Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!!

I hope you're all enjoying the Memorial Day weekend! A hugh thank you to those of you who are or have served in our armed services!! You are so appreciated!!

And for those of you who want to start your picnics and BBQs, but needed to get your fix of S.L.C. first ... your wish is my command.

As you've read, the NE-SCBWI Conference was pretty incredible!! (I knew it would be!! Didn't I say it would be?) So rather than bore you with my recap, I'll show you what I've been working on since.

At the conference, I had a portfolio review with Kristen Nobles from Candlewick. She suggested that I add a sense of depth to my illustrations by working in a bit more shadow. Not too much, but a bit more. My illustrations seem a little flat. I have to make those darks dark, and lights light! I love getting specific advice instead of generalities! So much more helpful!! (And I have to mention, not only is she a great critiquer, she is so kind. I completely missed my original appt with her because I lost track of time in Marla Frazee's workshop, and not only did she NOT laugh in my face, she actually let me come back during her lunch and squeeze me in!! How awesome is she!! Yay Kristen!!)

Anyway, I digress ... I'm also experimenting with a softer look. I love Matt Phelan's work; he has such a wonderful way with watercolor (if you haven't read his book "Storm in the Barn" or "Always" I highly recommend both). Sometimes I go a little overboard with bright colors, so I'm trying the less is more approach. A limited palette, softer wash. (Thanks for the inspiration Matt!!)

So, here are some of the sketches applying the above. Hopefully, the old adage practice makes perfect (or at least better) will apply to my work!

Now go on, git, and enjoy that Memorial Day picnic!! (I know of a few homemade pies that have my name all over them!! MmmmmMmmmm!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Poster revealed and revealing

Here is the poster I submitted to the SCBWINE poster contest. I was happy with my painting and idea but not happy with the final result of the poster. The print seemed flat and made it difficult to see the words hidden in the picture (theme of the conference, Moments of Change). The idea came from a quick drawing my daughter did of a person and developed from there.

I learned something about myself with the poster contest, I was using it as a distraction from what I really should be working on, I would go to my studio and work on it week after week on the poster when I should have been working on the three dummies and other manuscript that I sometimes shy away from. The conference energized me to work to the goal of becoming a published author illustrator and not put hurdles up for myself that don't help me finish the race.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More conference musings

I only attended the NESCBWI conference on Saturday this year, but came home with a big dose of inspiration. I especially enjoyed a morning session with illustrator and author, Marla Frazee, as well as the afternoon key note presentation put on by Marla and her editor, Allyn Johnston.
What I liked about both presentations was that she demonstrated her process of creating a wonderful and engaging picture book. Marla took her audience through the earliest stages of character studies and thumbnail sketches with examples from many of her books. With help from her trusted editor, she had made changes both small and radical, that enhanced the finished book. She stressed the importance of both text and illustrations working together, and how they create the rhythm of the story. In the keynote presentation, Marla and Allyn talked about the difficulties in finding just the right ending, in both words and image, that will pull the whole book together.
For a while, I have been working sporadically on a dummy for a picture book idea that involves lots of kids in a classroom. I'm really still in the thumbnail and character study stage on this project. It can seem daunting to put on paper all the elements necessary to create a well-crafted picture book. That's why it was inspiring to see how an accomplished illustrator like Marla Frazee takes an idea, or someone else's words, and builds a book around them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NESCBWI Conference: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

The above book, Hog Prince, is written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. I attended a 2hr workshop at the NESCBWI Conference last weekend. It really capped off the day as one of the most informative and useful in many conferences past.
Sudipta's writing workshop was entitled "The Picture Book Deconstructed". She gave copious amounts of advice regarding structure and content. She also shared participant manuscripts and led a group critique, pointing out what I would guess are the more frequent 'mistakes' writers make with picture books.
While I wouldn't share any of her specific advice, I can point you to her website where she shares a few gems. I would also highly recommend attending any workshop she teaches near you. I took her advice and applied it directly to my current manuscript. Hopefully, I'll come out the other side with a stronger, more marketable story. I'm a total novice writer but felt completely comfortable with Sudipta. Her story is pretty amazing, and I really loved her attitude about treating work as work rather than a hobby.
I've been blogging about the conference this week - if you'd like to read more, please visit my other blogs: Picture Book Junkies and The Pineapple Diary

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunday at NESCBWI 2010

Completely blank before Sunday, my notebook is now brimming with possibilities. My day at the New England SCBWI conference yielded the following:

Build your career in small, but consistent ways. Do a little each day. It builds over time.

My scrawling on the first page, was the gift of author, Cynthia Leitich Smith during an interview with Melissa Stewart. Though I could not attend on Saturday, I heard that her keynote speech inspired the masses. All I needed, though, was this bit to sustain me. Small consistent steps. Of course! That's all we need to improve in any area of our life--consistency and persistence. Small steps add up. How quickly I forget during times of overwhelm. Note to self: enlarge and make this visible daily.

Use pen tablet.

I thank Jen Morris for this advice that many illustrators may take for granted (read: they are already proficient in the use of said device.). Jen opened her workshop "Photoshop Techniques for Illustrators" with a discussion on the benefits of using a pen tablet. Frustrated with my Wacom, I put it away a couple of years ago, not giving it a fair shake. It's time to dust it off, hook it up, and use it. With clarity and humor, Jen demonstrated ways Photoshop can be used to illustrate rather than simply edit. Her blog is chock full of info. And for more about her workshop, check out Gina's post here.

The verb stands as the quintessential part of speech.

Josephine Nobisso's, "Show Don't Tell: Secrets of Writing" intimidated me at sign up. Here I would be this fumbling beginner, among all these skilled writers. And I might have to share! Still I thought I should venture beyond my comfort zone.

Josephine's presentation was fun, exciting, and empowering. Though I was challenged, the pain I imagined was non-existent. She had us write about Twizzlers (which we got to eat). Sharing was optional. She discussed the function of parts of speech in improved writing.

She demonstrated the power of the verb. Pay attention if you use adverbs. You probably don't have the right verb. For example, "walked softly" becomes "tiptoed."

I left wishing we had more time with her, excited about writing, and thinking next time I just might share.

Help others.

Punctuating her well-organized presentation with humor and surprise, Illustrator Dani Jones gave this tip as one of her "Ten Ways Artists can Improve Their Online Presence." She suggested that we answer questions instead of just asking; contribute and discuss instead of just commenting; and volunteer time, services and knowledge. Dani practices what she preaches. She posts lots of tutorials, tips and tricks, and you can watch videos of her drawing live from 10:00-11:00 a.m. here.

Be brave. Be true.

Jo Knowles spoke these words after providing one of her writing prompts. I wasn't expecting the prompts to become increasingly uncomfortable as the hour went on. But they did. This sweet, friendly-faced author had me squirming in my seat.

I struggled to put words to paper, unsure of myself. I listened to what others wrote, but kept quiet. I felt frustrated in this discomfort. Why did I even sign up for this workshop?

The answer came before me in the last challenge. Jo asked us to write what we want our words to do. We all shared our responses. I want my words to move and empower. This can't be done without bravery and truth.

Looking over my notes from this workshop, I realize that along with the clumsiness of being a beginner, there are seeds of stories planted in my notebook. The most uncomfortable workshop of the day may have offered the greatest reward. Next time I hope to be brave enough to reveal my boo-boos. Some airing may do them good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whoops its my turn!

Hey Blog-land! This week finds me in NYC, attending Surtex and the National Stationery Show. Surtex is one of the art and licensing shows that I exhibit in each year, and as always it is exciting and bustling and full of potential! The show ends Tuesday, and when I get home I'll write up and post lots of pictures, but for now, here's a shot of some of the stuff in my booth, taken with my old cell phone, so sorry if its blurry! See you all in a few days!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Getting Started

I survived my spring semester! Woo! I have two weeks off before summer classes start and was hoping to refocus some of my energy back onto my illustrations. But now the question looms - where to start? I have so many projects and ideas that were put onto the back burner for so long that I'm not even sure how to begin anymore. Should I finally get around to using my screen printing kits? Should I try my hand at miniature stylized painting? Should I just take a break and hit the museums?
I've been so consumed with graphic design and school that I can barely remember what it's like to choose my own projects. And forget my paintbrushes - I've been living on my Mac in Adobe InDesign.
One week has already passed and I haven't done much other than try to remember how to breathe again. As I'm staring at the blank pages of my sketchbook, they're staring back. Time is limited before I'm back into the whirlwind that is getting degree #2. I suppose I need a smallish project that I can handle. Any suggestions on how to begin again?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Homework is Done!!

Three more days until the conference!

Poster finished and ready for poster contest ... check.
Portfolio updated ... check.
Tearsheets ready to give away (just in case critiquer requests them)... check.
Postcard give-a-ways ready to go ... check.
And finally, homework for Illustrator"s Academy done and done!!

Here are a few more of the completed illustrations for the academy...

While I'm really excited about the conference, I must admit I am sort of looking forward to Sunday night when it's all over. I know I'll enjoy it and learn a lot, but at this stage I am just a ball of nervous energy. I have a difficult time quelling those self-doubts which tell me my work looks amateurish, and that I'm going to embarrass myself in front of everyone. And how am I going to prevent myself from going all "fan-girl" over the people I admire, I ask you?!?

But no matter how things pan out at the conference, I know Sunday night I'll be home again, hugging my girls and snuggling with my husband and a cup of tea in hand.

Then on Monday morning I'll pick up the pencil again and work on my next masterpiece! Life is good.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oh Deer

When I ordered paper last time I ordered these little Bristol artist trading cards and my daughter and I both did one at breakfast. This was mine. My post this week lacks depth and inspiration because my head is swarmed with thoughts of the upcoming SCBWI New England conference. My poster is not 100% done and I have ordered postcards that list a website I have yet to build. In addition to my scheduled workshops I am volunteering at the conference. I can't even let myself think of all this until after the weekend because I have projects that I am making for my mother and mother-in-law. Why is it that we are able to accomplish so much in a small amount of time when other people are involved, why can't we get that same push when it involves something for ourselves?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sketchbook Studies

In Gina's previous post, she talked about the evolution of style and materials. I can relate to that, as my earlier work involved a lot of colored pencil, pen and ink with tons of crosshatching---very time-consuming, hand fatiguing stuff. I'm trying to be looser in style, more expressive, and maybe have a little more fun with my characters.
With the NESCBWI conference coming up, I've been playing around with ideas for the poster contest based on the theme, Moments of Change. In preparation, I did some sketches of random kids to work on different expressions and body language.
The following little sketch is the basis for the final design. Can I capture the same expressive quality in the finished poster? That is where the struggle is for me. You can be the judge when I put up the final design in my next post.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Evolving Your Style

I'm at a tipping point again with my style. I posted about this here a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd do a little walk down memory lane. The above image was from 2001, a phase where I obsessed over mother and child hugging, intertwined, usually in a winter scene with scarves. Faces were the barest of details - pencil drawing, colorized in photoshop.
Zombie Chicken! Look at those strange muppet-faced kids! Ink and watercolor. REALLY bright colors.Colored pencil over watercolor. I'm still proud of my composition and wallpaper design. The character design however, frightens me!The faces improved a bit, but how gaudy are those colors - yikes!Aha! I finally struck upon something that worked for me. Same technique, but more skill through practice and better subject - animals!So I got better, and the compositions became more complex. I went as far as I could, then realized my hand hurt and I was spending WAAAY too long on each piece. This was about the time I started actually WORKING in children's illustration. All the earlier stuff was never submitted to anyone. Well, except relatives and this blog's supportive critique group.At the urging of Ann Marie, I took a fantastic gouache class that really inspired me. With gouache, I found my signature color palette and became more adept (and interested) in illustrating children as well as animals (and monsters, of course).
Here I'm back to my 'alligator' stage of proficiency. I've got my colors down, and the faces are more rendered and complex.

And when I couldn't take those dot eyes anymore, I added pupils. I'm excited to share my next stage on my next post. It sort of combines a few of these iterations from the past 9 years, and hopefully is an improvement.