Friday, December 18, 2015

happy holidays, an updated website, and soar for illustration friday

Happy Holidays!

Every year I come up with new art for our holiday card. This year I wanted to feature my character Kitty, who was on three of the postcards* I sent out this year. I also wanted to use similar art for our holiday card and my end of the year postcard to publishers. Note: the text on our card said, "May your holidays be filled with joy."

* I ended up sending out six postcards this year, though only four mailings - two mailings had two cards (the postcard version of the holiday card is on the bottom left):

I'm happy to say that along with the holiday card, I updated my website with new art, and my favorite pieces of unusual holiday art and art challenges that I did this year. Click here to check it out.

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: soar. One of my original ideas for the holiday card and postcard was to have Kitty soaring in the air on her sled. I ended up going with the snowmen instead, but I still like the sketch, so I'm going to post it for the IF prompt this week. Here's my sketch of Kitty soaring above the snow:

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

three ways to make a picture book dummy, unicorn for IF, and a studio visit

I recently had a visitor in my studio (a.k.a. The Art Cave). Mr. Pig of Little Crooked Cottage dropped by. It was fun to have a visitor. It can get lonely working by yourself sometimes. If you want a peek into my studio, check out my visit with Mr. Pig here.

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: unicorn. In September, I drew a unicorn to illustrate a guest post for Dani Duck's Smart Dummies challenge (a month dedicated to helping illustrators create a picture book dummy).

I'm re-posting this in case anyone is gearing up to create a dummy to start the new year (can't believe it's almost January) or planning to create one before the year ends, and also to show my unicorn drawing for Illustration Friday:

Three Ways To Make A Picture Book Dummy

There are probably many ways to make a picture book dummy, but I can only think of three. I gave them nicknames so they’d be easier to remember [also because it made me laugh]. I’ve actually made dummies using all three ways, though I never know which one it’s going to be when I start. Every book is different. The important thing is to start. The picture book dummy will not make itself, no matter how much you wish it would.
- Note: Making picture book dummies is a lot harder than it seems like it should be. 

I. The Unicorn - unlikely, but possible

* Think up a great story and/or character idea.

* Draw/imagine the character(s) and the world of your story.

* Write the manuscript.
- Note: If someone else wrote the story, re-read it, and move to the next step.

* Make a dummy.

* Yay! You’re done! You have a dummy!

II. Tiny Kitten – each step is a toy mouse waiting to be pounced on

- Note: These steps don’t need to be done in order and, in fact, rarely are in order. Also, some of these steps will need to be repeated, possibly multiple times.

* Think up a great story and/or character idea.
- Note: The next step is also a great place to start.

* Draw/imagine the character(s) and the world of your story.
- Note: If you start here, you might want to go with the step above next.

* Write the first draft of manuscript.
- Note: If someone else wrote the story, re-read it, and move to the next step.

* Make a rough sketch dummy [draw stick figures for your characters if you want].

* Research, “how to draw _______,” so that you can figure out how to draw whatever it is that you don’t know how to draw in order to make the dummy. Wonder for a second why it is that you always make a character or story out of something you can’t draw, then pull a Maurice Sendak and decide not to draw that thing you can’t draw [in his case, horses]. Instead, draw that thing that you can draw [in his case, Wild Things].

* Draw/imagine the character(s) and the world of your story again, now that you are smarter and no longer drawing that thing you can’t draw.

* Research “plot” and try to add it to your story. Then channel Yoda and actually add it to your story. [“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”]
- Note: If someone else wrote the story, re-read it, and move down two steps.

* Write another draft of the manuscript, since you now have a shiny new plot to go with those things you can actually draw. If you still don’t have a plot, repeat the step above as many times as needed, all while repeatedly shaking your fist at plot.

* Make another dummy, only this time make sure you have the BIG eraser on standby. Or better yet, do it in pen so you can’t erase!

* Go to the library and/or bookstore and get a bunch of picture books. Study how to make a picture book, from people who know how to write stories with plot and know how to draw things, like horses and bicycles, or even a horse on a bike. [Realize that maybe this is how you should have started.]

* Start over.

* Rinse and repeat as needed until you have a shiny new picture book dummy!

III. Moo Cow - slow and dependable

 * Think up a story and/or character idea. It should be an idea you like and want to work on. It should also be something that picture book aged kids like and/or experience. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like a brilliant idea. That’s what revision is for, to take your idea and make it the best it can be.
- Note: If someone else wrote the story, re-read it, and move to the next step.

* Noodle ideas/scenes for the story and how your character(s) and world will look. Have fun and play with the art and story. Think about “what if” questions and the unusual traits or looks of your character(s).

* Study picture books to get inspired and to learn about the craft of writing and illustrating picture books. Use current ones so that you know what’s working in picture books now. You can also study older picture books to see what was done in the past, but remember that the pace and word count of older books is different from what’s being published now.

* Write a manuscript using your ideas and what you learned from the steps above. When you’re satisfied with your story, or just can’t wait to start making the art, proceed to the next step.
- Note: If someone else wrote the story, re-read it, and move to the next step.

* Page out the manuscript. You can do this on the manuscript itself, by drawing small boxes to represent pages of the story [a.k.a. thumbnails], laying our sheets of paper or Post-it notes, or making an actual dummy. The important thing is to look at where the page turns are and whether or not you have enough room to tell the story, or not enough story for the number of pages.

- Note 1: Tara Lazar has a good explanation of pages and layouts here:

- Note 2: many picture books are 40 pages these days [Self-Ended], but not all. Some are still 32 pages.

* Start sketching out the picture book dummy, using your ideas and scenes from the first two steps above. Give yourself enough time to do this without rushing. It will take longer than you think, so give yourself a deadline and then double it. Better yet, triple it so you actually have enough time. Don’t get frustrated if it takes even longer than that. Some people can do this step quickly, while others need lots of time to work out the details and get them right.

* When you’re done with your dummy, read the whole thing and look at the art while turning the pages. Reading out loud will help you to catch any mistakes or places where the wording isn’t as smooth as it could be or doesn’t work with the art.

* Make any necessary revisions to the text and/or art. Repeat the step above and this one too, until you’re satisfied with the way the art and text work together to tell the story.

* Choose 2-3 of your favorite pages/spreads from your dummy and make finished art.

* Put the sketches and the finished art all together in dummy form [paper or digital - scan if needed to make digital dummy].

* Congratulations! You now have a shiny new picture book dummy!

Final Thoughts:
No matter which of the three ways above you chose to use to create a picture book dummy [or your own way not listed above], you’re now done! Celebrate! Reward yourself! Pass out and sleep for a week!

Then forget how hard it was to make a picture book dummy so you’ll want to do it again next time!

Good luck!

You can do it!

*waves pom-poms [actually a pencil and eraser]*

p.s. If you're interested in becoming a picture book illustrator and/or writer, here are some of my past posts that might help:

The Path Illustrators Take To Get Their Work Noticed And Advance Their Careers

Five Tips For Illustrators  

The Importance Of Making Art For Fun

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  

If You Just Want To Illustrate And Not Write  

p.p.s. If you're planning on creating a dummy, check out all the great posts for Smart Dummies. So much wonderful and helpful information!

p.p.p.s. If you like my unicorn and want it on something fun like a t-shirt, it's up on my cafepress store and also over at my zazzle store.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, from Ewe and Aye, and me

It's Thanksgiving week. Did you know that there's a parade on Thursday? At this parade, they have HUGE balloons of characters from books, TV, and movies, as well as some old favorites, like pumpkins and elves!

It's always been my secret wish to have a character of mine as a balloon in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Not so secret now that I've shared it on my blog, but still a big wish!

My first picture book came out last December, EWE AND AYE, written by Candace Ryan, and illustrated by Stephanie Ruble. *

Since nobody asked me to create balloons for the official Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I decided to draw Ewe and Aye balloons for my own Thanksgiving Day Parade. BTW, Ewe and Aye would be great as balloons because Ewe and Aye want to fly!

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is city, so it seemed like a good way to incorporate the city theme for this week too.

I love process posts from other artists, so I decided to post several images of the art at different stages. Here's the final image of Ewe and Aye soaring high in the parade:

I'm glad that I did finished color, but I liked the black and white line art, and almost stopped at this point:

The first part of the picture I added color to was the balloons. Almost stopped at that point too. There's something really fun about Ewe and Aye floating in color with everything else black and white:

I also thought about using a black and white and grey version of the image (gives it a certain old time photo appeal):

So hard to choose a favorite! But if I had to, it would probably be the one with Ewe and Aye in color and everything else in black and white. Which one is your favorite?

Did you notice that there are little Ewes and little Ayes pulling their balloons? It might be too small to see above. Here's a close up:

The image seems large, but the whole thing is about 5.5 x 7.25. Some of the animals got really, really tiny.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

*Info about EWE AND AYE, written by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble: EWE was a sheep with a feel for wheels. AYE was a lemur with a thing for wings. BUT it wasn’t until Ewe and Aye found one another that things really got off the ground.

Whimsical word play and heartfelt humor work hand-in-hand in this irresistibly vibrant celebration of the unlimited possibilities of togetherness.

Want to know more about EWE AND AYE? Click here.

Update: EWE AND AYE is now available as an ebook! Click here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

a cow, a bear, and a teddy bear for illustration friday

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: animal. I had a couple of ideas that I played around with, then I remembered this image that I sketched and inked in September for a project. I ended up not using it then, so it was just black and white. Dug it out and added color today for the IF prompt.

It's the story of the beginning of a friendship between the bear and the cow, and the other animals in the bear's new neighborhood. It was a lot of fun to sketch back in September, and I'm happy to be able to finish this piece and share it today!

Friday, November 13, 2015

carpe and crabbe diem: whimsical for illustration friday

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: whimsical. I was itching to get out my paints this week and had the idea to revisit the saying, carpe diem, or seize the day. Many years ago, I drew an image that incorporated the saying, along with a picture of a fish and a crab and a saying I made up: crabbe diem. That idea as a set of two new paintings seemed like a good expression of whimsical.

These paintings were lots of fun to do, and I actually did the crab first, and then the fish.

I like to think of my little crab as the Oscar The Grouch of the ocean.
(Oscar is one of my favorite Sesame Street characters. Who are your favorites?)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

farewell to inktober aliens and three bouquets for illustration friday

I had fun with inktober, a month long challenge to draw with ink every day. The last three days of the month, I decided to draw aliens experiencing Halloween for the first time. Since there were three days of aliens, I brought back the themes for my first three weeks of inktober: ghosts, witch cats, and pumpkins.

Note: I still didn't have access to a scanner, so these are all cell pics (thus the shiny glare on the pictures).

Aliens and ghost adventure:

 Aliens going for a broom ride with a witch cat:

 Aliens encountering a pumpkin for the first time:

I also did a drawing today for the Illustration Friday prompt this week (bouquet). Today is a foggy day outside, so I decided to draw a bouquet of sunshine. It's also National Doughnut Day, so a bouquet of doughnuts sounded like a good idea. Couldn't resist drawing a bouquet of birthday cupcakes too!

Here's a close up of the sunshine bouquet.

They're all smiling, even the cloud! Except for the not so sunshiny one on the left. There's always one in every crowd! But that's okay. You can't be happy all the time, and maybe that one will be sunshiny tomorrow (hoping our weather will be sunny tomorrow too ... though I do enjoy a foggy day like today once in a while).

If inktober and Illustration Friday have taught me anything, it's that doodling and making art just for fun are really important (at least for me). It may not all be portfolio ready art, but it's fun and it allows me to experiment with new techniques and mediums. I don't do that when I'm making art for a project or my portfolio, but sometimes the doodles and experiments lead to new projects or portfolio pieces. No matter what, it stretches my creativity and makes me smile (although sometimes it also makes me cringe, if it doesn't turn out).

Hope you had a great October everyone!

Happy November!

How is it November already???

Thursday, October 29, 2015

a week of fun with type and Halloween words, plus adventure for Illustration Friday

The fourth week of inktober, a month long challenge to draw with ink every day, ended yesterday. This week was all about playing with words (just having fun with it - I never got to take typography, so I'm hoping these look fun instead of cringe-worthy). I also did a drawing today for the Illustration Friday prompt this week (adventure), and to start my theme for the last three days of inktober (aliens).

Didn't have access to a scanner this week, so these are all cell phone pics. Some of them turned out better than others (so hard to photograph type with a cell phone).

I have two favorites this week. The first is, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!" Thanks to my dad for suggesting I draw this word!

My second favorite is "Witch Cat." I decided to do a word drawing for each of the first three weeks of inktober. (Witch cats were week two.)

Here's my pumpkin (inktober - week three), with type for teeth:

Here are the ghosts (inktober - week one). I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, as this was the first drawing for this week. Ended up drawing four ghosts. I think they look stronger together than any one of them by itself:

Had to draw candy corn - it seems to be one of the most controversial candies. You used to only be able to get it at Halloween, but they have it for Christmas now too (it's red, green and white). People either love it or hate it. This drawing does a good job of summing up how I feel about candy corn (mostly just candy corn made by Jelly Belly):

It's not Halloween if there aren't a few bats around, right?

To round out the week, I decided to draw a monster. Couldn't decide between a monster with text on his head, or monster as a word, so I did both:

There are only three more days of October and inktober! I decided to draw aliens for the final three drawings of the month. When the Illustration Friday prompt, adventure, was announced, I tried to figure out a Halloween adventure and came up with this:

Not sure who is going to have more of an adventure, the aliens exploring a new planet, or the ghost going for its first ride in a spaceship. Wonder if the aliens know what they're in for?

Since I started with aliens and a ghost (subject of inktober week one), I might have to have a witch cat and a pumpkin in the other two alien pictures!

Hope you've had a great October so far and fun with inktober if you're participating! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

a pumpkin filled week for inktober and stuffed for Illustration Friday

The third week of inktober, a month long challenge to draw with ink every day, ended yesterday. This week was all about the pumpkins. One of the images also incorporates the Illustration Friday prompt this week (stuffed).

Process notes for this week: I used Micron pens for some of the black line work this week (have been mostly using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for inktober). I've used Microns in the past and liked them, but never used them with colored markers. Was surprised to find that they smeared a bit. I've also been having trouble with smearing when erasing for both sets of pens this month. Don't usually have that issue, so wondering if it's the paper I'm using (have given them ample time to dry before erasing, so it's not that). Part of the fun of inktober is trying new mediums or combinations of mediums and seeing what works. Unfortunately it doesn't always work, but you never get to what does work without a few bumps along the way.

Here are my pumpkins!

The gourd's expression in this picture is my favorite thing from this week (the pumpkins are oblivious and the gourd knows something they don't know - something scary). It's also my image for Illustration Friday - they're stuffed into the basket:

Sometimes pumpkins come with creepy crawlies. This kitty is either playing with the spider or attacking it, depending on who you ask (the spider or the cat):

This pumpkin was hiding Queen Green Apple and her candy, but The Masked Mouse has found her and wants that candy!

Here's a close up of Queen Green Apple. She's truly horrified that The Masked Mouse has found her super secret hiding place!

It's always fun to see a row of carved pumpkins lined up, so I thought I draw them. (This image is one of the ones that smeared a lot with the colored markers over the Microns.):

The next pumpkin is a bit silly, but I couldn't resist drawing it when the idea of pumpkins playing football came into my head:

I love drawing patterns. It's like doodling, but with more of a plan. The first patterned pumpkin is swirly and colorful:

 The second patterned pumpkin was a reaction to the first one. I had liked the black and white before I colored it, so I decided to do another one, with a different pattern, just in black and white:

It was a pumpkin-tastic week! Now I just have to figure out what to draw this week. I'm thinking about monsters, or maybe lettering. It's early, so I'll decide when I get my inks out later.

Hope you're having a pumpkin-tastic October and inktober if you're participating!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

a witchy week for inktober and star for illustration friday

The second week of inktober, a month long challenge to draw with ink every day, ended today. This week featured three witch kitties, sometimes appearing with their witches, sometimes not. One of the images also incorporates the Illustration Friday prompt this week (star).

My favorite from this week was hard to pick, so I picked two. The first image is of the kitties taking a broom out for a ride without permission (also the first image I did this week - it's the one I hinted at in my last post):

I'm thinking about doing this image either in color, or with greys for more shading in the black and white piece. Then again, after playing around with it a bit, I might just like it like this!

My second favorite is the last image of the week, the one I did today of the kitties with their witch family:

For Illustration Friday, I incorporated stars in the sky for a nighttime broom ride with the witches and kitties. It turned out more Starry Night than I intended. Guess my time standing by the painting when I worked at MOMA rubbed off on my subconscious.

As for the images for the rest of the week, the kitties tried their paws at reading a spell book:

The littlest witch held story time for the three kitties:

The kitties watched as the witches brewed up something scary in their cauldron:

And the kitties wore / sat on the witches' hats (this was a marker experiment that didn't turn out the way I wanted to, and ended up looking muddy and losing the original drawing line*):

For week three of inktober (starting tomorrow) I'll be drawing pumpkins!

* In my opinion, part of these art challenges is about having fun, and part of it is about experimenting using mediums and/or techniques you don't usually use. It's hard to do that (for me anyway) when you're posting your art every day, but I'm trying to anyway. Most of the experiments have been successes. Another one I'm still working on is the color or shading for the top image of the kitties on the broom. So far none of those experiments have worked. And unlike the kitties with hats picture, I have a scan of the black line work, which I like, so that's the one I'm posting.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

a ghostly week for inktober and ink for illustration friday

The first week of inktober, a month long challenge to draw with ink every day, ended yesterday. My first week was all about the ghosts! I even managed to ink a ghost for the Illustration Friday prompt this week (ink).

This ghost knows the best way to get through a rainy and windy day is to stay inside and read a book (it's my favorite ghost from this week):

This ghost wants to get in on the inktober fun for Illustration Friday by inking the wall (the ink on the floor was an accident):

The rest of the week featured a ghost in a balloon, ghosts having a party, a family of ghosts, another rainy day ghost, and a construction ghost:

For the second week of inktober, I'm taking on a different subject - witch kitties (kitties who belong to witches, not kitties who are witches). Here's a sneak peek at the first image:

Happy October / inktober!