Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Birthday David Diaz - October 2

Happy Birthday David Diaz - October 2

Social media streams ideas to us every minute of the day.  Bloggers, promoters, companies, entrepreneurs, writers, and more are hoping to catch our eye with the latest and greatest craft, product, blog post, or way to use baking soda and vinegar (that is a Pinterest joke!).  We scroll right by most of the stuff without paying attention.  Some ideas may get us to click, read more, or even repin.  However, I love the feeling I get when I see an idea that inspires me to act and create.  This summer, I saw David Diaz present an idea that made me say, "I gotta try that!"  

David Diaz's journey toward a career illustrating picture books for children started at a young age, "I realized I wanted to be an artist when I was in first grade. I was working on a vowel worksheet, and was doing the word 'nose'. The sheet said N-blank-S-E. I filled the 'O' in, and then I drew a face in it.  And that's when I realized I wanted to be an artist." (Scholastic). After college, he started Diaz Icon, an illustration and design company. (NCCIL)  He designed book covers for Harcourt Brace, which gave him the opportunity to illustrate his first book, Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto.  It was the next project given to him by Harcourt, Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, that jump started his career when it was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1995.  "I had the book (Smoky Night) in the studio for nine months.  During that nine months, the actual painting for Smoky Night, I completed in two weeks. It was one of those times where I was just working constantly, on the book and other things.  There was a sort of lucky innocence about that." (

David Diaz has published a diverse array of children's books. According to Patricia Newman, "One of the most profound influences on Diaz's work is George Ohr, America's first art potter. '[Ohr's artisitic] influence is not about the images, but the approach to the work, says Diaz. 'No two pieces are alike; each piece is unique.'"  My family enjoyed David Diaz's illustrations in The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown which was created with watercolor, gouache, and pencil.  In stark contrast David Diaz cut shapes with an X-acto knife onto rubylith, then scanned, arranged, and colored the shapes using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for Pocahontas: Princess of the New World by Kathleen Krull. "I never try to second guess what's going to make kids laugh or hold their attention. I just try to make the images as appropriate to the text as possible...I never try to make something cute just because it is for kids. (USM Children's Book Festival Flyer).

Last summer, I had the opportunity to hear David Diaz speak at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference. The director of the Mazza Museum, Benjamin Sapp, told a story that David had called the day before his keynote and asked for a door (yes, a door from home improvement store).  Sapp was worried that David was calling to cancel his appearance at the conference, and he said that getting him a door would be no problem as long as he was still coming!
Diaz pre-painted the door with acrylic paints for his presentation.  He asked a person from the audience to open a book that they were currently reading to a random page and read a paragraph.  He visualized what he heard from the passage and began his painting.
First, he drew a rough sketch with a black Sharpie.
The paragraph was about a woman swimming at the beach. 
He then went over the sketch with a huge paintbrush and india ink.  He never completely finished the painting, but his presentation was enough to inspire me to try this as activity with my children. (Click here to see another David Diaz door painting!)
I had to wait almost three months to celebrate David Diaz's birthday from the time I heard him speak.  You would think that I would have planned ahead and found a door to paint.  However, I didn't go shopping for a door until September 29th!  Luckily, I found the perfect door at a Habitat for Humanity Restore Shop for only $5!
My children and my niece primed the door to prepare it for painting the next day.
Instead of acrylic paints, we used house paint that was left in our basement when we bought the house last year.
My children picked two colors and they each painted half of the door to create a background. 
Then, we had to wait for it to dry. 
While they waited they were encouraged to sketch out what was going to be painted on the door.  They decided on a nature theme with trees, flowers, and animals. I am so glad that I suggested this.  Once the door was dry, they knew exactly what they wanted to paint.
The sunshine came out so we moved our painting into the front yard. 
First, they painted grass along the bottom. 
Trees were added.
Then, flowers, bushes, and clouds were added to the painting. At this point, my son pointed to the clouds in the sky and remarked on how cool they looked.  He then continued to paint his clouds.
My son was finished after his clouds were complete, but my daughter kept painting.
The finished project turned out fantastic.  I promised them we were going to hang it in the living room if it turned out well.  Tonight, we made a call to grandpa to figure out a way to safely hang it on the wall!
Here is a photo of some of David Diaz's illustrations that he had on display after his keynote presentation.  They weren't as big as a door, but they were stunningly large!
Currently, there is a great price on a new hardcover, Before You Came written by Patricia MacLachlan.  Diaz said in his talk that this book was, "one of his favorites." I also found that Diego: Bigger Than Life written by Carmer T. Bernier-Grand is only $1.30 for a brand new hardcover!


Once the holidays were over we had a chance to hang our painting.
The kids were excited to use their new drills they got for Christmas.
Grandpa helped us measure and make sure everything was straight.
They admired their masterpiece.
Took a step back to enjoy it from a different angle.
They were very pleased with the finished product. Now, they are planning a new painting for next year!


1. Biography - Gale CENGAGE Learning, NCCIL, Scholastic
2. Interviews - Scholastic, Patricia Newman, KidlitArtists
3. View his illustrations - Paper Tigers
4. Lost Weekend with David Diaz - Debbie Ohi's Inky Girl (Part 1, Part 2)
5. Follow David Diaz on Facebook
6. Going Home Teacher's Guide
7. Another image of a David Diaz door painting - How to be a Children's Book Illustrator
8. Me, Frida described on Seven Impossible Things


  1. What a fun idea, Eric! I want to come over and see your door mural! :-)

  2. This is awesome!
    I love David Diaz....I've seen him at the SCBWI conference in LA for the past two years...what a good idea to paint on a door and the one your children did turned out so awesome...that will look so great on the wall :)

    1. I really enjoyed meeting David Diaz. He was an very relaxed and welcoming person. Thanks for the compliments on the door!

  3. Another great project idea! We have lots of old doors stored in our barn...

    It must have been amazing to watch David Diaz work and to see his paintings up close.

    1. I want to see pictures if you paint doors!

      It was quite amazing to see him paint. Inspiring!

  4. The door-creation your kids painted is juts awesome. I loved seeing, reading and hearing more about David Diaz!

  5. stopping by from the kit lit blog hop - what a cool project and great idea! thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Wow! Have fun is that! Amazing - and all from an old door. I love the concept of your blog Eric and I'm now following you via G+ and Pinterest. I was already following you on Twitter. I know we connected in the past so I'm just saying hi!

    Thanks for linking in to the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :)

    1. Thanks Renee! Thanks for sponsoring the Kidlit Blog Hop! It always nice to have an opportunity to share my blog with a new group of people.

  7. This is one fantastic craft, and something you can keep as proof of your children's creativity forever. Awesome! Thanks for participating in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! I look forward to more from you :)

    1. Thank you! I hope you can continue stop by to celebrate with us!

  8. Wow, what a fantastic project! And thank you for celebrating such an amazing artist! I had seen his work before but didn't know anything about him. He sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing at the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  9. What a fun and h-u-g-e project to celebrate David Diaz's b'day.

    Thank you so much for continuing to comemorate authors and illustrators through your blog!

    What a great legacy you are passing on to your children...the wealth of information. I have had to place a halt on my blog for a while because of an international move, but yours comes to my mind frequently.

    It is a mine of information & knowledge!


You Might Also Like:

Related Posts with Thumbnails