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.

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

Five Tips For Illustrators  

The Importance Of Making Art For Fun

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  

If You Just Want To Illustrate And Not Write  

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!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

bears wearing pants (in an amusement park), plus illustration friday

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: childhood*. I woke up today with a song** in my head about bears. The lyrics looping around in my mind all day were: "Bears wearing pants. Pants in the amusement park. BEARS!" I did a quick sketch of bears wearing pants at an amusement park, then inked and colored it, which wasn't as quick as the sketch. Here's the final color piece:

Just for fun (mostly because I like to see process pictures from other artists) here's the black and white version of the bears wearing pants at the amusement park:

When I was a little kid, there were local fairs and the State Fair. They all had rides, games, and cotton candy. I remember waiting for the State Fair all year long, and being excited when a local fair would pop up. I also remember being too short to ride the rides year after year, and then finally being tall enough.

Do you remember when you were too small to ride the rides?

I also remember the time we went on the big roller coaster (I think it was actually my first time on a roller coaster). My mom and I were sitting in the front car and my dad and brother were in the car behind us. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get pull down the bar that goes across your lap and keeps you from falling out of the roller coaster. We yelled for help, but they ignored us and started the ride. We kept yelling, and my dad and brother started yelling too. Pretty soon everyone was yelling and they finally stopped the ride as it was going up the first hill. They came and fixed our car and re-started the ride like it was no big deal. Which, since they fixed it, it wasn't a big deal. But if they hadn't ...

My favorite part of this image is of the two bears at the top of the hill, about to go down. It reminds me of my mom and me. Here's a closeup:

None of the fairs we went to were at a beach, and were only up for a short time each year. I thought the beach would be a good place for the bears to go ride rides and play games all year round. It's a bears only beach, except for an occasional bunny. Do you see the bunny in the first picture above, or in the closeup below? (Hint: the bunny is in a car with two bears at the bottom of the Ferris wheel.)

What started out as a weird song in my head when I woke up this morning turned into a fun day of art making. Guess I should pay more attention to what I'm thinking and singing when I wake up!

Do you ever get inspired by songs or thoughts in your head when you wake up?

* I actually did a different piece of art for this prompt, but now I'm saving it to post another day.

** Pretty sure my bear song isn't a real song (though if it is, please let me know). Also don't remember have a dream about bears, wearing pants or not, or at an amusement park or not. Not sure where this came from, but I had a fun day working on art for my bear song.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

neigh, peep, quack, baa

I keep hearing voices* in The Art Cave** today.





*I'm not really hearing voices in The Art Cave today, or any other day (except once in a while when my neighbors are loud, but as far as I know, they are human and not my odd farm friends pictured here).

Sometimes my sketches seem to come to life. Does this happen to you too, or is it just me?





I think that means, "Happy Tuesday!"

Or maybe it means, "May the voices you imagine turn into characters in a future story."

No matter what the animals are saying, what I'm saying is, "Have a creative Tuesday! And Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and every day!"

** The Art Cave is what I call the room where I make art and write stories. It's not really a cave.

Monday, March 7, 2016

pig in a power pose wearing a flowered shirt

Today seems like it needs a pig in a power pose while wearing a flowered shirt. And also wearing swim shorts and sunglasses - this piggy must be on the way to the beach! (Wish I were on my way to the beach.)

Some people (who shall remain nameless) thought the flowered shirt was a bit scary. It doesn't look so scary in this image. The scan came out a lot more muted. The original was colored with highlighter markers, and then covered with colored pencil to tone down the neon factor a bit. I took a cell phone picture of it too, to see if that would show the brighter colors. It's a bit better, but still not quite as shocking as real life. Here's the two versions side by side:

The real pig is brighter, and the color is somewhere between these two images.

This pig is obviously the cousin of the pig I painted last year on April 24th for Pig In A Blanket Day and Arbor Day. Maybe today is Pig In A Flowered Shirt Day, but nobody knows it (other than this pig).

Happy Monday Pig In A Flowered Shirt Day everyone! ;)

Friday, March 4, 2016

winter is back and March came in like a lion after all

Remember the old saying, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?" It was a nice day on Tuesday, no lions around here, only pigs!

I was wrong on Tuesday. March did come in like a lion. It just waited four days to make a sneak attack.

That's right, winter came back today.


I created this image, Lion In A Snowstorm, a year ago (tomorrow). Seems like the perfect image for today:

This image shows how I feel about snow (most of the time, but especially in March/April). Yes, snow can be pretty and it's fun to make snowmen and snow angels, but after the first snow of the season, the novelty wears off. By March, you just want the snow lion to go back to the frozen tundra it came from, or the zoo, or really, anywhere else. (Note: Winter last year was actually a lot worse than it was this year, which is what caused me to make this drawing.)

All in all, a little snow today isn't a big deal, but I'm ready for winter to be over.

Happy March everyone! Hope it's not snowing where you are, and if it is, I hope it stops soon!

p.s. The only nice thing about snow in March/April, is that you know that warmer weather is on the way, and non-snowy-cold days will soon number more than snowy-cold days. Hooray!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

creative challenges, drawing with your opposite hand, and art for IF

I've been thinking a lot about creative challenges lately. Not the challenges we face while doing creative work, but challenges that push your creativity, like inktober, Illustration Friday, PiBoIdMo, and NaNoWriMo, to name a few. (Note: I have participated in all of these challenges in the past and maybe will in the future too.)

Many artists and writers also come up with their own creative challenges that fit what they need to work on at the time. In the past, I've made art for wacky and traditional holidays and did drawings every day for a year as a creative project. I did the year long project two years in a row, the first year was drawing cows and the second was dogs (I almost added a third year). 

7 Reasons To Do A Creative Challenge:
1. It could push your art in new directions. Every time I've done a challenge, it's expanded my art in ways I never would have imagined.

2. You could have fun. Writing or making art that's not for a specific project but just for playing around, like you used to do when you were a kid or you just started being serious about it, can be freeing.

3. It could give you a break from a project that is giving you the other kind of creative challenge (meaning frustrating).

4. Creativity begets creativity. Writing and making art can lead to new ideas and/or help renew your passion for making art and writing.

5. It can give you a sense of community in a field where you sit alone at your desk most of the time. There are many online challenges, like the ones above, where you can talk with others doing the same thing and cheer each other on.
6. Announcing your goals publicly may help you to achieve them, either with people checking in on you along the way to ask about your progress, or the fear of embarrassment if you have to admit that you didn't do what you said you would.

7. For personal projects that you don't announce, it can help you work toward a goal or give you a sense of satisfaction for accomplishing something you wanted to do.

Have you ever tried writing and/or drawing with your opposite hand?
Recently, one of my creative challenges has been to draw with my opposite hand. The first time I tried this was in college, and it was because I had to after I broke my right elbow. It didn't last long because I was very bad at writing and drawing with my left hand (which challenged me to find a way to write and draw with my right arm in a cast). Over the years, I've come back to this challenge. It fascinates me just how hard it is to draw and write with the opposite hand. I've gotten better over the years, but it's still nothing like drawing with my right hand.

This week I drew a village for an Illustration Friday prompt. I drew it with my left hand. I haven't been able to do a sketch ahead of time left-handed, so this was drawn by starting with one house and seeing what happened. Here's the black line drawing of my village:

The lines are a bit wobbly, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Unfortunately, then I decided I would try to color the drawing, with colored pencil.

Coloring a drawing with colored pencils with your opposite hand is a nearly impossible feat physically (at least for me - YMMV). The reason it was so hard is because I don't have complete control over what I'm doing when I use my opposite hand. It's like learning to draw all over again. (Note: I totally get why kids drawings look the way they do now!) Don't know if I'll do any left-handed coloring in the future, but if I do, maybe I'll try a different medium, like paint. Here's my village all colored in:

It really looks like it's a picture I pulled out of my file of art I did when I was a kid!

There's another creative challenge I just started, but am not sure I'm going to complete it, so I'm not going to announce it just yet. The reason I'm might not finish it is because I'm not yet sure if it's a worthwhile project that will help my creativity, or one that will just take up time without any benefits.

Not every creative challenge is worth finishing.

But it is worth trying creative challenges. Sooner or later you're bound to find one that spurs your creativity and takes your work to someplace you didn't even know it could go.

What creative challenges have you tried? 

Which ones worked for you, or didn't?

Hope you enjoy your next creative challenge! (Or your first one if you've never done one before!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Read Across America, reading art, and a coloring page

Today is Read Across America! It's a nationwide celebration of reading, sponsored by the NEA, that's held every year on March 2nd, which is also the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Find out more here.

To celebrate, I'm going to read picture books later today. I also drew this picture of a girl reading to her dog and cat:

It's always interesting to me how drawings turn out when I don't sketch ahead of time, but simply start inking right away. There are a few things I'd change, but mostly I'm happy with how the drawing turned out, and I couldn't resist having her read EWE AND AYE.

I also decided to do a coloring page of this image, in case kids want to color today after they're done reading, or while they're being read to, or in between chapters. Here's how it looks:

Click here to download and print the coloring page.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy National Pig Day!

There's an old saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

However, this year March 1st is also National Pig Day!

This year March is coming in like a pig!

A group of flying pigs:

There's also a flying lamb in the picture! But no lions.

Maybe this year March will go out like a lion ... or like a lamb ... or like another animal.

How do you think March will go out this year?

Tune in March 31st to find out.

I can't wait!

In the meantime, let's all celebrate National Pig Day.

Oink! Oink!

p.s. Anyone know how to get ink out of clothing? I drew this picture with ink pens and didn't realize they'd leaked all over my hands until after I pushed up the sleeves on my sweatshirt.