On My Mind

Lesson#2: Love Your Community & Do the Dishes (lessons from Brooklyn)

Filed under: Lessons of an Artist,On My Mind | May 18, 2013

Michael and HJ

My little family recently visited my sister and lots of old friends in Brooklyn, New York. It had been 2 years since I had walked that much (and that fast) in one day, rode the subway, strolled streets lined with row houses, got used to being warmer than usual indoors, washed dishes by hand, and went on the roof to water plants! If you don’t already know, my husband and I lived in Brooklyn (Park Slope) for a year before we had H.J. I remember leaving to move back home with renewed energy to make more time for friends. Family is awesome- especially mine- but friends are really important too. Friends in community are even more so.

India and Michael and HJ

HJ and India on a rooftop in Brooklyn

Our recent Brooklyn visit reminded me of that again… spending time in Crown Heights (my sister’s hood) felt like I was in a historic jazz town from a children’s book! Folks who had lived there all their lives were sitting on stoops and laughing with others, enjoying the Spring weather. When India (my sister) passed by, they waved to her and chatted as if she’d lived there all along too. And we had a warm welcome gathering in Park Slope in a lovely and quaint backyard of friends’. Afterward, my sister and her husband quickly offered to do the dishes! By hand! There aren’t many apartments with dishwashers there, so it’s a great way to serve your friends. And that’s when you get to the really good stuff in conversation- when you’re doing the dirty dishes! Don’t know why, but its true.

Party at the Booker's 1 Party at the Booker's 2 Party at the Booker's 3

I don’t know what it is about Brooklyn, but it breeds close communities. Communities of people with big dreams and big talents! That’s what I miss most about Brooklyn. Living among talented artists, designers, cooks, dancers, actors, musicians, and speakers and counting myself as one of them. When I visit, my old friends, my old community make me feel like I am still a part of it :) I’m so very thankful for that.

Hanging out behind The Old Stone House

Ben and I have chosen to live in the South near our families for now. I’m thankful H.J. gets to spend lots of time with her grandparents! And I have free babysitters often which blesses me with precious time for my illustration endeavors. I don’t get as much community with friends here in Georgia as did in Brooklyn, but the ones I do have are precious to me.

At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden 2

I meet with 6 insanely awesome writers once a month! We (unofficially) call ourselves Trail Mix being as we are SO very different from each other, but we all all have the common thread of pursuing careers in children’s books. There’s laughing, tears, tough love, encouragement, and so much fun every time we meet! I would’ve never thought I would find such community with a group of writers! (Since I am more of an illustrator and all :) At the end of this month I’ll be hosting the group at my house, and I’m going to cook them dinner which is a little out of the ordinary. I guess I’m inspired to serve my little writer community!

HJ in BK!

I also happen to be a part of a very artsy family which I probably take for granted. It would stink if my whole family thought I was aloof and wanted me to be a doctor. That is definitely not the case! My family sets the artsy bar high- I am constantly being amazed!

HJ in BK 2

And my neighbor is pretty cool. Brandi has shown me that it can be a whole lot of fun to be friends and neighbors! We visit over coffee at each other’s houses or yards at least once a week. And if we need a cup of sugar, we walk over and get some :)

I also live in a sweet little railroad town called Ball Ground. I hope to be a pillar here and see it grow into something really neat. A small town girl with big dreams might be important to this small town- who knows?

McCloskey's in front of Manhattan

Conclusion: Artists need each other. Artists and non-artists need each other. Family needs each other. Maybe there’s a reason you exist in a place or in the same place as someone else. Maybe you are meant to inspire them or they to inspire you. Probably both.

So, love your community and do the dishes wherever you are.

NYC Graffiti


Loosening Up To A Little PINK…

Filed under: Illustration,On My Mind,Shanda's Journey,Sketchbook | April 27, 2013

Miss Featherbottom Sings by Shanda McCloskey“Just give me a reason
Just a little bit’s enough
Just a second we’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
It’s in the stars
It’s been written in the scars on our hearts
That we’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again”


Miss Featherbottom Not So Sure by Shanda McCloskey

A Sketch from My Book and Notes from My Head

Filed under: Illustration,On My Mind,Sketchbook | January 15, 2013

From my sketchbook.

My baby is my muse. Here’s some practice I did of her profile. Kids are so hard! Their faces are teeny and this ended up looking nothing like my particular kid… Maybe the overall shape might be close, but the face looks too old. Kids are tough to draw. But I really enjoyed charcoal pencils after a long time of not having any. My daughter added the abstract shapes and color around figure- she’s brilliant!

Well this is a good time to update you on what I’m currently working on. I’m proud that I have a manuscript written. It’s still too long and lacking something, so I’ve signed up for a formal manuscript critique at SCBWI Southern Breeze Spring Mingle (February 20-something). This should be interesting. It’s my first time doing this, so I’m just hoping I don’t get too discouraged by the feedback. I’m an artist who is wondering if she has a CHANCE of being able to write too. We’ll just have to see!

For Illustrator’s Day (which is now attached to Spring Mingle), I’ll be working on an illustration with guidance from Mark Braught. It’s sort-of a how you see yourself kind of assignment. Still thinking about this one, but I’ll try to show my progress as I go, like I did last year. Let’s hope it’s awesome enough to put on a postcard to send out to editors and art directors:) I’m really trying to figure out who I am as an illustrator. I feel like this year is going to be a very important year of my figuring some of that out… maybe :)

Well, that’s it for now! Have a great week.

A Tree… Always reaching. Always changing colors!

Filed under: Illustration,On My Mind | November 16, 2012

Okay, so I’m trying to fit in an Illustration Friday sketch. The theme is tree. I know. It’s a stretch. But then again, not so much- I tried something new tonight. I’m reaching a little further into my artistic unknown. It might work out. It might not. Bare with me :)

I was admiring the work of LeUyen Pham tonight. I just checked out “Vamperina Ballerina” from the library. She’s amazing. I love how her characters have this retro-ness to them. Does anyone else see that? It’s marvelous. So I was inspired to play around with my own ballet character. She looks a little caricature-ish, but not as much as the first 10 I tried. I just need to work with her some more, but I wonder if this kind of stylistic character could ever be a part of my art? Maybe. I’m going to have to flow with the wind on this one, work with her some more and follow my branches, and see what the season has in store for me!

Happy Fall Y’all! (had to say it :)

Little Miss Muffet!

Filed under: Growing Up Artsy,Illustration,On My Mind | November 9, 2012

I can’t believe it… I did a painting just for ME! I enjoy doing portraits, and it was high time I painted Sweet Pea :) This painting was inspired by all the bazillions of spiders that this kid draws. I mimicked them as best as I could on this plywood.

And from all the children’s book studying I’ve done lately, I’ve become wondrously fascinated with childhood. It’s an interesting thing… a precious, fleeting thing. The best description I can give it is ‘the world that I believed I lived in before I grew up’. Hmmm… I think I’d like to do a few more of these paintings… with other cool kids and their drawings!

Sitting and Wading

Filed under: Illustration,On My Mind,Shanda's Journey | October 18, 2012

These past few weeks I haven’t felt much like drawing. No particular reason, but every time I sat down to draw- I ruined it. So I didn’t draw at all for several days. This was a good experiment for me. For the first few days it was freeing, like a burden lifted from my shoulders. The next couple days I started to get snappy and feeling like getting published traditionally was a mountain too high for me to ever climb. Self-doubt can consume me. I heard a few success stories of others that brought me down … from jealousy I’m embarrassed to say. Sometimes I think that unless you live in New York City, just forget it. And then that just makes me mad, because there is so much beautiful culture in this country beyond what is found in one or two cities. The Southern culture is incredibly interesting and brave with a code of its own. Maybe I should think about incorporating the South into my work more! But I’m sure it’s like an accent. Other’s can hear it even when you don’t think you have an accent at all :) And so I ramble…

The moon has been incredible lately. I can talk best to the Lord when I look at the moon. I know He is working on me. I know this. So why do I grow impatient? I know that God has a plan just for me that no one else can have… a path paved JUST FOR ME. So why in the world, do I feel sad when others around me seem to jump ahead of me? I know I really don’t want my dreams to come true unless it’s in God’s plan for me. At a time when He is ready for me to have it. The reason is because I’m human. My spirit is willing to wait, but my body and mind is weak when it comes to actually enduring that wait. I am wise enough to know that I can’t do it alone, and I don’t  want to. When I draw for myself, I stink at it. But when I draw while leaning on Him, I’m always amazed!

I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Jeremiah 10:23

When I can shut-up the other voices in my head, and let the part of me that knows Christ best speak, it reminds me that God loves me so much! Even more than my mom! And that little feeling inside my heart that just knows I’m going to be used in a big way was placed there by God to get me through this season of waiting.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Psalm 37: 4-7 

Writing this post has helped me sort through some thoughts… thanks for listening. I’m left with the notion of how special this waiting season is. It gives me time to spend with my two-year-old and husband. This is not a season to be sad about. I want to enjoy it, and I can just give my worries, dreams, and burdens to the Lord and have a truly joyful heart – now! My Lord is “on it!” So, I’m about to go enjoy dinner with my sweet family … thank you, Lord, for the times you give us to simply sit and wade.


For All the Teachers

Filed under: Favorite Picture Books,On My Mind | August 3, 2012

Here is a very special teacher from The Dot by Peter Reynolds. Great book! One of my all-time favorites!

Image from “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

School is back, and I still get this nervous excitement in my gut. It’s the same feeling I always had as a kid starting a brand new school year. Even as a teacher I felt that way before meeting my new classes. But I’m not going to school and my daughter isn’t old enough either. I guess I’m just excited about a brand new season for me, my work, and Fall!

Image from “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

Image from “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

I’ve been thinking a lot about the teachers I’ve had and the things they taught me that still stick! Theres a lot. I’m sure there’s more, but this is who sticks out in my mind…

Mrs. Satterfield (3rd grade) was like a ray of sunshine when I was a new student.
Mrs. Raynor (4th grade) was cool to read the Wizard of Oz to us aloud- the movie was different from the book! And I can still sing the states in alphabetical order.
Mrs. Miserri (5th grade) made history pretty neat.
Mrs. Cheek (6th grade) was funny and made her own quirky worksheets.
Ms. Driver (7th grade) scared me into being organized!
Hugh McMillan (Sunday school) showed me that the Bible is a history book.
Mrs. C (high school art) saw something special in me and pushed me on to accomplish some cool things.
Robert Sherer (college painting) told me I didn’t belong in the art education program (that was his way of saying I should be a painting major) I was flattered and frustrated at the same time.
Joe Remillard (college drawing) really taught me to draw the best I’ve ever drawn before.
Monica Wellington (SVA teacher) showed me that you can be kind, simple, quiet, AND successful even in a place as harsh as New York City. Amazing illustrator/author example!
Elizabeth Dulemba (Southern Breeze SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator) is a fantastic author/illustrator to watch and learn from. She shares industry nitty gritty all the time whether it be on her website, in conversation, or email. She doesn’t know it, but she’s a mentor of mine :)

Image from “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

Image from “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds

Vashti’s teacher never hears “thanks”, but you later see Vashti using the same encouraging technique the teacher used on her on a fellow student who claims he “can’t ” just like she did. So this post is for ALL the teachers out there. You definitely made a mark on me by daring me to make mine. Have a fabulous year!

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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author