My wife took this picture as we were walking out of TJ Max (where we found the tail). I didn’t realize the lighting was so nice when she took it. On Facebook I noted that it was surprising how many people just started talking to me because I was carrying around a big, sequined mermaid tail, and almost all of them had daughters that were totally interested in the Third Grade Mermaid series once we got to talking. I’m not sure what the exact lesson here is, but never, ever be afraid to walk around TJ Max with a mermaid tail over your shoulder. You never know who’ll meet.
Most people are sadly unaware of how devastating the accumulation of plastic is becoming in our world, especially in the oceans. Some of the worst culprits are plastic straws. Not only can they never be recycled (which is something I didn’t even know until recently), when they are washed into the ocean, they have many horrific effects. For one, they can get stuck in turtles’ noses, like that one moving video that went viral last year, but even after they breakdown, they actually get ingested by even more marine creatures. And if this doesn’t kill them directly, those plastic-filled creatures gets eaten by larger ones, who often end up getting eaten by us.
I won’t pretend that breaking the habit of just using a plastic straw is easy though. This here is a picture of me with a metal straw at a restaurant in Daytona Beach. I’ve been bringing this type of straw around for a little bit now, and honestly find it more than a little cumbersome. So I’m looking into some alternatives. The thing about plastic straws is they are convenient, and think if we have any hope of replacing them, the replacement must be just as easy to use.
I regularly do Skye in the Classroom visits with classes all over the world. Recently I met a particularly enthusiastic class in Poland, and just had to make a note of it. The main thing that stands out to me when I visit classes in different countries is just how similar people are all over the world. Thanks to technology like Skype, one day communication with others around the world will be as common as seeing your neighbor down the street.
For me, this is the year of the Jellyfish! With my 5th book coming out, I am really being pulled in more directions than ever before. On one hand this is great, of course, but on the other hand, I am realizing it is so important to stay focused on the bigger goals and most important things in life: family, relationships, and helping others. Yes, I am all about working until I fall asleep in my chair (and I’ve done PLENTY of that), but this year, I’m really going to be sure that work doesn’t outweigh life. Here’s to great 2019!!!!
For the last few years I’ve been doing a custom Holiday Card to end the year. The first year I printed about 25 of them and gave them out to just my closest friends. But over time, people have actually ASKED for the card. So my list has grown to well over 300 of my “closest” friends who get an actual printed copy.
This year’s card is the first in awhile that doesn’t have a mermaid on it. It features some of the characters from my upcoming book, I AM NOT A FISH! I’m really satisfied with how this one turned out. I think it’s just how darn friendly the starfish looks! Anyway, Happy Holidays, everyone! This year has definitely been one for the books!!!
Over the last few years I have met thousands of individuals all over the world, but I can honestly say that few groups—of any age—display the level of manners, confidence, and camaraderie that The Girl Scouts have.
Last year I became a partner with The Girl Scouts of Citrus, which covers 6 counties in Central Florida. This means that I am able to offer Drawing and Painting Workshops as well as other classes of interest to Girl Scouts from Daisies (Kindergarten to first grade) up to Ambassadors (grade 11-12).
These photos are from a Painting Badge Workshop I did with an amazing group of Brownies at their headquarters in downtown Orlando. The class was 2 hours long, with the class size limited to 15 so everyone gets quality instruction. Afterwards there was a book signing, and once I was thoroughly impressed. The care for reading and respect for writing was obvious with these girls, and I can hardly wait for my upcoming workshops in the spring.
I wish I had the chance for someone to show me how to draw when I was younger. I did have art class in school, but there were no high-end professional artists in my area to learn from. That’s one of the main reasons I like to offer drawing classes to kids when I can. It’s often very informal, and I’m talking about very basic stuff, like starting with simple shapes, and the thickness of lines, but it’s amazing how far just a little bit of good instruction can go.
This pictures are from one such class at the local library. It was a free, 2-hour class on drawing marine life. I showed the kids how to draw sea turtles, coral reefs, sharks, and mermaids.
For several years in a row, the local Chick fil-A has teamed up with the local K-8 school in Celebration, Florida for a Storybook Pumpkin Decorating Contest. This year I was blown away to find out that 2 classes had used Third Grade Mermaid books as their inspiration!
I participate in the Skype in the Classroom program on a very regular basis, usually having several Skype calls a week. In the last year I’ve had nearly 150 visits with classrooms on 6 continents. Even though I have had quite a few teachers send me thank you packages or ask for repeat visits, I have never had the pleasure of meeting any of the teachers I’ve Skyped with…until today.
I won’t mention her name for privacy, but it was a true pleasure to meet up with this compassionate and progressive teacher from Broward County, Florida. I was able to sign books for her students, give the class an original drawing, and even record a video message for them.
I live in Florida. Even though I actually live in the middle of the state, a beach is no more than an hour away in either direction. This has helped me become all the more aware of how important not only the beaches are for every aspect of life (from relaxation to the economy), but also how important the ocean itself is.
Without wading too deep into the topic, the reality is that human beings have poured more damaging pollution into the ocean and into "landfills" in the last 50 years than in the last million years combined. I remember quite vividly being taught in schools that all this was totally normal. (i.e. the garbage man comes by, collects the garbage, then drives it to the landfill. And that's just where it goes. Out of sight. Out of mind). In fact, I will only speak for myself here, but I long had the impression that in time it all just disintegrated back into the earth at some point. But not surprisingly, it doesn't. The millions of tons plastic and chemicals and garbage that is "thrown away" each day don't actually go "away" at all. It's just that the world, especially the ocean, is so big that it only seemed that way for a few years.
The point is, we as a world are well past the point of needing to be aware of this. I fully support groups like 4 Ocean who are not only invaluable for increasing awareness, but their entire business model revolves around battling the mounting the problem.
All of this trash was picked up by hand in just a few hours from what many would consider an otherwise pristine stretch of beach in St. Petersburg, Florida. One of the key things that the 4 Ocean crew does is separate the collected materials, and makes sure that as much as possible is recycled. The collection of the trash does more than just keep the beach nice to look at. It makes sure it doesn't get eaten by the animals or make it's way into the ocean, where it often gets eaten by the marine life.
Of course, beach clean ups are just the tip of the ice burg of what needs done. Literally thousands of tons of garbage is dumped into the ocean every single year, and there's no way to pick it all up. To me though, the biggest value of companies like 4 Ocean is the way they are able to educate the general public on a worldwide problem that is very close to burying us all.
This is at The Living Seas exhibit at Epcot. I know I'm not the only one who loves yellow tang fish. There easy one of the most popular aquarium fish of all...right up there with clown fish and blue tangs (the kind of fish Dory is in Finding Nemo).
At the High Museum of Art to see an incredible display of original Winnie the Pooh artwork, writing, and memorabilia. As an artist, it is both inspiring and humbling to be the presence of such overwhelming ability.
For research last weekend, I visited one of the BEST AQUARIUMS on the planet!!! The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia! Check out this sketch I did there. Those proportions are correct! And yes, they have actual WHALE SHARKS in a 6.3 million gallon tank!
We had an amazing behind-the-scenes tour, which included seeing how their biologists feed the whale sharks with scoops of krill from boats as the tranquil sharks trail behind, and the massive operation of creating and cleaning millions of gallons of salt water every single day.
It's pretty hard to beat a beachside book signing! But that's exactly what I was lucky enough to do this last weekend at the Sea Turtle Awareness Day Event in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Sponsored by the world famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the event featured dozens of beachside booths filled with turtle biologists, educators, activists, and artists like myself, all with the greater purpose of cleaning the beaches and educating others about some of the most amazing seacreatures of all: SEA TURTLES!
Most people don't know that six of the seven species of sea turtles worldwide are listed as either threatened or endangered due to human actions or lifestyles by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), meaning the very existence of sea turtles is in serious jeopardy!
Fortunately, there are many everyday ways to help. To get started, here's a link to some simple tips to help protect our underwater friends. See you soon!
I'm big on going to things that foster inspiration, and this truly incredible sand sculpture exhibit definitely fits the bill. I have to make clear though, this is just sand...NOT sugar. The name Sugar Sand comes from the "sugar white" sands of Clearwater beach. But that said, I'll just let the images speak for themselves. Note the onlookers in some of the images. They help to give a good sense of the scale of these breathtaking sculptures.
Ok, so some time has gone by since my last entry, as I have been busy working on a new Picture Book and traveling to book signings and events nearly every weekend. One thing I have participated in recently though is one of many "beach cleanups" held in Clearwater Beach, Florida (about 2 hours from where I live). Sponsored by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and by the county itself, these cleanups are so simple, yet so crucial it's astounding.
Seeing how much trash that is literally just thrown or left along the beautiful causeway towards Clearwater Beach is truly eye opening. But not only do the dozens of volunteers picking up hundreds of pounds of trash help keep the area pristine to the eye, these efforts help stop these mountains of plastics and metals and chemicals from making their way into the water, where they do nothing but harm to the the marine life.
I highly recommend participating in any kind of "clean up" in your area. They not only do tons of good for environment, to be perfectly honest, they are fun.
This last weekend was yet another AMAZING time at the Crayola Experience Orlando! It was the final weekend with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium there to teach us about some of the remarkable work they do. And this weekend was all about Sea Turtles!
A big highlight for me was to meet a real marine biologist from the Clearwater Aquarium who brought in all kinds of interesting things to see, like actual turtle shells and a model of an underground sea turtle nest!
Of course, it wouldn't be a Crayola Experience without DRAWING! And that's actually why I was there: to show the many young guests how to draw a Sea Turtle using the simple shapes they already know. Check out the huge page of sea turtles (below) created by the kids I was teaching. When they came up, I just had them pick an open spot to draw, and by the end of the day we had several pages filled with beautiful, Crayola crayon-drawn sea turtles!
When Cora Mermaid is challenged by her snobby rival, Vivian Shimmermore, to prove that narwhals actually exist, Cora and her underwater friends go on an ocean-crossing adventure to find a mysterious, migrating pod of "the unicorns of the sea!"
For the second year in a row, the West Osceola Branch Library was filled with Third Grade Mermaid fans lining up to be the first to get an autographed copy. Benefitting from last year's experience, this event was slightly better organized, and more fun than ever!!!
One of the BEST parts of coming to an actual Book Release, at least MY Book Releases, is the giveaways! Several people walked away with original artwork, some of which was drawn right onto Starbucks gift cards!!!