Friday, November 9, 2012

Website Updated!

Well, it has been a long time coming but I finally updated my online portfolio and website! Log on and check out the fresh look, as well as some of my newer illustrations, news about my ETSY shop, and soon to be published Native American Book.

Log onto and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

JenKellerArt Cards - New Greeting Card Launch

I'm so excited to announce my new Greeting Cards now available on ETSY! 

Among the variety of cards and invites that I have already been offering, I now have a Birthday, Friendship, Congrats & Valentine cards. You can get them individually or get the variety JenKellerArt Six Pack featuring one of each!

In addition to this I'm happy to also announce my new Holiday Card available in a packs of 10.  The artwork was originally done for the Palo Alto Humane Society, and in the spirit of giving, this year I will be donating a portion of the profits from the sale of the card back to the Humane Society.

So this year when looking for the perfect card for that special occasion - look no further! JenKellerArt Cards are there to help... ;-) !

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Native Americans - Final Chapters

It's been a long couple of months, but I finally finished the last few chapters of the Native American Book for Nomad Press.  It was a really interesting journey, and I learned quite a bit about Native Americans.  I think these books will be great for kids and open their minds up to numerous different cultures in North America.

Pacific Northwest Totem Pole

The last two chapters I worked on were about The Pacific Northwest and The Arctic.  They were both equally fascinating and very different, but with certain similarities like the sea life they hunted and their coastal lifestyle.  The Arctic tribes had more weather issues, however!

Traditional Inuit Dress

I'm happy to share with you a small selection of these final chapters.  Working on these books was a great experience in not only process, but in subject matter as well. Enjoy!

Summer/Spring Inuit Tent Village

Inside of a Northwest Tribe Plank/Longhouse

Inuit One Foot High Kick Game

Northwest Tribe Whale Hunt

Inuit Myth - Creation of The Big Dipper 

Pacific Northwest Canoe

Inuit Umiak

Inuit Sled Dogs
Salmon Spawning (Northwest Tribe Food Source)

Inuit Tug-o-war 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Plains

I just finished the one of the larger chapters about the Plains Natives in the Native American Book for Nomad Press.  It was really interesting and fun to do.

Winter Count - Type of Native American calender and/or history record 

Being from Illinois, I have a sentimental attachment to this part of country.  Growing up, the Plains Native Americans were a part of my own local history.  Since then I have learned so much more, but I still have a great deal of affection for this region.

War Bonnet - Number of Feathers represent good deeds done by the wearer.  For a warrior it was for deeds in battle, for a chief it was for deeds done in he community. 
So here are a few images from the lengthy and fascinating chapter on the Plains Native Americans.  Even with some of my prior knowledge, I still learned more about the details of their culture, games, and lifestyle.  Pretty interesting stuff!

Smoke Signals

Native American Game: Shinny (a game similar to hockey)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Native Americans of the South - East & West

I'm still plugging along on the educational book, Explore Native Americans! for Nomad Press.  I recently finished the 2nd & 3rd Chapters covering Native American Tribes for both the American Southeast, Southwest, and Mesoamerica.
Typical Seminole Housing: Chickee
Adobe Pueblo Housing of the Southwestern Tribes (Hopi & Zuni) 

Much like the first few chapters, I continue to learn more about Native Americans.  Things that are vaguely familiar to me about these regions become much more concrete and certain elements are completely new to me, like the game of Chunkey played by the Natives of the American Southeast.

Boys from southeastern tribes playing "Chunkey"

So here is a small sampling of these two chapters covering numerous tribes like Cherokee, Seminole, Hopi, Zuni, Navaho, Mayan, and many, many more...
Cherokee Tribal Council House Representing the Seven Clans

Ancient Southwestern Cliff Dwelling (Mesa Verde)

Navaho Medicine Man creating healing sand painting

Maya Stela

Hopi woman & girl making traditional piki bread
Stay tuned - there are still 3 more chapters to go!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer Lovin'...

Memorial Day holiday weekend always marks the end of spring and the beginning of summer! In order to celebrate the coming months I thought I'd share my most recent wedding invitation with custom artwork done for a private client.

Wishing everyone a fantastic summer full of fun, love, and everything in between...!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Maurice Sendak Meant to Me...

So I was planning on doing a post this morning about some of my new work, but it just didn't seem right considering the events that have recently transpired.  Maurice Sendak, one of the most influential writer/illustrators of the childrens literature world, passed away today.
Maurice Sendak: 1928 - 2012
I don't believe I need to list a catalogue of great things Maurice Sendak did, because if you are reading this you undoubtedly are already a fan, or at least know of his work.  Mr. Sendak was nothing if not cutting edge, dark, with a twist of lighthearted fun.  In a portfolio review I had at my first SCBWI conference a book designer from Simon & Schuster told me that elements of my work had a darkness to it.  She went on to say that Maurice Sendak had recently given a talk and believed that this was an element missing from current picture books. Children liked to be scared and know at the end that they will be okay.  I was so flattered by this mild association, that even though I know a lot of publishers probably wouldn't like "the dark stuff" I still continue to add an element or two when I feel it's necessary.
Some "darker" imagery from my portfolio at the time
I will not hesitate to say that Mr. Sendak has had a huge influence on my work. He not only inspired my illustration work, but also my writing and even dating back to my years as a costume designer.  I was fortunate enough to get projects which required the design to have a fabulous combination of  darkness twisted up with some humor.  This sensibility has carried through to a lot of my other work.
Costume Designs from Productions of "The Skriker" and "Burning Desires" produced by The Defiant Theater
 Most books nowadays have a much lighter feel, whether they are dealing with an annoying baby brother or sister, trouble at school, or a character just trying to fit in. Sendak's newest book, Bumble-ardy reads more like a work of art.  His edge isn't lost with age, but perhaps even more severe with Bumble-ardy's auntie threatening to turn him into ham for misbehaving. Yet there is still that light touch of love at the end... in only the way Maurice could do it.

In my studio I try to surround myself with things that inspire and influence me.  I have pictures of my dog (of course), cartoons that make me laugh, shelves with rotating picture books that I face out every month for new inspiration, but the one thing I have that will now mean more to me than ever is a print from "Where the Wild Things Are."  Interestingly enough I purchased this print back in the summer of 1999, while working as a designer and assistant at a theater in Wisconsin, having no idea about the creative shift my future held.  What I did know was that as a child this book fascinated me.  I remember taking it out in the school library multiple times and just staring at the illustrations of the monsters.  I was fascinated by the details, the line work, and everything in between.  Funny thing is, I am still fascinated.
I consider myself to be very fortunate that I was able to meet Maurice Sendak while working on an opera version of his book Brundibar that he designed in 2003.  Although our paths crossed very briefly, he was sweet and kind and especially great to the kids in the show.  

If I could go back in time, I wish I would have thanked him for all of his work, but then again, maybe by being a fan of his work...I already have. 
“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go - we’ll eat you up - we love you so!”
Goodbye Maurice. Thanks for breaking the rules and being an artist I could look up to.  You will be missed, but your work will be gobbled up by children forever.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Horsemanship is a Fine Art..."

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend a horse clinic run by world class horseman and clinician, Buck Brannaman.  For anybody out there who hasn't heard of Buck, you should get yourself in front of a TV and watch the 2011 documentary made about him.  You don't have to be a horse lover to appreciate it, it's more about being human than anything.  Here's a little taste....

That being said - I'm sure you're wondering - what does this have to do with your artwork? Well, I truly believe that inspiration comes from all sorts of different places and this week my inspiration happens to come from a cowboy and the four legged friends he helps.  I came to the clinic armed with my sketchpad and prismacolors - ready to tackle some animal life drawing and to continue to hone my equine drawing skills (along with absorbing as much horseman knowledge that I could).  I love horses and have been riding for awhile, but I've found that they are one of the more difficult animals to draw from life.  They are so fast and fluid, it's much easier to draw the sleeping polar bears at the zoo!

The four day clinic included a morning session on starting colts (training young horses who have never or hardly been ridden) and the second half was a horsemanship class (like a fine-tuned riding lesson).  They were both fascinating to watch.  It was also a privilege to watch a trainer like Buck do what he does best - ride and work with horses.  I felt like I was watching Michelangelo paint or Rodin sculpt.  Truly a master.
The Horse Whisperer -Buck Brannaman

                                                                                            Reducing colts' fear by getting them used to riding, noises & touch
Horsemanship - Buck demonstrating following another horse and mimicking its moves - back up,  reverse directions, change leads, etc. (as if working cattle)
Roping a colt's hind leg to get it used to shoeing, and perhaps saving it's life if it were to get caught in wire, fence, etc.

Horsemanship - Buck backing up in a perfect semi-circle. 
Getting the colts near the fence and comfortable with the weight of a rider
Working with a feisty colt in the round pen.
Buck giving his colt affection as reward.  Always rubbing them and touching them to let them know that humans are their friends. 

So much of what he says isn't only applicable to horses.  At one point he turned to the riders in the horsemanship session and told them that they seemed to be either in a state of elation or a state of depression. Meaning their egos were either exploding because they did something right, or their self-esteem was shot because they couldn't get something right.  He told them to just take a breath and enjoy the little successes...and move on to the next moment.  What a great life lesson.

"Horsemanship is a meant to be one of the fine arts..." Buck professed near the end of the clinic.  Urging riders and owners to continue to work hard and be dedicated to their craft.  Not everybody will get there, but you'll never get there unless you try.  Isn't this true of any passion?

I was inspired all weekend to get better with my horses, including my personal relationships with them, riding them, and capturing them in my work.  

So here are a few of my "little successes".   (For more Animal Life Drawing check out my FLICKR album.)  



Live in the moment - Deal with what you have