Archive for the 'Children’s Books' Category

Up! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones


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Do you remember being little and always wanting “up”?

I sure do! Nothing quite matched the thrill of riding on my dad’s shoulders; the toys on the floor shrinking in importance as I was elevated up to his height.

This makes me think of the film, Dead Poet’s Society. In it, Robin Williams plays an English teacher who instructs his prep students to stand on their desks in order to see the world from a new point of view.

Standing on a desk, climbing up a mountain and being carried as a baby are all very different experiences, sure, but they all cause a temporary shift in one’s perspective. Perhaps that baby you see peeking out from his mom’s snugli is not only hitching a ride, but also learning what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

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Up! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones is my newest illustrated children’s book with Owlkids. Written by Susan Hughes, Up! takes the reader on a baby carrying journey across the globe. Some scenes depict culturally specific ways of carrying babies, while others are more universal. Overall, it’s a nice mix, and one that seems realistic in this fast-paced, ever-changing globalized world we live in.

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Making a children’s book is a lot of work, and not simply for the author and illustrator. There are so many talented, dedicated people at Owlkids, working behind the scenes to put books like these together. Thanks especially to my editor, Debbie Rogosin, art director, Barb Kelly and publisher, Karen Boersma. Thanks also to  Judy Brunsek, Allison Maclachlan and Jemicah Marasigan for getting my books “out there”, and for making this awesome book trailer (see below).

You can purchase this book here.

How to make Kyle!

I’ve cut out a lot of sloths this past year. The one I created for this video was by far the most memorable, thanks to the mechanics involved in shooting a time-lapse.

Although a little hard to see, the photo below shows where the camera was situated above my desk. What is just outside of the frame, to the top right, is the large strobe we used for lighting. (Kevin is pictured setting up the laptop to receive the files as we shoot. Our two cats, Toy and Nori, are passing through, clearly unaware of the movie-making masterpiece we are about to create.)

Kyle Goes Alone, studio shot, video shoot, time-lapse, sloth video, how to make a sloth

The camera was programmed to shoot every 5 seconds and so coinciding with each shot came a blast of light from the strobe. That awareness of time passing in the form of strobes makes for a very interesting art-making experience. The pressure felt kind of similar to writing a high school exam with minutes ticking away.

Kyle Goes Alone, Owlkids, sloth, paper cut illustration, children's book illustration, Ashley Barron

People often ask me how long it takes to produce my art, and I never have a clear answer. Thanks to the mathematics of this shoot, I can confirm that this particular Kyle piece took just under two hours. (I had initially typed “half an hour” into this post before asking Kevin to confirm…that just demonstrates how flawed my memory is when it comes to this stuff!)

So thank you, Kevin, for making this time-lapse possible and for reminding me how long my art actually takes. And thank you to Allison MacLachlan and the rest of the Owlkids team for putting this video together to help promote Kyle Goes Alone.

If you want to see more videos like this, I suggest checking out Owlkid’s new hub for behind the book features called The Inside Track. It’s an especially great resource for teachers and librarians.
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Kyle Goes Alone

Last year around this time, my life seemed to revolve around this desk.

Studio shot, Kyle goes alone, sloth art

Amidst piles of green and blue painted sheets of paper, penciled up tracing paper, stacks of book-marked reference materials and a confetti explosion of foliage and vine pieces, a little sloth named Kyle was being born.

Kyle Goes Alone, children's book, kid lit, sloth, sloth book, three toed sloth

Kyle was initially shy and fearful of the vast rainforest I was creating around him. All of those blues and greens made him feel cold and lonesome. His little brown body eagerly clung to the vines I cut for him.

leaf cutter ants, kyle goes alone, rainforest, paper collage

Little by little, and I mean little, I introduced some friends into the scenes for Kyle to meet. Some had six legs. Others had two. Some were green while others were red. And some had tiger stripes even though they weren’t actually a tiger.

tiger striped tree frog, rainforest frog, kyle goes alone, paper art

I didn’t want to startle Kyle, so I made sure to introduce the friends gradually, only showing pieces of them at first. Can you spot two in the scene below?

Kyle goes alone, sloth in tree, paper illustrations

After a while, something changed in Kyle. The greens and blues of the rainforest didn’t feel cold and lonely to him. A little smile even started to form on his face and he was ready to share his story with the rest of the world.

Kyle Goes Alone, three toed sloth, kid lit, sloth book, Ashley Barron, Jan Thornhill, owlkids

Kyle Goes Alone is a delightful story about a baby sloth’s first taste of independence and how he overcomes his fear of “going alone”. It’s written by Jan Thornhill, published my Owlkids and illustrated by yours truly.

I hope Kyle finds his way into your heart as he has mine.

Math in Nature Show

Since the start of my work on the Math in Nature series, I had always entertained the thought of having a show once all four books were complete. Well, this summer my dream came true thanks to a very special gallery in my home town of Whitby.

Station Gallery’s Curator, Olex Wlasenko, was really the driving force behind this becoming a reality. He first got in touch about a year ago, to present the idea of featuring me in the artist’s spotlight section of SG’s membership magazine, Platform. Since then, I’ve been welcomed into the Station Gallery family.

I call it a family because it really feels like one. On top of everyone being super welcoming, it turns out I have some old friends there. I soon found out that Chrissie Wysotski, illustrator and former neighbour of mine, was now working as SG’s educator and family programmer. Chrissie and her husband David were the first illustrators I had ever met and encouraged me to apply to OCAD back in high school. As well, Olex’s sister, Kathryn Wlasenko, was my high school art teacher.

Station Gallery has also given me the opportunity to flex my teaching muscles. I taught my very first adult art class titled “Paper Landscapes”, as part of SG’s winter programming. It went so well that I’ll be giving another go at it this coming winter with two new classes titled “Paper Pets” and “Paper People”.

Ashley Barron, Math in Nature, Station GalleryMath in Nature, Children's Book illustrations, station gallery
Math in Nature, Children's Book illustrations, Station Gallery

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Olex comparing the Prairie Chicken spread from Sorting Through Spring with the original art. Toronto Image Works did a wonderful job photographing all four books.

Station Gallery, Whitby, Math in Nature, Ashley Barron

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Thanks again to Olex Wlasenko and the rest of the gang at Station Gallery for putting together an excellent exhibition, as well as the Ontario Arts Council for their Exhibition Assistance grant. And of course, thanks goes to Owlkids for believing in my abilities and for welcoming me into the Children’s Book market. The Math in Nature series was made possible through the combined efforts of Lizann Flatt (Author), Jennifer Stokes (Editor), Claudia Davila (Designer), Barb Kelly & Mahak Jain (Art Directors).

To learn more about what the Whitby Station Gallery has to offer, visit their site: http://www.whitbystationgallery.com

The Math in Nature books can be purchased through the Owlkids Store, as well as Chapters, Amazon and all sorts of smaller book shops.

Year of the Otter

Last year around this time, I was finishing up the final artwork for Sizing Up Winter. The cover features a river otter slipping down a snowy slope into an icy pond, which is meant to be a close up of one of the inside spreads (pictured below).

sizing up winter otters in pond sliding swimming childrens book owlkids

It was a struggle to recreate the river otter’s likeness. Their colouring and proportions have to be just so, or else they end up looking more like seals or bears or groundhogs, even. After a handful of revisions and tweaks to the cover otter’s face and body, I was finally satisfied and all was completed and sent to the publisher.

I was far from done illustrating otters as you’ll see.

otter face closeup paper collage

Soon after, I found myself working on a third otter piece. This time it was a gift for my boyfriend, Kevin. Inspired by one of his otter drawings, I set out to recreate a similarly lush seaweed setting by recycling some paper greenery from a past project involving two goldfish (you can view it here).

It was pretty clear by now that I secretly enjoyed the trial and error process of recreating  this puzzle of an animal.

framed otter art succulent dragonfly paper collage illustration

The drawing I was referring to (pictured below) is titled Twists & Turns, and is one of many beautifully detailed napkin and coffee sleeve drawings that Kevin posts and writes about on his blog: http://kevindrawingonnapkins.com/

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otter process drawing sketchesA couple months later, and I was back on the otter track. I began working with Crush on another animation project, this time for Seattle’s Woodland Zoo.

My job was to stylize each of the featured zoo animals, giving them a simplified, geometrical, Charley Harper sort of look. Among the long list of animals to be drawn was the Asian Otter.

“Oh goody”, I remember thinking, as I was quite confident in the otter department by then. It was the quickest turn-around drawing I had ever made, and for good reason I guess. The lion cubs were another story!

Crush designer, Jullian Ablaza, would later transform each of my drawings into beautifully rendered vectorized art. (You can see an example of our process to the right.) Jullian did an amazing job with palette and pattern, and inspired me to consider using a little adobe illustrator in my future art projects (a skill I hadn’t quite mastered yet).

As well as designing some of the animals, animator Yoho Hang Yue, really brought everything to life! You can see for yourself in the final Woodland Zoo piece below.

So if 2013 was the year of the otter, I wonder what’s in store for 2014?

Sizing Up Winter

I’m a little late to announce the release of my new book and I fully blame it on the summer-like weather we’ve been having here in Toronto. It just didn’t seem right to be posting up imagery of snow and ice on a warm, sun-soaked autumn day.

So now that the wind has picked up and I’m wearing a cozy sweater, might I present you with the third book of the Math in Nature series, Sizing Up Winter.

sizing up winter math in nature owlkids

Last year at this time, I was busy working away on the final art for this. It’s hard to believe that in five months time, all four books will have been released. (My oh my, time is ticking for me to get a Math in Nature art show together by then!)

Below is a sampling of some of my favourite pages. I recommend sipping on hot chocolate while reading this book, as the content is quite chilly.

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SizingUpWinter_birdsizingupwinter_polarbearSizingUpWinter_porcupinesizingupwinter_mouse

For details on purchasing this book, you can visit the Owlkids Store.

For a signed copy of “Sizing Up Winter”, “Sorting Through Spring” or “Counting on Fall”, please feel free to email me at hello@ashleybarron.com.


Hello

My name is Ashley Barron and I'm a Toronto based illustrator. This is my online show & tell of new artwork and anything else I find inspiring. Thanks for taking a look :)

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Morning stretches. Little Thief! 💚 with @_jenbarron_ How to spot invasive Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. 🐟
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A clip from the educational video I worked on with @evermaven last summer. (Produced with @romtoronto for the Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada.) AD: Steve Balaban
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You can help the Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada by reporting any Asian Carp you may see this summer. Keep on climbing lil guy! #climbinghydrangea Haven't the heart to trim those sun rays just yet. ☀️
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