Saturday, August 29, 2009

IF: Magnify, a.k.a. Cluck, Cluck, Cheep!

I was working on a cat painting for Illustration Friday (actually, I was working on the painting and it happened to sort-of fit with the theme) but it won’t be finished for a while, so I painted something else for IF. Maybe the cat painting will be done in time for next week and fit in with whatever the theme will be.

This week’s theme is Magnify. The little chic in this painting had to be magnified or you’d never be able to see him.

Cluck, Cluck, Cheep!

Cluck, Cluck, Cheep!

The image is 4×6, acrylic on watercolor paper.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kitties at the beach for Watercolor Wednesdays

This week for Watercolor Wednesdays, I used a technique that I’ve never tried before, glazing. For those who don’t know, glazing is where you build up thin layers of color instead of just laying down one color from the beginning (which is what I usually do). It was fun, but frustrating to wait for layers to dry, and of course I cheated a few times and painted before a layer was completely dry (I couldn’t help myself).

Here it is; the original is a bit brighter. What do you think?

Remus and Romulus at the beach

Remus and Romulus at the beach

Next time I try glazing, I’m going to try mixing more colors through layering.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Notes from the SCBWI LA conference

I’ve been trying to decide what the theme was this year. There’s usually a theme that I notice that runs through comments that several speakers make over the four days. There are probably several themes that could be taken from the conference, but the theme that I notice usually reflects where I am in my work and what I need to concentrate on when I return home. It helps me to take the inspiration from the conference and shape it into something tangible.

The theme for me this year was, “building your career.”

(Note: all comments are paraphrased unless there are quotes around them. I wasn’t able to write notes as fast as people talked.)

Sherman Alexie talked about career in his amazing opening keynote speech, how your writing affects the readers and how your family and friends will be neglected if you’re doing it right.

David Wiesner talked about his career so far in his inspiring keynote speech. He showed how things that he’d worked on many years ago kept appearing in his work until he found the right book for them. He also talked about stories and dummies that didn’t work sometimes morphed into other stories that did work.

“Be open to all that stuff floating around out there and the cool stuff you liked as a kid and the stuff you think is cool now.”

David’s breakout session was excellent too. The best advice was to always think of it like a book. He uses a blank book that’s the size and shape of the final book and swaps out the images at every stage, sketches, final drawings, finishes, so that he’s always seeing the page turns and reading it as a book.

“Observational drawing is the basis for everything we do.”

Steven Malk gave my favorite workshop of the conference. Some of his career advice for illustrators (most of which applies to authors too):

“Have a career plan and know what you want to do. All of your decisions should help you work towards that goal.”

“Don’t dibble dabble. Decide you want to build a career and completely jump in.”

“Only you can own your career decisions. Each decision you make affects your career.”

“Make each decision in a calm, rational way, not a shot in the dark kind of way.”

Writing and illustrating is to your advantage. Knock their socks off with the dummy. Take the time to do a great job and really show your vision for the book. You need to have a finished dummy, not just a few finishes.

Elizabeth Parisi made a comment about being realistic about what your skills are (cover artist, PB artist, etc.). Wish I had been able to capture the exact quote, but she went on to the next thing too quickly.

A bit of good news for illustrators: MG covers are still about 95% illustration and they are using more interior illustrations since Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

Artist mistakes: going straight to final without sketches and surprising the AD with major changes between approved sketches to final illustrations.

Start with illustration or writing and get your foot in the door with one thing. Don’t try to jump into both. Pick the one that you really love and do that first.

Eve Bunting: When she finishes a book, she thinks, “Is this worth saying?”

Dan Yaccarino says yes to everything, whether he knows how to do it or can do it, or not (animation, package design, etc.). When people ask if he has a story to go with an image in his portfolio, he says yes, even if he doesn’t. Then he goes home and writes it and sends it out.

Dan also talked about doing art that he wanted to do and not just what he thought he should do.

Holly Black: “Read enough that you’re part of the conversation.” (During her keynote, on reading fantasy if writing it, but could apply to any area of children’s books.)

Holly’s breakout session was really great too, along the lines of Steven Malk’s session, but for writers. I wish I had seen the whole session, but I came in half way through.

“Respect your process.” Put together a plan that works for you and remember to plan for trips and other times when you’re not going to be able to get as much done.

“You need to include some space in your schedule to stay inspired (continuously), so you’re not just work, work, work, project, project, project.” Do what ever inspires you, reading, walking, etc. If you don’t do that, you’ll burn out quickly.

Richard Peck: “Always write the story going forward because the characters can’t go back.”

Elizabeth Law: She talked about respecting a MG writer who said that she wasn’t comfortable writing YA so she wrote MG and that theme came up a couple of times.

“Know who you are writing for and why someone would want your book, but don’t force yourself to write something because you think it will sell or that you’re not comfortable with.”
Encouraged everyone to use social marketing to connect, unless it keeps you from doing your own work.

Linda Sue Park: “Love the story for itself, even if you’re the only one that ever reads it.” Linda Sue said that her editor has turned down novels since she won the Newbery, so she has to believe that it’s not wasted time and love the thing for what it is.

Arthur Levine: “Crossing genres is easier with one long term editor … instead of selling in to another house based on past books.”

* There were too many speeches, quotes, and comments to write them all here, but I tried to highlight the ones I thought would be the most useful or inspiring.

Friday, August 21, 2009

IF: Caution

It’s chicken week here at! There are chickens for Illustration Friday, Watercolor Wednesdays, and the CBIG blog! But they are all different as you can see below :)
Illustration Friday: Caution – Sheila says, “Beware of Chickens!”

If: Caution - Sheila says, "Beware of chickens!"

If: Caution - Sheila says, "Beware of chickens!"

This is from my mini comic, Sheila The Zombie Cheerleader in: Chickens. The original is b/w line art (pen and ink), but I colored it for IF. Speaking of which, after I colored it, I thought it might look cool without the black line. I like them both. Which one is your favorite?
IF: Caution - Beware of Chickens 2

IF: Caution - Beware of Chickens 2

For the CBIG (Children’s Book Illustrators Group) blog, the theme this month is vacation, so I sent the chickens on bungee jumping vacation. This image is from my new portfolio.

Chickens Bungee Jump on Vacation

Chickens Bungee Jump on Vacation

For the Watercolor Wednesdays blog, usually a weekly theme, is “Anything Goes in August.” So I painted a chicken dancing, using waterlogged acrylic. The effect is very similar to what my watercolor looks like.

Chicken Dancing

Chicken Dancing

If this week was chickens, I wonder what next week will bring?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SCBWI LA links

Here are the links to LA conference blogging that I’ve got so far, in case you are interested in checking out notes and things. I didn’t get to meet all these people, but I did get to see lots of old friends and meet some new ones too. Note: I’m just starting to look for notes, so I’ll be adding to the list as I find them. Let me know if you blogged about the conference, and where, and I’ll add your link.

The official SCBWI conference blog
Lisa Yee: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog 
Kelly Light’s blog
Lois Peterson’s blog: Part 1, Part 2
Denise Jaden’s blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Recap
Cindy Pon’s blog: food, blue moon, dream career
Tammi Sauer’s blog: book tour with Cynthea Liu
PW article on the LA Conference
Debbie Ohi’s blog: Debbie’s got a lot of great posts about LA.
Sheri Rosen’s blog

Blue Moon Ball and my outfit

The Blue Moon Ball was a blast, even though I didn’t dance this year. I kept running into people and talking. I had planned a costume, but I ran out of time, so I wore custom made shoes (painted by moi).

blue moo shoes 1
blue moo shoes 1

blue moo shoes 2

blue moo shoes 2

I also wore a shirt with an ironed on picture of a cow that I painted. Here’s a picture of The Blue Moo – get it? Yeah, I know it’s silly, but I like cows, and how often do I have an excuse to paint a blue cow? Not that I need an excuse …

Blue Moo
Blue Moo

I had a camera on my cell phone, but of course I kept forgetting to take pictures. In fact, the only 3 pictures I took in LA were of the Blue Moon Ball from my room. It’s a time-lapse thing, even if the last picture is very dark because the party was in full swing by then. The three pictures are, 1: set up, 2: just starting (I was dropping my portfolio off in my room), and 3: Party!!! (I went up to get my sweater because it was a bit chilly). 

Blue Moon Ball, time lapse

Blue Moon Ball, time lapse