7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #196: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Laurel Atkins

h1 December 5th, 2010 by jules

Silver in E Minor

Jules: It seems like just a moment ago I was talking about the first Sunday in January, and here we are facing the first one of December. Crazy talk, I tell ya. And, as my dear readers know, the first Sunday of the month means I shine the spotlight on a student or new-to-children’s-books illustrator. Today, I welcome Amanda Laurel Atkins, who shakes things up with some portraiture this morning. (I don’t think I’ve featured a portrait artist since the talented Jody Hewgill in 2008, but don’t quote me on that.)

Tenderfoot (Too Gentle for Your Predisposition)

Amanda’s first illustrated children’s book is forthcoming, and she tells us a bit about that below, as well as why she’s drawn to the portraits you see here of these enigmatic women (mostly — there’s a bit of a departure with T.S. Eliot below), sometimes sad-eyed and sometimes contented, but always mysterious, as if they harbor great secrets they’re not quite willing to share but might gently hint at. Or secret narratives, as Amanda calls it at one of her sites.

Amanda lives and works in Boston. If you like what you see here, she has a Facebook page, “Amanda Laurel Atkins Art & Illustration.” Without further ado, here she is, and I thank her for stopping by.

Amanda: From the time I was little, I knew I wanted to be some type of artist. My mom absolutely loved children’s books and shared as many of them with us as possible. Every weekend, we’d visit the children’s room at the public library and pick out new books to read. This definitely instilled a love of reading and illustration in me at a very early age.

Nancy Drew (Docile in her Domicile)

“Odette the Ornithologist” paper doll

My whole life, one of my favorite things to draw has been cozy, detailed bedroom scenes. When I was little, I’d spend hours drawing intricate tree houses and bedrooms full of treasures. My favorite part of the process was adding all of the “character’s” personal belongings to the room. To me, a space wasn’t a space unless it was filled with your favorite things. I was really into secret things like lock-boxes and journals, which still show up in my art!

A peek at Amanda’s sketchbook; click to enlarge.

I think it’s this infatuation that transcended into my love of portraiture. The women I paint are fictional, and I get to build a little space around them and fill it with the things that I imagine would empower and inspire them. I’ve always been fascinated by portraiture — from very old paintings where symbolic objects were chosen to represent the subject to mid-century photography where people are posed in specific settings. I love thinking about those elements and creating ‘personal spaces’ for the ladies I dream up.

Remember When I Loved You?

Where I Keep You (Seabird Found)

I’ve always found my biggest inspiration to be my love of the past. The past appeals to me more than the present in a number of ways, and vintage clothing and hair are staples in my paintings. My love for animals and my passion for literature are also constant undercurrents in my work.

T.S. Eliot: The Natural

“My Own Personal Fox” print, shown with completed toy

Chelsea and the Black Fox

He Speaks My Language

I graduated from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2008 with a BFA in Illustration, having minored in Literature and Writing. My first illustrated book will be coming out soon through Write Fuzzy Publishing. It’s called I Looove You Whale and was written by Derrick Brown. I wrote my own children’s book a few years ago and have decided that 2011 is the year I’m going to finally illustrate it and make it a reality. I can be found at AmandaAtkins.com.

It Caused, In My Heart, a Forest

And Maybe I’m the Stars, and Maybe I was Zelda;
One Pale Thing Amidst the Throttle (Meant to Be with Aristotle)

“In the Autumn of 1922, / I rose above the depths of you. /
And if by boat he leaves my stare, / with grace I learn the art of air.”

And With Unspoken Ease, I Was Your Pet

All artwork © 2010 by Amanda Laurel Atkins and used with her permission.

As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1). My thoughtful friend sent me a random gift this week, as well as a card that says, “I have over 300 friends on Facebook. You are the only one worthy of a card.” (Okay, I’m sure her other friends are, too, but you get the idea. Clever card, given the acquaintance-filled juggernaut that is Facebook. I think juggernaut is a fun word, and I just wanted to type it.) And how did I end up with such good friends? I mean, really.

P.S. If I were a really cool and big-name sailor, I’d be juggernautical.

2). I met with four Vanderbilt students on Friday, all grad students in Education, who will be interns for the book Betsy, Peter, and I are writing. INTERNS. FOUR OF THEM. I feel very lucky. I already have a lot for them to research. And they were all eager and smart and friendly and well-groomed and smiled a lot and such. Also, I didn’t scare them off. BONUS.

3). I am slightly vastly obsessed with the CD pictured here. As in, if I haven’t absolutely had to talk to people this week, I’ve been walking around wearing my iPod with this man’s voice pouring into my ears. Villagers is really one guy, an Irishman named Conor J. O’Brien, who gets his friends to play with him occasionally. I guess. The CD is flippin’ brilliant. My Favorite Song of November is “Pieces,” which brings me a hefty amount of comfort. I wish I could play it for you here. Any live versions you find online of him singing “Pieces” with just his guitar (and they’re out there) won’t cut it, since—on the CD track—he completely unleashes himself and thoroughly dismantles the song at the end, all histrionically and heart-breakingly and with the instruments going berserk, and utterly and undeniably and quite literally howls. Like a jackal. I guess.

It’s perfect.

But since I can’t share that, we’ll settle for this, the title song. Which is hardly settling. This song is brilliant, too. He’s performing it in his cozy kitchen here. I wish we could all stay and have tea and toast with him afterwards. I see his lovely cornflower-blue teapot back there on a shelf.

I guess I should have warned you about the soul-preying, clothes-stripping jackals in the song. I swear, some of the songs on this CD are the sonic equivalent of an Edward Gorey book. But also beautiful and hopeful. (Not just all Gorey and jackals and flesh-ripping.)

4). While we’re on the subject of music, I enjoyed re-visiting this CD, which I wore out all summer. Summer seems like yesterday. Like the breath I just took. The hair I just brushed from my forehead. The keystroke I just executed. Oh you get the idea. But it quite clearly isn’t. It’s been a while, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, winter’s settled in, and things are different, but going back to this CD was like stopping by to visit an old friend, as corny as that sounds. Plus, you gotta love any CD that opens with the sound of (what seems to be) a rocking chair on a wood floor just before the guitar strumming kicks in.

Also: Blind Boy Chocolate and The Milk Sheiks will cheer you up. Have a listen:

BUT WAIT. One more: Delta Spirit has this flawless, bluegrass-soaked, harmony-laden song, all Old-Testament and such, called “Flood.” I must have listened to it ten times in a row the other day. It is beautiful. I can’t find it online to embed for you, but there’s always this other brand-new one, if you feel like dancing. As in, this one’s a foot-stomper:

5). Finally wrapped up a new children’s novel with my girls that has taken us precisely forever to read. I had to hold the six-year-old while she cried over the death of a major character, and I cried as I leaned into her, too. We were just pathetic for a little while there.

6). How do you like the E. B. White quote I added to this page of the site? I’ve always loved that and decided this week that it should live on that page forevermore — or at least till the zombies (or jackals) come and even blogs get eaten. (Here is a picture of E.B. White, in all his smart-ness.) Also, while we’re on the subject of good quote-age, I have “JES” to thank for pointing this out to me from author Arundhati Roy: “I really worry about these political people that have no personal life. If there’s nothing that’s lovely, and if there’s nothing that’s just ephemeral, that you can just lie on the floor and bust a gut laughing at, then what’s the point?” I really want to exclaim that loudly. I think I will: “…then what’s the point?” Okay. There. That felt good.

As JES noted, that goes for anyone, wouldn’t you agree? (That is, not just the one-track-minded political folks she’s discussing.)

7). Last, but far from least, isn’t it nice to see and hear this? Mark and Andrea are tentatively back after a very hard 14-months. No matter what they decide to do about podcasting, it’s nice to see and hear them talk children’s books again (and, as always, hear the coffee mugs clinking in the background). I’ve always been their fan. And always will be. They could conduct podcasts about, say, the latest happenings in office furniture or, I dunno, the soy bean market, and I’d still tune in.

BONUS: The only thing better than cinnamon rolls and good, strong coffee for breakfast is when your friends come over and you get to share some with them.

NOTE OF INTRIGUE: I am curious about this children’s book, an old Christmas title from Finland (or so they say), called The Loneliest Ho. Yes, The Loneliest Ho. I actually ordered a copy. As in, not just for the kitsch factor, but as a children’s lit enthusiast, I just have to know: Is this for real? The Mayan fertility idol, the “Elf-juice,” “Christmas isn’t Christmas without HOs”: I am puzzled and laughing to myself and wondering if it’s a joke and shall report back, once I get my copy.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

20 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #196: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Laurel Atkins”

  1. Thanks for sharing Amanda’s work. Fuzzy will like the Foxy lady there, and I’m quite fond of the ornithologist paper doll.

    You are by far the cutest and cleverest juggernautical big name sailoress I’ve ever met! Show me your tattoos!

    Squee on the Conor video. I want to stay for tea afterwards, too. I’m trying to hook into the whole jackals thing he has going on. Need to listen to the entire CD.

    Yes! Wonderful that Mark and Andrea are back.

    Love the intrigue and the cinnamon rolls. Ho ho indeed.

    I’m climbing slowly into December with a few kicks:

    1.Tried Vietnamese pho for the first time. Not faux pho. The real thing. Still having trouble pronouncing it “fa.” Otherwise my pho would go with your ho.

    2. Jules, who loves jackals.

    3. Maple sugaring and ice skating, ala Kate Messner’s new book, Sugar and Ice.

    4. Mailed most of my Christmas gifts. Let the holiday begin!

    5. Successfully completed the Picture Book Idea Month challenge.

    6. Ordered a bunch of foodie books with a Christmas gift card I received last year.

    7. A nice cup of warm green tea and a lemon bar on a cold and cloudy December Sunday.

    Have a good week!

  2. Jules,

    I know I’ve haven’t been particpating in 7 Imp’s 7 Kicks regularly lately. I wanted to make sure I left a comment early this week.

    MY KICKS (for a few weeks)

    1. I had a grand time at the NCTE Annual Convention in Orlando…met a lot of fellow bloggers and blogging poets.

    2. I roomed with my friend and children’s poet/author Janet Wong at the Coronado Springs Resort–which was lovely. I always have such a good time when I’m with Janet.

    3. Had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in Celebration the night I arrived in Florida with Janet, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Rebecca Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, Syliva Vardell, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and a bunch of other people.

    4. Our Poet and Bloggers Unite session at NCTE was standing room only. My fellow panelists were Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marilyn Singer, Pat Mora, Jame Richards, Sylvia Vardell, and Tricia Stohr-Hunt.

    5. I’m a member of the NCTE Poetry Committee. We named J. Patrick Lewis the recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Hooray! Pat will receive the award at the 2011 NCTE Annual Convention in Chicago.

    6. Two more enjoyble dinners in Florida. On Friday evening, I dined with Janet Wong and Tricia Stohr-Hunt. On Saturday, I attended a dinner hosted by Macmillan Publshers. There were several children’s authors in attendance–including Lois Lowry, Jack Gantos, and Barbara O’Connor

    7. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

    8. I’m almost finished with my Christmas shopping.

    9. Mike and I are having dinner with my daughter and her husband today. My husband made two different kinds of lasagna and eggplant parmigiana. I baked a BIG apple pie.

    Have a great week!

  3. Amanda’s laides reemind me of another writer who began her carreer with ladies: Laini Taylor. I love these ladies, especially the Odette the orithololgist.
    Jules, I always love your music choices and I can’t wait to hear about the book you ordered.
    Jama, maple sugaring? You do that? So cool. We have a Vietnamese Pho restaurant going in by us. Will have to try.
    Elaine, I so wished I could have gone to NCTE, It’s been too long.
    My kicks:
    1. The auction ended for Bridget and we tentatively raised over $8700. Won’t know finally tally until everyone pays.
    2. I won a verse novel critique for my WIP at the auction.
    3. Time with oldest grandgirl on Friday and Saturday night with Christmas events.
    4. Meeting up w/my snowbird friend who arrived for the holidays.
    5. Penny Dreadful arrived yesterday.
    6. My writing group was fabulous last Wednesday.
    7. Stopping at a fave place to photograph the rising sun on the way to school this week.
    Have a great week.

  4. Amanda, I love your portrait of Nancy Drew!!!

    Jules, I’m really hoping for that day we can have tea or coffee and cinnamon rolls together! And my heart is absolutely ripped to shreds when a major character dies. I cry a lot.

    Thanks for letting us know that Mark and Andrea are back. =D

    Jama, now you’ve made me want to read Sugar and Ice!

    Elaine, I’m jealous of your fabulous NCTE time!

    Jone, I’m always happy when I spot your writing group among your kicks. I have Penny Dreadful, too! Haven’t read it yet though.

    My kicks:

    1. Been watching The West Wing on DVD. It’s one of my favorite TV shows. I’m on season 6 right now.

    2. Time with friends!!!

    3. My dad is in town. The other day we went out to eat and catch a movie. A great date. =)

    4. I attended a fancy children’s book launch on Friday night. (It was at a country club.)

    5. After the book launch, I attended an expo/party for small presses. Good to see the work they are doing!

    6. Watched Quest Crew live in Manila! (They are the season 3 winners of America’s Best Dance Crew.)

    7. Just watched The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 3D.

  5. Wow! Thanks for the kind words. This is such a great community of which we’re honoured to be a part.

    It was fun to strap on our lapel mics again after such a long break and talk about the books that have helped make the last 14 months more bearable.

    There’s the occasional suggestion we might be able to get back into a routine or putting our show together. Comments like yours factor in.

    Have a great holiday season!

  6. Amanda Laurel Atkins: Hi there! Best wishes with your forthcoming book and future works. I especially like the foxes, and the title of Silver in E Minor. I have a fondness for E minor. (You should have seen me when it was mentioned on the TV show Fringe this past week!) Hi to Zelda.

    Jules: That sounds like a very sweet card. I like the song and his vocals at the beginning of the song. I may have to pass on the howling… My favorite jackel is Anubis. What book led to the tears?

    Sending Andrea and Mark lots of strength and support.

    Jama: That book is in my to-read pile. Hope your family is doing well.

    Elaine M.: Welcome back! Sounds like you had some fun get-togethers. Enjoy your visit with your daughter and son-in-law today.

    Jone: WOO HOO for the funds raised! That is a most impressive total, tentative OR confirmed. Have fun with the photos.

    Tarie: How was Dawn Treader?

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Catching up with people, especially those who are genuinely, truly happy
    2) Auditioning
    3) Full nights of sleep
    4) Asking without second-guessing or worrying
    5) Nice notes
    6) Getting over it
    7) Going to film something awesome today!

  7. Hi all!

    [Thanks to a crowded schedule, must do a quick flyby today instead of one my usual kicks-bombs…]

    Amanda Laurel Atkins’s work is AMAZING. Those eyes. Haunting, y’know? And the — well, I thought they were tattoos at first but; no, they’re just sort of enigmatic pictorial projections of the subjects’ souls, playing across their skin. (My favorite thing about them though is the titles!)

    Jules, I love the tenor of your kicks this week. Made me happy just to read, even before I started branching off to follow all the links, listen to the music, etc. (Great album artwork on that Villagers CD!)

    My kicks:

    * Somehow had missed ever seeing Home for the Holidays (Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, et al.) until last night, courtesy of The Missus’s Netflix queueueueue. Not an omigod-you-have-to-see-this film but, well, what can I say? I just enjoyed the heck out of it.

    * This year, it seems that numerous online sources are suddenly offering free downloads of Christmas-and-winter-related MP3s. (Maybe they always did and I just missed it.) I’m really enjoying hearing not just fresh takes on old classics, but also totally new numbers from new artists. (Amazon, for one, is offering a free download a day during the month.)

    * This video (to which I was pointed by a commenter at my blog). Even if you just watch the first 15 minutes of it, which is the reading itself: author Jonathan Goldstein, reading from excerpts about the Garden of Eden from his Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! (Why the audience does not repeatedly interrupt him with appreciative laughter, I have no idea. Maybe they don’t speak English?!?)

    * Love this on NPR: suppose you didn’t know a song was a hit, based on sales, airplay, etc. What about it would still tell you it’s (probably/definitely) a hit? I always wonder that.

    * Orange- or raspberry-flavored Pepperidge Farms “Milano” cookies (the simple wafers with the chocolate in the middle).

    * Watching a work-in-progress sort of coalesce from a bunch of separate chapters. Have to keep reminding myself that it’s not happening on its own. 🙂

    * Looking forward to attending a poetry reading this evening, at a local wine/beer bar.

    * Bonus: it happened after my regular visit here last week, so I didn’t get to make a big deal about it, but my gosh it was good to see Eisha kicking it here, wasn’t it???

  8. Love the portraits. Very mysterious. All of the precious clues planted in them make me want to know more about these ladies and about Amanda. Can’t wait to see her upcoming book. Intrigued as well by THE LONLIEST HO. No doubt Santa has a “strange and funny adventure” waiting. Keep us posted.

    Weekly kicks:

    1/Putting up the candy cane lights in the front yard and have big plans for icicles along the rooflines for the near future. (More on that later…)

    2/A nice bottle of wine and movie with husband.

    3/Getting Christmas bags. (Now I just need the presents to go in them!)

    4/My sister sending me this (WARNING: CATCHY!):



    6/Raking leaves in the snow.

    7/Really thinking about finishing the three canvases that are supposed to be hanging above our sofa (that I started last year).

    Can’t wait for Tuesday’s Kidlit Drink Night!

  9. Jama, I will take that pho for one ho. Er, not really. But you made me laugh. And I’M ONE OF YOUR KICKS? Now, that will be this week’s kickiest kick. I’m impressed you have all your gifts, especially since I know this hasn’t been your best month. You are in my thoughts, you know.

    Elaine, the apple pie sounds delicious, but I think all the NCTE goodness trumps it. Wow, you had fun. And met some really nice, talented people. Congrats to Pat! So well-deserved.

    Jone, congrats on the auction, and you won a verse novel critique? Neat-o. Glad you caught the rising sun. I kinda hate that where we live now my girls can’t see the sunset every night. The house where I lived in high school was like that, and I miss that.

    Tarie, man alive, I’d drop anything to have tea and cinnamon rolls with you. Well, yes, I’ll take coffee instead, but anyway. I hope we do get to meet one day. …How was the movie? And a fancy party. Oh la la! Was it a fancy pool costume party à la Elephant and Piggie? I’m glad you had fun. A children’s book launch sounds fun.

    Hi, Mark!

    Little Willow, yay for filming something awesome. And please tell me what not-worrying is like. I will email you the name of the book. I hesitate to type it here, in case someone comes along who wants to read it and then my big mouth has blabbed to them about who dies.

    John, I like Amanda’s piece titles, too. Yes, it’s great when Eisha visits. Have fun at your poetry reading, and thanks for the link, which I’ll explore after I get a snack, since your cookie kick made me hungry and this gal hasn’t had lunch yet.

    Jessica! Wine. Mmm. Thanks for the finger-snapping video. I’m doing some revising today, too. Whee. I look forward to Tuesday night, too. Must do a quick post about it.

  10. Late and quick contribution this week. (Just drove 600 miles across the desert and back in 24 hours. Tired and behind on everything, sigh.)

    Love Andrea’s portraits (they’ve got Bette Davis eyes.)

    Jules! You’ve got the music in you this week; your blogging sings too. That EB White quote is a fave of mine; “…write up, not down.” Yes!

    So nice to listen to Mark & Andrea this week. I clamor for more.

    Wonderful kicks as always – heartbreaking songs, good book suggestions, inspiring fundraisers, conferences and book launches, funny Biblical and catchy Maccabee videos, blog-star cameos. : – )

    An aside to Tarie: Oh, West Wing – best smart-people dialogue ever! Fun Kid-lit trivia: Did you know that Bradley Whitford (aka Josh Lyman) is the brother of author/picture-book guru Ann Whitford Paul?

    My (sorta) kicks:
    — Went to a memorial service for my uncle Jim, in Lake Havasu, AZ.
    A kind, funny and adventurous man; a calm and joyous service.

    — Driving across Calif. / Ariz. high desert: Saw several of those long, long, long, long, long, long freight trains. More than 100 containers, some double-high. Colorful ones. One black snaky one made up only of tanker cars. Something sad, mesmerizing, about long trains.

    — Finally pinned down a chapter that I had to wrestle with.

    Have fun holiday shopping everyone (Some folks are done, already?!)

  11. Oops! Make that AMANDA’s portraits. Amanda Laurel Atkins. (Sorry… I make mistakes when I go quickly.)

  12. Jules,
    Thank you so much for the beautiful post, and thanks to all the people who left really neat comments above! I’m very honored to be on Seven Impossible Things. 🙂

  13. Denise, sorry to hear about your uncle. Good thing you were able to go, though. Congrats on nailing the chapter.

    Amanda, keep in touch!

  14. Mark: More, more, more, more! =D

    Little Willow: Yay for full nights of sleep!

    Little Willow and Jules: I enjoyed the movie. But I liked the first movie (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) much better. Probably because I didn’t like The Voyage of the Dawn Treader BOOK so much.

    JES: Have fun at the poetry reading!

    Jessica: Yay for wine and movie with the hubby!

    Denise: Thanks for the trivia! Did you know that children’s and YA book author Paula Yoo was a writer for The West Wing? =D

    I am also sorry about your uncle passing away. =(

  15. Super late fly-by kicks this week. Love the ladies, on some level they reminded me of lots of the women in Portland because of the imagery on their skin. There is a lot of tattoo culture here, so not unusual to see men and women with artwork all over their bodies…love the eyes here, and the retro look as well. But that fox toy is super cool.

    Jules, I agree with JES, the tone of your kicks is very joyous this week. Thanks for all the music links, and the image of you comforting your 6 year old is just beautiful. (I have been known to sob at the death of a favorite character as well, and would be willing to bet many others do too.)

    Quick Kicks:
    1. Scoring the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas CD. I had a copy but it got stolen when my old car was stolen a few years back. This cd ALWAYS puts me into the Christmas spirit, and I am so happy to have it again.
    2. Finished reading The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip.
    3. Sent a thank-you package of Oregon goodies to good friends back in the south. (This is an achievement, it takes me forever to be that organized.)
    4. Watching The 10th Kingdom, only finished the first disc though. That wolf that reads/quotes self-help books keeps cracking me up. (Thanks JES for the reccomendation!)
    5. Season 3 of Californication. Raunchy, ridiculous, and oh-so-funny.
    6. Sunshine this weekend!
    7. This song is my new obsession, it was played at the end of one of the Californication episodes, Dan Wilson is the singer, the song is Sugar:

    Wishing everyone a sweet sweet week!

  16. Have a sweet sweet week too, Rachel! :o)

  17. Rachel, that song is lovely. And sad. And beautiful.

    It also takes me forever to mail a simple package. I know how good it feels to get that accomplished.

    The Muppets and John Denver = one of the most under-rated, um, duos (?) in music.

  18. Thanks Tarie! : )

    I hoped you might like it too….I am just in love with it….and it fit the episode perfectly.

    On a lighter note, here’s Miss Piggy singing Christmas is coming:


  19. Rachel, did you see the comment at that video about being able to hear the crew member laughing after Gonzo speaks at one point? Funny.

  20. Illustrate my books!

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