Tuesday, October 21, 2014

jellyfish, ghosts, mummies and more!

This week I decided to add some color for #inktober (and for Illustration Friday too). There are only five images this week (the first image has three stages for three days).

The first image is: Jellies and Ghosts! I saw a picture of a jellyfish that reminded me of the shape of a ghost, so I couldn't resist making this image of the jellies and their ghostly friends (and a rare jelly-ghost too).

Here are the three stages for Jellies and Ghosts (I like them all, but I think the second stage is my favorite):

After that, I went back to more familiar territory. (COWS!) This particular cow is not a-moo-sed by the human's choice of Halloween costumes. Not a-MOO-sed, get it? Gotta love moo humor! (Or at least I do.) This is also my image for the Illustration Friday prompt, "Trouble," because I have a feeling that the moment right after this one is when the little kid gets into big trouble for the mummy costume (and runs to her mummy)!

 I was trying to think about what to do next when I remembered a batwing pumpkin I got about a month ago. I'd never heard of a batwing pumpkin before, though I think I've seen one. Here is the batwing pumpkin counting down to Halloween.

And here is my bat vs. a batwing pumpkin drawing:

Since I was on a pumpkin kick and I had been reading one of my favorite picture books, the next drawing is an homage to ORANGE PEAR APPLE BEAR by Emily Gravett. I call it Orange (pumpkin), Pear (shaped cat), Apple, (ghost) Bear:

The final image of the week is a cat-bat chasing a ghostly mouse:

There might be more multi-day drawings next week, and maybe even color too! Stay tuned ...

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

cows and ghosts and elephants, oh my!

I planned a whole different set of art this week for #inktober ... but the art had other ideas. I showed my dad the art.
Dad: "Wow! These are really great!"
Me: "I think what you meant to say, was weird."
Dad: "No, I really think they're great. Maybe a little weird, but I like them!"
So, here are the seven #inktober pictures I did this week, including on for Illustration Friday. They're a little weird, but I like them. I hope you do too!

October 8: No idea what happened. This picture WAS supposed to have a cow and elephant, but no clue where the flowers came from, or why they happened. Then I added a ghost in the middle, just because.

October 9: This drawing set the tone and subject matter for all the rest of the art this week (and is also a nod to Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show).

October 10: I had the idea that the ghost could transform into things and the cow and elephant would wear Halloween costumes, and they'd all say or give a clue to what they're supposed to be.

 October 11: Clearly there are no costumes in this picture. I blame the spider.

October 12: This is where things start to go off the rails. I blame the elephant (and Illustration Friday - the theme this week is octopus). Originally the cow was an owl and said, "Who!" but the owl costume looked awful, so I made her wear an eye, in a nod to the book I have coming out in December (EWE AND AYE).

October 13: Now the elephant is just being silly.

October 14: And finally, the ghost and cow are once again dressed up for Halloween, but the elephant is not. (He's too distracted by the pumpkin pie, which he will probably share. Probably.)

So that was my crazy #inktober week! What are your characters (that you're writing or drawing) doing this week? Did you know they were going to do those things? Or was it a total surprise like my ghost, cow, and elephant?

I wonder what surprises the drawings for next week will bring? I guess I'll find out ... stay tuned!

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

pups in usual and unusual Halloween costumes

More #inktober art! I've been having fun with putting puppies in Halloween costumes (some more unusual than others). On Sunday, the Pointer decided he wanted to point at things on Halloween. The cat provided a counter point.

On Monday, three puppies were dressed up like bugs, and the pumpkin was carved to look like a pup!

I couldn't resist adding some color to this one! Probably won't do that again this month, or at least not much - it's inktober, not watercolor-tober ... maybe next month.

Though I do like the way the color turned out, especially considering I was using a travel watercolor set and the not so great brush that came with it.

Last but not least for this series. On Tuesday, it was a battle between the Pie Rat and the Pirate! (I think maybe someone misunderstood what the costume theme was.)

Next time you might see a new animal or two. I'm thinking of inking some new characters wearing Halloween costumes!

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

puppies, bats, pumpkins and cats, with a witch and mouse under a full moon too!

Two new drawings  (for #inktober and Illustration Friday)! The drawing from Friday, October 3rd features flapping bats. Poor puppy! He doesn't know the bats don't want to scare him; they just want to play.

The next drawing, from Saturday, October 4th, features a puppy in a pumpkin patch. There's lots to look at: a full moon (with a cat and a witch), bats, boats with dogs, and a mouse eating pumpkin pie!

Here's a detail of the two dogs in a boat:

The dog in the back looks like he's wearing a hat (he's not - just a slip of the pen). The puppy in front looks like a rabbit, according to my dad (she's not a rabbit - just a dog with long ears). Pretty good for inking a tiny boat (about 1" square) full of dogs at 2am! Next time I should use a magnifying glass. First I need to get a magnifying glass. ;)

My two latest drawings + weekly theme for IF (silence) inspired the lines below ... either that, or I've been thinking about horror films way too much (but it is October, so that's understandable, right?):
There's silence in the dead of night, when creatures creep and crawl, and flap and fly.
Then again, maybe I'm finally going to write a Halloween themed picture book! *crosses fingers*

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

wishing for Halloween and pumpkin pie

Lots of wishes in this picture: the puppy is wishing that the pumpkin would magically turn into a pie, the ghost is wishing it was Halloween already, the cat is wishing the ghost wasn't real, and the bird is wishing that the cat, dog and ghost would go away already! The pumpkin isn't wishing for anything, because it's a pumpkin. (For #inktober and Illustration Friday).

I decided to participate in #inktober this year ... but I have rules (for myself - YMMV). Why do I have rules? To try to keep it fun! And so it doesn't get overwhelming - ack! These are my rules so far (might add more, might not need to):
*Update: the rules started changing the day after I posted this. Rules are meant to be changed, right?

1. Spend no more than 15 minutes on each ink drawing/sketch (from pencil to final).
*This rule has been changed because 15 minutes? Hahahahahaha! Who was I kidding? Plus the October 3rd and 4th drawings took a ton of time. A TON. (But I like them, so it was totally worth it. TOTALLY. I'll post them soon.) The new rule is: If I don't have time to finish it in one day, the drawing can stretch over as many days as it takes to finish it.

2. No erasing pencil lines (unless I have extra time or they're super annoying and need to be erased).

3. There has to be some element of Halloween in the picture (pumpkin, black cat, ghost, witch, etc.).

4. There should probably be a dog in every drawing. Why? Because I'm working on a dog book, so I can count these drawings as possible character sketches. Thus, #inktober also counts as work. Yay!
*Pretty sure I'm going to change this one to have different subjects every week because it will be more fun. Also thinking about making all the drawings starting Oct. 5th into animals wearing Halloween costumes. Why? Because Halloween! Costumes! Fun! It will still technically be work too, because I'll be making my characters for PB projects wear costumes.

5. I don't have to post a picture every day.

6. Just because I post a quick tweet of my drawing doesn't mean I have to blog it that day too.

7. Try to blog most/all of the pictures, though not every day (see #5 and #6 above). I could post a bunch of pictures at once if I haven't been able to post daily.

8. If I am going to post a picture, it will be a quick photo, not a scanned and cleaned up piece (for time and sanity reasons, but mostly because I won't have access to a scanner for most of the month). Though I'll probably crop and add a © notice in Photoshop.

9. I'll be making my own prompts (see #3 and #4 above) instead of doing any official challenges for #inktober (there's one with Sketch Dailies and Copic markers here if you want to participate).  *Prompts are subject to change to keep things interesting.

10. I feel like I need a 10th rule, so it's going to be: try new brush markers ... but use what I have until I can order or buy new kinds. (I always like playing with new art supplies/techniques.)
*I got a new brush marker. Woo! Not the one I was looking for, but still seems to work well. It's a Pentel brush marker.

Are you participating in #inktober? Do you have rules for yourself?

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

one dog, four ducks, and a pumpkin

Old English Sheep Dog wishes he were friends with the ducks (for #inktober and Illustration Friday).

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

how to write a picture book in twelve easy steps

Want to write a picture book, but don't know where to start? You're in luck! Follow these twelve easy steps* and you'll have a picture book at the end.

1. Read a ton of newly published picture books (published in the last 12-18 months). 

Books that were published before that may not reflect what publishers are looking for now, and books that just came out were probably purchased 1-3 years ago, or even before that. Picture books have a looooooooong lead time.

2. Think about whether the story you're telling fits within the age group, subject matter, language, format, and word count (usually 500 or fewer words) of current picture books.
Many picture books these days are shorter and aimed at a younger audience than picture books in the past. That said, since they are meant to be read to a child, they don't have to use simple words for a child trying to read on their own for the first time.

3. When you go back to your story, remember that the art will tell half (or more) of the story. 

One of the great things about picture books is that the child can read the story in the illustrations, even if they can't yet read the text. When writing a picture book, remember to leave room for the illustrator to tell the child their version of the story.

4. Don't forget that picture book text describes the action of the story, but not the visual details (leave those to the illustrator).

5. Start with a blank page after steps 1-4 (even if you already have a draft written), and write the book as an outline, or just the bones of your story.
When you write your first draft, don't be afraid to take as many words as you need to get your story down on the page. Picture books may end up short and concise, but they rarely, if ever, start there. Revision is where the story usually starts to shine.

6. Take each action in the outline and write that as a line in your book (don't add any more at this point).

7. Put it away for a day/week/however long you can stand not writing it.
Write something else while you're waiting, and complete step 8 too.

8. Read more current picture books, with special attention to how the words and pictures work together in the book. What words are left out to leave room for the art? What story does the art tell and how does it enhance or expand the story in the text?
Think about your story compared to the ones you just read. Have you left room for the art? Does your story fit into a picture book (subject, word count, language, format, age group)? If not, maybe you're writing a different type of story (easy reader, chapter book, etc.).

9. Pull your ms out and re-read, then revise while thinking about the text and how it will work with potential art. Read your story out loud. It will help you to hear where the words don't flow and help you weed out unnecessary or added words.

10. Repeat steps 1-9 as needed.

11. When you are ready, think about getting a critique! 

If you don't already have a critique group/partner, here are some options: the SCBWI has critique exchange on their discussion board, you could take a picture book writing class, or attend a conference that offers critiques.

Notes on critiques: Critiques are great when they are helpful, but you don't have to make every change suggested. Revise the story when the comments reflect your vision (as opposed to the story the other person would write). When multiple people comment on the same thing, it's an issue you should consider changing, but you don't have to change it the way they suggested (or at all). It's your story! Maybe you have a more creative solution to change the problem and make the story better. One last thing: sometimes there are spots in a story that critiquers say aren't working, but the problem is in another part of the manuscript. If several people comment on an element that you think needs to stay in your story, look to see if you can make that moment necessary by laying the groundwork for it earlier. Or repeat step 7 and put it away for a while. When you come back to it, maybe you'll realize it needs to be cut, or your subconscious will have come up with a new solution that makes sense for your story and makes it better.

12. Revise and repeat as needed.

Good luck writing your picture book!

* The steps are easy, but the execution of them is not. There is no magic bullet that will allow you to write a publishable picture book quickly***. It may take a many years of repeating these steps before you have a picture book manuscript that is polished and ready to send to publishers. In that time, you'll learn and grow as a picture book writer, and the market will also grow and change, which is why it's important to keep repeating these steps, especially #1 and #8 (read current picture books).

** As with any advice, use it if it works for you, if not, don't. Everyone has their own process. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)

*** There's always news of someone quickly dashing off a book that ends up getting a publishing deal. This person is probably one of 3 types: A. a celebrity, B. lucky as all get out, or C. a writer who has been writing for a long time, and what sounds like an overnight success, was really hard work followed by being in the right place at the right time. Most will fall into category C, whether you know it, or not.

**** Note: I've updated to add a couple of things I forgot. Just like a picture book text, this post is better after multiple revisions!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

wobbly egg for Illustration Friday

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is egg. I did some egg sketches and ended up choosing an egg with a chicken that's about to hatch.

If the chick doesn't regain her footing, gravity will help her out of her shell!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March First Books: POISON by Bridget Zinn

Every Wednesday this month, I’ve been blogging about first books to help celebrate the release of Bridget Zinn’s novel, POISON, which released March 12. On this final Wednesday, I'll be talking about Bridget's book:

The giveaway has ended. The winner is Diana Evans!

Update after reading POISON: One sign of a good book is that you can't stop thinking about it after you've finished reading it. I've been thinking about Bridget's book since I finished it last week. There's a lot to love about this book: a headstrong main character, adventure, danger, funny bits, a cute boy (who doesn't take away from the heroine's awesomeness), a best friend (who the main character is trying to kill, even though she doesn't want to), a cute pig with special talents, and twists and turns you don't see coming! I'm sad that I won't get to read another book by Bridget, but I'm happy that she wrote this book and left it behind for us to read. I'll be thinking about this one for a while!

About POISON (from the author's site):
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses. Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her? Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
About Bridget Zinn: Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the "summer of love" and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect."

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads. Learn more about the author on her website.

Publisher's Weekly has a wonderful article about Bridget and POISON here.

Bridget wrote about her diagnosis and treatment on her blog. I'm not sure how many people she touched with her words, but I know that she touched my family. My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after Bridget was. I had been reading Bridget's blog. After my mom's diagnosis, I sent a link to her, so she could read it too. The posts about her treatments made the road ahead less scary, and the posts about how much she enjoyed life, even with cancer, made it easier to notice the little things in life that brought us joy. My mom and I have both been looking forward to reading POISON! I loved this book, and I'm giving it to my mom for her upcoming birthday (it's on her gift list)! :D

Want to read POISON? Pick up a copy at your favorite bookstore or library, or fill out the form below to win a copy! (Note: US entries only.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Speaking of giveaways, the winner of ALTERED by Jenn Rush, is: Casey Harris-Parks! And the winner of BOT WARS by J.V. Kade, is: Lil Berry!

Why am I posting about first books this month? If you're an author or illustrator of books, you know the anticipation of seeing your book in print. You prepare for the day it releases and want to shout about it to the world because you’re so excited! Unfortunately, Bridget Zinn isn’t here to celebrate the release of her first novel, so authors and illustrators are celebrating for her. Learn more about Bridget and her novel POISON on her website. Bridget's book is now out in stores! Find POISON at your favorite bookstore or library. For Bridget's blog tour schedule, click here.

Legal Stuff about the giveaway: Void where prohibited. The book, POISON, was purchased by me for the giveaway.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

a lizard wearing glasses, an old newspaper joke, and illustration Friday

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is eye glasses. I did several sketches before coming up with this drawing of a lizard and his friends all wearing glasses:

I drew the girl on the left first, not knowing what she was so surprised about. When I started to draw the boy, I knew there would be something or someone on his shoulder, but had no idea it was going to be a lizard! I decided that a lizard wearing glasses was funnier than a squirrel, so that's what I went with. The girl on the right was just an excuse to draw a profile with someone wearing glasses, but I think she fits in quite well with the other two. She's amused because she's the one that gave the lizard the glasses!

This is a different style for me. It looks similar to my regular style, but the line is a lot thinner. Here's a crop with just the black line so you can see what I mean:

I also made a version with a dark red background. Originally it was to make sure that everything was colored in without the background showing through, but then I really liked the way it looked. What do you think of the red background?

Couldn't help thinking of that old joke my dad used to tell: "What's black and white, and read all over? --- A Newspaper!" I didn't say it was a funny joke. When I was really little, I thought it was the color red, not read. I still think of that when I think of that joke, even though I know it's really read, not red ... probably because I'm an artist.

And here's the crop I put on the Illustration Friday site:

 I like it because it reminds me of a movie poster. It also shows how different an image can look and feel just by how you crop it. Now I want to go see a movie! I'll have to check the newspaper to see what's playing ... I'll probably check it online, since we only get the Sunday paper these days. If our newspaper had comics, we'd probably still get it every day.