Cat Nip Series: artist adventures in learning interviews…..

Christine Kornacki is the honored first artist interview in our new CAT NIP SERIES.  Artists take many different roads in their learning, teaching and ‘doing’ careers, and I thought it might be fascinating to share a few of those adventures and stories with you. There might be one or two that would sound good to you readers at this point in YOUR careers, or you might pick up a tid bit of great information along the line.

Kornacki photoChristine Kornacki, seen here on a trolley in San Francisco,  has been a ‘CAT’ artist since 2008. Happily not long after joining us, she was chosen as the first FEMALE artist (!) for an American Girl Doll book illustrator for Cecile and Marie-Grace, the A.M. New Orleans girls. Quite an exciting way to break into children’s illustration!  And several lovely books graced with her oil paintings have followed. BUT she wanted to go back to SCHOOL and get even better………

Tell us about how your Masters Program is set up Christine:

The Hartford Art School Low Residency MFA in Illustration is truly unique compared to other programs for illustrators.  Designed and run by Murray Tinkelman, the program provides students the opportunity to meet and work with leading illustrators from all over the country without having to put their careers on hold. It is the only Low Residency MFA dedicated exclusively to illustration.  Unlike other programs, we only meet three times a year for a week or two,  spending most of that time traveling to different parts of the country and meeting and learning from other illustrators.

In the summer we meet for an intensive two weeks of classes at the Hartford (CT) Art School. There we take a variety of studio classes such as Children’s Book Illustration, Advanced Digital Illustration, History Of Illustration, and Marketing and Promotional classes.  In between Classes we are visited by local illustrators who share their unique paths in the illustration world. There two weeks are designed to stimulate and enhance your skills.

In the Spring and fall we travel to different cities. Over the two years we will visit New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas.  These traveling trips are a week of non-stop lectures and studio visits by leading illustrators in that area. These weeks are designed to open your eyes to the vast world of illustration.

Meanwhile, we are traveling and studying with other working illustrators from all over the world. I have created deep and lasting relationships with those living in Ohio, CA, Oregon and even Latvia.  I’ve learned valuable information from each of them…working alone we can forget how valuable these relationship really are.

We spend the time between our travel periods working at home. A major part of the program is a thesis project we are developing. At the end of the two years we have to present a portfolio in our desired field. For me, my thesis will be a series of children’s book stories that I am writing and illustrating. I’m n constant contact with my thesis advisor, artist Bill Thomson. We are continually emailing back and forth  about my progress.

Kornacki father winter

Kornacki tree image

Tell us why you chose this program particularly and why at this point in your career:   A few years ago I had decided I needed to push my career to the next level. I’ve been working successfully, illustrating children’s books for many years, but I knew there is always room for growth. I really wanted to begin writing my own children’s books as well as illustrating them. I need a program that could help stimulate and focus my intentions. I looked at several programs, but none of the others provided me with opportunity to learn and grow without having to put my career and life on hold to go back to school.  I didn’t want to take online classes. I work at home alone all the time so I wanted to have real-world in-person connections with other artists. This program gives me the drive to advance my career, get outside of my comfort Zone, and continue my life and career simultaneously.

Tell us more about the highlights of your intensive trips:  While I knew traveling was a part of the program, I didn’t expect the eye opening experiences I would take home with me!  On our San Fran trip we spent one day visiting the studio and private collection of illustrator Alice “Bunny” Carter; the next day we had presentations by Lou brooks and Robert Hunt.  In NYC we met everyday at the Society of Illustrators, visited the studios of children’s book illustrators Ted and Betsy Lewin, then followed with lectures by Donato Giancola, Peter DeSeve, and Yuki Shimuzo. These are just a few of the big names I could mention!  At night my classmates and I would hustle around the city visiting local museums like the Legion of Honor and the MET of Art etc! I am halfway through the program now and looking forward to LA and Dallas!

Bunny Carter filesBunny Carter with students

What educational breakthroughs…or advise…did you personally experience?

During each presentation the artists share how their careers have changed over time. It’s incredible to see how the work of illustrators Like Nancy Stahl and Lou Brooks have truly evolved with the times.  The one all-inclusive big theme each speaker mentioned was how they got their big break.  Almost every artist told us a story about how they did a personal project that lead to an explosion of their careers.  It’s these personal projects that illustrators did for their own fun and pleasure that truly let them shine. That’s when your portfolio can grow to the next level and clients can SEE our real enjoyment in our work.

What artist(s) that you have met had the most influence on your development in this course?      There are so many artists! Donato Giancola, Robert Hunt and C. F. Payne’s work are absolutely stunning and they are a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.  But I have to say that children’s book illustrators Ted and Betsey Lewin, and Dennis Nolan Have made the biggest impact on me.  All three of them have worked with me on writing and developing stories. Story writing is a beautiful new world that I have immersed myself into this year and it’s been extremely eye opening. The times I have spent with all of them have changed my life and work in way I could have never predicted.

Betsy LewinBetsey Lewin with some of her work

I am halfway through the program now and I feel that my work has already grown by leaps and bounds.  This program is a magical combination of classes, lectures, and pure inspiration.  I am exploring things like story telling and building content between the lines in each new painting I create.  The time I have spent with my classmates, faculty and visiting artists is priceless!

Thank you so much for sharing Christine!  I don’t know about you readers, but I’m looking forward to hearing more about the second half of the program perhaps!  Certainly glad CATugeau agency will be a part of her future as well!

Xmas cover Kornacki Print cover Sparkle box KORNACKIa few of Christine’s most popular books!

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real life and art….. personal reflection

We personally had an amazing weekend of relaxed busy fun when my agency partner and daughter Christy Ewers came with her husband Christopher and daughter Billie to visit us in VA. A long hard drive for a 2 1/2 yr old, and too short, but we were so grateful and had such a good time.  While walking in CW (Colonial Wmsbrg) with the family on Sat. the fact of history, art and real life overlapping constantly hit me.  It’s all around us down there, one reason we love it so here.  The reminder that things change, life changes, but it stays the same as well, is felt.  The gratitude of what has gone before, often at great cost, and how we shouldn’t lose site of that, is also in the air there.  Here we are freely walking the streets of history with a new generation of children who need to KNOW and appreciate it all.

Billie's favorites

and then Billie, our ‘research assistant,’  just HAD to visit the Wm and Mary CW bookstore there in CW (of course!) and look what they found!

CW coloring book Iosa and BillieThis is a coloring book done by Ann Iosa a few years ago with all CW images for the younger set.  such fun for Mama too!  Art and life mixed up for sure!  And there is another by a past agency artist Margie Moore called The Horses Tale which is also a wonderful CW story.  Come on down!

Had to include an image showing how things stay the same….and NOT!  this is Billie and me taking a break on the ‘Memom Swing’ (names of all 7, so far, grandkids on it) 2 yrs! memom swing two years B

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Cat Nips: Simon Kaplan’s Pic Bk hints!

well worth a close read and copy….. thanks Simon for this check list!!!……

“READ ME,” WHISPERED THE MANUSCRIPT TO THE EDITOR: Formatting your manuscript for maximum visibility

written by Simon Kaplan from Picture Book People Newsletter

Years ago, when I was an editor at Henry Holt and Company, a visiting author looked around my tiny, paper-laden office and indicated a pile of manuscripts. “Are those all the people who you’ve kept waiting for way too long?” He asked pointedly. “No” I replied, showing him a bookcase that contained several shelves on which manuscripts were stacked deep and wide. “Those are.” He looked shocked.

THE REASON If you’ve never been inside the office of an editor or literary agent, it’s hard to imagine the volume of submissions that cross either one’s desk. If you’re submitting your work for an editor’s or agent’s consideration, it makes sense that you do everything you can to make the experience of reading your work as easy as possible. Before an editor reads a word of your manuscript, he or she notices the way it’s presented. Or rather, the editor or agent doesn’t notice the way it’s presented—which is what you want. You do not want your submission to be rejected because it’s difficult to read. You do want the format of your manuscript to be inconsequential so that the content stands out. You want your manuscript to whisper “Read me” so that the overworked editor takes notice and reads. So save your creativity for the storytelling, and format your submissions in the way that’s commonly accepted as standard.

THE FORMAT—A CHECKLIST: If an editor or agent to whom you’re submitting a manuscript requests a specific format, follow the requirements. If there is no set format, here’s the generally accepted way of doing things, presented in checklist format for ease of use.

Your work should be typed in Black Times New Roman 12 point Double spaced.

It should be Aligned left—the right-hand margin will be “ragged”— and have One-inch margins on all four sides Page numbers centered at the bottom of each page Page header at the top right-hand corner of each page following the title page that includes your last name/title of book The End in italics, centered, at end of manuscript.

If you wish to or feel you need to show page breaks, do so by including an extra line space. You can center a -; *; or # in the line if you feel you’d like to make more of a statement.

Picture books don’t require a separate title page, so your manuscript should include a title page formatted as follows: Aligned left and single spaced near the top of page are your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address—each on a separate line. Word count should appear in the top right-hand corner. About halfway down the page, the full manuscript title should be typed. A double space and then “by [Your Full Name].” Another double space and begin the manuscript.

WHY THIS FORMAT? This format is standard because it optimizes legibility, navigation, and information. Black ink stands out most clearly; the 12-point font is neither too big nor too small. Times New Roman is a serif face that draws the eye easily through the text. Double spacing ensures enough space between lines so that each line is obvious and clear without someone having to squint or transverse vast quantities of white space to get from one line to the next.

At one inch—pretty much the default in Microsoft Word—margins are generous but not excessive and so give a sense of clarity and space rather than a sense of claustrophobia. Pages that are clearly identified and numbered are easy to put together in order if they get separated on a paper-strewn desk. The author’s name and contact details make it easy for an editor to contact an author without having to track down a cover letter or search for an address or phone number.

A NOTE ABOUT ILLUSTRATION NOTES: Because picture books are so visual and rely on images in order to fully realize the story, you might be tempted to include illustration notes. Here are four reasons to think carefully before doing so:

1. Editors are skilled readers and understand the role of image in telling a story.

2. Illustration notes interrupt the reading experience and can be distracting.

3. Illustration notes signal that you’re not a pro, that you don’t understand the picture book creation process.

4. Finally, they suggest that you might have a hard time letting go of your work and entering into the collaboration that is essential to the creation of a picture book.

There are some times when you do need to include illustration notes, such as when the images show something that isn’t obvious or cannot be inferred from the text. Come away from the water, Shirley by John Burningham and Rosie’s Walk by Pat Cummings are examples of printed books in which the text and art show—and do—different things. If this kind of visual irony is pervasive and essential to the book as a whole, the illustrator notes should be included in your cover letter. If you need to provide notes on spreads—and only if it’s really necessary—include them in parentheses in italics below the text. (like this)

MAKE IT A HABIT: It’s not a bad idea for you to create your manuscripts in a similar format for similar reasons. Black 12-point Times New Roman, double spaced with one-inch margins make the work legible as you’re working on it—and your eyes matter too. Vary the fonts, sizes, and/or colors if it supports your process; but my suggestion is to use the same basic font and general format. I’m assuming that you need to number the pages—easy to do in a Word document—but that you know who you are and what you’re writing. On the other hand, in the throes of the creative process, some writers have been known to forget their own names. . . . Seriously, though. Make standard formatting a habit that you don’t have to think about. Then you’ll be freed up to do the real work, the creative work, the exciting work of creating an exceptional picture book manuscript.

Simone has been in the children’s publishing industry for more than 20 years.  She was an editor at Henry Holt and Company and then a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.  She works as a freelance consultant to various authors, illustrators and publishing houses and puts out a free monthly newsletter about picture books.  If you would like to sign up to receive it, here is the link: http://www

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CAT NIP: DUMMIES….necessary?

I’ve been asked this now and then:  “must I do a complete 32 page dummy for this ms of mine when they’ll change it anyway?”    YES!   Of course it’s totally up to you how you present your ideas, ms, and yourself.  All I can do is advise.  But YES!  Even Daniel Kirk at a talk at Books of Wonder once said he always does a complete dummy for pitches.  Apparently Dan Yaccarino also had 5 dummies working at one point to sell a story.

And that’s the point really isn’t it….SELLING THE STORY.  If you believe in it you want others to ‘get it’ and believe in it as well.  And if they can SEE it full-out they can ‘get it’ much much more easily, and THAT might sell the story.  You just need one or two color samples to show how you envision the finishes, and the rest can be in finished clean sketch form. Every page.  Can incomplete perhaps be saying “lazy?”

Once a publisher KNOWS your work, perhaps this full-out dummy wouldn’t be necessary.  Some artists DO just present a double spaced typed ms and let a couple of pieces of art (color) do the talking. However, the more immediate the experience of a picture book, the better the results and a more full response. Even if they don’t take the story, the feedback will be ever so much better.  That is huge as well!

Showing a dummy is also a wonderful way to showcase your art and your ‘thinking a story.’ Use this to FULL advantage when you have a buyers eye.  They can not visualize this if the dummy is incomplete or too sketchy.  I advise taking the time to present a fun experience. Make their job easy, and they just might make YOUR day!

their days are SO SO busy, don’t you know….make it easier to read and buy!

all business

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Sharing a personal moment …..

I’ve just opened my eyes after today’s meditation portion of a 21 day Deepak and Oprah meditation opportunity I decided to try.  This is the end of the first week, and the first day I actually did the full meditation time! I was letting all the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ noise and resistance keep me from the peace possible in a quiet few moments.  Today, Sunday, I finally  just relaxed and went with the flow of breath and soft music and the ‘now.’

For many years I’ve advised my agency artists to  take short breaks from all their deadlines, family, health issues and other obstacles when they feel occasionally overwhelmed by them. Life overwhelms us all now and then. I suggest a walk (without music in ears or phone!), or sitting in a quiet place (moving water is helpful), or sit and read a good book, take a yoga class or power nap.  Long or short, these breaks from the norm, from obligations, demands and worries, help us ‘let go’ and then reconnect in a refreshed way.  I encourage this knowing how hard it can be to do!  But also knowing how it helps me and others stay creative, energetic, unrestricted, and balanced. Taking these moments actually give us MORE moments in return.  We can accomplish more easier when we step back in a connected, productive, encouraging and grateful manner.

And yet, knowing this, I struggled all week to take these moments. I listened to the days messages, which are always surprisingly inspirational, but I could not complete the timed meditations.  Today I did easily.  Maybe I will tomorrow.  Maybe you will take your moments too, and feel the melting away of deadlines and obligations…..they will be met more easily after this gift to ourselves.

evening bliss on James River (640x360)the James River, VA,  in a peaceful moment

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Bermuda Grass !…

Yesterday I was prepping the soil and replanting two beds at the end of our Williamsburg  driveway…. a happy project (and I had help!)  BUT then I was unhappily reminded of the faithfully maddening presence of BERMUDA GRASS!  It pushes, twists and spreads itself everywhere in our front yard!  Gratefully it does NOT like our side or back yard however. We’ve tried killing it (along with all the tall fescue grass as well!) 3 or 4 time over our decade here, and yet it keeps on coming back.  We’re trying to call a truce and just let it be….it’s green in the HOT tidewater VA summers after all!

It made me think again of the PERSISTANCE that promotion and marketing require…. like the constantly working, connecting, re-emerging strands or treads of this wild Bermuda Grass, an artist or writer has to keep at it.  If someone tried to knock you out, you just come back in a new place and push your way along.  When ‘winter cold’ comes  you hide and regroup and come back new and stronger!

So, as you maybe take a summer break and regroup again, keep this BERMUDA GRASS strategy in mind!  just KEEP ON KEEPING ON!

rain boy and birds...OCHOAfrom one of our Mexican artists: Ana Ochoa  

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couldn’t resist this…borrowed from a Dir. of IL post, borrowed from Warhol,  it’s an OH SO TRUE statement if there ever was one!  Do the art, style, colors you need and want to do….lets others (family, friends, clients (well, follow directions!), committees, critics of all sorts say what they will.  If you please yourself, chances are you’ll please an audience.  And always…..make more art!

andy warhol make art

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