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

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.


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.) 


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


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.


Interview: Violet Lemay


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.

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,


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pet Pharmacy

It's been raining cats and dogs at Violet Lemay Illustration! 

After adding a slew of furry friends to my portfolio site (click here to see!), I got a call from Christine Garrson at USA Today to create art for an article about pets and prescriptions. Did you know that a variety of local drugstores now fill scripts written by veterinarians?

The concept for the art was to show cats and dogs at the pharmacy, mixing with the usual crowd.

Fluff and Fido (above) got cut, which was fine, because illustrating guys in fedoras reading the newspaper is one of my all-time favorite activities.

Also, at the last minute we traded out fedora man's fictional Gazette for an actual copy of USA Today.

Working on this project while snowbound in my upstate New York studio in early March helped beat the winter doldrums. Who knew a visit to the pharmacy could be so much fun? That was several months ago. After the long wait (the grass is finally green now, and the tulips are about to bloom), I'm glad the art is finally in print. Look for it in USA Today's Pet Guide, which is available today.

If you'd like to see a larger version of the pharmacy art shown at the top of this post, click here.

When I said it's raining cats and dogs around here, I wasn't kidding! A variety of pet-friendly projects are keeping me busy lately, so stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Hobby Trip" for USA Today

New for USA Today's travel guide: Hobby Trip! The article by Lisa Davis lists several interesting travel packages for hobby enthusiasts including archeological digs, wine making, and (shown above) knitting cruises to Hawaii. Expert art direction provided by the amazing Erin Aulov. Thank you, Erin!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Simply Saratoga

Flip to page 16 of the spring 2014 issue of Simply Saratoga magazine and you'll find an article about me and Isabella's Shoe Studio (duopress/2013), penned with excellence by the lovely Helen Edelman. Click here to be redirected to a virtual copy.

I was supposed to meet Helen in downtown Saratoga Springs at Northshire Bookstore for this interview several months ago, but the cold killed my car's battery.

Helen braved the weather and drove out to my family's Gansevoort home (Gansevoort = in the sticks). Thank you, Helen!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Beach Babies!

New from duopressBeach Babies!

Beach Babies is an adorable 22-page board book for you to share with all of the tiny readers and beach-bums in your life.

Written by Puck, designed by Grant McMahan....

... with illustrations and art direction by me, your friend, Violet Lemay.

I hope that you and your baby will have as much fun experiencing Beach Babies as the team at duopress had, making the book. 

The charming words and colorful art on every page, and the activities at the end of Beach Babies, are all designed to make itty bitty beach-goers and their caregivers very, very happy.
Announcing the arrival of Beach Babies makes me so happy that I have to sing! 
What better song to celebrate babies at the beach than Bon Voyage
(Think back to your high-school production of Anything Goes, and sing along!)

Bon VOYage.
You mean bon voyAGE-uh.
I hate to say goodbye sweetheart.
By the seashore...
You mean sur la plage...
I'll sail and watch the sea,
Til you come back to me.

Oh my dearie...
You mean ma cherie...
I'm yours for life...
You mean pour la vie...
So kiss me pretty wench
In English or in French
Bon voyAGE!
Bon voyAGE-uh!


Beach Babies is available on-line (click here to order!), and at your favorite local independent bookstore.


Special thanks to George M. Cohan for the lyrics to Bon Voyage. Thanks also to my little brother Matt, who refrained from either killing me or smashing my stereo during my high-school "Cohan Phase"— four solid years of binge Cohen album-listening interrupted only by short bouts of AnnieHello Dolly, West Side Story and My Fair Lady. I'm proud to have been a theater nerd through and through, but Matt, I'm soooo sorry! Ask yourself: Did you decided to become a trombonist to drown out your sister's music? Perhaps my youthful obsession with classic musical theater actually spurred you on to your eventual career. It just may be that you owe a great big thank you to George M, brother-mine! What do you think of that?

Monday, March 10, 2014


Last October I submitted this image from San Francisco Baby to the annual competition sponsored by the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles. Several months later a happy e-mail announced that I made the cut. Hooray!

The perks of being recognized by SILA include involvement in ILLUSTRATION WEST 52, a group gallery exhibit, which is happening right now (March 7-39, 2014) at Center Stage Gallery, 847 Hollywood Way in Burbank, California.

Because I live on the east coast I packed up the art and shipped it to the gallery. My good friends Tyler and Paige Garrison, talented illustrators who live in Burbank, stopped by to snap these photos for me.

Tyler, Paige and I all met in a classroom at the Savannah College of Art and Design where I was teaching several years ago when they were still students. Since then they got married (yay!) and eventually moved west. Meanwhile, my family picked up and moved north. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, Paige and I co-illustrated Beach Doodles, another fun and creative activity book by duopress.


If you can't make it to Center Stage Gallery but would like to see the show, click here to virtually stroll through SILA's on-line gallery.


San Francisco Baby, published by duopress in 2013, was co-written by Tess Shea and Jerome Pohlen. Jerry and I have teamed up on several other duopress projects, including Doodle Texas, Doodle America, and Chicago Baby.


As I mentioned above, Tyler and Paige are both amazingly talented illustrators. Check out Tyler's work here at fizzlepopstuido, and click here to see Paige's portfolio.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Introducing: PUZZLES!

Last summer I created art for an exciting new duopress venture: PUZZLES!

My New York Puzzle and My San Francisco Puzzle were just released, and they've already won the prestigious Oppenheim Toy Award. Go, Team duopress! These 20-piece puzzles are the first in what is sure to be a successful series.

For NYC we chose to depict Lady Liberty back-lit by a night sky filled with fireworks—a classic scene that celebrates the Big Apple in a kid-friendly way.

And you simply cannot make a puzzle about San Francisco without featuring the majestic Golden Gate Bridge!

Designing art for puzzles with so few pieces presents a few unique challenges. First of all, we didn't want the seams crossing key elements in an unflattering way. Secondly, visual elements in each composition had to overlap every single seam—visual clues to aid tiny puzzlers in their mission to assemble our handiwork.

As this project's Art Director, I got to create the puzzle die (the cookie-cutter used to cut the puzzle into 20 interlocking shapes). As the illustrator, I had to design each image to work within the die.

Grant McMahan designed this project, which entailed quite a bit of work. Packaging at its simplest involves a box—six surfaces to beautify. There is a drawer cleverly designed into these boxes, which gave us five more surfaces to fill (four sides + the bottom).

I got to create tiny bits of spot art for Grant to sprinkle around the sides of each drawer, and I absolutely love to make spot art, so that was a special treat.

In keeping with duopress's mission to create innovative books and gifts for curious children, the bottom of each drawer is covered in fun facts about the subject of the puzzle it contains.

My New York Puzzle and My San Francisco Puzzle by duopress are available now in local bookstores, museum and gift shops. No matter where you live, you can order them on-line! Click here to order My New York Puzzle, and here to order My San Francisco Puzzle.


This "My Puzzle" series, like all duopress projects, is the brainchild of Mauricio Velázquez de León, publisher of duopress books and gifts.