Theres someone I'd like you to meet--or should I say, someones.
These are the friendly monsters! (If you follow my instagram, you've already met them :-) They star in my latest picture book dummy. This is one of those ideas that hit at 4am (I was up thanks to a hungry baby) and just WOULDN'T LEAVE ME ALONE until I put it on paper. I jotted down a few lines and then was finally able to get a bit of sleep.
The first draft came out pretty easily. I let it sit, did some edits, and then I sent it off to a few different friends (and the 12x12 community) to get feedback. I love having different places to get feedback from, because I feel that when I just get it from one critique group they hear the first person's comments and then everyone just ends up agreeing with that person--not always, but fairly frequently. I like having different places to get feedback so people are thinking up their comments independently--I feel they're more helpful that way.
I don't know where I first heard this thought on critique, but its something I generally live by: If one person tells you something, its an opinion and you can ignore it if you choose. If two or more tell you independently that it is a problem (not just critique group partners chiming in, people critiquing who don't have any access to the comments of the other) then it is something you need to take a look at.
In the case of this story, having multiple critiques... didn't backfire, per se, but it did give me directly contradicting advice. From one friend, "There is too much X! I think you should take out X completely." From another "The X is nice, but I think you need even MORE X."
Oh, the joys of navigating critiques. I've at least got plenty to think about with this story, and I'll do my best to be true to what I loved about that idea at 4am.
As far as the art goes, I'm trying a slightly different style here, and LOVING it. Seriously, why didn't I try working this way before! I'm still using my cutaway linocut vector process, but really minimizing the linework. Instead of starting with the lines and then filling in the shapes and colors, I'm starting with the big shapes and adding lines only where necessary to define the form. I'm using the shadow layer to create texture instead of the line layer as I usually do. I really like how it came out. I think I'll definitely still do linework-based illustrations, but I want to do more of this approach as well.
As usual, progress images of how this one came together. What do you think?
I said I'd do it, and I did. Earlier today, I submitted the dummy of my story FINN'S FEET to the Little, Brown Emerging Artist Award. Thanks to all who commented on my last entry to help me find a title. Now my little story is going off into the world...
It was a big project, and the housework definitely got neglected as the deadline got closer, but it's done. It feels so good!
I only saved progress images of one of the illustrations, though. I was just trying to get them done as quickly as I could, so saving out periodically as I usually do just didn't happen.
This is a good start for my goals this year of pushing forward with my writing and illustrating this year, and actually submitting my work as well. Before doing this project I thought I mostly wanted to illustrate other people's stories, but putting this together helped me to realize that I actually really like creating my own stories too. I will definitely be doing more!
...a character who has been living in my head for a few years now. I finally have his story put together in a dummy book, and after I complete a couple more example illustrations, I'll be entering it in this contest.
I have one small problem, though. I'm having a hard time thinking of a title.
What would you call a story about a boy with very long feet? Any ideas? :-)
I'll be heading up to the Green Leaves SCBWI retreat tomorrow, and though I have a couple stories in progress, I really don't feel they are ready for an official critique--I'm going for a portfolio critique, and I'll continue to work on my stories until I have them in a good place.
Speaking of getting them in a good place, I do think it's time to start figuring out how the story will flow and get some thumbnails, particularly for my wordless story. I searched online for a nice dummy book layout to print, but didn't see one to my liking. Either they were colored (why??? I just need some squares) or they didn't have space to write notes, which I wanted. So like any self respecting graphics-savvy person, I just made it myself. And I thought I'd make these available to anyone else who might be looking for the same things I was in a dummy layout.
Feel free to print and use these as you need. If you like them feel free to share, but I would appreciate if you kept my information on them intact. Happy sketching!
My brush pen an I have come together to give you.... more badly drawn comics about my life!
Richard and I have been reading aloud together on and off since before we got engaged. It is a lot of fun, but there are problems that you only get when reading out loud with someone, rather than just silently all by yourself.
For example, I have chosen most of the books we have read together, so usually I know what is going to happen or what isn't being said. And sometimes I ruin it. Yes, I'm terrible.
And of course, when you read out loud you have to give all the characters unique voices, right? I'm actually not so good at this, but Richard can really get into it.
For the record: Setheris had the most. annoying. voice. ever.
While Richard is better at the voices, I am more careful about my inflections, especially when words are italicized or otherwise emphasized in the text. Also, since I've read most of these books before, I have an idea in my head of how the words should be pronounced. Because of course my way is the right way. Obviously.
In addition to reading aloud requiring some acting skills, it also just takes longer than reading silently. Richard has this habit of forgetting to read the words out loud when a really exciting part comes, leaving me hanging.
Which is especially annoying because I have never ever read ahead without him! Even when I'm at home all day with the book and really really really want to know what happens next. (Never mind that I've already read of them. With some of them it has been long enough that I've forgotten.)
More on reading aloud:
When I was preparing for college, I was understandably nervous and excited about several things. One thing I thought a lot about was my future roommates. Would we get along? What if we just couldn’t stand each other? Would we argue about stupid things? And of course, I hoped that I could be friends with my roommates. I daydreamed about the things that we might do together. Many things I daydreamed about were pretty normal--watch movies together, hang out together, make food together, tell each other all our deepest secrets. But one thing near the top of my list was pretty strange--I daydreamed about roommates who not only liked the same books as me, but roommates who would let me read out loud to them, and maybe even read to me too.
Long story short, I got them. Needless to say, my college experience was pretty awesome overall, largely thanks to them.
Of course, roommates weren’t the only thing I daydreamed about. Like many college girls, I daydreamed about the guy I would eventually marry. How would I meet him? What would we do on our first date? How soon would I KNOW he was the one?
I had a (rather short!) list of desirable qualities in a future husband. But again, there was an item on that list that was pretty strange.
You can probably guess what it was.
Yes. I wanted a husband who not only liked the same books as me, but a husband who would let me read out loud to him, and maybe even read to me too.
Well, guess what. I found him. I will admit, when we were dating and I first pitched the idea to him he was kind of skeptical, but he was a good sport. Pretty soon he realized what a brilliant idea it was. He proposed not long after. (Not that the reading together was the thing that really made him excited to buy that ring, but it didn’t seem to hurt my cause at all.)
We haven’t kept very careful track of the books we’ve read, these are the ones I remember, in more or less the right order:
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (started before we got engaged, didn’t finish until after the honeymoon--weddings are time consuming!)
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (Richard does the BEST Temeraire voice.)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Richard had to do all the Miss Lupescu lines because I just can’t do the accent.)
Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel by Garth Nix
Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Conrad’s Fate, and the Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (We’re only a few chapters in so far…. this one will take awhile.)
Twelve in about a year. Not bad. We’ll see how well we can keep this up through the craziness that is life.
I will admit, all these books were chosen by me. I’m pickier about what I read than he is, and I love re-reading while he doesn’t. So, I choose books that I know that I like and think he will probably like, because I’ve read them and I know him. Suggestions are welcome, however. What book do you love that would make a great Read Aloud, and why?
Its not often I have the patience to sit down and read a whole book that doesn't have a story to it. But despite having shelves full of novels to pick up, this is the book that called to me.
I think I picked this book up at just the right time. I had glanced through the first chapter previously, but never really sat down to read any of it, til now. I've been really pushing myself artistically lately, and I feel like I've made progress, but also hit a few walls. In the back of my mind I told myself that I was picking up this book in order to not be drawing (and give my poor aching hand a rest) while still developing my drawing skills.
While some of the concepts and exercises in this book did help me to draw better (if only maybe to remind me of things I already know), drawing skills are just a means to an end in this book.
This is a book about creativity. What it is, how it works, and how you can develop yours.
Betty Edwards is best known for her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which contains concepts and exercises that have helped many people who supposedly possessed no artistic "talent" to learn to draw accurately. I started reading that book awhile ago and then life happened and I never made it through.
This book--Drawing on the Artist Within--builds on the concepts of the first. It teaches the same principles of how to draw, but it also makes an argument for why drawing is a useful skill even when you have no desire to become a professional artist. Do you want to be a creative problem solver in any field? Learn to draw.
I have long said that drawing is a skill like reading, or driving, or anything else is a skill, and was gratified to find that view supported and expounded on in this book. True, not everyone catches on to every skill as quickly as others--some learn to read quickly, others take more time and instruction. But anyone with a normal mental capability who can learn to read, or drive, or anything else that it is generally expected that people can learn, can learn to draw what is in front of them. And even if you aren't interested in becoming an artist, either professionally or just on a hobby-level, learning the skill of drawing will help you to be more creative. Is the ultimate goal of learning how to write the production of novels? Is the only purpose of learning to draw the production of gallery paintings? In both cases--of course not. The skill is valuable without using it in a professional creative way.
In this book, the stages of creativity are outlined, and then broken down. Some of the stages--such as "Saturation" or research--require lots of verbal, logical, "Left-brained" thinking. Others--perhaps most importantly, "Illumination," the "Eureka!" moment--require visual, spatial, "Right-brained" thinking. Most schooling today only develops the logical side. This leaves us with only half of the skills necessary to come up with creative solutions to problems.
I will admit, a few of the ideas in this book seemed a bit "Woo-woo" and out there. I'm an Illustrator! I draw what I see, I don't draw my feelings.
Or do I?
In the business of storytelling, it is useful to know the language of shapes, and the concept that most people see certain shapes as angry, and other shapes as happy, or peaceful, or confusing. As an artist, this book helped me to better understand how creating abstract images can be helpful to artists who do representational work. Also, learning to draw accurate representations of what they see can be helpful to artists who do abstract work.
Before I conclude, I wanted to share a few quotes from the book that I found especially interesting.
"Still searching for clues about the precise role of seeing in creative thought, I went back to the statements, letters, and journals of creative individuals. After an unfruitful period of browsing, I suddenly for some reason focused on the words I was reading and saw them in a new light: in nearly every case, I realized, creative individuals have described Illumination, the fourth stage of creativity, in terms of vision. Statement after statement used the verb to see: "All at once I saw the answer!" "It came to me in a dream in which I saw the solution to the problem."
pg 38 (italics from original)
"...drawing is easy when you set up conditions that enable you to simply see and draw what is "out there" without quarreling with your conceptual ideas about how things "should" look."
The following quote reminded me a lot of a Ted talk that I found really interesting, which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA
"The American poet Amy Lowell spoke of dropping a subject for a poem into her mind, "much as one drops a letter into a mailbox." From that point, she said, she simply waited for the answer to come, "by return post." Sure enough, six months later she would find the words of the poem on the chosen subject coming into her head.
"As another example, Norman Mailer, the American writer, in a recent interview used the term "unconscious," but his tone echoes Amy Lowell... "In writing," he said,"you have to be married to your unconscious. [If you've run across a problem in writing] you choose a time and say, 'I'll meet you there tomorrow,' and your unconscious prepares something for you.'"
"For most people, the question "How can I become more creative?" is a deeply significant one. I believe the answer to that question lies within a paradox: that one becomes more creative not by trying to be more creative, but by further developing that part of the mind, the visual, perceptual mode of the brain, which is so deeply involved in creative thinking. I truly believe that learning to see in the artist's mode of seeing is one of the roads that lead to the goal of greater creativity. There are doubtless other avenues, but the biographical notes of creators are clear: visual, perceptual processes are central to creativity."
In conclusion, in case you hadn't figured it out yet: yes, I recommend the book.
I saw some awesome designs for several classics during my last visit to Barnes and Noble and thought, what would I do if I were asked to re-design a cover for a well known novel? It ended up being a really fun project. I think that face cards have very distinctive and interesting designs, and decided it would be fun to incorporate that same look into a cover.
This next one was just done on a whim. We finished reading Lirael by Garth Nix the other night, and I wanted to do something with a quote that is repeated through the series, and.... this happened. As of now, it has been liked/reblogged 140 times on tumblr, which isn't a huge number but its more than any other post I've made so I'm pretty happy about it.
A few years ago, I happened to be reading in "my spot" in my college apartment--the end seat of the couch, nearest to the table lamp. I don't remember exactly what I was reading, but I know around that time it was likely to be something by Elizabeth Wein or Dorothy Sayers. I do know that I really wanted to be paying attention to my book, but one of my roommates had a guy friend over, who I think she kinda liked. While they talked, she admitted that one of the things she really wanted to do was write for children.
This guy didn't think that was cool or interesting. "Oh, thats easy," he said, and made a sort of scribbling motion, showing how effortless it would be to write a children's story.
I wrote a somewhat less coherent blog post about it at the time.
I still have a grudge against that guy. And I only met him once.
Well, maybe grudge is the wrong word. I'm just very frustrated by that attitude in general, and in my mind that guy is kind of a representation of anyone who thinks writing is easy.
Writing books is hard, people.
Especially books for kids.
Its basically a super power.
This link goes directly to the shirt (but won't give you free shipping): http://society6.com/product/i-write-books-whats-your-super-power_t-shirt#11=49&4=101&5=17
This didn't quite actually happen. I did actually make weird faces while reading The Queen of Attolia trying to raise only one eyebrow. And Rich really can do it and I can't. Still. But he wasn't actually there when I made the faces. Nobody was, fortunately.
Go read the book. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Its really good even if you don't make weird faces while reading it.
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