Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Blog has Moved - Come Join me Over Thither

at the Picture Book Academy

for my picture book teaching video reviews and other goodies

Do come visit and see the latest : )

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mondays with Mira - Teaching Picture Books - "Except if" by Jim Averbeck.


In today's Teaching Picture Books Video Review we're going to explore Jim Averbeck's delightful children's picture book "Except if" and talk about what makes it so delightful,  briefly sharing how Jim went about structuring this book and his illustrating techniques. I hope you enjoy and forward to friends.

I'm also delighted to say that Jim is one of the featured contributors in the Art and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books e-course at starting August 27th. Here he shares his writing process, which was super fascinating to me as it is very different than my normal process and one that I'll be experimenting with myself in the future. There are only 15 spaces left in this super innovative and empowering course so if you feel now might be the time for you to hone or explore your picture book writing skills click here (it's only 249 for early birds with the price going up to 350 in August). Let me know what you think about Jim's book and this video. I love getting comments and please share : )

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exploring four children's picture books and a currency of caring

Hullo all,

Normally, I feature a picture book or board book video review that includes teaching tips for aspiring authors or illustrators, parents, and teachers. But this week I came upon the finiteness of my computer and even tho I shot 3 enticing videos, I didn't have room to upload, edit, and transfer them (groan). I've been so busy generating juicy content for the Picture Book Academy course starting August 27th that I didn't notice how many gigabites I'd used (unfortunately video eats up hard drive storage and saving movies onto an external hard drive is more complicated than you'd think).

So just for this week (I'll have it figured out by next week) I'm sharing an article I wrote for a top art education journal about four picture books that have some deep content, exploring how they intersect within the contexts of time and culture and the visual culture of money. Hopefully you're intrigued.

Because I was a university professor at the time, some of the language is a bit intellectual and if you come across any dense bits, just skip them to get at the good stuff about how picture books often carry important messages.

I'm also redesigning my old website and working on the Picture Book Academy site, so to give you a teaser, here's some compilation images I put together of some of the many books my former students have published. When I have time, I'll create more of these fun collages.

Award winners Kathryn Otoshi • Yuyi Morales

Award winners Deborah Underwood • Youme Lansdowne • Debra Sartell • Felicia Hoshino 

Award winner Lea Lyon • Brian Gage • Hugh D'Andrade • Brooke Scudder • Mati Rose McDonough • Karen Stanton

If you're ready to work with me and join a supportive group of picture book people, do sign up for the first online Picture Book Academy e-course on writing and publishing children's picture books with this link  - there are only 20 spaces left). Add to Cart

And just a little FYI - Picture Book Writing and Publishing is a fun and empowering online course that comes with a money back guarantee and walks you through the steps of writing and submitting a children's picture books using a workshop format and lots of individual attention. It features fresh content 5 days a week from August 27th through October 7th including templates, pdfs, step by step directions, alternative approaches, critiques, written and video interviews with award winning authors, editors, and agents and much more. It is unlike anything ever offered before. At the end of the course, you will have a completed manuscript and cover letter targeted to a specific appropriate editor or agent. Questions? Feel free to email me at or visit

And here's the link to download the article.
Reisberg Currency

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mondays with Mira and some really exciting news!!!

Last week I promised to share some incredibly exciting news and here it is for anyone interested in learning how to write children's picture books or board books. The Picture Book Academy is now open for enrollment with it's first online course - Writing Children's Picture Books for Publication. The course runs from August 27th through October 7th (with a week off Labor Day week) and is limited to 30 students to ensure lots of individual attention and critiques. 

Today is my first official day of announcing this course and there are currently 24 spaces left in what will be one of the most comprehensive, cutting-edge courses ever.

So the question is
Do you have a picture book in you?
One that you've already started that needs help? Or one that's been rejected and needs reworking to get at its essence with less words and more elegance? Or perhaps you are a total beginner with a tender idea that's hiding in there somewhere, longing to come out into the world?
Then this course could be what you've been waiting for and dreaming of!
Guest contributors include Elisa Kleven, Yuyi Morales, Alexis O'Neill, Caroline Arnold, Ashley Wolff, agent Mary Kole from MoveableType Management, editor Brett Dubuque from Sterling Publishing, and Andrea Tompa from Candlewick Press to name a few. Course content includes everything from genres to easy ways of creating a dynamic plot, to creating compelling characters, to children's developmental stages, to creating concept and non-fiction books, to poetry and prose, to finding your ideal publisher or agent, to how the business works and much more. Wow - I hope you are as excited as I am and do tell your smarter friends.
Here's the link to the Picture Book Academy and the link to the course details
And if you don't want to miss out and are ready to register now - click on the "homage to Maurice Sendak" button below to register for 5 weeks of incredible content in this life-changing and enriching adventure - for only $249 (it even has a money back guarantee).

Or you can always just click here:

Now for this week's delightful board book Two at the Zoo written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Valerie Petrone, where you'll learn about how Danna works with rhyme and the sweet relationship of a boy and his granddad as they go to the zoo and practice counting together. Wonderful text and equally wonderful illustrations. Lots to learn from this lovely book, which I'm sure you'll enjoy apart from the dreadful lighting making me look a little ghoulish : )

Monday, June 25, 2012

No No Yes Yes - Mondays with Mira -Teaching Picture Books

Last week I promised some more exciting news but it will have to wait until later in the week after my newsletter people get first dibs. Trust me it is super exciting and my apologies for not getting this out sooner, but life has been a bit too wonderful with my twin sister and nephew here from Australia.

Meanwhile I have something a little different for Mondays with Mira... it's a board book!!! And even tho it only has 2 words that are each repeated to make 4 words max., it is very far from boring. You'll learn a lot about board books and some of the many things that babies and toddlers need to learn to become socialized little people: )

And after that I'm including some pics that Leonie and I took of each other and of my nephew and our little vacation to Fort Bragg.We've had a wonderful time together and am so sad that it's coming to an end : (
 From our little vacay up North in Fort Bragg. This is Glass Beach
 Here's Leonie with one of her first mosaic pieces. Leonie's first Master's Degree was in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was the first person in Australia to earn an MFA and Polaroid sponsored her many decades ago, supplying her with all sort s of cameras to test and push. As you can see I'm pretty proud of her. Her next degree was in Art Therapy from Pratt Institure where she also taught. Now she works with kids in Sydney
This pic below is one she took of her son, my nephew Sam, with my hubby Guy in the background.

 Here's Guy and me and Sam holding little portraits that Leonie and I made

 Here's Sam with the one I made of him (of course he gets to keep it)
 We went to a café in Fort Bragg and brought art supplies for a little art café experience. Always lots of fun.
 Must remember to look at this one whenever I think I look fat.
 This was on Leonie's camera looking out from her bedroom. Wild eh! These are galahs and they tend to be quite cheeky.

 This was supposed to be a professional head shot. We tend to have too much fun together.

 Me and Sam

 Me and the unicorn at Paxton Gate in SF. I think there's a resemblance.
Another of Leonie's beautiful photos
 And another
Photos by Guy
And Leonie. I hope you enjoyed : )

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mondays with Mira - The Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit

Welcome back. I have some good news this week and even better news next week. But right now today's good news is that I just sorted through all my children's picture books, of which I had an excessive amount, have purged the ones that aren't spectacular, and made 3 big piles of truly wonderful books to share with you in this Mondays with Mira series.

I chose today's book because I wanted to talk a little more about how to create a plot driven narrative and this book is a terrific example. It also has some lovely onomatopoeia, which if you're not sure what that is you'll either have to look it up or watch the video. First, a little viewer warning, if you're at all disturbed about the idea of animal poop, you may want to skip this week's video because The Little Mole Who Went I Search of Whodunit features lots of animal poop in detail. Intrigued? I hope so.

Finally, if you don't want to wait until next week to find out about my exciting news, sign up for my free newsletter here - where you can always get the latest news, free gifts, and special offerings : )

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mondays with Mira: How to Write and Illustrate Picture Books - Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead

Hullo. Today's video for older kids showcases Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead. It follows the classic plot driven structure of introducing a problem in the beginning - here the very first page, and then having a series of obstacles that the protagonist or main character has to overcome before solving the problem. Where this book differs though is that there are no children, only adults, and the main character does not overcome the problem. Hmmm, you'll have to watch to see what happens.

What I like about this book is how the author takes a concept book and makes a plot driven narrative with it that teaches us everything we need to know about an orchestra in a really engaging way. It's a bit long - but then it's Lemony Snicket and I imagine he pretty much gets to do whatever he likes. I also LOVE the watercolor and pen and ink illustrations by Carson Ellis which manage to be both minimal and excessive at the same time.

Finally, I want to apologize for the video quality not being the greatest. We've been experimenting with filming in different spots in the apartment and I kinda got buried in the couch in this one and the light was not good. Marge was also a little overenthusiastic with the zoom for some reason. Next video we're trying a tripod and either back in the dining room, my studio, or outside. Having said all this, the video still has plenty of helpful information in it. I hope you enjoy it : )

PS If you want to meet the wonderful Marge - here's her website

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Challenges in making art - My responses to dealing with self-criticism, developing a style, finding time for creativity & more

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a contest and one of the questions was about challenges in making art. I really wanted to address as many of these as I could that I thought might be helpful for others as well and that also had multiple variations on the same theme. So here they are:

1. self-criticism
I wrote an article about this, which was guest posted on The Abundant Artist, a terrific resource for artists here's the link  which if iI do say so myself : ) is pretty helpful!
We also do a fantastic transformational project for concretely dealing with this in the Hero's Art Journey.

2. having compassion for yourself
My favorite quote for this is from Stephen Levine in one of his books or one of the workshops I took with him and his extraordinary wife Ondrea years ago to - Treat yourself as if you were your only child.”  Meaning that if your only child were learning something and wasn't a born expert you'd have tenderness and compassion for them and reassure them that they were learning and it was truly all OK. This beautiful thought also applies to any form of messing up, where you have compassion for yourself and then do whatever you need to make it as right as you can.

3. finding time for creativity, courage, and prioritizing
This is pretty core in our current overflowingly time-crunched culture. 
Here are several strategies:
  • get up earlier to dedicate creative time
  • work in small blocks of time
  • block out sacred creativity time days or hours - if you block out hours set a timer to hold you accountable and get away from your computer and turn off the phone
  • go away or get your family to go away so you can have a working vacation
  • take a course where you have external accountability and goals
  • imagine that your life depends upon it or better yet someone you truly love's life depends upon it because in a way - it does - listening to our heart's desires and acting on our innate creativity makes us happier and therefore healthier people and makes us kinder and more loving to the people around us making them happier and therefor healthier people
other time tips if you are a visual artist include: 
  • working smaller and more portable. For example, I carry around some sheets of heavy weight paper or a sketch book and a piece of heavier back cardboard from a 9x12" sketchbook that I've torn off to act as an easel or small table, and whenever I'm stuck waiting anywhere I just whip it out and start drawing. Believe me the time flies and I get very happy.
  • along the portable lines, I love preparing smaller wood panels with acrylic paint textures and shapes and then relaxing on the couch when I'm truly pooped and drawing on them with an assortment of pens and markers. I also sometimes take them in by bag with the pens and work on them when I'm waiting somewhere. The panels don't need any kind of support underneath and my knees work just fine.
Yes it takes courage to be creative and to carve out time for something that may never have rewards that are commonly validated in our culture eg fame and fortune. But I do know from my dissertation research that art saves lives and that when you embrace that part of yourself, you're happier.

3. "getting past the fear of putting my art out there and fear of being successful"

Unfortunately the only way out sometimes is through. Do read the Critical Inner Voice article, which you might find helpful and take baby steps. Show your work in safe environments such as a course environment or among friends where you can get good helpful criticism. Learn as much as you can by taking courses where you improve your skills then start putting it out. Don't worry about getting successful. Your chances of that happening before you've put in a bunch of time and effort and work are slim. It does occasionally happen but it's rare. I love the extremes tho - am I good enough - to what if I get wildly successful. There's a middle ground worth seeking and always tell yourself -"I'm learning and growing." It really helps for whatever stage you're at both as a source of comfort and a reminder for humility.

4. how to teach art to others
Pay attention to what you like in how others teach and apply that to your own teaching. 
Read books on education and the art of teaching

5. "The fact that I can't paint or draw at ALL"
If you can drive you can draw or paint. It's as simple as that. Remember when you first learned to drive and how totally overwhelming it was and how reflexive it is now. It's the same with drawing. When you do one action e.g. putting down some proportional guidelines of where features sit in a face, and then you adapt them for a specific face, after a while you don't need those guidelines. You just know where they are supposed to be. The more you do it, the more skilled you'll become, especially if you have good teachers and really pay attention to what's around you and in front of you.

6. "Honing in on a style that truly feels my own"
Ah that's a challenge, especially if you like to experiment and try lots of different things. My style has definitely changed over the years but I think I have a specific look because I like bold shapes and color contrasts. I just do what feels right and true for me. Maybe put all your different styles together and see which speaks most to you or not worry about having one particular style and instead develop several bodies of work that are perhaps both conceptually and stylistically linked.

7. If my love for art will be overpowered by the reality of maybe having to put it aside to making a better living
This is where you have to decide what a better living is and how much you need. Here in the States we tend to sell our life blood for goods and it's not a good trade off. If there's any way you can swing working part time until you can either a) develop a following and decent financial return for your art, or b) come into a sweet inheritance, that's the best you can probably do (unless you have a partner who earns enough and is willing to support you). Reality sucks sometimes.

8. Someone mentioned the challenges of promoting creative works, which I'm not going to answer except to say it's all about social media these days - Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, and having a blog. All major time sucks but also very rewarding in other ways

I think I answered all the comments and hope they've been super helpful

love xox Mira

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mondays with Mira - How to Write a Picture Book - Baby Bear Sees Blue!

(Quick note - for those of you who participated in the contest, my next post will be for you but as it's already Monday - this one needed to come first.)

How to Write a Picture Book (and Illustrate it too)

I've been talking about "first seduction then deconstruction" as a technique for teaching about picture books but I've decided to simplify my titles to How to Write a Picture Book (even tho it also includes illustration). Right now my technique involves reading the story and then going back and talking about what makes it work!

So in that spirit, today's wonderful book is from my friend Ashley Wolff who you can meet briefly further down in another post and in any of my online courses.

As you will see in this seemingly simple story, Ashley packs a tremendous amount in for very young minds as they learn about all sorts of good things in Baby Bear Sees Blue, using spare rhyming text and beautiful and clever illustrations. I hope you like it. This video is also kind of a love letter to Ashley who is one of the many gifts in the world.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Contest Prize Winners and a little more about mandalas and courage

Although I've won my share of prizes and awards, I always felt like a loser when I didn't so I created a contest where everyone was a winner and because some people had the courage to enter this contest and talk about things that were meaningful for them (fears or challenges around creativity), I made sure that they got even more bonuses. So, I sent hi res pics of some animal mandalas that were incredible fun to make along with instructions on how to make them using traditional materials as well as with Photoshop (more work putting that tutorial together than I expected). Here are some low res pics of some of their pressies/prizes. If you end up posting them please credit me and refer folks either to this blog or my FB page Mira Reisberg Art and Education : )
I love these weird funky peacocks and the negative spaces in between them.

This was a bonus worksheet from the Hero's Art Journey e-course teaching about symmetry and balance in composition (one of the foundational elements and principles of art taught in art school, or alternative art schools : ).

And my current favorite of abstracted flamingos that I created for the Photoshop tutorial today. As I wrote in the tutorial - it can be fun to really abstract things and see where they take your brain. This piece is called: "Dance of the Flamingos” or “Eight Birds Merge.”

And now onto the main contest winners. I used Rafflecopter for the first time and it wasn't as easy as I hoped it would be in selecting the winners. I think I confused it by giving everyone prizes. So I chose 2 of the big prizes randomly and 2 by comments.

Drum roll please .....

Julie Hedlund for the Hero's Art Journey e-course where she will learn to draw at last guided by lots of worksheets, video demos, me and the support of a small but super smart group of wonderful people.

Nicole Zoltack because I love her name and it sounds like a great fit for the journey (this is pretty random).

Skype Picture Book manuscript or art critiques:
Jennifer Young and Nadia Roldan - Hooray and congratulations to everyone who entered and still won something and Jennifer - thank you for your flexibility - it paid off.

In my next blog post, I'd like to address some of the really good comments that came up in response to the question about challenges in being creative. Right now I'm pooped and I have a movie to edit : )