Monday, August 9, 2010

Giveaway & Guest Post: Laurie Allen Klein: illustrator for Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann

Today it is my pleasure to introduce Laurie Allen Klein, illustrator for Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann. I asked Laurie to tell us a little bit about how she executes her craft and here's what she had to share. Giveaway details at bottom of post.

The Art of Illustration by Laurie Allen Klein

Like most children, I have always loved drawing; and I had a pretty rich fantasy life, with lots of imaginary friends and dressing up as my favorite characters. It was natural to combine my early scribbles with those little internal stories. My childhood was also spent with lots of children's books, Disney movies, and - until we moved from Philadelphia when I was 8 years old - this wonderful local television show (Cartoon Corners General Store) where the host, Gene London, drew pictures as he told stories, fairy tales, and myths. It is not hyperbole to say I knew from the moment I could clutch a crayon that I wanted to illustrate. I don't know that I had a clear idea of what the actual career was called of course, but I knew it would entail drawing pictures to accompany some sort of narrative. Interestingly enough, looking back I don't think my approach to the process has significantly changed from that day till now. It starts with the words, pictures almost immediately come to mind, and I just put those images down on paper.

That's the short-hand version any way, in reality of course it is a bit more complicated than that. And let me stress, this is my own approach to illustrating, or drawing anything in general (I can't speak for other artists). Whether it is a children's picture book, spot art for a magazine article, a 22' wall mural, or a logo design I go about it the same way - once I get the assignment i immediately go to the book shelf and start looking up reference information. I love, love LOVE doing research. And I adore books. I can easily spend an entire day in a book store (and have. My daughter and I once spent 7 hours in our local Barnes & Noble) so really I use any new project as an excuse to add to my personal library.

I have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in just about every room so most of the time I just have to go to the appropriate shelf to find a couple books on the subject at hand, but that won't stop me from making a quick trip to the library or bookstore as well. And now, of course, there is the Internet (tho personally that isn't nearly as much fun). For "Fur and Feathers" I not only had to find references of the main animal characters featured in the story, I also had to look up other birds and fish and insects and animals to fill the background, little girl poses, bedroom layout ideas, a giant sewing box, and a grandmother image. Besides books on mammals, reptiles, fish, insects and birds I also pawed through my photo albums (the grandmother in the story is based on my mother), had a little girl down the street pose for Sophia's body (Sophia's face, however, was loosely based on my own daughter), and physically pulled together an enormous sewing/craft box. Then, armed with all that research material I went to the art room and started doing rough thumbnail sketches (as the name suggests - small loose, very rough line scribbles of all the proposed illustrations.

In this stage, I don't worry too much about what the finished characters will actually look like. Mostly I'm just trying to work out the page layouts - figuring out the best way to portray the action. The characters might be simple blobs or stick figures, sometimes they are a little more fully realized, but either way they are mostly place savers and I try not to get too bogged down in the specifics until I have a better idea of how the whole page will be filled. I might do a couple different thumbnails, trying out different looks, or I might rework the initial sketch and clean it up a bit - there are no hard and fast rules. Some pictures practically draw themselves and remain the same throughout the entire process (the dream vortex illustration in F&F is such a picture), others are more of a struggle, or change with each pass. And there are usually a couple passes as I develop the picture.

From sketchy, loose thumbnail there is usually a cleaner thumbnail. Still small and simple, but pretty much clearly showing the direction I intend to take. The next step is enlarging the little sketch to more manageable size - 100% for a book or just in a workable proportion if it's a wall mural or something unusually large or over-sized. At this size I tend to discover the weaknesses in my originally rough idea - I mean, what looks fine as a two inch sketch often doesn't work nearly as well in an 8.5 x 11 format - so I fine-tune the illustration at this stage. I'll redraw the illustration several times as I perfect the pose or the layout. It is also here that I toy around with more interesting perspectives or points of view. The first thumbnail is usually a pretty straight forward, flat, landscape-type view but when I see it enlarged I often find it's kind of dull or bland or mundane so then I go off on another research hunt - looking for different animal poses perhaps, or more interesting backgrounds. Anything to make the picture more fun and entertaining.

When I finally have the picture sketched to my satisfaction Ido a final, clean Black & White line version (pencil on tracing paper by the way) before going to color or final art. I send a copy of the line drawing off for approval and once I get the official okay i enlarge the drawings 115% (per Sylvan Dell's request for printing purposes) and transfer the line drawing to the good paper (or the wall or the canvas - whatever the finished product is going to be). Then I go to color. Usually a two month process (at least for 12 to 13 page children's picture books).

I really just skimmed the surface of drawing in general and Fur and Feathers in particular here, but hope it has given you at least a little taste of the process. I've been writing a blog about both the work and the book on my web site, so if you're interested in a more detailed look to an illustrator's cluttered mind please feel free to go over to to see more art and/or read the Fur and Feathers account (currently up to 7 chapters I think). Any place where words and pictures meet. And sometimes... the picture says it all!

Thanks Laurie for telling us all about the process - phew! It sure sounds like a lot of steps! Feel free to leave any questions for Laurie or for Janet, they will be popping in for a quick visit and to answer your comments. For more stops on the tour:

Thursday Aug. 5
Cafe of Dreams

Friday Aug. 6
Interview with author Janet Halfmann & Giveaway of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Laurie & Janet (ship US only)
Katie’s Nesting Spot

Saturday Aug. 7
Interview with illustrator Laurie Allen Klein & Giveaway of 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 books (international)
Write for a Reader

Sunday Aug. 8
She Is too Fond of Books

Monday Aug. 9
Guest post by Laurie Allen Klein and Giveaway—choice of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Janet & Laurie (ship US only) or 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 books (international)
Pudgy Penguins Perusals

Tuesday Aug. 10 (Official release date)
Review and Giveaway—choice of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Janet & Laurie (ship US only) or 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing’s 55 books (international)
Brimful Curiosities

Wednesday Aug. 11
Review & Giveaway of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Laurie & Janet (ship US only)
Outnumbered 3-1

Thursday Aug. 12
Guest post (“The Wonders of Writing about Nature”) by author Janet Halfmann & Giveaway of hardcover Fur and Feathers personalized by Laurie & Janet (ship US only)
Lori Calabrese

Sylvan Dell is generously allowing me to host a giveaway. This is a little different than most giveaways. There will be one winner. If the winner chooses the hardcover book (which will be personalized by both Laurie and Janet, US ship only. If the winner chooses the 3-month e-book license for all of Sylvan Dell Publishing's 55 books, it's international.

Deadline to enter is Aug 19th at 5 PM. Be sure to leave an e mail address in your comment
. Bonus entries can be earned by:

+2 being a follower (old or new) just remind me how you follow and under what name
+3 blog, tweet, post in sidebar with link and let me know.
Good Luck!!


  1. I think my kids would love this book.

    I'm a follower via GFC

  2. Kaye, thanks for the wonderful guest post by Laurie. Bringing the words to life is such a fascinating process, and Laurie's art is amazing! And thanks so much for hosting the Fur and Feathers tour and giveaway. We appreciate it very much!

  3. Hi, DCmetroreader and Autumn. Thanks so much for stopping by. I just love reading comments from so many wonderful readers!

  4. Janet - you're certainly welcome as you know I love your books. Entertaining and at the same time educational!

  5. What an adorable book. I would love to win the hardcover here is in US. Thanks for the giveaway.

    I am an old follower.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  6. I really enjoyed reading this post. My daughter's 10, but I think she was born with a pencil in her hand, she always has to be drawing, for better or worse.

    The book looks adorable, too.

    I'm a follower by the way.

    carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

  7. Hi Kaye,

    Again my apologies for getting so wordy but for anyone who has ever attempted to navigate through my stories on my art blog my fascination with words and babbling on about art and books is legendary. I simply love the process. All my thanks for hosting F&F!

    DCMetroreader - i'm so glad you liked the book.

    Autumn, Bethie & Carol - I need to post the list on my web site but on the 2nd to the last page (where Sophia is making coverings for that whole parade of animals) there is a creature for each letter of the alphabet so you and your children (and grown-up friends too - who says picture books are just for childre)n can try and figure out what they are.

    Thank you so much for you kind thoughts and interest!

  8. Bethie and Carol, thanks so much for stopping by.

    Bethie, thanks for the nice comment. I really appreciate it.

    Carol, it sounds like your daughter and Laurie have a lot in common. So glad you enjoyed Laurie's post! Laurie also illustrated my first book for Sylvan Dell Publishing, Little Skink's Tail, so I was delighted when I heard she would be drawing the pictures for this one, too. Laurie even put Little Skink in the new book (look at the bottom of the whirling storm), and the Little Skink's Tail book is on the shelf in Sophia's room. I was delighted to find both of these!

  9. Laurie, I love that A to Z parade of animals! Thanks for pointing that out!

  10. No need to enter my name in the drawing Kaye, as I'm on the tour as well.

    My kids and I have had a great time reading and talking about FUR AND FEATHERS. I didn't realize that Laurie had included LITTLE SKINK (another favorite book) in a few of the illustration of this book, too!

  11. Looks like an adorable book. One I would consider for my media center for the kids. I follow on NetNewsWire as Wisteria. I think I'm also on Google Reader...but use NetNewsWire..because it is so organized.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  12. Dawn, what fun to find you here. So happy to hear that you and your kids have been enjoying Fur and Feathers so much! The unique touches Laurie adds to her books are always so much fun! Another detail she shared with me is that she put the animals in the worst clothes for their lifestyle, just to add to the fun!

    Wisteria, thanks for stopping by and for your nice comment. Have fun reading with your kids!

  13. No need to enter my name. I just wanted to say that it looks like a wonderful book!

  14. This looks so cute Kaye. Love sweet childrens books.

  15. I've been envious of anyone who can draw. My brother got all of the talent in our family!! What amazing illustrations!!

  16. Mary and Bibliophile by the Sea. I'm so glad you stopped by and thank you for your wonderful comments.

    Staci, I didn't get the art talent in our family either. Thank goodness for wonderful artists like Laurie!

  17. This looks like a sweet book my daughter would love! We posted about this giveaway at Winning Readings:

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com

  18. Cool give, Toots! I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you -- no need to enter me.

  19. I have 3 greatgrandkids who would adore this book!

  20. Lovely! Thanks for the chance.

    lovelydomesticdiva (at) gmail (dot) com

  21. Wow, it's so exciting that so many people keep stopping by.
    Mozi, have fun reading with your daughter and thanks for your post at Winning Readings!
    Susan, thanks for posting at Win a Book!
    Karen, your grandkids are lucky to have a grandma who loves to read to them. Just yesterday, I read Fur and Feathers to my grandkids.
    Domestic Diva, happy reading!

  22. This looks adorable! I would love to be able to share it with my son. I am an old GFC follower.

    kherbrand at comcast dot net

  23. This book sounds cute.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  24. Kristi and Linda, thanks for stopping by and for your nice comments. I appreciate them so much!

  25. My niece would love this book, it looks so cute!

    I am a follower!


  26. The kids would love this book. Thanks.

  27. I would love to win the hardcover and read it to my daughter!

    I am a follower

    ykatrina at hotmail dot com

  28. This sounds like an entertaining and educational book that my 2 grandchildren would enjoy. Thank you for the chance to win!

  29. My niece would love to read this book. It looks so cute! :0)

    librarygrinch at gmail dot com

  30. My niece would love this book! The book looks adorable.

    I'm a follower.

  31. This looks like a wonderful book with charming illustrations. I'd love to read it out loud to my kids. Please enter me!
    oldsockfarm [at] gmail [dot] com

  32. new follower via GFC. #1
    oldsockfarm [at] gmail [dot] com

  33. I posted this giveaway in my sidebar:
    oldsockfarm [at] gmail [dot] com

  34. Wow! I returned home from a week's vacation with family to find lots more visitors. What a great welcome home. Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by, for your wonderful comments, and for sharing this post with others. Happy Reading to All!


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