Archive for the 'Workspace' Category

Birthdays Around the World

It’s been a year of “around the world” themed books for me. Earlier this spring was the release of my baby carrying book with Owlkids, Up! How Families Around the World Carry their Little Ones, and now, it’s the fall release of Birthdays Around the World with KidsCanPress.

Birthdays Around the World shares the many foods, games, ceremonies and traditions involved in the birthday celebrations of 17 children from around the globe…all of which are actual kids author Margriet Ruurs met during her travels. How cool is that?!

I must say, this book involved a lot of research and fact checking. My editor, Katie Scott, and designer, Julia Naimska, and I spent hours combing through the details of clothing (the directions of kimono folds in Japan), how food is prepared and plated (the ackee dish at a Jamaican picnic) and how games are played (girls playing Ampe in Ghana). Thanks YouTube!

bdays_newsThis year had also been a big jump for me in regards to subject matter. Before these two books, my illustration work was mainly comprised of plants and animals, so I was a bit surprised when my publishers came to me with these two projects. I must have hid my fear well because, I’ll admit, the thought of cutting out a gazillion tiny hands and gazillions of tiny fingers did keep me up at night. But, here I am, alive and well and basking in satisfaction. I’ve done it…I’ve cut out a gazillion pairs of hands, eyes, ears and feet, and now I have a wider reaching, people-filled portfolio of work to show for it.

The following are some process shots of the making of the book:

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You can purchase Birthdays Around the World on Amazon.

 

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Tulip the Swan

Earlier this spring, while on a morning walk, I happened upon a most memorable front yard. The landscaping consisted of three beautifully simple ingredients: a blanket of lush, overgrown grass, a scattering of candy-coloured tulips, and a kitschy plastic swan placed proudly in the centre, but mostly obscured by the surrounding vegetation.

I’ve since named her Tulip and she’s inspired me to write the following poem, as well as collage a new piece of art.


There is a swan / who lives in a lawn / of towering tulips and sod.
Her neck, stiff and starched /  and pleasantly arched / dips into a neighbourly nod.
“Hello”, I did say / and, “How is your day?” / while admiring her palace of green.
I kid you not / I most certainly thought / I heard her say, “Oh, peachy-keen.”

swan_photo

Can you spot the swan?

(I biked by this same yard recently, and as suspected, the tulips have since run their course. What a pleasant surprise to see a cascade of daisies had taken their place!)

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Asian Carp

Two summers ago, I tried out fly fishing for the first time. Up until then, I had viewed fly fishing as some sort of lazy, privileged sport that old men do in retirement. I blame Freedom 55 commercials for that.

But, after a day-long introduction, guided by my friend Rob Cesta of Drift Outfitters, I saw the sport in a completely different light. Fly fishing wasn’t the same as simple bait and hook fishing: it was an art. And to acquire such an art and be successful at it, one had to possess a deep understanding of the complex ecosystems they were stepping their feet into.

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I learned that those Dr. Seuss-looking lures are actually handcrafted to mimic very season-specific prey, and like a puppet on a string, the fly fisher must maneuver it convincingly. It’s a dance that celebrates one’s awareness with their environment.

flyfishing2

Okay, so I got a little philosophical there, but it leads me to my next topic: The Asian Carp Invason.

“What is the Asian Carp invasion?” you might ask. Well, that was my same question when Art Director Steven Balaban of Evermaven contacted me concerning a public awareness video they were making on the topic. (The clients were the ROM and the Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada.)

After a simple YouTube search, I was horrified. There I saw the amount of damage this particular species of fish can have on entire lakes and waterways: nothing but carp and more carp, jumping every which way as boats motor through them.

It’s been a growing problem along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, and sadly, those rivers eventually lead up to the Great Lakes. The only way we can help stop the invasion is to recognize the four species of invasive carp and report if we see them.

carp_paperfish

Here’s a process shot of the five species of carp I made for the video. Starting at the top and going down are the following: Bighead Carp, Common Carp (not a threat), Grass Carp, Black Carp and Silver Carp.

Below are some of the scenes I illustrated for the video. Thanks to animator Alan Osborne, these scenes were brought to life!

Here’s the video link: http://evermaven.com/portfolio/asian-carp/

evermaven_carpvideo

moose, marsh, heron

fishing, boat, asian carp

So, perhaps we should be a little more like my friend Rob, the fly fishing guide. Opening our eyes and being aware of the native species that share our environment just might help save them.

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.
IT NEW

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.

Paper Poppies

Earlier this spring, I had the pleasure of teaming up with my art director/illustrator friend Elena Viltovskaia, on a rather pretty project.

Roohi Qureshi of Leaves of Trees was preparing to launch her official shop opening and needed a fresh window dressing to help celebrate the occasion. Winter’s stronghold was finally loosening and so we all agreed that a bright burst of blooms was well in order. Poppies seemed like the right flower for the job!

Process shot of making paper poppies, petals

Elena and I researched how to make large paper flowers that were structurally sound. Most online tutorials suggested creating accordion-style folds for each petal, but it looked a bit distracting and not true to the poppy’s form. After some experimenting, we found a way to keep the petals smooth but curved by overlapping them one by one and using staples to retain their domed tension.

elena_paperpoppy_construction

Elena and I are quite happy with the resulting crisp, graphic look of the poppies and have been told there’s a little marimekko-ness to them, which is a huge compliment! We hope to collaborate on more paper floral creations in the future.

paper poppy, poppies, window display, leaves of trees

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paper poppy window display, leaves of trees

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Our Paper Poppy window display will be up for the remainder of the summer. I highly recommend coming by and sampling the many natural lipbalms, deodorants, lotions and argon oil products Leaves of Trees has to offer. The shop is located at 177 Queen Street East, Toronto. http://www.leavesoftrees.com

Thanks goes to @fio_85 and @makerscartel for these two window shots!

Solitary Bee House

Bees are a hot topic right now, and rightly so.

Bee populations are falling at an alarming rate, which isn’t cool when you consider how essential they are to our food system. The use of pesticides and monocultures of commodity crops (like wheat and corn) that sterilize the landscape of biodiversity are just two of the contributing factors to their disappearance.

Agapostemon, Solitary Bee

Last summer I attended a Pollinators workshop put on by the good people at TheStop.org. The presenter that day was artist and bee enthusiast, Stephen Humphrey. He explained the differences between solitary and communal bees and how important it was to encourage their presence in our yards through the help of bee houses and by growing native plants.

I was especially delighted to learn that a certain emerald wasp-like insect I had photographed in my garden (see above) was in fact a species of solitary bee called Agapostemon. In fact, it’s one of Stephen’s favourite species and it’s not hard to see why. They’re absolutely gorgeous!

Stephen is part of an ecologically-minded artist’s group called Resonating Bodies. I recommend checking out their bee house installations!

paper cut bee illustration solitary bee house

Flash forward 6 months later, and there I was, illustrating solitary bees for the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s kid’s publication, WILD. (Thanks to AD, Steve Balaban)

Bee_Bungalow

The step by step guide teaches kids how to make their own bee house out of the simplest of materials: drilling holes into pieces of wood. Here’s another way of making a bee house I spotted at Toronto Blooms, using clustered bamboo sticks.

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The construction of bee houses combined with the replanting of native wildflowers is one small step we can all take to help improve our bee numbers.

I plan on making one for my backyard and I’ll be sure to post an update on how it turns out!


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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Porcupines perusing pine trees from #SizingUpWinter ❄️❄️❄️ @owlkidspublishing Listening Ears Has anyone else’s cat grown a thick winter coat, like over night? Nori is a fur blob now. (portrait by @kevincwwong) I didn’t draw houses and trees as a kid... I mostly drew women with floor-length hair wearing medieval dresses. If I find them, I’ll post them sometime. 😂 Remember when the sun used to set at 9pm? 😩 Nap time at Riverdale Farm. Making lots of babies.......(the cut-paper kind) for my next book with @owlkidspublishing That’s my mom, in the blue sweater, about to sweep! 💙