Wednesday, August 23, 2017

octopus mail for illustration friday

Even sea creatures wait for the mail to arrive! The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is: mail. And the Colour Collective color for tomorrow is Buttercup (which incidentally is also the name of the yellow fish in this picture):

Hope you get something fun in the mail this week!

Friday, August 11, 2017

cows celebrate world lion day, international cat day, and a beehive hairdo for illustration friday

It's another art filled week around here, and also a holiday week. What holidays you ask? Today is World Lion Day! The cows are celebrating (or at least one of them is). Did you celebrate or practice your ROAR?

Yesterday was Book Lovers Day, and the prompt for Illustration Friday this week was hair, so I combined the two to create a girl and her teddy bear, both with beehive hairdos that are actually beehives! Added a few bees and bears too:

International Cat Day was celebrated on Monday this week. We don't have cats to help us celebrate, so I drew some kitties. (If you have cats, please give them a scratch behind the ears for me!)

Today's holiday is Play In The Sand Day and the color for Colour Collective is
Vert Réséda, a very bright sea green. (Hard to recreate that color in watercolor, but I think I got close.)

This little girl's sandcastle looks a little bit like a cake. Maybe she'll grow up to be a baker or cake decorator, or maybe it's her birthday, or possibly she just wants a piece of cake.

And last but not least, the new prompt for Illustration Friday was just announced, and it's PIZZA! It's not officially a holiday this week, but any day with pizza is a holiday ;) So here is a chicken celebrating with pizza!

Happy weekend! Hope you all have a art filled holiday full of celebrations, whether they are official holidays or not (have some pizza and celebrate).

Friday, July 28, 2017

two feathered sailors, a plaid dinosaur, and a cow with a moostache

I'm experimenting with a new style* for my portfolio this week. It's based on the painting process of three of the art for fun images I blogged about last week (umbrella boat, cats, and sheep and giraffe). Even though they're all very different, I used some of the same processes to make the picture (amazing how art can be so similar and yet turn out so different). Still working on how I want the new style to look, but I like the pieces this week better than the ones last week. Here's the progression of paintings:

First, are two feathery sailors for the Illustration Friday prompt (sailor):

Next is a plaid dinosaur, or a Plaid-o-saurus Rex, just for fun:

Finally, I painted a cow with a moo-stache for Colour Collective (the color this week is Portland Orange):

So far I'm liking the new style, even if it's not completely there yet. I think it's getting close though (or at least I hope so)!

What are you working on this week? Have you ever changed your art style? How did it go?

*This is not the first time I've changed my art style. It's never easy, but hopefully in the end it will be worth it! It's always been worth it in the past for me. Fingers crossed it will be this time too!

Friday, July 21, 2017

importance of making art for fun, plus illustration friday and color collective

I just added an art for fun section to my website. 

Q: What is art for fun?

A: Art that's just for fun might be in a different style, use a different medium, or it could even be a doodle! Art for fun is just for you. It's not part of a project or for your portfolio (though it could be in the future.

Q: Why is it important to take time away from other projects to make art that's just for fun?

A: It can be hard to keep your creativity if you're schedule is full, or if you feel obligated to create only a certain type of art for a project, or your portfolio. Art for fun doesn't have an agenda, so there's no pressure. You can create what you want. It can help you stay creative (and avoid burnout) and the things you learn could help you make art for books or other projects. You never know what's going to happen when you make art without a plan*. 

* Not having a plan and doing it for fun doesn't mean you can't be inspired by an illustration prompt, or try new materials to change up your style. (If you've visited my blog before, you might have noticed that I do a lot of art for illustration prompts. This is why.) What it means is that nobody is expecting you to make the art. You can experiment! You can make mistakes!**

** Mistakes are part of the creative process, but sometimes it seems like we don't have room to make mistakes. You don't have to turn in art for fun, or show it to anyone, unless you want to. I don't show all the art for fun on my site, but it's fun to be able to show a few of the pieces I like.

Q: Do you have any examples of art for fun?

A: Yes! Here four pieces of art for fun I made this week (notice how different each of these pieces are). Two of them are for illustration prompts. If I were making these for my portfolio, I wouldn't feel like I could experiment with style and medium as much as I did with these:

1. The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is: ice cream. I enjoyed creating my roller skating dinosaurs, so I decided to paint a dinosaur eating ice cream and experiment with acrylic paint and texture:

2. The color for Colour Collective this week was a blue color - Pantone 292 C, to be exact, which is harder to create in traditional mediums when you can't "pick" the color like you can digitally. I experimented with watercolor, watercolor crayons, and sponge painting to come up with an umbrella boat with a bear and two birds, and lots of blue:

3. This image is a character study of 3 Cats meowing, but mostly it's another experiment in sponge painting (I love sponge painting, but I can't control it, which is part of the fun and also part of the frustration):

4. Last but not least, I experimented with not using black line for my giraffe and sheep (with a little sponge painting in the background):

These are all very different, and I learned things from each one that will help me make art in the future, even if it's digital art. If I were only making art for a book or my portfolio, none of these images would exist. If I weren't making art for fun, I wouldn't grow as an artist, and eventually, that would catch up with me.

Q: What does your regular art look like?

A: If you're not familiar with my art, you might not realize how different this art is from what's in my portfolio. Here are my two latest pieces for comparison, one color, one black line:
I. Roberta and Bailey (the robot) at the Beach:
[Note - even this is different than the art for the book I illustrated (EWE AND AYE) - it's important to keep growing as an artist, IMO.]

II. Crabby Stories - Teller of Tall Tales:

Do you make art for fun? 

Or if you're a writer, do you write stories just for yourself? (Writing for fun can have similar benefits to making art for fun.)

If you want to see more of art for fun, check out the new section on my website.

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  

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  

Friday, June 16, 2017

dinosaurs rollerskating for illustration friday and colour collective

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is skate, and the color for Colour Collective this week was Ceylon Yellow. So of course I thought of a dinosaur rollerskating! Ended up doing two paintings (so far) and they are both still wet, which means I can't scan* them. Luckily, I can photograph them! Am experimenting with mixed media paintings, these are the first two.

In the first painting, a dinosaur taking a relaxing skate through town (well relaxing for the dinosaur, not so much for the people):

In the second painting, the dinosaur is skating out in the country. A child waves from the car going by (the parent driving is not as happy about the dinosaur as the child):

Thinking about doing a third image, where the dinosaur is skating much faster, maybe even racing someone or something. Or a dino who is not quite as steady on skates. Or maybe just a giant dino foot with skate picture. Hmm. Need to start sketching!

p.s. As you can see by the differences in the two pictures, I'm still developing the dino character.

*p.p.s. If I have time tomorrow, I will scan these pictures so they look better. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

cows and chickens preparing for the farm games

The color for Colour Collective this week was Baker-Miller Pink (the color of the cow noses below). I wasn't sure what to draw, but then remembered a sketch I did a long time ago of a chicken running over the top of a line of cows. It was for a title page of a picture book that sadly never got published, but I've always liked that sketch.

I added a second line of cows, a bunch of baby chickens, had fun with the colors, and came up with this:

Today, I found out that the prompt for Illustration Friday this week is team. I decided that the cows and chickens are teams getting ready for the upcoming Farm Games (which I imagine are like the Olympics for farm animals). Team Moo is preparing by eating a hearty meal. Team Cluck is preparing by running sprints (the baby chicks are still a little unclear about what that means). I decided that in order to concentrate, Team Moo and Team Cluck would have to have no distractions in their image, so away went the background and the image now looks like this:

It looks the same, and yet completely different! I like looking at art with different aspects added or subtracted to see what it looks like and how it changes the image as a whole. Speaking of completely different, here's a version without the black line:

Here's all three of them together, which makes a completely different look, with the white square in between the two multicolored squares (which makes it easier to see that the cow lines are not straight):

Not sure which one I like best. As usual, I like them all for different reasons. If this were for a book project, the one that worked best with the characters and story would be the one to go with for printing (still not always easy to choose).

Do you ever do multiple versions of images or written stories? If so, how do you decide which one you like best, or which one makes it to final art/text?

Friday, April 28, 2017

kitty superhero hideout and a hopscotch superhero

Happy National Superhero Day! To honor the holiday, here are my two latest superheroes:

For for Illustration Friday this week (prompt = shoe) and for Colour Collective (color = lava red), here's the Kitty Superhero Hideout:

Not sure yet whether the Masked Mouse is a friend or foe. Here's a close up of three of the four kitty superheroes:

Last week, I drew the Hopscotch Superhero for Colour Collective (color = kingfisher):

Can't remember the last time I played hopscotch, how about you? Drawing this made me want to get out the chalk and go hop!

Happy National Superhero Day!

Don't forget to wear your cape.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

that's not a rabbit - when magic tricks go sideways

The word for Illustration Friday this week is illusion. Magicians are masters of illusion, but they have to start somewhere. This little girl needs a bit more practice pulling a rabbit out of her hat:

What's that bear doing in there? And why is the bear wearing bunny ears? Or is it really a rabbit in disguise? Illusions can be mysterious.

p.s. This is also for Colour Collective tomorrow (the color is Jonquil Yellow).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

art fun with idioms, mimes, birds and cows

This past week has been filled with art and idioms.

To celebrate the first day of spring, I wondered what would happen if the early worm got the bird, and decided that would probably be big news:

The season might be only a week old, but the idiom art keeps coming.

For Colour Collective on Friday, the color was Blue Bell (like the flowers). That doesn't have anything to do with idioms, or mimes, but I decided to use both of those as inspiration for my image:

Read Between The Mimes! (I had to do it. Once I thought of the idea, it cracked me up.)

After the worm and the mimes, the word for Illustration Friday this week is umbrella (which makes sense, because it's spring and it keeps raining). I thought about drawing a rain filled umbrella scene, but then the idiom, "When it rains, it pours!" came into my head, which of course got changed into, "When it rains, cows soar!" And then I thought of Mary Poppins, and well, this happened:

It's a whole herd of the rare Mooey Poppins cows! (with apologies to Mary Poppins)

This will also be my art for Colour Collective this week (the color is Burnt Sienna, which I used on half of the umbrellas - the color looks a lot more red in the Colour Collective swatch than it does when I get it out of a tube of paint - was a perfect color for the umbrellas though).

Here's a close up of a few of the umbrella flying cows:

I've got a feeling it might be an idiom filled season. ;)

There were a couple of non-idiom art pieces this week too. I did two quick sketches for "holidays." (Note: there are holidays that are just a little odd and nobody really knows why they are holidays, but they're usually fun to celebrate and draw pictures for, so yay? these two images are for those type of holidays).

Holiday #1 National Poultry Day - a quick sketch of a character from a WIP:

Still working on her look. Will not be using these markers for the final art (I always forget I don't like these evil markers* until after I've used them - won't happen again ... until the next time I forget)!

Holiday #2 National Puppy Day - another quick sketch (but this time not with the evil markers*)

Happy Spring Everyone!

What's your favorite idiom?

* the markers aren't really evil - I just keep forgetting they don't work like paint, even though they have a brush tip - or maybe I just keep hoping that the markers will magically work like paint if I let them sit for a while - I am optimistic (though not about the markers)

Friday, March 17, 2017

rain during a blizzard and art challenges

This has been an art filled week!

We had a blizzard on Tuesday. You may have seen something about it on the news, or wondered why everyone was talking about Stella (that's what they named the blizzard). We got hit by the blizzard, and then it shifted and we got rain, and then snow, and then rain and snow together, and then snow again. Yay! (Ugh!)

So I made some art:

I even made an avatar out of the image (because it's a bit of a self portrait and shows how I feel about snow, and rain-snow). Check it out on the sidebar.

After the blizzard, it was National Panda Day on Thursday. (Yay pandas!) So of course I had to make some art for that too. (BTW, did you know pandas are hard to draw? They are!) When I was done with the line drawing, I realized some grasses would make a great background. As a bonus, it could be my Colour Collective image (the color is clover green this week):

I had so much fun making the green grasses with my brush markers that decided to make more art with them. It did not turn out well (there's a reason I don't use those markers very often). There was a lot of clover green though, so I scanned it to use as a second Colour Collective image. After scanning, it looked even worse, so I painted over it in Photoshop. It looks much better now:

Today I looked on the  Illustration Friday site and saw that the prompt this week is snail. And then this happened (and luckily it has clover green in it, so it can be a third image Colour Collective image):

That's the end of my art filled week. It started off with winter and ended up with spring ;).

Wishing you all a creative art filled weekend (whatever kind of art you want to make or enjoy, whether it's visual, written story, music or something else)!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

a pie loving bear coloring page for pi day

Happy Pi Day! (a.k.a. Pie Day) Here's a pie eating bear coloring page to celebrate (+ 5 more new coloring pages too, including - a cat and mouse, a lost sock train, pigs on a combine, kids playing in the sun, and smart alligators):

Ready to color? Click here!

Friday, March 10, 2017

punk rock toddlers and a tiny mermaid waving hello

The Colour Collective color for this week is: Amaranth. I played around with a few ideas and ended up drawing a trio of toddlers rocking out. Unfortunately, one of them was a complete drawing failure and got inked out. I had just enough room on the paper I was using to create a new character to round out the trio.

Since everyone posts their images for Colour Collective at the same time on Friday afternoons (19:30 GMT), that gave me time to check out the Illustration Friday prompt for this week. Luckily, the prompt ties in with the image I created for Colour Collective. The Illustration Friday prompt is: punk.

My little rockin' toddlers love punk music! A coincidence? Probably, but still true. Here they are with their newest member (the one in the middle) and their new song:

The toddler on the left is my new avatar. She is not impressed with the singing talent of their newest punk rocker.

In other news, apparently it's winter again. If you'd rather think about warm tropical weather, or just need a friendly bit of happy today, this tiny mermaid is waving hello to you:

I like the tiny mermaid, but my favorite character is actually the octopus with an attitude:

Also, in case you didn't notice, there's a shark hiding in the picture too.

Whether you're rocking out, dreaming of warm weather, making art, or plotting your next book while shoveling snow, I hope you have an awesome weekend! (Even if you're not doing any of those things, I hope you have an awesome weekend doing whatever it is that you're doing!)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

scoop for an underwater reporter, a leaping sheep, and a snowman

The Illustration Friday prompt this week is: scoop. My first thought when I saw the topic yesterday was a reporter getting a news scoop. And then I wondered what it would look like if that reporter were a shark. A real live shark in the ocean, trying to interview an elusive subject. (Creativity is strange sometimes, or maybe it's just my creativity that's strange.)

Here's the underwater news report, and the moment that my shark reporter gets the scoop:

After drawing this, I realized that scoop could also refer to a scoop of ice cream. So of course I wondered if the octopus would hide as a cherry on the top of an ice cream sundae to avoid the shark reporter. Might have to draw that later! Until then, here's a close up of the Ocean News, in case you want to know the scoop!

When I went to post this today, I realized I hadn't posted my leaping sheep pictures from last month. The first one below was for Valentine's Day, the second one was for my first Colour Collective image (the color that week was Opal Grey). It's basically the same image, but with a few differences that make a big difference in the final look:

Sheep In Love:

Leaping Sheep:

Can't decide which one I like better. They're both fun for different reasons. Which one do you like better?

Finally, here's a snowman to brighten your day. I drew it for my aunt Thelma, who loved snowmen, but was not fond of winter:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

sketch book look + tea for IF

Thought I'd share some images from my sketchbook (I always love seeing what's in other artist's sketchbooks). Here are a few from today, including my drawing for the Illustration Friday prompt this week, which is tea, and a few character sketches (all cell phone pics):

Here's a close up of the tea party (with fancy hats):

And here's a bonus sketch (thinking of spring while it snows outside):

What's on your drawing board today?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

if you just want to illustrate and not write

Happy New Year! Do you have any goals or resolutions for the year?

I don’t usually make resolutions, and I tend to make goals throughout the year, not just at the beginning. One of the goals I have for this year (which I’ve actually been working on since November) is to focus on illustration and to replace all the work in my current portfolio with new art (even if I really like the old art). Here's a new piece I made in December because another one of my goals is to start making more black and white art:

(FYI: If you're looking for coloring pages for your kids (or you), this image, plus robots, a mermaid, and more are available to download for free here -

Like many illustrators, I also write. But sometimes I wish I could just make art! Then again, stories sometimes start because of making art! So, focusing on the art will help me create stories too.

What if you don’t want to write stories, but only want to illustrate?
I wrote a post about the path illustrators take to get published (note: it’s not the same as it is for authors). If you aren’t familiar with that path, check out my post on the path illustrators take to get their work noticed and advance their careers -

If you just want to draw for a living, the reality of children's books (at least trade book publishing) is that there's usually not a lot of money in it. Also, it takes a while to get your foot in the door, sometimes many, many years. That said, there are illustration opportunities out there.

First, you will need a portfolio. If you have one, great! Keep reading. If you don’t have a portfolio, or need to update your portfolio, you might find it helpful to read the post I wrote on what to draw for your portfolio - Once you’re all ready with your portfolio ...

Opportunities to illustrate for children:

(Note – This is a post for illustrators, but a lot of it applies to writers too. For all these categories, make sure you have a contract. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with the terms of the contract. Have a lawyer, or your agent, look over the contract before you sign it. Also make sure to follow submission guidelines.)

* Trade Picture Books (at both small and large publishers): There are writers who don’t illustrate, so there are publishers who look for illustrators. Two ways you can get your work in front of editors and art directors by having a website and sending out postcards. Don’t forget to also send postcards to agents if you’re looking for an agent and they represent illustrators. Note: Always follow submission guidelines. If an editor, art director, or publisher prefers an email with a link to your website, send that instead of a postcard. If they don’t want emails, send a postcard if they accept snail mail.

* Educational Publishing: Textbooks, study workbooks/worksheets, and home schooling materials are all part of educational publishing, and a lot of those materials need illustrations. Research companies and guidelines so you know what they’re looking for before you submit.

* Work For Hire (a.k.a. WFH): Some publishers, packagers, and magazines need illustrations and purchase all rights for a fee. WFH isn’t for everyone. Consider reading about it and/or talking with others who have done it before you dive in.

* Art For Older Kids: Don't forget to think about illustrating covers, black and white illustrations for the interiors of chapter books and middle grade novels, and graphic novels. Check out current books at the library or bookstore to see what kind of work is being published now, and who publishes it. Send postcards or website links to publishers as requested in their submission guidelines.

* New publishers and upstart epublishers: New publishers can be wonderful opportunities or shady businesses that you'll wish you stayed away from. Beware of who they are and what kind of contract you're signing before you decide to work with them. Carefully look over the contract for what they are asking for in terms of rights and non-compete clauses. Have a lawyer go over the contract before you sign too.

* Children’s magazines (both print and online): Again, beware of the contract you're signing, the rights you're giving them, and whether or not you're being paid (they should pay you, although there may be a case where you believe in something enough to illustrate for free).

* Self publishing: If you go that route, make sure you’re getting a fair price for your time, skills and expertise, and make sure you have a contract to protect yourself should the deal go sideways. Always make sure to factor into the contract what’s allowed for changes to the art, and at what point they will have to pay extra for continued changes. Do research to see what other illustrators are charging, what questions they ask before working with self publishers, and what to avoid based on experiences others have had with difficult jobs.

Other Advice For Illustrators:

* Don't discount luck. You could get lucky and be at the right place at the right time for a great opportunity. Luck plays a large part in a lot of careers. But don't count on being one of the lucky ones either. Most of the time you have to make your own luck, by having a great portfolio and getting your name and work known, so that you're in the position to be in the right place at the right time.

* Consider joining SCBWI. If you do decide to pursue illustration for children, then an SCBWI membership is something I'd recommend. It's true that there are more resources for writers, but they are increasing the resources for illustrators. And don't discount the advice for writers. I've learned a lot about illustrating for kids by learning about writing stories for them. The biggest benefit of the SCBWI (for me) has been community. Meeting people, going to conferences, sharing resources and critiques. Finding others that are at the same stage in their journey is important, so that you have someone who understands where you're at and can cheer you on (and you can cheer them on too).

* Even if you don’t join SCBWI, check out their discussion board. The general sections of the board are open to the public, some sections are only for members (FYI - membership to the discussion boards is free), and there are SCBWI only sections as well. Look through the posts on the discussion board for illustration, contracts, magazines, small publishers, etc. There's a ton of info there about the industry. It will give you a better idea of what it's all about and whether or not you want to pursue children's books and illustrating for children.

* Five things for illustrators (that have helped me with illustrating for children, and will hopefully help you too):

* The truth is that if you want to make a living in this field, you will likely have to do many different jobs/types of illustration for kids. At least at first. Being able to draw people, especially children is a big advantage, but if you're really good at drawing animals, that could work too.

* The biggest thing is to have a strong portfolio that reflects the market you're trying to work in. So, if you want to illustrate for kids, you need to look at the art in picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels, children's magazines, and online sites for children. Think about your strengths and what you like to draw. Then consider where you might fit in to this market. Create art to focus on that. When you have a really strong portfolio, that you think can compete with the art that's out there for what you want to do, start submitting.

* Attend conferences and sign up for critiques if you are able to. It can be a great help to go to a conference and get a professional critique. Just remember that everything is subjective, and you could have two portfolio reviews with two people on the same day, one of which will love your art and one who will hate it (it's happened to me many times). Either way, if you get constructive feedback on what's working, what's not, and how to improve for the market you want to illustrate for, it's a successful critique. Unfortunately, not all critiques are successful, but most give you some take away that will help your art and career.

* Consider creating a dummy to go with your portfolio. If you don’t have a story you’ve written, take a classic public domain story, like Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, and put your own spin on it to show how you’d interpret a story. Not sure how to make a dummy? Here’s a post I wrote on three ways to make a picture book dummy that could help, or maybe make you laugh.

* Consider writing a picture book. Okay, I know I said this was all about illustrating and NOT writing, but sometimes pictures decide they need stories. If that happens to you and you need some advice of writing a picture book, check out my post on how to write a picture book in twelve easy steps (note – it’s not really easy, but it is doable).

* If you decide you want to illustrate, but not for children, you will still need to do research on whatever field you decide you do want to illustrate for, and you'll need a strong portfolio. Remember that in any field, it will take time to break in.

Good luck, and most of all, have fun making art!