Saturday, December 26, 2009

Terrible Yellow Eyes

My 'Where the Wild Things Are' tribute piece can now be seen on Cory Godbey's Terrible Yellow Eyes site. If you haven't already, I encourage you to check out this collection of amazing artists from around the globe. Cory has posted that he's made the decision to close the project with a final post, Friday, January 1, 2010, but the work will remain online as a tribute to Maurice Sendak's book that we all love so much.

Visit the Terrible Yellow Eyes blog to see all the contributions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Illustration Friday: Undone

I've been meaning to post about my painting process, and seeings how this week's IF topic is 'undone', I thought I would post the 'undone' to the done stages of my recent 'Not to Be Trusted' piece for the Thumb Box Exhibition.

I wanted to paint with acrylics on wood, which is something I haven't done since the Holocaust Star Project. Blick didn't have the 6" x 6" size I needed for this small works show, so I bought 6" x 12" craft wood, and since Home depot said it was too small for them to cut without damaging the wood, I bought a Kobalt Fine Tooth Laminate Saw to cut the boards in half, and then sanded. I've always loved woodworking, so this was fun. :)

I gave the wood boards an acrylic base coat stain, and then transferred the 2 drawings I had completed. I could submit 3 pieces, but I only had 2 weeks, so I wasn't sure if I'd get that 3rd board, but prepped it with a blue stain just in case. (I'll post the outcome of that one later.)

I used a Pablo Caran d'Ache sepia-toned pencil to go over my drawing and add some shading. My goal was to maintain some of my linework in the final piece. (Before this step I had I scanned the drawing and the actual wood surface into the computer to work out my color plan in photoshop.)

I then started painting with my new favorite paints, the Atelier Interactive Acrylics, which enable you to re-wet them for blending, but you can also 'cure' the bottom layers with a hair dryer to glaze on top. They gave me the ultimate in flexibility. I also worked with stiffer brushes than the sables I'm used to. I liked the look of the illustration with the wood background showing, and contemplated leaving it like this. I wish I could have hit the 'duplicate' button to end up with 2 painting versions.

''Not to Be Trusted' acrylic on wood

After I had the background, and most of the rest painted, I had to scan it back into the computer to rethink her dress color. My original plan was to make it an emerald green, but that started to feel wrong. Testing out some colors in photoshop took the guesswork out. To 'cure' the painting I used a hairdryer over all of it. Some of the whites darken when they dry.

I was able to help hang the show, which was a good learning experience. The night of the opening I was surprised to find that she already sold. I was excited, but also just a touch sad as we didn't have much time together. I took lot of photos and scans, and I'll be offering a print soon.

This week I'll hit my 4th year Blog Anniversary!!! It's been quite an artistic journey, and it makes it all the better to be able to share it here with such a great art community. At first I was just so excited to meet fellow artists online, but this year I've been able start meeting some of you in person at the SCBWI conferences, and local artists here in Columbus, and it's been so inspiring.

I want to send everyone warm wishes for a very Happy Winter Solstice! I love this day as it means the days will start to become longer. I hope everyone has a safe merry holiday season!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Illustration Friday: Hatch

This sketch still needs work, but I wanted to post it for Illustration Friday because this week's topic, 'hatch' helped me figure out what I wanted to do with this drawing. I started the sketch below several months ago, and I had a distinct color scheme in mind that I'm quite excited about, and I knew I wanted to paint it on wood. I had to set it aside to work on my children's portfolio for the conference, and then an opportunity came along to do some small 6" x 6" paintings. I ended up feeling like the new work is more me. The girl below doesn't feel like it has enough of the style I'm going for. Sometimes it's only when you distance yourself through time that you can begin to see these things more clearly. I still liked some of the concept, so I reworked it into the above sketch.


Working digitally has given me more respect for the sketch phase. I'm now finding ways to be more patient and careful about my technique to keep some of that linework in my traditional painting. before I pick up a brush I need to make a plan for the value and how to create depth in the trees. I have a wood plaque designated for this, and I'll be using the Interactive Atelier Acrylics again. I'll be posting more on the new painting process soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Indiana SCBWI Picture Book Conference

I'm still behind on things I want to share and chronicle here on the blog. There's been so many good art things going on lately. I want to finish a drawing tonight, but before I do I want to share some of my notes from the Indiana SCBWI Picture Book Conference I attended last month. I was most excited about this conference because the focus was all on Picture Books. (Their MG and YA conference will be in Spring 2010.) These conferences are like graduate school for anyone looking to seriously enter the children's book market.

I arrived the night before for the Open Mic at the hotel to hear attendees read the beginnings of their manuscripts. Since I'm still trying to jump start my writing brain these are always helpful. Then afterwards, we laid out our illustration portfolios for a critique. I was excited to meet fellow CCAD grad, and amazing illustrator, Kristi Valiant, who had printed out critique cards with check marks for the necessary criteria, and what the strongest and weakest pieces were. This last question was one of the most helpful. Then, it was off to sleep before an early morning, and I realized that this was my first solo stay at a hotel. After cramming 5 of us in the smallest hotel room I'd ever seen in my life back in San Diego, I felt like quite a princess in my nicely sized room. :)

The conference was at The Saturday Evening Post. Somehow, it hadn't dawned on me where we were until I saw the sign. I didn't realize this famed publication was located in Indiana.

The halls were lined with all the familiar covers.

Actual real life original Norman Rockwell paintings also hung throughout the building. Real canvas texture!

Courtney Bongiolatti, Associate Editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers was our first speaker. She spoke about what an editor looks for in a Picture Book.
In her terms, she's looking for:
1. Uniqueity -Make what's existing unique. Unique a trend. Unique a format.
2. Readability - Does it read well out loud?
3. Realatability
4. Schoolability - Is it relevant to the school market?

Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon & Schuster for Young Readers spoke to us about the Anatomy of a Picture Book, and their basic structure. He explained that rather than think about the art as separate illustrations, a PB should be thought of as one illustration over 32 pages. Fun Fact: a press sheet is called a 'signature' because back in the day it needed a signature 'sign off' approval.


Laurant also conducted a workshop explaining, through examples, what makes appropriate art to send as samples to publishers. Portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and figure drawings may be beautiful art, but they are not appropriate portfolio samples. A Renoir portrait is great for frame, but doesn't tell enough of a story in the way Tenniel's 'Alice in Wonderland' illustrations do. As illustrators we are costume designers. Dress your characters to show each individual personality. Posture shows character. Think in camera angles. The city, a landscape, or a single tree can be a character. Use light and shadow to show mood.

Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo also gave a talk on the Illustrators Perspective. A portfolio should demostrate that you can master a range of emotions. In writing for picture books, anything that you can show in the illustration gets chopped out of the story. SCBWI has a list of mostly current publishers at each house to send art samples to.


All in all it was an excellent conference, and just what I needed to get focused again after my move. Kristi was kind enough to sign her latest trade book for me, 'Cora Cooks Pancit'. I love how she's perfected a digital style that looks so beautifully traditional, and the story about a Filipino girl who wants to help cook with the grown-ups is wonderful and relatable. Check out an interview with Kristi about her book on Elizabeth O. Dulebra's site.

Now, to the lightbox to work on my drawing before my eyelids no longer stay open....

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blooming Blogs that Inspire Award :)

A few months ago, I received this beautifully designed award from Deborah Mori on her wonderful blog, Life Without Novocaine. I was so honored to be included in her list of uber-talented fellow bloggers, who have all inspired me as well. I've been wanted to pass it along, but these last few months have been crazy busy (in a good way).

I love the idea of this award; to take a moment to acknowledge how we all inspire each other. Being able to share my creative sparks, along with the dreaded creative blocks with everyone has enriched my life more that I can say. Moving to Ohio this year was a huge change for me, but knowing this supportive art community was still here was very comforting.

I pass this award to everyone in my blogroll, and all of those who I haven't gotten around to adding yet, but who I love to visit. (My Bloglines currently has 266 feeds that I'm following.)

I want to make one special mention of a blogger, the lovely Miss Linda Silvestri, who always inspires me with her humor, and who is amazing me this month by posting the most clever holiday advent calendar of her illustrations, which 'open' to reveal fun surprises! Anyone who has tried posting everyday knows what a challenge it is.

Check out Linda Silvestri's Sketched Out Blog. Here's Day 1 of her Advent Calendar.

The rules upon accepting this award:
1.) Only one rule. Pass this award along to someone who motivated you, inspired you or enriched your artistic life with their creative gift. If you feel so inclined, you can create a short list of the things you love, your favorite muse, or your favorite childhood memories. The most important thing though is to award someone who has made your life better.

Friday, December 04, 2009

OAL Thumb Box Exhibition- All Sold! :)

acrylic on wood (6" x 6" each)

I was at the Tiny Canary handmade arts & crafts show a couple weeks ago at the very cool Junctionview Studios artists' space, and met awesome fellow CCAD grad, Amy Atwell, who told me about a small works show with the Ohio Art League. I was excited about this prospect since it's been a goal of mine to get some art up on a gallery wall somewhere for quite some time. So, I was determined to get at least one piece done, but managed the max of 3, in 2 just weeks. It helped that I had some sketches already started that worked for this size. I ended up sick with a cold, as if it wasn't enough of a challenge, and I had to finish the one at my parents' home over Thanksgiving.

These are painted on wood panels with Atelier Interactive Acrylics which enable you to re-wet them for blending, but you can also 'cure' the bottom layers with a hair dryer to glaze on top. I had more fun creating these then any artwork I've ever done. I loooovvvved working on the wood, but I also want to try these paints on paper.

Tuesday I attended the OAL 'Art of Hanging' Workshop where we learned how to group and hang multiple works for this gallery show. Amy and I are very proud of 'our wall' we put together, and it was fun, and I learned a lot. After a few hours, hundreds of the submitted (6" x 6" or smaller) works were up.

Last night was the Opening Reception of the Thumb Box Exhibition, and I saw that all 3 of my paintings already sold!!! This is my first gallery showing, so I'm very excited. :)

I'll be sharing some progress pics of each soon, and once I color correct my scans I'll be offering up prints. I'll also be blogging about the Picture Book Conference I attended last month. There's been so much going on that I've been getting behind here on the blog.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Illustration Friday: Skinny-Where the Wild Things Are


So here's the skinny on my alternate ending to Maurice Sendack's 'Where the Wild Things Are'. (I know another bad stretch of the topic.)

Max was not so sure his mom would react favorably to him bringing home his new friend. But, the Wild Thing convinced him that once he goes on his diet he'll be skinny enough to fit under Max's bed unnoticed. "Okay, Max said hesitantly."

I've been wanting to do some Wild Things tribute art for quite some time. I went to see the movie for inspiration, and oh, did it ever come pouring in! I can't remember ever smiling more during a movie. I absolutely loved it! Spike Jonze took an already wonderful story, and created a treat for the senses. I love how Jonze focused on the theme of how to abolish sadness. How do you not be sad anymore? This question is what drew me in, and also how Max wanted to believe his acting out was justified and innocuous. After the movie I still wasn't sure what these characters would look like in my drawing until I looked down at my sketchbook and there they were.

I've been having a lot of fun in the sketching stage lately, so I decided to share my pencil sketch this time. As you can see the decorative waves swept in from my last post. Also, you can see I increased the size of the Wild Thing, (Carol in the movie), once I brought it into photoshop. I realized halfway along that he was too small, but decided it would be easier to adjust it after scanning it into the computer. Ahh, the digital age. :)

edit: sail color adjustment

edit#2:
This illustration can now be seen on Cory Godbey's Terrible Yellow Eyes site. "Terrible Yellow Eyes is a collection of works inspired by the beloved classic, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak."

Visit the Terrible Yellow Eyes blog to see all the contributions.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

illustration Friday: Fast

After the turbulent storm Caleb and the Whale were fast friends.

I can't decide which color version I like best. Which do you prefer?

I really enjoyed sketching this one. Although I may have gone a little overboard with the waves. Ha! overboard = ship reference! Oh, I think I've been up way too long, and am getting loopy. This is my image for the other side of my promo postcard. I wanted to show character interaction with a dash of emotion. I'm also planning on offering prints of this in both color versions, but I'm too tired to get that set up tonight. But, check back soon. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Illustration Friday: Flying


What do we have here? Well, when pigs fly in autumn they love to eat caramel apples while soaring through the air because they like how the stickiness catches the flying insects making for an extra special treat! Mmmm....yum!! There you go.....explanation provided. :)

When I read that the topic was 'flying' I immediately thought of my Flying Ace Andy, but didn't want to repost. Also, I needed to post a quick little illustration since some other drawings I've been working on have been proving to be more time consuming. ( I feel like such a slacker, and start to feel rusty if I go too long between posting a somewhat completed illustration.)

I'm about to register for the Indianapolis Picture Book Conference on Nov 6-7, and I was thinking I might use this for a promo postcard, but I'm not sure if I'm happy with how the colors turned out. I've started sketching another idea for the flip side. I'll have to take a look at this one tomorrow with fresh eyes. I'm thinking sleep is going to feel really good right now. I'm off to test that theory.......

(*edited with bolder line and color)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reunited with my old drafting table

Since I now have more room in my new art studio I decided to move in my old drafting table that has been in storage at my parent's house since my high school days. Reassembling it was a bit of a challenge with only 2 hands, but miracles can happen with the right amount of stubborn determination. I never much liked this table because the wing nuts were always coming unscrewed, but I was introduced to locking washers at Home Depot, and so far all feels secure....fingers crossed. I had to make some modifications. I removed one of the cross braces to create a ledge, so I can try working at an angle, and moved the bottom brace that the chair was running into.

Friday, I found a clearance Ott-Lite TrueColor lamp, but I think I still need at least one more lighting device. I also realized I wanted to take advantage of the daylight when I can get it, so I rearranged my office, and moved the whole setup next to the window.

I can't wait to get painting to try this all out. With my old art desk, I can even work on 2 paintings or projects simultaneously! I'm planning on working on a new surface. (I just love the smell of pine, but transferring to the wood is going to be my least favorite part.) I've been working on this drawing for awhile, but still have details to work out. I've been distracted by sketching on some other ideas. The color palette came to me the other day which is exciting when I know what colors I want to play with before the drawing is complete. Colors often drive me.

Hopefully, I'll get some more art up here on this dusty blog before too long. I have procrastination projects lining up. Gourds to finish painting, necklaces to bead, pillows to sew. I call this kind of stuff 'productive procrastination' since it does result in the completion of other projects, but it keeps me from the more important stuff, so I must resist!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Illustration Friday: Welcome

I thought I would welcome autumn with a new fall-themed blog header. I've been meaning to update it all year! The new autumn breezes are making me want to start all sorts of new projects. A new season brings all kinds of possibilities, and fall especially, maybe because we're so trained for this being the time of year when school starts, always feels like a time to leave the frivolous summer behind, and get serious again. This feels like a more apropos time than New Year's to set down some goals. Of course, my head is spinning with a bit too much of what I want to do, and the chilly, darker nights are making me a bit more sleepy, so I'm not doing so hot on my To Do list yet. The trick I found to completing this tonight was to get straight to it after getting home from work, and skipping dinner. But, hungry now, so time to get something to eat, and make blueberry muffins for tomorrow's office potluck.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Illustration Friday: Magnify


I've been working on a project for a client, and one of the images just happens to fit this week's 'Magnify' theme, so I thought I'd post this work in progress. There will probably be some shading and subtle texture added, and I'm still tweaking the colors. I wanted to be farther along on this earlier in the week, but I've been feeling a bit under the weather.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Illustration Friday: Modify

And when she finally let go, the magic of her true life began to unfold....

And finally after many modifications I'm calling this painting finalized. Other things came up so this sat idle for a bit giving me a chance to figure out how I wanted to paint it. I was sure that I wanted to paint in gouache, but after painting a background wash and a bit of the figure it just wasn't feeling right, so I started over completely in watercolor. This seemed to give me more control over the tiny details. I can envision an infinite number of ways to paint this one. Maybe acrylic on wood, or different color palettes, but we'll stick with this for now.

I feel like this painting represents where I am right now in my life. I've let go of some past restrictions I had put on myself, embraced change, and am enjoying all the new developments that continue to occur. The future does look bright from this angle. :)

Prints of this piece are available in 11" x 16" and 8" x 10"

Also, for anyone in the Seattle area, Roq La Rue is running 2 incredible solo shows by 2 of my favorite artists. "Beauties and Beasts" by Nicoletta Ceccoli and "Daughters of Our Nature" by Columbus's own Eric Fortune will run until Aug 8th. These amazing shows compliment each other beautifully, and are a real treat for the eyes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Illustration Friday: Unfold


And when she finally let go, the magic of her true life began to unfold....

I'm just posting a sketch so far as I'm not yet sure how I want to color this. I'm thinking I want to tackle it in traditional medium, gouache most likely. I have some experimenting to do, and I'd like to play with being looser with some textured elements, and let myself have some fun with it. I'll see what I can come up with this weekend, but it looks like it will have to wait until sunday as it sounds like I'll be working saturday. (I'll work on giving her some toes too. :P I ran out of paper. I'll also need to give the drawing more breathing room especially on the left side.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Illustration Friday: Craving

The young prince was quite dismayed that his mother the queen forbade him from eating the cherry pie he craved until he finished his peas and brussels sprouts. (I myself love extra crispy roasted sprouts drizzled in olive oil.)

My strongest craving lately though is Edy's 'Take the Cake' ice cream. It's ice cream that tastes like yellow cake.....absolutely the most brilliant thing ever!! The blue frosting swirl adds a nice touch too. It's slow churned, so as Edy's website says "you get 1/2 the fat, 1/3 fewer calories, and all the taste you expect from regular". Yumminess with less guilt!

This is an especially late entry this week as my illustration mojo is still revving up slowly...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Illustration Friday: Adapt

Perhaps this illustration works for this topic as these characters had to learn to adapt to their extreme circumstances. This is a gouache painting of my previous entry for the Illustration Friday topic, Tales and Legends. It never felt finished, and I wanted to try my hand at giving it a traditional painting treatment. This was done several months ago, as I haven't got my IF mojo working yet. Since my move to Ohio I've been busy getting settled, and learning to adapt to my new environment, so I thought it fitting to jump back into the IF routine with this topic. :)

Having just moved for the first time in 9 years
I thought I'd offer up a few moving tips that I learned:

- Keep all your original boxes with the styrofoam, especially for electronics. If you've got the room this really comes in handy!

- Save plastic bags of all sizes. A great way to protect your clothes and other items from moisture.

- Seal all glitter containers properly!!! I learned the hard way that it's true that 'glitter is the herpes of the craft world'

Overall, I'm so happy to have broken out of my old routine life. It was long overdue. Change isn't just good, it's freakin' incredible!!!! :)

edit: (Oh yeah, and I just joined Facebook. Find me here.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beginning the Next Chapter....

I didn't mean to just disappear from the blogworld. I happen to be in the process of moving. After 9 years in Illinois I'm relocating to Columbus, Ohio for a new job and new adventures! Columbus happens to be where I went to college, so it will be nice to return to some familiar territory, and to reconnect with longtime friends. :)

I won't have home internet access for awhile, so expect a continued hiatus until I get settled, and the creative juices start flowing onto the sketch pages once again.

I want to thank everyone for all the support you've shown through your wonderful comments. You help keep me going, and give me that extra bit of strength to keep trying new things! You are the best!! :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

illustration Friday: Legendary

The legendary Marie Antoinette has gone down in history for having said the phrase, "Let them eat cake", but there is much controversy over whether this was the actual wording, or if it was even she who said it, or if it was instead spoken by Marie-Therese 100 years earlier. If you take all the callous political meaning out then eating cake and cupcakes sounds like a good idea to me! :) I was inspired by the Kirsten Dunst movie version of Marie Antoinette, which may have not been a good movie, but was the very definition of delicious eye candy.

I actually finished the sketch for this illustration back in October when the IF topic was 'Sugary'. I knew I wanted it to be very pink, but figuring out which pink went where, and how much blue and cream to use became a tricky puzzle for me, and I got stuck and put it aside, but went back to it many times. Then, last week when the topic was 'Intricate' I thought it might be a good time to tackle the details once again, but didn't get it finished until now.

I think I stressed myself out with this one because I knew I wanted to offer it as a greeting card and a print. I finally started up an Imagekind gallery store, and I'll be stocking it with more art throughout the year. My cupcake lovin' Maire is available here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Illustration Friday: Breezy


This week the topic, 'breezy', led me to do some character studies of the 3 little pigs, who soon found that their homes became quite breezy when that wolf came a calling.

Instead of just the three, I ended up with 4 pigs. The fourth, rarely mentioned piggie, was so involved in his puzzle that he never even noticed what was going on around him. Luckily, he was roommates with the pig in the brick house, so he never had anything to worry about except for a few pieces that fell on the floor because the window was cracked open a bit. This piggie is dedicated to my mom who is the expert puzzle doer of the family. :)

The pigs in my drawings started out looking not so worried, but by the time I got to this last one the reality of the situation finally settled in. This guy obviously lived in the straw house that is now no more. I usually just play with my line work in photoshop, but this week I decided to bring it into illustrator to try simplifying it a bit, and then I ended up coloring all the characters in illustrator, and then bringing them back into photoshop to add the texture.

This piggie on white is more cartoony than my usual style, and a fun experiment.
I also wanted to share the evolution of the idea for these illustrations this week. I was eating lunch which was a nice Israeli couscous with asparagus, and relaxing and gazing out the window when I noticed a wolf staring back at me. Usually when I see things like this they are not photographable because they exist somewhere between imagination and reality, but this time the imagery stayed put for me to capture.


Can you see the wolf's head?

Bonus points for also spotting the bunny.

The wolf should be worried since that bunny is rather large in comparison. :P

Scroll down for the reveal.




Sunday, March 01, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

I want to say big thanks yous and send hugs to Andi Butler and Christine Grove for giving me these sweet awards. It appears that Andi's blog is under construction. (I can't wait to see what exciting things she's up to over there!)

Now I'm supposed to list 7 things I love, so here we go.

1) My family and friends
2) Traveling to new places.
3) Being warm - Or more accurately just not being cold
4) Art, of course! Color, texture, pattern, design, typography, retro design, the whole enchilada!
5) Staring out windows. Perhaps something I picked up from growing up with cats.
6) Sour candy. But, I can't find any sour enough. They always end up too sweet, not enough sour. Does anyone know any great super sour candies?
7) Nature walks. Through the woods by a lake or river, or on a quiet ocean beach are my favorites.

I now pass on this award to some inspirational artists who's blogs I love to visit:
Annie Patterson
Anthony Van Arsdale
Kristin Sorra

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Illustration Friday: Instinct

Joe Bearamore was all ready for a leisurely dip in the pool when his instincts told him that there was honey nearby. It should be noted that if your neighbor is a bear, and you break open a box of Honey Nut Happios that you'll probably be having an unexpected guest for breakfast.

After posting days of conference notes I thought this blog was in desperate need of some illustration. I wanted to experiment a bit this week with a different background texture, and with a slightly different color palette.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009 SCBWI Winter Conference -Sunday

The final day of the conference started off with the Portfolio Awards. Big congrats to all the winners! I was glad to have been able to meet honor award winner, Pat Cantor, who's portfolio is stunning!!

It was an especially exciting moment when Cecilia Yung announced that my conference buddy Leeza won the Tomie dePaola Grand Prize Award!!! Her work is amazing! I can't wait to see her books on the shelves. :)

Our first speaker of the day was brilliant author extraordinaire, Bruce Hale, who treated us to a song. I recorded a portion of it on my little camera, and asked Bruce's permission to post it on Youtube. To which he replied that it was ok as long as he didn't hit any clunker notes. I didn't hear any, and thought it was a fabulous start to a great speech. You can view it here. One thing I realized at the conference is that besides illustrating I would like to write my own stories, and after being amongst so many talented writers I know that to do that I have a lot to learn about how to write a good story. So, Bruce also sent me a link to sign up for his newsletter filled with writing tips to keep me inspired. In his speech, Bruce said that during his childhood he lost someone very important to him. His tv died. His parents said they couldn't afford a new one, and that's when he learned that a book can be a man's best friend. Kimberly J. Sabatini, who I met just briefly in the lobby when she and her friends were coming back from dinner with Jay Asher, wrote up a great recap of Bruce's 8 recommendations to middle grade writers.

The agents panel consisted of Michael Sterns, Edward Necarsulmer IV, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, and Michael Bourret. It started with a discussion of the topic that is on everyone's mind this year, the economy, and how it will effect the industry. On the plus side, children are the last ones that people are willing to scrimp on. It was pointed out that John Steinbeck found a way to profit from the depression, and that, "Most people don't realize that there is as much money to be made from the wreckage of a civilization as the building of it." That's a bit grim, but maybe inspiring as well?

The wonderful Richard Peck then took the stage, and reminded us that "We can't be fired. We're unemployed." He gave us eloquent words of encouragement, and story writing advice. He said at some point the story needs an epiphany. He says he only gets one idea at time, so he always thinks this one will be the last. He said a manuscript is like a sick friend that you don't want to leave alone for too long. Richard said, "We hunt. We gather. We observe. We listen to other's stories and research."



Jack Gantos was our final speaker. Jack Gantos is one of those people I could listen to all day. He has such a distinct, colorful inflection to his voice, and a wonderful way with words into which he injects tons of great humor. He said the best part of a story is when the character is affected by change. I'm afraid I don't have more notes from his talk because it was our checkout time. You can find more at the Official SCBWI 1oth Annual New York Conference Blog. You can also find some better photos there.

We wrapped up the day at the Autograph Signing where Jarrett Krosoczka signed my copy of his 'Punk Farm On Tour', and Jay Asher signed his 'Thirteen Reasons Why' which I'm glad I bought the day before since they sold out. (see pics in last post).
With hungry overtaking us, I walked over to Pershing Square with Andy, Leeza, and Sara, and we had an early dinner, and reflected on the last few days. We were all feeling the conference 'buzz'. I'm so glad I went. It's a great introduction to the business, and provides more then any Google search can. It's also very honest. No one told us that it would be easy. To be successful takes an enormous amount of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, and most likely a bumpy road with setbacks and disappointments. But, if you truly want to write and illustrate for children that passion can be is it's own reward.

Something about being in that SCBWI crowd felt right, so I plan to keep working to be a part of that world, and to go to more conferences to meet more great friends!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009 SCBWI Winter Conference -Saturday

I wanted to wrap up the rest of the conference, but I'll keep it brief because Alice Pope did a nice job of live blogging the event with photos. You can read it here and here.

The main event started on Saturday with all of us illustrators and writer folk, all 1056 of us, in the main ballroom. It's not often that I get to hang out with so many creatives, so this in and of itself was a treat. Lin Oliver and Stephen Moser reminded us that this isn't high school, and in this group it's cool to stick out your hand and say hi.
Our first speaker was award winning author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka who talked to us about the highs and lows of the the biz, and about changing gears. In 2005 his book, Punk Farm, was going to be turned into a movie by Dreamworks, but then in 2006 the movie 'Barnyard' came out, so his movie deal was scrapped. Personally, I would have preferred Jarrett's rock star farm animals to whatever 'Barnyard' was any day. I mean, really, can anyone yet explain to me why the boy cows had udders?

Jarrett shared with us the process of turning Lunch Lady into a graphic novel.

Then he showed us his new video with multiple cameos from well known kid's lit stars. It's a must see for any children's book junkies: BOOK BY BOOK: the making of a monkey man

Jarrett said he was working at a camp for kids with cancer when one day he had just read a bad review, and bumped into Paul Newman, the camp's founder, who told him to not pay any attention to reviews. Newman said nothing good comes from reading reviews. The good ones will give you a big ego, and the bad ones tear you down. Jarrett also mentioned that at his very first conference he was sitting all alone at lunch, and none other than my Illinois chapter's very own Esther Hershenhorn came over and befriended him. I can see why he's always remembered this since I was fortunate enough to meet Esther last November at my first local meeting. She's one of the most supportive and encouraging people you will ever meet.

Then it was time for my first breakout session with Tamson Weston, Senior Editor at Hyperion. She said she's always loved music lyrics, and she still loves the rhythm of the words. She talked about how wonderful it was to work with Adam Rex on 'Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich' because of how receptive he is to feedback.

My second breakout session was with Caitlyn Dlouhy, Editorial Director at Antheneum Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster. She likes picture books with a twist and feisty characters. She publishes based on voice, and not plot so much because she says she can help or change the plot, but she can't create a good voice. She said that revising is just as important or more important than writing.

We were then back in the ballroom for lunch, the highlight of which was the delicious mini cheesecake. Jay Asher gave a wonderful keynote speech titled "How to Sell a Book in 12 Years or Less. He broke down his journey year by year and agent by agent. In 2003 he wrote the first 11 pages of Th1rteen R3asons Why, but didn't know if he wanted to spend time on such a serious topic. He talked about the importance of entering the SCBWI joke contests, and how Henry Winkler was once in the audience when Jay won, and later asked if Jay would be interesting in doing a show, which didn't happen, but it's still a cool story. He gave an amazing speech that had everyone caught up in the emotional moment when he thanked his wife for supporting all his efforts towards his first published book. She broke down in happy tears, and many in the audience shed a couple too.

My last breakout session was with Timothy Travaglini, Senior Editor for G.P. Putnam's Sons. He's looking for: great voice, narrative tension, a strong first line - first paragraph - first chapter. Someone asked if he's ever regretted passing on a book that later became a big hit with a different publisher. He says that he knows a lot of people who have passed on books that became popular, and that none of them regret it. He says that if he had worked on it the stars may not have aligned the same way for him. There are so many intangibles in the process. The book was fated to go where it did. This was especially encouraging for me to hear. I love that it's all about creating the best work. He also said that it's not just about getting published, it's about staying published, and for that you have to keep at it.

We were then all back in the ballroom for our final speaker, Richard Jackson. He said that we should write not as teachers, but as artists. He said, describe what you see, either actual or imaginary. He said, so many books today are written like movies, but there's so much less to imagine in a movie.

Wow, I really need to learn how to summarize with fewer words. I'll write up Sunday in the next post.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Illustration Friday: Celebrate- 100th Post!

This is a late post, and I'd still like to finish coloring it, but I thought it was too perfect that it was my 100th post, and I wanted to celebrate along with the IF topic since most of the posts here have been created for Illustration Friday. So woohoo 100!!!

I came back from the SCBWI conference inspired and energized, but my head is so packed with information that it's left me a bit unsure of which way to go, and ended up making my mind short circuit and go blank temporarily. I heard a lot about what to do and what not to do, (see previous post), but I'm still uncertain of where to take my style. I think the conclusion I come to is that the only direction to go is forward, and to let my style to continue to evolve naturally, however that may be. The fun thing for me with these IF topics is never knowing what might end up on my sketchbook page. So, I need to turn off that part of my brain that likes to over think everything, and let the creative process do it's thing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

2009 SCBWI Winter Conference - Art Directors' Panel

The Art Director's Panel was one of the most helpful parts of the day for me. By listening to them critique 3 pieces of art from 30 different illustrators we got to hear what they are looking for. On the panel was Giuseppe Castellano from Simon Spotlight, Scott Piehl from Disney Book Group, and Carla Weise from HarperCollins.

They said they are looking for a distinctive style with a strong narrative and strong characters, strong color, and strong composition.

In an artist they look for: dependability, creativity, humor, ability to be part of a team, and someone who understands that nothing is personal. It's about creating the best work.

Their criteria for judging good art:
• Impact
• Craft - proportions, correctness (Is it a dog or a horse, a child or a short adult?)
• Idea/Concept - Do you want to know more about the story?
• Appropriate for market?

Detail is good as it gives children something to take a second look at. There should be as much concentration on creating a good background as the characters. Be careful about creating work that looks dated. Characters should not be too 'Disney-like' unless you want to work on stories with licensed characters.

When sending 3-4 samples there should be a consistency. Don't show type in an illustration or they will concentrate on that instead. Makes sure art is not too editorial which is a singular image that you can't see the narrative in.

They are looking for something they haven't seen before.

Giuseppe said it's important to send good artist samples without too much information-your contact info type needs to be only big enough to read. Your postcard will only be looked at for 10 seconds. If it's bad it will be thrown away. Don't send anything gimmicky-no puzzle cards. One good postcard is all it takes.

Scott said he prefers mailed samples over email. He's looking for artwork with high impact.

Don't send 10 styles to one art director. If they can't see a consistency they still don't know what to expect from you. Instead, if you work in multiple styles send one style per art director, and make sure to do research to know who would like that style.

Giuseppe says he goes to blogs. He says he loves them because he gets access into your head. And they all love websites and portfolio sites because they can forward your link easily.

After my head was spinning with all the info from the Intensive, which was indeed quite intense, Leeza and I headed off to the Wheeltapper Pub with awesome illustrator friends, Pat Cantor and Andy Mitchell, and fabulous writer friend, Sara Wilson Etienne for the Kidlit Cocktail Party hosted by Betsy Bird and Cheryl Klein. I met agent Stephen Barbara, and the amazingly talented illustrator/art director, Laurent Linn. It was great meeting SCBWI members in a casual setting. I met another Angela, Angela Russell, a writer who was there with her sister, and we had a great chat with NY Times Bestselling author, Jay Asher, who was so wonderful and humble! It was a great first day in NY.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 SCBWI Winter Conference - Illustrators' Intensive

The sun rises over New York as we approach the city

I wanted to post up my notes from the conference as soon as I got back, but here we are, and it's been about 2 weeks, and I'm still trying to process the amazing weekend. I've been wanting to go for a couple years, and decided that this year I must go, but then I started to have doubts as to if I was 'ready'. I contacted Leeza, and after a long talk we decided to be roomies, and it was so wonderful to be around her amazing energy and positive generous vibes.

Day 1 of the conference was the Illustrator's Intensive. On the way down in the elevator a kind woman enters from another floor. Leeza introduces me, and tells me this is Lin Oliver, the Executive Director and co-founder of SCBWI. What a wonderful way to start the conference!

After grabbing some bagels we file into the room with chairs and nice narrow tables which are great for note taking and resting one's plate of toasted bagel halves and ice water. We are told that revolution is upon us. Whatever worked in 2008 will not work in 2009, and 2010 will be a whole new game. We are entering a period of redefinition and reinvention. Our speakers exemplify this. Change is a permanent part of their portfolios. We will redefine children's books.

Leo and Diane Dillon

Our first speakers were Leo and Diane Dillon who are the only illustrators to have won the Caldecott 2 years in a row. The married couple has worked together for over 50 years, and they were a treat to listen to. Their strength has been their flexibility and their ability to change with the times. They talked about painting layers on acetate, and learning new techniques like tapestry, and woodcarving, and stained glass looks for the first time during actual illustration jobs. They said you learn fast when you have to. I am amazed at how they worked together on the same projects. They said they worked in shifts, and always respected each others space by asking permission if it was ok to look at the others' work yet. They jokingly said the biggest advantage to working as a team is that you can always blame the other one, or the other one can fix it.

We then had our first workshop on digital painting with William Low. He likes to work with a full screen in Photoshop without any palettes showing, so he has memorized just about every keyboard shortcut there is. I don't know if I could fully commit to working that way. That's just a little too much info for my brain to handle. For me it would be like working blind. I like to see my layers palette growing, and my history, navigator, and menu tool bar. To paint digitally Low said to treat layers in terms of physical space, so your foreground, middle, and background are on their own layers. In designing for a book we're not just creating pretty pictures. The type and art must fit like a dovetail joint. He provided many tips in blending , color settings, etc. that even a Photoshop expert could benefit from.

Grand Central Station

Then after dropping off our portfolios and a very quick lunch picked up next door from Grand Central Station it was onto workshop #2 with Elise Primavera. Her advice is that in order to do something fresh do something you are completely unqualified to do. At one point she thought she had nothing to say, and was not a writer. She was living at home with her parents at age 40, but then she wrote a successful children's book. She is now finding success in the graphic novel market which we often heard at the conference is the hot new trend, especially as the format relates to picture books. She split us off into groups, and we created the beginning of a paneled story by each of us introducing our characters, and then passing it to the next person to continue the story. This exercise was a good introduction to the basics of storytelling for me. After some initial confusion it ended up being a lot of fun, and some people went up to act there's out.

After all this the day 1 Intensive was still not over. The Art Directors' Panel is coming up in the next post.