March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Studio Tour: Cece Bell and Tom Angleberger


Married author/illustrators Tom Angleberger (center left) and Cece Bell (center right) take SLJ on a virtual tour of their studios at their home in rural Virginia. Book 1 of Angleberger and Bell’s new “Inspector Flytrap” series (Abrams) publishes this month.

Slide 1
Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell.
Slide 2
Cece: I've got a bunch of desks in my studio, which is actually a Home Depot barn structure that's been finished on the inside. No running water, but heat in the winter. This desk is the main one I use. I do a lot on my Wacom Cintiq, a large-screen, digital drawing tool—there's a lot to be said for multiple undo! Below my desk is the desk of my office manager, Esso. His job skills—napping and barking at delivery people—have made him invaluable.
Slide 3
Cece: Tom will tell you that I am a little bit nuts about organization. I mean, who in their right mind covers up the beauty of an Addam's Family Lunchbox with a label?
Slide 4
Cece: For big projects with a lot of illustrations (like "Inspector Flytrap"), I write descriptions of each illustration on individual sticky notes. When I complete an illustration, I stick its corresponding sticky note above my desk. I get a real sense of accomplishment when a sticky note gets added. And the sticky notes make my work space look more like Barbie's Dream House, a lifelong goal, for sure.
Slide 5
Cece: No one really needs this many pens and pencils and scrappy brushes. And a feather quill? Good grief. But everyone does need a lot of erasers, and I keep mine in the Sock Monkey box on the lower right.
Slide 6
Cece: I love my shelves under the stairs of my studio. I work a lot better when everything is labeled so I don't have to spend all my time looking for the perfect crayon. The desk is my mother's old kitchen desk from the house where I grew up. When my parents redid the kitchen, I was able to nab it. It's famous now—it's in "El Deafo!"
Slide 7
Cece: I take a walk up into the mountains near our house in rural Virginia almost every day. Esso comes along, too. Walking unlocks new ideas in my brain and helps me piece together stories. I put on crazy-big boots in the winter and trudge uphill, just to experience the awesome brain-jiggling that occurs on these walks. I think Tom would agree—we are lucky to live where we live, walk where we walk, and do what we do.
Slide 8
Tom: This is my “desk.” Almost no work ever gets done here anymore. Surrounding it and often overwhelming it are story ideas, toys, book ephemera, W-9s, Emperor Pickletine with original (now mummified) pickle, and amazing stuff kids have sent me.
Slide 9
Tom: The desk does serve as a little camera and video studio for me though. An old lightbox is clamped underneath the shelf to give me some good light for photographing toys and shooting my origami instruction YouTube videos.
Slide 10
Tom: There is a LOT of origami in my office.
Slide 11
Tom: My standing desk may look messy, too, but this is where a lot of the real work gets done. My current setup is a Wacom tablet hooked to a PC running Photoshop, but I'm hoping to change to something more portable, because I'd much rather be outside.
Slide 12
Tom: This is one of my favorite walking spots. And for me, walking and writing are inseparable. The idea for my first novel, "Horton Halfpott," came while walking up a hill. The Mimi Kiwi chapter of "Inspector Flytrap" came while walking across town. More recently, with the "Rocket and Groot" books, I've even had some success talking into my phone's speech-to-text app while hiking. I don't believe in sitting down and waiting for inspiration, but if I go out looking for it, I almost always find it.
Slide 13
Tom: When it is time to type, revise, re-revise, or re-re-re-revise, I love to set up my laptop on the porch. This iron monkey always hangs out with me here. I get occasional visits from Cece, and she goes back and forth from her little red barn studio.


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