January 21, 2014

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Hey everyone! After finishing up my art class last month I've really been enjoying both graphite and charcoal media.  I love how they are so “workable”.  Below are some of my “assignments” from class.

We were assigned the task of keeping a daily sketchbook (ink only, no pencil allowed) with 5 sketches due each week.  I found that after sketching more regularly, my ability grew quite nicely!

Sketchbook, week 1

Sketchbook, about week 10
We mostly worked with Graphite throughout the class, then later moved on to explore with Charcoal for our final 2 weeks.
Assignment: Powertool, Graphite
(one of my favorites from the class)

Midterm Assignment in Graphite
We were instructed to choose five items that described us.
Can you guess what these items represent to me?

After the class was over I did this revision to add more "pop" and depth.
I also tried to fix shadow/lighting issues I was seeing.

Horse, Charcoal on Toner Paper
(This was our first charcoal assignment. Quite different than Graphite. And messier - haha)

"Old Man", Black and White Charcoal on Toner Paper

Overall, the class was VERY helpful in basically forcing me to STOP being so afraid to jump in with both feet.  I've found myself researching different illustration styles (cartoon-y, realistic, watercolor, digital, etc.). I'm mostly drawn to picture books and art, in general, that depict more of a realistic rendition of the subject. As always, I'm drawn to artwork by E.B. Lewis and David Wiesner. More recently, I fell in love with Aaron Becker's new picture book, Journey. Although his main character is less detailed, I'm quite impressed with his way of using the composition of body language and setting to evoke a great deal of emotion. I have my fingers crossed he attends the SCBWI conference this summer so I can get my book signed :)

Although I am still working on writing new stories and revising old ones, I can officially say that I'm hooked on drawing and illustrating!  I'm currently working on finishing up a secret art project that I'm quite pleased with as I explore and discover that "art thing" inside of me that I'm finally letting out! 

October 11, 2013

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Hey  everyone! I've been a bit off the grid for the past couple of months. As many of you know, I abandoned my "art" dream back in college when I decided to be "more practical" and get my Business Marketing degree. Since then, I've become a children's book writer and have started to re-dream my dream of being an artist through illustrating for kids someday.

After asking many of my illustrator friends and heroes what their advice is for a beginner, they all pretty much said the same thing. "Take a beginning drawing class."  So I've stepped out and done just that.  I started my class a few weeks ago at my local community college. I've learned some very basic, yet exciting tips and am enjoying our assignments a lot, (mostly involving cubes and spheres, since most things in life have those attributes in one way or another).

This week I finished up a 3 day in-class project of a cow skull and, you guessed it... a cube and a sphere. Our focus was learning light logic and how shadows are cast. Very fascinating to me!!!

Here's my attempt at it:

We also learned this week that our mid-term project is going to take some soul searching of who we are. Intrigued? Yah, me too. And a little intimidated. 

I'll keep you posted.

August 8, 2013

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This past weekend I attended my 5th year of Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angels Conference, filled with encouragement, inspiration and craft.  Woven between each keynote speech and workshop session were unforgettable moments with friends.  We laughed. We cried. We learned from one another. But most of all, we reminded each other that we are not alone.

It's not a surprise that I gleamed from the talent and love for our craft that was oozing from the California Ballroom stage and throughout the Century Plaza conference rooms all weekend. From the moment SCBWI founders, Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver welcomed us, I listened and watched and learned from authors, illustrators, publishers and agents. Here are just a few moments that inspired me.


Your job is to defend, protect, and celebrate childhood. - Laurie Halse Anderson

Don't put kids to sleep, for God's sake. Wake'em up. - Jon Scieszka

Do the unexpected. - Deborah Halverson

We hold a mirror to [our readers], but behind them is a world of fiction. - Peter Lerangis

Look right into the eyes of your audience; children. Know what they are going through and what inspires and excites them. - Michelle Markel


Editors Panel, moderated by Lin Oliver, with
Nami Tripahi, Andrea Pinkney, Donna Bray, Claudia Gabel, Allyn Johnston, Melissa Manlove
This was the best editors panel I've ever heard. Everyone spoke candidly and was full of heart.

The story about Nico and his whale. - Mac Barnett

Read every line you write, out loud, standing up. - Richard Peck

Enjoy your writing. Don't worry about perfection. - Carolyn Mackler

You just have to sit down and work or nothing's ever going to happen. - David Wiesner


Agents panel, moderated by Lee Wind
 The bar has been raised for all of us. - Steve Malk
Keep trying. Don't let rejection hold you back. - Jenny Bent
Publishers want to put out a personality. - Mela Bolinao
You can't force yourself to be a different person. - Ginger Clark
Know the market. Read books. Know what others are doing. - Joanne Volpe

If the story deviates from the image, ditch the image and follow that story! - David Wiesner

We are in an age where we compete with media. We need genre breakers. Attention grabbers. - Andrea Pinkney, author and editor at Scholastic

The craft of writing is getting your brain to bleed directly onto a blank page. - Richard Peck

History is cool. Nonfiction is a way to remember truth. - Jeri Chase Ferris, Golden Kite Winner for Nonfiction

We live in a world where awful things happen, but sometimes there are things that are so atrocious that happen to kids and
we can't fix them. We create magic, wonder, escape.
- Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady book series

Fellow writers, Meg Lentz and Bridget Casey, building characters through improve
in our intensive workshop with Henry Winkler

Don't overthink. It's all in your mind. You need to let it out.
- Henry Winkler

And a few more fun moments...

Joanne Rocklin, Golden Kite Winner for fiction

Mo Willems won the Sid Fleishman Award for humor, but unfortunately
he was tied up and couldn't be at the awards luncheon.

Meg and I enjoyed laughing with Marla Frazee at the book signing on Sunday

After Mike Jung signed a copy of his new book for my son, a lucky few of us
had the opportunity to enjoy our own personal concert as Mike played
the ukulele and sang with Arthur Levine.

You never know who you're going to spot in line at Starbucks. 
Meg and I met Jarrett Krosoczka on Monday.

Having a blast at the Black and White Gala with Lori Degman and the "checkered people"
(I later found out that they were Jessica Freeburg and Jay Asher)

This photo truly summarizes the weekend for me. Hanging out with my peeps. My tribe. My family.
I don't know what I'd do without the friends who help me through the ups and downs of this crazy literary journey.
I have a heart filled with gratitude to be a small part of the best organization in the world,
including many of you who were unable to attend the conference this year.

 I love you SCBWI!!!

Please be aware that the inspirational moments in this post were taken from my conference notes and may deviate from the speakers exact quotes.
All photos are copyrighted material and may only be used with direct permission.
(But, I'm pretty cool, so just ask.)

July 30, 2013

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I found out yesterday that painting a world filled with charisma and color begins one room at a time. That's right. The Bielicki family is coloring the world, starting with our family room. 

We sampled some peach and pink.

And some blue too. We almost went with the one on the right.
The final cut: TURQUOISE - YAY!
A very special thanks to the best paint crew ever!

Walls of White
(A true story)
by Jenni Bielicki

There once was a house
Filled with boredom and gloom,
Void of all pigmentation,
Walls of white filled each room.
There was no creativity.
No wonderment there.
Just plain old white nothing
Through the house everywhere.
But then on a fine
Sunny day in July
the mother rose up,
Grabbed a brush, waved GOODBYE
To the walls of vast void,
Lacking brightness and joy,
as she handed a brush
to her girls and her boy.
They splished and they splashed
and they all gave high fives.
The color began
to spill into their lives.
When the last spot of white
Disappeared, out of sight,
the room filled with hope,
Great ideas and delight.
So they no longer live
in a house filled with gloom
Because Mother says
Everyones painting their room!

May 31, 2013

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Sometimes it just happens. One minute you're making a cup of coffee and the next minute you sit down and spit out a poem you love in three minutes flat.  It doesn't happen often, but I'm glad it happened to me today.
If Can't Was Not a Word
An original poem by Jenni Bielicki

What if every word you spoke
Was exactly what came true?
What if CAN’T was not a word?
What things would you do?

Would you soar with all your might
Past all the things you see?
Would you touch the moon and sun
And be all you could be?

Would you smile at every turn
Excited and enthused
By all the things that you could do
If that word wasn’t used?

Would you hold your head up high
Accomplishing extremes
Without that single word to hold
You back from all your dreams?

I think you could. I think you would
Make all those dreams come true.
If CAN’T was not a word you used
What things would you do?

March 24, 2013

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Me with my friend, Paula Yoo
I had the privilege of attending the SCBWI Los Angeles Writers Day 2013 on March 9-10 and the theme was Diversity.  It was a great time connecting with friends, learning about writing, and being inspired.
Here are a few highlights that resonated with me as a writer.

Steven Mooser greets the audience
 Author and SCBWI-LA Co-Regional Advisor, Lee Wind, began the weekend with a talk about our world of diversity and what that means for the characters you create. "What are the things that make your characters complex?"
Adriana Dominguez with Full Circle Literary Agency spoke about the market for diverse literature including challenges and opportunities. She spoke about the importance of children seeing themselves in literature. "Good literature seeks to bring as many readers as possible and is universal."
Author and 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Eugene Yelchin

After lunch the 2012 Crystal Kite Award winner, Eugene Yelchin, delivered a moving keynote about his thoughts on emotional writing for children. "The only way to make it easier for readers is to make it terribly hard for us, the writer. Our courage will help them feel less frightened and less alone."

Young Adult Author, Melinda Lo discussed cultural intersections and how she came to write what she does. "It took me a long time to believe in myself." Melinda added, "I wonder what it would have been like if I read about people like me [when I was growing up]."

Daniel Nayeri, Digital Editorial Director for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group spoke to us about what diversity isn't.  He spoke to us about censorship and encouraged society to have healthy disagreements, adding, "Whatever your opinion, there will always be a group that wants to silence [it]."

Me with the talented poet and author,
Nikki Grimes
Finally, one of my favorite poets and authors and Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Nikki Grimes, shared her keynote, The Poetry of Patience: How to Create a Classic.  Nikki told us about how powerful words are on the page and how our work as writers is sacred. Nikki closed telling each of us to bring that energizing power, presence and authority out into the world through our stories. "There are children who need it. All around."

A few of us returned on Sunday for the master class intensives offered by each of the guest speakers. I, along with my talented friends Paula Yoo and Claudia Harrington,   was honored to have the opportunity to attend Nikki's poetry intensive.  She shared an array of poetry styles. I have to say, it was quite mesmerizing to hear her read from a select few poems, some of which were from her books.

We brought our pre-intensive developed characters (pre-class homework) and worked independently on writing our own poems for both a picture book and a teen novel in verse.  It was illuminating to hear Nikki's writing process as she broke things down in a simple doable way. I walked away with what I think is a seed beginning of a novel in verse for tweens. 
Overall, the weekend left me emotionally spent and creatively encouraged to be more diverse in my writing.
On a similar note, I visited the library last week and checked out several books on poetry. One of my favorite poets is Langston Hughes, who I heard about from the awe-inspiring Ashley Bryan at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference when he delivered a stunning recital of Hughes' poem, My People.  I gave an example to my family of how different poetry is when it's read with real emotion by reading My People twice. First, quietly, almost monotoned with very little emotion. Then with gut wrenching emotion, volume, and passion (as closely to Ashley Bryan's delivery as I could muster up). It was pretty cool to see their reaction.  And for the first time, I think they got a glimpse of why I love poetry so much.

February 23, 2013

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I was pretty excited about the self portrait I sketched on Thursday. But to be honest, something didn't sit quite right. It looked like the eyes, mouth and nose were off for some reason.  I decided to fill in a little more detail, shading in the background so I could define the angle of the face better. And guess what... it worked - it all lined up - YAY!  While I had my pencil out, I did a little more shading here and there.  All in, I spent under an hour on this sketch.

Homework: Study the proportions of children's faces (which I'm having the HARDEST time getting right).  Goal: sketch a face a day, chronologically, starting with a baby and ending with a teen.

February 21, 2013

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The past few weeks have been insanely busy. My daughters are Girl Scouts and it's Girl Scout Cookie season.  So in between going door-to-door in our neighborhood with them and helping them sell at the local grocery stores, I've been reading up on proportions and how to draw faces.

My dad's cousin's husband (or, as I affectionately called him when I was little... Uncle Ron), saw that I'd been studying drawing and told me about The Notebooks of Leonardo.  In addition to being creative, I'm a math junkie so I was super excited to see how mathematical the human proportions are.  I did a little research notetaking. I think I messed up somewhere along the way, but it was fun trying to figure out what he meant word-by-word.

Today I decided that my homework was to make myself a little Facebook profile pic.  So her is my first attempt at sketching... ME!

I had fun using the simple mathematical proportions noted by Leonardo Da Vincci in his notebooks.  I learned some cool stuff. Thanks Uncle Ron!

February 2, 2013

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Learning proportions is a vital part of drawing faces.  Up until today, I pretty much just copied what I saw in a photo.  But no matter what I tried, the faces were either not looking realistic or the characters were not looking the age I wanted them to (mostly looking older than I wanted).

Here are a few more faces I drew last night.

It really didn't take long to figure out that there were some aspects of these sketches that were off. I obviously need some instruction, so I went to You Tube to search "draw teen" and came up with a very helpful video giving step by step instructions of how to draw the proper proportions for babies, teens, and adults.  Let me just say... VERY interesting!  And it makes much more sense to me now.  Here's my attempt at taking a quick 20 minute class from Mark Crilley on You Tube. He even gave tips on how to turn a 22 year old adult woman into a middle aged woman. Pretty cool! I look forward to taking these techniques and applying them to my future face sketches of kids.

And here's the video. Many thanks to Mr. Crilley for his help!

February 1, 2013

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The "newbie" artist's journey continues. For the past couple of days I've focused on faces.  I started with two larger sketches of my two girls yesterday. The one on the right is of my youngest at about three (I did this one first). The one on the left is of my older daughter when she was about six.  I chose this second photo to sketch as a challenge to myself because she's missing her front teeth here. Not crazy how it turned out, but enjoyed exploring shading and tone.

These are each sketched on 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of copy paper, so they're about 5x7 inches.

Today I splurged and purchased myself some drawing paper.  So my very first sketch in my drawing pad is of my son. He's almost 15 now, but this is sketched from a photo of him at his ninth birthday party.  I found that I had a lot more control over shading and it was much easier to sketch on a smaller scale. This one is about 2 1/2 x 2 inches. 

My Weekend Homework assignment to myself:
Draw seven more faces at this smaller scale with different expressions & angles.

January 29, 2013

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This week I chose to sketch, yet another photo of my daughter reading under a tree in our backyard.  I finished the sketch, but something just wasn't right to me. I didn't like how her face looked. Not only did it not look like my daughter, it didn't seem realistic.

So I decided to start over on the front of her face, making her forehead rounder and longer. Then I added some freckles.  I like this one much better, but it looks more like my 12 year old than my 8 year old. I'm sure it has something to do with the proportions and angles of her face and head, but I haven't figured that out yet. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the face needing to be fuller.  I'll play with that more next time.

January 25, 2013

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As I continute the journey of jumping off of the "newbie" learning to be an illustrator cliff, today I chose to sketch a photo of my youngest at three, playing by the riverside. I have so much to learn about proportion, shading, lighting, and well... drawing in general.  But it sure feels great to get in there with nothing but a pencil and a blank piece of paper and draw.

January 24, 2013

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I've decided to throw away my fear of being an author/illustrator and just go with my gut, which is saying GO FOR IT!  I thought it would be fun to keep a sketching journal here on my blog, so here goes.

Last week I did a quick sketch of a cute little Gerbil (I thought it would be productive to make a grid on the photo and paper, but found that it took longer to make the grid than it did to sketch.  So I'm over that! Probably won't happen again.)

And here's my new friend sketched yesterday. (Awe, isn't he cute!)

Here's to trying new things and going with your gut!

January 4, 2013

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My eight-year-old daughter said something to me the other day that really took me off guard.

“Mommy, I want to go skydiving.”

I have to admit that my first impulse was to tell her how unbelievably scary and dangerous it is to skydive. And how people get hurt or even die. And how one of my closest friends lost her husband in a skydiving accident. You’ve got to be kidding me if you think I’m letting my baby girl skydive. 

Seriously. Really.

Then I started to think about it. How beautiful and wonderful it is that this little eight year old girl is fearless and outgoing and amazing enough to even want to do something like that. At eight.

Seriously. Really.

So instead of saying what I really wanted to say, which was, “There is no way you are ever going to jump out of a plane! The. End!” I told her how proud I was of her being so courageous and how exciting it would be for her to do that. But yah, of course I added, “And even though it’s very scary and Mommy wouldn’t do it, I think it’s great you want to skydive, Sweetie.”

And then I started to think about how I need to be more like her when it comes to my writing. You know… fearless. I need to just grab a hold my story, clinch my teeth and jump.  Of course, I don’t have to jump without my parachute (which is the revision process that I’ll pull out eventually). 

So in honor of us all jumping into the new year, I’d love to know what makes you to “jump” into your writing process. What inspires you to pick up the pen or paintbrush and dive into your story?

Happy New Year to everyone and I wish you all a productive 2013!

December 24, 2012

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 Yesterday I pulled out the ugly, corroded silver dishware from my china hutch: a plate and large serving tray from my husband’s mother and a gravy boat and saucer from my mother.  Horribly tarnished and gray, they weren’t much to look at. And although I’ve always known that there is something more, deep underneath the tarnished layer of nasty, sadly, I’ve never used any of them.

Of course, it’s understandable that we haven’t used the silver from my mother-in-law. It was passed down to my husband only a few months ago when his mother died. But the gravy boat, on the other hand, the one that’s been in my family for four generations, the one that was passed down to me by my mother ten years ago when she died, should have had more attention by now. I’ve never used it. Ever. It’s just sat there on a shelf in the hutch.
As I pulled out these prized, yet dull and stained dishes, I reached for the silver polish too.  I mean, they deserve it, especially this year. The dishes deserve to be more than just a tarnished thing of the past. I sat on my back deck, clouds overhead. I reached for a rag, scooped up some polish and began to work on one piece at a time, one corner at a time, and one detail at a time. I paid special attention to the areas that had been neglected for so long. Little by little, I could see what began to reveal itself as my reflection. And as the sun began to break through the clouds, my reflection became clearer and the brilliance of something special began to show itself. It shined with a clarity that I hadn’t imagined. It was beautiful. The kind of Beautiful that has purpose and pride.
So as the New Year’s season comes upon us and the thought of revisions and revival arise, I’m reminded that those stories from the past that look ugly and tarnished, may very well need some extra polish and scrubbing, especially in those areas of fine detail. And who knows, perhaps something stunning will emerge with purpose and pride, just as the fine silver dishes will tonight as they present the most sparkly Christmas Eve dinner ever.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy revising to you all.