Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fatou is a DOLL...

My publisher makes these wonderful STORYSACKS... and now FATOU is going to star in one... here are some prelim pics of Fatou herself.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Packaging Your Imagination 2011

What a day.

Today was the annual PYI conference in Toronto. I almost did not make it.
MO was up all night sick to his stomach and I felt terrible guilt at heading out - but I did.
My drive was fast and uneventful - until I had to find parking. I pulled into a $10 PUBLIC underground parking lot entrance, the garage door closed behind me and the ticket machine was not working. SO, here I am stuck in between the arm and the closed garage door, laying on my horn, shouting for help. There was a hot coffee steaming in the booth, and fresh bananas - but NO one around. So here I am, LATE already for the conference I have been WAITING for... so, after about ten minutes I backed my car up to the garage door praying NO one else comes in, I run over to the other side, STOMP on the cord to open the door, RUN back into the car and hit reverse to bust out of there. Got out, found an outdoor lot - stick my card in to pay and it gets STUCK! Seriously. Pressed the help button, they reset the machine and I was off to go...

I met up with friend and critique group member Ishta and Kari-lynn Winters with whom I got to have another little parking lot adventure (I hope you got out ok!) and got to chat about a STINKY event in Balls Falls coming this spring...

I missed the welcome address, but made it for my first workshop with  Catherine Rondina. A very well-written non-fiction author and we talked about connections. The degrees of separation that separate us all - interesting. It is true though - that opportunity knocks - you just have to listen. It was a wonderful workshop.

Next up was Bill Slavin, I've been a long-time admirer of Bill's. He is famous for many things, but the Stanley books are up there. He talked about character development - check out his blog for the notes. He is awesome. I loved seeing his original art, and I love, like me, he usually draws things once.

My last workshop was with Ruth Ohi. I had a feeling we'd be kindred spirits... but when she showed her bookshelf (which looked remarkably like mine), and then some pages from the Secret Art of Dr. Seuss... not to mention that her kids are a HUGE source of inspiration for her... I knew I would like her. She did not disappoint - she LOVES, LOVES, LOVES what she does and she just glows talking about it. She shared lots of things and was uber inspiring - AND her lovely sister Debbie Ohi (who I follow on twitter) was there too, so I got to meet them both.

Our Keynote speaker was Kathy Stinson. I was in tears as she spoke of her son shaving, and packing up baby clothes and the desire for more time. She was eloquent and passionate. It was a beautiful end to a lovely day.

Thank you CANSCAIP for another great conference.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I do solemnly swear

I do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge,
and will, to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into
picture book manuscripts
throughout the year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

from felt to illustration - a walk through this creative process

Here is the original felted piece for Henny Penny. It is needlefelted onto flat felt from a sketch.

Here is Henny after my first foray into Painter 12 (gotta say I LOVE this program) with my teensy WACOM tablet.
Then I thought I'd see what happened when I put Henny on an illustration I painted previously - just to see how it looked. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

more felty digital fun

Pulled out my little wacom tablet this time - and this piece is bigger. Thinking these may need to be photographed though, instead of scanning, bits are getting lost...

New technique - felting with digital

a very rough and quick test to see if this is something worth pursueing - looking at getting myself a 21" cintiq tablet so I can meld my favourite things - what do you think? Worth continuing?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life on the other side of the coin

One month ago I was a WAHM.

One month ago I was terrified of going back to work.

Once month ago I thought our lives would fall apart, I would be a blubbering mess and my kids would immediately become dysfunctional because I was suddenly not around ALL the time.

One month ago I may have been a little off-centre, or self-centred, or psychotic (or all of the above).

Truth is, my kids are fine. They miss me, and I them - but they truly enjoy their time at school and daycare. I am excited to see them at the end of my day - and I do not get as frustrated with them, as I was prone to when we were in each others faces and spaces all the time. Being at work makes me treasure the time I do have more than when I was off in a funny way. Do I wish my days were shorter? YES. Do I wish I could work 4 days instead of 5 - YES! But, it seems my husband is much more capable than I ever gave him credit for and has mastered the art of getting our son on the bus and off to school, and to being home when he needs to be and picking up when he has to - it is lovely that he works for himself and can be flexible when suddenly I am less so.

Does it make me sad? Yes, I'd be lying if I said it did not. My mom was a SAHM, and it was amazing for us as kids. I have enjoyed being home with my little ones so much, they rock my world. And IF we had the income, or if being an illustrator was as lucrative as it was say in the 80's, or IF I could depend on companies to pay on time (or at all) for all my jobs - I would stay home. That is a lot of IF's. I like that my place of employ pays me to stay on top of marketing trends, design software and to use my brain for more than keeping track of how many clean diapers are left and when I will have to wash them again (BTW, I still have to do that as well).

In all honesty there were things I disliked about being home. I disliked making lunch. I disliked the pile of dishes we created all day long. Sometimes I even disliked 3:00pm cause it was still 4 hours to bedtime.

Being back at work has made me realize a few things... I don't have to do it all. REVOLUTIONARY.

Being back at work allows my kids the space they need to explore other relationships - without me.

Being back at work means I get a whole lunch hour to myself - I can run, go to the gym, go shopping, go out for lunch or just update my blog.

Being back at work means I get to dress up and I have a reason to buy those new boots I have wanted for the last couple of years.

There are so many wonderful things about being home with your kids - which is why I have been for almost 4 years out of the last 6. But on the other side of the coin - the work side - it's not so bad. When you have a job you love, people that respect you (and don't spit up on you) and hot coffee on hand, being back at work is kind of... FUN.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Redesigning my website - Adobe Muse

My new website - a work in progress

I have to say thus far I am a big fan of Adobe Muse. For a long time I have wanted to redesign my site, but could find nothing to do exactly what I wanted it to do - with ease. I'd love some feedback on what I have up so far...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A momma's heartsick lament

Here it is - I MISS my kids.

I miss them like mad.

I miss them because I know that suddenly with the beginning of grade one everything has changed. I mean I used to at least have every other day with my boy, and since Z was born, I have had just about every day with her. But with the beginning of the school year, I am scheduled to return to work (more on this later) and my little boy is a big boy, and my baby girl - a toddler. How this all happened is beyond me. It was not that long ago that either one of them was a squealing little baby in my arms, completely and utterly dependent. Not so anymore. I pick Z up at day care and she is happy to see me - bit still wants to play, and is so tired that she does nothing but fall apart until we get to snuggle at bedtime. And even after two days at school Mo has all sorts of new sayings and habits that smack of big kid!

This is made all the more painful because we are coming off arguably the very best summer of my life. I have awesome kids, and no - I did not feel that way every day this summer. But we did a lot. We played in the rain, we danced in the sand, we hiked along rivers and up mountains, we went down in caves, saw dinosaur bones, searched for fossils at the beach, we visited with friends (a lot), we visited with family, I taught Mo to swim, we build castles, we built puzzles, we splash padded, we worked in the garden with Pioneers, we made lemonade with real lemons, we canoe tripped as a family again, we camped with friends, we made new friends, Mo skateboarded, we saw Niagara Falls and Georgian Bay within the space of two weeks, we snuggled, we watched movies, we watched bugs... and I watched my kids. I watched them grow, and grow and grow.

I started a new fitness regimen, I feel better.

I did not get the list I had for around the house even close to done - but you know what? I don't really care. The only time I do is when I have company, then I get a bit worried about it. Our grass is longer than most, and our house is messy. The reason? We are doing stuff all the time, and I would always chose catching frogs over cleaning floors. And so, I surround myself with people who don't care about my house - just us.

Now, I am supposed to be back at work and I am on strike, you see - I am a support staff member at Loyalist. I love my job, I love the people and the students I work with. I am also a 'sometimes' prof - thankfully not this semester - so I am not faced with the decision about whether or not to cross. But I will tell you, striking is not fun. We are not doing it for our well-being, we have already lost a lot of money. But, on the flip side, I am thankful to have a little bit of extra time with my kids as they ease into the routine we'll be in till the very least - next summer. My heart breaks when I think of Mo getting off the bus to someone else, though today he did - just for a bit - and seemed disappointed that I picked him up just as they were about to go outside. Zaley is have great fun at daycare but clings to me for most of the night as she adjusts - and I am thankful that for now I am not driving at 7:30 am.

I know all things change, and time flows on - but for a moment - just a moment, I would not mind a full stop, I'd hold on to my babies and we would all be still, the wind smelling like honeysuckle... in the next moment Mo is running to the school bus and Zaley is doing stunts on the bicycle as we wave him off.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Running for the Cure - and for me.

I have entered another new chapoter in my life - one that once again includes personal fitness. I have been attending Boot Camp for two months now and I am noticing change in how I feel and my confidence level. I still have a long way to go - but I will get there.

I have signed up to RUN 5Km in the Run for the Cure on October 2, in Kingston.

FOr anyone who donates $25 or more I am making these little thank you ORIGINAL illustrations. Here are the first two. If you would like to donate  to the Run for the Cure - through me - please visit The run for the cure website and make a donation today!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kataroo's Kitchen: Happy 5th Birthday

Kataroo's Kitchen: Happy 5th Birthday: "Kayleigh turned 5, last Saturday and we started the day with our SQUIRES BIRTHDAY TRADITION of Daddy singing Happy Birthday on the Guitar wh..."

Dundee Book award - SHORTLIST!

This past week I received my very first cheque for a book award. Our book - Fatou Fetch the Water was shortlisted for the Dundee Book Award. This is way cool for so many reasons - not the least of which, it has been one of the most challenging, yet fun book I have had to work on. Also, some proceeds of the sales are going to Project Gambia. With my sisters continued work in Africa with Free the Children - it seems I need to visit someplace on that continent soon!

On other notes, my son has been hard at work creating a little business - the age-old lemonade stand... he and a friend painted the sign his dad built, and today we did our grand opening - in honour or the construction crews on the road in front of our house. He knocked it out of the park! He squeezed all the lemons, and made each cup to order. He was excited and funny, it was awesome. This, after a morning of showing his little sister how to roll down a hill without eating dirt. It was a great day. It is these days that have me dreading a return to full-time work in September - and wishing there was some sort of solution where I can still spend lots of time with my kids and still make a good income. If anyone has any ideas- please let me know!

Monday, June 27, 2011

it's been awhile...

but it is summer. And with summer comes busy days, where I am exhausted and busy doing other things... so my poor blog falls by the wayside. We've been weeding and planting, picking berries and peas and swimming, playing with friends, visiting family and driving a LOT. I've been rewriting books and doing sketches for others. I've been mulling over September and what kind of changes our family is in for, and wondering how I can make this easier for all of us - while keeping my income substantial. I've been teary at weddings and at kindergarten graduation... and getting very excited about my sister's visit home from Kenya.

I have also been LUCKY! I won a pile of stuff at my son's school fun fair and today won an OWL retro t-shirt. This summer is starting out very well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer is Here...

and so is gardening, the beach and BERRIES. There is nothing I enjoy more than warm berries right off the plant, and since the deer successfully ate all of ours, we went picking today. I am now sitting with a belly full of strawberry shake. A family favourite, and anticipating a lovely trip to the beach tomorrow.

But during all of this - there is work to do - lots of it, and I have been procrastinating (terribly) and so, I need a swift kick in the behind. I have a re-write to do of a story - requested by an editor that I LOVE and I so hope to work with, illustrations for an awesome book I have some sketches done for, but need to do the rest (and yes, I will have to soon David)  and five book covers that are almost done... and my studio is still in limbo. Because, my dear husband has been working on other people's houses once again. It is ALMOST done. Trim is just about there and needs some paint (my job) and the floor needs to be sealed, but in the frenzy of the last bout of work, DH decided to work on the doorway and steps instead... with good reason. I am really hoping to get moved in very, very soon.

Here are some of the sketches and shots of my new studio and craft room... no more time to blog!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blowout Book Launch

Well, today I had the great fortune to launch our new book - Tooter's Stinky Wish, written by Brian Cretney and published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Not only did Brian pull together the whole team for this, but put on a great show to a packed house. Our Editor, Christie Harkin was there, and our Fab designer Kerry Plumley, AND our publicist - Cheryl Chen. We had a packed house - opening with the Smudge Fundaes and wrapping up with "Scooter" the stinkless skunk. The kids loved it. The adults did too. The admiration and love this community (Ste Catharine's) has for teacher/writer/illustrator Brian Cretney was palpable and amazing. This guy has obviously touched a lot of people in his not-too-long, but not-too-short career as a teacher. I can see why - he has a lovely wife and 4 beautiful kids, great parents - and is a very, very nice guy.

It is funny the way the world works. I met Brian at a conference two years ago - and now we have a book together - but those two bits are completely unrelated... We had a blast, and my wrist got VERY sore signing I am sure at least 100 books. Every book launch after this one is going to pale in comparison.

I also got to see two long-ago friends from planting - before we ever had kids/careers, or generally any idea where or who we were in life. I ran into a pal at the Butterfly Conservatory who came with her kids, our best buds made the journey with us for the weekend - puddles and all - and my mom and aunt made the journey from Lindsay....

Pictures to follow, but now I must finish my wine and enjoy the quiet now that the KOA Kareoke has ceased... tomorrow we hop on the maid of the mist then sail home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baby steps and BIG inspiration

On Saturday, our friend Trina asked if we would come and cheer her on for her 5km run. Of course we would (with signs too - that's me on the right with two heads). I have been on the cusp of a lifestyle change for awhile now, but let me tell you... watching Trina, who I know has worked so hard over this last year run the 5 km was inspiring (and so were the other women I know from all sorts of other places) - so, tonight I joined her at Boot Camp where I worked harder than I have in a long time. I have always considered myself a fit person - always being the me before children. I, like many other moms just forgot about me, and what I need to feel good. No more. I pledge, to take the time I need to be ME. I am sore all over, but I feel wonderful. I feel like I am on the way to myself again. So, I thank you Trina, and my sister... for inspiring me to feel good again.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On Mother's Day

I know nobody is perfect, but we all do our best don't we? Sometimes our best is extraordinary and noteworthy, and sometimes our best is managing to get everyone fed and that is it. Our Mothers, I think, are not truly appreciated until we ourselves have children. Kids don't notice that you give them the best berries from the basket, or the last bit of milk, or that the last sip from the water bottle when you are out. They don't know how sometimes it is hard to pay for a great daycare, though you manage - somehow. It is just not in them. They are, for the most part - ungrateful - and that is ok, cause if they were cognizant of all that mom does on a minute to minute basis they would all need therapy by age 5. So, I guess you just don't know till you are a mom yourself.

So on Mother's day I have a lot of mother's to think about.

My mom: is awesome. At 18 she decided that she could do it. That she could be a mother - and a great one. She made a home for us, that was filled with love, adventure and fun. We were always making things, playing outside, dreaming. She inspires me daily, and I strive to be like her - with my own kids.

She always made us the best halloween costumes, and encouraged us to build gnome homes in the snow. She also indulged our fashion sense and made us the formal dresses and fancy attire we desired. She also made us cabbage patch dolls, because the real ones were too expensive. We were ungrateful wretches! I look at that now and see all the time she put into those and it makes me weep.

My mom has taught me a lot of things, like drawing the sparkle in an eye, how to make french toast, the basics of sewing. She also taught me how to look at people, and that everyone is equal. She is a light, and everyone she knows sees it. When I visit her at work - I know. She is an easy person to love.

She made my world (with my dad of course) and it seemed easy - though I am sure it wasn't always.

My Auntie Cie. I remember snuggling with, and swinging in her colourful skirts. She always has a whimsy about her. She collect(ed) music boxes and trinkets, and always had candy on the table in a pot. I never felt unwelcome in her home. She was my go to - when I needed another place to go. She has always been there for me, and I have been happy to stand in as an honorary kid.

Oma, the grand Matriarch of our family - the glue - the amazing glue. I hope to have 1/2 the strength this woman possesses. She is full of stories, and love and yummy, yummy baking. A sounding board for all the grandkids, another place to be when others may be too prickly. Another door always open with a cup of tea.

All the women in my family (there a lot of us). You are beautiful and strong. And I like that I like you not just cause we are family. This journey of motherhood has been shared by several of us now, and I am amazed at how easily it comes to you all, and glad.

My mother-in-law, who is lovable, quirky and funny, and did her very best with almost nothing with two very busy boys. By herself. That is admirable, and I can't even imagine. I often think about her on the nights when Shawn is out and I am putting both the kids to bed. Single parents - my hats off to you!

My friends. Those whom I was really young with and still hold dear, some mothers, some aunties. You know who you are. You make me laugh. You know that even if we don't talk for months that I still love you and I know it is true of you also. You have been there through heartbreak and joy, through tragedy and birth. Who would I be without you? You all inspire me to continue to be who I was even though sometimes that seems so long ago.

my NEW gal pals. Those wonderful women I have met in the past 6 years. You are my strength, my crafty friends, my shoulders - and I would do anything for you - and you me.

For these women, and so many others. I am blessed.

On the days, when I have heard the word MOM 5,974 times at varying decibles and I am really about to flip my lid, instead, I will be thankful that I am what I have always wanted to be, a mom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Done like... the DINOSAURS!

I have had a rip roaring good time illustrating this book - Don't Invite Dinosaurs to Dinner -  it is the most art in the shortest amount of time I have ever done (my own fault) I promised I could. This one is written by Neil Griffiths and will be published by Red Robin Books this fall. Here are some images!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lavender, tutus and dancing dinosaurs...

Today, mucking about in the garden we had the loveliest surprise... Lavender - the smell wafting around our feet. After a very long winter, we've FINALLY been out weeding, planning and preparing for this year's growing season. This year is so much different with Baby Z loving being outside and mucking around with her big bro.

Here is some new art for the book - Don't invite Dinosaurs to dinner (coming this fall) and my new venture - making tutu's (did you know I moonlight as a Fairy Godmother?).
I can't wait to post pictures of the new ones I have just made, all golds and red - and I've put a few surprises into the other ones... so if you know of any twirling kiddies, I may have just the thing for them!
I hope you are enjoying this first taste of spring (at least here) as well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Dinosaurs! More Skunks... and Sacré-Coeur Basilica with Platypus.

Cover for my new book by Neil Griffiths - coming later this year.
Tooter, from Tooter's Stinky Wish, by Brian Cretney, published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside, now available for pre-order!
Sacré-Coeur Basilica by my 5-year old son who is obsessed with Parisian architecture, but not the modern stuff - the old stuff. We are working on a book together called The Platypus in Paris. I get to draw the platypus.

Monday, February 28, 2011

One Year Later.

This time last year I was pacing. In Labour. We had come home after spending the afternoon with our midwife, with instructions to have a glass of wine, some gravol and to get some sleep (my choice, in order to avoid the hospital and morphine). In hopes that our little girl would decide to flip in the night. A week long back labour - wrapping up. I was ready. Mo was dropped off at a friends house. The closing ceremonies for the Olympics on the TV.  Me in the tub, trying desperately to find some measure of comfort in the 3 minutes I had between each contraction.

Then the voice from downstairs. Shawn. "Peg, We should go. They are really, really close together." Bags packed - again - we headed to the car. What ensued was a car ride I will never, ever forget. 170 kms an hour, I almost ripped off the fabric on the top of my car. The baby had seemingly flipped, and was trying to get out. We were 57 kms from the nearest hospital. My car has never gone that fast, nor had we ever run so many red lights. Thankfully, it was 3 am. I remember Shawn asking me if we should stop at the rest stop on the 401 to call an ambulance. I remember thinking, ' holy crap, we are going to have this baby in the car.' but not telling him.

The rest was right out of a movie. We pull up, crooked, in front of the hospital (the car stayed there till 7 am with no ticket). A wheelchair shoved at us as we came in and a dude who looked a little tipsy - saying - 'Hey, you are the 5th one tonight!'. And so I was. We are flying down the hallway to the elevator, the wheelchair is collapsing, shawn is running and my feet are dragging underneath. I can feel the giant bag of 'birthing stuff' I thought I'd need, massage oils, snacks - etc - bouncing behind Shawn. I am laughing hysterically and puffing at the same time. As the elevator door closes, I see our midwife running down the hall shouting - "I am here!".

We get to Connell 5 and a nurse asks me how dilated I am. Now that is a heck of a question. Most women I know do not know that info at the time, unless you have just been checked. Then I hear her tell the midwife there are no more rooms. So, into an assessment room we go - where we stayed till 9 the next morning.

I was pretty dedicated to a drug-free birth this time after what happened the first time, and thankfully there was no time for all of that anyway. It was go time. With no drip bag holder available, by hubby held the antibiotics up in one arm, while mopping my brow and feeding me ice. I am pretty sure he had eight arms that night. I loved him before then, but after that - he rocks my world.

Our little girl was ushered into the world that morning, 10lbs, 1 oz. With a broken collarbone and a need to be in ICU for almost a week. Time for us both to repair. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt lucky.
ICU is a hopeful, miraculous and very sad place.

Since then, she has not stopped moving. She is so tough. She rolled at 3.5 months and got around that way - until she started to crawl at 5.5 months - walking at 9.5 months and now she is unstoppable.

Tonight she tried to climb up her high chair for dinner, and then tried to climb in the tub for her bath.
Something tells me I will be chasing this little monkey around for the rest of my life.
Happy Birthday dear daughter. I love you.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Book - Tooter's Stinky Wish

I am please to announce my upcoming book - Tooter's Stinky Wish, by Brian Cretney, published by
Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Coming this spring to a bookstore near you! Loved working on this book - fantastic art direction and great story - look for it soon!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines and the Value of reading with Dad.

It used to be that bedtime was a family ritual, that is, before there were four of us. We would take turns reading, all snuggled into our sons double bed. We'd tell stories in the dark and it was our time together, to end the day. When our daughter was born, I had to leave this cosy time - and join another one. Now, at bedtime, I listen to my husband and son reading together as I quietly nursnuggle (thanks Elaine) my little one... and I am amazed. The power a dad has when he reads with a child, esp a boy - is tremendous. He waits patiently for him to sound out the words. He reads the books that our son chooses and he never gets sucked into 'just one more book'. It is three Picture books, or chapters from a 'big kid book'. As I lie there, I think - he is teaching him - and doing it so well.

I miss it, and part of me looks forward to the time we can go back and forth, getting each child's special time - but for now, I will listen. It brings tears to my eyes I love it so much.

Then there is Valentine's day - and I wonder - when did loot bags start getting handed out? Seriously people! Kids don't need that junk, you know. However, I did bake cookies - lol. So I guess I am just as bad. Mo and I worked on valentines on monday (not a school day). I did give him the option of going in to 'buy' some, and he said NO. "Homemade one's are better, and we don't need to go shopping every day!" Amen to that little wise man. I will keep that one close.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Our NEw Space

Layers and layers of old wallpaper and boards, only to find a sketchy structure underneath... and a century worth of squirrel nests, and one not so lucky, kind of petrified, squirrel. That is what you get for chewing on wires. I can say we have truly evicted them from our house, for awhile there I was afraid they might never leave.

I am so excited I can barely stand it. The above pictures are what the room looked like before (was supposed to be an easy reno - lol) will be my new studio and craft room for the kids. This is amazing, as we have everything in the living room and kitchen since our daughter was born almost a year ago and took the space I was working in upstairs. My husband is an awesome carpenter, and this room would have been done a long time ago if it wasn't for the complete rebuild of all the walls due to rot and poor structure. Our house is almost 100 years old, and nothing is square and all the renos before this were really sloppy. THey are not now. Soon, there will be tile - and then trim and paint and we'll be off to the races. Included in this area (but not in the picture) is also a mud room complete with a closet and cubbies for all our things that have no home! I cannot wait to get the hooks off the walls and the coats and shoes into their very own home. Old houses seriously lack closets, and we currently have ONE. So Yippee, Skippee, hooray. I can't wait to move in.