Sunday, April 27, 2014

Busy Week and TV Spot

I am tiiiired!
I was in New York last week with a very busy schedule. Even though I lived in Jersey City and worked in New York for two and a half years, I'm now so used to a much slower-paced life upstate that just being on the streets of New York is really tiring! Or I'm just getting old.

Pretty cherry blossoms, bright graffiti and a view of
the Brooklyn museum from the subway stairs

I was invited to come to the Brooklyn Public Library to give a presentation on My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journeyto a group of 3rd graders from two public schools in Brooklyn. They entered the auditorium very quietly, but by the end of the presentation, they were buzzing and excited!

After the presentation, I went to a school in Bed-Stuy for story-time with Lala Salama: a Tanzanian Lullaby for two classes of Kindergartners. They were awesome! So funny! If we could somehow bottle up the excitement that a Kindergartner has for reading or hearing stories and access it as the child grows, we'd have teenagers and adults more excited to read too!

After my Brooklyn trip, I had some publisher meetings, and arrived back at my hotel juuust in time to watch my "Today's Women" interview (streaming live on the internet- click the picture below):

It was my first TV interview! 

... Busy streets ...
... Teatime ...
... My book in a publisher display case! ...
See my creepy shadow taking the picture?
... The historic Flatiron Building ...

I got a chance to hang out at one of my favorite spots: Bryant Park, where I used to work in the Magnolia Flower kiosk... which is now a grilled cheese kiosk! (Yes, I had to buy a grilled cheese sandwich just because)

... The lawn at Bryant Park, sadly off-limits during this beautiful day ... 

It was a great, exciting, and busy week!
Time to relax and get ready for a week full of painting!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TV and Final Art!

This morning, I had my first on-camera interview for a segment called "Today's Women" with Elaine Houston on my local news station, WNYT Channel 13. I was so very nervous and jittery while looking out the window, awaiting the arrival of the news anchor and cameraman! Good thing I did NOT have my usual latte with breakfast! They came, they filmed me working and answering questions... and it is set to air one week from today on the 5:30 pm news. Geez, I hope I didn't ramble too much in the interview...

After they left, I checked my email and saw that the final illustrations I sent for One Plastic Bag have arrived safely to the publishers, and that they are a hit! (Thank you, universe, thank you FedEx).
Phew, am I relieved!

Time to relax a bit and then get back to work.. more is brewing... and I need to finish my Spring cleaning.

Friday, April 11, 2014

1st Friday Art Reception, Part2

At the art show last Friday, I ended up showing a total of 21 pieces.

(Geez, my eyes are half-closed in too many pictures.)

They ranged from large oil pieces:

                  ...Hip hop portraits...                                               Two of my favorite hip hop artists:
                                                                                 Talib Kweli (I met him, he's awesome!) and Mos Def

 to black and white gouache and pen illustrations:

                                                    ...two pieces from the "Aminata" series...

and collages from books and personal projects:

         ... two pieces from My Hands Sing the Blues: Romaire Bearden's Childhood Journey...

                       ..."Raindrops": mixed media...                       ..."Sudan Madonna & Child": egg tempera...

About a third of these pieces have been hanging in my apartment for years, and the rest, sadly, have been wrapped up and in boxes. It's awesome to be able to share them! Some have never been outside my home- I feel like they're my children that I've kept sheltered and are now out in the world! (It's weird, I know) But I'm happy to say that some of the pieces in the show will be finding their way to new homes! (Yay!)

The show is being held at the new African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region, Inc., which "is a nonprofit organization committed to educating, enriching, and empowering residents of the Capital Region through a variety of educational, cultural and performing arts, programs, activities, and exhibits that promote awareness and raise the collective consciousness of all ethnicities to the rich and vibrant history, contribution, and culture of African Americans."

 It is housed in an old Bank building (with the vault and everything!) in the South End neighborhood of Albany.

I was involved in the Cultural Center's Programming Committee last year, and there are always ideas and events brewing! 

 ...view from inside the Center...  
...view from right outside... (I miss you guys!)

The show will be up until the end of May. If you're in the area, please stop by!

A big thank you to the Programming Committee and volunteers of the African American Cultural Center, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District, the City of Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan, the City of Albany Superintendent's Arts Advisory Committeethe Little Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, and the Altamont Enterprise for their support!

And friends and family and teachers and colleagues, and boyfriend, and of course, Mommy and Daddy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

1st Friday Art Reception!

Well, all the planning for the show at the African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region, Inc. really paid off! We had a great turnout at the opening reception last Friday with friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and new friends!

The event was part of Albany, NY's 1st Friday events, which "aim to introduce a wider audience to the unique vitality of the artists and venues of Albany." On the first Friday of every month, participating galleries and shops stay open late with special events, art, music and theater.

One big supporter of mine has been Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author of Gringolandia and Rogue. She was so nice as to come and also write a blog post about the event! You can read the post below, or on her blog at

I'll be posting more pictures of the show very soon!
Posted on Apr 4, 2014 in BlogInternationalWriting
Home Is Where the Art Is: A Profile of Illustrator Elizabeth Zunon

Home Is Where the Art Is: A Profile of Illustrator Elizabeth Zunon

Liz speaks to her fans, including her mom standing behind her
Liz speaks to her fans, including her mom standing behind her
I met Elizabeth Zunon in summer 2012 at Albany’s annual African-American Family Day, where she displayed and read from the most recent picture books that she had illustrated,My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey (Marshall Cavendish, 2012) and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Dial, 2012). Her colorful paintings and collages impressed me immediately, and she soon became one of my favorite children’s book illustrators working today. The fact that such a talented artist lives and works in my city was a bonus. Over the next year and a half, I attended other book events, including the launch of a revised biography of President Barack Obama, A President from Hawai’i, that Liz also illustrated in her signature multimedia style. In addition to her books, Liz creates stunning textiles and jewelry, and I had the opportunity last summer to visit a temporary studio in downtown Albany where she created and sold these works.LizTextilesJewelry
Like the President who she portrayed in a picture book for children, Liz is biracial. Her father is from the Ivory Coast, and she spent the first 12 years of her life there. She writes,
Surrounded by bright, vibrant African fabrics, tropical trees and flowers, I developed a love of color and pattern which still sticks with me today. We spoke French in the Ivory Coast, but my mother also made sure to read bedtime stories in English to my brother and me, and we spent summers in Albany at my grandparents’ house. We would watch Reading Rainbow on TV and look for those books with the Reading Rainbow sticker on the shelves of the Pine Hills Library!
By the way, the Pine Hills Library is my local library in Albany!
Liz with another big fan -- the manager of the Little Book House, Rachel King.
Liz with another big fan — the manager of the Little Book House, Rachel King.
Tonight, Liz became the third Albany-area artist featured in the gallery of the new African-American Cultural Center in downtown Albany. Located in a Key Bank that closed two years ago, the African-American Cultural Center promotes the work of writers and artists and has a lending library for children and adults. The opening of Liz’s exhibit was packed with people who marveled at her jewelry, textiles, oil paintings of black celebrities, black-and-white gouache paintings of birds and animals, oil and fabric collages of people and scenes from Africa — and the original illustrations from her award-winning books!
One of my favorite illustrations from My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey.
One of my favorite illustrations from My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey.
I immediately thought of my friend Ed Spicer, who collects award-winning original illustrations. I am sure he’d love these multimedia originals that include the cut-paper collages that graced the pages of William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, winner of the prestigious 2013 Children’s Africana Book Award among many other honors. Many of the dozens of people in the small gallery were picking out their favorites and figuring out their budgets so they could take one or more of the paintings home at the end of the month-long exhibit. In the meantime, some of the purses and earrings had already found new homes.
Illustration for sale from the award-winning The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Illustration for sale from the award-winning The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
I’m certain that the strong turnout, especially on a cold, rainy night at the end of a cold, miserable winter, heartened Liz and her parents, who were also there. In her short speech, Liz thanked them for supporting her and putting her through art school at the Rhode Island School of Design. (I know her parents and wish that every creative person could have parents as awesome as hers.) But there was other good news for her and her fans. Next to the gallery entrance were two posters, one for each of her forthcoming books! She is the illustrator for a fall 2014 picture book by the acclaimed author Nikki Grimes. The book, Poems in the Attic, from multicultural publisher Lee & Low, depicts a young girl who finds in her grandmother’s attic a box of poems written by her mother when her mother was her age; they tell the story of a girl who has to move frequently because her father was in the Air Force.
A poster announcing the forthcoming Poems in the Attic, written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.
A poster announcing the forthcoming Poems in the Attic, written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.
And sometime in 2015, Liz builds on The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind with another story set in Africa that has an environmental theme. One Plastic Bag, written by Miranda Paul and published by Millbrook Press, portrays Isatou Ceesay, who collects plastic bags  littering her village in Gambia. She and other women artists wash the bags, cut them into strips, and weave the strips into handbags, totes, and other items that they sell to raise money for their business and to educate people about proper waste disposal and recycling.
I’m excited about Liz’s new books and expect that as more people find out about her work, her fan base will grow along with her list of accolades.
A poster announcing the forthcoming One Plastic Bag, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
A poster announcing the forthcoming One Plastic Bag, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.