Art In Progress (Part 3)

I’ve been working as a Teaching Artist for five years now. Wow! I can’t believe it’s been that long! I started out applying for grants through the Nevada Arts Council. I designed creative exploration workshops for adults and children. Then last summer I applied for a Youth Collaborative Art Workshop and Temporary Installation project through Clark County Public Arts. “Songbirds Of Hope” was born! I created a design and wrote a detailed proposal and lesson plan for the project. I was interviewed a few weeks after the submission period ended by a selection committee who eventually chose me and a dozen other artists to facilitate workshops throughout the county. I didn’t know where my project would land, but luckily it ended up at the Desert Breeze Community Center which is only a few miles from my home.

A few months ago, I attended a meeting with the program coordinators at the community center, and we discussed the location of the artwork, the schedule for the workshops, and how to prepare according to their COVID safety guidelines.

Then I got to work preparing the background canvases, vinyl lettering, sound recorder, and of course, 50 cut-out birds to be painted by the children.

After 50, I’m getting the hang of drawing birds.
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Art In Progress (Part 2)

I’ve been preparing for my Youth Public Art Project for Clark County. The project itself will take place over Spring Break at the Desert Breeze Community Center. I will be facilitating the creation of fifty little birds with the help of fifty children. I call this project “Songbirds Of Hope,” because it is inspired by all the birds I heard singing after lockdown. That’s right… FIFTY unique birds cut out from mat board! I’ve been cutting a few each day and currently have 19 finished.

As I showed in my last post, the background layer was brushed in loosely. Here are my seasonal canvases after adding in the “happy” trees. I used my palette knife to create the textured tree trunks.

Then I painted in the leaves. Now my little world just needs some birds to live in it. Back to cutting out those little guys!

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

Bonnie

Bonnie Kelso writes and illustrates books for children and adults that encourage individualism and brave self-expression. She facilitates art workshops for her local community and beyond. A lover of nature and travel, she can be found wandering about outside with her family whenever a good opportunity to do so presents itself.

Puff and Groop

This year I’m trying to enter all the picture book writing contests I can. I’m determined to stretch myself creatively and besides, who can resist a chance at winning a prize? Here is my entry for Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest, and as you might guess, my story had to be 50 words or less. Not as easy as it sounds when you also have to include a compelling story arc. So, without further ado, here is my uber-short fish tale.

Puff & Groop

by Bonnie Kelso

Puff is a small fish.

Groop is a BIG fish,
gobbling everything in his path,
never asking questions.

When Groop gulps down Puff,
Puff goes…

POOF!!!

“Oooooooh,” moans Groop.

Puff closes his mouth,
holding his water as long as he can.

Groop opens his mouth wide.

BELCH!

Out pops Puff!

###

There were a whopping 759 entries for this contest! To read them all go to Vivian Kirkfield’s website.

Bonnie

Bonnie Kelso writes and illustrates books for children and adults that encourage individualism and brave self-expression. She facilitates art workshops for her local community and beyond. A lover of nature and travel, she can be found wandering about outside with her family whenever a good opportunity to do so presents itself.

Art In Progress

I thought I would share a little behind-the-scenes today. I am in the middle of preparing a Youth Public Art Project for Clark County. The project itself will take place over Spring Break at the Desert Breeze Community Center. I will be facilitating the creation of fifty little birds with the help of fifty children. I call this project “Songbirds Of Hope,” because it is inspired by all the birds I heard singing after lockdown. Did anyone else noticed how quiet the streets were for a while? There was little to drown out the sounds of nature. It was the highlight of my day, listening to those little birds. It brought me small moments of hope during a frightening and unsettling time. One year later, the pandemic is far from over, but I continue to commune with my bird neighbors on a daily basis.

Photograph by Jill Wellington.

This weekend I have been prepping my canvases which will soon become home for fifty bird cut-outs. I have a canvas to represent each of the seasons. It has felt so good to paint large again after a few years of focusing on picture books. The act of spreading these canvases out in my living room and pulling out the big brushes and paints has brought a new sense of hope and optimism into my own heart.

I have limited space, so I’m using my walls to hang the canvases up. I pull them down one at a time and work on them in my living room. I started with a dark green base layer.

Next, I put down my background layer. I tried to keep it loose with broad brush strokes. I wanted each canvas to speak to the season. Can you guess which season is represented on each canvas?

Now comes the fun part! TREES! I’m using my palette knife and working them in, Bob Ross style. Soooo much fun! Awwww, what happy little trees! Here’s winter. I’ll post the others later. Until then, I encourage you to take a walk outside if you can and listen for messages of hope and optimism from your bird neighbors.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson

Bonnie

Bonnie Kelso writes and illustrates books for children and adults that encourage individualism and brave self-expression. She facilitates art workshops for her local community and beyond. A lover of nature and travel, she can be found wandering about outside with her family whenever a good opportunity to do so presents itself.

Seeking Courage

By Bonnie Kelso

Finding lost things was Riley’s specialty.

She found Mama’s keys!

A shiny penny.

Her sister’s doll.

“Here it is, Kara.”

Riley and Kara were playing hide-and-seek 

when Riley found Mama wrapped in a blanket.

“I’ve lost my job.” 

“I’ll help you find it!” said Riley. 

Mama hugged her tight.

Later Riley found

a stack of boxes

with Kara’s doll stuffed inside one. 

“We’re moving?” asked Riley.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t find your job.”

“I know moving is scary, Riley,

but we have to find courage,” said Mama. 

Riley looked everywhere,

but she couldn’t find courage.

She wished courage would find her.

At the shelter Riley counted to ten 

and opened her eyes.

She searched for Kara…

in every room,

in every closet,

and on the patio.

Cars zoomed in the street. 

Kara was lost!

Her heart beat faster.

“Kara!”

“We’re in here, Riley,” said Mama.

Kara was safe.

Riley collapsed.

“I can’t find my courage!”

Mama smiled.

“Riley, I found a job!” 

They squeezed each other tight.

In their new apartment they found wonderful things.

Soft blankets.

Friendly neighbors.

Kara discovered a new word, Riley.

Riley decided courage isn’t something you find.

It grows inside, little by little,

like making a friend,

learning new words,

or the feeling of home in a new place.

This story was submitted to Susanna Hill’s Valentiny Contest. The theme was BRAVE and the word count is 214 words (for February 14th).

My 2020 Successes

This year I am participating in Julie Hedlund’s “12 Days of Christmas for Writers.” She has challenged us today to publicly post our successes for the year. When I first heard this I was sad, because all I could think about was the pandemic and all the challenges we have all been going through. Then I started taking inventory of all the work I’ve done this year in my pursuit of becoming a traditionally published author/illustrator. O-M-G. I can’t believe all that I did, especially under the circumstances. I feel that this is a testimony to the power of having a creative world to dive into when the “mud” hits the fan. If you have an idea of something I should pursue or investigate in 2021, please leave me a comment. So, without further ado, here is my list of SUCCESSES:

What was the escape hatch / magic portal you created for yourself during 2020?

  1. I’m here. I’m alive. I haven’t given up. I still have hope for the future. I believe that good things are coming.
  2. Change helps me grow. I have grown through many challenges this year and have learned a lot about myself and what is most important to me.
  3. I participated in 11 online writing workshops.
  4. I read over 100 books this year. (MG, GN, and PB).
  5. I wrote 20 new manuscripts this year. These are fully fleshed out stories, some of which I have begun illustrating. One of these was my first Nonfiction Picture Book and another was my first early reader Graphic Novel.
  6. I revised 5 older manuscripts.
  7. I created 10 other story ideas that I haven’t developed fully yet.
  8. I completed 15 picture book dummies. (This was a big OMG for me).
  9. I compiled 1 complete GN submission proposal including manuscript, first chapter, and art samples.
  10. I participated in The 100 Day Project and got to 60/100. Not too shabby.
  11. I participated in Folk Tale Week for the first time and illustrated a story based on the prompts. That’s 7 full color spreads in one week!
  12. I drew about 75 other vignettes, just for fun.
  13. I entered 6 competitive contests and received recognition in 2 of them.
  14. I won 3 professional critiques.
  15. I gave 150 critiques.
  16. I participated in 5 pitch events on Twitter. I received requests from 3 agents.
  17. I submitted work to 14 agents this year. This was a big step forward for me.
  18. I was interviewed by 2 publications and was requested to write my first book review.
  19. I’ve made a lot of writer and illustrator friends this year. 🙂
  20. In my other realm of art facilitation, I held a workshop at the Discovery Children’s Museum, received funding for a youth project in 2021 from Clark County, and received two teaching artist grants to produce video lessons, also in 2021.

Whew! No wonder I’m exhausted. I think I’ll go take a nap now.

Sending love to you all and wishing you a safe and healthy New Year!

Bonnie

The Power Of Cuteness

We have a saying in my family:

She’s not as cute as she looks.

Everyone in my family is cute. Some are beyond cute. It’s part of a family legacy that spans back centuries. Even our old Scottish family crest reads: “Leisure With Dignity.” How cute is that? When I gaze at old sepia-toned family photos I see bright-eyed round, chubby-cheek faces twinkling back at me and I recognize those familiar elements of cuteness that reside in the faces of my parents, my sisters, my nephew, and my own children.

Exhibit “A” from my Hall(way) of Cuteness Fame: Me and my little sister holding our puppy, Smokey.

The other day, at the dinner table, where most deep family discussions take place, we discussed how cuteness can be a important survival skill. For example, our cat might swipe at someone, but then because of her extreme cuteness, all is forgiven, and she continues to live a pampered life in our home. This example can be extended to just about every member of my family. Like I mentioned before, we’re not always as cute as we look, but like the cat, we always seem to land on our feet.

So this week, in honor of cuteness, the less recognized superpower, I have been drawing something cute each day in my sketchbook. Of course, cuteness is subjective, but if you’d like to follow along, I have been posting them on Instagram. The greatest thing cuteness can offer these days is to, in some small way, lift a person’s spirits and maybe even help a person smile. If either of those things happen when you see my drawing, then mission accomplished.

Bonnie

The 10th Annual Halloweensie Contest

Today I’m celebrating a social-distanced Halloween by posting my uber-short (100 words) kidlit story for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie contest. For some reason this year, I’m kind of obsessed with Frankenstein. What if Frankenstein was a kid? What would it be like to be so green? Could Frankenstein be solar-powered? Anyway, hope you enjoy the story!

Furley Frankenstein

Furley Frankenstein was tired of social distancing.

He’d been cooped up in the lab ever since he became undead.

“Pleeeeeease, Dad? Can’t I go out? It’s Halloween.

No one will care that my skin is green.”

“It’s just not safe,” said Dr. Frankenstein.

“Don’t you know, there’s a pandemic going on!”

The door locked when it slammed behind him.

Furley groaned!

Furley stomped!

Furley moaned.

Furley noticed something shiny on the counter.

His dad forgot the skeleton key!

He listened for his dad’s footsteps to fade.

Furley snatched a medical mask,

unlocked the door,

and crept out into the night.

Decide

Since the lock-down began, I’ve suddenly had a lot less time to work on my projects. The funny thing is… I’ve somehow managed to still find time to work on my projects! I’ve had to make a lot of tough choices in order to stay productive. It’s heart-breaking work to have to say ‘no’ to comfortable routines and people we care about, but it helps you to understand in your heart what you need to continue saying yes to, no matter what. The world is changing on micro and macro levels all at once. Even when things “go back to normal” we’re only kidding ourselves if we believe that anything will ever be like it was. I’ve been learning important things about myself during these past few months. Like the other day when a distracted driver almost ran me over in the crosswalk. I learned two things in that one moment. #1, I learned that my crisis response is to freeze, not fight or flight. #2, I learned that I had been taking for granted that a few lines drawn on the street could grant me safety. They don’t. In these times we have to be extra vigilant. We have to observe. We have to look both ways, again and again, even when the lights are green and the little walkie man is flashing. It’s okay to freeze, but at some point we need to start moving again. But when we do, we have to remember that the world has changed, that we have all changed. There will be some things we will miss. But there will be other things that we can rebuild to be better than they were. We have to decide to hold on to that hope.

Bonnie

©Bonnie Kelso and Creating Your Experience

For a limited time I have reduced the price of my coloring books to $7.99. Enjoy!

Check out this new 100 Day Project on Instagram: #TinyLifeLines2020