A River Runs Through My Home

You haven't heard from me here in a while, and I wanted to let you know why. I have done a little work on Our Home including revising the second half of the text, and planning some new art to match the new text. I want to get to work on the book, but something else REALLY BIG took in my life over in the last few months.

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I was asked to create a mural for The Friends of the Yampa, a non-profit organization that supports the environmental integrity of the Yampa River. This river runs through my town, Steamboat Springs, Colorado and eventually meets up with the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. So the river is the feature of the mural, and they want the whole river- which is 250 miles long!

Creating a drawing to figure out what to include and what to leave out was really hard. But it's been a wonderful challenge. The Yampa River is part of my home place. In Our Home, I'm trying to show that our home is not just our house, but also our community, the countryside around us, and reaching out farther and farther to include the whole Earth as our home. The concept behind The Friends of the Yampa wanting this mural was to use artwork to show that the river is not just the stretch flowing through Steamboat Springs, but it is also a high mountain stream, and a big muddy desert river- the whole thing is connected. Now do you see why I had to say yes to creating this mural?!

I want to share a bit about my progress here, but also let you know that most of the mural info will be on my other blog, Art on the Page. Soon I hope to be back to posting about book progress over here. 

The first sketch for this mural was done on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, but the next one was a scale drawing that was 70 inches long! The final painting will wrap around two sides of the second story of a building near the river and a walking path. The length of the painting will be 70 feet covering both sides. But my 70 inch drawing was a little too hard to manage- I couldn't see the whole thing at once. So I redrew and revised it with a 1/2 inch to 1 foot scale drawing. And I realized that this was a size I could actually carve as a linocut! So I did.

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Steamboat Rock linocut block
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And after a couple of months of work, here it is finished!

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Now I'm printing and painting more copies of the linocut to have some to help with fundraising for the mural. We still need a bit more to have enough to complete the mural, so if you are interested in donating, contact Friends of the Yampa.

Next I'll be going back to the 70 inch drawing and turning it into the official copy to project and turn into the large scale mural painting. I'm really still only at the beginning of this project, but it sure feels good having the print above as a guide and reference. And it also feels good having the support of so many people in the community! I've heard from lots of people  how excited they are about this project. I'm trying hard to create something neat for our community and for the beautiful Yampa River. So thanks for your support and follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Art on the Page for lots of updates!


A Christmas Repair

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year! It's a special time of year, with giving, celebrating, family, and also extra stress. I try not to give in to the stress and the feeling that I have to get everything done just right, but sometimes I fail or feel inadequate. As much as possible though, I try to embrace the holiday spirit for the good things that it brings, and be ok with my human failings at the same time.


Here's our Christmas tree with Tessa showing off her new fancy dress! Most of the ornaments on our (fake) tree are handmade by Tessa, me, or my mother. They cover the whole range from messy toddler art to professional quality- a microcosm of the rest of our messy art-filled house. The flow of life, the creation of art, play, meals, friends, and changing seasons- it never stops! I like having ornaments that remind me of a moment in time from my own childhood, or now from my daughter's. I wouldn't want to edit those, to take out the not-so-pretty ones made by my little girl, or to try to make them look more traditional. Those funny looking ones show off her greatest skill and hard work at the time she made them, and they are special because of that.

Fixing and editing this book is another story entirely! Making Our Home is such a long draw-out process, that several times I've realized that I'm a better artist than I used to be, and I start over and redo everything. Drafts and rewriting are an important part of creating a book. But when you have a deadline, there's a limit to how many times you can start over. I don't have a deadline, and so I keep giving myself permission to redo things. I intend to finish, though, so I'm keeping changes to a minimum now. It's ok if I keep growing as an artist and one day look back to think how I could have made this book better. This is the moment in time for this book, and I'm the imperfect artist making it right now.

HOWEVER--- Mom and Dad dancing in the house on the cover have bugged me ever since I printed that linocut! So I made them better. And it's important that everyone look consistent throughout the book- and not consistently bad. So here's how I did the repair.


First I redrew them on tracing paper- top right. The painting and block are the original version.


The scary and messy part was completely removing them from the window.


Mom and Dad have left the house! I like to think Dad may have gone to the grocery store while Mom is enjoying a book under the tree in the yard.


A new piece of linoleum has been glued in place and ready to go.


Then I drew them back into the picture.


They are carved and ready to print.


And printed!


While I was painting the print, Tessa joined me and painted one too.

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Here's how Tessa's painting turned out!

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And here's how my version turned out. The little girl is now going to be wearing red and white throughout the book. And you may notice that Dad has gotten a lot darker. He is now hispanic, making this little family a little more multicultural. Dad is my kinda guy- not afraid to wear purple and dance!

Back to my real life family- we are not perfect, but generally happy. Sometimes we dance, and sometimes we need a repair. We are all growing into ourselves every day, learning about the world and how to be in it. 

We wish you Happy Holidays and hope you have lots of love and happiness and not too much stress! xo


The World and a World of Help

Here is how the latest spread turned out! I'm pretty excited about it. I love creating images of the Earth, as you probably know if you've known me a while. If you'd like to see some early versions of my Earth artwork, you can see them on this blog post from a couple of years ago. 

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After all the prints I've made, I'm pretty confident carving waves, continents, and playing around with cloud shapes. But there are lots of things in children's illustration that I'm not so confident about. And having help making this book, and navigating children's publishing is so important. I'd like to thank my critique group especially. Because I've been working on versions of this book so long, it's actually been though more than one critique group. Thanks to all my earlier partners for your input and patience! My current critique group is made up of some of the most fantastic illustrators and human beings I know. If you'd like to see their wonderful artwork, visit their websites and follow them on social medial. So, tons of love and thanks for the help Dow Phumiruk, Laura Diehl, Angela Hawkins, Melissa Iwai, and Shirley Ng-Benitez!

I'd also like to thank Harold Underdown who edited my manuscript a while ago and made some great suggestions. He really helped with clarity and flow of my text. If you are interested in children's publishing, his website, The Purple Crayon is a great resource.

Harriet Freiberger is another person I'd like to thank. She's a very supportive author in my town, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She had some great comments after studying my dummy and finished illustrations. Because of her observations, I'm going to be repainting the art that's already done. I'll be painting only the house, the little girl's clothes, and maybe the dog's collar red, but nothing else on the page. I think this will help them stand out in my busy, flat illustrations. That's next on my agenda!

Also thanks to all of you who are following along and supporting me in different ways. If you haven't sent me your mailing address yet so I can send you an owl print, remember to do that!

Below are some progress photos of creating this linocut. 

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Thank You and a New Block!

I mentioned on Facebook and Instagram that I was working on an owl linocut and I wanted to give one to each of the followers of this blog. I'd really like to say thank you to those of you that are following along on this adventure and supporting me in so many ways! My sign up form here doesn't include mailing addresses though, so please email me at jill@jillbergman.com with your address if I don't already have it.

The owls are finally done and I want to share some photos of printing them. My brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Heather Bergman are both letterpress printers, but I've never gotten to try letterpress. So I carved a 2 color linocut and my daughter, Tessa and I drove to visit them in Denver.


The first color went on great and I got to do some printing.


But the second color was a real struggle. It was eventually decided that we needed new ink, and the old black ink in the bottom of the can might be causing problems. 


It was hard to wait, but when the new ink arrived, Peter managed to solve the problems and he finished up the printing for me. Yay!!


So now I've got a stack of owls, and one is ready to fly your way! Send me your mailing address to jill@jillbergman.com. And thank you to Peter and Heather for their work on these!!

In other news... I've started the next big block for the book. 


Here I am carving one skinny long curve as the outer edge of our atmosphere. More images will come as I make progress!


To the Ocean

The next spread for the book is done! It is a complicated large linocut so I'm not surprised it took a long time, but I was getting kind of impatient. 

To the Ocean

Above is the block inked and ready to print.

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And here it is all painted! The text reads, This grass rolls over hills to reach the frozen snow. This creek flows to the river and pours into the ocean.

Below I'll share a few favorite process photos. 

4 Prints

I'm going to be visiting my brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Heather Bergman this weekend and doing a letterpress print to give as a gift to the followers of this blog. So thanks so much to those of you who've subscribed! And if you haven't, it's a good time to sign up. You can give your email address at the top of the page and I'll be in touch for your mailing address to send you something fun in the mail! 




Today is the International Day of Peace. I love that! To me, peace is something that should be celebrated, taught, and protected every day, sort of like Earth Day should be a daily occurrence. But any events that encourage positivity should be promoted, so Yay for International Day of Peace!

My daughter goes to a Montessori school, and today school children are singing Light a Candle for Peace all around the globe for 24 hours. Isn't that beautiful? 

Above is a linocut from a past draft of my book. It's hard to show in one image the whole world, different ways people live, and different environments. But I keep trying.

Above is a linocut from a past draft of my book. It's hard to show in one image the whole world, different ways people live, and different environments. But I keep trying.

The main point of creating Our Home is to show the story that since we all share this one single planet, we must work together, appreciate diversity, and keep our home a safe and healthy place. Peace, right? And other things, too. I think respecting diversity is the root of peace. If you can listen to someone's story that is completely different from the way you live, and keep an open mind, that is the beginning. That opens you to compassion, empathy, and friendship. That lets you help other people when your help is needed, and lets you give people space to live differently from you. And this is a really great Scientific American article about how diversity actually makes us smarter!

I have to focus on positive actions in my own life because I'm immobilized by fear and feeling helpless. So I can't make giant changes in the world today, but there are a few things I do to try and create the change I want to see. I teach my daughter and any other children I work with to learn ways to express themselves, to trust that their voices are important. I teach my daughter, and try to lead by example, that if you see anyone being hurt emotionally or physically to go and be friendly with that person, to give them your support. And if you need more help, you can always ask for it. I recently learned that friends of mine in our wonderful little town experience racism frequently. That is heartbreaking. Since today is International Day of Peace, to encourage peace in my community I'd like to say that I will continue to stand up for people if I see them being treated disrespectfully, and help whenever I can.

The other thing I'm doing to encourage peace feels a little selfish, because I love doing it. I'm making this book. I just sit at home quietly carving, making my images. But one day all of the pages will be done and bound together. I hope the finished book will carry a message of peace and respect for all people and living beings. Thank you for following along!


On the Wall!

Normally you wouldn't frame a spread from a picture book you are in the middle of creating and hang it in a gallery. Of course, with a traditional publisher, they like to keep the work in progress secret, and even after all of the art is finished, it could take a year before it's released. But here in opposite-land, I am showing Our Home as I'm making it. 

One of the great things that happened to help push me to complete this book was when I won a grant from the Steamboat Springs Arts Council to pay for a professional editor. That was almost 2 years ago! But I got great advice from Harold Underdown, rewrote my text and got the word back that he liked my changes. Then I redrew the illustrations to go with the newest version of the text. And now I'm doing the final art. 

So when the time came for the Arts Council's annual Member Show at the Depot, it seemed right to hang a brand new illustration from Our Home. Thank you so much to the Steamboat Springs Arts Council for having the confidence that I can make this book!


If you are in Steamboat, I hope you can make it to the Autumn Art show at the Depot. My print gets to share a room with this AWESOME dollhouse by Rick Peters. The opening is Friday, September 1 at 5:00.

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Forrest Gumping

I've been working on the next spread of this picture book, and it's is a doozy. This is the spread I've been most nervous about because it's so busy and detailed. I guess I was bound to run into this problem while trying to create a book about the whole world, right?


My main challenge for this piece is not even the detail, but varying the depth, texture, and adding in contrast so it doesn't look completely flat and confusing. I will likely be carving those little bitty lines for weeks, but I know it's something I can do. If the print turns out well, the time I put into it will be paid off with a really amazing image. Creating something so difficult and detailed, that requires lots of repetition, and listening to plenty of podcasts to stave off boredom, is honestly a bit of a stunt. It's a stunt in the sense that it really is difficult, but you have the training and practice to pull it off, and the viewers will be wowed if you succeed. 


The person who articulated this concept for me was Andy J. Miller in his podcast, The Creative Pep Talk. (I love listening to podcasts, especially that one. I highly recommend it!) He explained it as one of the ways to get people's attention with your artwork. You can take something sort of ordinary, but if you do it to the extreme people will start to notice. Anyone can go jogging, but Forrest Gump started jogging and didn't stop. He ran all the way across the country! So now, whenever I pull an art stunt I think of it as Forrest Gumping. :) BTW, can you believe that movie was made in 1994? Over 20 years ago!

Want to see another Gumpy artwork that I made recently??

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This print is 30 inches long and the most text I've carved. So many little letters! It was created at my friend Jorge's request because of his love for this Einstein quote. I didn't know if it would look good, and it was a little boring carving all those letters, but I'm happy with how it looks finished!

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So if I start whining about how long this new book spread is taking, remember that I chose this archaic medium and I love it. And I know my process is slow, but if it's going super slow, that may be because I'm Forrest Gumping.

Introducing the Cover and Main Characters

You know how it can take a novelist 10 years or a lifetime to write a book? Bet you didn't think it could take that long to write and illustrate a picture book, eh? I'm here to tell you, IT CAN! Of course, part of creating is just thinking or letting your subconscious work. Then there's the time spent on other projects that improves your craft to the point where you need to start over again. And life is distracting. And there are zillions of revisions and critiques to tackle. I have a very long-suffering critique group! Below are 5 complete revisions of this book that definitely got better each time. And there are plenty of versions that never got turned into a dummy. 

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All of this putters along when there is no deadline, like with my book. Deadlines keep things rolling so I've given myself an end date of June 1, 2018 to have all the art done. My fingers are crossed.

Now I'd like to introduce you to the main characters of Our Home...

They are a happy, energetic little girl, her parents, and her dog. Unfortunately no one actually has names in the text. But we should name them! I think of the girl as Sunny because she wears yellow and is like a little beam of sunshine. What name do you think fits her? Any ideas for her parents' names? And the dog looks a lot like my dog, Bailey but I'm open to suggestion. Let me know what you think!

And here is the cover. The right half of the image will be on the front and the left side will wrap around to the back. I have to admit that I'm not happy with how mom and dad look. I may go nuts and try to redo them by cutting them out of the window, glueing a new little piece of linoleum back in, and recarving them. I am making all of the artwork for this book with detailed linocuts printed with black and painted with gouache.  It takes me a couple of weeks to carve each block this size. But it's fun, even though it's slow. Do you see mom and dad in the window below? If I decide to try cutting them out, I'll share photos (of myself tearing my hair out.)

Below are photos of these two blocks inked. I lay the paper on top and rub the back to transfer the ink. I carefully pull the paper off the block and let it dry for a couple of days. Then I get to paint it. I loooove inking the block and pulling the first print! And I looooove painting. I guess I love making prints. :)

A couple of days ago I printed another spread. After it's painted I'll share photos of it in a new post. Then I promise I'll slow down on posting.

Thank you so much to everyone who has signed up to follow this blog via email and shared your comments with me. I can't tell you how exciting it is for any artist to show their work and have people excited to see it. You have all been making my day!!

Oh, and remember to share any ideas you have for names in the comments!