A Little Red Hen Sort of Day…

One of my favorite childhood stories was The Little Red Hen.

(Snagged this copy for a quarter at a yard sale this Summer!)

The early folk tale teaches children hard work pays off…
…And so does pitching in and helping!

I’m pretty sure that I pulled that story
out of my hat a few times as a Mom.

However, as a kid, the story intrigued me,
because it talked about how wheat became bread!

Long ago, every kid knew that wheat had to be planted,
and then reaped and threshed to get fresh wheat berries…

…And then it was taken to the mill…

…To be ground into flour, made into dough,
and baked into yummy fresh bread…

We live about 4 miles from the coast in Delaware, and this weekend was spent wondering where Hurricane Sandy was going to make landfall… The track kept fluctuating between Fenwick Island and Atlantic City… and we’re pretty much right in between those two places. Yesterday, my plans for a rainy, blustery day included doing a trial run of Annie’s pie crust, but in the morning there was a sudden concern that our bread supply would run out… FAST… if we were indeed stuck here with no power for days. So, the pie crust trial run turned into a “grind lots of wheat to make lots of flour to make lots of bread” sort of day! I felt just as satisfied with the finished loaves of bread as the Little Red Hen did!

Thankfully, we only got a little wet yesterday… just a few drippy leaks and a lot of water standing in low spots. However, our prayers are with those facing flooded homes and businesses, and dealing with power outages, downed trees, and heavy snow.

“And now,” said the Little Red Hen,
Who will help me eat the bread?”¬†


See all the blog posts about making
Pie from Scratch!
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And the Winner is…

Okay, it was Really Really Hard to pick one “best” pumpkin!

Three more pumpkins came in yesterday, so here are all the new entries…

Bekah’s Pumpkin

Love the leaf you added, Bekah!

Kati’s Pumpkin

Kati, I like how you tucked that leaf behind your pumpkin!

Cheryl’s Pumpkin

Cheryl, great perspective… you hinted at the 3-D-ness
of the pumpkin by showing the back “bumps!”

And here are the earlier entries…

Gavin’s Pumpkin

Maddie’s Pumpkin

Owen’s Pumpkin

Like I said… Picking just ONE was hard!

Harder than I thought it would be!

I couldn’t just CHOOSE

…So I put the names in a basket and
the first one I pulled out was….

I’ve got a special spot in mind for her pumpkin in
Pie from Scratch!

The other three winners are…

They’ll be getting a little pumpkin painting in the mail very soon!

I really wanted to put ALL of the pumpkins in the story…

…they were all so awesome!

Thank you all for joining in the fun!


See all the blog posts about making
Pie from Scratch!
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Painting Leaves that Pop!

Thought you might like some more painting tips!

Below is a fun way to paint leaves… Wet on Wet!

First, on a heavy piece of watercolor paper, draw a leaf shape… or trace around one that you find outside.¬†Mix a light grey-brown from orange and blue¬†and paint the middle of the leaf…¬†but not all the way to the edges.

While it is still wet, add other colors…I used orange on one side, and blue on the other.¬†Paint right up to the edges this time. the edges are still dry, which will let the paint look crisp on the edge. But go ahead and let the wet colors mix inside the leaf.¬†And then added wet drops of blue-green and blue-purple.

When it’s almost dry, touch up your edges a bit. I used a little more orange. You want the paint dry enough so the edges look crisp, but still wet enough to blend the new edge paint into the middle paint. You can blend with a damp brush, if the paint is having trouble blending. When the leaf is completely dry, add some veins with very thin lines of paint and a dryer brush. You can also outline the leaf edges with a very thin pen, such as a Pigma Micron pen.

Here’s how the leaves will look in
Pie from Scratch!

And there are a LOT of them, so I’d better get back to painting!


Oh! We’ve had some great entries for the
Pumpkin Drawing Contest!

Gavin’s Pumpkin!

Great job, Gavin! What detail!
I Love the stem and the spots on the side!

Maddie’s Pumpkin!

Beautiful Pumpkin, Maddie!
It stands very tall and strong!

Owen’s Pumpkin!

Super pumpkin, Owen!
You did a great job with those curly vines!

Here’s a link to the
Pumpkin Drawing Contest
in case anyone else want to participate!

Thanks Gavin, Maddie, and Owen for sending in your drawings!!!

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A Bit of Blue…

Adding blue to the Pumpkin Patch illustration shows how much contrast those complementary colors give you! I had a bit of a dilemma when adding just this little bit of blue… Annie’s dress was going to be blue throughout the story, but Pop’s overalls should also be denim-colored. (That’s where doing Color Roughs would have come in handy!) So, I compromised by dressing Pop in a paler blue, and being more heavy-handed with the color on Annie’s dress…

Pumpkin Patch, copyright Kim Frey, 2012

I think getting the shading right on Annie’s dress
is going to be a challenge! Lots of wrinkles and draping!

And look what happens when you start mixing Orange and Blue…

You will get some neat grey-brown’s… subtle¬†Fall background colors that will still allow my main colors to stand out. Usually, when I want to paint a stem and leaf, I’ll reach for a green of some sort. Light and lime-y for spring scenes, Leafy green for Summer scenes, or Earthy green for Fall. Using the color that we “know” something should be is called using “Local Color.” If you ask any kindergartener what color an apple is, they will usually answer “Red.” Using local color is like that… we reach for the tube of paint that makes the most sense to our brain. However, keeping to a color scheme gives the painting a more cohesive, unified appearance. I figure that painting this whole book in the same color scheme will be like brain therapy for me! ūüėÄ

Don’t forget the

Great Pumpkin Drawing Contest!

I’d really like to be able to include someone’s Pumpkin in
Pie from Scratch!

See all the blog posts about making
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Drawing and Painting Pumpkins… And a Contest!

There’s been a lot of talk about pumpkins around here lately.

And I think it’s about time you learned to draw them.

They are SOOO easy.

I think you can do it.

First, you make a tall oval…

And then you tuck a partial oval behind it on each side…
…Sort of like drawing “ears”…

Then you add another set of “ears”…

And you have your basic Pumpkin body!

Finally, doodle on a stem and vine…

… And a leaf and a curl or two.

I went a little crazy with this one… TWO curls.

It’s okay if your pumpkin is not symmetrical and leans to one side. Have you ever been in a pumpkin patch? Very few of them are perfectly straight. Your leaning-over pumpkin actually looks more “real.” And your stem can go any which way. Now YOU try drawing a pumpkin! I have confidence in you! So much so, that I just had a brainstorm for a Pumpkin Drawing Contest! Rules at the end of the post!!!

Do you want to try painting a pumpkin?

You just need one color for basic pumpkin painting…

Orange. Paint the whole thing pale orange…

Then, with a little bit thicker watercolor,
make a thin stripe of color on the outer edge of
each oval (or “ear”) of the pumpkin…

Mine looks a little schmookie because
I put it on the scanner when still wet.

Not a good idea.

Then when it’s still a bit damp,¬†blend in the stripe of color…
…You’ll still need a bit of paint on your brush…

Yup. Wet paint on the scanner again.
But you get the idea.

Finally, using only clear water on your brush…
…Not a lot, just a little…
…Blend it in completely…

Soon you can paint a whole Pumpkin Patch of Pumpkins!

Copyright Kim Frey, 2012

And now for the…

 Pumpkin Drawing Contest!

If you draw or paint any pumpkins between now and
Sunday, October 14th
I will post them here on the blog!


I will choose my favorite
LINE DRAWING of a Pumpkin

One like this… no color, no extra lines…

To be incorporated into an illustration of
Pie from Scratch!

This is your chance to jump into
Children’s Book Illustration!

Out of ALL the Pumpkins submitted…
…Painted or Unpainted…
I’ll also choose my Three Favorite, and…

The Top Three Pumpkin Artists
will also receive a tiny painting

of a Pie from Scratch Pumpkin!

Contest Deadline: Midnight, Sunday, October 14

E-Mail Entries to:
kim (at) thistledewmercantile.com

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Still Prepping…

Okay, I did work on this project ALL DAY,
but have yet to crack open a tube of paint!


Early this morning, I took a good long look at the
“Pouring” sketch, and thought it needed a little pizazz.

So I re-did it, adding a pumpkin vine…

And then I reworked the “Recipe Card” illustration…

And then got lost in a pumpkin patch…

I know the pencil sketches are hard to see, but
I PROMISE I will not go to bed until I add just a little color!

Drawing all these pumpkins makes me think of Thanksgiving… and the many things I’m thankful for. Today, I’m thankful for the “Reduce/Enlarge” feature on my All-In-One printer. Oh, and for the 11″ x 17″ scanning area. And for the fact the Hubby is feeling slightly better. (Enough to tackle the dishes I ignored today.) And the fact that Kate & Alex just called and are coming down with Chicken & Dumplings to make Dad feel even better. (Which means a Very Late Dinner, but no cooking for me!) And most of all, I’m thankful that today is the 25th Anniversary of us being parents!

Happy 25th Birthday, Jordan!

Our October Pumpkin!

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Story Structure…

One of the first steps in writing and illustrating a book for children is to plan out the story. That seems a bit obvious, but I think we’ve all read stories that just ramble on and don’t seem to go anywhere. In a fictional story, the main character and his goals are introduced, and the reader is told what that character wants to do. He starts to carry out his plans, and then runs into a problem or “conflict.” Then he has to decide on a solution and attempt to resolve his problem, which leads to a “crisis,” or a “no turning back now” situation. Then, ¬†the crisis is over, and things go back to normal… or a new normal, as the main character has had to face change.¬†Not all stories follow this structure… “how to” books general do not include conflict. Biographies sometimes do, if the author focuses on a life-changing event. Sometimes the conflict in a children’s book is very subtle, or hidden.

I wondered about the story structure of Pie from Scratch… Annie wants to do a grown-up task, and instead of facing opposition, she finds encouragement. There’s a strong “how to” element that drives the story. And themes of hard work, “can do,” patience, and the satisfaction of a job well done. So how does that fit into the typical structure of a fictional picture book? Here’s a peek into how my storyboard for Pie from Scratch developed…

Quick sketches of illustration ideas were my first step.
Thumbnails actually came later, but I needed to
get to know Annie and her grandparents first…

And to think about what they might do together…

I drew some thumbnails…

And eventually, the whole story came together.

A storyboard is sort of like a map or plan for a children’s picture book. Because of their short, constrained structure, picture books need to be tightly mapped out. Usually the entire story has to fit within 32 pages! The “map” helps the illustrator fit everything in, and keep the story line moving along at a good pace. Looking at the book as a “whole” helps me see where changes might be needed…

Once the storyboard was created I had a good plan to begin the illustrations!

I’ve worried a bit about Pie from Scratch‘s departure from the typical story structure. I think I’ve always felt a bit more safety in the gentle type of story, the kind you can read at bedtime with no worry about bad dreams.¬†What kinds of stories are YOUR favorites? Do you prefer stories with strong conflict and resolution? Or ones that have more of an everyday gentleness? How do you think kids feel about the story line? Do you think they’d LIKE a story about baking a pie? Honest opinions welcome!

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It all started with a doodle…

Annie wanted to bake a pie.

A pumpkin pie.

From scratch.

A couple of years ago, while playing with watercolors, a doodle of a little girl holding a pumpkin showed up in my sketch book. Pumpkins are probably my very favorite thing to draw and paint. They’re roundish and lumpy-ish, and are good practice for shading roundish lumpy-ish objects. Because of their texture, they’re fun to draw with pencil or pen. And when you add paint or colored pencil, they can be orange, tan, yellow, white, green, or even blue. That day, I had orange and blue on the saucer I use as a palette, and was splooshing the two colors around to see what new colors would show up, and lo, and behold…


… a new friend!

Over the next few months, a story began to form in my mind about why this little girl would be holding a pumpkin. A general, in-my-mind sort of story, that was more pictures than words. It involved memories of spending time with my grandparents as a little girl, a lifelong desire to make stuff, and a love of old-fashioned ways that are quickly being forgotten. The story eventually became a plan for a kids’ book, about a little girl who wanted to do a real, grown-up thing… to bake a pie from scratch.

Somehow, life has been so busy that I never found the time to pull it all together into a storybook. A lot of legwork has already been done, and paintings have been started. The words are still in process, and I might need some help in that department. When I was considering doing the¬†31 Days Blogging Project¬†again this year, several ideas came to mind. My next-to-last blogging topic idea was “31 Days of Finishing Unfinished Projects”… so that might give you a clue as to how many unfinished things are on my list! But then I thought, “What if I just chose¬†ONE¬†of those projects, and devoted an entire month to finishing it?”

Soooo… since it’s October and pumpkins are plentiful, and also since it would be a good time to brush up on my pie-making skills,¬†Pie from Scratch¬†became the project of choice! And, the bonus is that there are¬†lots of 31 Days Bloggers out there¬†that might have some really good advice and very honest opinions as this thing develops… I would¬†LOVE LOVE LOVE¬†this to be a hands-on, reader-involved, interactive project! As my Nana always said…

Two heads are better than one…
unless one’s a cabbage head!

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