Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mr. Pig Visits. . . Jen Corace!

Hello! Mr. Pig, here--on my way to visit the studio of Jen Corace. JEN CORACE! 

Feeling a little nervous, actually. I'm a HUGE fan of her work in "Little Oink."

Aha. We're here. [Knock-knock]

Ms. Corace--a pleasure! May I come in?
Step right in, Mr. Pig.

What a lovely studio. Bright and sunny! Like my cottage, only um... higher. Let's begin the tour.
Okay. So. Here is my desk. 

To the left is a little rolly cart where I keep paper and pieces of work that are a part of a project but aren't necessarily working on. It keeps them clean and out of the way of any spills or accidents. On the front are some sketchbooks and there are drawers on the side you can't see that hold tape and blades and useful things like that. To the right is a card table where I keep all of my paint and bottles of ink. Super handy.

Super organized! Be still my heart. I'm a very tidy Pig, so I appreciate these things.

I try to keep my desk as free as possible … usually only allowing some reference books and relevant sketchbooks. On the flat surface of the desk I keep all of my tools that are currently in use, palettes, water jars and my pencils and brushes. 

In front of and above my desk (thanks be for angled ceilings) I like to keep a rotating selection of images that serve as inspiration. Generally images are selected and hung according to the project I am working on at the time. Sometimes images elect to fall off the wall because it's a real fight keeping anything adhered to the plastic-y wallpaper. It's a continually evolving surface. 

I like having a mix of images I've come across online, photos I've taken myself, sketches and partial pieces.

It's good to keep a lot of brushes and a variety of pencils on hand all the time. I have a real affection for my porcelain mixing palettes … they're easy to clean and I think that plastic is pretty evil. That being said, the plastic, dog-shaped novelty pencil sharpener is the best sharpener I've ever come across. Hands down. 

It's a beauty. 
Here's where I keep all of my paints and inks, secondary junky brushes and the keyboard to the studio computer. On the upside … the snowy horse metal box is pretty dreamy. On the downside … my keyboard is filthy with graphite. 

Fair trade. Well, hello. Who's this?
This is Leonard. His main job in the studio is making sure the floor stays put. 

Well done, Leonard. Look! Little cottages! My favorite.
I really love wooden blocks … this is my small collection of tiny wooden houses, made by my friend John. I also have an impressive set of blocks that make a free form castle system. Assembling and reassembling the castle system is a nice meditative way to work through creative blocks. Ha ha … pun. 

Oh. Haha. I get it. What's that in the window, there?
That's a piece I made for a valentine-themed group show a few years ago. She casts some nice shadows. 

Lovely. And here?
Over here is the paper beast. Two flat files that sort of keep all of my unused paper and finished projects organized. The top space I can use for cutting and folding. There are cubbies for all sorts of projects … sewing, embroidery, book binding, printmaking, and on and on and on. Some sketchbooks live here as well as reference books. To the side is the package pit … work that has come back to me that I haven't taken the time to figure out how to fit it into the paper beast. 

And the rainbow on the top shelf?
This is the cribbage board that was made for me for my 30th birthday by my friend Lee. It's the best cribbage board in the world. 

I'm an ace at cribbage, you know. (Just saying.) Lots of little treasures over here...
Along this wall of my studio is my humble bookcase. I found it one snowy day walking across Dexter Park in Providence. It was just sitting there, waiting for me. A very nice fellow who works at a nearby grocery store helped me bring it home. The top shelf is all reference books, the bottom is occupied by my personal copies of my children's books and more reference books … oh and more sketchbooks. I have sketchbooks all over the place. To the left of the bookcase is a letter I received from a class of first graders from the Moses Brown School after I visited their class during their book fair. To the right of the bookcase is a closet of secrets. And to the right of that are rolls of massive paper for massive paintings. 

How secret is the closet of secrets?
Top secret, I'm afraid.

Fine. Moving on. Tell me about these...
On top of the bookcase are some favorite knickknacks and images. I have The Mods paper dolls … but not the clear, wax crayon to keep their clothes on (saucy), some old family photos, a Susie Ghahremani painting she made for me for, maybe my thirtieth birthday (?), a framed piece from Our Finest Hour, the feet of a drawing of my mother by Carson Ellis and my wooden train with it's wooden peg people. That train was a real, random, wonderful find. 

I love trains. Nice photos... any relation?
Off and on I collect old photos. Only off and on because I only pick up a photo if it speaks to me. I don't have any hard and fast rules as to what catches my eye when wanting to take a photo home. The general themes are: girls, blurs, plants, old ladies, first communion and odd cropping.

On my oddball shelf is a collection of unrelated doodads. Paper dolls that were in the same box as The Mods, a mix cd and dancing robot from my agent, Steven Malk, a saber tooth tiger patch from the LaBrea Tar Pits (a.k.a. the greatest place on earth), toys given to me by my brother, an old painting AND Little Pea. Back in the day when I stalked myself more often I found a photo on Flickr by a woman who would make these Little Pea dolls to give with the book. I freaked out. It was the best thing I had ever seen …. it's so perfectly round, the eyes are shiny and the freckles are wonderful French knots. I HAD to have one. And I made that happen. Oh … also, just beneath the shelves is a photo of a family of baboons that I love love love.

Hello, Little Pea doll. Aren't you scrumptious? I have an oddball shelf, too. It's a little crooked, but it's home. Thank you for showing me your studio, Jen. It's a marvelous place.
You're welcome, Mr. Pig.

Jen Corace is an artist and freelance illustrator who lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island. Originally from the suburbs of southern New Jersey, she eventually made her way to the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a BFA in illustration. Her illustrated books include Little Pea, Little Oink and Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, along with many other titles for young readers. Her latest book I Hatched! by Jill Esbaum was released in January, 2014. Jen is currently at work on a new book, Telephone, written by Mac Barnett. To learn more about Jen's work visit

I Hatched!
by Jill Esbaum
illustrated by Jen Corace
ISBN: 978-0803736887

"An enthusiastic killdeer chick hatches ("Ta-da!") and discovers what he can do in the wondrous world around him. "I've studied me, and oh, my word. I am one amazing bird! This stripe is handsome, don't you think? And look! My eyes can…blink blink blink!" While the rhymes occasionally feel forced, the overall rhythm is satisfying and energetic. There is even a lovely surprise at the end: another chick being hatched. The watercolor and ink illustrations show just the right amount of detail in the chick's surroundings and cheerfully portray his delight in his appearance and accomplishments." --Booklist.

Little Pea
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Jen Corace
ISBN: 978-0811846585

"Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace strike beautiful balance between story and art in 'Little Pea' (2005), a book that pedagogues might point out teaches basic physics and math while poking fun at picky eaters. This critic prefers to describe it as a family portrait of legumes in which the baby has to eat all his candy in order to get spinach for dessert." --The New York Times

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