Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 2013 Desktop Calendar

Our first snowfall of this season arrived last weekend. Well...perhaps I should say snow "dusting", as we were spared the brunt of the huge storm that walloped most of Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada and the Eastern US. 
 I don't know about you, but the first snow always gets me thinking about previous winters and how much fun we have in the snow. So, for my December calendar I decided to return to an older illustration, one that hold a special place in my heart- my daughter making a snow angel. She must have been about 4 at the time, and this illustration remains on of my husband's favorites. 

To download this calendar simply click on the above screen resolution you require, and then right click and "save to desktop". Enjoy! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Process Post: The making of the Infinity Coil medallion's for Marty Chan's novel The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles Demon Gate

This summer I had the opportunity to step outside of the box and create my first novel cover art. Not only was it my first project for a more mature audience(think older MG) but it was also Steampunk! I had been experimenting with some Steampunk ideas behind the scenes and I happened to mention this to my editor, Christie Harkin, while I was in her office going over the proofs for the final art for Skink on the Brink. As luck would have it, Christie just happened to be working on edits with Marty Chan for his new novel The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles Demon Gate. The main character, Ehrich Weisz has this mysterious Infinity Coil medallion hidden beneath his shirt, given to him by his brother Dash...well, I don't want to give anything away, but lets just say its REEEEEEEALLY important. Anyway, we thought that the Infinity Coil would look awesome created in 3D. So after lots of discussion with Marty, I got to work on some sketches.

 At first we thought I'd just be creating the front of the medallion, with the Infinity coil, for the front cover. But after reading Marty's marvelous description, I just had to create both sides of it because both sides were so distinctive.
Here is the description from the book:

 "Two gear wheels soldered together to form a figure-eight. Inside the twin loops, smaller gears connected to each other, getting smaller and smaller as if they could extend to infinity. An image of a lion with the head of a goat on its shoulders and a snake for a tail was engraved on the medallion’s back cover. What the Chimera meant, where Dash had gotten this strange medallion from, and why he had been wearing it around his neck, Ehrich had no idea."

Tight sketches for Infinity Coil medallions

From here I began the final art. Because this was going to be a mixed media project, using actual watch components, I decided to use metallic polymer clay so that I could bake and harden the medallions before  gluing on the watch components. And yes, those watch gear Infinity Coils are exact mirror images of each other!  I then went a step further by rubbing a glaze of acrylic paint on top to give the medallions a rich, old-world patina. 

Here are a series of pics of my process for the front side of the Infinity Coil medallion:

And here is the final art for the front cover:

Here it is on the designed cover. So Steampunk-y goooooood!

The back of the medallion features a chimera- a beast with the body of a lion, the head of a goat on it's shoulders and a tail of a snake. How fun was that to create? 

Here are a series of process pics of the back of the medallion:

And here is the final art:

And on the back cover:

This project was an exciting challenge, and I enjoyed working with Marty Chan very much. He has the official book launch for The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles Demon Gate on November 26th at 7pm, at Aubreys Books in Edmonton. He'll have the final art medallions at the launch and he'll even be sporting his funky Steampunk bowler and full Steampunk attire. Seriously, you know you want an excuse to get dressed up in your finest Steampunk outfit! I wish I lived closer.

I asked Marty for a few words to include in this process post. Here is what he had to say:

The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles: Demon Gate

The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles is one of my childhood dreams realized. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with stage magic. I remember buying books on card tricks so I could learn how to cut a deck of cards with one hand or magically find someone’s card. I wanted to learn the magicians’ secrets so I could one day join their society. I could never quite pull off all the tricks in the books, but I never forgot about the magicians I admired, especially Harry Houdini.

A few years ago, I stumbled across The Bowery Boys, a podcast about New York History. One of their podcasts featured Harry Houdini, which reignited my interest in magic. I started researching Houdini’s background and discovered some interesting information. His real name was Ehrich Weisz. He debunked con artists posing as spiritualists. He ran away from home when he was twelve. I thought about the year he had spent away from home, and I thought it would be cool if he didn’t run away but fell through a portal that transported him to an alternate dimension. That was the spark for the novel.


- My first crack at the novel was the “zero draft” I wrote during the 2011 National Novel Writing Month. That’s when people around the world try to write 50,000 words of a novel in November.

- To research the novel, I spent 4 days in the New York-Historical Society archives to get a sense of what New York was like in 1890.

- The original title for the first novel was Devil’s Island.

Working with Christie Harkin on the novel was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had as a writer. She had a way of telling me what was wrong with the manuscript without dousing my creative spark. We have a running gag about Star Wars because a plot point in the novel reminded her of Han Solo being frozen in carbonite.

Thanks Marty!

The book is in stores now. I am in the midst of reading it myself. It's fantastic!  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

November 2013 Desktop Calendar featuring art for the cover of Marty Chan's The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles Demon Gate!

Yes, you guess it- I'm going Steampunk for my November calendar, to celebrate the launch of  Marty Chan's  newest book, The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles Demon Gate. And if you happen to live in Edmonton, Marty's launch takes place November 26th, at Audry's Books at 7pm.  
I created  the Infinity Coil medallion artwork for the cover and back cover. What the heck is an Infinity Coil, you ask? Well, you'll have to grab a copy of the book and read it to find out. I'd lend you mine but I'm still happily immersed. And boy is it gooooood! :)
 The medallions are on the bottom left of the calendar. And I had to include the book, of course. Tanya Montini, the cover designer and Christie Harkin, our editor, did a smashing job on the cover- it's spectacular!  And if you flip over Marty's book you'll see the chimera side of the Infinity Coil medallion. Mmmm... "chimera" such a cool word...I haven't gotten a change to say that word much since my days in the lab. LOL!
 If your wondering... noooo, this isn't made in plasticine.  I created both of these medallions in metallic polymer clay with actual watch pieces inlaid on various levels. Yup, mixed media!
 Marty's description of the Infinity Coil in the book is fantastic, and it took me and Christie a few attempts to wrap our brain around  his idea. But I think, after lots of sketching and discussions with Marty, I was successful in creating a visual representation of his idea. It was a such a fun project that I am now totally addicted to Steampunk. Maybe I'll do a Steampunk picture book one of these days? My sketch book is brimming with ideas...
 I am thankful to Christie for running with my ideas, and giving me the opportunity to show that I can do edgy, MG or YA artwork too.
Later this month, I plan to do a proper  process post of how I created the artwork. This post will also feature a few words from the man himself, Marty Chan and lots of process pics. So please check back again soon.
To download your snazzy Steampunk desktop calendar, just click on the screen resolution you require above. Then right click and "save to desktop". Enjoy :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 2013 desktop calendar

October has arrived, and the leaves are starting to show their glorious colours. Oh, how I love Fall.
I thought this little spot illo from Skink on the Brink captured this feeling perfectly!
To download this desktop calendar please select the screen resolution above then right click and "save to desktop".

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Inkygirl Interview

Lisa and I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by the lovely and uber-talented Debbie Ridpath Ohi for her blog, Inkygirl. Thank you Debbie :) Lisa and I share the creative process behind the making of Skink on the Brink and our paths to publication. Please check it out.

(courtesy of Debby Ohi)

Word On the Street

We had a super time this past Sunday at Word On the Street, Toronto. Lisa and I had a fantastic turn out of over 100 kids for our Skink on the Brink reading and plasticine "Make-Your-Own-Stewie" plasticine activity. They were a lively and super-talented group of kids. Lisa and I had a blast! Here are some pictures from the event.


 Yes, that is THE Michael Martchenko at the Athour's signing table with us!

 At the Fizhenry & Whiteside booth with Lisa Dalrymple, Editor/Children's Publisher Christie Harkin,
and Jan Dobly and Joyce Grant

Saturday, August 31, 2013

September 2013 Desktop calendar

While September ushers in another school year and signals the end of another fun-filled summer, September 1st is also a day of celebration for the Del Rizzo family. It happens to be my third son's birthday. He'll be 8 years old tomorrow- Happy Bday Little Man! I can't believe how fast they grow up....
So this month's desktop calendar is dedicated to him. He has a huge fascination with the animal kingdom and  loves animal non-fiction books and TV shows like Nature and Wild Kratts. He wants to be a marine biologist when he grows up- LOVE IT!!
This is one of his favorite illustrations- it makes him giggle at the thought of a big camel nibbling his hair...what a sloppy kiss!
I hope you enjoy it.
To download, simply click on your screen resolution above, then right click and "save to desktop".

Friday, August 30, 2013

SCBWI LA Conference 2013

I have been meaning to post about my experience at my first SCBWI LA conference all month, but between a tight deadline with very cool steampunk novel cover project(which I will share in a post soon) and squeezing in some summertime fun with the kiddos before the summer comes to an end, the poor blog had to come a distant third on my priority list. Now that the final art is in, we have all our back-to-school shopping complete and sneaked in a few family fun-day treks, I am finally able to post  few pictures and some take-away moments.
Overall I felt my first SCBWI LA conference was a very positive experience. But I must say I was blown away by the sheer size of the event. It was enormous! Just look...this is a snapshot of about 1/3 of the grand ballroom where all of the keynotes took place- humongous!

And being my shy self, it took me a few stomach churning moments every morning to thrust myself back in there. But I am proud to say that I pushed myself to talk to my neighbors and not keep my head down. I was so pleased to met up with new friends that I had met over the years via Twitter- that was indeed a highlight.

Priscilla Mizell, Alvina Kwong, and me

I also met most of the Simply Messing About Blog and a bunch of the #kidlitart Tweet chat crew in person finally- Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin, Christina Forshay, Diandra Mae, Jannie Ho( who was also on the faculty this year)... gosh, I'm sure I must be missing a few. It was so hectic I am embarrassed to say I barely took any pics. 

A major highlight for me was attending David Wieser's keynote and breakout sessions. I have been a huge fan for years, and it was a thrill to hear him speak about his craft and share his process, from idea generation to thumbnails, all the way to finished art. It was reassuring to hear that even he takes a long time(often years) to "get it right", for the story to come together. He reminded us all to " follow the story" and let it take you where it needs to go. Love it! He even shared his newest book, Mr.Wuffles, due out this Fall! 

I brought some of Skink on the Brink to sell at the PAL book sale. I sold a few, which was indeed a nice surprise, and met some other authors and illustrators at the book sale. :) As an interesting aside... apparently nobody has heard of plasticine in the US. So, until I started saying " modelling clay" I got a look of confused looks. Huh? Who knew...

I participated in the portfolio showcase as well. The caliber of art was just incredible.  I also attended some great breakout sessions with US art directors, like Laurent Linn, and Giuseppe Castellano.  And it was very cool to see Laurent discuss our friend, Debbie Ohi's fun book I'm Bored. Yay, Debbie! I just happened to be sitting beside her at this breakout session when this image came up-*quiet squeals of delight* came from our general direction, LOL.

Laurent Linn

The only drawback I found with attending SCBWI LA was that, due to the large volume of attendees, I found it very hard to find a moment to approach an AD, to give them my business card/postcard, or have any sort of chat. I didn't want to be one of those people who swarmed the speaker after their talk, or jumped into an elevator convo- that just isn't my style. So I think for me anyway,  I will aim to attend a smaller conference next year, where there may be a better chance to make more connections. 
Speaking of conferences, the SCBWI CanEast Montreal Conference( Oct. 4-6th) is coming up. I reeeeeally wish I could attend this year because the line-up and illustrator stream looks fantastic. To find our more about it, check out all the SCBWICanEast "The Art of Story" conference details

Stay tuned, tomorrow I will be posting my  Sept. 2013 desktop calendar. :) 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

August 2013 Desktop Calendar and Pictures from Book launches other SKINKTASTIC stuff!

Wow, July has flown past at lightning speed. Maybe it felt that way because Lisa and I have been on the road almost every weekend for various launches and events to celebrate Skink on the Brink. I guess you could say it's been a super-SKINKTASTIC month!

Before I share some of the photos of some of our events, here is my August desktop calendar.

As always, to download one for your computer simply select the screen resolution you'd like, right click and "Save to Desktop".  Lisa had mentioned how much she'd love one more Stewie themed desktop Lisa, I made this one specifically with YOU in mind ;)
The official book launch of Skink on the Brink took place at Story Planet on July 6th. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to share in our celebration. As you can see, a good time was had by all and the plasticine activity table was a bit hit with the kiddos!

On July 20th Lisa an I had the honour of taking part in The Pinery Park's Savannah Festival. Lisa gave a stellar presentation and reading in the amphitheatre.


Then after lunch, Lisa and I spent the afternoon in the gazebo doing plasticine activities. We were very lucky to have Tanya Berkers(the field biologist that was Lisa's primary contact for her skink research) on hand to answer the children's lizard related questions. But I must say Lisa did a fabulous job of quizzing the kids to get their Savannah Festival passport stamp, she's quite the skink expert herself now.


 Last weekend we were in Lisa's hometown, Fergus Ontario, at Roxanne's Reflections for the Fergus launch.  We were both tickled make that "Stewie-blue", to have such a warm reception and fantastic turn out. And I want to send a special thank-you to the many sweet author and illustrator friends who made the trek to Fergus to join us. We felt very blessed. :)


 And tomorrow I am hoping on a plane and heading to the SCBWI conference in LA. I'm feeling nervous, anxious, and super-excited all rolled up into one.  I can't wait to share that experience(and lots of pics) with you too! :)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Happy July!

It's summer time, the kids are out of school and it's a lovely long weekend here. And with the start of summer comes the start of July. Boy, didn't June just zip by?  It's been an exciting month, with the release of my debut picture book, Skink on the Brink, written by Lisa Dalrymple, published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
 I must say, it was such a thrill to walk into my local Chapters and see our book on the shelf, for the first time "WEHOOO!". And my friends and family have been so so sweet to send me images and info of our book on the shelves of stores across Canada.
Lisa and I have been busy prepping for the official book launch next Saturday, July 6th from 1-3pm at  the Intergalactic Travel Authority( Story Planet). If you are in the area, please join us!  We have another launch and some exciting signings coming up as well in July/August and some great interviews that I will share in  series of  upcoming posts, so stay tuned.  I have some of the upcoming events posted in the News section of my website.
This months calendar features another  interior spread for our book. It's one of my favorites...OK, they are all my favorites, they are my babies, after all. This foot-tapping, bug-dancing, jubilant illustration is just right to celebrate our book's release and upcoming launch activities.
To download, simply click on the required screen resolution above,then right click and save to desktop.
Please check back for more info on our upcoming events, printable activities and even a few interviews...there's lots to share :)
Happy Canada Day!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hello June!

I am so excited to share that Skink on the Brink(Fitzhenry & Whiteside), written by Lisa Dalrymple, and illustrated by me, has arrived at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside warehouse! Lalalalaaa!!
There it is smartly sitting on the desk of my editor and publisher, Christe Harkin.
" Hi Stewie!"*waving*
 Lisa and I will be visiting F&W this Monday. :). I can't wait to hold it in my hands!!!
It should be in stores in just a few short weeks.

This all happened yesterday, so I am unfortunately a day late with my June 2013 desktop calendar....geesh, I was kinda distracted, but you understand-right? Sorry guys!

In honour of Skink of the Brink's release, my June 2013 desktop calendar features the one and only... Stewie the skink. As you can see he is very excited to meet you guys too.

To download, simple click on your desired screen resolution listed above, then right click and select "save to desktop".
The launch for Skink on the Brink will be organized in the coming week, so please check back for the details, we'd love to see you there! :-)

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Tag

Hi guys,  the Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged for The Next Big Thing Blog Tag by the very talented author/illustrator, Peggy Collins.

I thought, as an interesting twist, I would share my tag with Lisa Dalrymple, the author of  Skink on the Brink, illustrated by ME, since it is due out at the end of this month-YAY!! We are super excited!

1) What is the working title of your next book?  Skink on the Brink

2) Where did the idea come from for the book? How did you come up with the final character illustrations for the book?

I love words and language and try to play around in everything I write. I wanted to write a story and cast in it an animal we don’t see so often in picture books. As soon as I heard the name Skink, I knew that was it. I mean just listen to it: skink. It made me laugh just to say it, so I knew I had found my little guy.

          After reading Lisa's manuscript I left it to float around inside my head for a bit. This foot tapping, singing skink had such a great personality that the ideas practically flew out of my head down through my pencil. I really enjoyed capturing all the emotions Stewie went through on his journey of self discovery. I sometimes made faces in a  hand mirror to get just the right expression, when sculpting my plasticine Stewie.

3) In what genre does your book fall?

It’s a children’s picture book, subtly educational.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Kermit the Frog should definitely play Stewie. He may be more amphibian than reptilian but he more than makes up for that when he starts singing, “It’s not easy being blue-I mean grey-no wait red.”

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

          This is Stewie the Skink’s story about self-esteem and change, as Stewie grows up, his shockingly bright blue tail fades to gray and he has to discover just who he is when he can no longer call himself “Stewie the Blue.” 

6) Who is publishing your book? Fitzhenry & Whiteside publishers in Toronto.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? How long did the illustrations take to complete? 

I researched for a couple of months before writing.  The first draft probably took me about a week, but that was soon followed up with about 18 months of subsequent drafts and revisions before I considered submitting it.
The roughs, rom initial thumbnails to tight rough sketches took a few months, and then the really fun final artwork created in plasticine, took approximately 4.5 months to complete. Each illustrations took anywhere from 20-40 hours, depending on complexity.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
         Well, seeing as it is the fourth in the Tell Me More Series of picture books by Fitzhenry and Whiteside, there are certain similarities between it and Kazaak, Tooter’s Stinky Wish and Bye-Bye Butterflies. Each story has its own unique qualities but includes an educational component and two pages of backmatter that extend the informational elements of the story.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? What inspired our illustrations for this book?

         The Carolinian population of the Common Five-lined Skink is Endangered in Canada – an Endangered Species of lizard in my own backyard (or at least where I camp out) that I had never heard of! I knew I wanted to know more. The more I researched, the more I heard a little voice singing in my ear, “I’m a skink on the brink of extinction, I think.” There was no turning back.

        Due to the cross curricular component of this book, as it is part of the Tell-Me-More Storybook series,  I wanted to ensure that the habitat of the five-lined skink, including vegetation, predators and other animals found in their habitat, was accurate, so I really did  my homework. Ontario has such a great variety of animals friends and foes to choose from that it was often hard to choose who to include in my illustrations- just look at my big stack of reference photos!

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

         Stewie’s story is a familiar one to all Common Five-lined Skinks. The juveniles of this species do have incredibly bright blue tails, the colour of which fades as they reach sexual maturity. Mature males also develop bright orange or red jaws and chin, particularly during breeding season. It’s no wonder Stewie is having an identity crisis!

Also, like other lizards, skinks can shed, or autotomize, their tails when they’re attacked. I had no idea that the tail actually keeps moving in order to confuse the predator so the lizard can escape.  (It grows back at a rate of about 6mm a week.)
Hopefully, after kids read this book, they will be inspired to go outside, go on a nature walk or go camping. Who knows ,they might even recognize a few of Stewie's habitat friends or, if they are very lucky, they might even see Stewie himself. :)

Up next week : Illustrator Jan Dolby

And author Joyce Grant


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May 2013 Desktop Calendar is here!

In the nick of time, here's my May 2013 desktop calendar, featuring another illo from Skink on the Brink(due out so very soon!!). We have had a nasty stomach bug here, with one kiddo home from school today,so this post will be short and sweet. I hope you enjoy the desktop!  :-)


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