Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Series Sample (#7 of 9)


I know you knew this was coming. But there's still two more...
(Yes, I'm really dragging this out. Maybe I'll wrap it up next week.)

(Click here to see #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 &6.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

21-Day Challenge- Day 2: Ideas Fly In

Wow! This morning we looked out our back window and saw this bird, pecking away at a rotted stump. I think it's called a Pileated Woodpecker. My daughter took the photo through the window in the rain with maximum zoom, which is why it's a bit hazy. There must have been a plethora of worms in there...

Yesterday was my start day for the 21-day creative challenge. I wrote for 15 minutes and filled 2 pages of my notebook, writing as quickly as I could, trying not to think too much. The first page left me feeling kind of blah, but by the second I think I hit upon a decent idea. It's a starting point, at least. And it felt really good! It's funny how it takes a bit of a warm up for the ideas to start flying in...

I'm thinking I might post my daily challenge round-ups on Thursdays, unless I miraculously have a bit more time... or have nothing else to post. Guess I'm not being extremely organized about this.

If you want to participate, come and join us!

Here's a list of people taking part so far:

Alicia Padrón
Diana Evans
Gina Perry
Jannie Ho
Kathleen Rietz
Kim Fleming
Mayy. C
Mônica Carnesi
Paola de Gaudio
Ryan Loghry
Sheree Boyd
Teri Skrdla
Tom Barrett

Monday, April 28, 2008

My 21-Day Challenge Begins- Day 1

Alicia Padrón invited me to take part in a 21 day creative challenge inspired by Laurie Halse Anderson's keynote speech from the recent New England SCBWI conference. (Illustrator Gina Perry started this particular group challenge.) It's open to anyone who wants to participate. You can start whenever... so jump on board!

Here's how it works: Laurie challenged the audience to give themselves the gift of time by spending 15 minutes a day writing or making art-- saying that it takes 21 days to form a new habit-- and this was a habit that would change your life.

I'm game!

Since I already spend most of the day working on writing or illustrating projects, I've decided to spend the chunk of time generating new story ideas. This is one area that's been a challenge. By the time regular work is done for the day my brain is fried. Then I get frustrated that I'm not thinking ahead enough to the next project, and I end up in the doldrums.

So-- my goal in the 21 days is to generate a plethora of ideas. (Ha! How's that for a word to wake you up on a Monday morning!) I'm not sure yet what form they will take-- written or drawn-- but I'll post at least once a week with my progress.

Monday Map: Summerville, South Carolina

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Fun: Smart Piggy, Oink Oink

The quality of this video is pretty poor, but it did make me laugh. I think Christopher Walken is so cool yet so creepy as an actor. Well, duh, given the roles he plays! I've heard he's a really nice guy in person.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Some days I have to remind myself why I persevere through the ups and downs of this field. It's not that I ever consider quitting, but a little dose of inspiration always helps.

As chance would have it, I came across this list yesterday on Revision Notes, just when I needed it most:

10 Things That Mean You're a Writer

I answered "true" to all 10.

Now, I could substitute "artist" or "artist/writer" for writer-- but the point is, art and words are ingrained in me. It's been that way since I was a little kid. I spend my life doing something that I love. Isn't that one definition of success?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Series Samples (#5 & 6 of 9)

I'm posting #5 and 6 today, since they're so similar. I'll bet you can guess what's going to happen next...
(#1, #2, #3, #4)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Don't Buy This Book

Illustration book plagiarizes dozens of artists.

Read more here, from the owner of the site that was ripped off. As he says in his post– "...the internet is publicly accessible not public domain." And here, from one of the artists whose work appears without permission.

It would be nice to think these people were innocent and unaware of copyright laws that apply to text and images-- including those that are on professional websites and personal blogs. But it appears not. (Here's what happened to another artist, despite posting clearly on her blog- "These images may not be used without permission.")

Plagiarism is wrong. Spread the word.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Map: Garden Envy

It's easy to slip into garden envy when looking at photos of perfect, overabundant flowers and vegetables in glossy magazines.

Where are the deer? Where is the black spot? The aphids? And where are the bloated, aggressive SUVs that try to run you down when weeding near the road, despite the orange traffic cones you haul from spot to spot for their sense of false protection (all the while despairing of your "a gorgeous garden will slow them down" theory)??

So, is the garden always greener on the other side? Ah ha! Maybe not... perhaps it's Photoshop...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Conference Notes

Finally, as promised, notes from the New England SCBWI conference this past weekend. I'll keep them rather brief-- one, because it would take forever to write about all the different and interesting people I met; and two, because many of the speakers and presenters give these talks as part of their living, and I've learned that it's really not cool (and possibly not legal) to post too much of the content in a public forum. (Anyway it's almost impossible to decipher my chicken scratch a few days after the fact...)

So... that said-- the keynote speaker on Saturday was author Laurie Halse Anderson, whose books include Speak and Fever 1793. For me her talk was the perfect kind of speech-- a mix of her personal story on the path to becoming a writer-- funny and inspirational-- with specific tips that the audience could use in the pursuit of their own writing/artistic projects. Author Mitali Perkins blogged about the conference here and here, and had the official okay to post notes on her blog-- so check it out if you're interested.

In past years I've chosen writing workshops, but this year decided to focus on the illustration side. Illustrator Terry Weidner gave a terrific 2- part workshop called Giving Visual Punch to your Picture Book. It covered the many design elements to think about when putting a book together-- such as page layout, picture composition, and type placement. She showed slides from many different PBs as examples. Funny, since I have a design background you'd think I'd remember all these things, but it's so easy to get caught up in the individual pictures or text that you forget to think about the book as a whole.

After lunch there was another 2-part workshop given by one of my favorite illustrators-- Melissa Sweet-- called Adding Emotion to your Artwork. She talked about how shape and color on the page can help to draw a reader in to the story. Also, about how things such as lighting and character gesture and eye contact between characters help a reader feel more connected, which will ultimately make them want to read the book again and again.

Both presenters suggested analyzing and dissecting picture books to figure out what makes them work. Both also mentioned Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. (There's an older edition with a different title, but it's the same book.) I've had this one on my to re-read list-- good time to pull it out.

The afternoon keynote was given by the wonderful illustrator Kevin Hawkes. (The Wicked Big Toddla, Weslandia, Library Lion) His was a visual talk, showing how his work had changed and progressed over the years (I love seeing this!) and also showing his working process on particular pieces.

I drove home Saturday in the late-afternoon exhausted and with a head spinning full of ideas in typical New England weather. (If you don't like it, wait 5 minutes and it will change...) For most of the 3 hour drive the sky was split straight down the middle between pitch black, pouring rain and blinding, blue-sky sunshine. Then as the sun went down the clouds turned all pink and lavender and there was a perfect double rainbow. I had to mention this because it was so surreal-- felt like I was on a movie set! I wish I could have taken pictures but really didn't want to risk an accident...

The New England region staff and volunteers put on a top-notch conference-- it is so worth going if you can. Next year I'll have to stay through Sunday. (Two nights in a nice hotel room? Yay! Mom's weekend out!) I hope these notes are helpful to someone-- any questions, ask away.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Series Samples (4 of 9)

Here's #4 in the series, plus the sketch. (Click here to see #1, #2 and #3.)
Getting curious? Patience, patience...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Racing Home

Another finished piece from ages ago. Funny, I didn't do a refined sketch of this piece and tried painting it faster than usual... and I'm happier with how it turned out. Hmmm... note to self-- don't think, just do...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday Map: Chicago Neighborhood

A map with a more urban feel.

I'm playing catch-up from this weekend and will post about the Northeast SCBWI conference later in the week... promise. (It was wonderful!) I need time to wrap my head around everything that happened. If you've ever been to one of these events I'm sure you'll understand...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Fun: Type En Español

I must be on a type kick lately. Very cool the way it's used in this video-- easy to sing along whether you speak Spanish or not. (The title means I don't know what to do with myself anymore. Hmmm... ever have days like that?) The band is from Uruguay.

This afternoon I'm off to the New England SCBWI conference in New Hampshire! They're having a lot of great workshops and speakers this year-- I'll post about it next week.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ways of Working

I love hearing about different artist's creative processes. Actors, musicians... you just never know where you'll pick up a tip for your own work.

Have you ever watched Inside the Actors Studio? Interesting insights for creating story characters. And last week while running errands I caught this piece from Project Song on NPR, about one musician's songwriting process. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sample Sketch Series (3 of 9)

This is #3 in my narrative sample series. (Click here for sketch #1 and sketch #2.) Next week I'll start posting the finished pieces, then round them all up at the end.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Flashlight Tag & Artwork Do-Overs

This is the finished art for this sketch from ages ago. (My lame excuse: I have been really, really busy!)

Maybe it's that color fatigue thing kicking in again, but I'm not sure if I like how this piece turned out. Then again, tomorrow I might love it. This happens to me more often than I'd like to admit, and many times I end up re-doing the art only to end up liking the first one better. (Picture my family rolling their eyes when I get like this...)

I've gotten better about the doubting (I put the art in a drawer for a while), but it's still rather frustrating. Maybe it's just a normal part of the process.

Does this happen to you? How often do you re-do pieces? Or do you just call it a wash and chalk it up to experience?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Just Draw

I was thinking that sometimes as an illustrator you get so caught up in a style that you forget to just draw. You forget to draw what you see, and not in the "look" that you've developed for your work.

I wasn't trying to make any sort of a good drawing while I was doing this sketch-- in fact, I didn't care how it turned out. I just wanted to observe the forms and the distances and get them down on paper. It was very refreshing not to have that little critical voice perched on my shoulder!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fool for Poetry

"Beginning April 1, will send one new poem to your inbox each day to celebrate National Poetry Month. The poems have been selected from new books published this spring."