end of summer.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


There's no better place for me to find my imagination than in reading.

Speaking of which, 
I just finished the very best book I've read all year, Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Please, please
read this book.
The story will move you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


    Here's another illustration with all my new characters from last month.

     Now's a good time for some Babar. This month I went to see the Babar exhibit at the Musee Arts Decoratifs. Above all I was fascinated to learn the back story of the creators. The original storyline came about pretty simply with a mother telling her children a story at bedtime. She told of an elephant whose mother was killed by a hunter so he had to escape the jungle. He finds himself in the big city.

    Her children adored the story and took it to their father Jean, who, lo and behold, was an artist. And guess what- Jean's father happened to be a publisher. Eh viola! Babar was born.

    But this isn't where the story ends. Jean went on to make 6 books, but as fate would have it he died suddenly of tuberculosis at age 37 (Yikes). While the books were gaining recognition, Jean's son, Laurent, headed to art school. He briefly sidetracked as a painter before fully embracing his father's legacy. And here, this is the same son who first heard his mother tell him the story at bedtime. That's my favorite part of the story- it's just so organic and full circle. Anyway, with Laurent's bolder artwork the popularity of Babar grew exponentially. 30 more books were created under the son's hand. And of course all the perks that Babar ever dreamed of came his way: film, television, merchandise... the works.

   If you buy a Babar book I promise you this elephant will capture your fascination and you will fall in love. I can heartily recommend Babar the King, Babar's Castle, and Babar and the Professor.

    Seeing the original sketches is always special for me. Babar's sketches are loose and rough. Nothing like Beatrix Potter's sketches (which I visited in April), which are much more carefully detailed. Both sketches are beautiful and so skilled- it's just fascinating to see the difference.
Babar competing for France in the high dive

     Of all the months so far July in Paris has been truly unforgettable. The rains have stopped. It's light past 11 o'clock most nights. (11 o'clock!!) And the Tour de France took my breath away. I hope the sight of those bright jerseys streaking across the Champs Elysees never leaves my memory.
Tour de France painting the Champs Elysees red, blue, and of course, yellow.

Friday, June 29, 2012

End of June

A new story I'm working away on... and some new characters.
Here's some artwork from that, with more to come next post.

These guys are: Sora, Deryn, Palila, Torio, Starling and Huma
spaceJune's been the endless month over here.
We've said hello and goodbye to special visitors (my family & my precious nephew),
we've been to the French Open,
and we visited more of the countryside.

Did I mention the rain?
Rain is my favorite.
family, and the view from our window most days since march

The French countryside has bewitched me.
Just outside Paris

The natural world here will shake you up inside.
bye for  now


Sunday, May 6, 2012


The hardest part about living so far away for a year is that you miss your family.
I miss the little things.
Like the look on my nephew's face right when he wakes up
and the way my dad laughs so hard and loud whenever I say something barely funny. 

So this month it was a quiet joy to get to work on something especially for our family.

My husband's grandfather, Grandpa Jack, wrote many poems and stories nearly 25 years ago. 
Everything is now being put together into a book. 
The book is going to be a gift from Grandpa Jack to his great-grandkids.
(Many of whom haven't been conceived-of yet.)
 Jack has 7 grandkids, including my husband.
So; the seven children on the bed all represent one child from each of the grandkids. 
And on the headboard are characters from 3 of his stories: Tilly the Turtle, The Bully Ballet, and Ollie the Ostrich.

 The best part about living so far away for a year is when people come and visit!
Especially family. 
That's usually when we go out and do things we wouldn't normally do.
Me, my mom, and my uncle in Monet's Waterlily Garden, Giverny.

This past month has been filled with visits to the French countryside.

In the French countryside, there are CASTLES.
Rochepot Castle

Mont Saint-Michel is the most famous castle in France.
I can not express to you the beauty of this place.
It's every fairy tale and poem you've ever read about France
poured into the bricks and archways of one place.
Mont Saint-Michel

Here's a sketch I did in a small northern town called Arromanche. 
It's where we stayed when we visited Mont Saint-Michel. 
Sketch of an old church- the view from my hotel room, Arromanche

sHappy May to you!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


  Here is a concept piece for the project with HarperCollins. We've had trouble finalizing the storyline with this character, so she's being scrapped. I can share her with you now :).

  This month Lane and I headed north to London on a train for a few days to be with family. There I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum. I read here that Robin Preiss Glassner, illustrator of the Fancy Nancy books, gathered a lot of her costume ideas from this museum. They also house the largest collection of original Beatrix Potter illustrations. 

   It turns out one day is not enough to begin to see this museum. So I stuck to the Beatrix Potter hallway and sketched as much as I could. A couple things I learned from being right up close and personal with Beatrix Potter's illustrations were:

- Her characters have incredible detail- right down to the tiny folds on their jackets and the little extra hairs on their chins.

- The drawings start really simple- just big shapes in pencil, and then she would watercolor and add the detail in then (which, if you've ever tried this, is very hard). It looks like she would add the ink line progressively as she went along.

- Her landscape design is some of the most breathtaking I've ever seen. You can tell that this is where she began her love of drawing (which you can read about in her biography). She mixes relatively equal amounts of curved lines with straights to form the chaos that makes all the leaves and trees look so natural.

I hope you're enjoying your April wherever you are!
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London
My sketches of Beatrix Potter's work in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Monday, March 19, 2012


  Here are some pictures from a project that I've been working on with LitWorld called the Faces of Litworld. These will be auctioned off for charity in May at their annual Gala. These paintings showcase 3 of LitWorld's most cherished ladies: Quinter, Sunshine, and Mercy.

Faces of Litworld Project. Bottom, From left: Quinter, Sunshine & Mercy

Rodin Museum Garden

Winter in Paris has been bitter cold, but I did sneak out last month to do some outdoor sketching (I can still feel my ice cube nosetip).

The Rodin Museum is home to dozens of his casts and bronzed sculptures. Not to mention a permanent gallery devoted to his preliminary drawings and paintings.

 Rodin is sort of a celebrity here. The French consider this museum a 'must see,' maybe even right below the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay.
Rodin Museum

And look! Spring is on its way.

First signs of Spring

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

World Read Aloud Day is TODAY!

    Happy World Read Aloud Day! In honor of this amazing day, I was asked to do an interview for the Children's Book Review. Read about my road to getting a book deal, and what is inspiring me most about getting to live in Paris.

Interview with The Children's Book Review by Nicki Richesin


Here are some pictures of WRAD 2012 coming to you from places like Jerusalem, Timor & New York City. Enjoy! There is also a nice writeup in the Huffington Post about the NYC event here.

From top: Jerusalem, Kosovo

From top, L to R: The Dominican Republic, New York City, Timor-Leste, India