Sunday, December 30, 2012

A book about Mom to Learn InDesign

Last spring, I decided to take a class in InDesign at RISD Continuing Education with Bryan Rodrigues. I loved it, and dummied up a few of the children's books I've been working on. Our big assignment was to do a book with 100 pages, so I decided on a scrapbook sort of project, and limited it by focusing it on my mom.

I had no idea how involved the project would become, or how much fun it would be to learn about my own family history, from the late 1800's to present.

In class, Bryan had us set up a book using a Blurb template. I chose a 9 x 12 size, and planned chapter layouts, formatting styles for headings, text, and captions. If you've used Adobe programs, InDesign is relatively intuitive, but there's nothing like having weekly instruction, followed by assignments to put what you've learned into practice. Bryan made it all seemed so easy!

One of my favorite pages was a montage of my mom modeling for Century Club. The pictures here span from 1976-2011... 35 years. She hasn't changed much, has she?

Mom modeling over the years

My niece helping Grandmom sort
family slides a few years back.
At home, I started by editing some of the 700 slides from our childhood that Mom had converted to digital a few years ago. I scoured the many scrapbooks I've kept over the years. During phone calls to Mom, I "slyly" asked about some of the old family stories we'd heard a million times, to make sure I had them right.

I didn't! What a surprise to hear the details of stories I thought I knew. I wrote them down, and started a hodgepodge text document.

A page in progress...
with lorem ipsum and lots of ????'s

Family photos from the 1920's
The book wasn't complete enough to give to Mom by the time my class ended, but it was chock-full of lorem ipsum (fake type used for placement) and photos that I'd scanned and formatted. By August, it felt like it was pulling together, but the text was nowhere near complete, so I made a PDF file and "gave" it to my mom for her 86th birthday.

Pictures from 1940

Happily, she was thrilled. From that time on, Mom and I collaborated on the text and captions. She searched her records for dates and details, and corrected my "gazillions" of mistakes. I collected some of her scrapbooks and photographed pages from others.

I began to turn to resources from other members of my family. My cousin, Jack Eiser, had continued the genealogy work his sister Joyce began, and I was able to access Rowe and Grant family trees on, complete with census records, birth certificates and more. (Thanks, Jack)
 I'd collected family reminisces over the years, and I pulled anecdotes from those. When Mom didn't remember details from her childhood, she called her sister and brother and gathered their memories. Not surprisingly, they often saw things through different prisms.

Photos from the 70's!
At Thanksgiving, Mom and I went through the text and trolled for missing pictures and information. My husband told me firmly that I needed to finish this never-ending project in time to have it printed for Christmas. I started working fifteen hour days, and for a few days, the project wasn't fun, with color conversions and uploading, spell checks, missing dates, and a deadline.

But then, miraculously, it was finished! One hundred pages, over 500 photographs, and a permanent record of my mom's history.

It was oh, so satisfying to see it arrive at Mom's as a hard-cover book, and to see the look on her face when she opened it at our Christmas celebration.

Of course, this project only whet my appetite for more. There are still so many photos! And there's still my dad's side of the family to explore!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tooting My Own Horn, and Introducing Henry!

Henry especially likes juicy berries. ©Cheryl Kirk Noll
On September 29, 2012, I was featured on Kathy Teamen's blog, Writing and Illustrating. She has a regular feature, "Illustrator Saturday," with extensive interviews of dozens of fabulous illustrators, from Dan Santat to Brian Lies to Susan Jeffers, and many, many more.  I'm honored to be included in this treasure trove of information about the lives and creative process of children's book illustrators.

To read my interview, which includes lots of information about my student days at RISD, and my illustration process, go to:

Kathy was on a retreat when she put up the information, and had a hard time with a bad internet connection. Consequently, you'll find several things repeated, and she wasn't able to put up my new  work, so...

 I want to introduce my latest project, a picture book dummy about a vivacious hedgehog named Henry. Working on Henry has been such fun that I wanted to share him.

There is never enough time in the day for Henry. ©Cheryl Kirk Noll

As I mentioned in the interview, I've been writing up a storm.  I dummied up this story, (that means I made a prototype of the book, with sketches, words in place, and a few finished illustrations) and it  is currently being considered by a few publishers.  I have my fingers crossed.

Henry loves to swim, and fish, and chase after whirlwinds. ©Cheryl Kirk Noll

Henry is always on the lookout for slimy slugs and chewy grubs. YUM! ©Cheryl Kirk Noll

Occasionally Henry likes to rest, but only if it's outside. ©Cheryl Kirk Noll

Monday, October 1, 2012

Highlights of Fall

What is it about fall that brings human beings back to life? Is it the cool weather? The fear of winter? Years of "back to school" conditioning?

At any rate, I've been wildly busy, and wanting to share some of it here. I want to post about an interesting historical structure I recently visited, and toot my own horn about being interviewed for Illustration Saturday, a feature on Kathy Teaman's blog, Writing and Illustrating.

The logo I created for "Brush Master"
But I'll begin with the Highlights for Children Illustrator's party.

I've had the honor of getting together with wildly talented and creative folks in the mountains of the Poconos for fifteen years now. Begun by Kent Brown, the party invites Highlights illustrators and their families to gather for a weekend of "Fun with a Purpose" each fall. We are feted with food, seminars, family activities, a square dance, a themed costume party, and more food. Every year we get to reconnect with old friends, and meet new illustrators. What a blast!

This year, the theme was "Superheros" and we were encouraged to dress as people who were heros to us (teacher, famous artist, dad, firefighters) or a Superhero with our own unique skills. I went as "Brush Master"!

My totally goofy Brush Master costume, and hubby as Clark Kent.

It's SO much fun to meet with these folks in such a great atmosphere. The staff is warm and welcoming. Highlights really is a family business, and they really do care about children.
The illustrators convene from far-flung places like Arizona, California, Texas, and more, and I go green with envy when we share our portfolios. 

I love all the events, but I'm always in awe at the costume ideas folks come up with.  

David Helton as Super Vincent, and Lyn Martin as Super Frida.
David Galchutt as... you guessed it! (thanks to a Facebook contributor for photo)
Robert and Jessica Squire... The Pink Pearl rubs out Evil Doers, and Duct Tape Girl saves citizens from Sticky Situations!

My friends Ruth Flanigan as "Pantonia" and Judith Moffatt as Frieda Khalo.

The Valiant family, of course, with Graphite Girl!

Three powerful SUPER women. Terry Taylor, Rebecca Thornburg and Sharon Vargo.

Super Girl, StarMan and Pantonia 

Don't know who. Justice, I guess. Isn't this a great costume?

Let's not forget Anni Matsick as "Wonder where-I-put-that? Woman" and her hubby as "Retired Super Hero". (thanks to Annie for the picture, and the one of PBAA below.)

Below is a very small sampling of the artists who attended. This group belongs to a listserve with about 150 members, all of whom have illustrated three of more children's books. It's called Picture Book Artists Association, and displays art of all it's members, which changes quarterly.

Back row, l-r: Anni Matsick, Jennifer Emery,  Judith Moffatt, Terry Taylor, Laura Jacques, Cheryl Kirk Noll, Sharon Vargo.
Front row, l-r: Maggie Swanson, Sharon Holm, Sue Miller, Barry Gott, Laura Jacobsen, Sherry Neidigh, Layne Johnson, Paige Billin-Frye, Len Ebert. The very Front: Rebecca Thornburgh

 And here is the bucolic scene that awaited us each morning. Thanks to Highlights for Children, for caring about children, AND illustrators.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Children's Book Events in and Around Rhode Island and Southern New England thisFall 2012

There are several wonderful events happening in or near Rhode Island this fall that are geared towards those who love children's books, including teachers, parents, families, librarians, authors and illustrators, and young readers themselves.

Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors, Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Lincoln School is having it's (mostly) annual Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

This is an amazing celebration of children's books. It's perfect for kids. You will find music and activities, books to buy and authors and illustrators available to sign them. (It's a great place for families to get signed copies of books for holiday presents for kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews)
All of this costs $5.00! What a bargain!

World-famous authors and illustrators also give presentations, which run all day. It's always fascinating stuff. Speakers this year range from prolific illustrator Lynn Munsinger (Tacky the Penguin) to award-winning author Pam Munoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising)  to Newberry medalist young adult author Gary Schmidt. And don't forget, Polar Express author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, whose art graces the poster, will also be there. And MANY more!

For directions and a schedule of events, click here.
  • Connecticut Children's Book Fair November 10-11, 2012 

I've never attended, but the Connecticut Children's Book Fair is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, November 10-11, 2012, 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. It looks amazing, too!
 Click here for more information.

  • Children's Illustration Exhibit, November 11th, 2012 

The 23rd Annual Children's Illustration Exhibit is scheduled for Sunday, November 11th, 2012 from 4-6pm at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA. Mo Willems is the featured illustrator this year, with lots of other favorites. Click here for more info.

Last years participants.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Joys of Summer in RI

An amusing tree, seen in the park near RISD

I've been absent from the internet for the much of the summer because I've been busy. I just finished  teaching Children's Book Illustration for Summer Studies at RISD. What a great group of students! We spent 2 full days in class each week for 6 weeks developing the many skills needed to illustrate children's books.
I couldn't have asked for a better group... hard-working and talented. Here they are.
RISD Summer Studies Children's Book Illustration students
Students do a light study from a model.
We had child models, worked in multiple media, had Judith Moffatt as a guest lecturer, and more. We even had a video crew come interview us. If this Youtube video works, it's about the company that does the videos (Animal), and has a few seconds of clips from our class.

A fun and productive work day in the studio of artist and friend, Judith Moffatt

On the home front, I've been busy working on a picture book dummy, and getting lots of feedback from my writer's group , artist's group, friends and family before sending it off to my rep. She'll be shopping it in New York next week. (fingers crossed)
A fringe benefit of my writing group... blueberries picked fresh from Linda Crotta Brennan's garden.

 Hubby and I have taken many late afternoon summer jaunts to various RI spots. What a great state little Rhody is. From woods and lakes, to rocky beaches, to wetland coves, there is endless beauty in this remarkable state.

down Hopkinton way

a cove south of Pawtuxet Village on a cloudy day... Queen Anne's lace (ammi majus) in it's glory

Point Judith lighthouse. Always a treat.

Oh... and we're getting our house painted. So, there's the summer (so far) wrap-up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Garden Obsession

I've had a garden in my postage stamp yard for years, but for some reason, it's gone wild this year. I can't say how much pleasure I've gotten from walking around the "back 40," deadheading and taking pix and smelling the flowers. Here are a few pix on this rainy Wednesday.

Stella d'oro (reblooming daylily)

Sedum sieboldii (stonecrop)

Stella d'oro and astilbe.

Feverfew, foxglove, Campanula poscharskyana

Here are a few from a sunny day last week.

Blue-star creeper, Isotoma fluviatillis (love this stuff!)

clematis and golden shower roses

garden going wild!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Traveling through History

Since I do a lot of historic and multicultural illustration, I like to get a little taste of history now and then. So, I jumped at the chance to spend the day with a friend and tour Great Road in northern Rhode Island,  touted as America's first "Super Highway."

The tour, organized by Tour Rhode Island ,  ran like clockwork, and the guides were top-notch.  We saw the Eleazer Arnold House, a "stone ender" built in 1693, the oldest home in Lincoln, RI.
The stone of the "stone-ender" has been covered with a lime slurry, true to the time period.

The caretakers have taken this house back to it's original form, leaded windows and all.

Hearthside House was a special  treat, with costumed docents in every room to tell us the sad and romantic story behind this 1810 fieldstone home.

Our docent, Estelle, jumped at the chance to portray the African-American woman who worked for the Talbot's, and lived with her husband on the third floor. We heard that cooks gauged the temperature by how long they could stand to hold their arm above a fire.

Later residents of Hearthside had an African-American couple who worked for them and lived in the house.
Looms original to the house have just been brought back from a museum in Lowell.

Thirteen children are currently training to be docents at Hearthside.

The fellow in the foreground did a great job.

 The clothes were amazing. This little boys outfit was from the time period when the middle class began to emerge. Children went from being dressed as little adults, to little sailors. Everything, of course, is hand stitched.

A boy's jacket.
This one made me drool.

A close-up showing hand-embroidery, including straw and horsehair.

 We also saw a working blacksmith shop (Hannaway Blacksmith Shop, built in 1880), with a woman working the bellows, the Saylesville Friends Meeting House, in continuous use since 1704, and a museum about the Blackstone Canal housed in the Captain Wilbur Kelly House.

Captain Kelly was a sea captain on a ship with a name familiar to Rhode Islanders, the Ann & Hope. Mill owners invested in a canal that was built from Providence to Wooster. It ran from 1828 until 1848, when the new transportation craze, the train, put it out of business.
The Valentine Whitman house, and more incredible clothes.

The attic of the V-W house, built in 1694, and also a "stone-ender."
Thanks to my friend, Helen, for a great Cinco de Mayo!!!