Friday, March 28, 2014

New Cards and an Art Show!

The FedEx man surprised me with a delivery of my new cards and bookmarks yesterday! Isn't it amazing that you can finagle (is that how you spell that?) up something on your computer, upload it to a website, and have cards printed and delivered to your door?

Like magic!

I panicked the week before last at the thought of not having any cards on hand to give out at my painting and illustration show next Friday at the African American Cultural Center. And it's always fun to have new stuff to give out for Spring!

I am slowly getting ready for the show- today was typing up labels and matting a few illustrations from some of my books.

Now that I've got most of the logistics ironed out, I can hopefully have the weekend to paint, paint, paint! - I've got about two weeks before final illustrations for one of my future books are due. I might even get them done on time!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Spring!

According to the calendar (and to the internet), today is the first official day of spring! Fiiinallllyyyyyy!!!!
I was worried with the icy rain we got last night, and the gloomy (but warmer) morning earlier today. On my much needed walk to the coffee shop for a much needed chocolate croissant, the air was warm enough for the ice on the sidewalk to turn to slippery slush! Not bad! And the sun and blue skies decided to make an appearance around lunch time, and I'm wearing a springy pink sweater, sooooo I think we made it! (please, Mother Nature, no more snowstorms!!)

I had to settle for a regular croissant (they were unfortunately out of the chocolate variety), but maybe next time! The day really just goes better when you start off with a chocolate croissant.

In honor of our first Spring day, I spent the morning clipping things from magazines and brainstorming about my next art project, which as you may guess is flower and plant-based.

Here is my Happy Spring collage!

It is a sneak peak of a series I'd like to do (probably in later spring and summer), with painting and drawing and paper and beads and who-knows-what-else. 

It's coming!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring has Sprung! (not really)

It's been sooo frigid lately, but since it is early March, the sun has been shining brightly and I swear spring wants to spring! When I wake up in the mornings, I can hear a family of birds in the alleyway from my bathroom window, and they make me think that warm weather is not far away! If only the air temperature could just catch up with the bright sun and things started sprouting, everything would be on track!

To try and usher in (or welcome) the spring into my life earlier this week, I bought some pretty pink flowers to spruce up my living room.

Ranunculus, tulips and lisianthus (maybe?) add some cheer to my little bookcase.
(oh, and that is a random picture of my brother and me on his high school graduation)

Sometimes I really miss my days working in a flower shop in New York. I started off working in the flower kiosk in Bryant Park, then moved to the shop in the West Village. 

Good times. 
Working in Bryant Park in itself was eventful! But I'll get to that some other time.

I had plenty of time to observe (spy on, really), photograph, and draw the people in the park and the flowers I was tending to:

Every Thursday at the West Village shop, we would get shipments of flowers from the Netherlands, and it was like Christmas morning every week! We would unwrap boxes and boxes of Dutch tulips, roses, tropical flowers from Australia and South Africa, anything and everything you could imagine. It was amazing! And the shop smelled soooooo good!

Roses! Lilies of the Valley! Peonies! Hyacinths! Pineapple flowers! Jasmine! Orchids!
Ahh, the bounty!!!

That seems like another life ago. After I moved back home, I worked in another flower shop locally- it was the best! Someday I'll turn my flower notes and drawings into a book- and also do a series of flower paintings/collages!!! That's been on the back burner for years.. I've gotta resuscitate that this spring... stay tuned! For now, taking a short walk to the flower shop around the corner from me does the trick. 

Come on, Spring! I need you!!!

-P.S: here's a freaky nature fact -  tulips keep growing even after you cut them and put them in a vase. Weird!!!

Blog Q&A with Deborah Kalb

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Deborah Kalb, co-author (with her father Marvin Kalb) of the book Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama for her blog: Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb.

The interview is copied below. You can visit Deborah's blog at

Friday, March 7, 2014

Q&A with illustrator Elizabeth Zunon

Elizabeth Zunon is an artist who has illustrated a number of books for children, including The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a 2013 Children's Africana Book Awardwinner; My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey; and A President from Hawaii. She grew up in the Ivory Coast and is based in Albany, N.Y.

Q: On your website, you mention the influence on your artwork of your childhood in the Ivory Coast. How is that reflected?

A: Mostly in the bright colors I use. The everyday clothing of people in the Ivory Coast and all over Africa has bright patterning—you don’t see that here in Upstate New York! I love collecting patterned papers and fabrics.

Q: How did you end up illustrating The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and how closely did you work with the authors?

A: I was the last piece of the puzzle for that book—it was originally going to be illustrated by somebody else who had to drop out.

I did not work extremely closely with the authors. I received reference images from Bryan MealerWilliam Kamkwamba’s co-author; he had a lot of photographs of William with his family, in the village. I didn’t speak to William at all really until the project was done. William was off at school.

Q: Do you envision your work differently depending on the age the picture book is designed for?

A: I don’t really change my approach depending on the age of the child. I want to portray realistic figures, realistic landscapes and backgrounds.

Q: How was it to illustrate a picture book about Romare Bearden—illustrating a picture book about an artist?

A: That was a great project for me. It was my very first picture book. I was a couple of years out of college. It fell into my lap; I had lost my job at a flower shop. I had a total of nine months to work on it. That allowed me to delve into the research part; I was not very familiar with Romare Bearden’s work. I wanted to emulate the collage aspect of his work.

I learned not only about the artist but his process. It helped me identify with him as an artist. The story was about him as an adult reflecting on his childhood somewhere else, and I was trying to hold onto my childhood images of the Ivory Coast; I could relate.

Q: What about the book about President Obama?

A: That was different than the other picture books I’ve done. I only painted landscapes; they used actual Obama family photographs. It was about discovering Hawaii. I was transported back to my childhood in the Ivory Coast; [many of the flowers] are similar, and since I used to work in a flower shop, that was great.

Q: Are you interested in writing a picture book to go along with your illustrations?

A: I am, absolutely. I have a couple of stories in my mind. That’s my ultimate goal.

Q: What do you work on with kids during your visits to schools?

A: Sometimes the school asks me to visit because the students have read one of my books—The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, or My Hands Sing the Blues. The kids are already familiar with it. I have a Power Point presentation about how I worked on the book. I use myself as a model, set up my camera on a timer, and work from photos of myself posing. Sometimes I’ll come into a class and we’ll work on a collage project.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Two picture books. It’s a first for me to work on two at the same time! I’m trying to juggle both projects. One is a true story about a person in Africa, an environmental leader. The other is a fictionalized story—a girl finds poems in her grandmother’s attic written by her mother when she was growing up on Air Force bases.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Paintin' Babies

Ahhh, well it has been a busy couple of weeks. I've shifted from working on illustrations for one book to another, doing local school visits, and planning the next couple of months. Not to mention, my ceiling started leaking again and I've had to move my computer, printer and office stuff out of my office and onto my drawing desk, so that's thrown a wrench in my working in an organized space... but I'm dealing with it.


This illustration I'm working on now reminds me of how many babies I've painted over the years!

... baby from upcoming book out Spring 2015 ...

... Babies from Blue Boy series in high school ...

... Baby-carrier series from college ...

... Babies from egg-tempera & gold leaf series from college ...

... Baby from Icon series in college ...

... Baby from "Lala Salama" book ...

Mother and child subject matter has always appealed to me for some reason... and it's been a re-occurring theme in my work for over ten years! Maybe it has something to do with a baby's innocence and wide-eyed curiosity about and observation of the world. I always wonder: "What are babies thinking?"