You guys, I made a thing! A short comic, that is. And the campaign to fund it on Kickstarter opens TODAY!
Take a look:
SERVED comic on Kickstarter
I've been wanting to do more with comics for awhile now and this is the first time I'm really doing something "official" with it.
Comics and me took awhile to come together. Growing up, I read and read and read novels, then drew fanart of the characters. I, like many, mistook the MEDIUM of comics for a GENRE--comics were stories about superheroes, with lots of punching and fighting and science experiments gone wrong. I had no particular interest in that type of story. (Still don't.) And Manga? Well, without getting too much into it, in middle school the group of kids who were into Manga were really mean to me, so I became unwilling to try Manga just by association.
I always wanted to work in SOMETHING to do with stories, words, and pictures. I wanted to be an "artist" for the longest time, until in eigth grade when I read School Story by Andrew Clemens and realized, not only that those names on covers were actual PEOPLE, but that I could be one of them. Up to that point I was so focused on reading the books I hadn't stopped to really consider how they came to be.
So, for awhile I wanted to be a writer... until I found that I had a hard time expressing just what I wanted with words. Reading went fine, but words were so much harder than pictures. So, I decided I wanted to be.... wait for it... a LITERARY AGENT.
Yeah, I eventually realized that that was the wrong dream too. I loved reading, but I always came back to pictures. So when it came time to pick majors, I skipped English and went straight for the visual arts.
On my application to BYU Visual Arts department, I was asked to rank my interest in the different areas. I put Drawing and Painting first on my list. I wasnt sure what to put second... but illustration sounded cool. Besides, I might only be accepted to one and then my decision would be made.
Well, I was accepted to both. So now I had to choose one... to start, I looked at the list of required classes. Drawing and Painting included several I wanted to take, many I was less excited about, and some that sounded straight-up boring. Illustration, on the other hand, required only classes that sounded AWESOME. I went to talk to the department heads to learn more, and Brother Barrett was incredibly kind and knowledgable.
So, Illustration it is.
Wait a minute. Youre telling me illustration is making pictures that go with stories? This is what I've wanted to do my whole life! Why fidn't you say thats what it was called?!?
I mean, I knew that, but I never really internalized it until then.
So, illustration. There were a lot of kindred spirits in that major with me. One day in the studio we were chatting about books we liked, and the topic of comics came up. Oh, I don't really read comics, I said. I'm just not that into super hero stories.
Well, I was set straight pretty quickly, and was lent a comic to read then and there--Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I was fascinated.
And SO BEHIND.
Here was this story telling medium that felt SO PERFECT for ME and I was just barely being introduced to it! My classmates had been reading and making these things for ages, and I barely knew what was possible!
Fortunately they gave me some good recommendations. I was hooked! This was my thing!
And then I left on my mission and lost some steam... but not all of it. I made several short fun little comics about funny things that happened to me and sent them home. They weren't great, (actually, they were pretty bad, I'll be honest) but they were lots of fun to make.
I wasn't sure where to go from there after coming home, though. I made a couple little comics for myself, but still felt really intimidated by the medium and kind of steered clear for awhile.
But when I was invited to create a short comic for the Served anthology, I was excited to say yes. I've read most of the stories in it and am really excited to be part of such a fun project--and humbled, because some really awesome and experienced comics creators have contributed. My little story feels shabby next to their polished work, but I'm proud to have done it. I think its a really fun collection and am excited for people to read it.
Take a look.
Please forgive any typos... this post was created one-handed while nursing a baby. Because I'm awesome like that.
The problem with trying to do “art” (or write, or sell crafts, or anything related) as a business is there is a kind of inherent selfishness to it. You want to create something YOU like. You want to make money doing something YOU enjoy. You want to enjoy what you do and have people give you money for that! How self-centered. Who do you think you are, anyway?
But the business advice you hear over and over is “Find out what people want, then make it for them.” A good business all about them--the customer/consumer. You love painting polar bears in blizzards? Thats great, but what if everyone wants nice green landscapes? Do you paint what you want and stay poor, or do you paint what people want and hate your work, but make money? Thats an oversimplification, but that's the “starving artist’s dilemma”. (I just coined that phrase. I can do that if I want to. Right?)(This is also the core of the rivalry between Fine Artists and Illustrators, but we’re not opening that can of worms right now. Well, not directly at least.)
So, there is this paradox--on the one hand “staying true” to your art/story/style/vision/whatever, on the other hand, creating something that people actually want and will give money for.
There are more layers to this Paradox, though.
They say that when you start creating what you think people want, it loses that “spark”, and then nobody wants to buy it. When you love what you do, people can tell, and thats what they pay money for.
When what you love making also happens to be something people want.
So, whats a creator to do? Keep creating your own stuff according to your own desires and vision, even if it might not be what people want? Or try to find out what people want, and then create it, with the risk that it will lose its appeal due to your “heart “ not being in the work?
As usual, I think the answer is somewhere in-between. Neither extreme is going to find much success, I believe. I know of no easy formula for finding that medium though.
(Seriously though. I want to know.)
Finally.... I got my three rainstorm sketches finished! Huzzah!
The real trick here was trying to make the character consistent in each. It isn't perfect, but I think I did it. The expression is different in each one, but I think the main facial proportions are consistent.
This character features in a dummy book I'm working on, but these illustrations probably won't make it into the final story. These were just an exploration of the character and style for the book.
Its funny how, when I was sketching this character, I tried many different looks--straight hair, curly hair, long hair, short hair, dark skin, medium skin, light skin. But there was a look I kept coming back to that just felt right. Somehow, she ended up looking a lot like my little girl--plus a few years. She just needs to be blonde :-). I guess it makes sense that she's the one I'd draw, since I look at her every day.
And its funny that after these sketches were already done, we had a few rainy days here. We put on her rubber boots and went out with her, and she had just as much fun splashing in the puddles and looking around at the wet world as I drew her doing here. Its so great to experience new things through a kid's eyes.
Here is how the final piece (the middle one) progressed to finish. I always think it's interesting to see how an illustration looked at the beginning.
Life with two kids is crazy, I'm not gonna lie. But somehow I've felt a new burst of creativity in the last few weeks. Some timing, eh? But hey, I go with it. So amidst the craziness of dealing with a toddler and a newborn, I've made time for some much needed "me-time"... in the form of creating illustrations, of course.
I love the SVS Learn monthly contests but haven't participated in awhile. However, I couldn't resist February's prompt--"Octopus". I wasn't the only one--there were more entries last month than any other! So I was especially honored to have my piece place third.
I brainstormed (while nursing) until I found an idea simple iconic enough that I knew I could execute it on the first try, with a very simple composition and minimal detail. I love creating a nice detailed illustration (as my portfolio shows) but with what is currently going on in my life right now I knew that simple was the only way I could make this happen. We have an awesome claw-foot tub in our home that I've been wishing to take advantage of for awhile, combine that with the prompt, and you get...
Ironically, the time I could have used to take a bath instead went toward making this illustration. No regrets, I'm really pleased with how it came out.
Well, I finally got around to finalizing one of my other sketches of this character.
Keeping a character and style consistent is harder than it might seem! Especially since there were months between when I did these. I am catching tiny things to tweak even as I post this... so there will probably be updated versions of these in the future, when I get the last one done and I can edit all three side-by side. I hope to get the third image done soon... ish. Because life with a newborn makes getting things done... slow. And unpredictable. But very very satisfying.
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.
I am still alive. And very pregnant. Which kind of makes things in general… difficult. To say the least. Along with the third trimester has come some understandable tiredness which has led to me napping every day while my toddler does. Which means that my prime time for Getting Stuff Done is now mostly going toward Getting Sleep Daily.
Which means I haven’t been updating my blog (or Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…. Etc.) much lately. But hey, baby takes precedence. And also me. I’m important too. And lets be honest, those naps are primarily for me (though they do give baby a chance to practice his gymnastics as well. So it’s a win win.)
So this may be the weirdest timing EVER, but…
I’ve decided to start a mailing list.... TA DA!!
Considering the opening paragraphs of this post, it kind of goes without saying that this will be an occasional email, just letting you know when I have a new project or blog post or illustration. I don’t anticipate landing in your inbox any more than a couple times a month.
Ok, you’re saying, that sounds fine, but why NOW? You are very pregnant and not working on anything much right now to send us emails ABOUT, right?
Coming up early next year (not long after this baby will probably be making his arrival) a comic anthology I created a piece for will be launching on Kickstarter. “SERVED” is a collection of short memoir comics by Returned LDS Missionaries about their missions, with a NON-spiritual angle—its just a bunch of us sharing a little piece of our experience, in a way that is hopefully accessible to both LDS and Non-LDS readers. My piece, for example, actually has very little to do with anything churchy or doctrinal, and instead focuses on the experience of making mistakes when learning a new language.
I think it’s a fun project and will be a fun book to read and own, and I’d love to have an easy way to let people know when it launches, how the campaign goes, etc. if they’re interested. A way like, say… an email list.
I also DO have some personal projects I’ve been slowly working on that I’d love to share thoughts and tidbits on as well. I have a dummy book I have been chipping away at for a few months that I’d like to turn my attention back to (when I’m not napping or chasing a toddler). People who follow my blog or Instagram have already seen the sketches for the main character, and its time to work on my other main character and work out more story details and such. I’d love to share about that process as well--obviously I can’t share the whole thing online, but people have responded positively to what I’ve shared so far, so again an email list is an easy way to let people know about that.
Also, a few weeks ago I had something of an epiphany. For years now, I’ve dreamed of teaching drawing and painting classes locally—GOOD ones, not the Paint-what-the-teacher-paints type of classes you see all over. I want to teach a class that imparts REAL drawing skills and leads to actual ORIGINAL artwork by the students. But I always made excuses to myself—I have nowhere to teach, I’m busy, and besides, nobody wants to listen to an unpublished no-name like me, blah blah blah.
And then it hit me. Who says I need to be published to be eligible to teach a class? I know great info, I have experience—I have a freaking DEGREE in this, for crying out loud! What is that degree for if not to proclaim me as Legit. So, I’m going to do it. Since our house is tiny, the plan is to teach the class through our local Continuing Education program—just like the classes I took as a teen that got me jump-started in oil painting. Despite them being a more paint-by-number sort of approach… oh dear. (My mom still has the horrible paintings I produced in that class. For some strange reason. I guess because she’s a mom.)
My hope is to equip my students to produce something more personal and original than I was able to do. I’ll be reading and writing and organizing in order to make this class happen in time for next fall semester. Mr. Perkins will be left with a toddler and a crawler one night a week so I can go do this. He’s pretty cool like that.
So, these are the sort of things that you’d be hearing about once or twice a month if you were to sign up for this list. If it sounds interesting, cool, stick your email in the form. If not, that’s cool too—I know how crowded everyone’s inboxes get, if mine is anything to judge by. Either way, thanks for reading. :-)
Finally--FINALLY--I have another completed illustration to post! Hurrah! Just in time to submit to the monthly SCBWI Draw This! Competition.
This month's prompt?
For this one I came back to a limited palette like I used for my Chanticleer image--but only three colors this time (Chanticleer had 5). Though sometimes I like having more colors, I am really loving the limited palette look and will definitely do more with it. Although I only used three colors (a dark purple-grey, a medium brown-grey, and yellow) layering them gave me a little bit more variety (the same as what I did in the Chanticleer image.)
As always, here is the progress slide show:
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?
Seeing that it's been over a month since I've managed to post here, this won't be a surprise to anyone reading this: I'm taking a break.
Why? Well, this morning we bought a house. Our first! We're so excited. It's a beautiful little cottage built in 1900 (no joke!) and now it's ours. And its time to move. And I have a toddler, and other things going on.
This doesn't change the fact that I've started work on a dummy that I think will be my best story yet (I always think THIS one will be the best yet, but its true!) And that I still plan to meet my goal of 3 postcards out this year, and also the need to update my portfolio (always, always, always. Sigh.) But, these things arent' going to happen in June, or even in July. I am taking a break, to (hopefully) come back with renewed focus and creativity.
I have posted this before, but I still love this quote so here it is again:
So, I'm embarking on a mini-creative-winter this summer. I will still read, and doodle, and imagine, but I won't push myself to get art done. Moving+toddler is enough.
See you in August.
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