Tag Archives: art

Road Tripping for National Comic Book Day 2013 and Meeting Green Lantern’s Former Artist!

Another annual National Comic Book Day today (May 4, 2013) descended upon us with a glorious cloak of comic titles that most comic book stores around the country passed out, first-come first-served, to comic book fans and patrons of all ages!

Almost everyone in our house is some sort of comic or graphic novel fan. Tim was previously a huge collector, and now he’s still an avid reader (and is a wealth of factual comic trivia) and me…well, I’ve always loved how a comic in print captured my visual senses with the vibrant and beautiful art and action-packed emotional stories.

With all the superhero and comic-based movies coming out over the last few years, most people at least are enjoying superheroes…but there are so many other great comics to enjoy out there now, no matter what age you are. My son mostly enjoys the movies, but my daughters (age 9 and 5) love our almost annual treks to a random comic store (where we generally pull out the google search in lieu of map, point, and search….then embark on a laughable twist and turn, stop and back up,  scenario down side streets until we find the store, which generally is tucked back away in the not so common areas of town, decide if it’s safe for kids, and then scout it out).

This year we found a rather nice store in Canton called Bill’s Books and More. He had lots of comics, great sales, and even had a comic book illustrator on-hand signing autographs (more on that below!).


Tim and the kids at Bill’s Books and More

Once there the girls love getting to pick out their free comics.  Our middle daughter likes a wide variety, as she picked out Hulk today, Smurfs (did you know it started out as a comic in Belgium before coming to the US through Hanna Barbara?), and Superman! Our five-year-old also chose Smurfs, Disney’s Tinkerbell, and Batman (her fave guy). She enjoyed reading Tinkerbell all the way home at which point she declared “Whew! Can you believe I read that whole comic already? It was awesome.” This is the first year she has been able to read them to herself!. I’m a proud mom that she’s reading and enjoying comics.

Addie reading comic

Seriously worn out, but intent on her comic.

I have to admit that Tim and I enjoy choosing some titles too. We might not be looking as die-hard collectors, but just enjoy the experience. Tim got a Walking Dead title they distributed for the day and Marvel’s Infinity, and I got Dynamite’s Damsels Mermaids ( a new original story) because simply…I like Mermaid stories. Mermaid #1 will be in stores next week.

Also, I had read for review the comic for children called Mouse Guard with Addie last week. They had a Free Comic Book Day title of Mouse Guard, a Flip Book that also featured Rust, Jim’s Henson’s Labryrinth story, and another short. The art and type in this comic is just right for little people and extremely well-done. I love the bigger font with fewer words so they can read on their own. Mouse Guard reads like a picture book. The art is adorable in them all. This compilation is from Archaia Entertainment.


Our stash of free comics from the day…

Then, there was the excitement of getting to meet longtime comic book artist of the Green Lantern series, Darryl Banks, and having him sign a comic for us! He lives in Columbus and works as a freelance illustrator and commercial artist now, but I’ve read he still loves comics the best. He is best known for working on the Green Lantern Vol. 3 for a seven-year stint, but he also created costumes, characters, and conceptualized. If you want to see more of his amazing art you can go here: http://www.comicartfans.com/gallerydetail.asp?gcat=11377.

Darryl was so very nice to the kids. Soft-spoken and kind, when Emma asked him, “How did you start to become an artist?” he smiled and told her he’d been drawing ever since he was even smaller than she. He told her to keep at it and not to stop pursuing her dreams. My daughter was beaming after this meeting. Thank you very much, Darryl for encouraging her!

Darryl Banks

Darryl Banks, with my kids, at Bill’s Books and More

For me, nothing has even beaten the feel of a glossy comic with all this splendid art igniting my senses and now nothing beats watching my girls sitting back, comic in both hands up to face, legs crossed, and deep intent on reading.

Thank you to Bill’s Books and More, Darryl Banks, and everyone nationwide who is responsible for bringing us National Comic Book Day!! It’s a great way to promote literacy and art!

Addie with bag

National Comic Book Day Link for 2013: http://www.freecomicbookday.com/Home/1/1/27/981
Bill’s Books and More, Canton, OH:  http://billsbooksandmore.com/blog/


See last year’s National Comic Book Day 2012 Guest Post by author Hunter Shea by clicking HERE!

See my post on how graphic novels help kids read by clicking HERE!


Filed under Feature Articles

Tiffany Stained Glass, Women’s Rights, Turn-of-the-Century New York All Illuminate Susan Vreelaner’s Newest Historical Fiction Novel called “Clara and Mr. Tiffany”

I just read a fabulous new historical fiction book called “Clara and Mr. Tiffany” by author Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue among many more wonderful titles delving into art history. Her most recent novel is a must-read book for anyone interested or even willing to learn about the turn of the century in New York, which was alive with women’s rights and the business of decorative arts. You will learn much more than you ever could imagine and be so interwoven into the story that you will feel yourself  as more than just a reading onlooker, but as a vested part of the story. Her development of Clara Driscoll and her life, as well as the people in it, is fantastic way beyond normal measurment scales.

My Relationship to the Book

I first picked this book when I saw the title had to do with the stained glass work of Tiffany Studios. I have loved the art of stained glass ever since I was a young girl and had recently been to the Cleveland Museum of Art near where I live in Ohio. I went twice in fact and both times loved taking time to look at the large stained glass mosaic window salvaged from a former mansion in the Cleveland area, as well as several Tiffany stained glass lamps. I even took photos, which I will show here (though I wish I would have realized I would be showing the world and I might have taken better shots).

Here is my daughter standing next to the stained glass window made by Tiffany, which is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art (www.clevelandart.org) and 3 of their Tiffany Lamps (they have more) that are displayed in a glass case. (Photos are rights reserved)

Background of the Book

When historians discovered, in 2005, that two sets of letters existed apart from each other (one set in New York, the other owned by a museum in Kent, Ohio) written by a Mrs. Clara Driscoll to her family in Ohio, scholars united to unlock this must-told story of a woman who recently became known through these letters to have designed such exquisite pieces of art that they are in very high esteem today.  She was never recognized for her artistic and design talent.  We know her story only because during the Victorian era many people wrote long and detailed letters to each other, and in fact, recorded their own history much to the delight of the world today. 

Since most of the world for the last 100 years had been thinking that the famous Tiffany lamps were created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the infamous Charles Tiffany of Tiffany and Co. jewelry acclaim, no one realized that a woman they knew little about would actually turn out to be the designer and creator of these special lamps. An exhibit called New Light on Tiffany:  Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls opened in 2007 and presented the work of those aforementioned historians and the New York Historical Society (which houses over 130 donated Tiffany Lamps).  Vreeland encountered this exhibit and decided to do her part to tell Clara’s story to the world in the form of the historical fiction novel, “Clara and Mr. Tiffany.”

About the Book

Holding true to as many historically accurate accounts as possible in the book, she expertly crafted a non-fiction tribute into a fluid and monumental historical fiction story that can capture an audience, filling only in between the lines from researched imagination to make it an interesting read and give us a glimpse into Clara’s life in a format we love to read.

Photo below: Dragonfly Electrolier with Twisted Stem Water Lily Standard. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.

This book was so amazingly informative on so many levels. Not only did I love that she gave Clara her much overdo respect by telling her story, but it taught about the intricacies of glass making and stained glass art through the eyes of the Tiffany Studios’ Women’s department, the only factory in New York during the late 1800s-early 1900s to have a women’s department. I loved reading about Tiffany’s love of nature and how he taught others to see the beauty of it and put it into their art. Driscoll also had a love for the intricacies of nature, many times taking walks or excursions to gardens to view the amazing wonder of flowers and insects which she then consulted with Tiffany about and put into her design.  The piecework and patience that went into choosing the right glass and constructing both the Tiffany stained glass windows and their lamps was inspiring.

The work of fiction also dealt with Clara’s life as a widow and her life as a single New Woman (a term for the time used for women who had started to crave freedom and enjoyed life outside of the domestic home).  This era saw the rise of the women’s independence, such as women learning to ride bicycles, yet she was not allowed to be married while she worked at Tiffany Studios.  She remained single for most of her life, but several romances that carry through the book are based on true relationships.  Her romances gave an air of forbidden and misunderstood love and presented how women of this new age were trying to hold onto some of their mother’s Victorian way of romance so as not to offend society while becoming their own free and independent women. 

The novel portrays her lifestyle, like many at the time, in the boarding houses of New York. Unique personalities were many times brought together and in due course became friends and supporters of each other. In the book, Clara is surrounded by at least five men who truly had an impact on her life, each having meaning to her in different ways. The character development of these true to life characters come alive off the page and give us even more insight into lifestyles during the beginning of the 20th century.  Teaching us how different people, from different cultures, backgrounds, and lifestyles could meld together to form a city full of life with the new century emerging is one key point the book sets-out. The book also shows us the life of the lower class in New York~the many immigrants who came to the United States for a better life only to live in plotted hallway sections as overflow, go through extreme poverty, child labor, and disease and death.

Many women that Clara employed she hand-picked either from free art classes, or from young teenage women on the Lower East Side that showed potential and promise that came from families where they might be the only one able enough to work. Being able to work in the Tiffany Studios’ Women’s Department, at a higher wage than they could ever make anywhere else, was an enormous accomplishment. The book certainly highlights the rapid changes in New York as the labor disputing begins and touches on the start of the discourse that unionized men began to have with women working out of the home.

Final Thoughts on the Book

Not only does this book redeem Clara Driscoll, posthumously of course, but Vreeland’s telling of her story helps to redeem all women from the isolation and ridicule of the working world. The book is a great gateway into the artistic art world of the new 20th century, the emergence of the New Woman, as well as the workings of the front-end of the industrial age, shown to us through the female point of view.

It gives a wealth of information on the illustrious Tiffany family and Louis Comfort Tiffany’s downfall from riches, which was extremely interesting. Since Tiffany’s esteemed (and too expensive) mansion Laurelton Hall finally burned in the 1950s, many records from Tiffany Studios were lost. The letters of Clara Driscoll were a miracle to historical preservation. Vreeland’s ability to use these letters to shine a light on the world of art during the turn of the century is just as miraculous as the history itself and makes this book its own work of art.

I urge you to read more about the book and the history behind it by going online to Susan Vreeland’s website at www.svreeland.com. There are also many historical photos as well as pictures of the many beautiful lamps.

About Susan Vreeland, author:

Susan Vreeland is the internationally known author of art-related historical fiction. Her newest, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, as well as three earlier books, are New York Times Best Sellers. Luncheon of the Boating Party reveals Renoir’s masterpiece, the personalities involved in its making, and the joie de vivre of late nineteenth century Paris. Life Studies is a collection of stories of Impressionist painters and contemporary people encountering art. Girl in Hyacinth Blue traces an alleged Vermeer painting through the centuries. The Passion of Artemisia illuminates Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. The Forest Lover follows rebel British Columbia painter Emily Carr in her encounters with native people and cultures. Three of these books have been winners of the Theodor Geisel Award, the highest honor given by the San Diego Book Awards. Vreeland’s novels have been translated into twenty-six languages, and have frequently been selected as Book Sense Picks. She was a high school English teacher in San Diego for thirty years.


Filed under Book Reviews

On Starting to Write My First Children’s Series–Outline on My Book Idea!

I have put my mind to the goal of writing my first children’s book this year. I’ve been waiting for years it seems for just the right idea to pop into my head. Something that would just take off in my mind. Initially, I always thought it would be a children’s picture book. I think that mostly because not only do I love words and books, I also love art and the essence of both that picture books bring. In fact, as an adult, I like to collect children’s books for myself as well as my children. Beautiful words and images in a book are like little art gallerys to me. I wanted the pictures to come to life in my mind, and then I thought maybe the story would come.

My mind tends to race in many different directions, not only with all the demands of life—kids, home, several start-up businesses, health, etc.– but with ideas too! Creative juices!  It just became real to me one day towards the end of last year as I was watching my girls, ages 7 and 3. I realized how often they play together, or maybe even put up with each other, but at the same time how opposite they really are. I spent time listening to their conversations, sometimes laughing, sometimes amazed, sometimes it was upsetting, but I really saw how different their interests are and how unique it makes each of them. And it came to me, I could write a book stemming loosely from their relationship.  A 7 year old girl who is girly, yet likes sparkly skulls,black,  jeans, art, mystery, pop songs, and is super subdued unless spiked by her sister compared to a girl age 3 who is the total princess package including pink and more pink, dresses, dance and ballet, classical music and song who really lives oblivious to anything happening around her. Basically no fear while her older sister is full of questions and concerns. 

So I have come up with the name Monster Princess and Little Diva because it seems to fitting to me. I ran it past my older daughter and she thought it sounded just like them and is very excited. So I am wondering what kind of trouble I might get them both into with a picture book, which I still want to start with because of the art element. I can just SEE the characters in my head, you know?  I’m having the most issues with getting this one started, even with less words, because I don’t know where to have it go in short amount of text. I see way far into the future already with these books.  I am a writer than tends to overwrite and am very detailed. I am thinking that chapter books for ages 7-9 would be great. I have this great idea to encompass my love of history and adventure and the fantastical genre in the books and with different adventures would come different titles. My very rough outline includes the girls having to move with their single mother to a new town and/or state in New England. In doing some reseach, Salem, Mass. is the frontrunner due to its overwhelming amount of history and the fact that the Peabody Essex Museum, a grand art and history museum, is located there. I’d like their mom to be a single mom who is an artist, and possibly getting a job at the museum while also pursuing her art or fine art photography at the local downtown scene.  Mom would have a studio at home and be very busy setting up this new life, and the girls would spend a lot of time alone together squabbling and who knows what. They may head off for a walk and end up at a old building or house, with a special key and/or door that opens and turns into an adventure or chaotic happening. The 7 year old would be the curious one, and also most fearful, while the 3 year old would be following along behind doing ballet piroettes and singing, totally not even seeing what is happening around her. The banter between them might be quite funny. I am also currently reseaching names for the two of them, based on maybe the early 1500 or 1600s. 

 I am nervous but hopeful that this initial set-up in my brain will take me somewhere further and I can write an initial picture book and chapter book by the end of 2011. I really need support and feedback since this is my first book. I welcome comments at any time and I hope to keep everyone updated using my blog! Please let me know what you think!

*Please remember that now that my ideas are down on paper, in several places, these are copyrighted and I really hope you don’t steal them. Especially since they are loosely based on my girls.


Filed under My New Children's Book Series