Friday, June 16, 2017

PBJ: The Waiting Game


I am currently waiting to hear from my agent.  He is probably currently waiting to hear from editors to which we have sent book projects.  It's frustrating, but it's part of the job.


This is an image of me waiting for a Skype visit.  Skype visits are both awesome and frustrating.  They are awesome because I don't have to travel and I don't have to lose a whole day and I get to connect with students who are far away.  But I don't charge for 30 minute Skype visits, so I get tremendously frustrated when I have made sure that I am there at the appointed time, but the class isn't ready for me.  My time is being wasted.  But what can I do but wait?

This isn't meant to be a whiny post about Skype visits, but rather another glimpse into this profession.  There's a lot of waiting.

If my agent sends out a project, he might have to wait two weeks-to-two months to hear back from an editor (probably depending on how well he knows the editor.)  But if I were to send out my project sans agent, I could be waiting 6 months-to-a year, and that's if they even bother to get back to me.

Do you know why?  Because I'm not J. K. Rowling.  That's why.

Believe me, J. K. Rowling's agent gets back to her lickity split!

So what do I do while I wait?  Well, if it's a Skype visit I check in and wait for ten minutes.  If they're not ready for me within ten minutes - See Ya!  For anything else, I pull out another project and get to work.  It's always good for me to have a few projects in development so I can jump from one story to another if one is with my critique group, my agent, or simply giving me a hard time.

Just keep busy.
Just keep working.
Don't lose momentum, or your work habits.

Hopefully I'll hear from my agent soon.

Thanks for stopping in.
Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

New Drawing Series

In the fall, I'm participating in a group Black & White show.  As the title suggests, every thing must be in black and white.  So, after giving it some thought, I decided I'd like to do pen & ink drawings of pop culture images in an Edward Gorey-ish style.  I'm calling this collection: Gorey Pop.

Eleven from Stranger Things    2017     j. c. phillipps

Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat       2017       j. c. phillipps

Suzy and Sam from Moonrise Kingdom      2017      j. c. phillipps

Mia and Vince from Pulp Fiction        2017       j. c. phillipps

Max from Rushmore             2017               j. c. phillipps

I'm really enjoying working on this series.  I plan to do way more than I need, and then hand pick the best ones for the show.  I've had a lot of great suggestions from other people, but I'm mostly drawn to movies from the 80's & 90's, Wes Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino films.  I'm trying to branch out though, so if you have any ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Thanks for stoping in.
Have a great week, everyone!



Friday, May 26, 2017

Picture Book Journal: Be Our Guest



Sometimes I wish there was a book offered to schools called, "How to Host an Author."

Some schools don't need this.  (Most schools don't need this.)  Some schools are very excited that an author is coming and they treat you like a respected guest.  They prepare the kids and put signs up saying Welcome! and just treat you like you're the best thing since sliced bread.  And that feels great!

Other schools ... well, sometimes you're just a person sitting in a stairwell.

I'm not a fancy gal.  I don't expect the red carpet.  But there should be some basic rules of etiquette that are met.  For example, when an author goes into a school, there should be a host to meet them, give them a schedule, show them where bathrooms are, where to get lunch, and take them to their first location.

Sometimes you get a student escort - that's fun.  Most of the time it's a teacher or media specialist.  On my last visit there was no host.  Zippo.   Nada.   Well, that's not 100% true.  I knew I'd need someone to help with the computer set-up so I made a request for help, then someone led me to the stage.

What we didn't know, because there was no host, was that I was in the wrong location.  I was supposed to be in the library.  Who knew this?  I did not know this.  The school secretary did not know this.   It was unknown.

Someone eventually found me waiting patiently in a room with no students and escorted me to the library and I did my presentation.  It was the exact same presentation that I did there last year.
Sometimes this doesn't matter.  If I only present to one grade, I can present the same material year after year to new students.

However, this was not the case.

I was presenting to the Kindergarten and the first grade, just as I had last year.  And I should have caught on to that earlier on, but there was such a huge gap in communication between booking my date and letting me know what they wanted me to do.  I think eventually the person handling it just said, "Uh yeah.  Same as last time."  I didn't think anything of it until the week before my visit when I realized that half the group would have the same presentation as last year and the same art project.

I relayed the issue and pitched a different art project, but I never heard back.  Okedokee.
So some kids got double ninja learning.  Not the worst thing ever.

I know this post sounds whiny, and truth be told, it was a fine visit.  The kids were great and the teachers were super helpful in the classroom.  What this visit needed - what all visits need - is a stage manager.  Someone who is in charge of it all, someone who knows how it's going to go, where the author should go, and who can host the author properly.

I'm a professional.  I'm there for the kids and I'll get the job done.  This post is just to shed light on the realities of the job.  Sometimes it's not very glamorous.  I guess most times it's not very glamorous, but a good author visit can really make you feel like a rock star.

And sometimes you're just the person sitting in the stairwell.


Friday, May 12, 2017

PBJ: Follow Through


I like new projects.

It's fun to get a new idea and start developing it.  It's like buying a package of seeds from the store.  You plant them in fresh soil.  Maybe even in a pretty new pot.  And it's your baby.  You water it and love it and bring it to life.

That's a first draft.  First drafts are great!  It's 100% creativity and 0% editing.  (I should be specific when I say that I am speaking of picture book first drafts.  I imagine that those who write novels edit a lot while they are working on their first draft.)  But not picture books.   Picture book first drafts are all love and ideas!  They are the thrill of when sprouts first pokes up out of the soil.  But it is only for a fleeting moment.  Because then you have to show people your story, get notes, and rewrite.  And rewrite.  And rewrite.

The revision process is more like keeping a garden up.  The weeding!  Therefore, if I have a story that has taken me some time and I still can't get it just right, I tend to put it away.

Sometimes it's the best thing you can do.  Some stories need to rest in the soil like a perennial.  But then the tricky thing is to come back to that story  - and water it, and prune it and love it - instead of working on an exciting new idea.  That's what I'm doing now.  I'm pruning.





I have several stories that I have been working on for years now.  And they are soooooo close.  So, instead of starting fresh, I have pulled out a story that has been oddly difficult for me to nail down.  It's nearly wordless, so the story has to be very simple and very clear.  It's all art, so I can't explain anything.  It's super visual.

About 5 months ago (after already working on it for years and putting it away), I submitted a new revision to my crit group and got a ton of wonderful notes, but at the time, my heart just wasn't in it.  So two days ago, I was finally ready to pull my "gardening gloves" out and do some weeding.  I printed up the notes.  Pulled out my dummy pages.  Wrote all the notes out on post-its and put them on the corresponding illustrations.  And now I am slowly and diligently working through the story page-by-page.

I must admit it feels good to get back into it.  I love this story so much and, if given a chance, it could be a lovely book.  But first, I have to do my part.  So I am following through.

Thanks so much for stopping in.
Wishing you a lovely weekend and a very Happy Mother's Day to the moms out there.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Crazy Busy Art Weekend, Part 2: Spring Art Market






Hi.  This is the core group of the WeHa Artists Emporium.  (From left to right:) Me, Phyllis, Stefanie, David, and Hannah.  I prefer to stand next to Phyllis and/or Stefanie in photographs so I can appear taller.

Together we come up with fun art things to do in town.  We also curate two galleries in the Noah Webster Library.  And we organize art shows.  This past weekend was the Spring Art Market.  We did a small one last year in Hannah's house with only 6 artists.  This year, since the big holiday show went so well and so many artists wanted to do another show, we were able to acquire the big warehouse again and we did another big show.  This time, we had 18 artists.

I'm not going to go into the nitty-gritty of planning the event.  I'm just going to show you a whole bunch of photos so you can feel like you were able to join us and stroll along the booths, oohing and ahhing over all the wonderful handmade items.  Perhaps you had a crepe from the food truck parked outside.  Perhaps a donut.  Either way, I hope you'll enjoy some scenes from the WeHa Artists Emporium's Spring Art Market.


Here's a shot of Stefanie's booth.  Stefanie was hit by a car about three weeks ago.  Actually, it was exactly three weeks ago today.  Holy crow - it was bad.  But because she was so fit and strong, she's doing an amazing job healing.  You can see - in that top photo - the cast on her arm.  She also had a neck brace and scabs and bruises all over her body.  Anyway - there was no way she was healthy enough to sit at her booth and sell art for the weekend, but we knew she had so much art to sell.  So her wonderful husband Carl set up her booth and there was a series of volunteers who came out and sold stuff for her. 


Marilyn Holt does amazing things with gourds.  I don't even know how she does it.  But she gets a gourd and she makes it into a lamp, or a bowl, or a tiny carved egg - and it is exquisite.


Eina Rieger is Magoo's middle school art teacher and an amazing potter!  The colors are so bold and fun.  I love her stuff!


We had a long white wall that was going unused, so I cut a stencil, spray painted some posters and jazzed it up.  The posters were on sale as a group fundraiser.  We sold a few.


Here's a shot of my jewelry table.  This was my first year making and selling jewelry.  I had to buy a lot of beads and findings - and display items.  I'm happy to say that the jewelry did pretty well.  I'd say I probably broke even.  Also, I branded myself this year.  My little "store" is called Handmade by Julie Phillipps.  So I had to design a logo and tags and a whole lotta stuff.  You can see my Facebook store page here.


Hannah always puts together the most beautiful booth.  It's like an Anthropology store.  Indigo and white are her main colors for this collection and the whole space looked so polished.  She could probably be an interior decorator if she wanted to.


Our other wonderful potter is David Davis Wilson.  His stuff is also amazing, but so different from Eina's.  David's pieces almost tell more of a story.  They have bunnies and bees and ants on them.  He does a lot of carving and painting on his pieces.  Just lovely.


And here's a shot of my space.  It's difficult to see the details, but I went with a black and white theme for the booth so that all the colors of my picture books, softies, and watercolors could stand out.

It was a great weekend but now I am resting, taking everything down and putting it in storage, and trying to get back into regular Julie mode.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Have a great week!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Crazy Busy Art Weekend. Part One: Things With Wings

The Hiding Crew: Hannah, Miss Z, Magoo, Phyllis, Miss M, me and Miss C

PART ONE: Things With Wings Art Hunt

On Saturday morning, the hiding crew gathered at a secret location to hide the 118 items of wing-themed art that was created and donated by local artists.  At 9am, the location was revealed on the web page and we just sat back and watched the people come. 

If you hide it, they will come ...

Well, some of us sat back.  The younger ladies in the group were allowed to run off and find one item.  Magoo helped hide, but he didn't gather.  (If I was smart I would have sent him off to snag something for Mama.  Oh well.)

A tapestry moth by me

A ceramic bee cup by David Davis Wilson

little clay chicken by me

It's really quite a lot of fun to watch the cars arrive and people start looking around for items.  If you're lucky enough to be close by - (and some people guessed the right park and they were close.  One person confessed to doing a drive by, seeing us, and then parking in the far lot so they could hunt as soon as 9am hit.) - then it's pretty easy to find something.  It's like an Easter egg hunt.  Nothing is buried.  But, after 30 minutes, good luck.  After an hour, nope.  It's over.

Here are some lucky finders.


If you're on Facebook, I encourage you to go over and take a look at the albumPhyllis Meredith - who is an amazing photographer - captured some wonderful images.

It was a beautiful day.  Sunny.  Not too hot.  And we all had a great time at this event.  Thank you to all the artists who were so generous with your time and talents.  And thanks to the people who came out to play with us! 

Tomorrow, Part Two: Spring Art Market.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Table Design

My first art show was at Artspace in ... I don't know ... 2005 or something.  Artspace is all about walls, so the first year I just hung framed art and the second year I got a rack for prints.  The third year I got a second rack for original unframed works.  Each year I learn.  Each year I grow.  Here's my space from 2007.  (Two racks and a card table!)


As time passed and I took notice of what people were buying and spending and what other artists were selling, I started making more "table art."  The picture books were obviously table art and then I made stuffed animals to go with them.  Packs of cards are also table art.   (Below) Here I am in 2014 at my Artspace area, with table.)


My Artspace shows will continue to have those wall available, so I will continue to bring wall art to hang, but I've noticed over the years that it's the items in the racks and the table art that sells better than the $350 watercolor painting.  Also, some of the spaces that I'm showing in with the WeHa Artists Emporium don't have usable walls.  These are booth shows.  So I've adapted.  Now I make way more table art.

And, with the changing product, there are better ways to display them.  I've become obsessed with table design.

Oh, the Pinterest boards on table design for art shows!  Sigh.  There are so many.  How to create a uniform look, how to display your brand, height, colors, yadda, yadda, yadda.   It's a whole thing.  So this year, in preparation for the Spring Market, I've been setting my tables up in the studio (ahead of time) so I can plan everything out.

This is my jewelry table.  (I'm making jewelry this year.)



I already had black tablecloths, but I thought they were too dark, so I added a smaller white one on top.  My booth colors are black and white (because my art is colorful and I didn't want to compete) but I'm going with natural stained wood for my table accessories.  I've been able to find some nice display pieces online through an Etsy shopped called USaveCo, and some stuff I just get from kitchen stores and tag sales.  (Above) See that little white pillow I made to help display the necklaces?  I saw that idea on Pinterest!)


(Above) This is my display plan for my "fun" table.  This one will have the books, felt animals, and some of the extra items from the Things with Wings Art Hunt.  Having a variety of eye levels is a big thing for an attractive table display, so I bought some shelves and rummaged the house for nice natural wood boxes and crates.  And see in the frame in the middle - that hand print - that's my new brand "Handmade by Julie Phillipps."  So all the tags have that now.  (I still need to get business cards.)

So I'm classing it up a bit this year.  Looking a little more polished.  A little more professional.   I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks so much for stopping in.
I hope everyone is enjoying the lovely Spring weather!



Monday, April 3, 2017

The Art Market is Coming

Greetings!  Spring has sprung and in only one month, the WeHa Artists Emporium will have our Spring Art Market.  (We had a discussion about what to call our art shows.  Some people thought "art show" sounded too much like a gallery show where you look but don't buy.  And some thought "arts & crafts sale" sounded too crochet-toilet-paper-cover.  We settled on Art Market.)

Anyway, it will be April 29 & 30th and I am busy, busy, busy making a whole lotta stuff.
Today I'll share some little paintings.

Bee in Yellow Leaves              2017               j.c.phillipps

I started painting bees about 6 weeks ago and have already sold three paintings, so I thought I'd keep with the bees and nature theme.

But I also wanted to play with limited color palettes and I love blue butterflies.

Blue Butterfly                     2017                 j. c. phillipps

I like to make small paintings for this type of show.  For one thing, I don't really have wall space.  I have a big window - which is great - but even if it was wall, it's concrete.  No nails.  Small paintings can go on table easels and they look nice among the other items.

Monarch in Blue Leaves   2017      j. c. phillipps

Small paintings are also less expensive.  Everyone loves to oooh and ahhh at the big paintings, but people rarely buy them.  They just don't have the money.  So small paintings are a great way for people to buy original art at a price they can afford.

I'm very pleased with this series.  The leaves are quite calming to paint.  It's like art meditation.  

Thanks so much for stopping in.  
I hope the flowers are blooming where you are!

Friday, March 31, 2017

PBJ: Working for Free


Yesterday I spent my morning at a local elementary school's career day.  This was not my son's school and I wasn't getting paid, but I did it anyway because sometimes it's good to work for free.

There are actually some different thoughts on this.  Some would argue that when you give your services for free - whether it's an author visit or art - then people learn not to value what you have to offer.  It's kinda sad - but it is actually true.  People will believe that if you give them something for free, then what you're giving them isn't worth anything.

But there are exceptions.

My first year of author visits were free.  I was new to it.  I was learning.  To me, I was giving something to the schools, but they were giving me experience.  And I learned a lot from it.

This particular school has had me in for, like, three years running for paid visits to the first grade.  So when they asked me to come in for career day, I said yes because they have been very good to me.  I want these clients to be happy.  They are not trying to take advantage of me, they just want to offer a cool career day to their students and I have a cool job.

Plus, it's good to give back.

(Above.)  I brought in one of the original illustrations from Wink so the students could see how it compared to the printed image.  Kids always get a kick out of feeling the textures of the collage work.  If they had been tiny children, I would have left the plastic on the illo, but these were fifth graders.  They handled themselves just fine.

Thanks so much for stopping in.  It's a rainy, dreary Friday, but I bought some Girl Scout cookies, so all is right in my belly.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, March 24, 2017

PBJ: Fan Mail, A Perk of the Job


I don't always get fan mail, but when I do, it's a real treat.  Some kids draw excellent pictures, like the one of me doing a presentation, above.  Some write cards or letters.   Sometimes there is clearly a form that the teachers have written on the board, but sometimes the kids just write whatever they want.  Those are the best!  I mean, they're all great.  It's so nice that teachers and students take the time out of their day to thank me, but when a kid can just tell me whatever they want, it's usually pretty fun.

I just did an author visit in Colchester, CT.  About a week later, I got a big, fat envelope in the mail. Inside was a big packet of joy.  I'll share some of my favorites.

Above.  I really like this drawing because the artist captured something that a lot of kids don't, my short hair.  In many drawings like this, they will see me and draw a symbol of a woman, which usually includes long hair.  This artist paid attention to detail.  I also find it interesting that I have mere sticks for legs, but there is detail in the microphone.

Below.  The Flying Ninja.  My publisher does not want a third ninja book, but if they did, don't you think Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Fly would be pretty darn cool?  I do!


This note is hilarious to me.  At first I did a "good" job, but apparently "good" was not the right word.  No, no.  It was better than good.  I did a God job!  Oh yeah!  Thank you.


And this one might be my favorite.


The last line reads (I'll translate to adult) You are soooooo cool that I convinced my sister to like you.

That's pretty great, right?  I mean, if there is one thing that I am not, it's cool.
I'm a super dork.  But in this job, I can be a total dweeb and my target audience thinks
I'm so cool that they are urging their family members to also think I am cool.
Nice!

Big thanks to Colchester Elementary School!  You guys rock!  And I loved the fan mail.

Thanks for stopping by.  I just finished revisions on my latest picture book project and it's going back out to editors next week.  Fingers crossed for a book deal!

Have a great weekend!




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Storm

Uuuuuuh yup.  We got hammered.  They said we were going to get hammered, and they were right.

This was the kind of storm that would have been welcome in January.  It's oh-so-pretty.  And, in general, I don't really mind shoveling that much.  I kinda like being outside in the winter.  It's brisk.  And shoveling is a good arm workout.

But in March ... not loving it as much.
 
Around 18" of snow on March 14th, 2017

This was the kind of storm where I had to shovel out the end of my driveway three times.
The first time was yesterday around 2 pm, after a majority of snow.  The plow had come by once, but it would definitely be back.  Magoo, Mike, and I all shoveled.

The second time was yesterday closer to 6:00.  We'd eaten dinner (fortunately the power stayed on and the chili was hot.) The plow had indeed come back, so this snow was heavy and packed.  Magoo and I shoveled.

The third time was this morning around 7:30am.  There wasn't a large amount of snow blocking the driveway, but it had frozen solid overnight.  I had to get the metal shovel out to break it up and then toss icy boulders out of the way.  UNPLEASANT!  I did it solo.

But the power stayed on.  We were able to stay in.  And now the sun is out.

I covered my daffodils.  So, hopefully, when this passes, I will still be able to enjoy some pops of yellow and then get on with Spring.

In other news:
Mad Science in the basement
Magoo and Mike went to a robotics workshop and came home with a crate full of goodies for tinkering with.   It's time for mad science!  Perhaps someday, he will invent a robot that will shovel the end of the driveway for me.  :)

Thanks for stopping in.
I hope you are safe and warm wherever you are! 

Friday, March 3, 2017

PBJ: Author Visits


Hello!

Today, I am spending some time preparing for an author visit on Monday.  I thought I'd share what a J. C. Phillipps author visit is like.

An author visit is when an author comes to a school.  They may talk to the entire school or they may work with one grade.  It's a very fluid, flexible process that depends on what the author is most comfortable doing and what the school wants to get out of the visit.



Most of the time, I'll do one or two large group presentations that last about an hour, and then spend the rest of my day doing art or writing workshops with individual classrooms.  Those last 35-45 minutes each.  Add in lunch and some bathroom breaks and possibly some time to sign books, if the school has been kind enough to do a book sale, and that's my day.

When I started out with my first book and my first presentation, things were pretty simple.  I did a large group presentation on Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed and talked about how the idea for the book grew into an actual book.  It chronicled my experience.  Then I'd jump into classroom and taught students to make Wink collages. 


But, as I made more books and I visited more schools, my menu of presentations and workshops has increased.  I now offer about eight different large group presentations, four art workshops, and several writing workshops.  These days, I find out what the school wants me to focus on and the grades I'll be with, and I cater an activity just for them.


School visits are great because I really enjoy spending time with kids and teaching them.  But they can be challenging too. There can be technical difficulties, long distances in traffic, and scheduling nightmares.  And sometimes, I'm just plain exhausted by the end of the day.


But, it's a part of the job and I get paid.  Cha-ching!  And it's an excellent way for me to connect my target readership.

So that's what I'm doing today.

Thanks so much for stopping in!  Have a great weekend!