Growing Up Artsy

LEGO Self Portrait Success!


This summer, the Sequoyah Regional Library System’s theme is “Build A Better World”. So, yesterday I spent a couple hours at Pickens County Library leading 20 very cool kids through a LEGO self portrait! Each one created a totally unique piece. It always lifts me up to spend time with kids! We used a grid technique to draw a large LEGO guy base. It was tough to do, but they mastered it. Then they added adhesive foam hair and details to showcase their personalities. Last, they colored them with oil pastels. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did! I’m thankful for the extra hands I had there too – Barb McCloskey, Ethan Walker, Harvey Jane McCloskey, and Gracie Helton!

How Did I Come To Be … Here?

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


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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

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Superhero Self-Portrait Success!

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

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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.

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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” and draw a robot in 11 steps

"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

PB&P: “Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma” and make a silly skeleton!

Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma

They’ve done it again! The husband and wife picture book team, David Soman and Jacky Davis, bring us another flipping BEAUTIFUL and thoughtful book to add to the Ladybug Girl series.

Lulu is sure of what she wants to be for Halloween… or is she? Time is running out and she is out with her family picking apples. Then something happens to remind Lulu of what she knew all along- who she is and what she wants to be for Halloween!

All the books in the Ladybug Girl series are on the longer side compared to most modern picture books, but I think it’s a good thing for kids’ attention spans to be challenged to stretch. It is written well, so you and your kiddo will barely even notice the longer format. My girl loves every second I read these books to her!

And here’s a little SILLY SKELETON you can make!

Skeleton Craft by Shanda McCloskey

1. Download and print the sheet of bones (above) onto white card stock.

2. Have a parent help cut out all the bones.

3. Watch HJ’s demonstration here:

Kids can glue them together in a silly pose. (Use brads or string at the joints if you want the legs and arms to move.)

4. Hang it up for Halloween!

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Happy Halloween from Shanda and HJ!

Laney and "Creepy" the dancing skeleton with a big heart! Great job!

Laney and “Creepy” the dancing skeleton with a big heart! Great job!

Introducing HJ’s Draw Show!

Check out HJ’s awesome new show – she named it :) – that teaches kids how to draw things! HJ loves art and wants to be a teacher when she grows up. So from now on, when I highlight a book (A Picture Book & A Project), HJ will have a drawing lesson to go with it!

Here is HJ’s cousin, Laney! She followed the steps to make her own spook-tacular jack-0-lantern with chalk!

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While I was gone, I had a baby!

Filed under: Events,Growing Up Artsy,Shanda's Journey | September 5, 2014
Me and Beni

Me and Beni

If you saw me at the New York SCBWI conference or the Atlanta SCBWI conference, you might remember that I was expecting my second little one. I had lots of energy then, and I accomplished much on my “to do before the baby comes” list (including attending my first national SCBWI conference in NYC!) But soon after, I hit the wall… where it took ALL my energy just to do basic tasks like showering or tying shoes. Every woman who has ever been 8 months pregnant, knows this truth :) So for a while there, I couldn’t tie up the loose ends on my projects or submissions, because I was too distracted to do my best work. I had to close my “book” (so to speak) to give this season of life all my attention…

And here she is… Beni Lois McCloskey! Named after her precious daddy (Ben) and his zealous grandmother (Lois).

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Beni Lois

Beni Lois

Beni Lois

A lot has changed adding a second child. Having 2 kids is pretty crazy! I still have pregnant brain, and have to write down things like when I bathed each kid last and if I took my vitamin yet. It’s like my short-term memory is struggling to function, but I hear that’s pretty normal… hopefully.

Our home also went through many changes leading up to Beni. My husband and I used to share an office/studio together upstairs, but we had to move our bedroom up there to make our old bedroom, Beni’s. My husband now rents an office outside of our home, and we squeezed out a little space in our living room for a studio for me. It’s tight, but good. Here are some photos of my new office…

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Shanda’s Studio (behind the couch)

 

Shanda's Studio

Shanda’s Studio

Dana Tanamachi print (frame made by my dad) hangs above the cradle (made by my Pop), in the living room near my desk.

Dana Tanamachi print (frame made by my dad) hangs above the cradle (made by my Pop), in the living room near my desk.

And here is Beni’s woodland room… (I was dead set on using lots of white for some reason :)

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Beni’s Room (Garland made by my cousin Audrey, the moss B made by my mother-in-law Barb, the table under the lamp was made by Ben’s grandmother Lois, the bookshelf was made by my grandfather Pop, and the painted furniture was painted by my mom!)

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I painted the flowers on the wood plank that my dad prepared above the mirror.

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My husband, Ben, trimmed our crepe myrtle and hung a branch!

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photo 3There you have it! Now I have 2 beautiful girls to inspire me! Hopefully, I’ll be posting new work again soon. I am working on it :)

Sisters!

Sisters!

A Picture Book & A Project: “Little Red Writing” and Pencil People!

"Little Red Writing" by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

“Little Red Writing” by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Isn’t this a cute gift idea for a kid?! I wish we had a birthday party to go so I could give this :) Valentine’s Day is coming up, too. Not bad for a $22 surprise. I found the pencil toppers and pencils in the dollar section at Target, the composition book at the grocery store, and the book at the bookstore.

Okay, back to the picture book and project!

One day, Little Red and her classmates get to write their own stories. As Little Red begins to write, she finds that there are many challenges she has to overcome to make an exciting story. She even has to face a scary pencil sharpener with quite big teeth!

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Shanda: This book had me at Melissa Sweet- one of my favorite illustrators! And she does not disappoint! Of course I also can relate to the perils of writing a story. There are many layers to this book, so that kids of ALL ages can enjoy it. HJ is 3 years old, and she loved the excitement of the story. Older kids can really see nouns, adjectives, adverbs, EXCLAMATIONS!, and run-on sentences come to life. This would be fantastic to use in a classroom before a writing challenge.

HJ: It’s really awesome when the mean wolf came! (She likes to say the “GRRRRR!” parts.)

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The project for older kids: Write you own story (with illustrations) in your very own composition book, just like Little Red!

The project for younger kids: Attempt to write your own story in your own composition book, just like Little Red! I think HJ enjoyed just playing with the pencil people best :)

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She started off saying she was writing a SCARY story!

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Busy, busy! But in the end, things got epic when some of the pencil people took something from the other pencil people…

Thanks for stopping by! This post is dedicated to the new life and new story of Ellie Pearl Jones! Born yesterday! (She’s the daughter of my cousin, who is really like a sister to me :)

Also, sorry I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’ll tell you why soon…

Love,
Shanda & HJ

A Picture Book & A Project: “The Day the Crayons Quit” and recycling crayons!

Cover from "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by oliver Jeffers

Cover from “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
PHILOMEL, 2013

I’ve never given much thought to how I treated my crayons when I was a kid…. but now I know… crayons are people too! I’m glad they finally spoke up :)

SHANDA: I love this book SO much! It really brought me back to when I was a kid! I felt like the Critic on Ratatouille when he tastes the food at the end, and it takes him all the way back to his childhood :) There’s plenty to laugh about in this book too! HJ and I could be kids together for a few minutes! Great job Mr. Daywalt and Mr. Jeffers!

HJ: She cracked up when Peach Crayon wouldn’t leave the box because he was naked :)

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So we made a whole bunch of old naked crayons for our project…

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Then we broke them into small pieces and divided them into the spaces of an oven safe mold. *Note- SCRATCH the paper cups you see in the photo. It works better without them. Also, they would turn out much cuter than ours did if you used a silicone candy mold that had cute shapes like flowers or something. Melt them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

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Then allow them to cool completely, and use a knife to “pop” them out!

We bagged some up for church (for HJ and her cousin, Laney :)

Happy considerate coloring!

A Picture Book & A Project: “I’m Bored” and how NOT to be bored with a potato!

"I'm Bored" by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

“I’m Bored” by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

This kid is so bored she starts talking to a potato that thinks SHE is boring! So, she has to set the record straight: Potatoes are boring and kids can do ANYTHING!

SHANDA: I am taken with these cute, yet wild illustrations! And I love the illustrator’s success story. She really thought she was more of a writer, but was discovered big time at an SCBWI portfolio showcase!

HJ: (She likes to say “I’m bored” in a potatoey voice). If you can imagine that.

Now, grab a potato, a parent, a knife, paint, and paper! The best way NOT to be bored with a potato is to make potato stamps! Have fun!

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Here’s a great link to show parents how to cut a potato stamp!

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We made a gift bag with our stamps… but kids can think of lots of cool stuff to decorate! What can you come up with?

 

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author