Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stellar Conference

I meant to blog about this earlier in the summer, but here it is! While it was an event held in late July, it is actually part of an ongoing initiative by my colleagues and friends, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.

The Constructing Modern Knowledge conference, which I was invited to come speak at, (oh yeah, and I was tapped on the shoulder to do the poster above!) is a terrific hands-on, minds-on experience that dares the participants to play, to imagine, to create. Reading a book about "experiential learning" might be enlightening, but to absorb it fully requires a JUMPING IN, splashing around, diving deep, and then a good picnic on the shore with your friends. Gary Stager, who I have known two decades, has been a passionate and provocative advocate for authentic learning. He brought together a stellar group and inspired hours of projects including animation, clay animation, film-making, Scratch and Logo programming, and more - as well as reflective dialogue about the benefits and challenges of this kind of creative learning. If every school on the planet could experience two days like this, I think we'd push fast forward on making schools the kind of places kids and teachers would find hard to leave in the afternoon!

Sylvia has been a friend on the journey for an equally long stretch. She is also a mission-driven educator - dedicated to the wonderful work at GenYes which enlists the tech talents of students worldwide to improve education! A brilliant organization.

Gary, Sylvia and I are all founding members of The Constructivist Consortium. We rounded up like-minded organizations creating technology tools to inspire creativity and innovation in schools and places of learning. Check these sites out and... "connect the dots!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dusty Dreams

Short and sweet tonight. (remember that you can click on the image to enlarge it) This is a never-before-shared image from one of my hypnagogination Journals.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stellar Sculptor

I took a break today to savor a glorious summer afternoon with my wonderfully talented and inspirational friend, Nancy Sch
ön. Nancy is the sculptor who created the beautiful bronze ducklings in the Boston Gardens. The installation is a tribute to Robert McCloskey's classic "Make Way for Ducklings." It has become a landmark in Boston.

Nancy and I are currently brainstorming a few collaborations!

I'll share more in the coming months. As I walked around Nancy's studio today, I marveled at all the "works in progress," all the sketches, all the inspirational photos of giraffes (she is working on a terrific giraffe leaning its long elegant neck down to sip water),
and of course, there they were - the original ducklings!

The giraffe project is a tribute to Nancy's husband, Donald Schön, whose seminal book "The Reflectective Practitioner" celebrates the idea that we are a work in progress - that we can continually improve our craft. He was a fan of jazz music - inspiring his belief that improvisation and "thinking on one's feet" was the key to growth. I'm a huge fan of this thinking. In my own work. In our studio. In the workplace, in general.
In schools.

Experiential learning should be at the core of every classroom if we are to transform them into wonderful classrooms. The most creative teachers I know are the ones willing to "wing it" (to use a duckling term!) and to dive into new projects, new ideas, new questions - without having the "road map."

Navigating WITH learners is an adventure!

What a day! Now... back to my studio. I have a book to sculpt!

Nancy in her studio!

Visit Nancy's site at

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Creative Compost Heap

I enjoy going "art diving" in my computer. I search for ".jpeg" or ".gif" files and just sift through the hundreds - thousands - of images I have accumulated over 10 years. Some images are from 30-40 years ago - things I have found in the boxes in my "museum" (in the cellar) and scanned. 

Here is an idea I brainstormed while working on a project. "Frannie Williams: Audio SuperStar Supreme." Has a ring, no? A girl who starts recording books - adding music and sfx -- her books get kids reading more - she becomes a sensation -- hits the road - recording kids' stories around the world. I can almost see the book now. And the TV series! 

When I help a FableVision client envision a solution for their mission, my brain switches to "high-speed" then to "puree." I will often come up with a dozen ideas (or more) before I get to the final client approved one. I try to save all my ideas, whether on notecards or on the backs of envelopes, scraps of paper or the side of a coffee cup. I hate to see an idea thrown out!

 "Frannie" is one those "idea scraps" that got tossed on to my creative compost heap. 

As you might know, a compost heap - once big enough - will start generating energy and heat. Up here in New England, I have seen the steam pouring off hearty heaps. It is quite a sight!

 I feel the same way about all my ideas: piled high. They are not forgotten. They are part of an organic eco-system of creativity - throwing off energy - combining with new ideas - generating fertile, rich soil in which to plant the seeds of new ideas. My blog is part of that co
mpost heap. All the files on my computer. All the books I have published. All the stories in the "shoe boxes under my bed." All the conversations I have ever had. All my memories. 

All my visions, hopes and dreams. 

When you hear, "Go Green" - also think of your own creative compost heap. Throw a doodle on it and think of me. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

Throne of Books

This is some of the art I did for the upcoming 10th Anniversary Literary Lights for Children sponsored by the Boston Public Library. The event will honor some stellar creative folk: Susan Cooper (who visited us at The Blue Bunny!), Christopher Paul Curtis, Laura Amy Schlitz, Chris Van Allsburg (who I ate dinner with at his marvelous house)! I was honored at the same event last year and was tapped on the shoulder to provide the invitation art for this year! I called this piece: "The Throne of Books." I am in the process of making it a Giclee print.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Hypnagogination Journals

I have loads of journals - just blank paper - no lines - that I keep handy by my bedside. Just before I head to sleep, my brain "down-shifts" and I let my brain open up to possible words and images. This state is known as Hypnagogia: the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. Here's a page from one of my "hypnagogination" books. Some pages feature scrawled lines and text that slowly disintegrates into unintelligible marks. One evening, I was so tired that my marker left a single mark. I fell asleep, marker still pressed against the page. When I awoke I found a huge dot. I looked at it and thought, "Wow. Looks pretty cool." I then wrote "The Dot" above it and "Peter H. Reynolds" below it. A story emerged from this page. Perhaps you've read it?

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Love My Voice!

Here's an image I created on a big pad of paper during a visit to the Lunt School in Falmouth, Maine in 2006. My friend, Maribeth Bush, who is the stellar guidance counselor at Lunt,  took a photo of this page from the pad I left behind. I almost had forgotten about this, so I'm happy Maribeth sent it along. She has a much better memory than I do and can probably tell us what prompted the art, but I do know that this is theme I love exploring. In "The Dot," Vashti's teacher prompts her to sign her work. I am always reminding people to be proud of their work, their name, their contributions and ideas - their voice! Reminding others helps remind myself.

I'm still learning to love my voice. 

More on that to come. 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Stellar Art Friend: Betsy Lewin

This past week I rolled on the rails along the beautiful seacoast from Boston to Philly, and from there I went to Simon & Schuster's warehouse to sign 2000 books! This is part of a special promotion for Toys R Us "Signature Series" - they selected 12 books to be signed by the author/illustrator. Among them: Chris Van Allsburg, Mo Willems, Alison McGhee, and ME! I spent the day signing with another artist partaking in the Mega-Signing: Betsy Lewin. Betsy is a wonderful and talented person. Her brave, bold, and splashy line is a signature of the Click, Clack, Moo series. Her husband, Ted, is also an artist - amazing watercolors! Check out his site too. Betsy and I are both represented by Pippin Properties in NYC.

By the way, the books that Alison and I signed for this promotion are "Someday" and "Little Boy." We have two more collaborations in progress. Stay tuned to the blog and I'll keep you posted.