Friday, December 04, 2009

Peter Rabbit

Oh, those crunchy carrots were so tempting!

This illustration is for Theatreworks USA's production of PETER RABBIT Y SUS AMIGOS, an English/Spanish musical theater production.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Highlights Nov Issue

Skinny? You won't be after you eat a full Thanksgiving meal! I have this illustration accompanying Donna Earnhardt's lovely poem in the November issue of Highlights magazine.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

Took a break tonight to carve a pumpkin. I like how this smily monster turned out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Illustration Friday - Fast

These are some fast sketches I did of people around me while standing in line for hours a couple days ago.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Highlights Illustrators' Party

Highlights throws an Illustrators' Party Weekend every year. They invited us out to their beautiful headquarters in eastern Pennsylvania and wined and dined us (well, I didn't have any wine because of the baby). There were activities all weekend long including a costume party, bbq, square dance, lamb roast, hayride, pumpkin painting, portfolio time, and so on. I loved meeting so many illustrators and especially my fabulous art director from Highlights Magazine, Cindy Smith. Incredible weekend!

The theme of the costume party was to dress up as our favorite day of the year. I chose World Tourism Day and piled on stuff from all over the world. Casey chose National Kick Butt Day and wore his tae kwon do uniform with a butt-shaped sign pinned to his butt that said, "Kick here!" Only one guy attempted to kick him. I took a few people out with my huge sombrero though.

Near Highlights and Boyds Mills offices. We took the lovely back roads thanks to our handy iPhones.

This is the lake next to our cabin. Gorgeous! We took a paddle boat out for a bit and got our butts wet due to a broken rudder.

Casey and I made the Highlights weekend into a 30-hour weeklong roadtrip and visited friends along the way. It was a beautiful time for driving and being 6 months pregnant was fine for a roadtrip. Baby Valiant did great!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Illustration Contest Win!

This past weekend was the Midsouth SCBWI conference in Nashville for children's book writers and illustrators. I won the illustration contest there - whoo hoo! The Art Director from Henry Holt, Patrick Collins, gave the illustrators text from a couple picture book manuscripts, and we painted a spread from one of the books for the contest. The text on my illustration above is from the picture book, Don't Lick the Dog, written by Wendy Wahman.

The conference was fabulous and I intend to blog some of my notes next week. Right now I'm heading out on a roadtrip to the Highlights for Children Illustrator's Weekend and to visit friends on the way. Highlights magazine hosts an Illustrator's Weekend every year where they invite their illustrators to eastern Pennsylvania to relax, view portfolios, square dance, and get dressed up in crazy costumes. I'm excited!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Dummy - take 2

I posted a different color version of this a couple weeks ago, but since then I decided to experiment with the background color to make the penguins stand out more and also added the white sketchy background.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty & Illustration Friday

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty is a super fun blog where children's book illustrator Aaron Zenz posts artwork by his talented kids. For the blog's three year anniversary, Aaron wanted to do something special for the kids, so he invited anyone to recreate one of the kids' drawings in their own style. I thought Isaac's drawing of a hippo hanging in a bat cave was simply genius, so that's the one I chose to wrap in my own style and paint tonight.

by Isaac, age 10

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Color Spread

Click on the image to see it larger.

Here's the color version of a spread from my picture book dummy that I promised you in my last post. When I submit my sketch dummy of my own picture book manuscript to publishers, I'll also send along a couple full-color spreads so that they can see what the finished art would look like. Actually, I'll be submitting to agents first who handle picture book author/illustrators. I've never submitted my work to agents before, so I'm starting to gather info for a dream agent list.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Picture Book Dummy

(Click image to see it larger)

The penguins were too impatient to wait for food - they found their own.

I'm working on my picture book dummy right now, and it's so much fun! I plan on painting this sketch soon, so check back for the color version. If you write a picture book manuscript, you submit just the manuscript without illustrations to publishers to see if they will acquire it. But since I want to do both the writing and illustrating, I draw sketches for my whole picture book manuscript that I've written and submit those sketches along with the text as a small mock-up of my picture book called a dummy or sketch dummy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Signing Fun

My Cora Cooks Pancit book signing was a smashing hit! Barnes & Noble sold out of the books they ordered for the signing, and then they sold 12 of my own copies that I brought in as backup. How fun is that!

The most fun part of it for me was seeing lots of friends from church, neighbors, in-laws, SCBWI friends, and friends of my mother-in-law (she sent the announcement to everyone she's ever known). It was quite the party! I brought a big pot of pancit and my husband handed out samples the whole time while I signed and chatted and hugged and "Wow - I haven't seen you in 2 months!" There was a lot of that, because I've been in bed for 2 months with severe morning sickness and dizziness. Being in the second trimester now rocks!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blog Interview

Elizabeth O. Dulemba (aka "e") interviewed me about CORA COOKS PANCIT on her fun blog. Check it out here:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

July 25 Book Signing in Evansville, Indiana

I have my first ever book signing at a store coming up for a book I illustrated. I've done book signings at schools and conferences before, but at a store is scarier because attendance is more nebulous. I'll be bringing a pot of pancit to hand out samples. Pancit is a Filipino noodle dish with chicken and veggies - the recipe is in the book and it's delicious! I'll also be wearing my red apron just like Cora does in the book. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 25, 2009
Barnes & Noble, Evansville, Indiana
2 pm
The book: Cora Cooks Pancit (multicultural hardcover picture book)
Written by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

Friday, July 03, 2009

HOPE CARD for the kids of the Australian fires

Early this year, Australia was shook up with devastating fires and flooding. Many SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators) regions sent donations to help replace books for schools and libraries and HOPE cards. Each HOPE card has an illustration or two and messages from children's book writers and illustrators to the kids in Australia. I was asked to create an illustration for our Indiana SCBWI region's HOPE card and here it is. We pray that everyone affected by the Australian fires and flooding finds hope in the midst of this shaky time.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fun Cora News

Whoo-hoo! There's a lot to report. First, I received my Cora books a couple weeks ago, and they turned out beautiful!

Second, I set up a book signing at Barnes & Noble for July 25 here in Evansville, IN. I hope you can come! I'll be bringing a big pot of pancit to give out samples. It's delicious and the recipe is in the book.


Terry Hong of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program Blog, BookDragon, posted a wonderful review of Cora Cooks Pancit. Hong wrote, "Gilmore, who grew up in a Filipino Italian kitchen, tells a heartwarming tale that illustrator Valiant captures with the perfect combination of whimsy and action. You can actually feel Cora’s longing as she watches her siblings in the kitchen, her wonder as she listens to Mama’s stories about Lolo, her worry that her pancit might disappoint, and her beaming pride when the whole family enjoys the meal she so lovingly helped to create. This is one treasure of a family book. Delicious, too!"

Jama Rattigan reviewed Cora Cooks Pancit on her Alphabet Soup blog and said, "Kristi Valiant's illustrations are the warm stuff of golds, browns, and rich jewel tones. Cora's expressions are convincingly hopeful, joyous, pensive, and tentative, as she anxiously tries her hand at new tasks. Kids will especially love the added storyline of the family dog, who follows Cora around with a toy in his mouth, wanting her to play. The true joys of cooking -- from the initial anticipation, through every step of preparation, and finally, the sharing and tasting, is palpable with every page turn. By the time you come to the final double page spread of the whole family at the table, you'll wish you were right there, feasting on the adobo chicken, lumpia, and Cora's first pancit."

Also, Stephanie Ruble interviewed me on her blog, sruble's world.

Friday, May 08, 2009

NaPiBoWriWee - Results

I made it! Just barely, but I made it. At 11:35 pm on Day 7 I finished my 7th picture book manuscript in 7 days! Whoo-hoo!!!

PB 1: Funny fiction, main character is an elephant.
PB 2: Funny fiction, main character is a hamster.
PB 3: Rhyming (Why did I do that to myself? I've never written in rhyme! But at least I have a poet in my critique group).
PB 4: Sweet fiction (Again, a stretch for me because I don't like sweet'n'sappy).
PB 5: Funny fiction, main character is a flamingo.
PB 6: Funny & adventurous fiction, main character is a grasshopper.
PB 7: Kinda weird and scary, main character is a monster (It was definitely time for this challenge to be over!)

I really like some of my picture books that I wrote this week, and I would even go so far as to say they all have potential as first drafts. I'm going to put them away for a number of days before reading them again to see which I'll start revising. Did you participate? How did it go?

Monday, May 04, 2009

MOCHA Art Exhibit

I have a couple pieces of art in an upcoming show at the Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA) in Oakland, CA - how fun is that! And you're invited! Here's the info from MOCHA:

You are invited to the Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA)'s Annual exhibit, Once Upon a Time: Children's Book Illustrators, Then and Now, May 8-June 2. This year we are featuring work by Don Freeman, author/illustrator of Corduroy and Norman the Doorman, and 27 other artists.

Sarah Ackerley
Eve Aldridge
Bob Barner
Lisa Brown
Nancy Carroll
John Clapp
Claire B. Cotts
Angelo Dominguez
Julie Downing
Soma Han Stickler
Sara Kahn
Elisa Kleven
Angelo Lopez
Lea Lyon
Jenny Matheson
Jeff Miracola
Kathryn Otoshi
Todd Parr
Jeff Peterson
Joni Stringfield
Paul Tong
Dona Turner
Kristi Valiant (me!)
Lisa Victoria
David Weitzman
Ashley Wolf

The reception/book signing is May 9, 2-4pm. I won't be able to be at the reception, but some of the other artists will be there. If you go, send me a photo!

(I created the links above by googling the illustrators. If I have yours wrong, please let me know.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 1

It really helped me get into the picture book mood by reading and analyzing over 60 picture books this week. I forgot to mention both Mary Uhles and Diandra Mae joined me in the Picture Book Reading Challenge that we finished yesterday. Be sure to check out their results too.

NaPiBoWriWee is National Picture Book Writing Week, the brainchild of Paula Yoo. Paula said about 75 writers have signed up to write 7 picture books in 7 days starting today. Whoo hoo! Are you in?

To start the ideas rolling, I took a nap. Ok, the nap itself wasn't the goal, but when I'm sleepy and drifting off or drifting back is when I usually get my picture book ideas. And it worked! I'm off to write about a fidgety lil' elephant...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Picture Book Reading Challenge Results

61 - that's how many picture books I read the last couple days for the Picture Book Reading Challenge. I decided to divide the picture books I read into 4 piles this time because I was having a hard time with just 3 piles on these.

Pile 1 = Amazing Books I Love & Want to Buy: 9 books.
Duck and Goose (Tad Hills) - I bought this yesterday.
Best Buds (Maxwell Eaton III)
Superheroes (Maxwell Eaton III)
The Odd Egg (Emily Gravett)
Wolves (Emily Gravett)
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed (Mo Willems)
Duck at the Door (Jackie Urbanovic)
Little Oink (Amy Krouse Rosenthal/Jen Corace)
Duck! Rabbit! (Amy Krouse Rosenthal/Tom Lichtenheld)

Pile 2 = Very Good Books That I Would Read Again: 12 books.
Rhyming Dust Bunnies (Jan Thomas)
How to Win Friends and Influence Creatures for Kids (Deborah Zemke)
Llama, Llama, Red Pajama (Anna Dewdney)
Duck and Cover (Jackie Urbanovic)
Mouse Was Mad (Linda Urban/Henry Cole)
All God's Critters (Bill Staines/Kadir Nelson)
Cock-a-doodle hooooooo! (Mick Manning/Brita Granstrom)
Ginger Bear (Mini Grey)
The Cow That Laid an Egg (Andy Cutbill/Russell Ayto)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Bill Martin Jr/John Archambault)
Bats at the Library (Brian Lies)
Freckleface Strawberry (Julianne Moore/LeUyen Pham)

Pile 3 = OK Books That I'm Not Excited Read Again: 29 books, but I don't want anyone to feel bad if I list their book.

Pile 4 = Don't-Ever-Make-Me-Read-It-Again Books: 11 books.

I combined a few reading lists and also read books that were prominently displayed at Barnes & Noble and Borders.

My analysis of my favorite books: They all made me laugh out loud, and I wanted to make my husband read them (since we don't have kids yet to force books upon). Most of these books have sparse text and simple storylines, with a twist or surprise to the ending. Wolves has a surprise ending in which someone gets eaten (gulp!) and then a revised extra ending for sensitive readers - hilarious. I love the way the text plays with the illustrations in these books. Duck! Rabbit! is the ultimate play between words and illustrations. You really have to get this book to see what I mean. And the two books by Maxwell Eaton III use speech bubbles to give quirky personalities to the characters. The fact that a polar bear's butt reminds Max that Pinky likes marshmallows in Best Buds is quirkiness at its best. Each of the nine books in my Amazing pile has a unique spin about it; not your typical, "MC doesn't want to go to bed...," "MC loses a tooth...," "MC has bully problems...," or any of the other topics that editors say saturate their piles. I guess Duck and Goose is about sharing when it comes down to it, but the lesson isn't pointed out, and you can't help but love their funny squabbling about how to take care of the "egg" they found and the surprise that it's not an egg. So if we write about a common theme, it really needs to stand out somehow.

My analysis of the books I didn't like: Most had far too many words, and I found myself wanting to edit them down to be more efficient and funnier. Some of them also had a lesson that was far too preachy (one certain recycling book had me groaning the whole way because it was soooo didactic). A couple of the books I didn't like tried too hard to be funny and ended up lame and annoying to me. And a couple didn't have a satisfying ending.

I sent in my picture book dummy that I wrote and sketched to be critiqued and will get that back at an SCBWI event next weekend. I'm putting that story out of my head until then, so that it'll be fresh when I get it back, and then I'll decide which of these piles I would put it in as a reader. Now it's time for me to start writing other picture books using the lessons I learned from reading all these picture books - it's time for NaPiBoWriWee!!!! I'll be writing 7 picture books in 7 days! Go to Paula Yoo's blog for details and to sign up.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture Book Reading Challenge for April 30

In the comments section of my post on creating a Picture Book Reading Challenge, a few us decided that we would take the Reading Challenge and post our results on April 30. Do you want to join us?

Read a couple posts back for the full description of the challenge. Here's a summary:

1. Find a list of great picture books or combine lists to create a reading list at least 50 books long. Here are a some suggestions:
Fuse#8 countdown,
New York Public Library's 100 best list,
Amazon's Best Books of 2008,
Great Read Alouds,
Picture Books That Will Make You Laugh,
Classroom Read Aloud Picture Books

2. Find these books in your library or hang out at a bookstore to read them. Preferably read all the books on your list in one day.

3. After reading a book assign it to a category: Not-My-Taste Books, OK Books, or Amazingly-Great Books

4. Figure out what made the Amazingly-Great books amazingly great and why the others weren't.

5. Read your own manuscript and assign it a pile. Oooooooo!

6. Post whatever part of your results you want.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Illustration Friday - Impossibility

This is a quick color study for my own picture book dummy that I'm working on. If you both write and illustrate picture books, you can create sketches for your whole manuscript and submit those along with your story to publishers - it's called a dummy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Picture Book Reading Challenge

I'm mainly an illustrator, but I'm working on writing picture books too.

Lin Oliver quoted Richard Peck as saying, "For every one book you write, read 1000." I know I've read loads of picture books these past couple years, but I don't know if I've hit 1000 - possibly. I always have a huge stack of picture books checked out from the library. A couple months ago I gave myself a Picture Book Reading Challenge. I checked out over 60 picture books from a great-read-out-loud list and read them all that one night! I felt like an editor reading slush (except these were published books, so probably a whole lot better than most slush).

I divided them into three piles: 1) books I loved and wanted to read again, 2) books I thought were ok but didn't want to read again, and 3) books I thought were boring or not to my liking. I ended up with only 6 books in the "books I loved and wanted to read again" pile.

Then I read my picture book manuscripts I'm writing. Here's the real meaty question: Which pile do my work-in-progress manuscripts belong? All of them went in the middle "ok" pile.

How do I get my manuscripts into the best pile so that they'll actually be acquired? I studied in-depth each of the books I put in the best pile to see what kind of books I love and what I loved about them. I found out that I love picture books that are hilarious, clever, fast reads, and that the illustrations tell at least half the story, sometimes even contradicting the words to be funny. I decided to rewrite one of my manuscripts completely with the intent of it landing in my "books I loved and wanted to read again" pile. After rewriting it (and drawing as I wrote), I feel it's much stronger, and now I'm sketching it into a dummy to submit to publishers. (If you're an illustrator as well as author, you can submit a sketch dummy instead of just the manuscript to publishers.)

So if any of you picture book writers or illustrators want to check out loads of picture books, read them all in one sitting, divide them into piles based on your tastes, and study the ones in the best pile, I hope it'll help you too! That's my challenge for you. And I may join you and do it again with another big stack of books.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Illustration Friday - Poise

I've been working on this piece for a show entitled "Beginnings." Here, Adam and Eve are poised on the brink of causing death to enter the world by disobeying the only command that God gave them - not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Picture Book Proofs

Editorial Anonymous recently defined some technical book industry terms. She states, "proofs are an example of the book, printed on the big professional printing presses (but not bound), and this is our chance to make sure the alignment of the printing, the page trimming, and the color is correct."

Illustrators don't always get to see proofs. For digital illustrators like myself, we don't have traditional paintings that the publisher can compare to the proofs to make sure the colors match, so we love it if we get to see the proofs for color purposes. The picture book that I illustrated, Cora Cooks Pancit, is coming out in April, and the publisher was so gracious as to let me see the proofs this week. I love the way the colors printed - exactly how I hoped! Here are the individual pages and the jacket.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Illustration Friday "Flawed"

Since Cora was unsure how to check the noodles to see if they were done soaking, she tried to smell them. Oops!

I illustrated these for the picture book, Cora Cooks Pancit.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cora Cooks Pancit

What have I been working on? Mainly this book: Cora Cooks Pancit for Shen's Books.

Cora loves the kitchen, but her older brother and sisters always get to help with the real cooking while she gets stuck with kid jobs like licking the spoon. When her older siblings head out for the day, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama's assistant chef. She chooses to make her Grandpa's pancit recipe, a Filipino noodle dish.

The pancit recipe is included in the book, and it's delicious! My husband and I made a big pot of pancit a few weeks ago, and we've already bought ingredients to make it again. Mmmm...

Amazon says the book will be out in April, so look for it in April or May in your bookstore!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Illustration Friday "Contained"

It's fun to watch the lil' wiggly kids in taekwondo learn to contain their wiggliness.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year... a bit late

Well, this a bit late, but I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends, and had time to reflect on the true meaning of CHRISTmas!

My husband and I took a friend of ours, who is an international college student from Korea, up to Wisconsin to visit my family for Christmas. There's a crazy amount of snow in Wisconsin this year - close to 30" when we got there! Our friend had never seen so much snow, so we had fun with snowball fights and giddily playing around in the snow. It reminded me of winters when I was young. We would dig snow tunnels through our backyard (like in the photo above). Our small city in Wisconsin would flood the football fields at the elementary schools to make them into ice skating rinks, and we would ice skate for recess! These kind of moments that transport me back to being a kid are incredible bits of momentum for writing and illustrating picture books. May your new year be filled with childhood memory momentum too.

My husband and I spent New Year's in romantic New Harmony, IN.