Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What’s in a Face?

By Wendy Wahman

Self portraits. You look in the mirror and draw what you see. Or do you draw how you feel? Maybe you draw hints of who you are, or who you think you are – or wish you were.

Self portraits haven’t been a part of my drawing life, so I wondered how the other Whatsits felt about them:

Is this your first self portrait?

Ben Clanton

BEN CLANTON: Not my first self portrait. I seem to end up doing a new one a couple times a year just to shake things up.

I think every time I draw a character it’s really a bit of a self-portrait. For example, my sketchbooks are full of pigs and monsters—no doubt manifestations of an unfortunate porcine childhood nickname, and of memories of my father referring to my siblings and me as, “little monsters.” I also tend to put many of my characters in dresses. I didn’t wear pretty dresses when I was little, nor did I play dress-up or with dolls. I think I must be making up for lost time.

KEVAN ATTEBERRY: Good grief, no. I have often been my subject of choice.

JENNIFER K. MANN: No, but I don’t think I have saved any self-portraits over the years. Or I have, but I have no idea where.

WENDY WAHMAN: I’ve drawn one other that I’m aware of.

How did you feel when as a group we decided to do self portraits for the blog?

Elizabeth Rose Stanton

BC: I feel like self portraits can be a lot more fun and interesting than a headshot so I thought the self portraits were a good opportunity. Of course, that is before I had to sit down and do one. Drawing myself is always tricky. I want to be both kind but true to who I am. Seeing oneself clearly is not easy, but then again that is part of what makes self portraiture interesting.

ERS: I knew, having been a portrait artist, it was going to be all or nothing, so I drew my alter ego, a cat.

KA: It was kind of a relief. I can’t think of many—if any—pictures of me that I like. I always want to take them into Photoshop and make them more palatable.

JKM: I wasn’t worried. Maybe I should have been.

WW: A cold chill ran up my spine. After that subsided, I figured I’d find a way to make it fun, and I did.

How did it feel when you first sat down to draw?

Kevan Atteberry

BC: I felt like my drawing turned out pretty accurate. Amazing what a few lines can say about a person. I see someone who is kind, a bit unsure, and a bit something else. ;)

ERS: Rather like a cat, because cats rarely do as they are asked.

KA: I felt this would be easy and fun.

JKM: Ah, well, that is when all the awkwardness took over. I decided before I started not to get too worked up about how I would make it. So I drew a quick representation of myself, the way I draw my characters, dots for eyes, etc. And yes, I did look in a mirror. But of course my family looked at it and said things like “you have much more hair than that,” or, “your eyes look aren’t that beady.”

WW: I never sat down, actually. I drew it on a post-it note, standing (like a stork) in the kitchen while feeding my dogs. One of those, quick, quick draw fast before my inner critic wakes up and I go all squirrelly with choices.

How do you feel now that it’s done?

Jennifer K. Mann

BC: I’m afraid I was a bit boring and went with a head shot.

ERS: Like a cat.

KA: I am happy with it. I think I made my image comically more interesting.

JKM: It’s okay! Maybe I'll keep at this.

WW: It’s me, pretty much. Poodly, smiley old ballerina turned yogi who stands around like a stork sometimes.

Will you draw another sometime?

Wendy Wahman

BC: I’m sure I'll do another at some point. I considered redoing it straight away but figured it would do for the time being.

ERS: Yes—in some way, shape, or form—almost every day.

KA: Oh yeah. Like I said, I am often my subject of choice. I think when I illustrate me, I may be trying to share bits of who I am without actually having to say it.

JKM: Oh yes. My mother-in-law, who is an artist, did 100 self portraits of herself over a fairly short period of time, in varied media, some with her eyes closed, some with her left hand. They were each so different and so evocative, and although many were fairly abstract, I could see her in every one of them. I would like to try that myself.

WW: Possibly. But there are so many other things I’d rather draw.

Ben is really a Narwhal.
The Three Bens.

“…my father referred to my siblings and me as, “little monsters.” – Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Put a dress on that Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is on the left… no wait, right. Left, right….
An Elizacat.
Fly me a dress, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, your tail is showing.

Kevan and Co.
Kevan after a hard Whatsits’ critique.
Thank you, Sir.
Kevan at Burning Man.

Ginjifer, aka, Ginger, aka Jennifer from TWO SPECKLED EGGS, Candlewick, 2014.
2nd grade Jennifer and inspiration for, I’LL NEVER GET A STAR 
ON MRS. BENSON’S BLACKBOARD, Candlewick, 2015.

From Wendy’s first published book, ASIDES,
Metamorphosis Press, a zillion years ago. Not for kids.
Wendy, relaxing at home…
… and being a stork.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

We Are the Whatsits!


As you can no doubt tell by our highly detailed and anatomically precise self-portraits, we're a friendly bunch — a crew of picture book builders (a.k.a. author/illustrators) from the upper left corner of the left coast who gather together once a month to talk about BOOKS, but not just any books—picture books!

Now we’ve put our wandering minds together here to talk about things way beyond shoes and ships and sealing wax! You’ll hear about monsters that love puddles, dragons popping out of mailboxes, flying chickens and dancing pigs, friends lost and found, and bunny noodle soup! But that’s not all! We’ll talk of things like book cases and jackets (and we don’t mean the furniture and clothes), pagination, the interplay of text and pictures, creating characters, story ingredients, endpapers, and subplots. We’ll dissect books, and touch on subjects near and dear to our personal hearts.

Be on the lookout, too, for reviews (where we’ll gush over books we wish we had made). And there will be games—drawing games and writing games, prompts and challenges! So hop on for the ride! You’re in for some picture book awesomeness from the WHATSITS!

Here’s who we are:

Ben Clanton (or Clantoon if you prefer)

Most of the time I scribble and doodle up stories that will likely never see print. 
But some of my tales have had the good fortune to be published such as  
SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARYREX WRECKS IT!MO'S MUSTACHE, VOTE FOR ME!, and THE TABLE SETS ITSELF. When I’m not making up stories (and often when I am) I enjoy cooking, basketball, exploring outdoors, eating ice cream, and playing games.

Website  •  Facebook   •  Instagram   •  Twitter

Elizabeth Rose Stanton

I am the newest and oldest Whatsit—newest, because I started my picture book writing and illustrating adventure only a few years ago, and oldest because, well, I am. I began my grownup life as an architect, and segued over to fine art and design after starting a family many moons ago. Now I build picture books and am having a blast! My first book, HENNY, was released last year, and my next book, PEDDLES, will be released this coming January, both from Simon and Schuster.

I am represented by Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary & Media in New York.

Website • Blog • Instagram • Facebook • Twitter • Pinterest

Jennifer K. Mann

Just like Elizabeth Rose Stanton, I was once an architect. That was a great job! But writing and illustrating books for children is the best job I can imagine. I spend my days drawing, painting, and writing from my little old cottage on Bainbridge Island where I live with my husband, my two kids, my two dogs, and my five chickens. Daydreaming is a job requirement—how else would I bring up all the childhood memories that have inspired my books? And drinking coffee and talking books with friends--picture book friends—that is one of the best perqs of all. I’ve written and illustrated TWO SPECKLED EGGS published by Candlewick Press, 2014, I'LL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS BENSON'S BLACKBOARD, published by Candlewick Press, 2015, and SAM AND JUMP to be published by Candlewick in May of 2016. I’ve also illustrated TURKEY TOT, written by George Shannon, published by Holiday House, 2013. I am currently illustrating PERCY, DOG OF DESTINY, written by Allison McGhee, to be published by Holiday House, 2017. I am represented by Holly McGhee of Pippin Properties.

Website  •  Blog  •  Facebook  •  Twitter

Kevan Atteberry 

Somehow, I never grew up (though I no longer get carded). It is something I’ve learned to deal with. Fortunately in my career as a writer and illustrator of kid’s books it seems to be an asset. Among the award-winning picture books I’ve illustrated is FRANKIE STEIN, by Lola Schaefer, winner of the Children’s Book Council’s 2008 Book of the Year (K-2), and the 2009 Mockingbird Award. I also illustrated TICKLE MONSTER, by Josie Bissett, a Mom’s Choice Award winner and HALLOWEEN HUSTLE, by Charlottte Gunnafson. My first authored book, BUNNIES!!! Launched January 2015. I, of course, illustrated it as well.

My illustrations can be seen in books, magazines, greeting cards, packaging and in software. My biggest claim to fame has to be the creating Clippy the Paperclip, the helper in Microsoft Word. There is an odd kind of pride knowing my creation at one point was annoying hundreds of millions of people on a daily basis.

I am represented by Erin Murphy of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I have served on the advisory committee of the Western Washington SCBWI for over twelve of the past twenty years. I was once bitten by a raven.

Website  •  Facebook  •  Twitter

Wendy Wahman

I live with my husband Joe, a writer and singer/songwriter and our two standard poodle children, Jody and LaRoo. Besides children’s books, (and yoga) I do editorial Illustration and info-graphics (little known fact: I love making maps). I worked in the Art Department of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until they closed in 2009. The P-I was a ‘scrappy liberal rag,’ a Hearst newspaper in print for 147 years. I only worked 12 of the 147 years, but I loved it and miss it still.

My first picture book was DON'T LICK THE DOG. It was selected as a 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, starred for Outstanding Merit and accepted to the Society of Illustrators Original Art show. A CAT LIKE THAT, the companion please-be-nice-&-safe-with-animals book, followed. I illustrated SNOWBOY 1, 2, 3 by Joe Wahman. Next up in my, please-be-nice-to-animals agenda is (believe it or not) RABBIT STEW, coming Spring 2017.

Website • Blog • Facebook • Behance Portfolios • Twitter • Pinterest

Shops:  Cafe Press  •  RedBubble  •  Zazzle
Book Trailers:   Don't Lick the Dog    •  A Cat Like That   •  Snowboy 1, 2, 3

First up on 9/22—


Wendy Wahman asks The Whatsits about their selfies!