Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Madame Picasso & 100 Pablo Picassos


Over the summer while finishing up the art for duopress's soon-to-be-released book 100 Pablo Picassos, I saw an ad for Anne Girard's novel Madame Picasso in Publisher's Weekly.

Madame Picasso's beautiful cover caught my eye, as did the copy for the ad: "Twists and turns of fate are the hook for this intriguing story of love and loss..." So compelling!

I ordered Madame Picasso (published by Harlequin | MIRA, 2014) and was hooked from the start.



At this point I had recently researched and painted not only Pablo Picasso but also his friends Gertrude Stein, George Braques and Max Jacob, all of whom are featured in the illustration above. These interesting real-life champions of the arts and many others are prominently featured as supporting characters in Madame Picasso. It was so much fun to read about them in a non-researchy way. I found Anne Girard's story fascinating and well told.

Madame Picasso tells the story of Picasso's brief but powerful affair with Eva Gouel, which happened to overlap the end of the nine years he spent with Fernande Oliver. As you can imagine, fireworks ensued.



Fernande, an artists' model, was the subject of much of Picasso's work; she is credited with helping to usher the artist into his Rose Period. Picasso's love for Fernande, and the Rose Period in general, are the subjects of the above illustration which I painted for 100 Pablo Picassos.


By contrast, little is known about Eva. I imagine anonymity makes her especially intriguing to an author of historic fiction. There are only a few photos of her and as far as I can tell, fewer than a handful of Picasso's paintings are attributed to her—and two of those are non-representational cubist works. Everything about Eva is a mystery. (See? Compelling!)

For more about Fernande, Eva, and many others from the list of Picasso's lady loves, follow my Facebook fan page—I am posting interesting facts about them every day.

As an interview with the author at the end of Madame Picasso will attest, Anne Girard is not one to skimp on research. Ms. Girard masterfully paints a vivid picture of the art scene in Paris in the early 1900s. If you've ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of Gertrude Stein's salon, Madame Picasso is the book for you!

While reading Madame Picasso, I discovered a mistake I in my illustrations for 100 Pablo Picassos. I had painted Picasso as an older gentleman when he was with his Afghan hound Frika, but in fact, Frika—who figured prominently in Madame Picasso—lived in Paris with Picasso when he was a young artist. Google had provided me with photos of a silver-haired Picasso in the company of an Afghan hound, but apparently the artist had several Afghans throughout his life.

Luckily 100 Pablo Picassos had not yet gone to press yet when I realized this mistake. I was able to re-paint our Frika image, which I subsequently framed and sent to Anne with a note of thanks.



Recently Ms. Girard was kind enough to write the following endorsement for 100 Pablo Picassos:

100 Pablo Picassos is an utterly charming and informative tour through the life and career of Pablo Picasso. Enhanced by wonderful the art of Violet Lemay, this book cleverly introduces the work of the great 20th Century master to a new generation. Absolutely delightful!

So now I am doubly indebted to Anne Girard. Again and again Anne, thank you!

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To order Madame Picasso by Anne Girard, a beautifully written Harlequin romance novel (that is definitely not for children), click here.


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To pre-order 100 Pablo Picassos (written brilliantly by Mauricio Velázquez de Leon / duopress / 2015), click here.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Secret Self (vol 1)


I am pleased to announce my inclusion in Secret Self (Vol. 1), a publication of The Little Chimp Society.

From the LCS project page:

Secret Self is the LCS's first foray into smaller art zines and we're looking at producing five volumes over the next year and a half.
Each zine is a revealing collection of portraits and secrets from an international group of artists and designers. Each participant was asked to share something they had never shared with the public before and to create an accompanying illustration. While some are serious and others are silly, all of the secrets give you an insight into the psyches of the artists.
Volume one has been curated by Darren Di Lieto (founder of The Little Chimp Society). He asked ten illustrators to share intimate details about themselves or their lives in a sentence or two and then illustrate their secret in the form of a self-portrait. All funds raised from the sales of the zine go into supporting the LCS and making little projects like this possible.

My self-portrait (seen at the top of this post) reveals a gigantic secret about me that you would never, ever guess... and I will never tell! You'll have to buy a copy of the zine to read what I wrote. And after you've read it, I invite all of you amateur psychologists out there to send me your diagnosis of my psyche.




Click here to order your copy today. The price is £5.99, which is less than $10—a small price to pay for this slick little zine. And—bonus—the funds go to the LCS, an organization which exists soley for the betterment of illustration and illustrators. What's not to like about that?!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Good As New, by Patricia Lakin


Last spring I was invited to participate in an extremely cool project sponsored by Johnson and Johnson: "Once Upon a Care."


Famed children's book author Patricia Lakin stopped into a local school and asked kids, "Why do you think it's important for you to care?"

In response to her follow-up question, "What's a time that you remember that you showed that you care?", five individual sweetie-pies shared their stories. Patricia shaped each one into a manuscript for a 32-page picture book.

My assignment was a story called Good As New, as told by an adorable little girl named Brianna. Her baby brother had quite the tummy ache! When we was sick in the night, Brianna helped her mom take care of him.

Johnson and Johnson created an award-winning video to capture the entire project. It's less than three minutes long, and well worth the time. (Important note: Have tissues handy!) Click here to watch the video.... and then, download the free e-book, in which you'll see Brianna's story and these four others:

Jazlene Saves the Day, by Jazlene and Patricia, illustrated by Eugene and Louise
A Helping Hand, by Annie and Patricia, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas
Matthew's Wish, by Matthew and Patricia, illustrated by Paul Hoppe
A Valentine's Surprise, by Rene and Patricia, illustrated by Neil Numberman

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Near the bottom of the "Once Upon a Care" page you'll see this picture frame, which invites you to share your child's story.

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Good As New, written by Patricia Lakin and Brianna
designed by George Roca, Hugo Fitzgerald, Russell Sharpe and a team of awesome people from Johnson and Johnson

Illustrations created in watercolor by Violet Lemay, 2014

Violet Lemay is represented by MB Artists, Inc.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Baby Loves Sports



As the art director at duopress I get collaborate on an array of quality projects. Six months ago we were busy designing Baby Loves Sports, A High-Contrast Action Book, which will officially be released in September, but in reality is available on-line and at your local bookstore right now!


Baby Loves Sports is a duopress labs production, which means we all pitched in to make it happen. The idea (like all duopress productions) was hatched by publisher Mauricio Velázquez de León.

Rey David Garcia, illustrator of the seemingly endless duopress Cool Counting book series, created the art—and as for me? I was the book's designer. I arranged type and art on the cover. I drew the baby, and I spent one very long evening on the couch fussing over that golf ball in Adobe Illustrator.

Baby Loves Sports uses simple, high-contrast images to stimulate babies' brain development. As a parent, contributing to a project with such a lofty G-O-A-L has been extremely fulfilling!



Here's the review from Publisher's Weekly:

Baby Loves Sports: A High-Contrast Action Book
Illus. by R.D. Rojas. Duo Press (PGW, dist.), $7.95 (20p) ISBN 978-1- 938093-29-6
“3 2 1 GO!” shout the opening pages of this otherwise wordless board book, whose high-contrast images aim to grab the attention of youngest readers. On the spreads that follow, white-on-black silhouettes of athletes appear beside images ofthe balls their sports require; as a fun touch, a baby smiles at readers from one of the final pages, opposite a picture of a large beach ball on a bright green background. The lack of text creates an open-ended reading experience, allowing adults to ask children questions about the six sports intro- duced—golf, baseball, tennis, soccer, football, and basketball. Up to age 4. (Sept.) 

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Click here to order Baby Loves Sports, A High-Contrast Action Book (duopress/2014).

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

blog tour

Meet Liz Zunon


Last fall at the Autumn Leaves Book Fair in Glens Falls New York, I spent the day seated next to Elizabeth Zunon, a lovely young illustrator whose table was strewn with an impressive array of picture books including My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood JourneyA President from Hawai'i, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (winner of the 2013 Children's Africana Book Award). At the time Liz was looking forward to meeting William Kamkwamba, the actual boy who actually harnessed the wind, at an upcoming event in DC. Impressive.



Liz invited me to participate in a tour of illustrators' blogs, in which featured artists answer a series of interview questions. Despite a crazy summer schedule, of course I said YES, so, here we are! Welcome to the tour.

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Interview: Violet Lemay

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On what am I currently working?

For legal reasons, I'm not at liberty to say. (Ha! I've always wanted to work that line into a conversation.)

Publishers are very fussy about keeping their upcoming titles a secret. I can tell you this, tho: Two books that I illustrated last winter are just now being released. 

Texas Baby and Brooklyn Baby are part of an on-going series of Local Baby Books I've been illustrating for my favorite publisher, duopress, since we got the ball rolling with New York Baby back in 2012.

The image above—which is one of my all-time favorite creations—is from Brooklyn Baby.

Besides illustrating, I am also the art director at duopress, a job that keeps me extremely busy. Last season I provided art direction not only for Texas Baby and Brooklyn Baby, but for two other books as well:

Baby Loves Sports, A High-Contrast Action Book (duopress/2014), illustrated by Rey David Garcia, designed by Yours Truly; and PARK, A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons (duopress/2014), illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock, designed by Beatriz Juarez. Both are excellent new concepts and I'm proud to have been a part of them. To read more about PARK, click here.



This spring I was extremely busy on three large projects, none of which have been published yet, so I can't tell you much about them. A hint: two of them involve cats, which I absolutely love to draw.

This little guy is a snippet from my website—he's not a part of the projects I just mentioned, but probably helped me get those jobs!

Currently I am swimming in an ocean of very fun illustration projects, none of which I can tell you about specifically yet (I really can't!), so stay tuned.


How is my work different from others in my genre?

My work is *me*, no matter how hard I try to make it look more like the work of other artists whose portfolios I admire. (I know a lot of illustrators and I think most of us are sensitive and yes, even a little neurotic—always presuming that everyone else is better.) Perhaps my images are a bit edgy when compared to most other picture book artists. I think my pictures have a nostalgic air about them, a quality that I actually enjoy. :-)


When I was young I was a theater designer, then I worked for over a decade as an editorial illustrator (I still make editorial art from time to time), and also did fashion-based work. All of those experiences continue to affect the look of my art. I can't help it, and that's a good thing! If not, all of our art would look the same.
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Why do I illustrate what I do?

This one is easy to answer: I am so busy that, usually, I illustrate what I'm assigned to illustrate. I'm almost always on a deadline, with little time to spare. When I have free time I create art for my portfolio that features things I'd like to be paid to do—like the cats! (See above.) But that doesn't happen very often because usually, I'm just too pressed for time.

How does my illustration process work?

I start by thinking about the project, both directly and also in a more dreamy, absent-minded way. I think for as long as my schedule will allow—which looks a lot like procrastination, but is a very important part of the process. Then I sketch ideas with a regular old #2 pencil on paper that I grab from my printer's tray. Not very fancy. And at first, everything looks like a big mess.

Then I scan all of my sketches (the Big Mess), open the scans in Photoshop, and spend hours—days—playing with them, moving stuff around, resizing and distorting objects and shapes until I come up with a few compositions that I like.

Here are two initial rough options that I presented to duopress for the Brooklyn Baby image featured at the top of this post.


We chose the second option, which I had to refine quite a bit before moving to final, because we ended up using a similar composition (close-up view of two baby faces) for a different spread in the book.


After sketches are approved, if I'm painting, I use graphite paper to transfer the drawing into an Arches watercolor block (hot pressed), if I'm painting with watercolor. I work in other mediums too—for example, I am currently painting a book project with acrylic paint on canvas paper—so it depends. I also work digitally, a process that's a bit less traditional and is therefore more complicated. For a quick look at my digital process, click here.

This concludes your visit at Violet Lemay Illustration. To keep the tour going...

Meet Alice Feagan


Illustrator Alice Feagan works in cut paper collage, which she assembles traditionally and digitally. Her playful creations can be found in children's books, magazines such as National Geographic Kids, educational products and games. Her newest book School Days Around the World will be released by Kids Can Press in the Spring of 2015. She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her finacé and their two dogs.

Click here to get to Alice's awesome blog.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tooning In: Ring of Fire


Tonight was a blast from my past—and in general, simply a blast!

Here's the thing: before I was an illustrator, I was a costume and set designer. Only God knows how much of my youth I spent in the dark, prowling the catwalks or sitting in a mostly empty theater "house" with a notepad during tech rehearsals. After an absence of more than twenty years, tonight, at the invitation of Jenny Hutchinson of LARAC (Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council), I was back in the catwalks of a local theater. What a treat!

I met Jenny in February in Glens Falls NY at Art in the Public Eye's Go APE for Art! small works show, in which we both participated. Jenny, a talented artist (who is the Gallery Curator and Program and Shop Coordinator for LARAC), slipped me her card and invited me to participate in 'Tooning In, a theater sketching event she was organizing for LARAC, which was scheduled for the summer. At the time we were in the middle of a harsh upstate New York winter—summer seemed an eternity away. But here we are, at the end of July already!

'Tooning In came to upstate New York via Christopher Baldwin, a sequential artist whose work can be seen in MAD magazine (and whose first book, Little Dee, will be out soon). He took the idea from the Portland Opera and adapted it with the help of Jenny and others here in New York State for the Adirondack Theater Festival. The basic idea is that artists attend dress rehearsals at which they sketch like crazy. The resulting art is displayed and sold, gallery-style, in the lobby of the theater. 

Many area artists were asked to participate, and there were several productions from which to choose. I signed up to sketch Ring of Fire, a review of the music of Johnny Cash, because I am a die-hard fan! Tonight was the last dress rehearsal before tomorrow night's preview performance. The show opens Friday night—and if you live anywhere near the Wood Theater in Glens Falls, New York, you need to be there! The show is fantastic, and absolutely family-friendly. If you go, look for my art in the lobby... I sketched as many of the cast as I could from my once-familar perch in the catwalk.


Friday, June 6, 2014

MB Artists




Big news, people: In recent months I teamed up with Mela Bolinao (above) of the amazing children's book illustration agency MB Artists. Hooooo-ray!

Book Expo America happened last weekend, which got me back to NYC for the first time in a long while. After moths of exchanging e-mail, my new Manhattan-based agent and I were finally able to meet in person.



Mela's place and her hospitality were an oasis on that marathon day. First she fed me beautiful fresh berries, a kindness this weary traveler will not soon forget. Then we talked and talked, and looked at art. Mela's walls are an illustration gallery including original paintings by some of my long-time heroes, all members of MB Artists, including Hiroe Nakate. (I am such a fan—love you, Hiroe! My son Gray and I read Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate a million times together when he was little.)

I got to meet Mela's beautiful assistant Jess, and her brother Jon who does the books and is very good at treating illustrators like rock stars. Also in attendance: Mela's incredible kids, Milo (3) and Maya (5). Maya, a budding literary genius, wrote an illustrated a book from start to almost-finish during my brief stay.

What. A. Pleasure.

Mela, thanks for the visit and everything else, and I look forward to hanging out again soon.

All the best,

Violet