Monday, January 26, 2009

Art Day Interview: Illustrator Katherine Zecca

Today’s Art Day interview is with author/illustrator Katherine Zecca, who illustrated: “The Strange Life of the Land Hermit Crab,” “River Song: With the Banana Slug String Band” by Steve Van Zandt, and “In My Back Yard” by Valarie Giogas. She also wrote and illustrated A Puffin’s Year. Read on to find out more about Katherine’s wonderful art.

Q: How did you get started illustrating for children?
A: I got started by asking myself a question. What would make my heart sing? I
was a scientific illustrator for NOAA Fisheries, and the National Marine Mammal Lab for a dozen years. I got a contract with the National Zoo to illustrate a book about Pollinators. It just got me really excited about the possibilities and the challenges in the publishing world.



Q: What are you working on right now? Do you have any books or art projects you’d like to talk about?
A: I am writing a couple of non-fiction books, developing the research needed, which to me is really fun. I also enjoy contacting biologists whose specialty is about the animals I am writing about.

Q: Do you do non-children’s book art (licensing, fine art, etc.) or art just for fun? Is that art similar or different from your children’s book art?
A: I live on a beautiful nature preserve, I look forward to spring when I can start doing some sketching and painting outdoors.



Q: When someone else has written the text for a book, how do you decide what scenes and details to draw?
A: I do some rough drafts and small sketches. Generally try to memorize the story, really get my head into it, to the point that I see the pictures. Then I start sketching ideas out, looking for visual references. I find some of those from my own sketchbooks sometimes from photographs I have taken.

Q: When illustrating picture books, do you include a visual storyline that’s not in the text or include animals or people you know?
A: I have used my friends and neighbors as models, used my dogs for "Why Puppies do That."

Q: Can you explain your art process?
A: If I am illustrating someone else’s story, I will start with their words, try to get a visual picture in my head. Then I start sketching and making notes to myself. From there I find images I like, refine them and pass them on to the creative director. After I get their approval I enlarge them onto heavy water color paper and refine the drawing again. I will usually make small color samples of a page before continuing onto the final painting. On River Song I focused on complimentary colors to really push the feeling of the seasonal changes.



Q: What is your favorite color?
A: I love every shade of blue

Q: What is your favorite medium to work in?
A: Right now I enjoy acrylic inks, very bright and easy to control, use it like watercolors

Q: What childhood art supply brings back happy memories?
A: Top of my head...hmmm finger painting

Q: Did you always want to be an artist when you grew up?
A: I had no idea I had any talent what so ever, it was cultivated in my twenties.

Q: Do you use models / source pictures or do you draw from your memory/imagination?
A: I use everything at my disposal. I think I have stored memories, sometimes images just come to me from a favorite hike, horseback ride in the mountains.



Q: If you could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?
A: A jazz guitar player, a stand up comic, a pilot

Q: What gets you through an illustration you’re having trouble with?
A: I like to go for a walk with my dogs, and basically get away from my drawing table. Sometimes just doing the dishes or cleaning the house gets me going again too, but I would much rather go for a walk with my lab and basset.

Q: What illustrated book do you remember from when you were a child?
A: The one book that has truly influenced me was Charlotte's web. I have an original copy that was given to me by my brother in 1962. I was reading it before it became popular. Since then I have been following a life path that directly relates to that book. I didn't realize this until I say the latest film made. Between my absolute love of all animal life, farms, rural settings, illustrating, and writing. This is why I like doing school visits because it gives me the chance to really connect with children, to hopefully inspire them.

Q: Is there a children’s book illustrator whose work you gravitate towards in the bookstore now?
A: Chris Van Allsburg hands down.

Q: If you could be a kid again for just one day, what would you do?
A: Ride my bike, make forts and hug my Mom again.

Bio: Katherine was born in Weisbaden Germany, and as lived most of her life in the Pacific Northwest. She moved to Vermont just a year ago. Previously a staff artist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, she created illustrations of fish, whales and seals for marine biologists. In her new career as an author and illustrator, Katherine is able to use her life experiences and wonderful voice of writing to authenticate her books and share her moving experiences to encourage children to learn about the world of nature. Katherine enjoys camping and sketching on long walks in the woods with her Basset Bailey and her black Lab Hunter. For more information, visit her website: http://www.katherinezecca.com or her cafepress shop: http://www.cafepress.com/zeccart

Or contact Katherine’s agent Lori Nowicki at: http://painted-words.com/KatherineZecca.htm

Thanks for the interview Katherine!

All images in this post © Katherine Zecca.

Awards! link to the list and NG reaction

It can be impossible to find the list of award winners if you don't get into the broadcast. Thanks so much to professornana for posting them here.
(Thanks to Shirley for the link.)

Stories about, "the call" are always fun. Check out Neil Gaiman's post about it here.
(Thanks to Ann Marie for the link.)

A Big, Huge CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners!

I have the Graveyard book already (next on my to read list) but I need to get The House in the Night. The art looks gorgeous on amazon and I can't wait to see it in person.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Publicity: An interview with PR Coordinator Sara Dobie

sruble: Did you always want to do Public Relations?

Sara Dobie: Nope. I started as a news writer in college. Then, I realized that news writing was a touch dry for my taste. I also realized that on paper, I was a dang smooth operator. And what is PR but smooth operating in the spotlight? It’s more creative than news writing. There’s more room to stretch, and you can occasionally throw the whole AP style manual out the door. To me, “public relations” means freedom to have free thought. Sky’s the limit, and that’s what keeps things exciting—for me and the people I represent.

sruble: How did you get into PR for publishing, and how long have you been doing it?

Sara Dobie: Through a comedy of errors, I ended up in the wine industry after college, working as a sales rep for a distributor in the Midwest. I ended up hating it; I ended up walking off the job. Two weeks later, there was an ad in the city paper—an art gallery was looking for a manager. I applied. The artist/owner called and said I didn’t have enough experience to be a manager, but she liked my credentials. She wondered if I could promote her husband’s children’s book. I took the freelance job. I learned more real life stuff in one year than I had in four years at college. Once my contract ran out, I started my own book publicity firm, Tree Town Promotions, which I ran out of an apartment for over a year. Tree Town’s in hibernation for the time being, thanks to my full time position at Sylvan Dell Publishing, which I took back in May 2008. Overall, I’ve been in the publishing business for three years, but there are days when I miss Bordeaux and brunch from my short-lived sales career. Who wouldn’t? Right?

sruble: Can you tell us a little bit about Sylvan Dell Publishing?

Sara Dobie: Our mission statement reads as follows: “bringing science and math to children through literature.” It’s the brainchild of Lee and Donna German. Lee is a retired navy guy; Donna wrote bread machine cookbooks for years, hitting the New York Times Bestseller list. They homeschooled their three girls, which added to their inspiration and guided them toward picture books with educational value. They opened Sylvan Dell Publishing in November of 2004, and the company has grown to include over 55 authors/illustrators, 40 children’s book titles, and 70 awards. We’re not slowing down. Check out the website at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com.

sruble: What’s the last book you read? If not a children’s book, what was the last children’s book you read?

Sara Dobie: Everything’s Eventual, by Stephen King. The best short story collection since Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House. The last children’s book I read was The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. I’m a full-grown adult, and yet, the book still manages to make me cry every time.

sruble: What’s your favorite snack to eat or drink while reading a book?

Sara Dobie: Black coffee and whole-wheat toast with crunchy peanut butter. (Okay, and yes, the occasional glass of red wine…)

***And now for some questions from other bloggers.***

Ghost Girl: How important is an author website for publicity, and do you recommend a highly interactive site for the YA audience?

Sara Dobie: A website is not an option—it’s a necessity. Technology is taking over the world, even the world of books, and that can’t be denied. And although it may seem like a pain to go through the website design process, in the end, it serves to benefit YOU more than anyone else. For one thing, it saves you supplies. Instead of printing flyers, posters, etc, you can just send people to your website. There, they can learn about you, see your upcoming event schedules (and the higher attendance at your events, the better, right?), and even order your book.

In regards to a “highly interactive site,” I don’t know that “highly” is necessary, but “interactive” is useful. When I say interactive, I’m not talking bells and whistles and singing/dancing cartoon animals. I’m talking downloadable activities to go with your book. I’m talking lesson plans for your book. I’m talking puzzles and games. You can hit homeschoolers with downloadable activities. You can hit teachers and media specialists with lesson plans. Finally, you can hit the kids with puzzles and games.

And don’t forget about book trailers! If you’re talking specifically YA, book trailers are key. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like to watch movie previews? Same goes for book trailers, if they’re well done. So include one on your website!

Ghost Girl (Mary Ann): What is the best pre-launch publicity strategy?

Sara Dobie: The easy answer? Brainstorming.

What, you want more? Okay… When I say brainstorming, I mean sitting down and thinking about who would want to read your book and/or who is going to care that you, Mary Ann, wrote your book. Start with your education. What about alumni newsletters? What about some old college buddy with a big mouth and good connections who could help you spread the word? Move onto organizations/associations of which you’re a member. How can they help with your publicity? Think mailing lists. Think conferences where you could speak. And what about organizations specifically interested in your book’s subject matter? Say you wrote a book about a heron. Go after the Audubon Society. A book about school bullying? Go after teacher conferences.

Oh, and then, there are the all-powerful bookstores. You have to go after them months in advance—I’d say about three months before your book’s release date. In this case, you will need printouts of your book, if it involves illustrations. They like to see what they’re buying and booking. Then, send them to your website. The key is to sell yourself to the bookstores. (Yes, I will be charming; don’t you see how charming I am? Yes, I will give a great presentation and sell many, many books.) Start the buzz way early. The better the pre-launch, the better the launch, the better the sales, etc, etc…

Ghost Girl: Do you recommend a separate blog for your book (as opposed to a general blog under your own name)?

Sara Dobie: Naw, a separate blog for your book is overkill. No one wants to hear from you that much. Stick to one blog, but make your book a focus. Include images of your book on your blog, and sporadically bring it in every couple of days. Think about it…if you already have a following on your general blog, why mess with a good thing by spreading your audience thin?

Carrie Harris: How do you see sites like Facebook and My Space fitting in to a publicity campaign, if at all?

Sara Dobie: That depends. If you’re using Facebook and MySpace as your only website option, it’s a bad idea. I don’t want to meet Ms. Carrie Harris and find out her only online presence is Facebook. We are not in high school anymore. I want you to have a website of your own. Otherwise, you come off as unprofessional and cheap.

However, if you are on Facebook and MySpace to “make friends” and use those “friends” as marketing sources, I’d say go for it. These networking sites were created for just that: NETWORKING! So if you’re going to have Facebook and MySpace, do NOT use those sites for drunk photos of friends. (Well, unless your book is about your drunk friends…) Use these sites to meet up with other authors, agents, publishers, and people in the industry. Use their expertise. Ask for their advice, and be sure to keep them updated on new releases, awards you’ve won, events, etc. NETWORK!

m_stiefvater: My question would be if you are targeting bloggers and reviewers with copies of your own book, ones that were missed by your publisher during the ARC period, what's the best way to find influential folks, other than through the usual networking?

Sara Dobie: Something I do about bloggers? I like going to their sites and clicking on “View My Complete Profile.” Once there, check out their “profile views.” You’d be amazed in the variance of numbers, from 500 to 22,000. Opt for the high numbers, and be SURE to see about doing an interview along with the book review. Say you’d be happy to send them a review copy, but how about running a Q&A a week before the review to stir up the dust? (All of this is assuming you’re already familiar with the blogs you’re approaching. Don’t go after a sports writer if your book is about flowers…)

For reviewers, do some research. Visit author sites with books similar to your own. Who reviewed their books? Look around as much as you can and look for a pattern, as in, who seems to show up everywhere? Who has quotes on book flaps? Who has quotes all over the web? Who has quotes in magazines? Certainly, there are reviewers you just can’t reach. (You’re not going to get an endorsement from Stephen King just because your book is about paintings that come to life and kill people, for instance.) Most reviewers, though, welcome ARCs. Just be sure to get in touch with them first. Introduce yourself and ask if they want to receive your book. Start a rapport. It’s a waste if they don’t respond to your inquiries; your book will end up in the reviewer slush pile.

sruble follow-up question: Profile views are easy to find on Blogger, but what about Live Journal, WordPress, etc.? Do you have a strategy or tricks for finding out about them?

Sara Dobie: For Live Journal, I go to User Profile. There, you can see how long their blog has been going. Compare that to their number of comments. In other words, if a blog has been around since 2007 and they only have 100 comments, I’d pass them by.
However, in all honesty, that’s just one example. Every site is going to be different. Therefore, a strategy or trick would be…drum roll…just ask! Don’t be afraid to contact the sites of interest. Ask them about book review policies. Ask them about website hits. Ask them about their target audience. How do they market their site? How do people find their site? There are millions of questions you could ask, so don’t hesitate to do so. People maintain blogs for a reason; they want people to read them. What better way to let them know you’ve been reading than to literally email them and let them know you’ve been reading?

dawn_metcalf: How does one get on "book tours" in electronic media (not just blogs, but places like Second Life and virtual B&Ns, etc.)?

Sara Dobie: The fact that I had to look up Second Life because I had no idea what you were talking about does not bode well.

I can tell you that getting featured on blogs can be fun and easy. Ask around, promise to send a review copy (if you think the blog is worth it), and have your own Q&A ready to submit, if the blogger doesn’t have time to create his/her own line of questions. Doing all this can make a blogger’s life easy, really, and they appreciate the extra effort authors are willing to put in.

Sorry, but Second Life and virtual B&Ns are just outside my expertise. I gotta tell you—nothing replaces getting out there, shaking hands, and signing books. Your fans want to meet you. They want to hear you and see you up close and personal. Don’t deprive them that.

sruble follow-up question: Do you have any advice for using alternative or unique marketing approaches, or examples of campaigns that worked well even if they were outside the normal marketing channels?

Sara Dobie: Sure! I mean, they’re not totally outside the norm, but…
1) Blog AND online radio tours. Get on a bunch of blogs, doing interviews AND getting your book reviewed. But don’t forget about online radio opportunities. A lot of my clients at Sylvan Dell have gotten involved in Author Reads Radio, Book Bites Radio, and Blog Talk Radio. Check ‘em out. Not only are you marketing your book, but your fans actually get to hear your voice and get to know you a bit better.

2) Review blitz. One of my authors is presently doing a review blitz. She’s gotten out there and researched every website known to man…or so it seems. She contacts webmasters personally, and she passes review copy requests on to me. In the past three days alone, she’s been reviewed on THREE websites. That’s good stuff, and it doesn’t cost her a thing!

3) Write an article/Be an expert. I’ve had a couple of my clients write articles about what they know—as in school visits, the writing process…even bird-watching. Write an article, and submit it to websites of common theme. It gets your name out there, it gets your book out there, and it establishes you as an expert. People like experts; they trust experts. An expert article will boost your book sales, and hey, maybe you’ll get people asking to do interviews with you, which starts the whole getting your name out there thing over again.

And just think…each of these options doesn’t cost you a thing! Talk about a cheap marketing campaign…

sookie06: What is the number one tip she can give on designing your own website? How can you use it most intelligently to market your books? And what is the number one mistake people do?

Sara Dobie: Jeesh. Number ONE tip, huh? Let’s go at this from a couple directions…

I suppose a number one tip for designing a website would be to have a professional do it. The last thing you want is to come off looking like an amateur, so unless you’re super-sookie06 in the tech department, leave it to the experts. It may be expensive, but if you play your cards right, the financial turn over could be huge.

Once your oh-so professional website is up and running, make sure people know about it. Print business cards with your web address. Make a running blog a part of you site, so that people can keep up on what you’re doing and who you are, beyond the mask of “author.” And please, please, please post your upcoming appearances and events. Fans want to see you; tell them where and when.

THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE? Not having an “Order Now” option. Getting people to your site is half the battle. The other half is getting them to buy your book, so make it easy for them and give them the order option smack dab in the middle of your website. ORDER NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

Marissa Doyle: Question...so you've got a website, you're on MySpace and Facebook, you've got a blog (though it's not a me-me-me blog--it's more content-based), you're on AmazonConnect, blah blah blah. What else can or should you be doing while you're madly at work writing the next book (which needs to take priority over everything)?

Sara Dobie: Well, obviously, you’re all set with an online presence. The answer here is that you should still arrange a couple signings/events, regardless of how much time you’re spending on your next book. You still need to be out there—making appearances, showing your face to your fans, and signing and selling books. Nothing is more effective than a smile and a handshake. Make the time. Attend events and even networking soirees. Don’t lock yourself in your closet and give people the chance to forget how amazing, intelligent, and social you are.
(Great website, by the way, Marissa, but what about events? I’d suggest putting a schedule on your website. Keep those events coming, even if you are busy on your next beautiful book!)

sruble: Do you have any promotion advice for illustrators or author/illustrators that’s different from what authors should do to promote themselves?

Sara Dobie: It’s a lot more important for illustrators to have hands-on activities. In school visits/bookstore events, you should be able to display your technique to the masses. Example? If you use watercolors in your illustrations, you should be able to do some actual watercolor painting in front of your audience. You should then be able to bring them in to the experience—especially kids. Schedule yourself for art classes where kids (and even adults) can observe and imitate your technique. The more specific, the better; a detailed program will aid in your promotion process. It’s a sales tactic. It’s “look what I can do-don’t you want to do it too?” It makes teachers and bookstore owners feel better and trust you, because you have a detailed plan for your appearance. The audience won’t be bored, they’ll learn something, and nothing is better than word of mouth. If you give a good, organized, entertaining program once, it’s sure to happen again.

Thanks so much Sara for the great information on book promotion, and thanks to everyone that asked questions!

About Sara: Sara Dobie is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sylvan Dell Publishing. She has been featured on the ForeWord Publishing Insider blog, SellingBooks.com, and AllBookMarketing.com. If you’re an author without a website, she will find you and throw tomatoes. Rotten ones.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

44 is a great number

We have a new President! I am hopeful that Barack Obama will be able to get our country back on track and bring us together as a nation.

And the winners are ...

not me! That's okay, because the winners are really great (go check them out).

The beauty of the winning entries is that they all have a sense of the book and character. Some of them even convey emotion.

I learned so much in this contest: how to boil my story down to its core, and how to insert voice into so few words. I might revise my 140 character query (incl. spaces and punctuation) to try to add voice and emotion. I'll be doing this again for my other books, too. It's a great exercise and I think it will really help to make query and synopsis writing easier (and anything that makes queries and synopses easier is something worth doing).

Don't take my word for it, though. Try the 140 character query. Did it help? Was it fun or frustrating? Check out the winners of the contest to see how they did it.

Thanks again to Colleen Lindsay (The Swivet) for the contest!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Art Day: Art Tips – ink washes, color and a meme

Adrienne tagged me for the Kreativ Blogger Award. For this award, I’m supposed to list seven things I love. Since everyone seemed to like the last meme I did, where I combined 2 memes, I thought I’d combine the Kreativ Blogger Award with today’s art tips. What I’m going to do is list the 7 things I love about working with ink, or things I don’t love that can be turned around to something positive. I’ll add a tip after each number, which makes 7 art tips in this post :)

Does it sound like fun? Or just plain crazy? Let’s find out!

One: I love working with pen and ink.
Tip: After doing a few drawings in pen and ink, go back to your regular medium and see what happens. I find that drawing in pen and ink brings more life to my acrylic painting.

Two: Ink washes are nothing like watercolor washes, which can be frustrating.
Tip: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. An old saying that came true for me last week when I finally found a way to make painting, with acrylic on paper, work. Unfortunately, I still haven’t made ink washes work. (The ink doesn't spread like watercolor, but seeps into the paper right away, making it hard to do a wash.) After the breakthrough with acrylic on paper, I think the type of paper and/or the amount of water could be the problem. Either that or I need a bigger brush. I’m going to keep experimenting until I get a result I like.

Three: Ink washes work well on small areas.
Tip: Play around with washes that fill in areas of your drawing. Once you master that, it may help you discover how to do larger areas of ink washes (at least I hope it will).

Four: Colored inks offer a variety of choices.
Tip: Different brands produce different results. The new Liquitex acrylic ink colors are bright like their paints. Higgins colored inks are more transparent and pastel.

Five: I like using a pen with my colored inks, instead of just using a brush for a wash, or coloring in my drawings.
Tips: Try using different colors to outline and shade in a drawing, and see what happens.

Six: You can use pen and ink just like a pencil or regular pen.
Tips: Write notes, doodle, sketch, draw free-hand, have fun! You never know what will happen when you let go and play.

Seven: Ink is more permanent than watercolor.
Tips: Try combining pen and ink with other mediums, like colored pencil, watercolor pencil, collage, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, or cut paper.

Now I’m supposed to pass on the Kreativ Blogger Award to seven other people. I can only pick seven, which is hard, so I put names in a hat and picked: pbwriter, annamlewis, Kelly Polark, jamarattigan, Jacqui, kellyrfineman, and lkmadigan. If anyone else wants to play too, go for it!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An agent contest!

As I mentioned the other day, step 2 of my writing process, is when I need to share, especially if there's a contest.

Colleen Lindsay, an agent at FinePrint Literary Management, is having a query contest on her blog. There's a catch. You can only use 140 characters (including punctuation and spaces), just like on Twitter. Contest ends tonight at midnight EST.

Don't forget to leave your questions about book publicity in the comments section of yesterday's post.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Have questions about book publicity?

Sara Dobie from Sylvan Dell Publishing has agreed to do an interview on my blog, and answer your questions about book publicity. Yay!

If you have any questions about book publicity, please leave them in the comments section and I'll make sure Sara gets them. The interview will be posted in the next few weeks.

About Sara: Sara Dobie is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sylvan Dell Publishing. She has been featured on the ForeWord Publishing Insider blog, SellingBooks.com, and AllBookMarketing.com. If you’re an author without a website, she will find you and throw tomatoes. Rotten ones.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

how I write: a look into the insanity

I love when people share their writing or illustrating process, so I thought I’d blog about how I write. I’ve used this method to write PBs, and it’s how I’m writing my current novel. Hope it’s helpful, or at least convinces you that your writing method is much more sane than mine. ;)

Step Zero: Think about a character and story. Write scenes in my head.

Step One:
OMG! I have an idea! And I’ve started writing it!
-My character tells me her story, “This happened, then this, and this, and that! Wheee!”
-There’s not much description or polish.

Step Two: Best Thing EVER, must tell EVERYONE.
- It’s a compulsion, like checking email constantly.
-This applies to the story idea more than the writing.
-The longer I write, the more I try to avoid this step. But sometimes I can’t help myself.

Step Three: OMG! The writing is horrible - must revise!

Step Four:
Chocolate

Step Five:

-Best Thing EVER!
-Horrible Writing!
-Revise!
-Repeat! (as many times as necessary)

Step Six:
Keep writing the story, even if I’m revising one part, over and over again. Otherwise, I’d never get to the end.

Step Seven: I have something I can show to a critique group or use as a blog teaser.
-It still needs revision, but it’s ok to get feedback.
-This is the stage I’m at right now with the beginning of Lexi’s story.

Step Eight: After I get to the end and revise the whole MS to Step Seven, I either send it to a critique partner or let it sit before revising it.

Step Nine:
Revision. (based on feedback, if possible)

Step Ten:
Submit.

* Note: Any of the steps can be repeated multiple times, but especially steps four and five.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Art Day: Art Tips – Pen and Ink

It seems that not many people do pen and ink anymore, so I’m going to give some basic tips for starting out with this medium. Maybe people will want to try pen and ink :) I used to do a lot of pen and ink art and have recently started again.

* Buy a starter pen set (get the one that’s for what you want to do, art, calligraphy, etc.) that has a holder and several tips.

* Try out all the tips to see what kind of lines they make and which ones you like best (there are big differences in pen tips)

* Waterproof ink is great because you don’t have to worry about it smearing after it dries (but it will smear when wet, so be careful).

* Wear old clothes and work on a vinyl or plastic tablecloth or surface (so you don’t ruin good clothing or tables).

* Keep a small piece of drawing paper by your work surface so you can tap extra ink off the end of the pen and/or test the line. Sometimes I need to refill my pen, but I want a really thin line (and don’t want to change tips) so I run the ink down on the scratch paper until it’s the way I want it for the real drawing.

* You can do a light pencil sketch before you use ink if you want to plan out your drawing.

* You can use a brush to create watercolor-like effects with ink. (More on ink washes next week.)

* Ink now comes in all sorts of colors. You don’t have to just use black, although there is a certain beauty in black and white. (More on colored inks next week.)

* If you have any pen and ink tips, please share them in the comment section, or if you blog about them, let me know and I’ll include your link. Thanks!

Friday, January 9, 2009

a conversation with Sheila (and Lexi and Bee)

Sending wishes to you all for a creative weekend! Here’s what’s been going on in my creative world lately:

sruble: I’ve been reading a lot of zombie books and they all feature cheerleaders. Maybe I should tell Princess Lexi’s story first.

Lexi: Hurrah!

Sheila: If you don’t tell my story, I’ll eat your brain. Besides, my story isn’t about cheerleading at all.

sruble: It’s not?

Sheila: No. It’s about boys, duh. Cheerleading is a way of life, it’s who I am, but my story is about boys.

sruble: So it’s a romance?

Sheila: Not exactly.

Lexi: What does that mean?

Bee: You could tell my story first. Then you wouldn’t have to choose between the cheerleader or the princess.

sruble: Sigh. I can’t tell your story right now Bee. You said you didn’t want to be Red Riding Hood.

Bee: True, but I did say you could keep everything else, my best friend Ig, the woods, the cute woodsman …

Sheila: Oooh, you have a cute boy in your story? Can I come see?

Lexi: I have a cute boy too, only he’s a psychopath.

sruble: You have to stay in your own story Sheila, and Lexi, he’s not a psychopath.

Lexi: He is too. He wants to go around killing people … with the guillotine!

Sheila: That sounds a bit psycho to me, and I’m a zombie.

sruble: He’s not a psycho. He likes the guillotine because it’s faster and less painful than how he was killed.

Bee: He’s dead?

Sheila: How’d he die?

Lexi: He had his head chopped off. The executioner was having a bad day; it took three chops to go all the way through.

Bee: Ewwwww!

Sheila: So is he like the headless horseman?

sruble: I have to go now. If you don’t see me for a while, it’s Sheila, Lexi and Bee’s fault.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Art Day: Art Tips - Buying and Trying New Art Supplies

Happy 2009!

Art Day January Schedule:

1/5 - art tips - buying and trying new art supplies
1/12 - art tips - pen and ink
1/19 - art tips – ink washes and color
1/26 – illustrator Katherine Zecca

Note:
Art Day features will be posted Monday evenings instead of mornings for 2009 :)

Art Tips is a new Art Day feature for the new year! Art Tips will feature tips on topics such as: art supplies, techniques, mediums, and portfolios that will hopefully be useful for new artists and established artists. I’ll post a few tips each time, and some topics may be repeated if there’s more to share.

Today’s Art Tips is on trying new art supplies.

* New Artists: It’s good to try a wide range of mediums when you are just starting out, so you’ll know what you’re good at. It might be something you never tried before.

* Established Artists: Trying a new medium, a new brand, or a new type of paintbrush can shake things up in your art. It could be enough to take you in a new direction, or just breathe some new life into your old style.

I thought it might be useful to other artists to talk about trying new mediums or art brands and buying new art supplies. I always want to try new art supplies. Going to the art store is like going to the candy store for me. I want to try one of everything. Since I haven’t won the lottery (that I know of), I’ve got to be a bit more selective than running through the store screaming, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” or grabbing items off the shelves and throwing them into the cart like it’s a shopping spree, and the first one back to the counter with a full cart wins!

So, here are my tips for buying something I want to try but don’t know if I’ll like:

1. Compare prices before you buy. Dick Blick is a great online and retail store. I’ve also shopped at Pearl Paint, Utrecht, Daniel Smith, Cheap Joes Art Supplies, and Michaels.

2. Some stores have coupons, which are good for buying things you might not have bought at full price.

3. Sets can provide a larger range of colors for a smaller price than purchasing each tube of paint or pencil separately.

4. Don’t buy the cheapest thing they have available at Target, Walmart, or Kmart. Art supplies at super low price points (usually made for children) don’t use the same pigments and materials as high quality art supplies. You won’t get the same results and might be frustrated with what you create.

5. Do try the student grade art supplies from the manufacturers of high quality supplies. These are well made and will give you a good feel for the medium. You may never want or need to move up to the professional grade supplies, or you might want to. If you look at the packaging and the website, you should be able to find out what the difference between the student grade and professional grade materials is.

6. Try different surfaces to paint and draw on. If you’ve always used Bristol, try drawing on parchment or rice paper, or if you’ve only painted on canvas, try painting on paper, etc.

7. Once you get your new art supplies and paper home, play with it like you were a little kid. Doodle, paint with your fingers or a sponge, draw something fun then paint outside the lines when you color it in. Create something fun, new, different, wild, or insane. Play.

8. After you’ve played for a while, try to draw or paint like you usually do, but with the new supplies. See what happens.

I hope you all have a happy accident that turns into a new portfolio piece or a new style!

p.s. If you have any tips for trying new art supplies, feel free to share them in the comments section. Thanks!