Monday, April 16, 2018

Celebrate Children's Book Week

© Jane Smith • Which book would you like to read next?!

Wishing You A Llama Joy


Llama Joy: New collection available for licensing from Super Jane!!! • © Jane Smith



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Sparkle Boy

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara ChowJoan CharlesSharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.

              

SPARKLE BOY
By Lesléa Newman • Illustrated By Maria Mola
Picture book (ages 4-8) • 32 pages
Published by Lee & Low Books • 2017
ISBN 978-1-62014-285-1


Sparkle Boy is a sweet sibling story about respect and the freedom to be yourself, both within your own family and well as out in the world.

Sparkle Boy is Casey, a little brother who like all little siblings, is interested in everything his older sister, Jessie, does and wears. Especially all her shimmery, glittery, sparkly clothes and accessories! But Jessie is sure that these things are just for girls, even though all the grown-ups in her family assure her that Casey can wear whatever he likes and that it won’t hurt anyone. That is, until she finds herself having to choose whether or not to stand up for her little brother and his freedom to be himself while out on a visit to the library.

Mola’s muted palette in Sparkle Boy makes the subject very accessible, and her art is accented with super fun, sparkly touches, including spot glitter on the cover. The smart juxtaposition of Casey’s shimmery skirt, nails and bracelet with his toy trucks and his red train t-shirt visually reinforce the positive message that our individual interests can cover more than just what is considered traditional for our individual genders.

All in all, a wonderful read that will leave you feeling shimmery, glittery, sparkly inside!

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Super Jane Loves Mermaids

Don't you just love my NEW mermaid illustration set?! It is now available as wall art from Gango Editions—shop it here! So fun, summery & fabulous!! Yay!




Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Cathi Mingus

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

I’m thrilled to be chatting it up with the super star Illustrator, Cathi Mingus! I am a longtime fangirl of her hip, fun, fabulous artwork! Cathi graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and has been illustrating professionally for over 20 years. She started out doing acrylic-painted editorial pieces and then moved on to illustrating greeting cards, children's magazines and products. She still uses pencil and tracing paper to for sketches, but now finishes them in Photoshop. Her style has changed quite a bit from those early days. And she still loves to paint in her free time. You can view more of her artwork here! 


Oh, no! Friend drama rama!!

Q: You are the absolute queen of fun & fabulous tween & teen artwork for kids! Tell us a bit about what your favorite parts of illustrating for this unique market are? And what are the biggest challenges?

A: Thank you, Jane, for the compliment! I think it’s fun for me, because I get to tap into my inner 8-12 year old self—Ha! I would say that pretty much all my illustration work falls into that age range these days. I love creating characters (mainly girls) and tapping into who they are, their expressions and feelings, etc. It’s also important to look at current styles and trends for kids that age. So, I do a lot of online research looking at fashions and hairstyles, etc. I use Pinterest and clothing sites that cater to that specific group.

I guess the challenges are making sure the kids are looking a certain age. Also, keeping it fresh & hip enough for kids that age to be interested in the characters.


Forever Friends is totally forever fabulous!!

Q: Your NEW book series, Forever Friends, with American Girl & Scholastic debuts this month! (Congratulations! You’re a total rock star!) Give us the scoop on this series: how it came to be, how it developed and your process for creating the artwork—you know, all the good stuff!

A: I had been speaking with a friend of mine who is a writer and we came up with an idea for a book series based on three best friends who get involved with animal rescue and have all kinds of adventures. I did some character sketches and a quick mock-up cover of what I envisioned the kids and our book might look like. I put it up on my website. An art director who I’ve worked with on other projects at Scholastic (and I send regular emails of my work to) saw the piece on my site and contacted me. It just so happens they were working with American Girl on a new series that had a very similar theme and she thought the look of my cover was the perfect style for the series.

I was then asked to do some sketches of the girls in the series and a mock-up cover for her to pitch to American Girl to see if they would want to use my art. After a lot of rounds of sketches and tweaks to the cover comp, I was given the series! I had been handed character descriptions from the beginning of what each girl looked like and their unique personalities. After that it’s just a lot of sketching and revising until I feel I’ve nailed it. Above all, the characters and the cover need to really connect with the kids who will—hopefully—pick it up at the bookstore and want to read the series.

My process is pretty simple—I hand sketch first using tracing paper, so I can quickly rework an image. Then I scan and color in Photoshop. I’m not an expert in that program at all. I’m sure there are a lot of short cuts, etc., but I manage to make it work for me.

Q: Let’s talk inspiration—who, what, where inspires you most as an illustrator?

A: I’d say I’m inspired by going into bookstores and looking at great books & beautiful illustrations. I really love looking at the middle grade/early reader type of books. I also get inspiration from looking at other artists on Instagram, etc., but it can be overwhelming sometimes. I can also get caught up in the comparison game…and no one wants to go there! Taking classes and trying new techniques and processes helps to keep me inspired overall to do better work and to not get stuck in a rut. I think I was inspired to get into the tween/teen girl market initially, because I raised a daughter. I loved the books and materials I used to buy her when she was that age. 

Ooo! Super goth cool!

Q: Dish with us about your MOST favorite illustration project: one from your past and one from your present.

A: I don’t really think that there is any one project that stands out above the rest. I’ve been illustrating for over 20 yrs. and I’ve had a lot of fun assignments. I really loved working on the “Girls Guide to Middle School” with American Girl. I also illustrated a “Guide to Manners”, which has since been re-done by another artist. I did some really fun and “slightly edgier” covers for Scholastic a few years ago. They were part of their “Poison Apple and Rotten Apple” books for 4th to 6th graders. It was nice to get away from the color pink for a while!

Currently, I’m working on a children’s book about a mischievous fairy and her little dog companion. It’s challenging and fun to do a larger body of work like that. So, I am enjoying working on that right now. Any project where I’m given guidelines, but also lots of freedom to do my thing, is always my favorite. I still threaten to write my own story and create my own book series one day—Ha! 

Everything is better with glitter—don't you agree?!

Q: You’ve worked with all of the big four children’s book publishers (HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster). What advice would you give fellow illustrators about promoting to and landing big fish clients like the big four?

A: First I would say, do good work! In this industry, with so much competition, it’s important to stand out somehow. Doing really interesting pieces, good characters, great compositions, etc. is first and foremost.

Pick a marketing strategy and be consistent with it. Don’t be fearful in contacting art directors via email or promotional materials. If you are interested in illustrating a book series, create a mock book cover and send it out as a promotion and put it on your website and/or Instagram, etc. You never know who might see it or the assignments that might come from it.

If you can do great hand-lettering and show that with illustrations, even better! I’m still tackling my hand-lettering.

Figure out who would really be your top dream clients and market to the top 10 or so. Connect with art directors via LinkedIn and other social media sites, if you can. Do specifically tailored illustrations to send that will land you the type of jobs you want. When I first started out as an illustrator, I think I wasted a lot of time sending postcards out to 250-300 companies off of a random list. I get better results now sending emails with a few jpegs of my work to a few carefully selected art directors at the companies I really want to work with. 

Is there anything more fun than a fairy-ballerina-girlie?!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Wake up, drink coffee, take my dogs out for a walk (a Shih Tzu and a Boston Terrier). Weekends are a great time to catch up with my now-grown daughter. A leisurely breakfast followed by shopping and pedicures is always fun. There’s a great farmer’s market in my area that I like to walk to. I love taking home fresh flowers and jam. On rainy Sundays, I like to make some tea, put on some music and paint on canvas.

Thanks Jane for the interview :D

Thank YOU, Cathi, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We are definitely big fans!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hoppy Easter from Super Jane

Hoppy Easter!! • © Super Jane Smith • All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Maybe Something Beautiful

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.



MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

By F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell • Illustrated by‎ Rafael López
Picture Book  (ages 4-7) • 40 pages
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  • 2016
ISBN 978-0-544-35769-3


Maybe Something Beautiful is a story about art, community, and transformation.

This brightly illustrated picture book opens with Mira, a young girl “with joy in her heart” who walks through her grey city passing out colorful, homemade art. Along the way, she greets a variety of neighbors from diverse backgrounds.

Mira meets a muralist, who encourages her to envision the city she wants to live in. She helps him transform the drab city walls into a series of colorful murals.

Inspired by this duo, the whole community soon joins in and it becomes a creative block party to the soundtrack of salsa, merengue, and bebop. Citizens from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds are united by one common cause. “Together they created something more beautiful then they had ever imagined.”

This picture book speaks to any child (or adult) who ever hoped for change. It inspires us to connect with others of all colors, races, and creeds who share our vision. Whether that vision is to beautify a neighborhood, stomp out bullying, or save open space…with power in numbers we can accomplish great things.

All families will benefit from having this gorgeous book in their collection. Children will learn about the ability of art to improve quality of life and inspire future generations of dreamers.


Buy this book:



Reviewed by: Sharon Calle

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Katie Turner

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

I’m pleased as pink strawberry lemonade to be chatting it up with the rockstar Artist/Illustrator, Katie Turner! I absolutely love her graphic style and her sweet & spicy sense of humor! Katie is a fellow T2 artist, and I’ve been a fan of her artwork for quite a long time. Katie is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She got her BFA in illustration from Parsons School of Design and lived in New York for nine years until moving south to Nashville, Tennessee in 2015. She started her career in editorial, working for clients like The New York Times, The New Yorker & The Walrus and now specializes in children's illustration and licensing. She is represented by Tugeau2 for children’s work and Pink Light Design for licensing. You can view more of her artwork here!

Quick! Snap a pic of those butterflies before they flutter off, Bun Bun!!

Q: Your artwork is full of bold color, graphic shapes and fun characters! Dish with us about your creative process—concept to sketches to finished art—and how it all comes together.

A: Thank you! I actually don’t spend as much time sketching and concepting as some illustrators I know, especially a few that I work with at our shared studio here in East Nashville. I got an iPad last summer, and since then I’ve used it and the Procreate app for pretty much every illustration I’ve made. It really simplifies my process!

I will sometimes do a few thumbnail sketches before starting a piece, but sometimes I dive right in and do a really rough sketch directly into the app. Once I’m satisfied with the general composition, I’ll do a tighter sketch in another layer on top of that, and once I’m happy with that I’ll move on to the actual drawing.

I’ve found a way of working that I really enjoy - it’s almost a screenprinting style (or at least that’s how I think of it). I’ll choose 2-4 colors that contrast each other (at the most basic, usually a warm and a cool color) and then use those colors on multiply layers to build my piece. The way the colors mix together gives me about 7 colors to work with! Kind of hard to explain, but I hope this makes sense! The best part is when all the layers are almost finished and I can delete the sketch layer and put in all the finishing details and textures.

Gimme gimme ice cream ice cream!!

Q: You grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, went to art school in New York City and now live in Nashville, Tennessee. How have each of these places influenced and inspired you as an artist?

A: Growing up in Tulsa, I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I’m really lucky in that my parents always supported me in this goal, and that I went to a high school that had a good art program. I had an art teacher in high school that really let us work on the things we wanted to create, rather than having to follow a specific set curriculum.

Moving to New York and attending Parsons opened me up to a new world of experiences and people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I had awesome teachers that I still admire and look up to to this day. I also got to meet working illustrators and learn what it was like to be a professional artist.

My house in Nashville is right next a park that has a lot of wooded trails, filled with deer and birds and other animals. I really feel like being able to go outside and be in nature regularly is awesome not only for my mental health but also my creativity! I love drawing flowers, plants and bugs most of all so it’s great. I also work at a studio in East Nashville (where two other T2 artists also work - Kayla Stark and Rebecca Green), and I love having a community of other illustrators to talk to and bounce ideas off of.

Hello, Butterfly! It's lovely to meet you!

Q: Your fresh, bright illustrations have found a crossover between editorial work and surface design as well as children’s publishing work. Chat with us a bit about how you balance servicing these 3 very different markets while staying true to your own artistic voice.

A: I’ve been told before that my work has a somewhat more commercial feel, which honestly I don’t mind. I think that is one reason that I’ve been able to go between these these different markets. Obviously I’m often drawing very different things when it comes to editorial, licensing, and children’s work, but I think my style stays relatively consistent whether I’m illustrating a short story, a pattern or a newspaper article. I also tend to use the same general color palette a lot (hello pink and turquoise, my favorite colors!), which helps to tie all my work together.

Q: Give us the full scoop on your MOST favorite projects: one from your past & one from your present.

A: In the past, even when I was doing more traditional editorial work for newspapers and magazines, some of my favorite jobs were the illustrations I got to do for Cricket Magazine, which is a magazine for children. I think part of the reason I realized I wanted to work in children’s illustration more was from getting those jobs! My favorite current project is the children’s books I’m writing and illustrating myself. As a control freak, I love having full control of everything and really getting to go wild with my ideas and illustration.

Right now I’m working on a book about a gnome who loses her home and has to find a new one, traveling through the woods and meeting adventures along the way. It’s super fun!

Just straight up chillin'!

Q: What would be your absolutely DREAM illustration project?

A: My dream illustration project would be to have my own books published! I really want to write a book about bugs — they’re one of my favorite subjects and favorite things to draw. A book filled with butterflies, ladybugs, snails and caterpillars sounds pretty perfect to me!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My ideal Sunday would be a beautiful sunny day in the summer. It would start with an awesome diner breakfast with my husband, followed by a leisurely long walk through the woods, checking out all the cute little bugs, flowers and animals along the way. Since this is my ideal Sunday I’d also have some time to read on my porch, drink some iced tea, and then have ramen for dinner. Then we’d end the night at the movies where we’d gorge ourselves on popcorn and candy!

Thank you so much, Katie, for dishing about all things art & illustration with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We think you’re the cat’s meow!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day from Super Jane

© Super Jane Smith • Bear Hug

Super Star Children's Book Review: El Deafo

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.



EL DEAFO
By Cece Bell
Graphic Novel/Memoir (8-12) • 248 pages
Published by Harry N. Abrams • 2014
ISBN 978-1-41-971217-3


My mother has a pretty sever hearing impairment. Growing up I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard her say “what” or how often she would mix up words like house and mouse. I was young and I didn’t understand why I had to repeat everything I said to her. I couldn’t put myself in her shoes, because I could hear. I learned to speak slower, mouth my words a little more dramatically and talk to her face to face. After reading El Deafo, I now have a better understanding of what she went through and I can sympathize with the frustration of never quite knowing what people are saying.

El Deafo is a witty and heartwarming graphic novel about the life of Cece Bell. It tells the story of Cece growing up in the 1970’s. She has to deal with going to a new school, making new friends (and sometimes frenemies!), awkward misread situations, first crushes—all while being the only deaf kid in her class.

Through Cece’s story we are given a glimpse into how she dealt with her impairment—from learning to be a detective of words, wearing hearing aids (the one she uses is called The Phonic Ear and it is enormous!), and how she handled the way people treated her. One way she coped was by seeing herself as a superhero—El Deafo.

El Deafo
is a very entertaining read with a great message for teaching children about empathy as well promoting awareness for people with disabilities. “Our differences are our superpowers.”

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Denise Holmes

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Kat Uno

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

I’m tickled pink today to be catching up with the lovely Illustrator/Designer, Kat Uno! I just adore her sweet patterns and darling characters! Kat finds joy in creating images that bring happiness to others and her work features cute, fanciful creatures and motifs. Her earliest memories are of doodling away with crayons, poring over comic strips and watching cartoons. Her love for comics, cartoons, anime, and children’s books continues and is now joined with a new passion for modern art and textile designs. You can view more of her artwork here!

These cuties are almost to adorable to eat!!

Q: You are a rockstar at creating super cute, highly designed repeat patterns!!! Dish with us about your approach and process for making them—including your top 3 tips for fellow pattern designers.

A: I'm actually quite new to pattern designing! I started by taking a few Skillshare classes on the subject to learn the correct process of creating a design that repeats and went from there. I almost always start with the icons, or the small designs/pieces that make up the pattern. I then play around with placement until I create a repeat I'm happy with. My 3 tips for new pattern designers would be:

1 - Icons first, then the repeat. I believe that you can always create a decent looking pattern by having really nice icons, even if the repeat isn't the best. You can't really say the same about a great repeat with mediocre icons!

2 - Learn the correct techniques to creating a repeat! I used to muddle through trying to line things up by eye (which is not the best way of doing repeats). Use guides and the Transform panel to move things around precisely. Take classes for more in-depth tutorials! There is a wealth of knowledge online nowadays and I always encourage learning new things!

3 - I usually work in a perfect square. I know there are different types of repeats where you have to work in a different shape (like a rectangle or hexagon), but I like to keep things simple.

An overall recommendation I would give anyone who wants to get into pattern design is just to keep creating! Although I have numerous patterns in my gallery, I've only sold or licensed a handful at most, but I keep developing them because it's fun and I enjoy it! I never let money be my motivating factor to create art, otherwise I probably wouldn't create anything!

Oh, no!! Watch out, Little Red!

Q: You are a Hawaii-based artist—born & raised!! Give us the scoop on how Hawaii as both place & culture has influenced and inspired your artwork.
A: I've often felt that growing up in Hawaii was both a blessing and a curse in some ways when it came to my artistic development. I grew up on the island of Maui, which although beautiful, lacks many opportunities for experiencing art (plus I grew up in the age before the internet was so prevalent). Some of my main cultural and environmental influences are anime (Hawaii has a very big anime fan base) and the bright colors of the islands. My main early influences were comic books, cartoons and illustrated storybooks. I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue a creative career, but I did not foresee the path I eventually took. I'm mainly self-taught, from drawing all the way to using Photoshop and Illustrator.

This might sound weird, but I've always envied people who live in the vast countrysides near large forests! I've never been in the woods or experienced a great forest and I've always wanted to! We have rainforests here in Hawaii (which I've never been in either) but I'd love to take a stroll in a fairy-tale like forest one day.

Ooo! Someone has her hands full!!

Q: As an illustrator/designer, you are represented by the Astound Agency. What are the challenges and the rewards of having an agent in your experience?

A: I'll be the first to say that having an agent and being represented by an agency really saved my career as an illustrator. I left a job I was very unhappy with without having a solid plan. I must admit submitting to Astound was truly on a whim and I wasn't even expecting to be accepted, but I was!

As for challenges, I really can't think of anything that has been challenging (concerning my agency), but the rewards are numerous. I have been working with big publishers and companies that I wouldn't have even dreamed of coming in contact with on my own. I personally am rather shy and I am thankful I have an agent to handle a lot of the business side of things (like setting up the contracts, negotiating the deals, collecting fees), which I don't feel comfortable with. If someone is interested in approaching an agency for representation here are a few tips:

- Check out the agency's website and see if your work meets the same quality standards as the current represented artists.

- Develop a well-rounded portfolio of at least 20 pieces and make sure they represent what you are able to do and what you want to do. For example, if you are really good at drawing horses, but want to pursue work in children's publishing, perhaps develop an illustration of a horse and person in a scene that is appropriate for children's books. Also, if you want to work mainly digitally, don't include too many traditionally drawn/painted pieces or else publishers/clients may think you are happy to work in those other mediums. I for one, work exclusively digitally, but my whole portfolio from college is all traditional media, so I never really show work from those days.

- Reach out to current artists that are represented by the agency to see if they enjoy their relationship with their agent. Most are really nice and forthcoming about their experiences.

- Don't get discouraged if you are rejected. This doesn't mean your work isn't good, it just may mean you are not a good fit for that particular agency. Also, don't be afraid to ask if they have feedback on your work. Most agencies are pretty open and will let you know how you can improve your portfolio. 

Under-the-Sea party time, anyone?!

Q: Tell us everything little thing about your most favorite projects: one from your past & one from your present.

A: Wow, it's really hard to choose a favorite project! I've been blessed in that most of my projects have been really fun and have turned out lovely. I will say, one project from my past that stands out is a series of educational materials I helped create back in 2005. This was a small start up company and I was the sole illustrator and designer. Over a 2-year period, I created illustrations for over 2000 pages of worksheet type activities for pre-K kids. Although overwhelming at times, this project was such a fun learning experience. I really honed my Illustrator skills during this time (having had little to no experience with the software previously) and I taught myself how to use InDesign as well.

Currently, my favorite projects are usually the board books I've been working on. I love doing board books, because they are targeted towards the youngest set of readers, so everything must be drawn cute! I also get to use very vibrant color palettes and I usually can experiment a little with technique and textures. My favorite part of any job is seeing the final printed/produced piece in my hands!

Q: What do you know now that when you first began your design & illustration career you wish you’d known about: Self-promotion? Work habits? The freelance life?

A: I think that I've learned to be a bit more patient with things in general. Working these projects takes time, whether it's waiting for the brief, getting feedback or more importantly, getting paid. You have to realize nothing comes instantly (no matter how fast you work or respond on your end!). You are constantly at the mercy of others!

Ever wonder what mermaids dream about...

I've also learned to be confident in my work and skills. Before I was signed on with an agency, self-promotion was akin to pulling teeth. I hated showing my work, I hated talking about my work, and I especially hated talking about my level of experience. To me it came off as braggy and it made me uncomfortable. Now I let my agency handle promotion and I just try to be myself with clients. My motto is, "always be polite and professional". I do my best to meet the needs of my clients and try to make the working experience positive for both of us. There is no better proof that you did a good job than when a client hires you a second time around (or third or fourth!).

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My normal Sunday's are mundane, but that is how I like them! I usually gather my two kids and we all go out as a family to do our shopping for the week. It doesn't sound like much, but I like the normalcy and just being together. Our weeks are usually a hectic mess of school, recreational activities, work and the like that having one day a week to stay home and relax is rather nice! Work does sneak in there from time to time (one of the drawbacks working for oneself), but overall we try to concentrate on spending the day together.

Thank you so much, Kat, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We think you’re fabulous!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hello 2018

Hello 2018 • © Super Jane Smith

Super Star Children's Book Review: Undefeated

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.

                        

UNDEFEATED: JIM THORPE AND THE CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM
By Steve Sheinkin
Nonfiction (ages 10-14) • 288 pages
Published by Roaring Brook Press • 2017
ISBN 1-596-43954-8


I’m about as far from being a football fan as you can get (full disclosure: I was in marching band in high school and even after attending every football game for four years, I still don’t know the rules or how the game is scored), but even I couldn’t put down this fast-paced, compelling book.

Undefeated tells the intertwined stories of Jim Thorpe, star of the Carlisle Indian School football team and legendary coach Pop Warner. These two larger-than-life figures, along with the other members of the school’s incredibly talented squad, forged the era’s “winningest” team, and along the way invented the modern game of football.

Threaded throughout the narrative is the sad history of our nation’s mistreatment of Native Americans. Thousands of young people were sent to so-called Indian boarding schools where they were forced to shed their languages, traditions, and even their Indian names in order to erase all links to their families and culture.

Far more than just a tale of underdogs, this book is exciting, sad, infuriating, and inspirational all at the same time. It stands as a true testament to the athletic prowess of Jim Thorpe and all the young men of the Carlisle Indian School football team who, against all odds, refused to accept defeat and fought their way to the top.

Buy this book:

Barnes and Noble

Independent Book Stores

Reviewed by: Joan Charles

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Hilli Kushnir

Happy New Year & welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

I’m thrilled to pieces to be kicking off the new year by chatting it up with the fabulous Illustrator/Designer, Hilli Kushnir! I’m a huge fan of her sweet style and friendly, lively characters! Hilli is a caffeine-addicted artist living in NYC, who specializes in children’s books and greeting cards. You can view more of her artwork here! 

Ooo! Can I pet you, little lamb?! So sweet!

Q: You have illustrated several fabulously adorable children’s board book series, including the Clap Hands Baby Books & the Baby’s Big World Series. Dish with us about the unique challenges of creating a series (verses a one-off title!) as well as how you approach developing characters and consistent design elements to tie it all together.

A: Aww, thanks for your kind words there! I think that as with everything, it takes a few pages to get the vibe going, and the longer you work on a project, the better you are familiar with it. The books that you mentioned are baby books, so pages did not have a very intricate scene and most of them had very few characters, so it’s generally simpler. What I like about a series of books is that exact familiarity—so even if you're working on 8 books and the process takes over a year, it's easy to dive into every book, because you already know what you're doing and have a style set up. Of course, that's also the disadvantage, that you are working in the same exact style for a long period of time, and if you change your mind about something or think "oh, I should have done this differently" it's usually too late. Also, sometimes you need a break from that and you want to do something completely different!

Right now I am working on a series for early readers called "This makes me Feel..." which teaches kids about dealing with their feelings, and unlike cute baby books, which is my comfort zone, these were more complex, longer (32 pages), and needed varied compositions, different view points and mood related color pallets. As always, the first book was the hardest, because it set the tone for the rest of the series, and I was not used to drawing kids in big groups or drawing adults altogether. Actually, the way we worked is that we did the covers and two color spreads, then had them approved, and then moved to doing the rest of the books in a more organized page by page fashion, which has a more natural flow. So now looking at the book, I could tell right away which pages were done first, because when you work on pages from start to finish, your characters kind of grows with the book, and I can see the difference between those initial pages, and the pages that were added on later. In terms of personal growth as I progress with this series (6 books, 4 completed) I become better, things flow better, and I feel braver about exploring new territories. That's definitely a great thing when you feel like you "own" your work and have a trusting collaborative relationship with your art director.

Uh, oh!! Don't cry over spilled milk, little guy! It's ok!!!

Q: You create a lot of super duper cute artwork for both children’s book publishing as well as for art licensing markets like greeting cards, puzzles and games. Give us the scoop on how publishing and art licensing are both similar and different.

A: I just love drawing cute stuff! I love creating characters that I would want to hug, so my work tends to fall into the kids territory, because my characters are young and cuddly. But the more I work and the more I'm exposed to work of other talents, past or present, the more I want to grow and try new things. Surface design is better for that, specifically greeting cards, because you get to experiment with whatever you want and see if that sells. It also allows you to express your humor and generate your own content. Clearly in a book, if you didn't also write it, you need to adhere to an existing manuscript and usually art directors would pick you based on books you have previously done, so there's less room for craziness there. In both industries, the more you work with people the more they trust your visual vision, and generally, that gives you more creative freedom. I find that for me, being primarily a book illustrator, the best is to work on a book and some cards (or prints) at the same time. With a book you need a break, and surface design gives you that break.

Q: What is a typical workday like for you? Set the scene (workspace, materials, accessories) and describe your responsibilities (art making, business stuff) and creative juju (rituals, inspiration, process).

A: I work from home and I work only digitally, so in terms of studio, my studio is a desk in my living room with some colorful books around me, a calendar I write deadlines and daily stuff I need to do (if I have a book, I break it down to pages per days but it never ends up being what I planned). After I send the kids to school I tend to procrastinate. I move slowly even after they're gone, with my coffee and would either go over to Instagram with my coffee in bed, or respond to messages that accumulated over night from different time zones. I get to actual work around 9 and start by replying to emails and figure out what I need to do that day and prioritize as needed. All the work that requires communication, planning, sketching and clear thinking needs to be done when I'm home alone. My kids are young teens and don't require constant attending, but even so I think best when no one is around. Writing these words for instance had to be done before they come back from school, because as a mom, there's always something you need to keep track of at the back of your head, and when they are away that's my time to dedicate my mind to something entirely. This is also the time of day, unfortunately, when I'd start thinking about all the stuff I need to buy online, so I don't get actually productive in terms of execution until the afternoon. Once I've already established my pencils, kids and other people are no longer an issue, so most of my coloring work is done in the afternoon and early evening. When I have tight deadlines I work at night, but it's not something that I like doing everyday. I also try to get to the gym during the week and that's done in the afternoon as well and is calculated into the work week so that I have long days and some shorter days. 

Adorable!! I wonder whose birthday it is?

In terms of inspiration, I use Pinterest a lot, mostly for vintage mid-century references and color palette ideas. Once in a while, when I feel I need some change, I would have a talk with myself and see if I would like to try some new style or topic, and set goals for the upcoming period. It gives me a better of sense of who I am and who I want to be. I'm not big on motivational slogans, so I try to come up with my own that will work specifically for me.

Q: Tell us all about your MOST favorite illustration project: one from your past and one from your present.

A: PAST—This is a sample I did for my agency, Astound. Before you get any books you need to generate a lot of work that looks like the book you wish you did. This is one of those sample. It's raw in texture and very minimal in color with a lot of use of lines and transparencies. There is something fresh and singular to me in that sample and I never managed to find the opportunity to recreate it. I'd love to do a book in that style.

PRESENT—I like the feelings series I mentioned before. I never before had to work on groups of kids interacting, and I really liked doing that, so here are a few examples because I can't chose.

It's so hot today, I kinda want the elephants to spray me!! Ha!

Q: What do you know now that when you first began your illustration career you wish you’d known about: art licensing? book publishing? business? self-promotion?

A: Here are a few thoughts:

     • As a woman: make your own money as soon as you can.

     • Sadly, unless you're a superstar or a self-marketing pro, art in itself is not as profitable as tech or corporate F/T jobs, so if you want to deal with art you need to know this.

     • I was a designer before and it took me a while to figure out what sort of illustration I want and am most equipped in doing. There are a ton of online classes available today that will give you a lot of information on your options as an illustrator, so try to take those right away.

     • Get an agent. Yes, they take 25-30% of your profit, which is always a hard pill to swallow, but they will, especially in publishing, get you clients of caliber that is nearly impossible to get by yourself. Then when you build a name for yourself you can think about what to do next.

     • Work hard at building yourself. Send everything you think is good to everyone and don't overthink it and don't take rejection personally. Most will say no, but someone will say yes. Eventually.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Sitting in my fire escape in a sunny 80 degree weather, my mind at ease with all project, reading a book.

Thank you so much, Hilli, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We love your artwork!!