Monday, November 24, 2014

Finders Keepers

This Saturday was the collection day for rocks for Finders Keepers.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned Finders Keepers here on this blog before, but in case I haven't, I'll remind you.  I'm in this new artist group called the WeHa Artists Emporium.  We started in September, and we wanted to do something fun that would say "Hey West Hartford, we exist!  And we have a webpage!"  So I had this idea to paint rocks and leave them around town for people to find.  All of the rocks have a sticker on the bottom saying that they are from us and we'd love for the finder to go to the page and let us know where they found the rock.

That's what the project is.  Saturday was the drop off for artists to bring rocks to the house.  We have over 100 rocks!  YAY!!!  All through December we'll be hiding them throughout West Hartford.  I think it will be really fun.

I did a test run this weekend.  A reporter is doing a story on the group and she wanted us to hide a rock and get pics of someone finding it.  Sounded great ... until I really though about jumping out of the bushes at some stranger I'd been stalking, "HEY YOU FOUND A ROCK!"  No thank you.  So I asked my neighbors to help me out.

I did hide the rock though.  I gave them an area and I let them find it.  Also, they didn't know what the rock would look like, so I tried to keep it as authentic as I could.  Kinda a "Real Housewives" brand of reality.

Here's the rock:

And here are my neighbors (and their smartly dressed doggies) finding it.

I will probably stay close to the scene of the crime (after I hide a few) and I might even take some sneaky pics - but I doubt I'll talk to anyone.  I want these to be little individual treasures.  I don't want to invade the moment.

Tee hee.

Thanks for stopping in!  If I don't get back tot he blog before Thanksgiving (I might, I might not.)  I wish you all a happy meal and safe travels!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Open Studio 2014

Hi all!  Woosh - I've been a busy gal!  But at least my weekends should be free from now on.  (Seeing Mockingjay on Sunday!  Woo hoo!)  Here's my Open Studio Weekend breakdown.

I often like to set up on Fridays, but this year I was on the first floor in the main hallway.  This is great because I don't have to load my art in the elevator and I get a lot of foot traffic.  It's a little bad only in that this is the part of the building with the least amount of security.  Since I had a piece stolen one year, I wanted to lower my odds of theft by setting up Saturday morning. 

Here's how it looked at 9:15am...

 Here's how it looked at 11:15 am ...

Things went well enough.  I didn't make a ton of money (the only painting that sold off the wall is the bowl of plums right next to me, below) but Angela (in the red shirt) and I always have fun!  And it's great to have your friends come and visit you.  Below I am pictured with Stefanie Marco and Hannah Dunnack Jackson, both founding members of the WeHa Artists Emporium with me.

In addition to all the lovely, sane people who come through, (THANK YOU LOVELY PEOPLE) there are always some colorful characters who pass by.

One man in a group looked at my clothes with a quizzical expression, stopped, then said, "Oh, it's an apron."
"Yes," I said.
"But it's practical," he said.
I just nodded as he passed by, wondering what he thought aprons were for in the first place - fashion accessories?  Aren't they always practical?

Another lady was asking me about my books.  As I explained one story to her, I lightly touched her on the shoulder.  She jumped back.  "Don't touch me like that!  I hate when people touch each other like that!  Why do they do it?"
"Um..." I said.  "I think they're just trying to make a connection."
We went on to talk about the books more, me being very careful to maintain a nice buffer of space between us.
When she left, she said, "Oh, and that kind of touching does not make a connection." 
Guess what she was doing when she said that?  Lightly touching my shoulder!

Angela had a good year.  She sold five paintings (I think) off the wall.  YAY!  I sold a painting and a collage.  BOO!  (I mean, yanno, yay - two pieces, but I brought twenty-two.)

Most of what people bought were discounted painting from my rack, prints, cards, Monkey Ono books, a couple t-shirts, all the cat softies, one dog softie, and half of my Tiny Towns.  I'd say the average amount spent was close to $30.  All of which says to me: Don't bring so many framed paintings.  OR make sure MOST of my wall art consists of smaller pieces that I can sell for less that $100.

But it's OK.  I have another show running through December and January at Salon Medusa in West Hartford that I'm doing with the WeHa Artists Emporium which I'm really looking forward to.  And there might be another pop-up show that I'm doing in December back at Artspace.

Always more to do!

Thank you so much for stopping in!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting Ready for Open Studio Hartford

It's that time of year again - the time when I put together all the little things I've been working on all year long, pack it up, and do a weekend-long art show!  Yay!

Here are the details:
Nov. 15 - 16, 2014
11 - 5pm
Artspace, 555 Asylum Ave. Hartford
Park at the train station for $5

Like last year, there are many places doing Open Studio so you may want to drive around.  But it's going to be COLD, so it's great to have a nice big location like Artspace where you can park, brave the cold for a little bit, then hang out with us for a few hours.

I have my usual fare:  painting (above), books, T-shirts, stuffed animals (below) ...

... card packs ...

...  and prints.

This year I have a couple NEW features.  TINY TOWNS are here!
TINY TOWNS are tiny clay towns on rocks that look great on your mantle, in your garden, in a planter, on your window sill - all over the place!  Prices range from $10 - $20.

Also, I've just started doing custom made PAPER PEOPLE and PETS!  I'll have some examples at Open Studio, but this is all custom work.  For more info on PAPER PEOPLE, click here, or email me at

I think it's going to be a great year!  If you're in the area and want to stop by, please do!  (I have a ton of leftover Halloween candy that I'm looking to pawn off on the kiddos.)

Thanks so much for stopping in!  Stay warm!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Superior Children's Book Festival

I had the very great pleasure of speaking at the Superior Children's Book Festival in Saulte (pronounced Soo) Ste. Marie this Saturday.

This is a wonderful book festival put on by author/professor Janice Repka (The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco) and the good folks at Lake Superior State University.  They also brought in mega best-selling author Debbie Dadey of the Bailey School Kids series and Ruth McNally Barshaw of the Ellie McDoodle series.

I talked about my approach to creating picture books and was thrilled to have a lovely audience of both young and old.

Here's some of the young ones now.  See that kid in the headband?  Twenty years from now he'll be touring around with his own books!

I was pretty busy doing my own thing, but I got a chance to pop in and learn how Ruth McNally Barshaw approaches her illustrations.

It was a great, but busy day, so I hit the pillows early.  Debbie Dadey and I were on the same early Sunday morning (6:30am) flight to Detroit to catch our connections.

But the Sky Gods frowned upon us!    After clearing security we were all informed that the plane had some mechanical difficulties.  Because this is such a small town, they have no airplane mechanic. They also had no other airlines or flights.  We were told there was a possibility that we would not be able to leave that day at all.  ACK!  Despair!

Eventually, they located a mechanic.  Yay!  He arrived around 8:45.  (See there he is reaching in the plane while standing on a chair.  Ah, technology.)

By 10:15, Debbie Dadey and I were back on the plane with our fingers crossed that we would get to Detroit.

We did!  Double Yay!

As I write this, Debbie is on her flight home.  I have another two hours to wait until mine, but I don't care.  I'll be home tonight so I am a happy camper!

BIG THANKS to Janice Repka and everyone who put the festival together and fed me and drove me around.  I had a great time and you gave a great festival to the kids!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Interview with Illustrator Hazel Mitchell

I met Hazel Mitchell when we were both at a book event in Massachusetts called Inside Story. I told the inside story of Monkey Ono and she shared her inside story for her charming book One Word Pearl.

See.  We switched books just to confuse you.

Hazel has a new GORGEOUS book that she illustrated out entitled, Imani's Moon, and I thought you guys might want to hear from an illustrator other than myself.

But before I go on, let me give you a bit of info on Hazel.

Hazel Mitchell is originally from England and now lives and works in Maine.  Her latest
titles include, Imani's Moon, One Word Pearl, and 1,2,3 by the Sea.  Her first book as both author and illustrator, TOBY, will be published in 2016 by Candlewick Press.  I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that she is bubbly and charming.  You can see from her work that she's fantastically talented!

On with the interview!

Julie:    I read on your blog that you were once part of England's Royal Navy. How did you get from the Navy to picture book illustration?

Hazel:   That's right. I joined the Navy after leaving art college. My brother was in the navy, so it was kind of a family thing. I did however work as a graphic designer in the military which taught me a great deal and I got to do some technical illustration too. When I left the Navy I worked and ran a print and design company for many years and dreamed of illustrating books. Finally, when I met my husband and moved to America I joined the SCBWI and got a portfolio together about 5 years ago. It's been quite a journey!

What would you say if the greatest perk of being an illustrator and the greatest challenge of it?

Greatest perk of being an illustrator - illustrating children's books. Greatest challenge? Illustrating children's books.


So far, I've illustrated my own stories, so I develop the illustrations as I'm writing. I'm curious as to what your approach is when you read someone else's text.

I read it many times. First not thinking about the illustrations (although that is hard!) and just letting the words sink in. Then I usually go back and start thinking about how it might be spilt up on the pages. Then I write notes on the illustrations. Then I usually start work the character sketches ... and finally the thumbnails. I try to keep in mind the mood, theme, style that the manuscript suggests to me and why. 

How has Imani's Moon differed from the other books you've done?

The first big difference is that Imani is African, and the first time I have illustrated a book solely about a child with a darker skin tone. I had to spend a lot of time looking and drawing the Maasai people. They are so beautiful and elegant. This was also the first time that I had illustrated a book that had a very strong folk tale theme and that was a lot of fun. I also loved drawing the African landscape and all the fantastical elements involved in the story. I could really get lots of detail in!

One last silly question, if you were stranded on a desert island and could bring three books and a snack, what would they be?

Ha! Three books - Compendium of Jane Austen's works, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia. And Yorkshire Tea.

Thanks so much, Hazel!  The book is beautiful!

If you, dear reader, would like the chance to win a free copy of Imani's Moon, you're in luck! The publisher sent me one.  (I'm tempted to keep it, but no.  I'm too nice.) Leave me a comment on this post and I will draw a winner Monday, Nov. 10th!

CONTEST CLOSED!  Congratulations Margi Hayes! 

Margi - I will try to track you down via your Blogger account, but if you see this first, please send me an email at and let me know where you'd like your shiny new book sent!

THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!  Look for Imani's Moon at your neighborhood bookstore.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Hi all -

The next two week will be uber busy for me.  I thought I'd do a little Monday update to share my crazy life and try to bring some order to it (moreso for me than you.)

But first -  Halloween was great!

Magoo was the Grim Reaper.  I was Maleficent.  I got loads of candy he won't eat.  I got to scare small children as I walked down the street.  Awesome!

Now onto my crazy-busy life...

SUPERIOR CHILDREN'S BOOK FESTIVAL - If you're in the U.P. of Michigan and have a kid or love children's literature, perhaps you'd like to come to the Superior Children's Book Festival.  I'll be there!  I'm speaking about picture books!  I'm pretty excited about it, but if you know me, you might know that while I like BEING places, I hate TRAVELING to places.  So I need to make sure I have all my ducks in a row this week: plan my clothes, make sure all my electronics are charged, make sure my liquids are small and baggie sized.  Yadda yadda.  Once I get to Michigan, all will be well.  But until then, if you see a crazy lady with a bunch of Post-it notes stuck to her - it's probably me.

OPEN STUDIO HARTFORD - Open Studio Hartord - my big art show of the year - is fast approaching.  It's Nov. 15 & 16th from 11 - 5pm each day.  It's all over the city, but I'll be in the same building I'm always at: Artspace, 555 Asylum Ave, Hartford.  However, this year I'll be on the FIRST FLOOR, baby!  The upside is that I don't have to load anything on the world's slowest elevator AND pretty much everyone who comes in the building will have to walk by my space.  The downside is that I'm in the most exposed part of the building (security-wise) so there will be a risk to leaving any art hanging on the walls overnight, AND it's closer to the outside door, so it might be a little brisk.  Still, my buddy Angela Shenk will be right next to me and we always have a good time.  Mark your calendars and come on down.

But between now and then I have to make sure that all my work is framed and ready to hang, make all my signs, price things, inventory sheets, make sure I have receipts and all the other little things to do and remember.  I think I have a list somewhere.  #1 thing to do: find my list.

As soon as that's over, I have another art show entitled, PRIMO, with my new group The WeHa ARTISTS EMPORIUM at Salon Medusa, Nov. 25 - Jan 25th.  Opening reception if Thursday December 4th from 6 - 8, which is during the Center's Holiday Stroll.  So if you're in West Hartford Center for the stroll, stop into Salon Medusa (13 S. Main Street) for some art and snacks.

And by then, the FINDERS KEEPERS rock hunt will be underway.

So there's lots of coordinating and lists and schedules and things like that to be done.  It's nuts.  It's good-nuts, but it's still nuts.  (I think I'm going to try to work a massage in there after Open Studio.)

I hope you all are less nuts!
Thanks for taking time to stop in.