Friday, October 25th, 2013
It's a tasty world!
As I've said before, I believe artwork is largely autobiographical. It makes sense that we would write, draw and paint the world as we see it. We're all influenced, in some way, by what's going on around us.
So what's this piece about? I have no idea. While I set out after some artwork with very specific intent and purpose, others are random ruminations on life that grow out of all sorts of moods, thoughts and ideas. My sketchbooks are full of these things. This piece could be interpreted in many different ways. Is this guy hungry- is he trying to take a bite out of the world? Or is he mad? Or does it run deeper than that? Does he want to take over the planet?
My job is to make interesting things, not to judge them or make sense of them. The rest has to be left to the viewer.
Friday, October 18th, 2013
I first sketched Deciduous Dreams in my sketchbook in January 2011. I was exploring the world of this deciduous tree at the time and wasn't yet sure who he was or what he wanted from me. If a tree could be free, where would he go and what would he do? What would he hope for? What would he dream about? These are deep, existential questions that have very little to do with trees and everything to do with this life we are living.
It didn't take long to discover what this tree was after. It's what all of us want- freedom to be ourselves. This wasn't intended to be a heavy piece. It's pure joy mixed with the randomness of the dream world. Sometimes a tree just wants to dance.
I later stumbled on this quote by Albert Einstein. It's a perfect accompaniment to this painting...
We dance for laughter, we dance for tears,
we dance for madness, we dance for fears,
we dance for hopes, we dance for screams,
we are the dancers, we create the dreams.
Friday, October 11th, 2013
The lottery of the apple
I eat a lot of apples, usually two a day. And when you eat that much of anything that's natural, you're going to get a bad one from time to time. I've bitten into some pretty ugly apples in my lifetime. I'll spare you the details, but let me just say you know almost instantly when you're into a bad one.
I could stop eating apples. After all, there's a small risk every time I bite into one. But if I gave them up, I wouldn't get the benefits they provide. The health benefits of snacking on apples are much greater than candy bars or some other processed nothing. With candy bars, there's no risk that you're going to get a rotten one and, consequently, no benefit. It's the lottery of risk versus reward.
There is some kind of risk in every worthwhile pursuit. It's unavoidable. If you try something new- a relationship, a business venture, a job, creating a painting or writing a story, it might not work out. You could fail. But so what? Whether you succeed or not, you'll almost certainly be rewarded for taking the chance. You might learn you can do something you didn't know you could do. Or you could discover a new way of doing it. Or maybe your first idea won't work out but it will lead you to a much bigger idea. You can't know until you give it a try. Put your dreams to the test. At the very least, you might learn something new about yourself.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
Scholastic Reading Club's
Book of the Month!
Look who has the "Book of the Month" at Scholastic Reading Club this month! A big dragony thanks to those champions of reading at Scholastic. To add to the dragony fun, I've posted a free, downloadable activity sheet below. This is for all of you young creators who want to draw a dragon of your own. Is your dragon grumpy or happy? Does he have big teeth? Or maybe your dragon is a girl. You get to decide!
To download, simply click on the picture and print!
To learn more about Scholastic Reading Club, click HERE.
Friday, September 27th, 2013
Putting Down Roots
An art series always seems to grow out of a need. It might begin with a simple inspiration- but when that inspiration won't leave me alone after finishing a painting or two, I know I'm in for a ride. That world wants life and it will consume me until it gets what it wants.
My series of trees (called the Deciduous series) quickly grew into that when I began drawing and painting them a few years ago. This picture, called Putting Down Roots, was painted in 2011. It's a tree who's really just looking for a place to call home. He stops to ponder the idea, decides that this is as good of a place as any and puts down his roots.
As artists, we don't always get to decide what we draw and paint. Sometimes that spark of inspiration mixes with our inner world and our job is simply to get out of the way and let that world out onto the page.
Friday, September 20th, 2013
The nature of artwork
Every work of art, if it's honest, is autobiographical to a degree. The experiences we have seep into the things we make. That's just how it works. I wouldn't call myself an insomniac by any means, but I gave this piece the title Searching for Sleep because I seem to be doing that a lot lately.
Friday, September 13th, 2013
Book signing event
on Saturday, Sept. 21st
I'll be presenting and signing at the 14th Annual Celebration of Minnesota Children's Authors and Illustrators on Saturday, September 21st (12-5pm) at the Anderson Center in Redwing, MN.
I'll have several original paintings from my books on display (including the one above).
Come for an afternoon of booky fun!
Details and directions can be found HERE.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
Creativity is not a road trip.
There are no maps.
Maps only work if someone
has already been there.
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Scholastic Reading Clubs...
and the first prints are shipping!
This summer, my friends at Scholastic Reading Clubs (formerly Scholastic Book Clubs) asked me to write about a memory I had from my school days and the impact it had on my life. I wrote a short essay about my very first drawing of the Easter Bunny in kindergarten and how it launched me on my way. You can read it on their website HERE.
And in other news... the first limited edition prints are already shipping! You can check them out in the Collector's Gallery. Enjoy the holiday weekend!
Monday, August 26th, 2013
Art is for everybody
Art is for everybody.
It can take you on a journey,
help you get lost or
help you find yourself.
It can give you perspective,
make you smile or
make you think.
Art colors our world.
Art feeds the soul.
I have a new gallery of my work for sale.
Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Ideas for books come from everywhere. They come from places we visit, things we see and experience, feelings we can't escape, and sometimes they simply grow out of a need. My book Story County: Here We Come! began with a painting I did in 2008 called Miss Cow. The picture was a result of two things- one, I felt a need to simplify my artwork. And two, Story County.
I grew up in Story County. That may sound like an imaginary place, especially coming from an author and artist, but in my case it's true. Story County is real. It lies in the center of Iowa, right in the heart of the heartland. Story County is an absolutely magical place. It's where I learned to write and draw, and where I first discovered the power of the imagination. We all have the power to imagine- to dream big dreams for our lives and then chase after them. This picture of Miss Cow grew out of a need to get back to the basics of drawing, creating the way I did when I was growing up in Story County. Back in those days, absolutely anything was possible. I created fearlessly with simple shapes and outlines. Sometimes we need to return to our roots, to find a way back to the basic things we learned as children. For me, that will always mean coming back to story.
Miss Cow will be sold as a limited edition giclee print in my new gallery. The edition will be limited to 250.
The gallery goes live on August 26th.
Friday, August 16th, 2013
I've been experimenting with rainy paintings a lot over the past few years. Not because I particularly like inclement weather, I just like what it does to the world. It feels like a completely different planet when the sky goes gray and all that we see turns soggy and wet. That transformation is more in our minds than reality. But it's that territory, the area between what's real and what isn't, that's so exciting to explore as an artist.
When I first sketched this piece, I'd made the character wearing the raincoat human. I did multiple drawings of him for months, experimenting with different body shapes and expressions. It wasn't until I made him an elephant that the piece sprang to life.
That's when I discovered the deeper meaning. There's something magical about a rainy day that sparks the imagination. While the world outside is transformed by stormy weather, we're often trapped inside with only our thoughts. Whether this is actually an elephant wearing a coat of rain or an ordinary man whose imagination has run away on a rainy day is up to each individual's interpretation.
The Raincoat will be sold as a limited edition giclee print in my new gallery. The edition will be limited to 200.
The gallery goes live on August 26th.
Friday, August 9th, 2013
A new adventure!
Come along on a new adventure with me! On August 26th, I'm launching a new online gallery of my work. It isn't artwork for display... it's for sale. For years, people have been approaching me about buying paintings from the books and asking whether or not I have limited edition prints available. I've always resisted selling my artwork in the past. I get very attached to it and it's hard to let it go. But I simply can't keep it all. Artwork is meant to be enjoyed, not locked away in a dark drawer in the corner of the studio.
Why now? It's the tenth anniversary of the very first Little Quack book this year. And it seems like I shouldn't let this important milestone go by without commemorating it in some special way. So for the first time ever, I'll be offering a limited edition print of Little Quack. I've carefully chosen an image that captures the joy and enthusiasm the plucky, bestselling series has been entertaining readers with for the past ten years. I will be offering two other prints as well, one of which is a favorite personal piece that I painted earlier this year. I'll tell you all about that piece next week.
Mark you calendars, the gallery is going live on Monday, August 26th.
Monday, August 5th, 2013
A brief interlude
"Wait, what's with the Monday post, Anderson? I thought you posted on Fridays."
Oops, sorry for the lack of posts here over these past weeks. Summer got in the way. I've been busy writing, painting and Cheryl and I were off on a little vacation with my family. But I do have some news- I've been working on something very special. It's a FUN, new project. I'll be announcing it right here very soon.
Friday, July 19th, 2013
Two new reviews
I try to keep an eye out for reviews of my books. My publishers send all the reviews from the traditional literary critics- Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal and Booklist. But there are bloggers, newspapers and all sorts of online publications that also publish reviews of children's books. Sometimes friends will send them my way when they spot them and occasionally I'll stumble across them on my own. Here are two recent reviews of two of my books...
From the Washington Times Communities (Washington, D.C.)
In their "Big Reads for Little Hands" section, Brighid Moret does a beautiful job of summarizing Waking Dragons and spotting those subtle additions to the world and the story that can easily be missed if you're not on the lookout for them. Brighid says, "Parents will find the humor in the story, as waking a dragon is just as difficult as waking a child for school, and possibly just as perilous."
And she goes on to say, "...this is a timely and imaginative children's book that sword-wielding children will love."
As artists and authors, we have to let the work speak for itself, so it's always refreshing when readers recognize those touches. Thanks, Brighid!
To read the full review, click HERE.
From North Shore News (British Columbia)
Columnist Fran Ashdown writes about birthday books in her article for North Shore News in British Columbia. She includes a terrific review of Happy Birthday, Hamster ending with this... "Cynthia Lord is a Newbery Honor author and Derek Anderson is the illustrator of the delightful Little Quack books written by Lauren Thompson. Happy Birthday, Hamster with its oversize format, funny rhymes and delightful illustrations is an inspired partnership."
Thanks to Fran for the nice writeup!
To read the full article, click HERE.
Friday, July 12th, 2013
Walking the walk
You can talk about the things you want to do. Talking is good. Sometimes that's our way of summoning up courage and testing our ideas with those we trust the most. But if you ever want to progress past the dream stage and make something happen, you have to set a goal, make a plan and begin taking steps.
Philippe Petit took steps. He's the man from France who, in 1974, miraculously strung a high-wire between the World Trade Center towers and proceeded to walk back and forth for more than an hour without any safety harnesses. If you haven't seen the documentary Man on Wire, you should. It's a film about a man who had an impossible dream. He lived half a world away and had no idea how he would accomplish it, but he made a plan to walk on a wire high above New York City and he followed through.
It doesn't matter why he did it. Years before the World Trade Center towers even existed, he was sitting in the waiting room of his dentist's office, looking through a magazine. He found an artist rendering of what the towers would look like when completed. He tore the picture out of the magazine and knew, from that day on, that he would do this. It was his Everest.
The film is a fascinating account of the event. It follows Petit and a small group of friends through interviews and home movie footage as they planned the walk and prepared for every aspect over the course of years as the towers were being built. Was it illegal? Yes, it was. Was it courageous? Absolutely. Did they use creativity to accomplish this feat? At every turn. Remember, that wire wasn't there. They had to string it between the towers. That, alone, is a great creative act. Even the police were baffled by what he'd done. When filling out the police report, an officer didn't know what to write for the complaint, so he simply put 'Man on Wire' which is where the movie gets its title.
At the end of the movie, Petit has a profound quote about living this life:
"To me, it's so simple that life should be lived on the edge of life.
You have to exercise rebellion, to refuse to taper yourself to rules,
to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself. To see
every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge.
And then you are going to live your life on a tightrope."
If you want to be both inspired and entertained, you should check it out. You can watch the movie trailer HERE.
Friday, July 5th, 2013
"There is more to life than increasing its speed."
It's July. Go get lost in an endless blue sky. Turn off your gadgets, go feel the sun... and breathe.
Friday, June 28th, 2013
When artwork goes all the way to the edge of the page we call it "bleed." That means the art "bleeds" off the edge. It isn't an elegant term, but everyone in publishing knows what it means. If a picture bleeds off three sides or less, we call it a "partial bleed" and if it bleeds off all sides of the page, we call it "full bleed." It's very important for book artists to understand. Printers can't print to the very edge of the paper. So they print on large sheets and then trim them. If I'm painting a picture that bleeds, the original painting can't stop at the trim line. I have to make the painting larger and paint beyond the trim line so the color will fill the edge of the paper when it's cut.
You could take the term to mean there's extra work beyond what you see. But then that's the truth in books. Not only is there extra work beyond the edges of pictures, there are hundreds of hours of planning, sketching and painting that you'll never know about. My job isn't to dazzle you with my artwork or make you marvel at the colors and painting effects I spent hours creating. Don't get me wrong- the artwork should be great. But you shouldn't notice the bleeds, the pacing or the visual narrative. If I've done my job, you'll open my book and get lost in its pages.
Friday, June 21st, 2013
#1: The gutter
We all read books. We pick them up at bookstores, libraries or online and get lost in their contents. But I wonder how many readers stop and think about the actual physical book. When your job is to make books, you have to consider every detail a reader will see, from the front cover to the back cover and everything in between. My editor, art director and I toss around terms on a daily basis. We all know what they mean. Do you?
You've probably heard of a book spine. And everybody knows what the cover is. But do you know about the gutter? The "gutter" is a term used in publishing to describe the center of an open book where the pages meet. An author doesn't need to concern him or herself with the gutter- the art director will always make sure your words stay a safe distance from the gutter. But an artist has to pay close attention to it. It's particularly important when creating artwork for a book to keep your characters and all important details out of that area. If you aren't careful, crucial elements can disappear into those folds. When sketching a book, I always draw the gutter line in so I know exactly where it will fall in the artwork.
When I meet beginning illustrators out in the world, they often ask if I have any advice about making books. I have a few things in my back pocket to offer. But the one twenty-four carat, diamond encrusted, absolutely critical cardinal rule that no picture book artist should ever forget- stay out of the gutter. It's the best advice I could give anyone.
Stay out of the gutter- both in books and in life.
Friday, June 14th, 2013
The Art of Drawing
You wouldn't believe how often people tell me they can't draw. It's almost an automatic response after telling them what I do. They're wrong. When someone says, "I can't draw," they actually mean they can't draw the way they think they should be able to.
Forget realism, it's overrated. Everybody has a camera in their phone now, if I want a realistic picture, I'll snap one with my camera. Art is about expression, not perfection. Lines don't have to be straight, perspective doesn't matter, and it doesn't make one bit of difference what anyone else thinks of it.
Whether you believe it or not, everybody has the ability to draw. The first thing you have to chase out of your head is the expectation that you should draw a certain way. You're you. It makes sense that your drawings won't look like mine or anybody else's. They shouldn't. Your drawings should look like they're yours.
It doesn't take courage to draw. Every kid does it from the time they're able to hold a crayon. It doesn't take a steady hand, the perfect idea or a special pencil. It takes you, a piece of paper and something to draw with. The only thing standing between you and drawing is an obstacle you invented yourself. It's all in your own mind.
Get over it and go draw something...