7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #296:
Featuring Susan Eaddy and Mary Uhles

h1 September 9th, 2012 by jules


Above: Artwork from Mary Uhles



One of Susan Eaddy’s portfolio pieces, Bad Bunny
(Click to enlarge)

Do you know something I enjoy doing yet haven’t done as often as I’d like here at

Pass out snacks? Why, yes. If I could pass out actual snacks, I would. But another thing is to feature local talent. Local, as in local to me, of course. Meaning, middle Tennessee. The Nashville area.

And I’m here to do that today.

Yup, it’s 7-Imp Local Talent Sunday.

This means that this morning I welcome author/illustrator Susan Eaddy—who works in clay and also worked as an Art Director in educational book publishing for nearly ten years—and watercolor illustrator Mary Uhles (that’s her illustration pictured left), who has been doing illustrations for children for over a decade. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them recently and even got to visit Susan’s wonderful art studio in her home — with my amazed daughters in tow. (They were impressed with her lovely studio and all the art in it, but they were also amazed that Susan has a spacious, cozy lair just for her cat. They still talk about this. I must also add that Susan makes a wicked good cup of coffee.)

Susan makes fun videos, too. See Bad Bunny above? He’s got his own movie:

“I have recently discovered iMovie,” she told me, “and have been having a great time playing with it. I am a total amateur, but that doesn’t hold me back from having fun and even creating a video channel!” Yes, for those who want to see a 3-D illustrator/polymer clay artist/relief sculptor/clay-modeler at work (so many things to call this, so I’m throwin’ them all out here), Curious ClayThings is Susan’s channel. I’ve also embedded some videos into this post.

Both Mary and Susan are here to share illustrations and tell us more about their work, so I’ll get right to it. Let’s start with Mary.

* * *

Mary: I work in pencil and watercolor on cold press board. Then I scan in the images and do tweaks and color corrections in Photoshop. Tweaks can be as little as erasing dust to adding eyes onto a monster.

I consider my work about 70% traditional and 30% digital. I used to work on a hot-pressed surface with a mechanical pencil (left over from my days as an animator). Then, about a few years ago, I switched to a regular number two pencil that gets dull every few minutes. I really liked the line it created. I’m always searching for a way to keep the same energy that’s in my sketches going into the final piece.

Also a couple years ago, I got an assignment to create these covers in a kind of 1940s’ WPA style. I really love that style of art but found I could not do it at all on my hot-pressed surface, so I tried cold-pressed. The assignment turned out great.

At the same time, I was working on a process I call my portfolio facelift: Seven pieces that were all significantly better than the work I had been doing. Each one had to have story and character, and they also had to work well as a mailer. I started the first one of these on that cold-pressed surface and never went back. Some of my facelift pieces are below.

Several years ago, I was an animator for a children’s game company. While I was there, I really learned about how perspectives tell the story, how they create drama — i.e., something looking down on something is really powerful; looking up makes the character seem small, powerless. I’ve tried to incorporate that and refine it in my work. I almost never do a straight-on view anymore (not sure how good that is):

Right now, I’m working on a couple of easy reader assignments and a magazine illustration for a magazine that’s like a German version of Highlights. Here are some previous illustrations from the same assignment:

I’m also working on brushing up three stories I’ve been submitting over the last year. I can’t give any details, but a couple days ago I got some possibly good news about one submission. Can’t say more, but maybe I’ve finally learned how to write a query letter! Here’s a piece and a teaser about each one:

Nothing All Day: When grumpy Big Brother has a bad day at school, his problems only get worse when his mother tells him to play with his sister before dinner. A giant mess ensues, but an unlikely alliance brings a better end to the day.

Zoo in the Tub: Mom says it’s bath time. But what happens when bath time
goes to the dogs … and the birds … and the bison …?

Twelve Months of Monsters: Follow four monsters through a whole year as they find something new—and something new to eat—in every month.

Here are some sketches that relate to this particular book.

This blog post describes a fairly important part of my artistic evolution over the last few years. I also think it’s something important for any aspiring children’s book illustrator to understand. And here’s some artwork that relates to that story.


* * *


Susan: I was inspired early on by an uncle, who was a college professor and ceramicist. When I was ten, he made this dragon for me which I have hauled around as my muse in every studio I’ve occupied from tiny closet-like spaces to my current rambling attic getaway. (My husband calls it The Playhouse.)

Susan’s dragon

“The Clay Table”

Up the stairs to Susan’s studio

I start with concepts, loose drawings, and finally a tight sketch for my clay work. This is always the hardest part! I do tons of the toughest problem solving in these stages, working on research, character design, composition, and palette.

Drawing from Patricia Hubbell’s Papa Fish’s Lullaby
(Click to enlarge)

Then the fun begins!

I love digging into the clay, and trying to figure out how to create my critters. As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I love the clay so much is that I don’t quite know how to do it! So I am forever problem-solving and always amazed when my picture starts to come to life.

Final spread from Papa Fish’s Lullaby
(Click to enlarge)

As you can see, I do anything from simplified shapes for the very young, as in my board books or Babybug Magazine, to crazily-detailed, as in Papa Fish’s Lullaby or Tide Pool for Click Magazine, where I get to indulge my inner obsessive.

From First Look at Trucks, published by Soundprints and
licensed by the Smithsonian Institution

(Click to enlarge)

Cover for Babybug Magazine

Pancake! for Babybug Magazine; video link below

From First Look at Aircraft, published by Soundprints and
licensed by the Smithsonian Institution

(Click to enlarge)

Tide Pool from Click Magazine; video link below

Another spread from Patricia Hubbell’s Papa Fish’s Lullaby

And there are always those that fall somewhere in between:

Quiet Mouse from Babybug Magazine; video link below, in which you learn how a turkey roaster pan assists Susan when she’s making art in the hot summer
(which clay hates) AND you get to see more of her kickin’ studio

(Click to enlarge)

Thanks so much to you for inviting me on your blog; it is a true honor for me.

* * *

Well, oh my. It’s wonderful to have both Susan and Mary here. Thanks again to both of them. As a reminder, Mary’s site is here, and here’s her blog. Susan lives here in cyberspace, and from there you can find her video channel.

All images used with permission of Susan Eaddy and Mary Uhles.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 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. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

During the course of composing this post and formatting these images, my friend and I have been emailing one another back and forth, gushing over the music of Noah Gundersen, whom we just discovered. (There are older YouTube videos where he sings with his family—at least I think it’s his family??—and HOLY HUBBA WOW, the harmonizing is so, so lovely.) He will be kicks one to seven today, since he’s crazy talented. As in, somebody please tell me where that boy’s music has been all my life.

Really, this video just might make your day. Maybe. Perhaps. Possibly. Give it a shot and see. It’s super fun, especially the very end. I wish I’d been in that crowd.

But the real reason I have to go is ’cause I’ve got a ton of manuscript work to do, so I gotta go work work work. It’s not even funny how much work I have to do, says my brain.

What are YOUR kicks this week? I’d love to hear them.

24 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #296:
Featuring Susan Eaddy and Mary Uhles”

  1. Hooray for middle-Tennessee Talent Sunday!

    RE: Mary’s watercolors – That porcine librarian sure seems content (in her starry dress). And why does a butterfly roasting a marshmallow make me laugh; I dunno, but it does. And the exit-the-hole doormat bunny is giving the exiter such a cranky look. Ha! And now I’m curious about what monsters eat in February.

    RE: Susan’s clay – I’m partial to the ocean scenes (ooooo those sea urchins, starfish and that snaky seaweed.) And how fun to watch the time-lapse claymation. (Man, she must be a very, very patient soul.) And her studio is pretty swell too.

    Jules – I’m playing Noah Gunderson as I compose my kicks. THX.

    My kicks this week: (I haven’t gone first for months.)

    1 – Younger son got his license the week before school started. I realized that this is the first time in… what? 21 years (!) that I haven’t had to be a diligent morning and afternoon chauffeur. [Shouldn’t we get some kind of award or something? “The Golden Steering Wheel” is presented to Mom for 21 years of accident-free service.”]

    2 – listening to the local coyotes harmonizing with the sirens on PCH.

    3 – a nice political collaboration with passionate people.

    4 – finished reading “Where Things Come Back”; such an unusual story and satisfying structure.

    5 – new art for my personal children’s library.

    6 – sweet green corn tamales (tis the season)

    7. – Jules, last Sunday you asked me about my younger son’s travels. SEE:

    Have a wonderful week everyone.

  2. Wow! What a glorious way to start my Sunday. Beautiful artwork.

    So kicks.. .

    1. The girls went back to school on Thursday and they love, love, love their teachers and classmates.
    2. Reading The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. A fun, easy read.
    3. Perfect fall weather this morning.
    4. Beginning to benefit from saying no to lots of different volunteer efforts. I have been over scheduled for years and this is my year to focus on me and our family.
    5. The feeling that September is a ‘new year.’
    6. Local pears and apples.
    7. Our adorable puppy. She is finally beginning to listen and she is much better company that way.

  3. Well hello there! Long time no kick. Love the art this week – esp. Mary’s umbrella girl (so true about perspective!) and all of Susan’s clay work. Denise, I love the idea of the Golden Steering Wheel award, and hadn’t heard about Where Things Come Back – sounds fascinating. Stacey, yay for saying NO! and putting yourself and your family first. My kicks:

    1. Well, that Noah Gundersen video is pretty awesome. I love how informal he is with the audience.

    2. My dog is doing much better on her medication. Still a long way to go, but better.

    3. I’ve even been keeping her in the bathroom instead of the crate during the day for a week, and no accidents!

    4. I have the sweetest, most supportive boyfriend in the world. He has put up with me through some really awful emotional crises lately. And after a truly disturbing series of sexual assaults around campus last week, he insists on driving me home after we hang out. Even though it’s only 5 blocks. And even when it’s 3a.m. and we’re leaving because my dog won’t stop barking.

    5. My new downstairs neighbor is very nice. And the other downstairs apartment, the one directly below mine, has been empty for months, so Betty and I can play fetch on the stairs and be as loud as we want.

    6. It’s that magical time of year when I can get local tomatoes AND local apples at the grocery store. Tried a new apple, Autumn Crisp. YUM.

    7. I’ve started blogging again, and after 3 weeks it’s still fun.

  4. OK, so much for a fly-by reading of today’s post.
    Now I’m watching videos and reading blog posts. Ha Ha.
    Love the local ladies work and their generosity when it comes to sharing process.
    My favorites are both images that give a peek at what is underneath. I’ve always loved that cross section view.
    Jules- Noah is adorbs (my daughter won’t let me say that in public). I love to go to small venue shows like that. Good luck with your work. Try not to let your head explode, please.
    Denise- Congratulations on your GSW. Keep on Trucking.
    Stacy- I agree about September. Yay for apple season!
    1.I have torn the art studio apart.
    2.My carpenter husband is helping me with construction issues.
    3.I am tossing a bunch of stuff out, which is too bad for the future Moira Swiatkowski Museum but I need the room.
    4.Kids are back to school
    5. The dryer is busted and I am not freaking out.
    6. I bought postcard stamps.
    7. A few kind words are enough to keep me going.
    Have a great week all.

  5. Oh my! I admire both of these ladies so much. Susan’s style, especially just blows my mind, and I’ve enjoyed watching Mary’s awesome work evolve over the years. GREAT feature! 🙂

  6. (waving) flying by…am visiting good friends love the art work and all the kicks so far. My kicks is friend’s and great week of schoo.
    Have a great weeks.

  7. I LOVE the work of both these talented artists! Thanks for sharing their processes; it’s fascinating for a non-illustrator to see the very different ways accomplished people can work. But why no photo of the cat lair? Did the cat refuse permission?

  8. Good morning, Imps! Happy September to you!

    Hi there, Susan and Mary. I particularly like that happy pig. She reminds me of Amanda Pig, School Girl. Your Cheshire Cat looks appropriately crafty. Thank you for sharing your creations with us, and good luck with your works-in-progress and submissions!

    Jules: Good luck with the manuscript work! RE: Noah Gunderson: Looks like a fun show and happy crowd.

    Denise: Congrats to your son! I am picturing the coyotes with badges. Or siren-shaped hats.

    Stacey: Happy new school year to your daughters. I treat September as the start of a new year, too.

    eisha: So glad to hear that you are safe and sound. So glad that your dog is improving. What color is the Autumn Crisp apple?

    Moira: I hope that the reconstruction and reconfiguration of your studio and such all goes well. Just think how awesome and inspirational the space will be when it looks the way you want it to look!

    Hi Elizabeth. Hi Jone. Hi Tracy.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Happy new year to me!
    2) Audition
    3) Rehearsals
    4) Possible October event
    5) Possible November event
    6) Copy-editing my friend’s books that I love
    7) Writing

  9. Love today’s artists, Jules! (What’s in the water up there, anyhow? and how do I get some in the water down HERE?)

    One of the things I like about Mary’s work is the tension between the gentleness of her watercolors and the, well, the flat-out terror of some of the situations, and the kids in them. I can see that this probably appealed to your own twisted inner self, Jules.

    (She’s got a really nice Web site, too. This post at her blog, from a couple of weeks ago, made me laugh out loud.)

    Mary’s clayworks, well, my gosh. Please tell me that after the photo/video shoots the originals are not simply smooshed back together for future re-use. (In which case, she’ll probably notice her colors getting duller and duller and duller, ha.) Does she, like, laminate them or something? How would you store something like them?

    (Get a load of this image from her site. See how it uses lighting and shadow? Is that great, or what?)

    Noah (and Abbie) Gunderson: great stuff. Thanks for the rec, Jules!


    1. Serendipity. As in: watched (and liked) Susan’s Bad Bunny video (as you might have predicted). And then I watched one of the “related videos” YouTube suggested… which turned out to be a cover of “White Rabbit” (by Emiliano Torrini). Ha!, says I, Serendipity! And then I come back to this post to find THE VERY NEXT ILLUSTRATION by Mary features Alice and that Cheshire guy. Serendipity!!!, I tell ya.
    2. Finished The Night Circus, and felt really really happy and satisfied. Wonderful book. (And, Little Willow — if/when they make a film of it, you really need to audition for it. Start choosing your role NOW.)
    3. OMG everybody, did you see Jules’s video this week, “rambling” about children’s books?!? (Like Denise said in the comments to that post, it was great to put together the gestures and facial expressions and such with the writing voice we know from 7-Imp.)
    4. My only niece is getting married in November. She and her guy set up a Web site for the occasion, with capsule autobios, details about the event, and so on. Among her self-professed dislikes: “sharks, tidal waves, tidal waves of sharks.” Cracked, me, UP. (That is soooooo much like something I can hear her say, with the merest sly hint of a grin.)
    5. Good black-and-white photos.
    6. Postponed reading about or watching anything from the Charlotte convention until it was over…
    7. …and really liked what I saw when I finally did. (A FB friend linked to this very interesting New Yorker news-blog post, about the differences between Clinton’s written (and teleprompted) speech, and the way he actually delivered it.)

    Have a great week, all!

  10. JES: I just placed a hold on The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Thanks for thinking of me! Now I’m intrigued.

    Jules, and other music-enjoying Imps: I just treated myself to three albums: My Stadium Electric by Erin McCarley, Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars, and As Above So Below by Azure Ray. And I’m writing, so that’s good. I just wrote a scene that’s been in my head for years. I always say that I really need to transfer my mental files to computer files, and I’m truly going to do this this year. These stories should be typed up and printed out and FILMED, darn it!

  11. Jules:
    The local artists, Susan and Mary, are wonderful. Love the sea turtle and the dogs/butterflies at the beach. I could fill my home with these beautiful things.
    Jules: Wishing you the very best on your manuscript and no more headaches.
    Denise: I would love to taste sweet green corn tamales.
    Stacey: September will always be the new year for me instead of January.
    Eisha: New apple flavors are the best.
    Moira: Good luck with the art studio re-do and am sending you a wave of kindness
    Jone: Where would we be without friends?

    My kicks:
    1. Cooler temperatures at last
    2. 1.3 inches of rain although we need ten times that (not all at once)
    3. a flock of flickers in the backyard perhaps getting ready to migrate
    4. slow walks with Xena
    5. picking fall flowers at a local farmer’s garden
    6. sunrise cloud pictures
    7. phone calls from friends

    Enjoy your week one and all. May each of you find a new perfect picture book.

  12. Fun Stuff! Love seeing these little video clips of Susan’s work (and her studio…almost as much fun to see how and where other artists work!)
    I also really like Mary’s unusual and drastic angles she uses in her storytelling. Adds an edge.

    Jules: Love the Noah Gundersen clip. And best of luck with that manuscripts
    Denise: What?… kids actually grow up and drive themselves one day? Can’t even begin to fathom that but I will live vicariously through you today at your non-chauffeuring role today.
    Stacey:Just say NO! Love to hear personal boundaries flourishing…and the gentle, unintended reminder.
    Eisha: Glad your dog is doing better. And, I love honey crisps…are Autumn Crisps anything like em?
    Moria: Your dryer kick made me laugh! Yay for not freaking out.
    Elizabeth: Not on your post, but I enjoyed the illustrator intensive in Atlanta so much. Great job.
    Jone: Enjoy those friends.
    Tracy: I thought the same thing. I love the thought of a cat lair.
    Little WIllow: Sounds like a busy, productive good few months for you in store.
    Jes: Yes, that Candlewick video Jules did was great. Love the line about children’s books being portable art galleries…so nice.
    Margie: We have cooler temps here too and I’m feeling a little dizzy from the wonderful breeze.

    1 – Don’t mean to get political here…but I have a huge crush on Michelle Obama and thought she did such a wonderful job this week.
    2 – More relief from my back pain. So glad.
    3 – Just bought Show Me a Story by Leonard Marcus and I’m enjoying in.
    4- The aforementioned made me revisit my the Ursuala Nordstrom letter book by Leonard Marcus and I forgot how much I love her.

  13. Little Willow, Autumn Crisp apples are red with golden highlights. And Lori, they’re a hybrid between Cortland and Golden Delicious, but I’d put the flavor in the Honeycrisp/Gala family. Sweet and tart and crunchy. I’ve had two already today, one of which I sliced and dipped in Nutella.

  14. Hey ya’ll, thanks so much for the nice comments on my work. I can’t say how much of a compliment it’s is to be featured here;)
    Denise: congrats on receiving the Golden Steering Wheel. Ad i’m currently years about from this myself i can only imagine the sense of freedom it brings;)

    Moira: I recently also tossed a bunch of old sketchbooks and art, i decided that while it is a shame that it will not be auctioned for millions at Sotheby’s one day, it will make the audience gasp in disbelief when they make my bio pic for the History Channel, so you gotta do what you gotta do LOL

    My kicks:
    1) obviously being featured on 7 imp with the amazingly talented Susan Eaddy, who’s talent and generous spirit make her gem of an artist and a person.

    2) celebrating the last saturday of my 30’s Saturday night dressed up in pink hair and leg warmers at the 80s bash my husband and friends threw for me.

    3) fun day at state fair with fan and bff

    4) almost time for scbwi mid south conference next week whoo hoo! gotta go finish up an illo….

  15. Denise, tried to look at Max’s photos, but I couldn’t get past that first one. It’s very likely I’m just missing something or being a ginormous idiot. And I tried to play the under-one-minute video, and my virus blocker blocked some kind of malware/virus. What am I doing wrong?

    Stacey, it makes me happy that your girls have great teachers and are enjoying school. My eight-year-old likes her teacher just fine but would always rather stay home. (Not like she’s miserable either, but I think if I told her I’d homeschool her, she’d squeal in happiness.)

    Eisha: Go, Betty! Go, Benjamin! Go, Nutella!

    Moira: Noah is adorbs. Indeed. Thanks for the head-exploding wishes (or lack of head-exploding). I’m doing my best. And I already told you how much I loved the Moira Swiatkowski Museum kick. (Does tearing your studio apart mean cleaning it up or construction or both?)

    Hi, Elizabeth!

    Jone, hi! I’m waving as you fly by. Glad school is going well. Lucky students.

    Tracy, hi there to you, too! DOH, I never got a photo of the kitty lair. Should have.

    Little Willow, I love that it’s a new year for you. September seems like a great month for that, indeedyo. … So glad you’re writing.

    John, nope, Susan does not smoosh her clay pieces back together. Good question. She stores them in pizza boxes (if memory serves me correct). … Congrats to your niece, and thanks for the Clinton link.

    Margie, what a good wish to send us out on. I like your kicks this week (well, every week, too); they are about the simple things, and those are always the best.

    Lori: Michelle in 2016! Long live Ursula, too. And I’m glad your back pain is subsiding.

    Mary: Oh! Happy belated birthday! An ’80s bash = BRILLIANT! Thanks for visiting 7-Imp.

  16. I’m popping in before I go to bed, just so I can read everyone’s kicks. Happy week, everyone!

  17. Hi, dear Farida. It’s after midnight, and I’m finally popping out. (Can someone pop out? Ah well, I am about to.)

  18. Jetlag prevented me from coming by last night, but had to stop by this morning to say HELLO FROM THE USA! I am already having a great time, and will join you all in writing a list about enjoying “fall” weather and apples next week.

    Fun illustrations and kicks as always…

  19. Emmaco: Glad you made it safely. Welcome to the U.S. Wish we could get coffee. Have fun!

  20. Flyby this week – but really wanted to say how much I love the artwork this week! Really love Mary’s puppies toasting marshmallows, and Susan’s gorgeous sea turtle!

  21. So happy to see this amazing work! I especially love Susan’s incredible attention to detail and the videos that show her meticulous process. She’s talented in so many ways! And Mary’s original perspectives and dynamic characters pull you right in.

    Hi to all!

    Denise: We need to make you that Golden Steering Wheel!

    Stacey: I’m with you on that fall weather. So happy!

    Eisha: Will look for those Autumn Crisp apples. Yum!

    Moira: Love tossing stuff out! Feels so good!

    JES: Loved Jules’ video!

    Lori: I need to read those Leonard Marcus books.

    Mary: You rock! Need to see the pink hair and leg warmers. Maybe at the conference? Your work is beautiful, as always.

    My kicks:

    1/Attending a reception to celebrate an author friend quitting her day job to write full time and seeing how much she was appreciated and loved at said day job.
    2/Getting ready for the SCBWI Midsouth fall conference next weekend! It’s going to be great!
    3/Shopping for a Halloween costume with 6yo and planning her birthday party.
    4/Watching 8yo pitch at his first scrimmage of kid-pitch baseball.
    5/Bantering and listening to music with friends via email when we’re supposed to be working.
    6/Breathing in that cool fall air.
    7/Shaking it at African dance and feeling (a good kind of) sore for two days.

  22. Hi, Rachel! Waving to blurry you!

    Jess: Shake it like a Polaroid picture. Thanks for being a late-night email music junkie with me. Happy birthday (in advance) to your daughter!

  23. Back on Monday for kickline hellos:

    Stacey – thanks for the Just Say No reminder/inspiration.
    eisha – your bf = nice, concerned fellow. Love “Betty” name; glad she’s recouping.
    Moira – your line about the sad loss to future MS Library made me laugh out loud.
    Jone – (waving back)
    Tracy – like your skeptical take on cat cooperation.
    LW – hope the event possibilities reach fruition. Funny coyote images!
    JES – niece sounds like a chip of the ole block (…tidal waves of sharks. hee-hee.)
    Margie – “flocks of flickers” alliteration begs its own poem or something.
    Lori – yes! and you get to exchange driving duty for teen-driver induced anxiety.
    Mary – have fun at the conference!
    jules – you weren’t failing; there’s only the one collage pic up at the moment. (It’ll be a while until he edits down his footage. Pic is sort of a ‘place holder’ for now.) My bad, for not explaining. Good luck with manuscript progress this week.
    Emmaco – “Living in the USA” soundtrack comes to mind.
    Rachel – hi.
    Jessica – I’m working on my GSW acceptance speech.

    Til next Sunday.

  24. Denise, ah, I see. No problem-o. And thanks for the well-wishes.

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