Tuesday, October 21, 2014

T is for T-shirts

T-shirt design seems to call my name.

In 2006 I won first prize at The Brooklyn Public Library PowerUp Business Plan competition for my t'shirt company TotStops. My partner and I printed images from my illustrated books, My Subway Ride and My Taxi Ride onto t's for tots, hence the name Tot Stops (making stops throughout New York City via train and taxi). It was fun but we soon realized how much work is involved in starting/running/maintaining a company. I decided to stick with making art.

Then just last year HiHo Batik asked me to create a unique Brooklyn t-shirt design. I got to try my hand using wax and fabric dye. My limited edition t-shirt was part fundraiser for Kids with Cancer which I blogged about here.

My most recent foray into the world of t-shirts was unveiled this past Saturday. I was commissioned by Greenlight Bookstore to do a special 5th Anniversary design based on my book, B is for Brooklyn

Here's how the design process worked.

First I did a whole bunch of sketches.

I showed these (& more) to the owners at Greenlight and they narrowed down their favorite design which involved buildings and their signature G. 

Then I did some more sketches. I added more spot green color, made the smoke funkier and played with different line work.
There was some back and forth to tweak the concept. For example, I had to use the exact right shade of green to match Greenlight's identity (PMS:3435), and they decided that the smoke had to go.
Once the final art was approved it was digitally sent the printers.... and voila!

Here are the t-shirts (+ onesies):

You can buy them at Greenlight Bookstore.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blog Tour... Tag, I'm it!

Nina Crews tagged me in a Writing Process Blog Tour–– Thank you, Nina! A fellow Brooklynite and children's book maker, Nina has a keen eye for multicultural city living. I really resonate with her themes and am honored to follow her on this tour.

As the task to answer four simple questions loomed, it dawned on me that I may very well be the Lamest. Blogger. Ever. 

Blogging is time-consuming! It's so much easier to promote by instant gratification–– a quick pic on Instagram here, a post on Facebook there.

But, it's also good to spend the time putting more thought into what I put online. Especially when talking about this Thing We Do; Writing and illustrating children's books. After all, to make a book can take about a zillion years. In the scheme of things, what's a few days putting together a blog post?

What am I working on?

For the past few years I've been collaborating on two books with my husband, author/illustrator, Sean Qualls

Our first book, The Case for Loving (Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic), debuts this January. I wrote (and Sean & I illustrated together) the love story of Mildred & Richard LOVING. Could they have a more perfect last name? The Lovings were an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950's who were arrested for... being married. How crazy is that? After years of battling the system, they took their case to the Supreme Court and won the right to live happily (& legally!) ever after.

Mildred & Richard Loving (photo by Grey Villet)
Currently we are working on a book called, Two Friends (also with Scholastic), about the little known friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas. 

sketch from Two Friends (Scholastic)
It's been a really interesting journey working with Sean. I definitely feel my work is growing. Sean uses a lot more texture when he paints, which makes the work so lush and rich. I've been integrating more texture myself, having fun with sand paper and using even more collage and lettering in new and different ways.

sketch from Two Friends (Scholastic)
We've been pleased with the results of our collaborations so far. And happily (and most importantly!) we're still married! 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think what makes my work unique is perhaps the themes I'm drawn to (ie/ urban environments, cultural diversity), combined with the way I use mixed-media, collage and hand-lettering. This is a recent illustration I did for SCBWI's Bulletin.

Why do I write what I do?

To help broaden how young people think. If I can write a book about a family that celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas with joy, then maybe - just maybe - families who read my book will feel they have the permission to celebrate both holidays with joy too. I don't see why blending cultural traditions needs to be a source of tension, although it often is! I grew up thinking that it was somewhat 'taboo' to mix outside my cultural group, especially when thinking about marriage and starting a family of my own. While I definitely think there's something nice about maintaining a sense of tradition, my belief in bringing people together across cultural boundaries is perhaps even stronger. I refuse to be cynical about human nature and I try hard to maintain a sense of optimism which - naturally - permeates my work.

Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama (Knopf)
How does my writing process work?

The hardest part is coming up with ideas. But once I have something I think is okay, I attempt to write. This can take a few days or many, many months (and many, many revisions!). Sometimes I do thumbnail sketches to help me visualize the character(s) as I'm writing. 

character sketches for a project I'm currently developing. (Her name is Maple.)

Next up is the CRAZY talented, relatively new on-the-scene, Abby Hanlon. 

Abby has a master's degree in childhood education from the City College of New York and a bachelor's from Barnard College. Abby has taught creative writing and first grade in the New York City public school system. Inspired by her students' storytelling and drawings, Abby began to write her own stories for children. Determined to illustrate her stories, Abby taught herself to draw after not having drawn since childhood. Her first book, Ralph Tells a Story, was published in 2012. The book is widely used by elementary school teachers who follow the writing workshop curriculum.  Her subsequent book, Dory Fantasmagory, a chapter book for ages 6-8 comes out Oct. 9. Abby also lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two children.

See more of Abby Hanlon's work here: Abby's website.

Abby - tag, you're it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Lovings at BEA

Meet Richard & Mildred Loving

Did you know that in Alabama it was illegal to marry someone of another race in just 2000?

Richard & Mildred Loving were arrested for "Unlawful Cohabitation" in 1958 in Virginia. They took their case all the way to the Supreme Court... and won!, helping pave the way to legalize interracial marriage across America.

THE CASE FOR LOVING (Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic) is a picture book I wrote telling the story of The Lovings. The art was done by me & my husband, Sean Qualls. It's our first artistic collaboration–– debuting this December.

This study of Richard and Mildred Loving will be up for silent auction at BEA on Wednesday, May 28 at the Jacob Javits Center. All proceeds benefit American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFFE).

I look forward to seeing many friends and colleagues this week!