Saturday, November 15, 2014

Finalist for the 2014 Governor General's Awards

This year Renata was nominated for Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award for Literature for her illustrations in Once Upon a Memory written by Nina Laden.

This is her third time as a finalist for the award, The Quiet Book and Red Wagon have been nominated previously, but it is no less exciting and humbling to be selected amongst all the amazing picture books made by Canadians. Such as the other wonderful finalist including Marie-Louise Gay for Any Questions? written by Marie-Louise Gay and published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Qin Leng for Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki and published by Kids Can Press, Julie Morstad for Julia, Child, written by Kyo Maclear and published by Tundra Books, and Jillian Tamaki for This One Summer, written by Mariko Tamaki and published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press.

Interestingly three of the finalists, Renata, Jillian Tamaki, and Julie Morstad are graduates of the same alma mater, The Alberta College of Art and Design. The winner will be announced in a few days!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Summer Dreams

Wow, it's been way too quiet around here! It's well past time I post about what Renata has been up to this summer. I will start at the beginning, in early May she completed perhaps her most whimsical work - Dormouse Dreams written by Karma Wilson. As the name suggests it is a very dreamy book which allowed Renata to let her imagination fly free and includes fun stuff like wing walking stunt birds, foxes cross-country skiing, and a dizzying pack of wolf pups. It will be out next year sometime.

After that we were excited to be able to attend ICON 8 - The Illustration Conference. And we were even more excited to do a short presentation. It was perhaps a little too short for Renata, she's super great at longer talks - she needs to take her time to express herself. Nonetheless it was a exciting visit as Renata got to meet many of her favourite artists (such as Calef Brown). She was particularly pleased to purchase a miniature painting by Susie Ghahremani - a cute bear with green jeans.

The rest of the summer she completed the second Boom, Snot, Twitty book - This Way, That Way written by Doreen Cronin. I think I have mentioned before that although illustrating picture books can seem a pleasant way to pass the time, it's not always that way for Renata - each book is a near insurmountable task. Until she uploads the final image, she's never sure she will be able to complete a book. But so far she always does! She just uploaded the final image last week.

With the summer winding down, Renata is winding up for her next adventure. She's been looking forward to working on her next book since the day signed up for it, more than a year and a half ago. It's written by the amazing Mac Barnett, and I have to say it's a super story and perfect for Renata. She loves to work with manuscripts that allow her to add her own story through her pictures.  We had a chance to have lunch with Mac in Berkley after the illustration conference and he mentioned that when he writes picture books he is mindful of leaving something for the illustrator's pictures to tell. I was going to post a snippet of one of the drawings, but I remembered that Renata wouldn't want to jinx it before the editor has seen the drawings!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sandwich Break

Whew, it's been a busy last few weeks. Time to take a sandwich break!

Sketch and finished book illustration from Once Upon a Memory written by Nina Laden.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We Love Bookshops!

In the past Amazon has been very supportive of Renata's books, but unfortunately if you try to purchase Renata's recent picture book Once Upon a Memory on you may have a bit of difficulty. Amazon and the publisher Little Brown/Hachette are currently embroiled in contract negotiations, and Amazon is limiting availability and price discounts for books from that publisher. This puts authors and illustrators in a really tight spot, I recently read an estimate that Amazon accounts for 40 percent of all book sales, and illustrating a picture book is a huge commitment. To finish a book can take upwards of a year of an artists life! It does for Renata anyway and getting good at illustration doesn't make drawing any easier, each book is a near insurmountable challenge.

As consumers ourselves, we were not aware there was an embargo when we recently ordered a Little Brown published book - Malcolm Gladwell: Collected, a lovely hardcover book set illustrated by Brian Rea - I admit we ordered it most of all for the amazing abstracted illustrations! (see below). But we ordered it from our local bookshop instead of Amazon. We've never ordered a book from Amazon, although I do like it for other things we can't get at local stores. But we so much prefer the experience of going into a bookshop, we've spent countless hours browsing bookstore shelves. When we first started hanging out, going to the bookstore was often what we considered a good date night. We now have a wonderful bookshop only a block away from our studio -  Renata maybe likes it a bit too much as our overcrowded bookshelves and credit card might suggest! 

 So perhaps in the end our thoughts on this unfortunate situation really comes down to one heartfelt sentiment - support your local booksellers! They have always been there for those of us that create and/or read - or just look at the pictures.

Some other folks have done a superb job of discussing this issue and we urge you to check them out:

Nina Laden, the wonderful author of Once Upon a Memory, has been one of the most engaged artists on this subject having been featured in articles and TV interviews from the NY Times to NPR

Peter Brown, the amazing author and illustrator has written a powerful post on his blog:
In independent booksellers we trust! Here are a few of the books Renata picked up in the last couple of weeks. The Brooklyn publisher Enchanted Lion Press is a publisher Renata loves because they publish english translations of amazing titles such as these new ones The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc and Coyote Run by Gaëtan Dorémus. Another beautiful title A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna is published by Tate/Abrams, and the fun Murilla Gorilla and the Lost Parasol written by Jennifer Lloyd and illustrated by Jacqui Lee is published by Canadian publisher Simply Read Books.

These are some of our local booksellers we are aware of: Shelf Life Books, Monkeyshines, Pages, and Owl's Nest Books.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crystal Kite, Communication Arts, Librarians, etc

I would like to share some recent good news. First off we had a wonderful time at the Alberta Librarian Association Conference in Jasper, Renata was so pleased by the feedback she received from the librarians who attended her talk - she's convinced that librarians are the most friendly people ever!  We also had some time to enjoy the beautiful mountain park and make some wildlife pictures.

Some exciting news is that Nina Laden's and Renata's book, Once Upon a Memory, has been selected as the western region Crystal Kite Award winner for 2014! Visit Nina's blog HERE to hear more. Once Upon a Memory has also been recently chosen for A Bank Street College Children's Book Committee Best Book of 2014 Selection.

Also just on the new stands is Communications Arts 2014 Illustration Annual which as you can see below includes Once Upon a Memory. Yeah!

Friday, May 2, 2014


Boom Snot Twitty published by Viking, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Renata Liwska is officially released this week. It's about three unlikely friends, who have three different ways of being in the world. Boom the bear is good to go, Snot the snail is happy wherever she is, and Twitty the bird feels best safe at home. Renata's reasons for choosing to illustrate Boom Snot Twitty is the same reasons as all her other books. The story made her smile and she had ideas for drawings right away.

Here is a little process for one of the pages from the book:

Monday, April 21, 2014

SCBWI Conference Yellow Stickies Recap

Renata had a fun and educational time at the SCBWI West Washington's Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference. It was her first large scale conference and she was excited and a bit nervous to meet all the attendees and fellow faculty. It started off with a master class where we introduced Renata's method of making picture books with a focus on her creative process - which involved lots of yellow sticky notes. We also had some fun with silhouettes with a game we call Swapadoodle. After that I interviewed Renata for her keynote in casual talk format, we discussed her thoughts on where ideas come from. Finally we ended with a sketchbook breakout session where attendees had a chance to look at her sketchbooks in person.

Thanks to all the organizers and attendees and good luck with your own picture book endeavors!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Boom, Snot, Twitty

This week Renata received an advanced copy of Boom, Snot, Twitty! It is written by Doreen Cronin and is being published in May by Viking.

And Renata is already working on the sequel...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SCBWI Western Washington's Master Class April 12-13

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to learn from one of children’s books most acclaimed illustrators. Renata will be teaching a master class at SCBWI Western Washington’s Annual Conference, April 12–13, and there a still a few spots open in this limited-seating event.

How do you do good picture book illustrations? Well for Renata it was pretty straight forward actually - she practiced really hard! Drawing every day and painting every night, or vice versa, until she got good at making picture book illustrations. Which was nice for her, but actually it wasn’t quite enough to get that first opportunity to illustrate a picture book. She needed something more, she needed to learn to do great picture books! And that is what her master class is about, how to bring your work up that extra step. The good news is it’s not a big step, but it is a subtle and tricky one. Happily the best way to learn it is by doing! 

Renata's master class will be a fun hands on exploration of her creative book making process based on some of the proven entertaining and educational stuff we do at our studio

Go here for more info:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Interview with Renata

See and hear Renata talk about her illustration for Goodnight Songs. I am pretty happy about this interview, Renata did an excellent job!