Friday, May 20, 2016

patterns, personal art themes, and illustration friday

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: nostalgia. I've been going through old art lately and looking at themes, or things in my art that I return to again and again. One of the themes I like to play around with is patterns. The nice thing about patterns is they can be different every time, so they can fit in to almost any piece of art without looking like you're doing the same thing over and over again. The patterns can be bold so the viewer can't help but notice them, or subtle so the viewer might not even realize there's a pattern until they look again.

One of my old pattern pieces that I really love is one that hardly anyone has seen. It's an illustration of swirling mail (which is also nostalgic because people don't send or receive as much personal mail these days, and because it reminds me of my mom, who loved to write and send letters):


Makes you want to write and send a letter, doesn't it?

Another nostalgic image is a painting I did of sea turtles for Ripple in 2010. I love sea turtles and even got to swim with them once! Was happy to be able to paint this piece to help support ocean animals.


A more recent example of pattern mixed with nostalgia is this picture of a cat in a field of flowers (trying to get the birds, while a bird above is about to dump a hive full of bees on the cat). It's nostalgic because it's an updated version of the stuffed animal friend I had as a child (my alter-ego Kitty, who was mischievous):


 Speaking of bees, several years ago, I was working on a novel called, Path Of Bees. The novel didn't go anywhere (yet - working on picture books now), but this is one of the images inspired by the story:


Speaking of picture books, EWE AND AYE by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble, had a couple of pattern pieces in it. This one is the pattern of the tree leaves and vines (each set of two leaves forms a heart - most are upside down, just like Aye in this scene):


Here are four more patterned images (both new and old) with more obvious patterns:


And finally, let me leave you with a song. It's about carrots:


Do you like to make patterns, either obvious or hidden in your art? Or do you make patterns when you doodle? (I do.) Do you have themes you return to again and again? If not, maybe this trip down my art memory lane will inspire you to take your own trip through your old art, or inspire you to make new art with patterns. Happy art making!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

dogs in Hawaiian shirts, pugs in tulips, and hippos with tattoos and sunflowers

Today is a "Dogs In Hawaiian Shirts" kind of day. From the art archive:


Makes me want to break out my watercolors!*
(Update: Got out the watercolors! Two new paintings at the end of the post!)

Or maybe it's a "Hippo With A Tattoo" kind of day (also from the art archive and for the Illustration Friday prompt, tattoo):



Maybe those dogs are wearing Hawaiian shirts to hide their hippo tattoos!

Or maybe the hippo and the seagull have Hawaiian shirts, but took them off to go swimming!

So many possibilities!

That's how stories start, with a silly idea.  

(Or at least that's how my stories start. YMMV.)

What kind of day are you having?

* Couldn't resist pulling out the watercolors and painting! So much fun! Apparently it was a "Watercolor Painting" kind of day, inspired by the two images I posted above. :)

#1 - It was also a "Pug Puppies Tiptoeing (and bounding) Through The Tulips" kind of day:


I've never drawn pugs before (not even the year I drew a dog a day all year). Fun to try. Might do it again some time!

#2 - And a "Tiny Hippo Stops To Smell Giant Sunflower" kind of day:


Hope you have a wonderful and creative day, whatever kind of day it is for you! 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

meet the sheep (from the refugee auction painting)

Last week, I blogged about an auction to benefit refugees (see the end of post for more info on auction), and the sheep package up for bid that includes three items from me (an original painting, a signed copy of my picture book EWE AND AYE, and sheep note cards). Note: The auction has ended. Thanks to everyone who bid on items to help refugees!

Now it's time to meet the six sheep from the painting and find out what books they like to read!

1. Fluffy loves books about space. She has a telescope and a collection of socks with stars and planets on them (the ones she's wearing in the painting match her book). Fluffy hopes to be an astronaut one day and explore the universe.


2. Ewegenia (pronounced like Eugenia) loves books about cows and fashion (her best friend is a cow). She likes to dress up and go out and about on the farm with her best cow friend. She also likes to give the other sheep makeovers, even when they don't want them. She's not a big fan of shearing day; she likes her wool to look just so. Ewegenia is a cousin of Ewe (from EWE AND AYE).


3. Baa-b (pronounced like Bob) likes being scared and reading scary books, the scarier the better. He's afraid of spiders and is always cold, so he always wears a cap, a sweater, and slippers, and keeps a look out for creepy crawlies.


4. Woolly loves magic. Her favorite books are about a witch named Woolly Hatter, who saves the world from evil. She likes to pretend that she's Woolly Hatter (they have the same first name) and can save the world with a swish of her wand. But first, she needs to find out what happens in the books. Then she needs to get a wand.


5. Ewenice (pronounced like Eunice) loves to dance. She's been practicing she she was just a little lamb. She twirls and leaps everywhere she goes. One day she hopes to dance with the royal farm ballet company. Ewenice is another cousin of Ewe (from EWE AND AYE).


6. Zee loves to sleep during the day because he works all night. You know those sheep people always tell you to count when you're trying to fall asleep? Zee is one of the counting sleep sheep. He reads sleepy books about sheep and rabbits to help him fall asleep during the day.


Here's the full painting, with all the sheep together:


If you'd like to see pictures of this painting in progress, check out my post about the painting here.

About the auction - From the site: "Authors Shannon Hale and Mette Ivie Harrison have mobilized book people to donate items for an epic online auction. You will find one of a kind offers, critiques, art, books, personalized visits, and unique events from our generous helpers. All the money after administrative fees will go to Lifting Hands International, a charity that gets life-saving supplies directly to refugee camps."

Note: The auction has ended. Thanks to everyone who bid on items to help refugees! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the woods are full of chickens!

Did you know that chickens like to hang out in trees? They do! If you're ever in an area with a lot of trees, keep a look out for chickens. For instance, if you were out walking in the woods, this is what you might see (but only if you're really still and quiet so the chickens get curious and come out):


That's a whole lot of chickens hanging out in the woods! Let's move in a little closer and see what they're up to. Here are a few of the chickens nestled high up in the branches: 


What do you think those chickens are up to? Hmm. Let's look down on the ground and see what a few of the other chickens are doing:


That chicken way in the back looks like it's planning and scheming. Maybe it's a good plan, like for a surprise birthday party ... or maybe it's something more nefarious! What do you think?

Last week I ran across an old sketch of chickens in the woods. When I found out the prompt for Illustration Friday this week was wood, it seemed like time to get out the paintbrushes and do something about those chickens! After all, the only thing chickens like more than hanging out in trees is having people draw and paint them.

In case you're curious to see how the art was created, here are a few pictures of the process:

Step One: Sketch


Step Two: Ink


Step Three: Colored Pencil


Step Four: Start Painting


Step Five: Final Paint And Ink Details


p.s. There's a charity auction for refugee children going on right now. There are lots of wonderful items to bid on, including my painting of several sheep reading (it comes with a copy of my book, EWE AND AYE, and a set of 8 sheep note cards). Click here to bid on the sheep reading painting. If you'd like to see the painting as it evolves, I'm blogging about the process of painting the sheep here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

a sheep painting, note cards, and book (EWE AND AYE) for the Refugee Benefit Auction

There's a benefit for refugees going on right now (see the end of the post for info on the auction), and I have a sheep package up for bid that includes three items:

Note: The auction has ended. Thanks to everyone who bid on items to help refugees!


1. A signed copy of the picture book, EWE AND AYE written by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble (signed by the illustrator - that's me)

2. Eight sheep note cards with my artwork (four each of two designs: sheep in a field and sheep happy birthday). The cards are printed on linen paper and come with linen envelopes.

3. An original Sheep Reading painting by me. The black line was printed on watercolor paper, and the color is hand painted* with acrylic. Size 8” x 8” including a boarder around the art for framing.
To meet the sheep and find out what they're reading, click here.

Sheep Reading Painting Process:

Step One: Sketch, ink, scan, and print the drawing onto watercolor paper, then tape it onto a board for painting -


 Step Two: Start painting -


 Step Three: Work on sky, tree, and grass. Make the sky and clouds fluffy to go with fluffy sheep -


Up close view of the fluffy sky -


Step Four (4-19 update): Lighter color for grass and tree leaves, new flowers, fixing up the fence, and starting on the  sheep -


Step Five (4-20 update): Fluffy sheep, a finished fence, and redefining the eyes -


Up close view of the fence and the zombie sheep (not really a zombie - just needs eyeballs) -


Step Six (4-21 update): More color and personality for the sheep and books! -


Step Seven (4-22 update): The color is done! All that's left is the black line.


Step Eight (4-25 update): The Finished Painting! -


To meet the sheep and find out what they're reading, click here.

About the auction - From the site: "Authors Shannon Hale and Mette Ivie Harrison have mobilized book people to donate items for an epic online auction. You will find one of a kind offers, critiques, art, books, personalized visits, and unique events from our generous helpers. All the money after administrative fees will go to Lifting Hands International, a charity that gets life-saving supplies directly to refugee camps."

Note: The auction has ended. Thanks to everyone who bid on items to help refugees! 

Friday, April 1, 2016

reading in 2016 - book stats and favorites January - March

My book reading goals for 2016 are the same as they were last year: 1. Read more. 2. Write down all books read.

The good news is that I've already read a ton of books in the first three months of the year! The bad news is that I've already forgotten to write down a few of the picture books I've read (though I've gotten almost all of them).

Here are my book stats for this year so far (here's the link to all of last year's stats as a comparison):

2016 Book Reading Stats (January to March):

43 Picture Books*

3 Easy Readers

1 Chapter Book

4 Middle Grade Novels

2 YA Novels

4 Graphic Novels

2 Non Fiction Books**

1 Adult Novel

Total = 60 books!***

* On track to beat picture books read last year by a HUGE margin (I'm already one over my total for the whole year of 2015, although there were a few picture books this year I forgot to write down, and a LOT of them I forgot to write down last year). 

** The two non fiction books were both adult books about children's books.

*** There were two books I didn't finish that aren't in the totals above (not the right books for me right now, though I probably would have enjoyed them at a different time), and one book I wish I hadn't read (even though I liked parts of the book and was engaged in the story, there were many things I didn't like that took me out of the story - those made me wish I hadn't read the book - I did finish it to see what happened though).

Note: Some of these were new reads and some were re-reads, but each book is only counted once (each year), even if I re-read over and over. I usually don't re-read novels, but I do re-read picture books.

January to March 2016 - Picture Book Favorites: 
I decided to pick five picture book favorites ... but ended up with ten! (And could have had so many more). It's always hard to pick favorites! On the other hand, it's also fun to think about the books I've read and which ones stand out in my memory. I decided to focus on picture book favorites because I've read more of them so far this year than any other type of book. Plus, I love picture books! Here are ten of my favorite picture books this year (so far) in alphabetical order:

ARE WE THERE, YETI? by Ashlyn Anstee

- Long car rides almost always come with cries of, "Are we there yet?" This book has a slight twist in that it's a bus full of children with a school bus driver named Yeti (who is, of course, a yeti). Along the way to there destination, the kids cry out, "Are we there, Yeti?" Eventually they arrive at their unexpected destination. The kids are happy to finally be there, but are not sure they want to be there at first. A fun story with neat art and a diverse cast of kids. Sure to be a hit on the next road trip, or while staying at home too.

 
BOOKS ALWAYS EVERYWHERE written by Jane Blatt, illustrated by Sarah Massini

-  What's better than a book about books? This book about books has fun suggestions about what books can be in the text and in the clever illustrations. A diverse cats of children and animal friends celebrate all the things a book can be. 




COCKATOO, TOO by Bethanie Deeney Murguia 

-  Some picture books just beg to be read aloud, and this is one of them. Fun and feathery word play combined with colorful illustrations make for a book that kids (and adults) will enjoy reading. Warning: reading this book might lead to dancing and silliness.

FOUND by Salina Yoon

- For everyone who has ever had a plush toy friend who was real, this is the book for you. When Bear finds a toy rabbit in the forest, he knew that the rabbit was a special friend that someone had lost. Bear sets off on a search for the lost owner with his new rabbit friend. A heartwarming story with wonderful illustrations that will have children going back several times to capture all the details.


 
LOVE IS MY FAVORITE THING by Emma Chichester Clark 

- Plum the dog has lots of favorite things, but her favorite is love. Plum tries so very hard to be good and to do what her humans tell her, but she can't help that she's a dog and sometimes loves to do things that humans don't want her to do. Will Plum's humans still love her when she lets her doggie nature take over? This book is for dog lovers of all ages (and pet lovers of all kinds, cats, birds, rabbits, etc.).



MY DOG'S A CHICKEN written by Susan McElroy Montanari, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

-  What do you do if you're a resourceful kid whose parents say no to getting a puppy? If you're Lula Mae, and your family has a yard full of chickens, you'll pick a chicken to be your puppy (whether the chicken wants to be a puppy, or not). This is a funny story about pets and accepting that things might not be exactly what you want, but maybe, just maybe a chicken makes a better dog than a real dog (whether your parents want you to have a pet chicken, or not).

NIGHT ANIMALS by Gianna Marino

- Just like some kids are scared of the dark and things that go bump in the night, some animals are scared of night animals who roam around in the dark outside. This story is an interesting and amusing take on being scared of creatures in the dark, and on finding friends who will watch your back so that nobody can get you. Fun twist at the end that some kids might see coming, and others, just like the animals in the story, will not.
 

ROAR written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Liz Starin


- This story about friendship and what really matters unfolds as a conversation between a boy who thinks he's a dragon and two dragons who think he's not, and also a cat named Stanley. The amusing text is sure to have everyone pretending they are dragons, and the energetic illustrations will have them looking closely to get tips on how to act like a dragon.


 
SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN by Chris Haughton

- Shh! The characters in this book have a plan! They have a plan to capture a bird. Unfortunately, the littlest one keeps foiling their plans. Every time they are about to capture the bird, it gets away. After a few twists and turns, there's a new plan. Shh! The story is neat and the illustrations are stunning. The art graphically captures the plan and showcases the birds in stark color contrast to the robbers.



WHERE'S THE ELEPHANT? by Barroux

- If you love seek and find books, be sure to check this one out! There are three animals to find (an elephant, a bird, and a snake). In the beginning, it's hard to find them among the trees. As their habitat shrinks and buildings appear, it becomes easier and easier to find the animals. A wonderful way to look and habitat and how humans and animals co-exist together (or not). Great twist at the end, where the illustration suggests that it will soon be hard to find the three animals again.


What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? Any favorite picture books this year?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

a cat, a bat, and three owls - wisdom for illustration friday

A little ink and colored pencil sketch of a cat, a bat, and three owls, for the Illustration Friday prompt this week (wisdom):


Here's a close up of the cat and two of the owls:


What does this all mean? I'm not sure, but here are three guesses:

1. If you're an owl, watch out for cats.
2. If you're a cat, watch out for wise owls.
3. If you're a bat, sleep when you're tired and let the owls worry about the cats.

Or maybe it's just a fun little sketch and it doesn't have any deeper meaning than that!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

the path illustrators take to get their work noticed and advance their careers

If you're a new children's book illustrator (or writer) you might not know that the path illustrators take to get their work noticed is not the same one that writers take.

The path illustrators take to get their work noticed and advance their careers:

1. Develop a style.

2. Create a strong portfolio.

3. Create a website to post your portfolio so art directors and editors can find you and see your work.

4. Research publishers/editors/art directors/agents and create a mailing list.

5. Create postcards, have them printed, pay for postage, take the time to address them, and mail them to your list.

6. Continue to create new art for their portfolio and for postcards.

7. If you are also a writer: write and illustrate your own stories. Join a critique group (not for everyone but can be helpful). Re-write and revise until it's polished and ready to send. Do research on where to send your story. And finally, submit it.

8. If you are not a writer, but want to illustrate a text: choose a fairy tale or nursery rhyme, etc. and show your unique take on how you would tell that story and illustrate it. Show finished images from this in your portfolio and create a dummy to show if you go to a conference, or if an editor/art director/agent asks to see it.

9. Go to conferences where there are opportunities to show portfolios, have critiques, and meet art directors/editors/agents in person. If you can't go to a conference, research online opportunities for pitching or online conferences that might be free or more affordable.

10. Use social media and/or a blog to show your work, announce new portfolio pieces, a new postcard, etc.

11. Join the SCBWI and/or local children's illustration groups if you have them in your area.

These 11 steps take years and are the best way for illustrators to get their work up to the level of being a professional and get it out noticed by people who might hire them. They don't necessarily have to be done in this order, but all of the steps are important. The first 6 are the most important and most likely to yield results, but 7-11 are pretty important as well.

For the majority of illustrators,  working on their own will be more likely to yield results and would be more advantageous to an illustrator's career than partnering with a writer to get their work out there. There are always exceptions, and your mileage may vary, but usually an illustrator can make more progress by working toward their goal and making their career a focus.

Note: Picture book manuscripts do not need to be submitted with illustrations. The publisher pairs the writer and the illustrator. If a writer asks you to make art so they can submit to a publisher, they might not know that they actually have a better chance by submitting the text only. Publishers might not like the art and text together and/or might prefer one over the other. This is an awkward situation for all involved, and may result in a rejection so the publisher doesn't have to come between the author and the illustrator. Again, there are exceptions, though not usually. Tread cautiously and go in with your eyes open if you decide to go this route.

Four other posts I've written that might be helpful if you're interested in becoming a picture book illustrator and/or writer:

Five Tips For Illustrators 

Three Ways To Make A Picture Book Dummy 

Ten Tips For Choosing What To Draw For Your Portfolio, And Ten Ways To Find Inspiration

How To Write A Picture Book In Twelve Easy Steps 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy (rainy) Pie (pi) Day!

Today is Pi Day (3.14), but people also like to eat pie on pi day.

This is for all of you who are celebrating pi with pie on this rainy* March 14th!


I wasn't intending to do a watercolor piece, but then I got the watercolor pencils out. The paper is way too thin for watercolor, but it managed to stay in one piece (barely). Since I love when other people show process pictures, here's the four stages this picture went through before it was finished:


Step 1: ink sketch / Step 2: watercolor pencil / Step 3: watercolor / Step 4: colored pencil

Happy Rainy Pie/Pi Day Everyone!

*It's rainy here and lots of other places today, but it might be sunny where you are. If so, enjoy the sun and the pie!