Monday, March 31, 2014

Shooting Stars

There's a group that has been working for years towards illustrating in children's publishing. Like so many others, we work in isolation, alone at home with our characters and neuroses to keep us company. I can honestly say that these ladies, and their collective successes have been a consistent source of inspiration and motivation for me. Our shared frustrations, and our celebrated triumphs make life that much sweeter for the living. (I hope you have a group of people with whom you can do the same.)

First it was my pun-loving pal Nina's turn with Cedric and now several piano books. Then it was Courtney's turn with Maya whose character is just as feisty as her creator. Now, after success illustrating other people's stories (Quirks & Elvis), Kelly has a chance to share her very own. 

Meet Louise. Louise loves Art. Art loves Louise. Art is Louise's little brother. Can Louise must find a way to persevere as an artist without losing Art? Come September 2014 and you'll be able to see for yourself how Kelly's joyful lines and signature palette bring these two creative spirits alive.

I was one of the lucky few to receive an F&G and boy-oh-boy, I can't wait for the rest of you to see this book. In the meantime, you can satisfy your curiosity by reading Kelly's inspiration for Louise & Art here.

Go, Louise, GO!

*Updated April 3rd*
Look! Maya and Courtney have made an even bigger splash than we thought. They're being honored with the Christopher Award! It's an award that wants "to encourage artists to pursue excellence in creative arenas that have the potential to influence large audiences in a positive way." And we all know Maya does that. Oh how she does! Way to go, Courtney! Mo Willems, Kate DiCamillo, Suzanne Collins, and Paul Fleishman are lucky to be in such fabulous company. Hip! Hip! Hooraaay! For more details on the award, read Courtney's post here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Round Robin -Round 3

This is the last week of our little experiment. It's been fun, and I have to say I finally started pushing myself a little more to experiment with my process rather than 'just get it done.' I had fun, and am wanting to play more with the combination of traditional media I used this time around.

And, honestly, that's a good thing as the stylus for my tablet seems to be no longer working. (insert huge sigh here)  Marsha started us off with a background only, which I love because it's outside the box of what I was expecting. Also, I tend to think of characters first, and seeing the setting first made me really think about what kind of characters would be found there, and in just what situation. Way to go with the push, Marsha!

Look for Amy's contribution tomorrow!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Round Robin-Round 2

Oh man, I had all kinds of things go wrong when it came to my turn on this assignment. First I was KO'd by my daughter's cold on the day I was supposed to post. Then, we had issues come up that required us to be at the build site this weekend. Then today it was one thing after another, culminating in my Bamboo stylus deciding that it wasn't going to talk to my tablet. I had to put this piece together with my mouse. Which, while I'm glad I had the option, was like working with a brick. Ugh.

All of that to say "Yay, I'm done!"  This week Marsha will be kicking off our Round Robin. Keep an eye out for it!

Party Animals!
I talked with the others about how I was trying to be too perfect, and it was freezing me up from actually experimenting, which is what this whole thing is about. Amy suggested a time limit. Considering that I have a habit of revising as I work, and I am rather slow to begin with, I thought this was a good idea. I did my section from concept to completion in twenty minutes: sketch, color, scan, add, edit, post. Holy moly was it fast, and the racoons are more than a little rough, but it was good practice.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Round Robin-Round 1

November is one of my favorite months because there's just something about it that incites inspiration. This is perfect, as every year I participate in #PiBoIdMo. This year I can feel something shifting and the itch to explore that is getting worse. I want to play, experiment, and push myself to try something new. It's time to try new materials and figure out new technique. Where this is going, I have no idea. Isn't artistic growth great? ha!

Helping me along in this quest are Girllustrators Amy Farrier and Marsha Riti. We were talking about wanting to experiment, and they agreed to play along to see what happened. We're doing an old fashioned spin of Round Robin. For the next three weeks one of us will post a new image on Tuesday, then the others will add to that image on their consecutive days. If a narrative develops, great. If it's purely decorative, great.

I'm really looking forward to see what comes of this as Amy has a wonderful, loose quality to her work that I envy and Marsha's work has so much character.

Here is my contribution to this week's round:

Channeling James Marshall, apparently.

Obviously, I really need to work on loosening up. I started with the leaves, but then got pulled into having a narrative and a character. Making it more complicated then it needed to be. Next time I want to go more abstract and get a little more texture and energy into my pieces.

You can see where Amy takes this piece here. And you can see the final piece at Marsha's blog here

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Southwest Texas SCBWI Workshop

A few weeks ago, I headed to my hometown of San Antonio to attend a workshop: "The Exquisite Act of Balancing Text and Art with Richard Jesse Watson."  hosted by SCBWI Southwest TX. My friend and fellow IC and illustrator Akiko White has a great summation of the day here. The day was inspiring, and I enjoyed connecting once again to the "why" of being a book creator.

It was also fun to see the different interpretations of our homework assignment, which was to illustrate a scene from Hundred Acre Woods in a new way. We were supposed to turn paradigms on their heads. I initially froze up on this because out of all the Disney movies, Winnie The Pooh was the most iconic. My childhood memory stored away those stories and songs and it took a while for me to wrestle away from the feeling of  precious nostalgia.

I finally found my inspiration (once again) in food. Specifically this episode of I Love Lucy:

Once I had a starting point, I began with character sketches. I decided that the factory would of course make honeybuns, and of course bees would be in charge.The shift supervisor appeared first, then a few other of the Hundred Acre Woods characters.
My scanner has a fun little habit of randomly cropping images as I scan them

I initially thought I could do an entire mini-comic for the episode, because how fun, right? But then common sense took over and instead I picked what would be the most recognizable scene: the aftermath of disaster. Then, I had to get the composition down.

None of these felt quite right.
Then I realized I was complicating matters and moved Pooh out of the way.  I cleaned up the sketch, moving Piglet to make him part of the action.

I scanned the sketch in, cleaned it up, adding texture and color.
Time for your close-up, Piglet! "Oh, dear!"
If time had permitted, there would have been MOUNTAINS of honeybuns on the floor.
And ended up with a pretty fun illustration. I actually had the floor blue as well, but something felt off about it, so I switched it to the warmer tone and instantly the illustration seemed more unified. This was a fun assignment, and I'm glad I did it. It's nice to flex those drawing muscles for something outside the box every once in a while. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SCBWI Austin Graphic Novel Workshop

Last weekend I was lucky enough to head to one of my favorite places:
Austin, Texas. (Can you believe I took this shot out of a bathroom window?)

Of course, the people in Austin might have something to do with why I love it so much.
Girllustrators: Patrice Barton, Emma Virjan, Amy Farrier, Shelley Jackson, me, Marsha Riti
The faculty was pretty stellar as well. There was Calista Brill, editor for First: Second Books. (one of my favorite publishing imprints.) 

And Dave Roman, author/illustrator, teacher, and all around super nice guy passionate about comics. He created Astronaut Academy and Teen Boat

Calista's Keynote was fantastic. She is obviously very passionate about her work, and it shows. She is a fantastic ambassador for Graphic Novels, and did a stellar job teaching the uninitiated all about them. Her breakout session was also illuminating, and I love her straightforward manner. She is one sharp lady. She talked quite a bit about First:Second and how they work, and her talk confirmed that keeping FS on my publisher wish list is a good idea. I may even have an idea (or three) for young graphic novels I could submit that I think would be a good fit. 

Dave Roman's Keynote and breakout session were equally fantastic. He shared the story of how he came to comics, and how he grew up drawing comics. His passion for comics is very real, and it was great to be able to listen to someone speak from experience and encourage other illustrators to step on to the path of comics.
Dave talks about settling into his style of drawing and being comfortable with his voice.
Possibly one of the most important points of Dave's keynote.
Dave and Calista also shared extensive resources (recommended titles, instructional books, websites) that anyone wanting to work in comics would love to have. I laughed when I saw the recommended reading list because I either own or have read almost every title on the list! haha! Good to know I'm on the right track!

Perhaps the most motivating factor was Dave talking about how you just have to make and make and make comics and get them out there. Get them online, sell mini comics, submit, but get them out there. They can't exist in a vacuum.

Now I'm going to go work on a graphic novel script, then research a little more for a bigger story. Hopefully by this time next year, I'll have a comic or two to share with you! If you are interested in creating comics and have the chance to hear Calista or Dave speak, by all means DO!

(all photos, excepting the first, are used with permission from Mark Mitchell. Thanks, Mark!)

Thursday, October 03, 2013


I don't even think anyone will see this, as the topic is way outdated, but I like having a record of my trips, and this one was a lot of fun.

A sample of the postcards collected in LA. I usually have three times as many.
This year in LA I found myself not writing down as many notes. Perhaps because I've been to enough of these now, that I know the basics of what is shared. Perhaps because I am far enough in my journey to recognize a note to self versus a note from the universe. But most likely it's because of the theme I picked up throughout the conference. At this point, I've just got to "DO THE WORK."

Here are a few of the golden nuggets I picked up from the conference:
Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI: "Let's admit that we're all kind of weirdos."

Laurie Halse Anderson:
"Be brave today."
"Read like a kid."
"Embrace the sanctity of silliness."
"Children don't ask permission to create."

Jon Sciezka:
"Don't put kids to sleep, wake them up!"

Mac Barnett:
"That place where truth and lies intermingle is where kids live."

David Wiesner:
"Follow that story, and wallow in the process."

Jarret Krocozska"
"What is easy for your character is boring for your reader."

Illustrator's Intensive:
Some of the best information and advice was given over the course of this day! The featured faculty were all fantastic and inspiring. Some of my favorite speakers were Jannie Ho and Tom Lichtenheld. Jannie's truism in regards to illustrating for the very young: "Character design needs to be consistent. A dog should look like a dog." Tom's truism, which I want to paint across the internet in black paint, "Voice matters more than style."

First Look:
My pieces (and several of my friends-woohoo!) were picked for the first look! I had AD Kirsten Noble, AD Giuseppe Castellano, agent Steven Malk, and editor Allyn Johnston commenting on my art. It was educational, confirming, and gave me a little food to chew on. :)

And now, the pictures:

The instantly recognizable lobby chandelier.
This was Thursday night, I think I averaged 5-6 hours over the weekend, which is still really good!
 The Illustrator's Social! Always loud, and a little chaotic.

Paul O Zelinsky doing a little emceeing. He's now on our Board-yippee!
Some of the other members of our Illustrator Board: David Diaz, Pat Cummings, Cecilia Yung, Priscilla Burris
Post social, a few (ahem) of us found our way to the lobb-ay!
 Of course, the conference isn't just about connecting with friends, new and old, although that IS one of the best parts honestly. Hanging with people who 'get it?" Fuhgeddaboutit!

There is also hearing great tips, advise, straight talking and inspiration from great speakers, like Art Directors Giuseppe Castellano

and Simon and Schuster Art Director Laurent Lnn! (You should be following both these gentleman on Twitter: @pinocastellano and @LaurentLinn)

   Then that night, there is the Portfolio Showcase, or as my friend Kelly calls it: THUNDERDOME
It is madness packed into a tent. 
This year, unfortunately, logistics were weak and there was NO room to move. The tables were too close together, preventing the traffic from flowing both directions as it usually does.I literally saw eleven portfolios before I gave up due to the logjam in all directions. I was so disappointed. I didn't get to see friends' work, or pick up a ton of new postcards to connect with new people, as I do every year. The one great thing about the Showcase is that a friend won a Showcase Honor and an SCBWI mentorship. Yay, Brooke!

Fortunately, the Gala followed, and with the help of a few friends, we danced the night away!

Me with roommates Laura Zarrin and Tracy Bishop. I love these girls!

Jim Averbeck, looking as much a Wild Thing as ever. haha!
SCBWI NJ's IC Karen and RA Leeza Hernandez, me, Tracy Bishop
MY TEAM! SCBWI Houston's RA: Vicki Sansum, me, ARA Millie Martin

Here we are reading Aree Chung's new book on his phone. It is stinkin' adorable, ya'll! Look for it when it comes out next year: 

The best dance partners a girl can ask for: Mike Baker, Jannie Ho, Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin

SCBWI provided a photobooth, and well had a great time cramming in there for pictures!

One of the best costumes of the night: a black and white film couple.

Illustrator Board introducing themselves at the Monday Intensive.

Tom Lichtenheld helping us pronounce his name.
And finally, it was time to go home. It took a while, but I got there. 

(Thank you, Laura Zarrin, Lynn Alpert, and Debbie Ohi for the great photos!)