Friday, February 26, 2010

Garth Williams Inspired

This week I was inspired by a 1958 edition from Golden Press called "Three Bedtime Stories" which was illustrated by Garth Williams. He is probably best-known for illustrating the "Little House" books and "Charlotte's Web". It appears that he used watercolor and colored pencil for the illustrations in this book. In one of the stories, "The Three Little Pigs", the rotund little pigs are dressed in human clothing. I tried to create a character using Mr. Williams' style and one of my favorite animals.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NESCBWI Conference 2010

*illustration by Nicole Tadgell
Are you going to this year's NESCBWI Conference? Every year, this event gets bigger and better. I've tried to blog about it after each year (2009, 2008, 2007), but if you live within reasonable driving distance I highly recommend attending - even if you are outside New England 'proper'. I also recommend signing up soon if you are serious about attending, it's filling up fast.

This year, I decided to sign-up for Sunday only. I can't spend the whole weekend, nor can I spend the extra money - so my concession was to attend the day with the workshops I was most interested. A hands on workshop with Frank Dormer, a must! But really, the whole program looks awesome. Great opportunities for illustrators AND author/illustrators. Most of the other Smells Like Crayons ladies will be attending. We'd love to meet new friends in person, so please come up and chat with us if you spot a familiar name around the neck of an unfamiliar face!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sketch for Illustration Friday

One of Witch's hobbies is propagating unusual plants. Here she is tending to her Venus Flytraps. This is a sketch for this week's Illustration Friday prompt, "propagate."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Flashback Friday!

For today's post I thought I'd reach into the past and bring up a couple pieces of mine from my college portfolio, circa 1999... dunn dunn duuunnnnnnn! When I was in school (majored in illustration, naturally) I had a love for cut-paper. I still do, but obviously not as much. Looking at the Motown Chickens, and the Cows in front of Radio City Moo-sic Hall, I can't help but think that cut-paper was just a step along the way to me using the computer to render my illustrations - they both are about flat shapes. I used to sit at my drafting table for hours, cutting out pieces of paper with my x-acto blades, scrounging the art store for new colors, and playing with sponges and whatever I could get my hands on to create textures in acrylic paint on top of the cut paper, though sometimes I used pastel, and I did with the chickens here.

And even MORE foreshadowing.... just a year later I was one of the two thousand artists to paint a cow in the New York Cow Parade! But thats a story for another time...

Looking at my old art here, wow I miss doing this! Maybe I should start playing again with paper.... hmmmm.....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Illustrated Life

I've always had a problem keeping a sketchbook. I'll make a few notes and knock out a few very loose thumbnail sketches (usually legible only to me) before I start working on a project. Once in a while, I'll get a detailed drawing down on the page, and then transfer it to whatever material I'll be painting on. But, I usually save that level of sketching for commissions or freelance work. My own drawings never make it that far. I buy lovely blank books, and then can't bring myself to ruin them with scribbles.
Back when I was in college, I studied in France for a month. We were made to keep a sketchbook for one of our classes. One classmate bought beat up vintage hardcover novels, painted some of the pages white, left others with the print visible, and sketched over those textures. Others glued French candy wrappers, tickets, and pressed flowers into their pages. I loved looking at everyone else's books - you had a feel for the journey, you got a peek at who each person was. My sketchbook was tentative - one or two carefully considered sketches on each page...half of the book remained blank while my classmates filled up two or three.
Years later, some things haven't changed...I still can't cut loose when it comes to sketching. And when it comes to people with interesting sketchbooks, I'm absolutely green with envy.
I recently bought a book called An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory.

It contains scans and photographs of the sketchbooks of 50 illustrators and designers - ranging from Stefan Sagmeister to R. Crumb. Each individual has a chapter about them, their work, and their creative process. It's well worth a look.

Danny Gregory's intro alone is worth the read. His philosophy about sketching was inspirational and felt really empowering.
Eleven years after that trip to France, I find myself once again made to keep a sketchbook for school. This time, for my graphic design classes. (Though they call them "process journals"'s all the same to me). I figured I have to stop making the actual sketchbook a sacred object. So, I bought a few small Moleskine notebooks, plopped stickers on the cover and have been trying not to care what scribbles go in there. So far, it's been good for mind mapping and layout ideas. I'm still a little tentative, but I'm hoping that by carrying them around all the time, I'll start to get into my own groove.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How can I improve my portfolio? Part II - Character Development/Color Studies

I'm pretty happy with scenes of the girl reading to her dog, as well as the Jedi Warrior adventure. I'm not really sure I'm satisfied with the scene of them running and of them hugging. I wanted to try to include some different vantage points, but I found the black a little tricky in these images.

Do the characters look consistent? Are any of these portfolio worthy? Hmmm. I may have to revisit these again in a few days.

This week I did character sketches, as well as a few color studies.
I'm going to go with the vibrant red/blue combo.

Friday, February 12, 2010

trying not to waste paint

The big question... acrylic or gouache

One of my favorite parts of reading to my kids at night is looking at the beginning to see how the artist created the pictures. The ones I am drawn to and I feel are similar to my style are usually acrylic and sometimes gouache. I think the end result of my gouache painting can look like acrylic. At my studio the other night I was painting with acrylic and wanted to use up the leftover paint and did this quick pic of a little figurine from my shelf.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day 1968

My Valentine's Day memories from childhood involve lots of red and pink construction paper, paper doilies,and thick paste that came from a little jar with a stick in the lid to scoop it out. If we got to use glitter, that was an added thrill. There was always a party with heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles to go along with the little folded valentines one picked out at the grocery store, to give to everyone in the class. Later at home, one could sit down and analyze the cards to see if there were any hidden declarations of love amidst the cartoon characters.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Coloring Together

Motherhood has been full of awesome firsts lately - and coloring with my now 1 year old son has be near the top of the list. I hadn't picked up an actual crayon for awhile. Knowing that I was showing him something for the first time gave me freedom to play, and make marks and forms unlike how I would if I was 'really' drawing. He started with hard little stabs at the paper, then wide single strokes, followed by zig zags. We're only at the beginning but it's been fun.I know I can avoid drawing because I'm afraid of drawing something bad, or wrong, or not quite what I had in my head. But put a child in front of me (of any age, I've always been the Auntie to color with!) and there's no place for ego or pausing to check google images for duck references. I might not make much time for 'real' art lately, but every day we make time for something better together. When I finally sit down at the drawing board (by myself), I think all of this will inform my work.
Oh, and the drawing above? That's what a giggle looks like. Wrap your arm around baby's belly, hold several crayons and scribble like mad. You'll see what I mean.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Monster Softies

Starting Monday, I will be working with first graders for three weeks as a visiting artist. I was asked to come up with a 3D felt project which can be displayed in an upcoming school art show.

I originally had my heart set on stuffed monsters, but I was concerned about construction. I wanted to sew them, but it just wasn't going to work with this age group and this fabric.

Reluctantly, I started gluing shapes together. I really didn't want to use glue, but it is something first graders can do with minimal adult intervention. And the important thing is that they create with some abandon.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that gluing was not so terrible. I had fun creating these 3D wild things! I'm hoping the kids will, too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tim Burton Exhibit

This past weekend I was in NYC for a tradeshow (you can read about that here), and on Monday my friend Kim and I played hooky from responsibility and saw the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA. Amazing. It's on display until April 26th, so if you're in the area, go go GO see it. Of course photography isn't allowed in the exhibit, but I was able to take a couple of the outside, and I scanned in the brochure as well, so at least you'll get a taste here of what I saw. Tim Burton grew up in Burbank, CA, and attending CalArts, and must be a disturbing individual :) He was an animator for Walt Disney for four years, before breaking out on his own, and of course has had his hand in a countless number of amazing films and projects. The exhibit shows his drawings and paintings from his childhood through today, and you can see the evolution to what his style is now. There are sculptures as well - some big, some small, some of which he created himself, and some of which others did, based on his direction. The entry to the main part of the exhibit itself is a giant scary creature's mouth, and inside is a long hallway of screens, showing recent animations he's done, containing characters from his book "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories"... I happen to own this book already - its fantastic and creepy, and I think a bit Edward Gorey-ish. There are many props and puppets and storyboards and sketches and notes and letters from many of his movies including Batman Returns, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Big Fish, Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and even a sketch or two from the upcoming Alice in Wonderland. I loved seeing the various puppets - especially from Nightmare, and Corpse Bride.... he didn't build these himself I don't think, but it made me think how even though he seemed to have hated his time at Disney (there was one sketch there that was a statement about the Disney machine and how they seem to suck the creativity out of things) that the transformation and evolution of his ideas and storyboards and sketches, to the final puppets themselves used in the films - it gets "Disneyfied" or cleaned up itself... I wonder what he thinks about that....because his sketches are so rough and undefined. Regardless, it was an inspiring show, and I couldn't resist a souvenir from the gift shop!

The cover of the brochure:

Entrance to the main exhibit:

Me in the lobby:

Sketch from the brochure:

Sketch from the brochure:

A book from my own library:

From "...Oyster Boy..." :

My magnet souvenir:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Unfinished Paintings

Since I've gone back to school for degree #2, my art table has turned into The Land of Unfinished Paintings. Each time a new semester begins, I have to drop everything and once again turn all my attention to homework. Working, commuting, and going to school isn't easy. Add in trying to keep up with your personal work, and it's nearly impossible. Something's got to give - and it's always my illustration work. At this point, I have almost as many pieces started than I do finished. However, I figured I'd show you my most recent beginning:
I began this painting as a sample work to send to an online publisher of children's books. They were looking for the three little pigs with specific colors, numbers, and items that children could count on the page. Obviously this is unfinished, but there was to be corn, flowers, and clouds to count, and two chickens holding up signs that say things like, "We'll miss you!" and "Good luck!" as the pigs start out on their journey.
I have a little fantasy that the minute I get my degree, all of the lost and unfinished paintings on my desk will be properly attended to, and I'll have all these finished pieces to show and feel good about having completed. (In reality, I'll probably just need a nap and a vacation. Oh well. Here's to promising starts, anyway.)