Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Meet Jan Wood-Harris, Talented Artist and Author.

I am delighted to have Jan Wood-Harris here today to tell us about the first book in her Ms. Wood's Wild Art Adventures series:- a unique learning experience in art and nature for children.

A bit about me: I am a self-taught Artist. Producing and selling my watercolor portraits and fine art jewelry for over 30 years (Jewelry artist in the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach CA 1980-1988).  I have been teaching private Fine Art lessons for the past 20 years through numerous home schooled families, Charter schools and Public school children.

Also an illustrator, I have two children’s books self-published. A Children’s art instruction book,
Ms. Wood’s Wild Art Adventures-The Rainforest,
and a children’s picture book, Ben the English Afghan Hound, and a children’s song book Porch Party (coming soon).

I live by a small lake in Mission Viejo CA with my husband Robert and have two beautiful, artistic grown daughters, Mackenzie and Madison…and my big cat Bronson.

What prompted you to create your book?
Illustrating children’s books was something I’ve wanted to do for years! When my 2 girls were little I’d buy books for them that would attract me visually..(sorry girls)!, and always thought, “ I could do this”!  But a busy life of teaching and raising my girls just didn’t offer me the focus that it required.  But now they’re grown so when a friend of mine asked me a couple years ago if I’d like to illustrate her true story about a dog she had in the past while living in England, of course I said yes!  So I took her little handwritten story on construction paper tied together with a ribbon and started designing the book from scratch! Even came up with the title, Ben the English Afghan Hound.  Learned all about editing, story flow and pacing, what parts of the story to illustrate, page design, and a whole lot more! Then started researching self-publishing and managed to weave my way through the madness of that quite successfully! So, now I had the bug! While working on ‘Ben’ I started formulating the idea of a children’s how to draw book that my art students would benefit from and quickly developed the idea of Ms. Wood’s Wild Art Adventures.

Can you give us one of your favorite discoveries from your book and tell us why it is a favorite?
I love puzzles!  So when I found a way to create my own puzzle for the book using specific art terms, art history, animal characters, that were all used within the book ….I was practically giddy!

What types of things inspire you and make you want to keep creating?
I’ve been teaching fine art to children for 20 years now, so I’m always trying to find ways to keep my teaching fresh, fun and inspiring to my students.  So I would guess my students are my inspiration!  Winston Churchill said it best, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candle with it”. There ya go!

Who would be your ideal target audience?
I wrote Ms. Wood’s How to Draw book to be a source of art techniques, art history and art terms for the young artist whose parent might need to help and guide them through the book.  But equally so for the young artist that can read the story and do the tutorials all on their own.  I also hoped that it could be used in a homeschool/school environments as a fun, adventurous approach to learning about the world  and the art within it.  Beyond the obvious art benefits, the teacher could also bring in facts about the rainforest, environmental issues, animals of the rainforest to round out the experience of the book.

Describe your typical writing day or week?
Since my focus is teaching each day my typical writing day or week is a constant task of organizing my time which is different each day to fit writing and illustrating in.  To describe the way I wrote Ms. Wood’s, it was late nights (till 2am-ish) in my studio painting, while watching English mystery shows on my I-pad and sipping coffee with my cat laying inches from my work.

Is there a food or drink you have to have when you’re writing and drawing?
Yes, coffee (raw sugar and a spot of milk) and a granola bar or wheat thins.  Many times when I’d be painting I’d typically have my coffee mug sitting next to my water container for painting and often would dip my brush into the coffee mug, sometimes I’d notice, sometimes not…giggle!

Can you tell us what you’re working on right now (& possibly provide an excerpt & cover)?
Yes, I’m excited to say that I’m in the beginning stages of storyboarding my next Ms. Wood’s Wild Art Adventures-Japan!  This country has always attracted me to their architecture, textiles (Kimonos), Geishas, Samurai, Tea Ceremonies, dragons and their ancient legends and folklore.  So, I’m excited about this upcoming adventure as we have a magical encounter with ancient Japan…and then draw & paint what we see!


The Rainforest Book Summary

As a Children’s fine art teacher for many years, I’ve learned so much from my students.  Children have such rich imaginations and are always telling their own stories through their drawings.  Through those imaginations, much can be learned.  So it just made sense to me to combine art instruction with simple storytelling in the this
charming richly illustrated book.

In this first book of the Series the reader and I are off to the rainforest.
We've got to run and catch a plane, painting the clouds we see out the plane window. 
Then, once we arrive in the Rainforest, we’ll draw or paint tropical leaves, trees in Perspective, monkeys, and colorful toucans while sitting under giant leaves in the rainforest. 


We're chased by a swarm of colorful Bees, fly off cliffs only to land in the soft rainforest fauna! 
While lying on the rainforest floor we look up at the trees - There it is...


…Single Point Perspective / a Bugs-Eye View! Then we head off in a hot air balloon...
Yes! A hot air balloon for an 'Aerial View'! 

I offer step-by-step examples of how to draw the cloud, the toucan, the tropical leaves, the monkey, and the trees in perspective in easy, informative mini tutorials.

This book is also filled with examples of master artists who also have painted clouds, plants, birds, and used perspective in their own styles and mediums.
So, of course, I'll be talking about Impressionism, Modern Art, Realism and more.
At the end of the book there is a fun crossword puzzle using some of the art terms that we use within the book.  Plus, little hidden 'things' on each page for the reader/artist to 'observe' so that they might enjoy a

 'Fascination with Observation!
This series creates a way for children to enjoy learning how to draw and paint
what they see, while on wild 'art' adventures with Ms Wood and enrich your story time together further by studying more about the environment, animals and geography of the Rainforest. Combining these activities with a fun adventure creates a fulfilling way to learn about our world and how to draw it!


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