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There were all sorts of wonderful submissions for last month’s Draw This! prompt. My favorite takes were by Sanne Dufft, Julie Rowan-Zoch, and Patricia Kresiser.

April’s prompt word is “Surprise.” Here’s my submission:

This illustration is 7″ across by 7″ high, and roughly 5″ along each of the edges. For this collage, I simply slipped the fries into the packaging instead of gluing them down, which makes for some hidden surprises when you peek inside.

 

These past two weekends, I’ve been at work on an illustration for a potential picture book project. The story, featuring two mourning doves, was drafted during a prompt for the Remarkable Monkeys on “Why Is the Moon Late?”

Mourning Doves by Priscilla Mizell
I started with a rough sketch.

FullSizeRender (3)Next, I mapped out my layers, a highly scientific process where I use a lightbox to trace the general shapes from the sketch (e.g., head, eye with pupil, bit around the eyes, top layer of beak, underlayer of beak, etc.) on a separate sheet of white paper. I cut out those mapped pieces and used them as patterns for the fine paper.

By last weekend’s end, I had put together Little Dove, Mama Dove, and a version of their nest. It was a solid start but it wasn’t working yet, so I decided to let it sit.

IMG_0656Throughout the week, I returned to the illustration to consider changes. By the time Friday evening rolled around, I had a pretty good idea of what to do.

I remembered a talk Peter Brown gave where he said, “You cannot get the eyes wrong in a picture book. If you get the eyes wrong, you will have a problem.” It was clear that Little Dove’s eyes weren’t right. So, I pulled off his pupil, cut it down, and tried a few different placements. That was much better.

Then I added layers to the little guy, including a division between his breast and his mama’s, a tuft of down along his forehead, and lots of little feathers. Finally, I ripped up the nest and layered different papers over and under. At last, I was satisfied with my characters.

IMG_0753Because this scene is set at night, I needed a deep, blue paper for the sky. The week before, I had laid my birds and nest onto various shades until I narrowed my options down to three.

On Friday night, I tested them again with the revised doves, nest, and tree to make my choice.

For the tree, I started with a piece of plain, brown paper into which I cut wiggly lines to serve as grooves of bark. Then I cut and pasted other colors and textures on top. This step involved quite a bit of trial and error, hence the pile of cut-up squiggles on my desk.

fullsizerender-2.jpgThen I glued the sections together!

FullSizeRenderThe final illustration is 9.5” across by 5.5” high. The collage was cut with my trusted EK Success Cutter Bee Scissors and adhered with an Elmer’s glue stick and PLUS’s 6mm-wide, honeycomb glue tape. I used the following papers, all from my beloved Paper Source:

IMG_0760It can be a challenge to scan a cut paper collage when there are multiple layers. While the colors are subdued, this one scanned pretty clean. A victory!

Mourning Doves by Priscilla MizellThanks for reading!

For the 2017 Tomie dePaola Award, Tomie invited SCBWI illustrators to mine their memories for a significant moment from childhood and create a self-portrait that might appear in a picture book.

I’ve included humans in only a handful of cut paper collages, so I saw this prompt as an opportunity to stretch my skills and step out of my comfort zone.

I settled on picking out my first pair of glasses. Here’s my illustration:

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The winner and runners-up were announced today. Congratulations to Katya Tabakh for her soft, snow-swept illustration of sledding at night! You can find her submission here.

Diandra Mae, the illustrator coordinator for the Houston chapter of SCBWI, has assembled an online gallery so we can see all the other submissions, too. Stop on by! (My illustration is on this page.)

Thank you to SCBWI and Tomie for this challenge! And thank you, Diandra, for collecting the submissions and sharing them with us!

This fall, my brother-in-law, David Mizell, texted with an intriguing proposal:

“Every day for a month, I will draw a character and send it to you. With your help, I’ll make a story for it and then at the end, we can pick one to win it all. Are you in?”

I responded, “Yes, absolutely!”

As promised, every day he would sketch a character and text it to me. I’d reply with some initial thoughts and, together, we’d flesh out a story idea.

For example, here’s Day #13:

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30 days later, we had 30 sketches and 30 starts for stories. We plan to identify our three favorite concepts when we see each other at Christmas.

I invited David to stop by the blog to talk about “Sketch and Text.”

Welcome, David! How did you happen upon this idea?

With the first character, the mouse. I sent Priscilla an illustration I did on a boring Sunday night. Really, she sparked the whole thing because she kept asking me questions about the character and I was like, this is super fun, I want to do this more often. Then it hit me like a can of Pepsi on fire . . . What if I do an illustration every day for a month and send them to Priscilla? So I asked that simple question and the magic began.

David texted this sketch with the caption: “He is just a mouse trying to make something of himself in this big world.” Of course, I had questions! I wanted to know his story.

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What did you enjoy about this creative exercise?

The stories that came out of the pictures. Some days it was hard trying to come up with one, but usually by the end, I could really fall in love with each character. It was just so awesome to see them grow and evolve over a few text messages. Man, I miss doing it really.

What aspect of this exercise did you find most challenging?

Probably on like the 20th day when I saw the characters I had already drawn and I didn’t know where to go from there. I would try to find inspiration and if none came, I just put pencil to paper and hoped for the best.

I didn’t know about you letting the pencil on paper lead you!

Yeah, do you remember the pig? That was one of the times.

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We did cheat on three days, though, and used some old illustrations, but came up with stories for them.

We did. But we also determined the rules in the first place. Even when we worked with what already existed, something new came together. I drew some inspiration myself from a picture book draft I had in a drawer. Your whistling plant sketch sparked that connection for me.

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Not every day is going to be perfect. Some days are busy, but you just got to keep the creative juices flowing.

I think the key for us was doing something creative.

Yeah, and I think it is a good trick if you have writer’s block or illustration block.

Definitely. Which I actually had at the time! Since this exercise, I’ve spent more time with my novel-in-progress and created a new cut paper collage, too.

That’s awesome. It helped me find my love for illustration and inspired me to make all those Thanksgiving and Christmas cards for coworkers and family members and find my style.

Oh, I love your new style. The stark ink and bright watercolors are perfect for the paper you chose. Would you like to share a few of those illustrations here?

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The musical mermaid is a personal favorite. Do you have any final thoughts to share?

Just do something different and creative that makes you think outside of your box and inspires you to do more. It doesn’t have to be this exercise, it can be anything. All you have to do is start.

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In December 2014,  Deb and Pete of the Reading Reptile sent an email about “an entirely new place to experience children’s literature.” They put out a call for volunteers, requesting everyone from tearers and seekers to shapers and sewers. I attended Deb’s “Mushroom Making Lesson” on January 15th, an introduction to shaping and paper-macheing. Thus began my journey volunteering for The Rabbit hOle.

Over the next couple of months, I shaped mushrooms at home from newspaper and masking tape. Every other week, I’d come in to paper-mache.

In February 2015, Deb and Pete announced the lease of a temporary home, a start-up space in the Crossroads. Throughout the spring and summer, The Rabbit hOle team was hard at work building out the space, laying plans, and launching their capital campaign.

In September, we toured this temporary space during “Late Night at The Rabbit hOle with Brian Selznick and Lemony Snicket.” What a place!

In January, The Rabbit hOle sent out another call for volunteers. This time, they needed help putting together an Immersive Storybook Gallery based on The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee, a proof of concept for the World’s First ExploraStorium.

Again, volunteers came out to tear paper, shape walls and frames, paper-mache, and paint. Meanwhile, more volunteers started construction on the space at 700 East 16th Street.

The Immersive Gallery opened to the public on April 9th. Today Aaron and I had the privilege and pleasure of taking a guided tour.

It’s been a thrill to watch the The Rabbit hOle come into being.

You can help, too!

Right now The Rabbit hOle is in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign. Every dollar is appreciated and there are all kinds of children’s literature-themed perks to choose from. Once you’ve given, there’s a handy badge you can display on your social media or wherever else you please:

I Contributed

If you live in Kansas City, you can sign up to be notified when they need more volunteers. Word on the street is there will be a new Immersive Gallery debuting August 1st.

Of course, you can also help by simply spreading the word. Follow The Rabbit hOle on Twitter, InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest and share their posts with your friends.

Together, we can make the World’s First ExploraStorium a reality!