Filed under: Book Reviews • September 20, 2016

 

wildrobot

When I first saw this book – I wanted to read it. The art lured me. The subject matter lured me. But when I started reading it, I was disappointed. It wasn’t grabbing me like I expected it to. And I LOVE robots! To be honest, I had to force myself through the first 20 or so chapters. I couldn’t help but think, good try Peter, but you ‘re a picture book guy.

Then finally, like a switch got turned on, I cared about Roz (the robot and main character of this story). And I cared a lot. And I couldn’t put the book down. I had to see what happened to her. My heart would be unsettled until I did. So … I will end this review by saying that The Wild Robot by Peter Brown goes down as one of my favorite books of all time. Thanks Peter for taking my heart and head on an unforgettable journey. I am better for it.

Filed under: Favorite Picture Books, Growing Up Reading • September 29, 2015

Anyone in the know about modern picture books and the market would tell you that the majority of picture books are increasingly geared to a younger and younger audience as chapter books are expected to be a part of a child’s life sooner than ever before. But I’m here to tell you (as the mother of a bright kindergartener) that this may be a mistake.

My 5 year-old daughter can appreciate reading a chapter or two per night of “James and the Giant Peach,” but it just breaks her heart if we don’t also read one or two picture books. She still lights up as those page turns unfold and the pictures tell a different story that’s not always mentioned in the text.

Picture books are a sweet part of her childhood. I don’t want to take that away too soon. Or ever for that matter. They grow up quickly enough. I want the fun to stay. Sure, we’ll finish “James and the Giant Peach” and I’m sure we’ll remember it fondly, but I’m not going to rush into another chapter book just yet.

Me and my girl have had 5 years of wonderful adventures together through picture books! Here are some of our recent favorites that are especially great for (bigger) kids:

chloe

 

 

 

 

 

“Chloe and the Lion” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

 

hair

 

 

 

 

 

“Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom” by John Rocco

 

ladybug purple

 

 

 

 

 

Any in the Lady Bug Girl adventures or Pinkalicious series

 

unicorn-thinks-hes-pretty-great

 

 

 

 

 

“Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great” by Bob Shea

 

carrots monster

 

 

 

 

 

“Creepy Carrots” and “My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)” by Peter Brown

 

dig

 

 

 

 

 

“Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

sleeping_cinderella

 

 

 

 

“Sleeping Cinderella and other Princess Mix-ups” by Stephanie Clarkson, illustrated by Bridgette Barrager

 

rosie iggy

 

 

 

 

 

“Iggy Peck Architect” and “Rosie Revere Engineer” by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

 

So, Publishers, please keep making picture books for my (big) kid, and we’ll keep reading them!

-Shanda

 

Filed under: Events, Growing Up Artsy, Lessons of an Artist • September 21, 2015


IMG_4804

Before I answer this question I want to say that I experienced one of the the most magical conferences of my career this past weekend with SCBWIMidSouth and my critique group! It was my first time attending this particular conference, but I was blown away by the surrounding talent, the speakers, and the kindness I encountered. And I’ve been to lots of conferences, believe me- this one was stellar!

I also had some encouraging feedback (the kind that will carry me through another week … another month … another year)! John Rocco even high-fived me! He’s awesome. Him being on the faculty list sold me on this conference in the first place. Not only did I get to hear him speak and have him sign my favorite book, “Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom,” but he said I had “mad skills.” I’ll never forget THAT. 

So…. “how did you come to be here sitting in front of me?” Kristen Nobles from Candlewick asked as I sat down for my portfolio critique. She wanted to know a little about me and my background up to this point. I answered her back, but what I said wasn’t strung together very well spur of the moment. And of course I was a little nervous. But when I left the conference, that question circled and circled in my head. It’s a really good question, and I’d like to have a really good answer should anyone ask me again.

So here’s my answer… my long, thought out answer…

I was the art kid. I was good at it in elementary school, middle school, and high school. It was a strong sense of my identity and still is. It’s what made me (feel) special. 

I was not a particularly gifted reader, I was so very average. I loved the book fair! It made me want to want to read – are you following? In 3rd grade I was given a little money each book fair to get some books. I usually bought picture books (even though I was “too old” for them). But I could see that words and pictures played beautifully together. Then, I picked up “The Witches” by Roald Dahl… it was a thick book with a pretty witch on the cover. So I started it…and finished it- a thick book! (Revolutionary for me :) Again, it was words and pictures. I fell in love with reading then. I still wasn’t a bookworm or anything, but I experienced a secret, sweet, magical something when I found that perfect book. It usually had pictures and was funny. 

Fast forward. I go to art school. I figure out that I gravitate to art that reaches many people vs. art that hangs in galleries. It was the art that almost every person could relate to, feel something from, and get a hold of that I wanted to make. I finally figured out that what I really wanted to do with my life’s work was make pictures for the words in books. 

 I didn’t quite know how to make that happen. It’s not a straight path. So, I became an art teacher in a high school to pay the bills, but I knew this was only a stepping stone and not my calling. But I don’t regret it one bit. I learned how much I loved kids, even the big ones. I shared my love of books and illustration with them! I’m not sure if I affected any of them, but they affected me. I wanted to practice what I preached to them about following dreams, so I quit. And my husband and I moved to Brooklyn, NY!

It was only for a year, but I had my New York experience in a little apartment living in the same city as so many artists have, are, and will. I worked at Fishs Eddy near Union Square, and attended night classes at the School of Visual Arts. I will never forget THAT. 

I joined SCBWI in the middle of teaching, but I didn’t get very active until I came back to Georgia and longed to be near artists and writers again. SCBWI filled that void well and continues to feed my soul. I met my writers group through SCBWI, and this single thing has shaped my work more than anything. I am surrounded by talent that abounds me once a month. In their midst, I started writing and really began pushing my art. I’ve also met and/or become friends with several inspirational people: Lori Nichols, E.B. Lewis, Kelly Light, and now John Rocco are all mentors of mine whether they know it or not.

Then I had a child. There isn’t anything more bonding than experiencing stories together. I fell in love with books again, as a mommy. Now, the draw was/is bigger than ever. I WANT to be a part of that world. I want to be among the creators of children’s books!

So, that’s my answer. That, in a nutshell, is how I came to be … here!

-Shanda

FullSizeRender

Filed under: Illustration, Lessons of an Artist • August 28, 2015

"Let It Fly" sketch by Shanda McCloskey

I took a cycle class today. It was pretty tough. Going again and again is making me tougher.

This “book game” is a tough. silent. killer. I’ve heard next to nothing since I started submitting my book. I did get one “no,” but it was from a friend’s agent. I can’t help but wonder if it was as quick and gentle as it was as a curtesy to my friend more than anything. The fact is … it’s so quiet. So still. You don’t know how to adjust your technique. Is it the letter? the subject? the person? or has anyone even looked at it yet? Is it sitting in “the slush pile” getting moldy? Members in my critique group have been going through this for a while, but it’s real for me now. I wouldn’t even mind some rejections just to know someone looked at it.

This is a time to listen to my own heart I guess. I love the book I wrote. I believe it’s valuable and beautiful and funny. I believe a child and a parent would have a sweet experience reading it together at bedtime. I believe a room of preschoolers and kindergarteners would get a kick out of it at story time. I believe it would inspire a kid.

The book dummy I sent out is probably not perfect, but I think it has a fantastic chance to be a great book. I hope someone else will believe it too … in the traditional publishing world so my book could be in bookstores and libraries all over the place. I’m working and brainstorming on a new story now. It has a similar large theme of thinking bigger and believing. I need my own stories right now, because that’s what this time is requiring of me. To dream, do my best, be tough, and have some faith.

One day the silence will break. Probably :)

-Shanda

Filed under: Events, Growing Up Artsy • June 12, 2015

super_portraits

I had a blast hanging out with 10 boys (yep, all boys) last Saturday at Pickens County Library in Ellijay, GA! I was able to share my drawing powers with them successfully (as you can see from the rad portraits they created above)! Thanks for bringing your kids to my program – they were kind and AWESOME! Special thanks to Brooke and the Sequoyah Regional Library System, who invited me, and to Ethan (my nephew) who was a HUGE help to me and the little artists.

green_hero

brooke_me
brothers

 

Can’t wait to see what programs these libraries will do in the future! It was a pleasure being a part of the “Every Hero Has A Story” Summer Reading Program! Now, go make the world a better place … with ART!

-Shanda

"Power Down, Little Robot"

“Power Down, Little Robot” by Anna Staniszewski and illustrated by Tim Zeltner

 

I spied this at Target and after I read it- I just had to have it for me and my girls! The text is super clever with play on techie words which is why this book will entertain an older picture book kid as well as a super young one! Usually, “going to bed” books seem a little young for my almost 5-year-old these days, but this was right on!

The little robot activates his stalling program when he doesn’t want to go to bed. All kids and parents can relate, and this is a really fun way to talk about it!

Inside "Power down, Little Robot"

Mom scanning for rust monsters.

Now, try you hand at drawing a robot yourself…

-Shanda and HJ

Filed under: On My Mind, Shanda's Journey • April 3, 2015

wonder

This is Vicki, my all-time favorite robot character from the 80’s tv show “Small Wonder”! They say the best material anyone has to pull from (for writing children’s books) is from one’s own childhood. As a kid, I thought this was SO COOL to watch. Maybe it’s why I wrote a robot picture book as an adult!

It’s interesting and deep to think about what makes you care about something…even though you know its not human or even an animal.

I get a little teary-eyed when I think about moving my family out of our home that we’ve lived in from the beginning of our marriage. This house sheltered us from so many storms, we raised our babies here, we dreamed our dreams here. I know the house isn’t human, but I can’t help but imagine it feeling like we were abandoning it if we left. It would be sad. I’d probably drive by and check on it periodically to see if the new owners were taking care of it, not that I could do anything about it, but it would feel good if I knew the house was being loved like it deserves. Isn’t it strange that I think those thoughts? Do you care about anything like that?

The new movie, Interstellar, explores this idea of machinery and humanity too!

It’s definitely something for character creators to think about no matter if you are drawing them or writing about them. Your characters are (usually)  not really real, and furthermore, they might be inanimate objects. So, what does a character need to do, say or look like to be loved by the readers?

I dazzled my four-year-old with this show today! The episodes are on Youtube. She can’t wait to watch another episode tomorrow. Go ahead and relive the magic too…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48WCJ84z7vw

Filed under: Illustration, Lessons of an Artist • March 26, 2015
"Charlotte" by Shanda McCloskey

This is Charlotte. A techie, gadget-loving girl.

 

It’s Spring! (Here in GA anyway :) A time for the renewal of many things, including me. I feel energized and extra committed to my goals and dreams this year. My baby is 9 months old, and for now, things are good. I am getting more sleep at night, and I’m trying to take good care of myself. I have a wonderful mother and mother-in-law who help SO very much with my girls! I’m so grateful.

I’ve been working with the incredible, E.B. Lewis, through a Skype mentorship! It’s cool. He felt I could do better and more interesting artwork if I used real art materials rather than my self-taught, flat, lack-luster attempt at digital coloring.  (He wasn’t quite that mean about it, thank goodness). I felt the same way, deep down.

"Charlotte on Yellow" by Shanda McCloskey

So, the illustration you see at the very top of this post is my best attempt (so far) at applying watercolor and oil pastel to one of my characters. Seems simple enough, but I was at war with myself for a week just trying to get the paint to do what I wanted. I finally painted this, and I feel like it was successful … so I’ll try to spring off from here … no looking back.

-Shanda

Filed under: Art Lessons • March 18, 2015

egg

I’ve recently been facilitating an online drawing course for a high school age home-schooled student (my nephew). One thing that I’ve noticed is that learning to shade and add value to a drawing is difficult. You must learn to SEE it first, then you can draw it. For example, my nephew sent me a drawing of his white car.

tims_car

It’s a nice drawing, but he has left white/blank every area that is painted white in real life, so it appears flat. Even “white” objects have many different greys in real life to show the form. So, I’ve challenged him to draw a white egg!

This is a video I found that shows and names all the different shadows and lights that you might see on an egg:

And here is a time lapsed demonstration that I made (using a 2B pencil, kneaded eraser, and my finger):

It’s harder than you think! I had to shade, then erase, then shade, then erase, and shade again to get it just where I wanted it- where it matched what I SAW. Give it a try! Go draw an egg!

Love,

Shanda

Filed under: Illustration, Shanda's Journey, Sketchbook • November 11, 2014

The first pencil drawing of a character is by far, my favorite part of an illustration. It’s fast. Full of possibilities, energy and texture. It’s alive! I believe my work is best when I let the sketch do heavy lifting in an image.

Image from "Dollie 1.0," a picture book dummy by Shanda McCloskey.

Here (above) is my latest color piece where I tried to let the pencil do the most work. And although this image lacks action and sense of setting in my opinion, I still like it and think its one of my best pieces yet. This image will be a color sample in my latest picture book dummy about a gadget-loving girl and a doll. My goal is to get this newly updated dummy submitted to the 2 people who requested it earlier this year before this year ends! (I have a 5 month old baby girl, so I’m moving a little slower these days :)shanda_mccloskey2 The pig (above) and pig & boy sketches (very bottom) in this post are sketches I had sent to a small publisher earlier this month when they thought I might be a good match for a story they were publishing. Unfortunately, they weren’t convinced. I guess it just wasn’t in the stars. But it was exciting for a little while! Bummed, but not defeated.shanda_mccloskey3 shanda_mccloskey4 shanda_mccloskey5

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

sketch by Shanda McCloskey

 

Thanks for stopping by to see what I’ve been drawing!

-Shanda

Older Posts »

Shanda

I write and illustrate books for kids! This site documents my progress, experiences, and reflections as I get where I'm going.

My daughters and I love reading together, so we offer up suggestions of our favorite books and projects to go with them here A Picture Book & A Project.

Thanks for being here!
-Shanda

More about me

PiBoIdMo

Archives