Sunday, December 23, 2012

Painting Banners for Studio 54 at the McNay

In 2006, The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio asked me to make some banners for a "Studio 54" themed event. Art patrons could buy a  V.I.P. section - and each section was named after a famous celebrity. There was an "Andy Warhol" room, a "Cher" room, a "Jackie O." room,  etc...

 I wanted every painting to look great under the DJ lights, so I made each "banner" 70" long,  out of colored transparency sheets sandwiched between two pieces of black theater skrim.  I sewed the whole thing together. Then I painted the surface with oil paint.
Here are some of the results:

Next day, I told the lady that hired me at the museum, "The very first thing you should say to yourself when you see me coming down the street is, 'Yeah, but has this REALLY ever been done before? ' "

She smiled and said that's what she liked about me.

Have fun taking the "road less traveled"!

Carolyn Dee Flores

Painting a Mural in Freezing Weather

Here I am painting a mural in 2006. It was 15 degrees above zero - so I wore hunting gear to keep warm. Also, I painted with oils directly onto the wall. Doctors in the neighborhood kept coming by to check my pulse. This piece was called "Gravitas." 

Little kids would run up to me and ask, "Are you the mural lady?"
How cool is that?

Finished product.

I love glazes. The blue paint was so deep, you could see it from the freeway.

Have fun this week,
Carolyn Dee Flores

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Counting Books


I read this book when I was five years old. I loved it so much,  I bought a copy of it recently off of Ebay.

Was I reading a 189 page book at age five because I was a child prodigy?
Of course not.  I started reading at age four, because when I was growing up every one of my cousins wanted to become a teacher. And I was their only student.
And guess what?  They did become teachers. All except one. She became an interior designer.

So, at this year's Christmas Cookie Exchange, I sat next to one of my cousins who became a kindergarten and special needs teacher. I mentioned to her that I was working on a book about counting.

Now, understand, I had some grand ideas about the illustrations for this book. (I did not write the book. I am the illustrator.) Marbles  being flung this way and that - toys falling from the sky - jacks as huge as baseballs.
But ... before I could go into it all, my cousin said, "Oh, yeah, my kids love counting books. Especially the boys - with superheroes. They love to shout one, two, three, four, …"
"One, two, three, four, .."
 I was  reminded:
                  Counting books are about  counting.
                  Counting books must be orderly - not chaotic.

Counting books  are about interaction. They must have READILY identifiable quantities of objects, at that age. It's not enough to include the right number of objects. You have to make them easily recognizable AND countable - FROM A DISTANCE.

A counting picture book is still a book. It must still be high interest, with  character and story. But here, the numbers and the objects and the colors are the stars.

 Lesson Learned: Know your audience.  See your book through the eyes of the children you are illustrating for. Stick to your purpose. And, STILL, add fun and character and story. The challenge is - make it exciting and cohesive on all of these levels.

So …

Trust me. I will still make all my drawings about character. I will still sketch 50 versions of each page before I pick the one I will illustrate. However, I will also REMEMBER to give kids plenty of things to count! That is, out loud.

One more thing. A counting book is a group activity. That means, counting books are almost ALWAYS read aloud. Kids count  aloud - in front of a parent, adult, or a teacher. The book itself, is just part of that experience. So, fellow writers and illustrators, let's uphold our end of the bargain!

Have a great Christmas!
 Carolyn Dee Flores

P.S. My five favorite counting or math books of all time!
Go, Dog. Go! By P.D. Eastman
Bears On Wheels - A Bright and Early Counting Book By Stan and Jan Berenstein
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish  By Dr. Seuss
365 Penguins By Jean-Luc Fromental Illustrated By Joelle Jolivet
Tyrannosaurus Math By Michelle Markel and Doug Cushman

BTW, fortunately, I have great text by the author, a great publisher, and a great art director to help guide me through this journey.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Judy Garland Videos - Courtesy Jo Knowles - Acclaimed YA Author

Two Judy Garland Videos. "Somewhere over the Rainbow." Courtesy of acclaimed and award-winning YA author (See You at Harry's) Jo Knowles. Both intense and mesmerizing.

The thing is - I think BOTH performances are incredible. Judy Garland may have been beaten up by her industry - but I don't see her as beaten.She knew her own voice, and that's an incredible gift for any artist.

Thank you, Jo Knowles for the post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmann and Candace Fleming, and Ellen Hopkins in San Antonio This Week

Announcing 2 Big Book Events in San Antonio This Week!
Caldecott Medal Winner  Eric Rohmann and author Candace Fleming will be speaking at UTSA this Wednesday, December 5 at 6:00 p.m.
Here is the link:

Ellen Hopkins, esteemed author of teen novels in verse including Crank, will be appearing at Barnes and Noble at La Cantera Parkway, discussing and signing her new book "Collateral" at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday December 6.

Other News:
Guadalupe Garcia McCall's new book, Summer of the Mariposas, was just named one of School Library Journal's Best Books of 2012.

And on a personal note, my first picture book -  Sing, Froggie, Sing / Canta, Rana, Canta is now available for pre-order on,,,, and, among others.
The book is illustrated by me, Carolyn Dee Flores, and translated by Natalia Rosales-yeomans, published by Arte Público Press.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Anne Frank

From a project I am working on about Anne Frank. Very excited. This is Prismacolor colored pencil on paper.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Have fun creating,

Monday, October 1, 2012

Super Cool List of 14 Picture Books You Should Absolutely Keep In Your Studio



For those of you who attended my workshop  at the SWTX-SCBWI Conference  2012 on Basics of Picture Book Illustration - several people have asked me for a list of the picture books we used in class.

So here is the list:
Super Cool List of 14 Picture Books You Should Absolutely Keep In Your Studio

  1. The Lion & The Mouse … Jerry Pinkney … (The Picture Book as an Art Form)
  2. I, Too, Am America … Langston Hughes, Illustrated By Bryan Collier  (Interpreting Text)
  3.  Rapunzel … Paul O. Zelinsky … (Painterly-ness)
  4. The Little Matador … Julian Hector … (Design, Abstract Thumbnails)
  5. Me, Frida … Amy Novesky, Illustrated By David Diaz … (Importance of Cover, Palette)
  6. The Secret World of Walter Andersen …Hester Bass, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis … (Importance of Cover, Palette)
  7. The Day-Glo Brothers … Chris Barton, Illustrated By Tony Persiani … (Illustrator's Vision)
  8. Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed The World) … Mac Barnett, Dan Santat …  (Illustrator's Vision)
  9. Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus … Mo Willems … (Pacing - Spots, Single Page Illustrations, Spreads)
  10. Balloons Over Broadway … Melissa Sweet … ( Style, Fun, Accessibility, Play)
  11. Go, Dog. Go! … P.D. Eastman … (Simplicity, Humor, Hitting It Out of the Ballpark)
  12. I Want My Hat Back … Jon Klassen … (Doing What Is Right For The Book, Pure Guts)
  13. Make Way For Ducklings … Robert McCloskey … ( Passion, Research, Tenacity)
  14. The Invention of Hugo Cabret … Brian Selznick … (Breaking the Rules)

Of course, there are many more incredible picture books … but these are the ones I used in the class on that day.
Carolyn Dee Flores
Stay Incredibly Inspired!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

WatercolorFish Illustration ... in Prismacolor

I love drawing fish. My very first illustration was of fish. So, these two watercolor fish are my buddies.
Happy creating guys,
Carolyn Dee Flores

Most Enthusiastic at SCBWI LA

I made SCBWI National news! See ... I'm just as ENTHUSIASTIC in L.A. as I am in Texas. Tomorrow I will start posting some of the pictures I took at the SCBWI LA conference 41.

Thank you so much to Carol Cook Barreyre for taking the pictures, Lee Wind for the article, Lin Oliver for asking it to be posted and SCBWI for ... well, everything. :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tips for the dyslexic artist

Tip #1
Use quick and dirty clay models.
I use clay models when I am working because I have a lot of trouble remembering which direction my light source is coming from.

The model doesn't have to be great. It just has to show me where my shadows are.

Tip #2
Post a copy of a color wheel on the wall.

Whenever a shadow is cast on, say, a red surface, the shadow isn't black. It is gray with a certain amount of the "complement" color (or "opposite" color.)

A shadow on a red surface has more green in it, because you are removing the red.

But I can't remember complements ... ever.

So ... I have a color wheel posted on the wall.
 When I need to remember the complement of a color,
I just look up and see what color  opposite is.
Works for me!

Have a great weekend! Carolyn

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Painting Warts on My Frog

The frog character in the book I am currently illustrating is very active. Here I am in the studio painting markings and warts on my frog so that I can be consistent with the markings from every angle.

Well...not really painting, prismacolor.
Very proud of the frog. Sat still thru the whole process.

My frog is also posing as reference for body shadow and cast shadow. Knowing your light source and your shadows gives the illustration real depth. It also widens the range of your colors in your picture  (green for example.)

Now, we are going to take a break!
And eat some ... well ... dinner.
Have a great week,
Carolyn Dee Flores

P.S. Also, I  have an Art Show of oil paintings exhibiting at Joe Blues at the Blue Star Complex in San Antonio, Texas through the month of July. I will post more about that in a few days.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Advice on extending the life of your Prismacolor pencils

Today I am working in Prismacolor - Carolyn Dee Flores.

The biggest threat to the life of a soft pencil is a cracked core - because then, when you sharpen it, it  crumbles and falls apart.

So here are a few tips on extending the life of your Prismacolor pencils:
  1. When your  pencil gets too short to use comfortably, start by wrapping a little bit of drafting tape around the bottom end. (Prismacolor pencils are skinny, so they need the extra bulk to fit tightly into a pencil extender.)
Use tape to add bulk to pencil

  1. Buy wooden pencil extenders, and then -  cut them to 3 different sizes. (As shown in picture above.)

  1. Use a magic marker to make each extender a different color corresponding to size. Here I've used green for my shortest extender. As soon as your pencil becomes uncomfortable in your hand, you will use the shortest extender first, and so on.

    Line your pencil jar with thin Styrofoam.

    1. Line the bottom of your pencil jars with thin Styrofoam, so  your pencils won't  jolt against the bottom. (See above.)

    1. Use a hand-held sharpener.
      1.  For softer lead (Prismacolors)  use a Prismacolor sharpener.
      2. For harder leads, including Prismacolor Verithins, use a regular sharpener. (See picture above.)

      1. Use an old-school sharpener (picture above) when a pencil is brand new. Vacuum your sharpener AND KEEP IT CLEAN. This way you won't break your pencils. Also, keep your pencil steady, so that it does not rotate, when sharpening.
    When you have used your pencils up completely,  you can keep them in a pretty box - JUST LIKE THIS!

    Sincerely, your fellow illustrator,
    Carolyn Dee Flores

      Saturday, March 31, 2012

      Drawing Little Tiny Houses

      I just posted this on my facebook page - because I was taking a break. But I like the idea of seeing what a person actually does - in order to get an illustration to work.

      So this is me, drawing a lot of tiny little houses using a model I made from an eraser so I could see the lighting and the angles.

      Carolyn Dee Flores in the studio at midnight

      By the way, I researched this - and this is exactly what the houses in Savannah , Georgia  looked like in 1733. I even tried to get those really tall trees in the correct place. And, then I realized I had two flags blowing in opposite directions *big mistake*.

      The lady featured is Mary Musgrove:Empress of the Creeks.

      P.S. A Bit of Trivia: Mary Musgove - Creek Empress - established a trading post on this bluff first. It  would become Savannah, Georgia. She allowed General James Oglethorpe to build a colony there in 1733.

      This is for the book "Daughters of Two Nations" written by Peggy Caravantes and published by Mountain Press which will be out later this year.

      Carolyn Dee Flores

      Tuesday, March 27, 2012

      Introducing: Guadalupe Garcia McCall - Under The Mesquite – Winner of the 2012 Pura Belpré Medal

      I can always tell if I am going to love the way a person writes by the way they speak.
      Guadalupe Garcia McCall spoke to our San Antonio SCBWI chapter this month – and I told my friend, “I am going to love her books.”
      But after I began to read Under The Mesquite, winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for 2012, I was stunned.

       I told my friend, (who is also a writer and an illustrator), “Oh, my gosh! She is going to be big! Her writing … it’s got that spark!  I’m really, really blown away!”
      My friend whispered back to me, “Are you talking about Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s book Under The Mesquite?”

      I said, ”Yes.”

      She looked at me and said, “I know. I know. I totally agree!I felt it too.”

      So here is an excerpt from the book.

      Introducing, if you haven’t already read it – the talented Guadalupe Garcia McCall and her award winning book – Under The Mesquite:

      “Here you go,” says my new

      drama teacher, Mr. Cortés,

      handing me a smallish white box

      and a giant bag of Blow Pops.

      “What’s this?” I ask.

      “Voice lessons,” Mr. Cortés declares.

      He reaches over, opens the box

      with a flourish, and reveals

      a set of four instructional CDs.

      They’re brand-new, still shrink-wrapped.

      “Go home and practice the lessons

      with these in your mouth,” he says,

      pointing to the Blow Pops.

      “... put these in, one on each side

      of your mouth, como ardilla listada.”

      He puffs out his cheeks with air

      to demonstrate, making a chipmunk face.

      “Don’t suck on them, he instructs.

      “Just let them sit there.

      If you’re serious about acting---

      and I think you are---then you need to

      lose your accent.”

      Rolling the Blow Pops

      into position, I wonder if

      this is how Mr. Cortés

      got rid of his own accent.

      The hard candy scrapes

      against my my gums. My face

      is so stretched out, it feels as big as

      one of those hot-air balloon characters

      floating over the booths

      at la Feria, the annual fair

      in Piedras Negras.

      “Well? Say something,”

      Mr. Cortés demands.

      I swallow some spit and warble out,

      “I have an accent?”

      Guadalupe’s debut novel Under The Mesquite, published by Lee and Low Books Inc., is the winner of the 2012 Pura Belpré Medal for literature for a work by a Latino/Latina writer whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

      Keep creating,

      Carolyn Dee Flores/Illustrator

      Friday, March 2, 2012

      Research is heavy!

      I don't think people realize how much research is required when an illustrator works on a subject - OR how heavy it is!

       Here I am  coming back from the library with 14 books this morning!

       Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

      P.S. My first book  - Daughters of Two Nations published by Mountain Press - is due out this fall. I'm excited.

       My other three books are due out at the beginning of 2013.

      Happy Composing!
      Carolyn Dee Flores

      Tuesday, February 21, 2012

      Austin SCBWI Conference 2012

      Writer Lisa Yee (of "Millicent Min,Girl Genius", "Warp Speed" fame) and Carolyn Dee Flores