We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Its a truism, but, well... it's TRUE.
I love blogging, but I've been thinking a LOT lately about priorities. What is most important for me to focus on right NOW? Where do I really want to go with my art? What do I do now to GET there?
You've heard this from me before, but... being the primary care giver to two toddlers takes a lot of ME. My time, focus, attention, and energy. The time and mental/emotional bandwidth left to me after mothering daily needs to be carefully portioned out. Since I enjoy blogging I *want* do do more with it, and I think a couple years down the road I WILL do more with it, but... the time isn't now.
The main reason I need to write this post is for me, really. I'm publicly giving myself permission to NOT immediately write those blog posts floating around in my head about critiquing, the artists cycle, why I don't like the word "talent", and all those other blog post ideas in my head. There will be a right time for them.
But even if things seem quiet here, don't think I'm not working. Quite the contrary. Like I said, I'm doubling down on my priorities. Right now, that means finishing my book dummy. Then researching agents, writing and sending queries. So, things have been a bit quiet here and will continue to be so, but that is because the more important work is being done behind the scenes... and one of these days will be the time for my blog to shine.
Right now, I have cute little toddlers to enjoy, and a dummy to make.
Off to work.
If you're curious about the other things I've been working on in the last couple months that weren't blogging, here are some summaries, with links:
In December I finished a project for Cricut that... I don't think has been released yet? I'll have to see when it goes live and post a link when it does.
In January I turned in my entry for the Folio Society/House of Illustration Book Illustration Competition. My entry did not make the longlist, let alone the shortlist. However, I really enjoyed doing the project, and I love having the pieces for my portfolio. What's more, while I didn't love every single entry chosen for the longlist, the winner of the competiton was one of my top three favorites and I absolutely love that it was chosen as the winner, so no disappointment there.
If that didn't make my January busy enough, I decided to apply for the Adobe Creative Residency. I first heard about the residency LAST January (2018) when I was--AHEM--9 months pregnant... so understandably I didn't jump to apply at that time. This time around, I was just a mom to a 12 month old and a 2.5 year old, so... why not? In all seriousness, though, I felt I had to at least apply and see what happens. You miss all the shots you don't make, right? I feel the exercise of just creating the application was incredibly useful, though. It forced me to get absolutely clear about what I want to do, what my best ideas are, make a case about why they're good ideas, outline how I can implement them, and show how they'll grow my career.
I turned in my application just a few days before attending the SCBWI conference in NY. I meant to write up a blog post about my experience there, which was AMAZING, but, well.. time. Sigh. A friend from SVS asked to do a quick interview about my experience as she prepares to go to her first SCBWI conference, though, so you can get a bit of an idea of my experience here.
Just a couple weeks after getting home from the conference, my Drawing Class started up again. Since this isn't my first time teaching it all the basic outlining and preparation is done, but it still gets some of my time and attention. I absolutely love doing it, by the way, and hope to expand to do more classes in the future... but one is enough for now.
Behind the scenes of all THAT, I've been slowly working my way through Jessica Abel's book Growing Gills, just one chapter/exercise per week. Its a book about making the time to do the creative work that is important to you, even when your life is really full already. I've been working through it with a few others on the SVS Forums. We're only a few chapters in, but its making me get EVEN CLEARER about what I want to be spending my time on, if the SCBWI conference and writing the Adobe Residency Application didn't do that enough already.
So, like I said before... this blog has been slow and sleepy for awhile. That is not going to change. The thing that IS going to change is, I'm not going to feel GUILTY about that. I am officially putting this blog (along with my newsletter, while I'm at it) into hibernation mode. I may poke it awake now and then if I have a new piece to share or some other bit of news, but other than that my time is going to be focused on other projects in the near future.
Thanks for reading! I hope to have many big creative projects to share here in the future.
Time sneaks up on us... now that the SCBWI conference is over, its time for my drawing class to start again!
For more info, click here, or on the "classes" tab in the site menu.
I wanted to briefly talk about why I wanted to teach a drawing class. Isn't just drawing enough? Why take away from precious creating time to do it?
For a long time I've been interested in not just drawing, but HOW we draw. What actually goes on in a person's brain when they are making something? It's something that is hard to articulate--artists usually know how to do it, but not how to explain it to someone else.
I don't have all the answers, but I love sharing the ones that I do with the people who sign up for my classes. It's fun too see the ah-hah moments and the visible progress as they "get" it, and see a drawing that they made that actually looks like the real thing.
I feel strongly that learning to draw has benefits for anyone, not just those who want to be art professionals. It helps you focus, set aside your natural biases to see things in a new way, and to meditate, among other things.
So, if you're in the Schenectady area and any of those things sound cool to you, I'd love to see you in class!
This year, I decided to enter the House of Illustration's Book Illustration Contest. This year, the book was Howl's Moving Castle, so obviously I couldn't resist. And... I did not make the longlist.
Many beautiful entries did, though. Take a look: bicpeopleschoice.org/book-illustration-competition-2019/
Regardless, I am proud of my work, and I'm glad to have created these pieces.
Soon, I will share progress shots of how each piece progressed to finish. For now, here they are:
In fact, Sophie did not sell hats very much. After a day or so observing in the workshed, and another day going round the clothier and the silk merchant’s with Fanny, Fanny set her to trimming hats. Sophie sat in a small alcove at the back of the shop, sewing roses to bonnets and veiling to velours, lining all of them with silk and arranging wax fruit and ribbons stylishly on the outsides. She was good at it. She quite liked doing it. But she felt isolated and a little dull.
Then it was Michael back for some reason, Sophie thought as she opened the door. A turnip face leered at her. She smelled mildew. Against the wide blue sky, a ragged arm ending in the stump of a stick wheeled round and tried to paw at her. It was a scarecrow. It was only made of sticks and rags, but it was alive, and it was trying to come in. “Calcifer!” Sophie screamed. “Make the castle go faster!”
[Howl] set off with dignity to the bathroom, wading in blue-and-silver suit. The rest of the blue-and-silver suit followed him, dragging step by step down the stairs and rustling across the floor. By the time Howl was in the bathroom, most of the jacket was on the ground floor and the trousers were appearing on the stairs. Howl half shut the bathroom door and seemed to go on hauling the suit in hand over hand. Sophie and Michael and the dog-man stood and watched yard after yard of blue or silver fabric proceed across the floor, decorated with an occasional silver button the size of a millstone and enormous, regular, ropelike stitches. There may have been nearly a mile of it.
Of these, which is your favorite? Which is your favorite longlisted entry? I'm having a hard time choosing.
So its, what... 2019 now or something?
Resolutions are a thing around now, as is grumbling about how they don't really work and how you should be ready to improve yourself at any time of the year, yadda yadda.
Also, having a Theme Word for the year is also a thing lately. Last year, my word was Baby Steps. Which isn't one word, but I was a bit of a rebel. It was an extremely fitting word for the year, considering that I had a baby in January... and he ended up learning to walk in December. And now nothing in our house is safe.
But I digress. Aside from things associated with my kids (who are darling, just by the way) I took a lot of baby steps in 2018. While I didn't sell art in any shows or fairs, I attended a few with the express intention to do research and think about what I would do in such a show. That was a good baby step.
I completed a few small illustration projects last year as well--no mean feat with a baby and toddler demanding most of my attention. (I mentioned that they make up for most of it through cuteness, though, right?)
Oh, and a couple of those illustrations got a bit of recognition, actually placing twice in the monthly SVS illustration competitons (including my Octopus Bath image, created the month after giving birth, since... I'm crazy?). Thats a good baby step.
My goal had been to get out three post cards last year... I only sent two. BUT. That is still good! I had a very positive response to the second one in particular, from an agent who wasn't even looking for new clients. So flattering!
I also planned and taught my first ever art class. That was a BIG baby step.
My word for 2019:
I started a lot of good things in 2018. I just need to keep them going. I don't need to slam on the gas and accelerate as much as I can... I just need to keep the balls I have rolling.... rolling.
Like, with postcards. I would like to ACTUALLY send three post cards this year. And submitting to agents in particular. (Gotta get that dummy finished first... speaking of actually completing projects, thats another thing to keep rolling...)
And with art shows... I want to do more than just attend this year. I want to have a booth in one or two, mostly just to learn. I'm sure it will cost more to get my tent, tables, prints, card reader, etc. than I'll be able to make back, but the point for now would be the learning.
Also, with contests. I just turned in my entry for the House of Illustration's Book Illustration Competiton. Because, um.... HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Seriously.... how could I NOT? I want to keep the ball rolling by continuing to enter in competitons when I can. And hey.... if I enter competitons, I may even win a couple like I did last year. You miss all the shots you don't take, amirite?
Continuing the momentum on my drawing class, I will be teaching it again this semester (starting mid February). The plan is by next fall to teach a painting class, as a sequel to the drawing one. And ALSO teach the drawing class. (Maybe consecutively, rather than during the same weeks.... hmm. Obviously lots to be figured out here.)
Ok, y'all get it already, I know. I'll be done now.
Oh, one question: do you have a word for the year? What was it last year? What is it for this year?
Sorry I've been pretty silent around here for the last few weeks. For awhile things were moving along at a leisurely pace, and then all at once EVERYTHING seemed to want to find a place in my schedule. I have a dummy to finish, two contests I really want to enter, a job with a deadline, a conference to prepare for, and, oh yes--two kids to keep alive and happy.
So, I won't be saying much around here or on my email newsletter for a few weeks. By then I will (hopefully) have things under control again.
Bye for now, see you soon!
This is... kinda surreal.
I have a lot of different podcasts/channels/music I listen to while drawing and I basically just skip around to what I feel like listening to on a given day, so I don't really hear ALL of any given channel or podcast. (Note to self: do a post where I talk about all the cool illustration related channels/podcasts I listen to and ask for recommendations.)
I was just catching up on some recent Will Terry videos since I haven't listened for awhile. This title caught my eye.
I thought, "Hey, thats a legit concern, I wonder what he has to say about that..."
Then he mentions the tweet that prompted these thoughts and I'm like, "Hmm, that sounds familiar... wait a second... that sounds REALLY familiar..."
So I scroll back several months in MY OWN twitter feed and... there it is. My pessimistic tweets from late last year. And only now am I finding this direct response to them. Life is funny sometimes.
The good news is, I'm not feeling quite so pessimistic of late. My feeling recently has been--if you love the work and you learn and improve, that should be the most important success. It sounds lame but that's how it is.
Like the whole "Shoot for the moon: even if you miss, you'll land among the starts" quote, as cliche as it might sound. Maybe I will never ever succeed at the specific things that I want to. But If I'm working on something I enjoy, and learning and improving and doing good things with it, I will get SOMEWHERE worthwhile. It may or may not be what my current ideal version of success looks like, but I will get SOMEWHERE good if I do good work.
Finding the time to work is my current problem. Anyone want to borrow a toddler and a really cute baby?
I forgot to post the progress shots of my Rapunzel piece! I always think its interesting to go back and see how the piece looked in the earlier stages. I had a LOT of fun with this illustration, and I'm excited to try this again in a few years to see where I'm at.
Here's my question... are there any other little details in fairy tales that bother you? I have another illustration I want to do addressing another of my story pet peeves, but I want to know... what are yours?
I've always loved to see how my favorite artists have developed their skill and style over time. The hashtags #drawthisagain or #drawthisagainmeme have lots of fun examples of artists who revisit the same subject matter as they did in the past and show the two versions side by side. I never did it before... but that is about to change!
When the idea of this image first came to me, it stuck in my head and wouldn't leave. This happens every once in awhile. Usually, drawing it out gets it out and thats it. I tried just putting it in my sketchbook, but that wasn't enough. I was in college at the time. and was luckily in a class where we had a lot of freedom in choosing what we would paint for our assignments... which was just the excuse I needed.
Honestly... I wasn't thrilled with it came out (and, of course, am even less so now). Despite trying multiple thumbnails, getting detailed reference with my roommate posing in costume (Thanks, Annilynski) and doing everything I knew how to do, it just turned out OK. But, I was just a student. Giving it a good try was all I could do, and I did learn a lot from it.
Fast forward a couple years. I had graduated and worked in-house at Cricut for a few months before moving across the country with my husband. I was working from home, experimenting with my process and style and expanding my portfolio. What to draw? This idea jumped to mind--I wasn't satisfied with my last attempt, why not give it another go in an entirely new style?
So I did.
I liked it much better. I felt that the more graphic style was really working for me, and it had a bit more movement than the previous version.
Fast forward to now, a few years later again. I have been experimenting and developing my style more and found myself wanting to try this image yet again. Now with kids of my own, I found it easier to make Rapunzel look younger as I had always wanted. Its not as graphic as my second, not as modeled/realistic as my first. And I still don't love it, but it is an interesting addition to this series. I think I may have to continue to return to this subject matter over the years to see how my art changes.
What do you think? Which is your favorite and why?
Drawing Challenges. It's what the cool artists do nowadays. And I don’t want to be behind the times… so I’d better jump on the bandwagon, right?
In all seriousness though, for awhile now I’ve wanted to complete a challenge of my own, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to work on and what I would be interested in enough to stick with. The month themes, like March of Robots, MerMay, Junicorn/June Bug etc. are cool, or ongoing ones like Color Collective or Animal Alphabets are fun. But...I’m not all that into Robots, Mermaids, Unicorns, or Bugs… or any of the others I’ve seen. And “draw everyday” is a nice goal as far as it goes, but more vague than I wanted.
Another thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is my upcoming Drawing Fundamentals class, which will be offered through the Schenectady Community College’s continuing education program. Obviously I know the material, but, well… I haven’t really done it much recently. Draw from reference, that is. I’ve focused a LOT more on drawing from imagination lately (another class I’d like to teach… anyone interested?) so my observational drawing skills, while still there, are...a bit rusty, to be honest.
Last night, I wasn’t sure what to draw. I did a quick doodle of me and my kids, but felt like something was missing. So I pulled up a photo of each of them to draw from.
It felt SO GOOD. It was what I didn’t know I had been missing.
I’ve decided I want to get back to the source. Drawing from imagination is great, but it only works well when you have a foundation of drawing from observation. So that will be my personal drawing, for myself… and anyone else who wants to join in!
I’m calling it the Draw What You See challenge, or #drawwhatyouseechallenge… maybe #dwysc if I get lazy typing with my thumbs. (Ok, so it’s not clever or catchy like the monthly themes I mentioned above. I’m over it.)
How does it work?
Well, first off, you can participate if you want! In fact, please do! I’ll definitely enjoy having company for this challenge (though I am committed to completing it alone if nobody is interested.) Drawing is a skill that comes with practice, practice, practice, and this is a great way to do it! To make it “official”, I’ll say that in order to count it for this challenge you must:
I will be doing 50 drawings before the end of September 2018.
That means I’ll want to do around three a week--I think this is a do-able goal with two kids, while still pushing me a bit, and even maybe-possibly-hopefully leaving time to work on my from-imagination illustrations as well. Though ultimately, I think that this will help me do those better as well, even if I don’t have time for them during the time I complete this challenge.
But what will I be drawing?
Well, this is where you can help.
I fully expect that MOST of these drawings will be of my kids, because they are completely darling and, really, why waste that? And there are a few cool things around my house/yard I’d love to get a closer look at, and I might be able to convince my husband to sit still for awhile…
But, as they say, variety is the spice of life. I’d love to have a few other photos to choose from.
If you want me to consider drawing your photo, post it to Instagram or Facebook and tag me in the caption. Use the hashtag #drawthissarahluann to be double-sure you’ve got my attention and make it clear that you are posting it for this challenge. Then, I’ll see it and maybe draw it.
I did say maybe.
Since this is a personal challenge and not a commission, I’m not going to guarantee that I’ll draw every photo I’m tagged in. If the photo doesn’t work for me some reason (or if I get way more submitted than I’m anticipating), I’m just going to pass.
I’ll be more likely to choose your photo if:
-Its a candid shot
-it features a person (or pet--I'm less interested in landscapes/still lifes)
-it is in indirect natural light
-it just has that “something cool” in it that’s hard to put into words.
Also, don’t tag me in photos you didn’t take--specifically, not photos of you taken by a pro photographer. They took the photos and own the copyrights to them, while you own the photos you take.
If I choose your photo--thanks! You are awesome! Your support means a lot. You aren’t obligated to do anything. If you like my drawn version, you can share it on social media if you want, but that isn't required. If you do just make sure to credit and tag me as the artist. IF you would like to purchase the drawing, we can talk about it. But no money, or drawing, is owed to anyone either way.
How does that sound? Anyone joining me? Do you have any cool photos for me to draw?
Lets do this.
After my last post showing some of my old (somewhat embarassing) work, I now want to show a new piece I've been working on. After filling up my last sketchbook with a bunch of experimental stuff (see my Instagram feed) I had a bunch of thoughts on how to change/improve my process. I decided to try it with one of the fun, simple sketches I did in the sketchbook first. Here is what happened:
I started with my original sketch, but drew over it to improve a few things--I wanted my character to be younger, I fixed some of the anatomy, and I wanted the stack of books bigger and to have a more interesting overall shape with a bit more movement. Then, I went into my normal cut-out technique... almost. This time instead of focusing on the linework and colors, I instead started with a silhouette and then whittled away at that to get some defining lines and a couple colors. Basically, I'm using the same process as before, but with more of an emphasis on value and silhouette rather than line and color. Its probably a distinction only I really see, but it feels like a much more natural and intuitive way for me to work and I'm excited to do some new work in this style.
Next up... remember the Alice in Wonderland piece in the last post? Well, I'm going to do an updated version. I've always loved seeing an artist coming back to a subject/image they did years previously and then re-interpreting it with their current style and skill level. Its my turn!
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