Back to the drawing board

Angie Brown | LightbeastsIt’s been a while since I checked in here– the illustration class I’m taking is keeping me busy. The last assignment topic was surrealism, and my instructor had encouraged me to work with traditional techniques rather than digital. The resulting image and combination of media (acrylic paint, ink, cut paper, and collage) is the kernel of what I’ve been searching for since I embarked on this children’s book adventure with Melissa– a certain aesthetic and approach, a style, that I could taste, but couldn’t quite reach– which is exactly why I signed up for this course, Eccentric Illustration.

So there, on the fourth out of five projects, I have had the epiphany that I paid for. This project really took me back to the messy process I love, and I realized that I’ve been spending too much time trying to digitally replicate the warmth, energy, and texture of traditional media. The digital detour was a necessary step in my evolutionary transition from fine art to character-based illustration, and I’ll see evidence of that in due time.

So now it’s back to the drawing board! I couldn’t be more excited. After this class is over in three weeks, I’ll be returning my attention to our Square Dog in a Round World, and carrying all the momentum of what I’ve learned. Allons-y!

On Portraits of Cats and Schoolings

Angie Brown

This is Zoe and Fred, who live with my friend Joey. I made a nice little print on canvas of his furbabies for his birthday.

In other news, I am back in school, taking an online class through the Academy of Art University, and I’m having a blast. My instructor is Roman Muradov, who I’ve been internet stalking to learn all about. He always gives great links in our online discussions to other illustrators and resources, and there are many more such links on his blog, as I discovered this morning. Hello, Resource!

Last week, he posted a link to an interview with Jon Klassen, author/illustrator of I Want My Hat Back. It’s definitely worth listening to… twice.

I also wanted to preserve this bit o’ Muradov wisdom: “In literature, brief sentences can speak volumes and have a strong evocative effect, while giving away limited information. Joyce’s “The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit” comes to mind.” Effective illustration does the same.

Storytime Yoga? How about Storytime Wine!

There are many things in the world that I appreciate, even more that make me happy and four things that I absolutely adore. They are:

  • My husband
  • My dog
  • Wine
  • Yoga

In that order.

The idea of being a children’s book author also makes me very happy, so the thought that I might be able to combine that with something that I adore as a bit of a muse (in my case, my lovable and charming fartastic English Bulldog Lou). 

I was reminded of this possibility the other day when I saw one of my favorite children’s yoga books. Yes, it’s a real thing.

There’s a whole movement around children’s yoga, or in some cases referred to as Storytime Yoga. Fitting that one of the children’s yoga books is entitled The Yoga Zoo Adventure, since our story of Loupotamus takes our hero to the zoo! You can also check out Babar’s Yoga for Elephants or Peaceful Piggy Meditation - maybe Peg, the pig in our book, should be more peaceful?

It’s a shame that it’s inappropriate for wine to be a central character in a children’s book. Or…maybe I’m onto something. It could be like Go the F**k to Sleep.

Here are some possible titles:

  • The Story of Zinfandel
  • The Little Barrolo that Could
  • Where the Reislings are
  • Old Bordeaux
  • Goodnight Wine
  • The Wine has a Story to Tell
  • Old wine, new wine. Red wine, gluhwein
  • Merlotlicious
  • The earthly little Cab
  • The Three Pinots
  • The Little Red Wine
  • How the Wine its Tannins
  • Old MacDeaux had a Vineyard

What do you think would make great titles for wine children’s books?

**Disclaimer, I just got back from a vacation to Oregon and California wine country. I have wine on my mind

Monkeys cannot be trusted.

Angie Brown | SquareDogRoundWorld.comNever ask a monkey for directions. They just don’t take anything seriously. They don’t do it to be mean really, they just think it’s funny to watch you wander around lost and confused. This is one of the first images of the hero of our children’s book, Loupotamus, at the zoo.

In other news: How’d you like to be my beta tester? I’ve just redesigned and updated my website at, expanding the illustration section and adding lots of never-before-seen stuff, as well as some of my favorite illustrations from the past year. I’ve also figured out how to make a nifty “scroll-to-top” button like the one on Pinterest. (I love that button and really wish all websites had one.)

As usual, I’m not quite done reworking my site yet– I still need to finish the graphic design section and add an about/contact page. But so far, so good. If you have a minute or two, click around there a bit and tell me in the comments below if anything’s confusing or not working. I’d really appreciate it!

Vegas and Beyond!

Angie Brown >>

I had so much fun doing the map of Philadelphia for, I had to do another one right away. My last trip prior to Philly (to visit Melissa) was to Las Vegas… to attend Melissa’s three-day funfest and wedding– almost exactly one year ago– so yeah, Happy Anniversary, Melissa & Cory!

(I also did a Killer Tomato Soup recipe for It was a productive weekend.)

This little map was done completely in fine-tipped Sharpies. I bought a 36 color pack a few years back because I could not resist the rainbow of permanent markings that it promised. I really should get some fancy art markers, but until then, long live Sharpies!!

The best part of Vegas, aside from hanging with Melissa and her eclectic gaggle of friends and family, was definitely the Neon Boneyard, where they take old casino signs to die retire and live out their lives in peace and comfort. It’s like a zoo for typography nerds, with so many species of lettering to ogle and admire.

The Springs Preserve, where Melissa and Cory’s wedding was held, is a magnificent botanical garden a few miles outside of the city. I wish I’d had more time to explore it, I do love a good cacti/succulent/desert plant setting.

Back on the strip, I took a little solo self-guided tour of a few casinos, just to see the spectacle of it all. I strolled through Paris, and bought a ticket to the top of the Eiffel tower. I dilly-dallied by the canals in the Venetian, bought some gelato and watched a troupe of clowns perform. When they started pulling audience members into their show, it was time for me to go. New York New York was amazing in it’s miniaturized and Disneyfied newyorkness…

Three days in Vegas was all I could handle. Too much excitement, too many stimuli, too many hands reaching for my pocketses. It was cool to have gone, and check it off my list of stuffs to see and do, and to meet all of the amazing people that Melissa knows and loves. But I am more of a museum, nature, and garden girl, for reals.

I have other ideas rolling around for more travel maps, and I just went through all my travel journals and scanned in a bunch of stuff to put on my website. I’ve been redesigning my site to focus more on illustration, and the beta version will go live with much new stuffs very, very soon. Stay tuned for the announcement and associated fanfare, and thanks for stopping by!

I Draw and Travel

Angie Brown | Philadelphia >>

TA-DAAA! I’ve just finished this little number and submitted it to, (sister site to where my illustrated pesto recipe was posted recently.) TDAT is a nifty little site that posts “maps” of travel destinations, and some are more mappier than others. The locations depicted in my rendering of Philadelphia are roughly in the correct spatial position, (all but the museum being located west of the Schuylkill River,) but that’s about as mappy as I get in this one. Click on the image to zoom in.

This was incredible amounts of fun, and I want to do another one right now. But first, I’m working on another recipe for TDAC, and I’ve started a series of sketches entitled “CAT101: A Beginner’s Guide to being an Awesome Kitty”. It’s a study guide for my kitten Jenkins, who sometimes engages in highly inappropriate behaviors, like chasing her tail in the litter box. Never party where you poop, Jenkins. That’s CAT101. And of course, there are the zoo scenes in the Loupotamus book, also in progress– where you may see that cheeky hippo from the map make a reappearance. Stay tuned!

Mi viaje a la biblioteca

My husband and I have been trying to learn to speak Spanish and are now in our third semester of Spanish classes. I feel very confident in my ability to speak Spanish….at the level of a four-year old. So I thought, why not read what a spanish-speaking four-year old might read. So for this month’s trip to the library (viaje a la biblioteca), I checked out a bunch of libros de niños.

Green Eggs and Ham (Huevos verdes con jamón) is not quite the same when translated to Spanish. Check out this blog to read just how hard it can be to translate Dr. Suess books. Sam-I-Am becomes Juan Ramon, but it’s a good book to read if you’re learning spanish because of all the different tenses used in the span of two sentences. A bit difficult to keep up, but worth a try.

I checked out El mejor libro de palabras de Richard Scarry, hoping that it would make some vocabulary stick. But really it only helped showcase just how limited my vocabulary is. And now I’m afraid that when I need to say something really important the only word I’m going to remember is la morsa (walrus)

Mi libro favorite de todos los libros para de biblioteca era Walter el Perro Pedorrero. Las ilustraciones son un poco de miedo, pero la historia es muy divertido. Es sobre un pero con muchos problemas con su estomago. Walter, el perro, huele horrible. A veces come comida que lo hace peor. Sin embargo a el terminar de historia, dos ladrones prueban robar muchas cosas para su casa. La culata de Walter huele más horrible, pues los ladrones salen.

Google translate tracker – 3

So, I think what I said was:

My favorite book of all the books from the library was Walter the Farting Dog. The illustrations are very scary, but the story is very funny. It’s about a dog with a lot of stomach problems. Walter, the dog, smells horrible. Sometimes he eats food that makes it worse. However at the end of the story, two robbers try to steal many things from their house. Walter’s butt smelled really bad and the robbers left. 

Was I close? Feel free to correct me in the comments, so that I can learn.

I’m not sure that this is actually a book a four-year old could or should read (mainly because the illustrations are too weird and a little frightening), but it sure is funny. And what four-year old doesn’t like a story about a farting dog? Heck, what 34-year-old aspiring children’s book author doesn’t either!?!?

Resistance: The enemy of creativity

I recently finished the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It was recommended by one of the workshop instructors at this year’s New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. In the book, Pressfield talks about why we don’t pursue our passion, our creativity and your destined self. It’s a hybrid – a little hippie and a little disciplined – a dichotomy I can relate to.

Pressfield was a Marine in Vietnam, so the book has a narrative voice that is part philosophical and part intolerant of B.S – you’ll find yourself reading something that speaks right to your psyche followed by a sentences laced with F bombs. He’s the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The Gates of Fire (the movie 300 is based on this book).

The War of Art is a divergence from his genre sweet spot of war/battle-related tales and one well worth a read for anyone who’s struggling to follow their path – artists, yogis, entrepreneurs, athletes, etc.

I write in books as I read them – underlining, highlighting and conversing with the text in spontaneous answers. I want to share some of the pieces of the book that resonated with me, particularly as it relates to this journey of creating the Loupotamus book:

Resistance is the enemy within – page 8

Resistance is always lying and it’s always full of sh*t  - page 9

We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with Resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance – page 13

The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration – page 20

He cannot find his way to the future, so he retreats to the past – page 35

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death – page 39

You must know the difference between urgent and important and you must do what’s important first – page 65

All of page 68

The writer is an infantryman. He knows that progress is measured in yards of dirt extracted from the enemy one day, one hour, one minutes at a time and paid for in blood. The artist wears combat boots. He looks in the mirror and sees GI Joe. Remember, the Muse favors working stiffs. She hates prima donnas . To the gods the supreme sin is not rape or murder, but pride. To think of yourself as a mercenary, a gun for hire, implants the proper humility. It purges pride and preciousness – page 74

[a professional] knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow – page 80

The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality – page 92

We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it – page 146

She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her – page 156

We must do our work for it’s own sake not for our fortune or attention or applause – page 161

The dragon guards the gold – page 163

Creative work is not a selfish act of a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got – page 165

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now. ~W.H. Murray

One question Pressfield poses to help readers find their path is, “If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?”

So I ask you, if you were the last person on earth, what would you do?


Travel :: Illustration Friday

Angie Brown | SquareDogRoundWorld.comHere’s a little sketch I did from some of my photographs of Philadelphia. I drew it out in pencil, then inked it, and then scanned it in and layered a sheet of rust-dyed paper in behind it. I’m not really sure where I’m going with it, or if it will make it into the Square Dog, Round World book or not… But I thought it was fun and this week’s Illustration Friday challenge is travel, so viola!

In other news, I’ve just had my first illustrated recipe published on They Draw and Cook, and there are more in the works!

Summer Reading: July

I went to the library! And I checked out ALL the books! Well, twelve of them, really, which seems like a lot– too much, even– but my neighborhood branch has a self-checkout station, and no one stopped me. I high-tailed it out of there really quick in case anyone tried. It’s kind of amazing that you can just walk into a place, grab as many books as you want and take them home for weeks. For free. We’re kind of lucky like that. Yay, libraries!

So here’s my big stack of reading booty for July:You may notice, if you are the noticing type, that 8 out of 12 books are by authors whose names begin with “B”. That’s as far as I got before I started feeling like a book-hog. Then I made a special foray to the “S” section to get some Maurice Sendak, and grabbed another title that was particularly appealing: There are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz. This is possibly the best book I’ve ever read (this week.) It follows three cats– Tiny, Moonpie, and Andre– as they play with yarn, boxes, pillows, and fish. It’s got nifty die-cut pages and the illustrations are cleverly interactive. I highly recommend it. Also, the cats are *totes adorbs.*






Also on the highly recommended list, (and also featuring yarn) is Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, who is my latest illustrator/writer crush. You may know him from I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat. Here’s a link to some videos where a couple of folks discuss the awesomeness of Extra Yarn and even read the whole thing to you. The video at the bottom is Jon and Mac giving acceptance speeches for an award for the book. They are funny, wise, and inspiring. I love them. 

Other favorites in July’s book stack are the two by Melissa’s writer/illustrator crush, Peter Brown*: Chowder and The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder. In the midst of my book-grabbing frenzy I did not realize that I actually own the first one– an autographed copy that Melissa got for me at the conference in NJ last month. The inscription reads: “To Angie, Find your Bulldog! Peter Brown” Ooh-la-la! He knows my name! I might also have a crush on Peter Brown. I definitely have a crush on Chowder, his bulldog/protagonist.

And since I made a special trip to the S’s for the Maurice Sendaks, (hoping to snag a copy of Where The Wild Things Are, which wasn’t there, boo) I must speak a little on his works. They are odd. Not bad odd, just… odd. In The Night Kitchen is rather well-known, and I adore the pantry-city in the background… but the writing is… well, odd. Sendak is a master at evoking a nonsensical dreamland, and he does it yet again in We Are All In The Dumps with Jack and Guy (two nursery rhymes with pictures by M.S.) , which might be flavored with a bit o’ socio-political commentary, addressing poverty and homelessness… It’s probably the oddest book I’ve read all week.

So I guess I’ve rattled on enough about this stack of books. Next month I’m going to see what they’ve got under “C” and maybe work my way around the library in an alphabetical fashion.

So tell me, gentle readers, have you read any other books by the authors I’ve mentioned and/or do you recommend any that I should check out on my next trip (preferably by authors beginning with “C”)?

*Ahem, the author of this post bears no familial or marital relation to Mr. Peter Brown. All similarities in surnames are purely coincidental.