Friday, December 23, 2011

A Gift for the Holidays

"It isn't the size of the gift that matters, but the size of the heart that gives it."
--Eileen Elias Freeman (from The Angels' Little Instruction Book)

My horse character was so moved by the farm dog bringing a carrot to him, that he had to reciprocate the act. (Or perhaps I fell so madly in love with these new characters in my head that I couldn't leave them for one illustration alone!)

Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful holiday season with an endless supply of tennis balls, carrots, and love for all the characters in your heads and in your lives. :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

JenKellerArt Cards: Open for Business!

I'm happy to announce the re-opening of my Etsy Shop and introducing my first set of Holiday Cards for sale! Last year, my holiday promotional postcard got such a positive reaction from dog lovers, I decided to create two different cards stemming from the artwork.

My first card features the Canine Carolers! This is a full color greeting card with a simple but fun greeting inside (Happy Howl-i-days!). Some of my "fans" might recognize a few of those canine faces!

The second card is a smaller and a more simple card. Designed to be a little more subdued, it's printed on textured heavyweight paper to echo the graphite sketch feel of the artwork. This one also has a special greeting on the inside! I think it would be a great little gift card for your canine's holiday presents or the dog lover in the family.

If you live in the Bay Area, some of these cards will also be for sale at the Palo Alto Humane Society's Art Gallery in Menlo Park (Peninsula/South Bay) and at Dog Bone Alley Pet Boutique in Alameda (East Bay). They have also been sponsored on one of my favorite dog blogs: Dog Art Today! As my card collection grows I hope the locations will grow, too...

In addition to my Holiday Cards, I am still offering custom artwork for weddings, showers, save-the-dates, and other occasions as requested. Check out my Etsy Shop for more information!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Goodbye to Bella

It is with heavy heart that I bring this news. One of my favorite muses, the story of Bella and Tarra, has come to a tragic end.

A little over a year ago I was searching high and low for inspiration for The Peace Project hosted by The Whole 9 Art Gallery in LA. I had no desire to depict something traditional or ordinary, and then I found Bella and Tarra - The Animal Odd Couple. Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog, had somehow found each other. Despite all of their differences, they became the best of friends. So much so, that when Bella become sick, Tarra held vigil outside of the clinic waiting for her return.

About a week or so ago, the staff at the Elephant Sanctuary noticed they hadn't seen Bella for a while, and Tarra had been acting strangely. After further inspection they tragically found Bella's body, most likely attacked by coyotes.

After studying these two extensively for my illustration, and checking in on them every so often on the Elephant Sanctuary's Elecam... my heart is heavy to know that Bella will be no more.

The most amazing part of the story is that they did not find Bella where she actually died. Tarra is thought to have lifted her little body and carried her away from the site, trying to care for her friend one last time. I can only hope that Bella passed on curled up in the trunk of her best friend.

It seems that the other elephants at the sanctuary are standing by Tarra and helping her with her grief. They are sharing their meals with her and keeping her company. These creatures are so amazing, to think that they are anything less than loving, feeling creatures with relationships similar to our own, would be wrong.

For more information, the news program who originally brought Tarra and Bella to us, ran a beautiful segment - Elephant Loses Man's Best Friend. You can also read the amazing letter written by the CEO of the Elephant Sanctuary and see the Bella Tribute on the Sanctuary's Website.

I know that even though Bella is no longer with us, her relationship with Tarra and their message of Peace will live on.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Carrot for You!

I was recently asked to do this year's Holiday Greeting Card for the Palo Alto Humane Society. As everyone knows, humane and ethical treatment of animals is a passion of mine and being able to use my skills in order to help my furry friends was an absolute joy!

Being a rescue animal theme, I based these particular animals on the pets from my childhood (all rescued from shelters or from the street) and few from the present!

PAHS assists in rescuing animals including dogs, cats, horses, birds & bunnies. I wanted to include as many of these animals as possible in a classic winter scene. I am always fascinated with inter species relationships and I was thrilled to find numerous photographs of horses paling around with both dogs and cats! I've seen horses on numerous occasions nuzzle the barn cats here in California and the dogs interacting with the horses I used to work with in Illinois. Animals are so great at looking past their own differences, too bad we humans can't always do the same.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Illustration Friday: Mesmerizing!

Kitty + Laser Light = Mesmerizing!

I haven't done an Illustration Friday entry in awhile, but when I read the word this week was mesmerizing I couldn't stop thinking of my old kitty (and almost every cat I've known) chasing her laser light until she couldn't chase anymore... Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Illustrators' Gift for Illustrator Day!

It's all about the illustrators!

This year was the fifth annual Illustrator Day hosted by the SCBWI San Francisco South Chapter. At so many conferences, the emphasis is put on the writers (which isn't bad since they outnumber the illustrators by around 10 to 1) but admittedly sometimes we feel a little short changed. Hence: ILLUSTRATOR DAY!!

This year was fantastic! From speakers like Joann Hill, Art Director of Disney-Hyperion to Agent Linda Pratt with the Wernick & Pratt Agency, to the Illustrator Andrew Glass and Illustrator/Art Instructor at San Jose State, John Clapp... my brain was completely full by the end of the day!

This year was pretty special because our Regional Advisor had something super special planned for our Illustration Coordinator, Lea Lyon. For the past five years she has been organizing and putting together this fabulous day exclusively dedicated to the illustrator and to thank her for her hard work we all plotted to put together a wonderful piece of art!

Can you see the secret message in there for Lea?

SCBWI has been an incredible resource for me and I was more than happy to contribute this small part to show my appreciation. Plus I got to play with watercolors again and experiment with my new fancy printer! I printed out my drawing onto a lightweight soft-press watercolor paper and created a woodland letter "N"!

It was really fun to create this little piece. I used some of the more stylized drawing I had refined in the recent activity books I did but combined it with a more traditional style of watercolor painting and a little colored pencil.

I think it turned out pretty fun - I hope Lea enjoys it!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Drawing" to a Close - Sketchbook Project Tour

So after 10 US cities, 7 months, and countless miles, The Sketchbook Project is now drawing to a close.

I am so glad I participated in this National Phenomenon. Not only did the actual process of making the sketchbook force me to open up, use my imagination and have fun putting it all together, but watching my book travel all over the country was a great thing to see!

Form/Space Atelier in Seattle, Washington - Pic Courtesy of Michelle!!

I had so many friends and strangers pull out my little Storybook Sketchbook. Hopefully it all gave them a quick laugh and brightened their day a bit. (Honestly, I don't know whose mood wouldn't improve with the sight of giant cupcakes and glitter.)

Sister-in-law at the Madrone Studios in San Francisco, CA - Thanks Suz!!

My mom was also featured on the Art House Co-op's blog about their stop in Chicago!!

Mom at the Hyde Park Arts Center in Sweet Home Chicago

It was really neat the way the Art House Co-op managed to keep everything organized, and they would even send you a little e-mail when your book got checked out!

The Tour will be drawing to a close this weekend back at its beginnings at the Brooklyn Art Library. There will be a Closing Ceremony this weekend. If you happen to be in New York, I highly suggest you check it out...

After this weekend my book will be a part of the permanent collection. If you missed the tour and still want to look at my book (and you don't live in NYC) you can either check it out on FLICKR or look at it through the Art House Co-op's Digital Library!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekend of a Lifetime!

So this past weekend I was able to travel to Los Angeles for the 40th annual National Conference for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. And BOY - was it a conference!! I left full of information and inspiration...

Among the numerous and talented authors and illustrators that were there, legends walked all around. I was inspired by Jerry Pinkney (2010 Caldecott Medal Recipient & 5-time Caldecott Honor Recipient), moved by David Small (Caldecott Medal & Honor Recipient), laughed with John Scieszka, amazed by Gary Paulsen (3-time Newberry Honor Recipient), and my breath was taken away by Richard Peck (Newberry Medal Recipient). Within all of this great talent was a surprise visit from the Queen of Children's Literature - Judy Blume!!

It was an amazing weekend filled with great speeches, good information, and a few fun gatherings including a big party on Saturday night with dinner and dancing... a lovely lunch on Sunday where we had the best dessert - a Chocolate Mousse treat in the shape of a book!

Monday, however, contained the best treat of all. This year the SCBWI added the "Illustrators Intensive." And it was INTENSE! We had the privilage of observing demonstrations by 7 amazing and award winning illustrators. We started in the morning with Paul O. Zelinsky showing us his oil/watercolor technique. I found this particularly fascinating and it got me thinking of playing a little bit more with my medium.

Next we observed the great Marla Frazee with her delicate and precise watercolor/gauche/prismacolor technique. I learned how to breathe a little more, and how important developing those characters are.

After Marla, we embarked on a journey with Richard Jesse Watson. I also was able to receive a great one-on-one portfolio review with him - so lucky! He demonstrated a really cool egg tempera technique along with some gold leafing. I loved that he was messy like me!!

Next we observed Kadir Nelson doing a classic oil painting. His energy was absolutely calming and kind. His work was just beautiful.

Then we had lunch (whew!)

After lunch, we were delighted by Denise Fleming and her pulp painting technique. I was thrilled to see another messy artist! (yeah!). Her humor and uplifting spirit really shows in her her work. The complexity and discipline that this process involves was amazing. At the end, her work looks fresh and lively - like a breath of fresh air.

David Small gave our next demonstration, doing gesture drawings, a self portrait, a pen & ink sample, and rounding it off with some sketchbook work. I was blown away at his speed and control - resulting in beautiful work.

Last but certainly not least - was Jerry Pinkney.... and wow. We watched him paint a beautiful watercolor of a turkey vulture as if he were tying his shoes. I was mesmerized by what seemed to be an effortless technique but knowing that every decision he made was precise and carefully executed. Just great.

At the end of it all, there was a panel discussion with all of the artists at once.

So much information & inspiration!! Here are a few bits of what I learned...

  • Breathe.
  • Sketchbook, sketchbook, sketchbook
  • Find your identity
  • You are your own best publicist
  • Play
  • It's not the technique, it's how you use it
  • Voice is a part of you and only you can find it and release it
Of course these are all mere snippets of the advice that was flying around the room. But what an amazing weekend! I went to LA a little tired & burnt out, but now I've returned recharged and ready to go! I'm excited to put all of this advice to work and dive into painting, creating, and playing again. :-)