7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #456: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Moeckel

h1 November 1st, 2015 by jules

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It’s the first Sunday of the month (happy November!), so I’m featuring the artwork of a recent grad today. Her name is Amanda Moeckel, and she tells us all about herself below and shares more art, so let’s get right to it.

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Amanda: My mom told me recently that my first word was “light,” so apparently my obsession with things that glow began long ago. Earlier this year, I graduated from School of Visual Art’s MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program, and I completed this children’s book dummy as a thesis. It’s called Only the Good Dreams, and it’s based on a ritual I had before bed, where I would ask my stuffed animals for protection from bad dreams. You can see the extended trailer/promo video here.


Cover and early sketches
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Grad school changed the way I work in that I became a more expressive, less realist, painter. Trying to ignore all my previous traditional training in photorealism took me into interesting and liberating territory. It was hard to break free from something people have responded well to, but I learned that being a good illustrator was much more than being able to paint accurately. There is a great illustrator in my class named Elaheh Taherian, and I remember asking how she knows when her drawing is finished, since it’s not based at all on realism. That’s when I realized that “real” is only one of many litmus tests of “good.” Designing one’s own “real” and using that as a standard seems to be the mark of a true creative. Frank Viva comes to mind. Or Mary Blair. I’m still stretching to find my “real,” but I think I’m getting there.


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Being in this program also helped me find ways to bring meditation, something that I’ve always seen as separate from art, into my daily art practice. It helps when I’m beginning a project — or stuck somewhere in the middle. It helps me come up with ideas and make better decisions about mark-making, colors, and composition. For the book dummy, I used a visualization technique to structure my book. I began by choosing a piece of music. I felt Chopin would be best, because of his dreamy and unpredictable song structure. I found a song that captured the feel of the story I wanted to tell (it’s the one I use in the video), and I played it over and over as I laid out the flow of the book. I penciled the images out in a tiny little paper dummy, the motion, figure placement, open spaces, and busy spaces determined by the flow of the song. The final dummy remained pretty true to those initial marks and compositions.


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My biggest influences are probably the fantastical films from my childhood, and that’s probably why I’m drawn to dreamy stories. Being a child of the ’80s, I always come back to The Last Unicorn, The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. As an adult, I discovered Harry Clarke and Kay Nielsen, who clearly influenced my favorite books as a child — fairy tales illustrated by the Grahame Johnstone sisters.


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Stories I hope to illustrate in the future would be ones based on allegory, symbolism, or metaphor. Fables would be great. My dream would be something as important as The Giving Tree. Or narrative imaginary tales, like Aaron Becker’s Journey. So the plan is to get my work out and hopefully be assigned stories like that. I try to set aside time every week to develop my own stories as well — and have a few infant ideas in the works.

For this book dummy, I worked in acrylics and chalk pastels on illustration board. I’ve recently gotten into silkscreening, though, so I think that process will make its way into my work more and more. It helps me think more graphically with shape and line, as I tend to load up on texture.


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Right now I’m working on an entry for the Tomie dePaola Award for the SCBWI Winter Conference. Also, I’m researching art reps and publishing houses and putting together my wish list! I recently had a full-page illustration in Playboy magazine [below], and I’m working on an editorial portfolio as well.


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If there’s one thing I took from grad school, it’s that the age of being just a children’s book illustrator or just an editorial illustrator or just a fine artist is fading away. I find this exciting! While I’m keeping my eyes on the children’s book prize, I want my hands in ALL that delicious stuff.

Thank you so much for featuring my work, Jules. I’ve been a fan of this blog for a long time, and it was a huge reason I went back to school. THANK YOU for all that you do!


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All artwork used by permission of Amanda Moeckel.

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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 * * *

If illustrators thank me in posts like this, I tend to just skip that part so that the focus can be on them, not me. But it makes me happy that 7-Imp was one reason Amanda decided to study illustration, so I left that. (P.S. You can see even more of her work here.)

As for kicks, I was prepared to type up seven separate kicks, but then I read this from author-illustrator Maira Kalman, which is so lovely and so perfectly aligned with the spirit of the kickin’ we do here every Sunday that I think I’ll leave it at that. Please do read that. (It’s not even very long, and so it won’t be terribly time-consuming.)

Profoundly grateful. For the earth and the sea. The sun and the stars. The people, the dogs, the trees, the fish, the buses, the paintings, the coffee, the music and the unstoppable energy of all of those who are alive.

Yep. That about covers it.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

20 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #456: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Moeckel”

  1. Thank you so much, Jules! Still pinching myself 🙂

  2. Good morning, Imps! Happy new month!

    Amanda: Sending you light. The Neverending Story is an amazing book and a great movie!

    Jules and Maira: Very nice.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1. Cards
    2. Break
    3. Hours
    4. Discussions
    5. Pages
    6. Time
    7. Gratitude

  3. Thanks for sharing your light filled work, Amanda.

    Jules – I love Maira and that quote.

    1-5 Went to NYC and saw the Original Art show. There was so much beautiful work although it go pretty crowded so I’m sure I missed some. I also got to hang out with many of my kidlit friends. I met some people in person that I only knew online and I met some new friends too. All and all a good whirlwind trip.
    6. I completed Inktober and made a complication video that tells the story. http://youtu.be/mTF-dscagu8
    7. Trick or treating with my niece and nephew was so cute and fun.

    Happy November all

  4. Amanda, I look forward to the day a book state you’re the illustrator. Such expressive work.
    Jules, thanks for sharing Kalman’s post. So much to be grateful.
    My kicks:
    1. Watching birds come to the suet.
    2. Lunch with a friend.
    3. Still thinking about last Saturday’s poetry workshop.
    4. Stormy weather.
    5. Watching the Nightmare Before Christmas with the Oregon Symphony lay the score.
    6. Grand girls.
    7. Student poetry.
    Have a great week.

  5. Moira, the Problem goal Art show sounds fun.

  6. 1. The Kalman quote (and just reading about her new book about the dogs in her life) “profoundly grateful” – that does say it all
    2. These beautiful illustrations and learning about Amanda and wishing her well in all endeavors
    3. feeling healthy and energetic
    4. Accomplishing a pen and ink drawing every in October day to post on blog, but mostly for the doing. For the last batch I drew patterns and loved, reminding me how important to draw every day
    5. a pink astronaut in Alaska
    6. a baby chick in Los Angeles
    7. Walking here in Washington – even in rain and thunder

    Thank you Julie!

  7. Omigosh. I love these samples of Amanda Moeckel’s work. And I love the idea behind her thesis. Please let us know if that book sees the light of day!

    And omigosh too, Jules — the Maira Kalman quote…!

    Some zip-quick kicks here:

    (1) End of EDT for the year. Yay!
    (2) The Missus’s Spawn of Satan Hallowe’en chili (only coincidentally abbreviated “SoS”). She combined three different recipes, and cooked it all day in her new crockpot. By evening I was ready to go out and rampage among the wildlife if we didn’t eat soon.
    (3) Preparing for a (brief) family visit in a week…
    (4) …involving, partly, a rummage among a bunch of stuff stored in the home office. Memories!
    (5) The variously surprising blessings of online tech.
    (6) Old flicks.
    (7) Our successful (IMO) months-long experiment with butter instead of margarine.

    Have a great week, Kickers!

  8. Happy November Imps!

    Love the light-filled and dreamy illustrations – thanks for sharing Amanda!

    Jules – love that Kalman quote.

    LW – love all your kicks, but especially breaks, discussions and gratitude.

    Moira – what a great week! Especially your trip to NY and trick or treating with your niece and nephew.

    Jone – ooh, watching Nightmare Before Christmas with a live symphony sounds delightful. Hope you’re staying dry in this wet weather!

    Katy – yay for feeling healthy and energetic!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Super busy week – which is good.
    2) HH catch up & celebrating friend who got a new job.
    3) Laughing at the ridiculousness of a situation.
    4) Two costume parties two Saturdays in a row!
    5) Waking up to storming rain in my cozy bed.
    6) Hugs.
    7) Trick or treating with 3-6 year olds in the pouring rain – Portland kids are determined creatures when it comes to getting their Halloween candy.

    Have a wonderful week everyone!

  9. Thanks for visiting, Amanda!

    Little Willow, since you’re probably the hardest-working person I know, “break” is good to read!

    Moira, I saw your photos of the art show. JEALOUS!

    Jone, if you’re still thinking about that workshop, that meant it was well worth your time.

    Katy: “A pink astronaut in Alaska” is mighty intriguing (unless it’s some news story I’m supposed to know and, pathetically, do not).

    John: BUTTER FOR THE WIN! Safe travels to you, and I laughed, reading about that chili. It sounds mighty good.

    Rachel, two costume parties in a row means you’re living well.

    Glad you all could even leave comments. Spam has been acting up. We may have fixed it?

  10. Omigosh, what a nice surprise to see all these sweet comments this evening! Thank you all for the well wishes. Hey, I think I’ll do my first 7 Kicks! Gratitude is the coolest.

    1. My surprising new interest in football(!?) (It took a very patient fiance who doesn’t mind my at least 7 questions per game)

    2. My dogs, always and every day

    3. The Thai grocery store we recently found and the $4 bag of thai tea that will be sure to last months

    4. David Bowie, “Rock N’ Roll Suicide”

    5. graceful hand inspiration from old Renaissance paintings

    6. Sunday night television, hands-down best night of the week.

    7. Hafiz poems, my favorite today being:

    “It happens all the time in heaven,
    And some day

    It will begin to happen
    Again on earth –

    That men and women who are married,
    And men and men who are

    And women and women
    Who give each other

    Often will get down on their knees

    And while so tenderly
    Holding their lover’s hand,

    With tears in their eyes,
    Will sincerely speak, saying,

    My dear,
    How can I be more loving to you;
    How can I be more kind?” – HAFIZ

  11. Rabbit, Rabbit

  12. Amanda, thanks for dropping a poem here. Lovely. I like Sunday night TV too, because of The Leftovers (which I lovingly call Meatloaf).

    Thanks, Moira! (She was testing the leaving-of-a-comment for me, given the new spam filter).

  13. Yes! That’s why I love Sunday night TV too. Such a great show! hahahaha… that one took me a minute. Also, Sister Wives. Thank goodness for DVR.

  14. I love how Amanda incorporated music into her creative process for Only the Good Dreams! Does she do that with all her projects?


  16. IT’S TRUE! We were just discussing that last night, Jules. It’s the best score ever on TV. It makes up for the occasional surprise gore.

  17. Good question, Tarie. Maybe Amanda can answer?

  18. Hi Tarie! Sorry I missed your comment yesterday. I don’t use it for all projects but I find it helpful for the big projects that involve many images. I use it as an anchor, I guess. Like when I get stuck or feel off track, I play the song and it anchors me back to the “feel” of the story. Then the mark-making, color and compositional decisions come easier. Does that make sense? I tend to pick an artist or genre that matches a project, start working, and listen for that perfect song or two that can anchor the project. Sometimes it can feel like cheating 😉

  19. Thank you so much for answering my question! 🙂

  20. […] and soulful, with touches of magic. Her work has been featured on The Children’s Book Podcast, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and other popular kidlit […]

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