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Borrowers

 

Borrower web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

What happens to your household items when they go missing? Why do hairpins and spools of thread vanish? Where did your pencil go when you know you set it on the table? What about the heirloom pocket-watch you kept so carefully in a dresser drawer? You’ve looked everywhere for one of the knights in your favorite chess set. And, why do Lego pieces regularly disappear? Mary Norton proposed a solution to these mysteries in her Borrowers series, which first came out in 1952. The Borrowers are tiny people who live within the walls of our homes. They believe that the only true purpose for “Human Beans”…as they call us…is to provide the basic necessities for their lifestyle. They have no qualms about taking everything from potatoes to pins to pieces of cloth or paper. According to Mary Norton, their rooms are papered with letters rescued from a trash can. The handwritten script runs as vertical stripes up each wall. A chess piece becomes the marble bust on a column in their living room. Bits of pencil may look like rolling-pins in their hands but are still useful for writing. A Borrower’s main goal, besides living comfortably, is to NEVER be seen by a human. Their fear is that (if seen) the humans may buy a cat or some other deadly pet who would force them out onto the streets, looking for a new home.

Today’s artwork was inspired by the SCBWI prompt – Borrow. While brainstorming ideas, I remembered stories I’d heard as a child. I also remembered a TV cartoon series called The Littles, which I’m guessing was based on The Borrowers. So, I borrowed (no pun intended) my mom’s copy of the book and began researching this month’s illustration. Most aspects of my illustration come from the book…including the wall paper, chess piece, sofa, pencil, diary, wall art, and spool of thread. The girl is based on the main character, Arrietty, age 14. And the boy is a human she meets, age 10. These roles were played by my niece and nephew. While mine is a more modern version of the setting, it remains true to the heart of a Borrowers scene. My aim was to capture the very moment Arrietty is seen (and no, this setting is not true to the book…they first meet outside). It’s that frozen second of calm before the storm, where she’s been writing in her diary and hasn’t even had time to think of escape. I hope you enjoy it! And, if you’re looking for a good book for young readers, check out Mary Norton’s stories!

Tips and tricks connected with this illustration:

Obviously, when compiling photo references for an illustration like this one, you can’t get everything in one shot. First, I made a rough sketch of the poses, expressions and setting needed. I took photos of my nephew looking through a cardboard cut-out hole. He quickly learned that acting surprised while trying not to turn your face (lest you cast shadows in the wrong place) and peering through a hole in cardboard is…tricky! Thankfully, he has a dramatic flair and was up for the challenge. Then, I set my niece up in the pose I’d sketched and took her photos. We placed a chess knight on top of a Lego column for that particular reference, and I took close-up shots from the angle needed. Other items were found online. All images were pieced together in Photoshop. Here I could use the skew and perspective tools to tweak angles. I could play with filters, lighting, layer-effects, and brushes to bring a consistency to the scene as a whole. Once finished, I printed out the compiled reference, projected it onto watercolor paper, and went from there!

Arrival

Sunrise of your Smile web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

“Arrival” is a word steeped in anticipation. It’s the long sigh when you hadn’t even realized you were holding your breath. It’s a first breath, followed by the unmistakable newborn cry, proclaiming: “I’m here, and it’s been a traumatic few hours! So, wrap me snuggly and hold me close.” It is awed joy as you stare at the tiny creation in your arms. It’s nearly imperceptible toenails and invisible eyelashes, a trusting fist gripping your finger. It’s the fluff of silky hair. It’s the expanding walls of your heart as you suddenly love in a new and deeper way.

And this arrival is actually the beginning of a journey.

I saw this month’s prompt for SCBWI – “Arrival” – and thought, “my new niece just might make it in time for me to base a painting on her!” My sister-in-law’s due date was the 27th, my illustration deadline was the 20th, and baby girl arrived on the 13th. Perfect timing! Needless to say, this is the youngest model I’ve ever photographed and painted. She was both cooperative and photogenic, which made my job easy!

The calligraphy verse is a line from a Michael Card lullaby. Twenty-something years ago, I rocked my baby brother to sleep while singing that song. Perhaps that’s why it came to mind when I started this painting. The full chorus says, “I would wander weary miles, would welcome ridicule my child, to simply see the sunrise of your smile. To see the light behind your eyes, the happy thought that makes you fly. Yes, I would wander weary miles, if I could see the sunrise of your smile.” (Poiema, Sparrow Records, 1994) That moment when a smile first quirks the corners of a child’s mouth – that is the sunrise. And as their face lights up with humor or happiness, the glow warms those of us who love them. It is partly why I love teaching and working with kids. And it’s definitely something I love about being an aunt! So, as my brother and sister-in-law start on this new journey of baby #2, I enjoy watching and being a part of it all.

Blessed

M Reading web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

This portrait will be on the SCBWI Draw This page in early April. The prompt for this month was “Lucky.” As I brainstormed ideas, I looked up synonyms for lucky, which brought me to “Blessed.” The funny thing is, my friend and I had just been having a conversation recently about the phrase “Good Luck,” and the meaning behind it. Luck can be such an abstract concept with superstitious connotations. We all say, “Good Luck!” without thinking anything of it. It’s a cultural nicety basically used to mean, “I wish you well.” My friend comes from a Jewish background, so I half-jokingly offered “Mazel Tov” as an alternative. We laughed and our conversation moved on. But, in a way, I really like the message of “Mazel Tov,” which (according to Fiddler on the Roof) means: “a blessing on your head.” Now, I think even that phrase is basically taken as good luck or congratulations. But I like the imagery of a blessing being place on your head! There is something a little more meaningful about blessing someone. Placing that blessing on their head is like crowning them with encouragement. I know I can always use encouragement! I also know I don’t always give it out to others as I should. We can be a blessing or a curse to those around us…and much of that has to do with our words.

All syntactical debate aside, when I think of how I’m blessed, my littlest niece quickly comes to mind. She (along with her parents) has been living with me for several months while my brother sells their townhouse and looks for a bigger place. Entering into this living arrangement, I looked forward to her toddler age and stage. My time with her has been even more of a blessing than I’d imagined! Nighttime routines, snuggles, kisses, playing make-believe with her baby doll, eating pretend food, building cardboard houses, coloring (mostly, she tries to eat the marker), dancing to nursery songs, all the new words she says weekly (including her name for me…which started as Memew and is transitioning now to Mahyee). Last, but not least, I LOVE reading books with her! The portrait above is from a moment caught on camera by my mom. It belies my niece’s inability to sit still. Yet, it perfectly captures the trust, the gentleness, the wonder of time spent reading with a child. As a writer and illustrator, story time has always been my favorite time. As an aunt, story time will always be a blessing.

Murray Tinkelman

Carol and Murray Tinkelman

Photo by Walt Engels ©2014

My grandparents have often talked about which of them will go first (pass away). They’ve given each other permission to die and honestly would be happiest if they died at the same time. When you’ve lived most of your life with the love of your life, it’s hard to be apart even for a short time. Murray Tinkelman said goodbye to his bride of nearly 60 years and knew that his job here on earth was done. He had run the race. He had lived a full life: enjoying children and grandchildren, a successful career, and the respect of colleagues and students world-wide. So, only two weeks after Carol’s death, I received news that Murray has also passed away.

Murray Ill web

Pen & Ink Illustrations by Murray Tinkelman

I wish my students could have met this man. His rough language (thanks to the army) and his tough persona (thanks to a stubborn disposition and a childhood in Brooklyn) could not hide his deep love for illustration, art history, his wife/family, and teaching. I mentioned in my last post how Carol kept the Illustration MFA program running smoothly. But the program would never have existed without Murray’s vision, knowledge, and contacts. For over 40 years, he’s been a highly respected illustrator. His work has been included in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Brooklyn Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. In 2013 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, joining artists such as Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schulz. In 2014 the Norman Rockwell Museum honored him with its Artist Laureate Award and an exhibition of his work.

Murray’s first illustration was published in Seventeen Magazine. When asked about that illustration, Murray is quoted as saying: “It was awful! I was paid $10. You’re right if you assume I was grossly overpaid.”

That sense of humor – quick-witted, blunt, unvarnished, and extremely funny – is what I will miss most about the man. Murray planned to retire from his role as head of the University of Hartford Illustration MFA in June of 2016. Perhaps that is the only goal he failed to achieve. However, knowing Murray, I don’t think he would regret “dying with his boots on.” His job and his life were about people. The relationships we illustrators built during our years in the Hartford MFA reflect Murray and Carol: their genius, their teamwork, their understanding that artists can’t survive alone; we thrive in an atmosphere of collaboration and accountability. Murray and Carol created just that with their program. I am honored to say that I knew him and learned from him.

About the artwork:

Murray worked mostly in pen & ink, using Rapidograph pens in a hatching and cross-hatching technique. Being color blind never held him back and probably helped to develop his sense of value range and contrast. To hear Murray describe his technique and process, click here.

murray 1

Murray Tinkelman

* If you’d like to learn more about his life and work, check out the following sites:

Murray TinkelmanUniversity of HartfordFerris State University

Carol – In Remembrance

Pasadena Painting web

copyright 2009 Mollie Bozarth

Today a mother-figure and mentor has passed away. For those of you who don’t know, I earned my MFA in Illustration through a program at the University of Hartford. Murray Tinkelman (whom I mentioned in my post Autumn Rhythm) is the head of the Hartford MFA program, but I’m sure he would agree that much of the program’s success is due to the tireless efforts and ingenuity of his wife and lifelong teammate, Carol. In a program designed as a tight-knit experience, Carol had the knack of bringing people together who would challenge and inspire one another. She was the mother hen, checking to make sure everyone had what they needed as we traveled to various illustration hubs around the United States. She was the one behind the scenes, getting paperwork together, emailing contacts, communicating with secretaries. She was one tough lady…not a woman whose bad side you would want to be on! Yet, she is beloved because her heart was big, her encouragement far-reaching, and her advice practical. Though I haven’t seen Carol in several years, I kept in touch with her through Facebook. She has checked in on my free-lance work, read my blog, and kept me posted on how she and Murray were doing. She will be greatly missed.

Above is an illustration I did after our Pasadena trip with the Hartford program. After each trip, our assignment was to create a piece based off of the city we had just visited. Throughout our week in Pasadena, the song The Little Old Lady from Pasadena had stuck in my head. Its chorus goes: And everybody’s sayin’ that there’s nobody meaner, Than the little old lady from Pasadena, She drives real fast and she drives real hard, She’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard, It’s the little old lady from Pasadena (Go granny, go granny, go granny, go!). Walking down the sidewalks of Colorado Boulevard, I could picture the granny flying past terrified pedestrians in her bright red sports car. I had originally sketched a boy scout in the dog’s position…playing off the irony of boy scouts’ tradition of helping old ladies cross the street. However, my art director felt having a boy scout dive out of the way seemed too precarious/dangerous. So, the dog running for safety took his place. If you look closely, a squirrel is peeking around the palm tree’s trunk. During our week there, squirrels were prevalent. One squirrel particular came right up to my friend Michael’s feet when we were in the backyard of a famous house. The critter stood up on its hind legs, tame as any pet, and stared at us for several seconds before retreating up a tree. I actually had time to snap a photo of it before it ran! Memories of this trip and many weeks like it will forever be tied to Carol Tinkelman. I hope she knows what an impact she had on countless lives, including mine.

Carol & Murray T

Santa’s Wild Ride

Santa's Stowaway

copyright 2015 Mollie Bozarth

The painting above was inspired by SCBWI’s December illustration prompt. I decided to feature characters I’d developed years ago for a children’s book. My first thought was to have the farm animals taking over Santa’s sleigh…perhaps hopping aboard while he was preoccupied with chimneys and stockings. I imagined them driving off on their own, scrambling to figure out how to command 8 flying reindeer. Then I thought: what if they ambushed Santa as he passed through the barnyard? It was the cow’s idea, of course. She wanted a late night joy-ride on Christmas Eve. Life on the farm just wasn’t adventurous enough for her! The sheep went along with her plan but soon discovered their distaste for heights and speed. Needless to say, they’ll all be on the naughty list for next year. Never prank Santa Claus.

A few watercolor tips connected with this piece:

  1. Snow isn’t really white. Leave the white paper only for highlights. Build up blues and purples for the shadows in snow.
  2. I used bits of masking tape to mask off the stars. Rubber cement and traditional watercolor masking fluid also work well. White crayon is a 4th option. Crayon creates a wax-resist that won’t allow color to penetrate the paper’s surface (similar to Easter egg dyeing techniques). Once masked, you can paint large areas without fear of losing the white paper. Simply remove masking tape, cement, or fluid when finished with the painting.
  3. I like Uni-ball Vision fine point pens for tiny details like houses in the background or the soft edges of smoke. For bold lines, I use a brush dipped in ink. Note: ink is the quickest way to ruin a brush. Wash brush immediately with soap and water (working all the ink residue out of bristles) to keep your brush in good shape. Waterproof ink will not wash out once dried.

Not sure whether I’ll post again before the New Year. So, in case I don’t, I’ll say now: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!”

If you visit this illustration on the SCBWI page, you can make up a caption for Santa and add it to the comments section! To see the SCBWI page, click here.

Chi-Town Sail

Sunset Sail Triptych web

copyright 2015 Mollie Bozarth

As the daughter of a sailor, I’ve been raised to appreciate quiet time on the water. Yes, there can be the humming vibration of mainsail in a stiff wind. There’s breeze in your face and sun on your hair, the buzz of a centerboard and the glug, glug sound of wake churning behind  you. What there isn’t is the scream of a motor or blow-your-face-off speed, where you can’t hear yourself think, much less hold a conversation without yelling. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my dad were in the quiet of a day out on the water. In a sailboat, there’s time to think, time to be still. You can talk or simply enjoy the silence. You can sleep (and I often have) to the rocking motion, the sun warming your eyelids, the chink of halyards like bells overhead.

Of course, there are days with no wind, when you sit, parched, on the desert island that is your boat. Towels dunked over the side and wrung out on your legs are the “air conditioning.” By the time you finally give up and motor back in, you have sunburnt limbs and stiff muscles to remind you of the day. I remember one afternoon when my dad and his friend went sailing in a shallow bay near North Carolina. The breeze died suddenly, and the adults would not abandon their boats. But we kids climbed out and literally walked past our “sailing” dads back to shore. Sailors can be stubbornly hopeful, determined to wait for the next wind when others would have given up long ago.

For more than 20 years now, the Chicago skyline has been a regular part of my sailing memories. My dad moors his boat in Monroe Harbor from May through October, and we’ll often sail with friends throughout the summer. I’ve experienced the skyline in every light you can imagine: early dawn after sleeping on the boat, high noon with sun beating down, late night as building windows sparkle like thousands of stars against an indigo backdrop, or lit up by the colorful burst of fireworks. But my favorite time is sunset, as the glowing orb of orange seems to melt away edges of architecture. Individual buildings subside into a long Lego outline of purples and greys. Cotton candy clouds taper off in the distance. And a melon light touches tips of waves, contrasting deep aquas all around your boat. The painting above is a composite of a couple photos my friends and I have taken over the years. The painting was completed as a triptych, 3 panels, each 20″x24″. A detail below shows that melting effect I love so much. I hope you enjoy the painting as much as I enjoyed painting it!

Sunset Sail Detail web

copyright 2015 Mollie Bozarth

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