March 21, 2017

Coming to a den near you!

Garchinsky_wepacslide

Upcoming Events
4/28 Philadelphia Science Festival Book Reading
  • What: Star Party Storytime at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
  • When: Friday, April 28, 2017 at 7:30pm
  • Where: Visitor Center, USFWS John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
    8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA, 19153 MAP
  • Why: Come to storytime for a special nighttime reading of The Secret Life of the Red Fox by illustrator Kate Garchinsky. Join the biggest stargazing party in the region as area astronomers provide tours of the night sky that will unlock the wonders of the universe.
  • How much? FREE
  • Bring: Flashlights, bug spray, walking shoes, and kids… wear your PJs!
4/29 Book Reading and Nature Walk
  • What: Storytime and Local Nature Walk
  • When: Saturday, April 29, 2017 10am-12pm
  • Where: Big Blue Marble Bookstore 551 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119 MAP
  • Why: Join local children’s author Anna Forrester (Bat Count) and illustrator Kate Garchinsky (The Secret Life of the Red Fox) for a special Earth Week storytime featuring local wildlife stories, followed by a nature walk in Carpenter’s Woods a few blocks away.
  • How much? FREE
  • Bring: walking shoes, and binoculars if you have them
5/12 Willistown Junior Birding Club Book Event
  • What: The Secret Life of the Red Fox Book Signing and Art Workshop
  • When: Friday, May 12, 2017 4:30-6:30pm
  • Where: Rushton Woods Preserve, 911 Rushton Woods Preserve, Delchester Rd, Newtown Square, PA 19355 MAP
  • Why: This charming children’s book gives a beautifully illustrated look into the lives of foxes. Illustrator, Kate Garchinsky, will give a drawing lesson at RWP, all kids will receive a signed copy of the book (to be included in registration fee). Must pre-register by April 28th with Blake Goll 610-353-2562, ext.20 or bhg@wctrust.org. Or use the SignUp Genius website
  • How Much? FEE (info coming soon)
  • What’s the Junior Birding Club? Club Membership is $25/family for the year. Non-members pay on a per-program basis ($5 per child).


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March 1, 2017

The Secret Fox is Hot to Trot!

KateGarchinskyFirstCopyFoxMaggie

It’s been months and months since I received my first copy of my first book in the mail. At long last I have two boxes of The Secret Life of the Red Fox to sell and give away as I see fit. I’m working on an idea for a blog giveaway, but in the meantime, signed copies are available in my Etsy shop. These copies come with a secret surprise while supplies last. From now until April 22 (Earth Day) use coupon code WUKWUKWUK2017 and receive 15% off orders of $20 or more.

Here’s a little background on how I got to illustrate this bushy-tailed book:

I’ve been working toward this accomplishment most of my adult life—to illustrate and publish my first children’s book. After years of studying the craft, following the industry, and attending SCBWI conferences, I was ready when serendipity called.

I met the author, Laurence “Larry” Pringle, at a nature writers’ retreat at the Highlights Foundation. He told me about his soon-to-be 116th children’s book, a narrative non-fiction book about foxes. He shared his frustration with me that the right illustrator had not yet been found after months of searching. I told Larry, “I can draw a fox.” I drew a little sketch in my nature journal to prove it. He liked it enough to refer me to his editor at Boyds Mills Press, a division of Highlights. I was encouraged to produce some sample illustrations to show how I imagined the story. The editor liked my samples so much, she hung them on the wall in her office. Soon after, I signed my first children’s book contract to illustrate The Secret Life of the Red Fox. My dream had finally come true.

 


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January 20, 2017

Take Care of Yourself

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When the world is a scary mystery, it’s time for self-care.

Self-care can be as simple as calling a friend and hearing a compassionate voice, or as elaborate as a trip to a secluded beach on a private island. For me, it’s paying attention to the birds. Really, really paying close attention. The best way for me to do this effectively is to sit down and draw them while they buzz around my birdfeeders. So, I’m going to do some of that this weekend. I’ll also take long walks in the woods with my binoculars, lay flat on the floor and let my dog lick my face, pet the cats until they chirp when they purr, and hug my husband a thousand times.

I think that’s a good start anyway. What will you do?


• • •
November 10, 2016

Making Sense of It All

The dogs are long gone, outrun and outsmarted.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”
—Stephen Hawking

Things don’t always turn out the way we planned. And no matter how hard we worry, or try to prepare ourselves for the worst, worry is not control.

Feeling out of control can be scary, or it can be liberating, depending on whether we keep trying to regain control, or if we let it go.

When the world seems to be spinning out of my control, I retreat to nature. I lose myself in the woods, by the sea, in the mountains, wherever the creatures outnumber the people, and the wildness drowns out my noisy thoughts.

Sometimes it is enough just to know that the wilderness still exists. Other times I need to write down what I feel, and sketch what I see. When I do these things I am present in this moment–the only moment where I do have some control. Right now I can sit, I can stand, I can walk, I can breathe.

 This moment, this is a gift. It is life.

This weekend I’m heading to the Poconos for a few days with my loving husband and family. I’m gonna spend some time staring at the stars and the mountains.

You might try that too if you’re feeling out of control. A lake, a stream, a city park—any patch of nature will do. Find some wildlife and be an observer for a little while. See if you feel calmer as a result.

Maggie May climbing Mount Bierstadt with me. One of our last Rocky Mountain adventures before moving back to Pennsylvania. 2010

Above: Maggie May climbing Mount Bierstadt with me. One of our last Rocky Mountain adventures before moving back to Pennsylvania in 2010. Those mountains are still there, even though I can’t see them.


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August 17, 2016

Time Flies When You’re Illustrating Books

Written by Laurence Pringle, Illustrated by Kate Garchinsky. Boyds Mills Press 2017.

Earlier this year I completed the illustrations for The Secret Life of the Red Fox, written by my mentor and friend, Laurence Pringle. It’s something like his one hundred and seventeenth book. I have some catching up to do!

Imagine my joy when I was offered the job to illustrate his next “Secret Life” book—The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat. Seriously. First foxes, now bats? How much cooler can this job get? Last week I received the completed manuscript, and today I opened an envelope from Larry full of bat reference. He made great copies of other illustrators’ renderings of bats of different species. This is as helpful as watching someone else solve a very complex math problem right before you do one yourself. It’s not about copying, it’s about technique, and the artist’s eye.

See, bats aren’t very photogenic.  They are extremely difficult to photograph without some seriously advanced camera equipment—especially little brown bats. Why? Think about it. They’re little. They’re brown. And they are bats—the worlds’ only flying mammals. There’s really nothing else like them. They move fast enough to snatch mosquitos and moths from the air in the dark. I can barely get a sharp photo of a slow-moving pigeon in full daylight! So looking at other artists’ renderings of bats saves me a lot of guesswork. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to photograph them though!

Little brown bat

Another challenge bats pose is their creepy reputation. My job is to make young readers love them, despite any “ew” factor displayed by skeeved-out parents. Little brown bats need our love. They’re on a fast path to extinction due to a deadly fungal outbreak called white-nose syndrome. It’s an upsetting situation if you care about bats. If you don’t, though, then why would you do anything to help save them? Why help an animal that creepy creature like a bat?

My job is to show what’s endearing and important about little brown bats. My mission is to make everyone say, “awwwww!!!” when they see my illustrations of Otis, the main character in the story. The book will be a narrative non-fiction picture book for grades 1-4, but as with the Red Fox book, I’m not thinking about age. I’m thinking about the beauty and quirkiness of the animal when I draw it.

Osprey Growth Chart for Belle's Journey

Osprey Growth Chart for Belle’s Journey

Earlier I asked you, “how much cooler than this job get?” Well. In addition to foxes and bats, I have another project: Belle’s Journey, written by my ornithologist friend, Rob Bierregaard. I have lots of pictures to go through after 5 days sketching and photographing the ospreys of Martha’s Vineyard, the subject and setting of Rob’s book. Belle will be another narrative non-fiction book, but for middle-grade readers. It’s 19 chapters long and packed full of raptor action. How much joy can I stand?


• • •
January 13, 2016

2015 Was All That (and a Wedding)

2015 was a really good year. The best, really. How do I mean?

In January I received the Eckelberry Fellowship. In March I signed my first children’s book illustration contract. In May I got married, and traveled to Costa Rica and drew birds. In November I signed my second picture book contract! These books will be my first-ever books in print. If you know me, you know this is a dream come true—times two.

The books are:

The Secret Life of the Red Fox, written by Laurence Pringle, will be published by Boyds Mills Press in spring 2017.

Belle’s Journey, written by Rob Bierregaard, will be published by Charlesbridge in spring 2018.

I’ve been working on sketches for Red Fox, which I will post here shortly (after I complete the final edits). I want to take you through the whole process. I hope you’ll join me on my journey to publication.

Team Red Fox: Tim Gillner, Kate Garchinsky, Laurence Pringle, and Mary Colgan at Boyds Mills Press

Team Red Fox: Tim Gillner, Kate Garchinsky, Laurence Pringle, and Mary Colgan at Boyds Mills Press <3


• • •
June 27, 2015

Rain, Randomly

November Northwestern storm. Uclulet, Vancouver Island, BC

The rain sounds like crinkle paper as it overflows the gutters and forms pools around the house. The trees dance in the wind gusts. Water coats the surface of every sill.

Every place has it’s own style of rain. Here in Philadelphia, an evening thunderstorm is summer to me. When the electricity in the air makes my lungs ache, it stirs memories of camping on the living room floor with my sister, Maureen, in our childhood home. We’d roll out our Care Bear sleeping bags on the green shag rug, and scoot inside with our most frightened stuffed animal or doll. Storms were good, Mom would tell us, because they meant a change in the weather. Everything cooled off after a storm. If we didn’t have storms, it would never cool off.

When I lived in Colorado, rain was precious as snow. The headwaters of the Colorado River were a few miles from my house. They needed filling. A humongous water pipe stuck out of the mountain and plunged down to a tunnel that lead to Denver, which has been in a drought for over a decade. Any one who wanted to build a house in the mountains had to find a well first. Water was precious, and storms seemed magical. I’ve never seen so many rainbows–doubles and triples. Lightning was a fearsome creature, to be avoided at all costs, like a mama moose with a calf.

When I first visited the Northwest last fall, I expected rain all day, every day. In some places, it did, and others, it didn’t. On Vancouver Island the air is rain, and it creeps into your bones at 45-55 degrees. It’s not warm, it’s not cold, just damp. Chilling. You wish the temperature would make up it’s mind already, because dressing for “coolish” wet weather means layers. A fleece? A rain jacket? Wear both. Switch them up. Bring an extra pair of wool socks. The best remedy for cold hands is to wrap them around a hot cup of coffee. It makes total sense that Seattle is the home of the coffee shop. Yet the absence of Starbucks on every corner feels very alien, especially since Starbucks is headquartered there. No one in Seattle drinks Starbucks. There’s no reason to. The original old independent shops that Seattle built their business model on have better beans, and they vary in character from place to place. No one puts another out of business.

Then there’s Costa Rica. The sun rises at 5:00am and sets at 5:30pm. It’s best to embark upon adventures as early as possible, because by 9am you feel like it’s high noon, and by 11am clouds begin forming and bumping into each other. Clouds over the mountains mean rain at the beach, and clouds over the beach bring rain to the valley. It’s best to be prepared for a deluge.

It’s LOUD. Don’t try to have a conversation until it is over (don’t worry, that will likely be in about 20 minutes). When the rain stops, the sound shifts from tapdances on tin roofs to the awakening of birds. Birds who spent the hotter hours of the day under the parasols of palm and ficus trees pop up to the top of the canopy. Giving their feathers a shake, they proclaim, “the rain is over!” and get busy chasing insects. The flycatchers are especially fun to watch as they dive from telephone wires, then swoop UP SIDEWAYS and DIVE in a millisecond. It’s one thing to see a gnat make the gesture, and another to see a predator 10,000 times gnat size follow its movements. A flock of green parakeets darts across the skyline, and you only know it’s parakeets because you hear their rusty old bicycle screeches just long enough to know that they’ve passed you. Now they’ve disappeared into the canopy. They mimic the leaves as they preen.

I think the perfect combination would be a Rocky Mountain rain storm followed by a Costa Rican post-rain chorus.

Scarlet Macaw, Costa Rica

 


• • •
June 12, 2015

12 Days in Costa Rica

12 days in Costa Rica helped me prepare for this late spring heat wave. 12 days in Costa Rica taught me a lot about cloud forests, rainforests, and tropical birds. 12 days in Costa Rica cleared my mind of past ghosts and made room for new thoughts and experiences. 12 days in Costa Rica made me realize how bad I can smell, and that it’s ok because everybody does. Except Brian. He is suspiciously sans body odor, even in the hottest and most humid conditions. Either I married up, or I married an alien.

12 days in Costa Rica yielded scores of little sketches and studies, but not much in the way of finished art. Drawing wild birds in a wild place makes for wild strokes. My favorite drawings from the trip are the least finished. They resemble life drawings from my days in college, where you had 10 seconds to get the gesture of the nude model on paper before they changed poses. Birds give you one second, if that. They don’t stop moving. Even when roosting for the night they fidget and preen until they can’t stay awake any longer. And then it is dark.

I’ve been lugging a lot around in my head since we got back from our honeymoon last Sunday. I’ve been mentally writing this blog post over and over. It’s not coming out the way I had planned. It almost feels somber. Not at all as deep and colorful as the trip. Why?

Maybe it’s best to just post the pictures. The gestures of birds. Scribbled notes and brain maps. A verbal summary feels impossible. My photos appear too dull and small. I felt so much more than can be squeezed into a viewfinder or expressed in adjectives.

I have some scanning to do. I’ll be back.


• • •
February 4, 2015

Come to Nerd Nite tonight!

Tonight I’m giving a short presentation about Passenger Pigeons and their demise at Nerd Nite Philadelphia. It’s a great lineup, so if you’re not into dead pigeons, but like dogs or other food, there will be something for you! Plus beer, wine, and bratwurst.

Get all the info at the event FACEBOOK PAGE. I go on first, so don’t be late, friends!

Amiiiieeeee! Amieeeeeeee!


• • •
January 8, 2015

On the Drafting Table: Ospreys

Osprey sketches for a children’s illustrated chapter book. Sketches are done, color to come.

All images ©2015 Kate Garchinsky. All rights reserved.


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