~Hosted by Amanda Smith
The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA is a community dedicated to helping writers achieve greatness. They have a quiet, drop-in writing space and a community room for special events or just hanging out. They are also on the cusp of releasing their third anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN featuring writers and illustrators from the Loft. Many of these Lofters also worked on the first poetry anthology AN ASSORTMENT OF ANIMALS. 24 Carrot Writing asked the illustrators about the experience of working on a joint project.
This anthology is a collaborative project involving 30+ creative souls. What did you enjoy about working alongside other creatives? What was easy? What was challenging? In which ways did it stretch you? What aspects did you have to take in consideration as you created and edited your artwork?
Priscilla Alpaugh: Working on the Anthologies was a rare chance to work with such a large group of artists. It was wonderful to see each other’s work and be able to share constructive criticism with one another. It’s a treat to read the poems that the Lofters wrote. So many talented writers! It’s energizing to know that everyone is working towards the same goal.
It is always a challenge to combine different poems on one page or spread. I was lucky and got one of the easier combinations. In each case I went in with a pretty clear idea of what I wanted in the image. Starting with thumbnails for composition and then sketches for content led to a final sketch where I could also consider value. I typically combine watercolor and pencil digitally, but this time it was mostly all digital.
To learn more about Priscilla, visit http://priscillaalpaugh.com/
Leanne Leutkemeyer: I enjoyed the feeling of community. I love the energy and excitement of being in a room with creative people. I enjoyed being part of the team. This project introduced me to so many wonderful and talented writers and illustrators. The timing of this project was perfect for me. It took my mind off the world and let me escape into oceans, play with whales and stingrays, and make art. The Zoom meetings helped fight feelings of isolation.
However, getting art direction from a group can be a challenge. It can be intimidating to sit shoulder to shoulder with artists you admire. In a meeting full of voices, it’s hard to catch and absorb all of the suggestions as they fly by. I scribbled many notes. It’s more challenging to have group input, but also exciting and inspiring to see the incredible work everyone was putting out.
In which ways did it stretch me? I developed new painting techniques to work large and discovered different scanning techniques. I’m excited about the new photoshop skills I’ve picked up through this project. In the past I’ve always fixed mistakes on the illustration as I painted or started over till I got it right. It’s pretty mind-blowing to be able to add an extra tail on a stingray while painting and know that I’ll be able to take the earlier one out that wasn’t working, and not have to repaint the whole illustration.
To learn more about Leanne, visit https://www.leanneluetkemeyer.com/
Deb O’Brien: The artists had several challenges in this anthology. We received a lot more poems this year, which meant several poems per spread. Not only did our illustrations have to support each poem, we had to make sure that the art and the poem fit on the page.
Another challenge was the Corona virus. Normally, the artists and designers would get together several times to discuss color palettes, design, and layout. This time, we had to do it all via Zoom. We made it work, but it wasn’t easy.
Some artists couldn’t even think about art. I was grateful I had this assignment; it gave me focus, direction and deadlines. I was able to block out the world and dive into my work. I’m very proud to be a part of the anthology and can’t wait to see the published piece.
To learn more about Deb, visist https://deb-obrien.com/
What did you learn about yourself, your creative process, book-making, and/or marketing while working on the anthology?
Amanda Davis: I was honored to have the opportunity to illustrate several poems in this year’s anthology. It’s the first time my illustrations are appearing in a published children’s book alongside many other talented creators to boot! For this particular anthology, illustrators brought to life the fun and crazy creatures of the sea. I knew I wanted to garner a likeness to the creatures in the poems while also putting my own original spin on them. Typically, my process involves drawing from my imagination or from real-life models or scenes. Since I didn’t have access to real-life models of vampire squids or narwhals, I knew this part of my process was going to be a challenge. With the help of the Loft team, I learned more about properly using reference images, avoiding copyright issues, and finding creative ways to craft original models using materials such as clay. Because I was illustrating for publication, I also felt an added pressure to get it right. This meant practice, practice, practice and revise, revise, revise! I enjoyed working collaboratively with the other artists and design team who provided me with valuable feedback that helped polish my work. The whole experience was a learning process, and I’m grateful for the knowledge and patience of the Loft community. I can’t wait to share our beautiful, seaworthy collection with the world!
To learn more about Amanda Davis, visit https://www.amandadavisart.com
Joy Nelkin Wieder: Working as a team was the most exciting and educational process in working on an anthology with other Lofters. I learned so much about marketing a children’s book from others on the team that I was able to apply everything I learned when my own book launched in January. Everything from writing up a press release, to making contacts at local bookstores and media outlets, to participating in book signings and presentations, to creating marketing materials such as flyers and posters. During the marketing of An Assortment of Animals, I took the lead in putting together art exhibitions of our original artwork from the anthology. Our framed illustrations were displayed at the Art and Frame Emporium in Westborough and the Hopkinton Art Center in Hopkinton. We currently have an online exhibit of illustrations with the Acton Memorial Library – check it out here: https://www.actonmemoriallibrary.org/events-programs/art-exhibition/
Visit Joy's website at http://jnwieder.com/ to learn more.
Doreen Buchinski: I was honored to design An Assortment of Animals. It was a wonderful opportunity and a chance to challenge myself. As a graphic designer, I’ve created brochures, logos, promotional materials, etc., but hadn’t explored designing picture books. I was excited and terrified of the herculean project ahead. Applying principals of good design to the book layout—like alignment, balance, repetition, contrast, type, and space—was priority. Tasks included: researching fonts, colors, and on-demand printing, managing art files, emails, edits, and file prep, while also completing my own anthology illustrations. Yes, there were days when the project felt overwhelming—but I stayed focused on each day’s priorities. With superb anthology editors, Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly, the Writers' Loft founder, at the helm, the development and completion of the book was successful. Collaborating with talented illustrators and authors, and displaying their beautiful art and poetry on the pages of the book were experiences I will always treasure.
Visit Doreen's website at https://www.doreenbuchinski.com/
What was your approach when you first received the poem(s) you were to illustrate? Walk us through your process.
Sarah Brannen: For me, the first step was picking the creatures I was going to illustrate. I went back and forth with the editors as they sorted out who would make art for which poem. I specifically requested jellyfish and they were kind enough to make that work. I also thought I’d like to do sea glass. I was an avid collector as a child and I still have a jar of my very best pieces, which include even rare colors like yellow and pink.
Kristen Wixted and I talked a lot about how to group the poems. It was her idea to do a spread of things found on the beach, so that I could do a trompe-l’oeil image of everything spread out on the sand. At the last minute Kristen asked me to illustrate the very last poem in the book, Sea Serenity. My most recent book, A Perfect Day, is set on the ocean and it opens with a very calm image of the ocean at dawn. We both felt that something similar would be perfect to close the anthology as well. I sketched a very old wooden lobster pot buoy that I’ve had since I was little, although I changed the colors to white, blue and green. It’s meant to evoke, in some way, the earth itself. Old buoys have numbers carved into them so I put “2020” on the one in the illustration.
My web site is www.sarahbrannen.com.
Jodie Apeseche: When illustration assignments were divvied out, I was super excited. I felt that everything was in my wheelhouse-lobsters, cuttlefish, crabs, sea otters, seahorse and sea dragon-yup those would be fun.
The tricky part was how to make my illustrations connect to the poems while keeping in my style of painting. For example, after reading Lobster Rainbow more carefully, I was faced with a predicament. I had not realized that I would have to paint 6 different colored lobsters. I couldn’t figure out how to do that without making a very cluttered illustration.
Solution, I created a lobster grid a la Andy Warhol. Problem solving is such a big part of illustration and I owe gratitude to author, Jean Taft, for pushing me to that end.
For more about Jodie, visit jodieapeseche.weebly.com or http://art-jam.net/
Liz Goulet Dubois: When I first received my poem from Lynda, I was surprised! I was expecting perhaps a short, pithy poem. What I received was an epic tale of a seal, underwater dentistry and a duplicitous shark! I approached illustrating this the same way I would approach a picture book. I distilled the text down to what I thought were the key scenes, and created individual sketched vignettes in pencil that could wrap around and enhance the text. The drawing was challenging also because of the scale differences in the characters depicted: everything from a blue whale down to a jumbo shrimp! After the sketches were settled and approved, I scanned them and colored them digitally, which is my usual method. Hopefully readers will be amused by the sight of a shark brandishing dental tools, and wearing a bib!
To learn more about Liz, visit https://www.lizgouletdubois.com/
FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN is set to launch in November and is chock-full of whimsy, fun, and freaky animal facts that will delight children and adults. To learn more about the Writers' Loft visit www.thewritersloft.org/ and www.thewritersloft.org/anthology for information regarding previous anthologies.
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