Friday, February 26, 2010

Animals A To Z

Last week-end, my sister Nancy came down for a visit. We managed to sneak away sans the kids and do a little shopping. One of the vintage stores we shopped at had this amazing animal print fabric (above) and I know Nancy is still debating where she could incorporate it in her home. Well Nancy, it's still at the shop waiting for you and I snapped this image and also immediately thought of another great artist whose blog I follow: Elizabeth Graeber

This is her self-published book available in paperback on LuLu : Animals A To Z. Elizabeth Graeber is an amazing non- stop artist. She posts new works on her blog almost daily. Her art is outsiderish and almost undescribable.....sometimes quirky, silly, serious, wonky and always fresh and real. You can preview her alphabet animal book here. Believe me, it's unique and beautiful!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Noonie's Masterpiece

Since our move back to Los Angeles, I have been discovering lots of wonderful local artists. One artist whose blog I've been following is Sarajo Frieden. I think she actually might even live in my neighborhood. In December she had a show just a few blocks away. Her art is so inspiring!

She has just illustrated an amazing book published by Chronicle Books that we got before my son's field trip to the LACMA. He's a first grader now and learning about art and artists. (His favorite is Picasso.)

Noonie's Masterpiece was originally written as a play by playwright Lisa Railsback. The story is about 10 year old Noonie Norton. Her mother passed away and her father is traveling the world leaving Noonie with relatives who can't appreciate fine art and the brilliant abstract paintings Noonie creates. Uncle Ralph is an unemployed salesman, Cousin Junior is obsessed with aliens and Aunt Sylvia only cares about clean teeth. Noonie's eclectic art teacher tells her that "artists have the power to change the world." She creates an abstract painting for her relatives but the relatives detest it and take away her paints. Then, Noonie is visited by the spirits of Picasso, Van Gogh and O'Keefe who encourage her and tell her that "an artist never quits." Ultimately, Noonie does learn that artists do have the power to change the world!

Here is an awesome trailer of Noonie's Masterpiece:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Juanita's Olvera Street

On Sunday, we packed up the kids and stroller and met my parents at the metro station in North Hollywood. From there, we all took the red line subway to Union Station. I took this photo of the gorgeous mural. (above)

We crossed the street and headed over to Olvera Street. Olvera Street is the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles, otherwise known as El Pueblo Historic Monument. The original pueblo was built by the 44 settlers of Los Angeles in 1781. The village features 27 historic buildings with a traditional Mexican style plaza area.
Leo Politi's book, Juanita is all about a little girl and her family who run a small shop or "puesto" in Olvera Street.
The puestos have lovely Mexican names such as "La Paloma" (the dove), "La Amapola" (the poppy), "La Casita" (the little house), "Cielito Lindo" (beautiful heaven)... "The shop 'Juanita' belongs to Antonio and Maria Gonzalez who named it after their little daughter Juanita."

Here the Olvera Street vendors make and sell candies,

toys and pottery, candles, hand embroidered clothing and all kinds of colorful and interesting things.

For Juanita's birthday "there was laughter when someone broke cascarones on Juanita's head." "Cascarones are decorated egg shells filled with confetti."

Leo Politi's illustrations from 1948 have come full circle and are strangely uber modern again. Just look at his color palette: peach, turqoise, moss green, coral, tan, pink, cream and gray. His illustrations are gorgeous!
I remember reading his books as a child and my mother remembers them too. I am so glad that Getty Publications has reissued them!
As a little girl, I also remember visiting Olvera Street with our family often. I loved it and especially the wooden marionette puppets, delicious Mexican food and candy.
" The Blessing of the Animals is a ceremony which takes place every year on the day before Easter Sunday." "On this day the animals are blessed so all will go well with them during the year." Juanita looked forward to this day because she could walk in the procession with her dove.
My mom took this photo of the Blessing of the Animals mural (above). It is painted and signed on the right of the mural by Leo Politi!
The story ends with a lovely bedtime song Duermete Nina with lyrics to sing along to in English. There's a sweet image of Mamacita rocking Juanita to sleep as the old mission bells ring
and Juanita's pink lacey Easter dress hangs above her bed to wear in the morning.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winter Drift

We got stuck in the library after Babygarten Storytime this afternoon because of a freak hailstorm. We drifted about and found a new favorite book! Nanook and Pryce by Ned Crowley. This story is told in silly rhyming verse and takes two cute, almost faceless (big parka hooded) Eskimo ice fishermen on a trip around the world. They are so oblivious to what is around them that they don't even notice the dangers they encounter!
While fishing, their ice floe breaks loose and they adventure through the oceans of the world, only to return back home again, never catching a single fish (actually, they do catch a ton but the pelicans steal them away). The last page shows them asleep in their cozy beds with a jar of peanut butter (butter knife left inside)on the nightstand.
The watercolor illustrations by Larry Day (click on his name to see an amazing pompadour image!)are wonderful with many full page spreads, including a killer whale and giant pink squid. Lovely stuff!
On the back of the book is a sweet photo of the author and illustrator dressed in big hooded parkas sans faces just like Nanook and Pryce. It's Genius!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Winter Garden-Vegetable Olympics

Now that I live in California, it's nice to be near my mom who also loves to shop at craft stores with me every few weeks. She has been making the sweetest embroidered dishtowels for each month of the year to give to friends and family. (Nancy, there's one she made for you too :) So, I have been paying lots of attention to all the wonderful embroideries out there and I am smitten by this adorable fruit bowl shopping bag (above) by Gracey May. With a family of 5, I just can't have enough shopping bags to carry all my fuits and veggies home from Trader Joes.

Recently, I received a copy of Champions of the Garden Games in the mail which arrived just in time for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
That's Pete the Red Beet snowboarding in the picture above!

With the Olympics beginning this week-end, everyone will be watching their favorite athletes in the world compete. " What better way to talk about sports and to show children the variety of options they have to enjoy winter and be active year round?" asks author Marvin van Lemon. Through his narration, Marvin introduces children ages 4-8 to several sports that will take place in the Winter Olympics and with this book he has begun a campaign to get children interested in sports and healthy eating.

Studies have shown that it is essential to establish healthy active behaviors early in life. Children who are overweight at an early age have a high risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure and are also more likely to become overweight as adults.

Using a cast of colorful fruits and vegetables illustrated by P. Byron, children can learn about the luge, ski jumping, curling and bobsledding as well as other sports. Through an imaginative and fun tale, this book also introduces children to the importance of being a team player, and my favorite lesson: not letting life's obstacles get in the way of having fun.

On the Olympics note, recently illustrator Jon Klassen (one of my contemporary favorites) co- designed a gorgeous animated Winter Olympics commercial. I think it's the greatest I've seen. So, if you have any time to spare, please have a look. I hope Jon has plans to do a children's book soon.