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 completed a new piece! This one was inspired by one of my favorite artists, James C. Christensen, who recently passed away. He often created images with elaborate ships, mixed scale, and clever sayings, often in Latin. So it was something of an exercise--not exactly a master copy, and not with the goal of being entirely in his style. I wanted something in my style, but inspired by his. I think I succeeded in that at least.
I have progress images (I always think those are fun to see, maybe nobody else does though) but that will have to wait until my internet is working better--its patchy right now for some reason.
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? :-)
Sometimes, my baby sleeps. And sometimes she doesn't sleep on me. And sometimes when she's sleeping not on me, I get to do stuff. Like make pictures.
My dummy is still in progress! But I was feeling really bogged down in the sketch-tightening phase (my personal least favorite in the whole illustration process.) So, I decided I needed to do a quick piece start to finish to remind myself what it is like to actually do the final stage--which I really enjoy!
So, I put together a quick piece for the SCBWI postcard contest. I just threw together the first image I thought of, without trying to be super original with the concept or composition--I just scribbled a sketch and moved forward on it. It was really refreshing, actually. I felt more free, less attached to what happened, and since I didn't care quite as much I felt more able to experiment with things without being stressed about the experiments going bad. So it was a great piece because I enjoyed making it, whether or not its actually any good otherwise ;-).
I didn't save periodically during the process on this one like I usually do, because I was just moving through it and trying things, as I said. Here's how it turned out:
Hello! I am still alive. And still very pregnant. Just about as pregnant as you can get, actually. Sometime in the next month, this little person is going to emerge and life will never be the same! In the meantime, we are trying to get everything ready AND get enough sleep. That whole thing about sleeping now because you won't when the baby comes? You all forgot or never experienced a huge stomach that kicks you and randomly contracts (sometimes quite painfully) and crowds your bladder. The short of sleep thing has already started, my friends. But this being baby #1, there is nothing to keep me from taking naps, so there is that. I make sure to get one most days now, and it is keeping me sane.
So, I've been doing Yoga and Naps and Breathing Exercises and Reading About Birth and Breast Feeding and Organizing Everything.... I have significantly cut back on my art for the last month or so, though. As in, I've barely even gotten my sketchbook out. I look at all the art from the people I follow on social media, and I certainly still THINK about it, but.... haven't really done any.
Now and then I start to feel a bit guilty about this. Does this mean that I don't REALLY want to be an illustrator? That I am stopping as soon as the going gets rough?
Maybe, but I don't think so.
For the last year and a half, I have really focused a LOT on my art and portfolio. Kind of the culmination of that were the two SCBWI conferences I went to this year--the National Conference in NYC this February, then the Greenleaves Regional Conference up at Lake George in April. Oh, and getting shortlisted for the Bologna Illustrators Showcase--so unexpected, and so encouraging! I am so glad I entered that contest went to both conferences, I have been really inspired and received great feedback. Mostly really positive feedback, too. Basically most of what I heard could be summarized thusly: "Your portfolio looks really great. You have a distinct look and obvious drawing skill. There are a couple things you have to work on, but once you fill those gaps in your portfolio you can compete with the pros."
So intimidating and encouraging at the same time. "You're almost there, just keep working just as crazy-hard as you have been for the last year!"
But, I can't. I don't make this as a lame excuse, but really and truly--I am pregnant and exhausted, and excited and a little bit scared, and really do have other more important things going on right now. That is just how the timing has worked out. I worked really hard for over a year, and its time for a break.
With this going on, I have been thinking a lot about this quote I came across on tumblr awhile back:
I read that and I think--yes. That is where I am right now. I need a time of dormancy for my art. My creative tree needs a winter, to just sit under the snow and not worry about growing or making leaves and fruit for awhile. (Ok, weird image, moving on.) I really do feel that when I come back to my art in a few months, while I expect to be a bit rusty in many ways, that it will ultimately be the better for it, and I will be able to fill those gaps in my portfolio better than I would if I just kept trying to push myself through them now.
This isn't artist's block. Its just a time of dormancy.
So awhile back I did a master copy of a piece by Norman Rockwell. Because, well, Norman Rockwell. Also, master copies are good practice. So after doing that one, of course I had to do one by Rockwell's hero, J. C. Leyendecker.
Thats right. Rockwell was a young artist with dreams and heroes once too! And one of his big inspirations was Leyendecker, who was doing Post covers long before Rockwell was. His have a different design sense than Rockwell's certainly, but his humorous scenes I think inspired Rockwell, who took that concept and perfected it.
I started this master copy in mid November. Yes, November. Then life happened and it got set aside for awhile, then picked up again, then set aside... so three months later I'm posting it, not because I think its perfect, but because I'm kind of sick of it.
I wasn't as strict with myself with this one as I was with the Rockwell copy I did. I did have a few layers (maybe 5 in the end, I think) and I took advantage of some of Photoshop's awesome tools such as Liquefy and Transform to try and get my drawing just right. It still isn't just right, but I don't think I did half bad.
One thing I really learned from this is that I need to learn more about how to create and manipulate Photoshop brushes. This was really made clear to me because to me, Leyendecker is ALL ABOUT the brushwork. The man was a master. So I look at his piece with all it's beautiful brush strokes and I try to imitate them in Photoshop and get frustrated because I'm not even close. I know Photoshop can't imitate brush strokes perfectly, but I know it can do a whole lot better than I'm currently getting it to do. Next thing to focus on, I guess.
As always, I saved periodically as I worked. Wow, my drawing was WAY off in the beginning! Photoshop makes it much easier to get it right--well, closer to right. Anyway, I think I learned what I needed to learn here and I'm excited to move on from this project.
So one of my goals last year was to put together a portfolio I wouldn't be shy to show to people and actually advertise. I completed that goal, and I've continued to make new portfolio pieces this year as well (though pregnancy has slowed that down somewhat.)
I like what I have in my portfolio. But the entire thing is done completely in Illustrator, and while I love the textures and happy accidents I've been able to incorporate into such a digital-looking program, I feel like I'm really leaning on what is familiar. That isn't a bad thing, but I really want to get another set of quality images created--using Photoshop rather than Illustrator. That is the goal for this year. (And maybe next year, seeing as how the other goal for this year is to birth a baby and, you know, keep it alive and not go crazy.)
Awhile back the extremely popular digital artist Loish ran a kickstarter campaign which I supported. One of the rewards I received for backing was a video tutorial showing her process of painting a character in Photoshop. I watched it and felt that I really got a lot out of it. I especially liked the way her color scheme is kind of found organically through the process of painting, by using different color tools at various points in the process.
So I decided to do a quick character painting in Photoshop to try out some of her methods. Digital painting is still something I'm really insecure in, but I believe that some of Loish's tricks and methods are definitely going to find their way into my digital painting process. I especially love how she uses an unusual color for her drawing lines and uses that to choose colors she adds later. Her colorful outlines make me think of a Wayne Thiebaud painting, whose work I also love.
This only represents a few hours of work and I certainly don't feel like it is portfolio quality yet. However I feel like it was a great learning piece and it was a great opportunity to try out Loish's technique. I'm so glad I supported her kickstarter campaign!
Since I was in unfamiliar Photoshop territory, I went for a familiar character. I have no idea how many times I've drawn Attolia, but she has kind of become a default for me. I imagine this as being from a specific scene in The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. If you can guess which one you get a gold star ;-)
Pregnancy is weird. One of the best and worst parts of it is when the baby kicks. Best because, well, it confirms that your baby is alive, first of all, and also it feels kinda cool. Worst because, well, ouch. It doesn't always hurt. But sometimes baby chooses just the right place, or sometimes chooses one place to kick over and over and over and over. Seriously, baby? You have a whole uterus! Find somewhere else to bruise!
I've mostly seen sort of nice-sounding descriptions of what a moving baby feels like inside you. "Flutters" or "popcorn" or "tickles" or "bubbles" or "a fish swimming inside you." Ok, I see that. But really, it feels like my intestines are spasming, or even having a seizure when she decides to go REALLY crazy for a bit. Or, hows this for a description... imagine that there is a tiny human inside of you that is moving and jerking around. THATS what it feels like.
As I said, usually it feels really cool. But I can probably be forgiven for daydreaming about other ways a baby could arrive at those times when she chooses to kick the same spot over and over and over.
Is anyone else entertained by seeing the progression of a piece, or is it just me? Anyway, I like it, so I'll put it here for me if not for anyone else.
I made this piece months ago, but I just realized that I never posted it on my blog. Oops!
I created a piece for the SVS Third Thursday competition, responding to the prompt, "None of the animals could believe their eyes. The aircraft worked! For the first time Ostrich was actually flying!"
I got a bit of feedback on my original idea here:
And then created my piece. This is what I turned in for the competition:
And, while it didn't win a free class, it DID win a critique (what I was really after anyway ;-). You can watch the critique here, starting at about 51:44:
And this is the edited version I made based on the critique I received. I chose which corrections I felt were most interesting while also do-able in a reasonable amount of time. Obviously, when not working with an Art Director its up to me to decide how to best make corrections, as well as how much time I want to put in before calling it done. I agree with the suggestion that adjusting the gestures of ALL the animals would be helpful, but would require soooo much re-drawing and ultimately would just be putting more into this piece than I personally feel would be helpful. That would have been a correction best made in the sketching stage I think. I do feel that the piece is much improved now.
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