Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolate Coins & Christmas Trees

Ho Ho Oiy! It's that time of year. Both Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated in our home. This means double the preparations, more shopping than I care to do, extended enthusiasm for each ritual, but - at least for the kids - twice the fun!

I'm working on a book at the moment about a family that celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas in one home. So far, I have just written the manuscript, although I have been inspired by this festive season as I move into the sketch phase.

When my son's Kindergarten teacher suggested that parents come into the class to share a holiday book or special family tradition, I thought it might be interesting to 'test my story out'.

So, today I visited Isaiah's class to read, "Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama". We talked about family's who celebrate both (75% based on a rough show of hands!), and then his classmates drew their own interpretations. Here are some of my favorites.

Now that I'm freshly inspired by the awesomeness that is unique to Kindergarten art, it's time to crack down and begin sketches of my own...

In the mean time, I wish you a very happy holidays– whatever it is you celebrate!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Making Trains at the BPL

Stand clear of the closing doors! This Saturday at the BPL I'll be leading a hands-on workshop for kids making subway trains. I'll read from my illustrated book My Subway Ride, as well as Christoph Niemann's new book Subway, to get your 8-10 year olds in the mood to create– using color, subway maps, metro cards & buttons. I tried this project out with my son and he loved it (see above)! Join me tomorrow at 2:30 for this FREE afternoon of fun. (And while you're there, be sure to check out the Drawn In Brooklyn exhibition. It's up through January, but time flies...!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010
Brooklyn Public Library
Grand Army Plaza, 2nd floor
2:30 PM

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Maker's Dozen

It's a great time to shop early for the holidays!

13 children's book makers - who also happen to be friends - have gotten together to form the BOOK MAKER'S DOZEN. You can find us at Etsy selling archival prints from our children's books for just $100 each. Affordable art from some of your favorite books make terrific gifts for loved ones, children's rooms, or as well-deserved treats for oneself!

Who are the book makers, you might be asking yourselves? None other than...
Sophie Blackall
Sean Qualls
Brian Floca
Dan Yaccarino
John Bemelmans Marciano
Brett Helquist
John Rocco
Peter Brown
Boris Kulikov
Aileen Leijten
Sergio Ruzzier
David Gordon
and myself, Selina Alko

There will be not one - but TWO - opportunities to meet members of the Book Maker's Dozen and buy prints in person.

PowerHouse Arena is having 2 holiday party events!

1) December 2nd from 7 - 9 PM; A panel discussion cocktail party where 13 of us will talk about our work, answer questions, and sign books. Join us for some wine and inspiration!

2) December 5 from 4 - 5 PM; Another holiday party where rumor has it Santa may make an appearance. So be sure to bring your little ones!

37 Main Street
DUMBO, Brooklyn

Monday, November 1, 2010

Author Costume Photo Shoot

Halloween was perfect timing this year. The kids had to dress-up anyway AND I needed an author photo for my Dress-Up book. How apropos!

Ginger is still young enough that I can impose my ideas on her. Lucky for her, being Frida Khalo is a pretty cool idea. Frida's a character in my book, Every-Day Dress-Up (Knopf, 2011). Or I should say, my main character dresses-up as Frida. And her sister dresses-up as Georgia O'Keefe (That's me! That's right, I made myself look 40 years older for this photo-shoot. I am not vain!) Oh and Diego Rivera is, well, he's not really in the book. But I thought it would be only fair to include Isaiah. The thing is, he wasn't so into it. His idea of a real Halloween costume is something super scary. After this photo shoot he coined himself, "The Mysterious Freak", wearing blood red clothes with plastic spiders all over... but, I digress. For the sake of getting a 'cute author photo' I had to dress-up my kids appropriately, darn-it.

In the end, I chose the top photo of me & Ginger; Two Female Artists– since it IS a book about girls dressing-up (& their role-models). Anyway, I think Isaiah already had his turn in the spotlight as the protagonist in, "I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother". It's only fair, after all.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dress-Up! & Fall Line-Up!

I'm rushing out the door to deliver art for my latest book, EVERY-DAY DRESS-UP!...

Sparking some ideas for alternative Halloween costumes? Personally, I'm looking forward to dressing up my Ginger as Frida Kahlo. EVERY-DAY DRESS-UP! comes out in the Fall 2011.

Before I leave, here's what's going on THIS Fall:

Saturday (tomorrow!) October 16 at The Brooklyn Public Library is FAMILY DAY. From 10:30 - 3 in the main lobby there will be book readings, music, activities and a chance to meet your favorite Brooklyn children's book illustrators. I'll be there signing books + some new prints too!

This Thursday, October 21 I'll be taking part in a multicultural literacy conference with Reach Out & Read at the Scholastic in SOHO. From 8:30 - 11:30 am join Pat Cummings, R. Gregory Christie and myself as we talk about diversity in picture books. It is free and open to the public.

Next Sunday, October 24 is GHOULS & GOURDS at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This great festival has a spooky book barn and I'll be there again this year signing books all day long. Come on by to say, "boo!"

November 20 at 2:30 pm at the Brooklyn Public Library I'll be leading a TRANSPORTATION WORKSHOP. Bring your little ones for this free afternoon making subway cars from recycled materials. I'll be reading My Subway Ride to get your kids in the mood to make trains!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Drawn in Brooklyn

I'm just thrilled to be a part of DRAWN IN BROOKLYN– a wonderful exhibit opening this week at The Brooklyn Public Library. Over 30 children's book illustrators' work will be on display in the main lobby, plus a selection of illustrators will show how their books are made in the Youth Wing. I'll have work in both areas, and am particularly excited to show stuff from my upcoming B is for Brooklyn book (sketches, scans of final art, materials used, etc.,), as well as some process work from My Subway Ride. It was tons of fun creating the installation cases for these displays. And I think it will be great for kids to get a hands-on look at how illustrators work behind-the-scenes, too!

Featured illustrators: Selina Alko * Sophie Blackall * Peter Brown * Lauren Castillo * R. Gregory Christie * Bryan Collier * Pat Cummings * Leo & Diane Dillon * Keith DuQuette * Brian Floca * Melanie Hope Greenberg * Brett Helquist * Edward Hemingway * Paul Hoppe * Boris Kulikov * Yunmee Kyong * Aileen Leijten * Betsy & Ted Lewin * Kam Mak * John Bemelmans Mariciano * Megan Montague Cash & Mark Newgarden * John Nickle * Brian Pinkney * Sean Qualls * John Rocco * Sergio Ruzzier * Daniel Salmieri * Brian Selznick * Shadra Strickland * Sam Tomasello * Paul O. Zelinsky

Drawn In Brooklyn
Brooklyn Public Library
10 Grand Army Plaza
September 21, 2010 - January 23, 2011

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Art in Wellfleet

Sean and I started going to Wellfleet on the Cape before we had kids, not only because of its breathtaking beauty, wonderful beaches and quaint charm, but also for The Art.

Many summers ago we biked from Eastham to Wellfleet where we stumbled upon a bunch of galleries and artist's homes. We discovered the artist, Selina Trieff. We were struck to find another Selina, and her beautiful work drew us in. We ended up buying a small piece, which I now treasure in my studio. Most summers we try to visit her and her husband, the artist Robert Henry, when they open up their studio/gallery.

Speaking of studios & galleries... Openings are a mainstay Saturday evenings in Wellfleet. This past week we were lucky to be there for Tommie dePaola's at the Cove Gallery. He has been showing his work for 15 years and only has ONE big opening every other summer. Sean, Isaiah, Ginger & I were delighted to attend this year. The kids were especially excited; Ginger coined Tommie, "grandpa" and Isaiah entertained him with funny faces. Tommie was such a great sport with our little firecrackers. You could tell he truly appreciates real-live children– if you didn't already get that from his hundreds of amazing children's books.

And speaking of children's books... Every summer we make sure to visit the Wellfleet library. It's a great local for restless kids– even when it's not raining. One morning last week I took Isaiah to story time and was happy to see, "Im Your Peanut Butter Big Brother" up on the bookshelf. I'm sorry, but I just had to take a picture.

(photos from top to bottom: Selina Trieff's latest work. Selina T with Sean & Ginger. Tomie dePaola and Sean. Isaiah & Sean, Tommie, Ginger & Selina A. PBBB and Isaiah)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brooklyn sweet Brooklyn

Fast forward 3 months and the art for, 'B IS FOR BROOKLYN' is finished! It has been quite a journey depicting some of my favorite places in my beloved borough for this hip, new alphabet book. Of course, it won't appear as an actual, honest-to-goodness book for another year and half– but let's not be picky. The art is DONE and I feel good. My job now is to bid this brief, creative period of my life good-bye and take a leap in handing it all over to my Publisher. 'B IS FOR BROOKLYN' (Holt) will hit the shelves in the Spring of 2012. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

B is for Book deadline

B is for.... Busy. Busting-ass. Belting-out paintings. Brooklyn. Book.

Fill in the Blanks and that's what I've been up to for the past few months!

Sorry for the Blog hiatus, that's just how it tends to go when working on a Book deadline.

B IS FOR BROOKLYN will be published in the Spring of 2012 with Henry Holt.

(Here's a sneak peak...)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Small Favors at Giant Robot

Giant Robot is having another cool group show opening this Saturday, March 27th. The theme is artwork for small spaces, since most New Yorkers live in cramped quarters.

In honor of having recently become an American Citizen, I did a couple pieces about my dual identity. 'V is for Vancouver', my birth place, and 'B is for Brooklyn', my current home.

There are almost 80 artists included in this show, and I'm thrilled to be one of them.

Giant Robot was born as a Los Angeles-based magazine about Asian, Asian-American, and new hybrid culture in 1994, but has evolved into a full-service pop culture provider with shops and galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.

Giant Robot
437 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10009
mon-sat 11:30-8pm, sun 12-7

March 27 - April 14
Reception: Sat, March 27, 6:30-10

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Six Authors Paint the Town

It's only March 17 and so far it's been quite a month. Superfine kicked things off with a Superfun Art Opening. 6 children's book authors and illustrators had work from our books displayed behind the funky bar where a large crowd gathered to celebrate art, passion and literature. I had the pleasure of meeting my colleagues Miriam Cohen, a legend in her own right, and Aileen Leijten, for the first time. These ladies, along with Meghan McCarthy, Melanie Hope Greenberg, Pat Cummings and myself, were in the show and have also been participating in a number of readings around town this month (see my previous blog post for details). Just last Sunday, I was on a panel at BookCourt with all 6 fantastic female authors and illustrators. It was extremely cool to share each of our unique perspectives with a lively, mostly adult, audience. Some of us read, some drew, we all told stories and did our best to answer questions. We were asked if there was an 'aha' moment for each of us with our work. I love this type of question, it forces me to reevaluate and assess how I got to where I am. It's also been interesting timing, since just a few days ago I became naturalized as an American (I am from Canada), after living here for 19 years. Needless to say, my own personal journey has been on my mind. But mainly, it's been refreshing to get out of the studio, do readings for children and meet up with my talented peers. There's just ONE more event that I'll be participating in: This Sunday at P.S. Bookshop in DUMBO at 4 pm for story time, where all 6 of us will take turns reading. Then I will go home, get under the covers and take a very, very long nap.

P.S. Bookshop
145 Front Street
4 PM Sunday, March 21

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pencil in March Events!

Please join me to celebrate WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH with my talented colleagues, Melanie Hope Greenberg, Miriam Cohen, Meghan McCarthy, Pat Cummings and Aileen Leijten.

I know, I know, it's still Black History Month... (Don't forget Sean's book party for LITTLE CLOUD AND LADY WIND is coming up next Thursday, February 18th at BookCourt!) Still, I wanted to get the WORD OUT on these other cool Brooklyn happenings in March.

WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION: Brooklyn Honors Local Artists and Literature, March 2010 with Six Author-Illustrators, Three Bookstores and a Gallery
Artwork from picture books by illustrator/authors SELINA ALKO, MIRIAM COHEN, PAT CUMMINGS, MELANIE HOPE GREENBERG, AILEEN LEIJTEN, and MEGHAN MCCARTHY Exhibition: March 2- March 14
LOCATION: 126 Front St. (DUMBO) Brooklyn NY 11201 718.243.9005

* Mar. 6 Sat. 10:30am GREENLIGHT BOOKS presents SELINA ALKO and AILEEN LEIJTEN - children's book reading.
LOCATION: 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 INFO: 718.246.0200

* Mar. 13 Sat. 10:30am GREENLIGHT BOOKS presents MELANIE HOPE GREENBERG and MIRIAM COHEN - children's book reading.
LOCATION: 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 INFO: 718.246.0200

* Mar. 14 Sun. 11am - Noon BOOKCOURT presents a panel discussion featuring illustrator/authors SELINA ALKO, MIRIAM COHEN, PAT CUMMINGS, MELANIE HOPE GREENBERG, AILEEN LEIJTEN, and MEGHAN MCCARTHY.
LOCATION: 163 Court Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 INFO: 718.875.3677

* Mar. 20 Sat. Time: TBA GREENLIGHT BOOKS presents MEGHAN MCCARTHY - children's book reading.
686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 INFO: 718.246.0200

LOCATION: 147A Front Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 INFO: 718.222.3340

* Mar. 27 Sat. 10:30am GREENLIGHT BOOKS presents PAT CUMMINGS - children's book reading.
LOCATION: 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 INFO: 718.246.0200

Monday, February 1, 2010

How I Became My Doppelganger

Before writing and illustrating children's books full-time I made money illustrating in other ways. One thing I did was depict a performer each week for a Las Vegas publication called, "Showbiz Weekly". I did this gig for four years, and never did I miss a week caricaturing such famous (read: washed-up) celebs as: The Smothers Brothers, Phyllis Diller and Wayne Brady. I did hundreds of these portraits. Some likenesses were spot-on and some totally sucked. Such were the challenges of illustrating an on-going column.

One week, right after September 11, 2001, I was asked to do Marlo Thomas. This portrait appeared a week later in the mag. Her sunny smile belies the overwhelming angst the Nation was feeling at the time. But then again that's Vegas for you, a faux fur 'n fabulous place to escape reality!

At the time I was also working with a designer to develop my first website and 'graphic identity'. On a whim, I sent him this portrait of That Girl!, and he used it on my stationary, business cards and website. Just like that, Marlo Thomas became me and I was instantly synonymous with this lovely actress.

And that is how This Girl became That Girl!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ginger Cloud and Mama Wind

This week marked the release of LITTLE CLOUD AND LADY WIND, the children's book by Toni Morrison (& her son, Slade), illustrated by none other than my husband, Sean Qualls.

I can't tell you how excited I am. When Sean was first approached to do this book I almost fainted. I mean, Toni Morrison! A literary Goddess of epic proportions, a true Icon of our times, one of my absolute favorite authors EVER. Ever since reading THE BLUEST EYE back in high school, I was emotionally hooked. A few years later I devoured BELOVED and it stayed with me for a very long time. I think about her very real characters in ways that last, and I carry them with me wherever I go.

Luckily Sean felt the same. With a great debt to her brilliance, he took her newest characters -intended for our youngest audiences - and brought them passionately and vividly to life. He infused Little Cloud and Sister Wind with spirit, texture and depth rendered all his own.

To top it off, I am extremely honored that on some level Sean modeled these characters after me and our daughter, Ginger. The book IS dedicated to us, after all. It's nice to know that after 10 years + of being together I'm still his muse, and now our daughter is part of his visual language too.

Brava to Toni and Sean on your stunning collaboration!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Twenty Ten; Future Books

Making a picture book can take a long time (sometimes several years!) to complete from beginning to end. Unfortunately, I will not have a new book out this year (please hold back your cries of horror and disappointment!) But rest assured, I will be crazy busy making the art for 2-3 new books that will eventually don shelves. They include:

B is for Brooklyn. An alphabet picture book that is all about my beloved borough, Brooklyn.

Every Day Dress Up. An alternative to the princess pantheon; A girl dresses up as strong female icons her mother teaches her about, from Julia Child to Sonya Sotomayor.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama. A holiday book that blends Christmas and Hanukkah into one families' seasonal celebration. A first!

I'm happy to say all 3 books are written. Whew! Since my youngest was born almost 2 years ago, I've been busy working on these manuscripts. Right now, I'm doing the sketches for B is for Brooklyn (Henry Holt) and developing the main character for Every Day Dress Up (Knopf). I will probably be working on both of these book dummies over next few months. Making the color art for each project will take the bulk of time this year. Once I turn in final art to the publishers, the design and printing process will take another year. Then for the rest of 2010, I'll probably begin sketches for Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama (Knopf) and maybe, just maybe, begin to develop some new ideas...

So, even though I won't have a published book to show for '10, I'll be busy working in the garden, nurturing and growing my future book crops. Stay tuned!