Happy New Year!
Time flies, doesn’t it? So much happened this year!
But for me, illustrating a lot wasn’t one of them.
Going back and making a count, I only completed seven illustrations this year. Thats IT.
And that includes this one. Time for tea!
I wasn't quite as diligent at saving progress of the image as usual--though I did take a few quick snapshots and put them on Instagram as I worked. I really like having a nice progress slide show at the end, though, so next time I'll have to remember better.
I’m mostly pleased with how it came out. I’m glad I took the time to push through and get one more illustration done. I call myself an illustrator after all. For that to be true, I gotta, well… illustrate.
So, WHY didn’t I get much illustrating done this year? After all, a year is a long time. It’s 12 whole months… 52 weeks...365 days… plenty of time to draw, right?
Plenty of time, yes. But that means it's hard to hold it all in your head at once.
For example, this time last year we didn’t know we’d be moving in a few months--it was still a big “maybe-but-probably-not”. And, while I’m being honest, I’ll just add that we also weren’t planning on adding to our family quite yet. Toddler, house hunting, moving, pregnancy… that has been my year, and the toddler was the only one of those I saw coming.
So many things I THOUGHT I was going to get done this year… kind of got pushed aside. For example, this is the SECOND time I said, “I’m going to do a real postcard campaign, like a real illustrator, for real! See, I’m sending out a real postcard!” ...only to find out that I was pregnant a couple weeks after sending out the first card. Again. Which of course led to a lot of stopping and thinking and deciding (again)… this is not the right time for this after all. (It might have been nice to figure that out before sending out the card, but, well… life, amirite?)
So I’m approaching goals a bit differently this year.
I still believe setting goals is a good thing. However, based on my experience, as well as a lot reading and research I’ve been doing lately, I believe that setting goals for an entire year is just too much. Next December is just too far away right now for me to set a super specific goal--too much is going to happen between now and then. Of course there are always exceptions to this, but in general, yearly goals slip away from me (and most people) too easily.
So from now on, my specific goals will be done monthly and quarterly.
So, this quarter, Jan-Feb-March, my goal is this: have a baby and figure out being a mom of two, at least a little bit. I also want to get more MG/YA appropriate images in my portfolio, and nursing is GREAT reading time, so I will be reading some fun MG/YA while I’m stuck (happily) under an eating/sleeping/pooping baby.
(Speaking of--if you have recommendations for great MG/YA novels that have been published in the last few years, let me know in the comments! I have a bunch of great recommendations from friends on Facebook but more can’t be a bad thing.)
Looks like not much illustrating will be done this quarter… but I am OK with that. We’ll see where we're at next quarter.
Thats it. I have some very basic, general goals in mind for later quarters of the year, but we’ll deal with those as we get closer--they will probably change anyway.
Here I come, 2018.
Well, we moved.
Which isn't to say that everything has been taken out of boxes now. Nope. There is definitely more progress to be made in that area. But this house is feeling more and more like a home, and we're figuring out how we want things to go here. It feels good.
And I'm finally finding time to get back to WORK again.
The dummy I mentioned in my last post has still been swimming around in my mind and I've even found moments to work on it. Over the last few weeks, I've worked on getting to know the main character. Here are a few quick snapshots of sketches that I grabbed from my phone:
Next step is to scan, fix, and create a final illustration of one or all of them. I think I want to put one on the back of my next post card. Which one should it be?
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:
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!
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 ;-)
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