Thursday, April 28, 2011

Klimt Crow

Since my painting buddy Angela, over at Peach Coglo, blogged about what she's been working on, I thought I'd follow suit.

You know it's the Year of the Bird for me, right? But I'm still experimenting, trying to find the way I want to paint birds. I'm no longer content with trying to paint a "good likeness" of a bird - I want to have my own style when I go about it - and I just haven't quite found it yet. But I think I'm closing in.

I love crows. LOVE CROWS. And I love Klimt. Put them together and you get Klimt Crow.

I'm nowhere near mastering how to incorporate the shapes into the bird - or patterns -or any of it really. There was a lot of time spent staring at it to see what might look good where. But for a first attempt I am pleased.

It's certainly bold - which I like. I love green against purple. And I think it will look good once I whip it in a mat and frame and all that jazz. It was fun and challenging, so I think I'll stay on this path for while and see what develops.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wink Reading at Borders and a Raffle!

Just a reminder for all the Wink fans in the Hartford area that I'm going to be at the Borders store near the Westfarms Mall (not in the mall) in Newington on Saturday, April 30th at 1:00. Here's the store's web page if you need the street address.

I'll be reading Wink The Ninja Who Wanted to Nap and I guarantee I'll make many silly faces while doing so. There will be a raffle too! I'm donating a free copy of the book and a limited edition Wink doll made by yours truly.

It probably won't be crowded since it's going to be a lovely day - so why don't you come on down and see me. Maybe you can pick up some summer time beach reading?!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Beachy Easter

On Easter Sunday we headed down to Gramma's house for her yummy pasta puttanesca and a walk along the beach in the BEST weather. It really was gorgeous. I was overdressed in a light long sleeved shirt and a vest. But the waves were cool and once we took our shoes off and let our toes touch the water, it cooled us right off.

Then Mike and Magoo chased (and were chased by) the waves. This was the perfect game to get a young boy's ya-ya's out.

This is my favorite shot. (Above.)

And here's lovely Poppy. She's America's Next Top Dog Model!

It's always great to get out to the beach. Magoo LOVES it - always has. So it was a wonderful day.

In other news:

Magoo has glasses!

A couple months back, Magoo had his yearly physical and he tanked the eye test. He did crazy bad - like, walk into trees bad. And I thought it was really odd because no one had complained at school. He wasn't complaining. He was reading, watching TV, functioning as normal. Then we thought maybe he wanted glasses, like his father. So we asked the nurse at school to test him again and although he had passed the test in October, he did worse this time around. So we decided to play it safe and get his eyes checked out by an optometrist. Welp, that appointment was last Monday and she said she thought he needed them. So we ordered some frames and on Friday we picked them up.

Right now he just wears them at school. He's still not used to them and doesn't seem to want them when he's just hanging around and playing. Hey, fine by me. It means they are less likely to be broken. But I imagine, over time, he will wear them more regularly.

He looks handsome, though. Right?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bunnies Close Up

Just in case you need to make a quick bunny to stick in the basket, I thought I'd highlight the sock bunnies I made for the boys. The instructions are in the book SOCKS APPEAL by Brenna Maloney which you can buy in a soft cover or a downloadable version. I won't go into the details b/c that's like taking the money right out of Ms. Maloney's hands, but if you're crafty and used to working with socks - you can probably figure out the basics. That said - it's a CUTE book with a ton of fun projects in it. It's great if you like to make your gifts and look at the calendar and say, "Dang, Sally's 5th birthday is next week!" Pull out the book, make something cute, and BOOM - you're good.

Here's a front a back view of Robber Bunny, which I made for Magoo. I used one tall knee sock and I a swatch of sweat pants (turned inside out) for that fluffy tail effect.

Don't have any socks?
Here are some other rabbit tutorials:
Cloth Rabbit at PurlBee (I've made on of these before - the long limbs are difficult to turn out, but it's a good looking rabbit when done.)
Perfect for baby, Wee Bunny at Wee Wonderfuls (I've made one of these too!)

Happy Easter Everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rabbit Hunt

Remember those rabbit rocks we painted? Well, I had a plan for them and that plan took place today. I dropped Magoo off at the boys' house and went through the neighborhood writing clues and hiding rocks.

When I returned to pick Magoo up, I told the boys there was a big rabbit rock outside and I thought it was for them. They lifted it up, read the clue, and dashed off to the nearby park.

There were a few rocks hidden there, then they had to run back to my house.

Finally, they had to search the backyard for their Easter Buckets.

And OH the delights inside. Both Heather and I helped the Easter Bunny pick out some of the boys favorite things: GoGo's, Pokemon cards, Fritos, Lego mini-figures and stuffed bunnies - 'cause you gotta have a stuffed bunny.

They were GID-DEE with glee (especially at the Pokemon cards.) And loved going through their buckets of treats. Man, that Easter Bunny is awesome. But I suppose it's easy to be awesome when you have such wonderful boys.

Hope you all have a lovely Easter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Art Class: Stenciled T-Shirts

I woke up Sunday morning and realized that I hadn't planned anything for art class - whoops! So I put on my thinking cap and decided that the boys might enjoy making their own T-shirts.
We postposed class so I could run out to JoAnn's for some blank T's and a few supplies. (I had 90% of the stuff we needed at home, but I thought it would be good to get a few more colors.)

Step one was guiding them through a good t-shirt design. Simplicity is better. Kids don't always get that for this kind of cutting-out-a-stencil thing. I tried to see where their ideas were going and then shape them a bit. For example, Magoo wanted to add a laser gun to his rocket - but the laser gun would have been small, complicated to cut, and no one would have known what it was, really.

Curly drew an alien with a BUNCH of eyes. I talked him down to three.

That kind of thing.

The boys cut the large shapes out of freezer paper and Heather and I helped with the smaller details. Then I ironed the freezer paper onto the T-shirts and we were ready to stencil!

We cut shapes out like puzzle pieces so their were borders to help keep colors separate.
Then we let them dry.

Peeling the paper off is always so much fun. It feels really good to see a nice crisp line - very satisfying. And I'm sure the kids feel great knowing that no one in the world has a T-shirt like the one they made for themselves.

Great job, boys!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

BumbleBug Art

On Saturday I had a lovely morning at the BumbleBug Art Studio in West Hartford Center. Miss Olivia - the lovely owner and artist extraordinaire - invited me in to read both Wink books, talk a bit to the kiddos, and teach a panda collage project.

I'm very used to elementary school kids by this time - but little ones can be a challenge. It's easy to lose their focus and man, they're not shy about letting you know they are bored. But I think we all did pretty well. I don't want to toot my own horn - but I'm a pretty dramatic reader. (It's nice that I'm getting some use out of my theater degree since I'll be paying that it off until I'm 67.)

When story time was over, the kids got their seats and art supplies and we made pandas.

I'd only done this panda project once before with Magoo as my guinea pig. I am terrible at leading art projects for very young artists b/c it's difficult for me to know what the skill level is and to plan accordingly. I worried that they'd have a hard time tearing the paper into ovals and circles - but there were enough parents and helpers around and the kids did a great job!

Here's a panda - mid-way through the process.

Here's a bunch more. Aren't they so cute?!

And here's my buddy, K, with her super sassy Panda Princess!

Thanks so much to Olivia for having me in and for all the families who came out, made a panda, and bought a book! And if you have a young artist at home and you're in the West Hartford area - check out BumbleBug Art. The studio is colorful and fun and the staff is LOVELY!

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Whiting Lane: A Different Perspective.

I'm too wiped out to post on my own blog today, so I'll link you to my friend Alisha's, Felt So Cute. She has two girls that go to Whiting Lane and she snuck in yesterday to check out my presentation. So if you want a slightly closer look at what it's like when I do a school visit, check it out here.

Thanks Alisha!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whiting Lane: Day 1

I LOVE go to Whiting Lane School. I love it so much I'm there every day - at least twice a day. Well, OK, it's Magoo's school so I have to drop him off and pick him up daily - but I still love it there. So I'm always SUPER excited when I get to go in and share my books with them. Today I worked with every student in grades three - five. Oh what a day!

Lee Gluck, the media specialist, makes the library my homebase and the classes come to me.
Becky, the co-captain of S.S. Library, made AWESOME door decorations. I am BLOW AWAY!
(She should be illustrating her own book!)

I got to share space with my favorite author in the display case - yep - Magoo has a story in there too!

The students and I made collages of dreaming ninjas. Here I am with a group of third graders.

And here's a close-up of a finished collage. Isn't it great?! Wink would LOVE IT!

There were A TON of awesome dream collages and I just couldn't put them all up on the blog so I started a Flickr stream. Some of the collages are really funny. Check it out here.

Tomorrow I go back in to world with K-2 - wish me luck!!! (I have to go pass out now.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Yeah! I finished my first hat!

I wanted a light, airy white beret to go with a couple white summer sweaters that I have. I found a pattern on Ravelry (Is there anything better for knitters than Ravelry? Talk about a website that works!) and got started.

Being a knitting newbie, this pattern had some challenges for me. I had to frog the whole thing twice. But whereas once my whole knitting purpose was to have a product - now I'm embracing the process of knitting, learning, and making something right. And even with all my restarts - the whole thing only took me about two weeks. Since the legwarmers took me a month EACH - this knit up quick as lightning!

I can't link to the original pattern on Ravelry b/c you have to be a member, but for those who are, it's called the Gwen Slouch beret.

Now I'm thinking about gifts for next winter. It's good to have something on the needles at all times. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Center School Ninjas

Last week I had a school visit at Central School and Center School. I had to be very careful of which I said where.

These are ninjas from the WONDERFUL Center School in Old Lyme, CT.

Two years ago, when I first started doing author visits, Center School was the first school I went to and they were soooo great. The kids are awesome and the teachers/librarian/staff/principal are all so lovely and made me feel very special. The third graders (back then - they're fifth graders now) made me promise to come back with the new book, so I held up my end of the deal.

Even though Center School wasn't my first author visit this time around, it was the debut of my new presentation, where I bring the students into my home (via my powerpoint presentation) and show them what a typical day in the life of author/illustrator J. C. Phillipps is like. It's kinda like CRIBS for the kid lit set.

I remember being at a professional conference once, and you know there's always a bunch of speeches on plot and character development and so forth. And that's all great stuff - but your mind can turn to cottage cheese after a couple hours. Well, mine can. But one lady used her presentation to introduce us to her and her books. She showed us pictures of her childhood and told us funny stories and then she got into her books and what inspired them and it was so ... refreshing! It was very this is me and here's what makes me tick.

So that's what I'm aiming for.

Oh, there's lots of good information on how many drafts it takes to complete a text and how to build a collage, but there's also quiz questions (because you have to let them play too) and secret little-do-they-know insider facts that I'm not going to reveal here!!! (What do my pajama pants look like? You'll never know. ;)

I'm excited to be visiting Whiting Lane School - my son's school - later this week and try the new presentation out on them. And a new art project - in case you're getting sick of all the jumping ninjas.

I never do.

Thanks again to EVERYONE at Center School!!! You rock!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ninjas by Central School

Today I was handed a large envelope with thank-you notes from the first graders at Central School. Oh goody, goody! I LOVE when kids make me thank you cards - they are the BEST! I was tickled pink with all of the kids' words and artwork - so I had to share some with you.
(Note: the artwork doesn't "go" with the text necessarily. I'm mixing things up. Oh, and by the way, I'm copying the letters just as they are written, misspelled and all, because that's fun too.)

Dear Julie,
Thank you for coming to Central School. I liked you new book. I think it will be good. My favorite part was when Wink was fiteing with the panda. In your next book make Wink whant to nap all day. And more sily. And a different suit.
Your friend, Madison

Wow - she sounds like my editor. (Just kidding, Tracy!)

Actually lots of kids had suggestions for what Wink should do in his next adventure. should make Wink go to the ninja fair. should make Wink go to school.
...Wink's Easter. should write Wink wins America's Got Talent.
... Wink wants a vacation.
...Wink wants to go to Central School.
...Wink should win AFV which stands for American's Funniest Home Videos.
...go to Disney World.
...go to Bush Gardens. should make Wink want a panda for a pet.

I hope the last kid will be psyched that Wink has a panda for stuffed animal at least.

Here's the nicest thank-you note from a kid who wasn't even there.

Dear J. C. Phillipps,
Thank you for reading to our class but sorry I was apsent. Today when I coming to school I saw the great ninjas that you made. Thank you,

Awwwww. Sorry I missed you, Maxim.

Dear J.C. Phillipps,
I liked the book Wink! It was fun making ninge's! I can't wate untill the other book is fineshed! I know it will be osum!
Your fan, Erin

If only she knew how much I love the word AWESOME, and know I have a whole new way to spell it!

Dear J. C. Phillipps

Thank you for sharing your craft with us. I think you are a very good artist. I realized that it takes a long time to write a book. Some day I want to be a Author.

Your fan, Megan

I always make a point of telling students that making a book isn't easy and talk about how much work goes into each project, each draft, each sketch - because I want them to know that it takes hard work to produce good art. But I also try to let them know that they can do it, if they want to. When they tell me they want to be an author or illustrator when they grow-up, I know I got them to understand the fun of it. I love that!

Thanks again Central School - you're all osum!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Central School Ninjas

Yesterday I had a great time reading Wink to the first graders at Central School in Simsbury!

Of course, the highlight for me is going into their classrooms and doing art with the kiddos. Then I can talk to them a little more, learn their names, and learn bits about their personalities. For example, one little girl shot her hand up and said, "Mrs. So-and-so, Garrett is underestimating the girls!!!" I nearly bust a gut. Apparently this boy had declared that his ninja would defeat all the girl ninjas and this little girl was NOT having it. Her teacher told me she says stuff like that all the time. It reminded me that she was the kid in the group presentation that asked me if I used recycled papers in my art, "...because I'm going green," she said. Fortunately I could show her a couple examples of recycled papers I had used. Phew.

Thanks so much to everyone at Central School. The first graders were absolutely lovely and they made awesome ninjas too!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Art Class: Painting Rock Bunnies

For the past five or so years, I've hosted an Easter Egg Hunt at a nearby park. It's been fun, but this year Magoo said he was too old for an Easter Egg Hunt. I asked Curly and Mo what they thought, since they always do it too, and they agreed - too old.

So I started thinking, hmmmmmmm what can we do this year?

Then I saw a post at my friend Angela's blog, Peach Coglo, and hatched an idea. She had a rock with a lovely little bunny painted on it. I thought what if I paint a bunch of bunnies on rocks and under each rock is a clue and Magoo, Curly and Mo could go on a treasure hunt of sorts. It keeps the tradition of an Easter Hunt alive but it's a little more adventurous.

Then I had an even better idea: instead of me painting a bunch of rocks - I'll teach the boys how to paint bunnies on rocks and use it as an art lesson!

We each painted two. (Heather included.) So I have 10 to work with. (Two not pictured.)

The boys don't know what I'm planning to do with them yet - only that I need them for something. I'm pretty excited about how they turned out and I have to admit - I had BIG TIME FUN painting them myself. Then I went online and googled "Painted Rocks" and all sorts of cool rocks turned up. You should try it.

In other news: It is dreary. Ug. Mondays can be hard enough - but dreary Mondays. It's going to be a challenge getting anything accomplished today. But I have two school visits this week, so I at least have to make sure I am ready for those.

Happy Monday!