Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coming Soon, To A Bookstore Near You: The Third Twin by CJ Omololu

If you love suspenseful books, you might want to check out The Third Twin by CJ Omololu:

In the YA thriller The Third Twin, identical twins Lexi and Ava invent a fictional triplet they call Alicia. Unlike Lexi's relentless pursuit of academic perfection and her sister's pursuit of a good time, 'Alicia' is beautiful, smart, confident and the girl everyone wants to date. The twin's ruse is perfect until one night when the boy 'Alicia' is dating is found brutally murdered—and all evidence points to her. As Lexi frantically tries to unravel the mystery surrounding his death, the bodies of 'Alicia's' boyfriends start to multiply and it becomes a race to outwit the police as well as find the identity of the true killer before it's too late. 
I'm not just talking about CJ's book today because she is my friend, and a great author, though those would both be good reasons to talk about her book. I'm doing it because, as some of you might already know, Cynthia (CJ) is currently battling stage 4 colon cancer.

Promoting a book when you don't have cancer can be a full time job. Fighting cancer is definitely a full time job (I know this from witnessing my mom's battles with both bladder and colon cancer, and although everyone's battle with cancer is different, my mom went through a lot of the same things with colon cancer that Cynthia is going through now). Since there's unfortunately nothing I can do to help fight Cynthia's cancer, I'm trying to help spread the word about her new book, which I can't wait to read (it sounds awesome - Twins! Murder! A fictional third twin! What's not to love?).

* Launch Party For The Third Twin: If you are in the Oakland area, there's a launch party for the book hosted by A Great Good Place For Books. The party is being held at a local church hall (5701 Thornhill in Montclair) to allow all the people who want to attend to be able to go. I wish I lived closer so I could go!

* Pre-Order The Third Twin: If you can't make it to the launch party, the Third Twin by CJ Omololu is coming to a bookstore near you on February 24th! (Click here to find an independent bookstore near you!) Or, you can pre-order The Third Twin from A Great Good Place For Books (the bookstore hosting the launch party) and it will magically show up at your house (as long as you pay for shipping)! I'm pre-ordering a copy!

* Help Promote The Third Twin: Want to help spread the word? Here's a jpg of the launch invite that you can post on your blog/twitter/tumblr/facebook, etc. You can also link back to this blog post if you don't want to post the invite. Every little bit helps. Thank you!

If you love YA books, or thrillers, please consider pre-ordering The Third Twin by CJ Omololu and/or asking your library to purchase it for their collection!.

p.s. If you haven't already read CJ's other books, you might want to check them out too: Dirty Little Secrets, Transcendence, and Intuition.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ten tips for choosing what to draw for your portfolio, and ten ways to find inspiration

Sometimes figuring out what to draw is easy. These times come in fits and starts and can’t be counted on, especially when you need to create new art and characters for your portfolio. I’m lucky in that I tend to get lots of ideas, except when I want to make a new portfolio. Then the ideas seem to run and hide. (Argh!)

Below are ten things I do to help me choose what to draw, and ten ways I look for inspiration. (Note: Mirka suggested in the comments that you don't have to draw to use these tips. I think she's right; they work for writers looking for story ideas too. Thanks, Mirka!)

1. What are you good at drawing? What are you bad at drawing, or afraid to draw, but want to learn how? What do you like drawing? Draw one thing (or more) from each answer.

2. Draw on old images (not literally draw on the images, but draw on the ideas). Is there a way you can turn an old drawing or sketch idea into a new character or series of images? Write the possibilities on your list.

3. Are there any specific requirements for the industry you’re creating a portfolio for? For instance, in a children’s book portfolio, kid friendly art and sequential images that tell a story (featuring the same character with different poses and emotions) are important. Draw a picture or series of images with those guidelines in mind.

4. Go for a walk, see a movie, take a shower, read/watch the news, talk with people online, or clean the house. Some of the best ideas come when we’re not trying to find them. I get a lot of ideas from skimming Twitter (when I skim, I tend to mis-read tweets, which leads to silliness the original tweeter never intended, which leads to Ideas with a capital I).

5. Start drawing and see what happens. Doodling can jumpstart your imagination and pull up new ideas you hadn’t thought of. You might sketch a character you’ll want to do another sketch of, then another and another.

6. Ask someone else what to draw (in person, by email, on Twitter - wherever you talk with people). Or open a dictionary to a random page and draw the first word you see. You never know how that’s going to turn out (might even spark a story idea)!

7. Make a list of all the possible images for your portfolio. If you don’t draw everything on your list this time, keep the list for next time. I always have things left over when my portfolio is done. When I make my next list, I don’t necessarily want to draw the things from last time. However, sometimes an old list can jumpstart a new one, or there’s a leftover idea that becomes the showcase piece of my next portfolio, or it just makes me realize what I don’t want to draw this time.

8. Set a deadline (self imposed, or for something like a conference). Don’t underestimate the power panic and deadlines! They can be good motivators, unless they put you into a stress induced coma, then they’re bad.

9. Make art that’s not for your portfolio. This might seem counter-intuitive, but having fun and playing with art that you don’t have to do, can jumpstart ideas for art you do have to do. It also gives you a break and lets you play with other mediums or subjects. I find that the personal art I make bleeds into the art I make for my portfolio and makes it better. When I don’t do art just for me, my portfolio art suffers.

10. Find inspiration! Here are ten ways you might find inspiration (add to this list with things that inspire you personally):

I. Take your camera or phone out and start snapping pictures while you’re out and about, or around your home. Look at them later to see if they suggest a character or story, or if they would make a great background for an idea you already have.

II. Participate in an art or illustration challenge, or make up your own. Illustration Friday is one example. This is a fun way to draw without thinking about your portfolio, and it could end up being a drawing or character you can use. (You can see some of my Illustration Friday art here.)

III. Draw a picture about your favorite season, or the season it is now, or draw a holiday scene (doesn’t have to be a big holiday, it could be a smaller holiday, like Arbor Day).

IV. Draw your dog, cat, hamster, or fish. Or draw your children, parents, or friends (draw from life, or look through photos from a vacation, family gathering, or photo holiday cards people sent you). You might want to ask permission from people to draw them, but don’t worry about the fish. (Though if your pictures don’t look like the people you’re drawing, you might not need to ask the people either.)

V. Go to a museum. Any kind of museum will do, as long as it has something you are interested in, whether it’s art, nature, history, etc.

VI. Go on a field trip or just out for lunch. Draw while you’re there, or wait until you get home and draw the feeling you had while you are there. You don’t have to draw the actual place, people, or animals. Maybe that cafĂ© was so busy it felt like a circus, or the park was filled with so many plants you felt like you were in a jungle. Draw the jungle and the circus and whatever characters you imagine are there.

VII. Keep a dream journal and draw what you remember happening. This wouldn’t always work, but if it did, it could be magical … or really scary!

VIII. Design a new book cover or movie poster for a book/movie you loved.

IX. Pick a subject and draw it every day for a week or more, like cows, or dogs. (I did both of those every day for a year!)

X. Go shopping. Seriously. Color themes and stationery can help you to think of settings or moods for your art. And if all else fails, buy a new pencil, or some paper, or paints. If you have new art supplies, it might just make you want to use them!

Note: I don’t use all of these every time – what I need to jumpstart my creativity or be inspired is different each time, which is why there are a variety of options here. I hope one (or more) of these help you choose what to draw for your next portfolio!

Off to work on my portfolio now. I thought up a really great idea when I was going through some old files …

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

Three Ways To Make A Picture Book Dummy 

How To Write A Picture Book In Twelve Easy Steps  

If You Just Want To Illustrate And Not Write  

Friday, January 23, 2015

robots, teddy bears, Popsicle passion, and toy tools

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is passion.* My picture for this week is a new sketch that I'm working on for my portfolio. It's a girl and her robot friend who love their teddy bears (they have a passion for bears, and toys, and teddy bears).

Here's a closer, cropped view, where you might be able to see that the girl's teddy bear is also a robot (as evidenced by the antenna on its head):

The hearts were already on the teddy bears when I sketched this yesterday. I made the hearts red to stand out more, plus I've always loved the way the color red pops when you put it in a black and white drawing.

My first thought for this week was my old drawing of a ghost with a passion for Popsicles, so I'm posting the ghost too (updated to fit in with the theme):

* When I found out about the theme this week, it was Thursday night at midnight (so technically Friday, but only by a few minutes). I was about to post my IF drawing for the prompt last week, which was toy. (BTW, they used to change their topic Friday morning at 10am EST, not at midnight, so I was surprised that they had already changed it. Would have posted earlier if I had known they were posting new topics Thurs. night now.) I had three possible images for last week, including one that I spent almost the whole week working on, but in the end decided it's not yet ready to share. The second image was the robot-girl-teddy-bears sketch and technically fits into the theme this week, so I posted that for the passion prompt.

The third image I was thinking of showing last week is a word that's hidden on a tool belt in my picture book, EWE AND AYE. One of the main characters, Ewe, is wearing a tool belt in one of the scenes. Originally, there were four tools in her belt. When I went to final art, they felt too crowded, so I removed one of them. Afterwords, I realized that the remaining tools spell out the word, "TOY." It was a happy accident and works with the narrative of the art in the book, so I left it in. So far nobody has noticed. Here's what it looks like:


Book: Ewe And Aye written by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble - in stores now!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

nefarious puppy for IF and a new painting style

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is nefarious. I had several ideas, but this sentence kept popping up in my head, "The kitty wonders why everyone loves the new puppy, when clearly he is a nefarious little furball!" So I decided to illustrate the nefarious little furball:

This is a new digital painting style I've been playing with off and on for a few years. Below is a crop so you can get a better look at the style.

I especially like how the cat turned out, and how the image feels a lot like messy paint, but without the mess! This image is probably the best I've done in this style so far, or at least shows the most control over the final look of the image.

My favorite piece in this style though, is probably still Blue Moo, which was one of the first ones. I did it for the Blue Moon Ball at the SCBWI LA conference in 2009 (I printed this on a shirt that I wore to the party). It might be my favorite because of the party, or more likely, because I like to draw cows, so they are almost always my favorite images!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

invention art for IF, book signing, and recent reads

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is invention. My first thought was a little girl inventing robots (I wrote and illustrated a story/comic about that once a loooooong time ago, but that was a different girl with different robots).

I ended up sketching an inventor girl creating a new robot friend for her robot cat:

The mouse robot might not be so happy about having the cat as a friend. Here's a closer crop of the three characters:

The pencil got a bit dark in places, but I still like the sketch!

* Update 01-19-15 *
Colby Sharp has started a new hashtag on Twitter for illustrators to see how big they draw. Take a picture of your sketch/art with a quarter to show the size. Tag it on Twitter with #idrawthisbig when you post it. You can also email Colby if you’re not on Twitter. More info, including email, here.
This is mine, or should I say, #idrawthisbig:

How big do you draw?

Recent Reads: I almost never read adult novels because my reading stack is full of children's books and YA novels, but his year I've read two good ones already!

1. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey - It's a zombie novel (I love zombies). The main character is a ten-year-old girl who is not sure exactly who she is, and at the same time is navigating the strange new world full of hungries with her teacher, a scientist, and two military men. Did I mention it's a zombie novel? If you like zombie stories, check this one out!

2. THE BISHOP'S WIFE by Mette Ivie Harrison - It's a murder mystery full of twists and turns that's set in a Mormon community. As the Bishop's wife, Linda doesn't have an official capacity like her husband, but she's the mother of the ward and looks out for everyone there. When one of the community goes missing, Linda helps out and can't help investigating what happened. If you like murder mysteries or crime TV shows that keep you guessing until the end, or books with a side of feminism, or a look behind the scenes of what being a Mormon bishop's wife is like, read this book. Even if you're not sure if you like those things, you might want to check this book out. It's a good read!

In other news: I'm going to be part of the January Picture Book Bonanza this Sunday, January 11 at Books Of Wonder from 1-3pm, with Steve Antony, Susan Verde, and Jimbo Matison. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

snowmen, sand people, zombies, and penguins for the new year

I'm not really a resolutions person. Sometimes when I start a new year, I look to the past to see what I've done, instead of thinking about what I need to do. Not just the last year, but other years as well. Sometimes this helps me to decide what I want to do in the future, especially when it comes to art.

In 2011, my blog post for the New Year featured zombie snowmen! Since I'm currently reading a zombie book, I thought about posting the zombie snowmen here again:

I painted this in December, 2010, and it turns out, I painted some other snowmen that year too. If you're not into zombies, maybe you'll like the one watching a penguin skate:

Or, maybe snow is too cold for you. If so, I have a solution. These snowmen aren't technically snowmen at all. They're sand people! And at least one of them is a sand woman.

It's a crop from a larger sand people painting I did as a blog header for WaWe (a watercolor site which no longer exists):

Then again, maybe you're not into snowmen at all and really prefer the penguin. In that case, how about a painting of a penguin and bear making snow angels from 2008?

All this reflecting and looking at art has made me realize that I really miss painting. It's been a while. It's also clear that I used to make more time for fun art (not for a project or book, but just because I wanted to make art).

Despite the fact that I'm not a resolutions kind of person, I do like to make goals (all year, not just in January). One of my goals for this year is to make more art for fun, and some of that art will be made with paint!

Do you make resolutions or goals to start the year?

Whether you make resolutions, or goals, or just wing it, I wish you a wonderful year full of amazing things (and no zombies)!