Monday, February 27, 2012

Organization is Key... to Creativity!

Every once in a while, I get too antsy to do anything creative. 

There are too many things on my To-Do list that I can't concentrate even on one of them. I find myself flitting from project to project, opening one book as I remember I should be looking up something in another, starting one blog post while I think about the next blog post idea. 

This is a sure sign that I just need to sit and organize. Or stand and clean. 

So that's what I'm doing today. 

I'm cleaning and organizing my studio, so that when I'm ready to work I'll know where everything is. And yes, I'm nerdy enough to label it all. (I love you, P-Touch label maker!)

The piles on my desk, table, and floor (of papers, clippings and ideas) are being sorted through, tossed and filed. 

There has been a wall of junk clogging up my studio doorway and hallway. So I'm cleaning that up, too. I want creative energy to flow right in! (And it truly is hard for myself to get in right now, much less the creative energy.)

I'm sitting down with my master To-Do List and Goal sheets that I re-write every few months. (When I FIND them.) I keep them in a handy folder, and write them by hand and highlight important things in pretty colors. It is something I find calming, because once that is organized I know I won't forget anything. 

I've also got a lot of cleaning up to do on Chapter One of Little Raindrop. Yes, it's still in the sketchy stage, and I haven't done any final art. But I want to make sure it's clean and neat and ready for the book dummy that will need a good thorough critique prior to finishing. 

Organization is important, because when you're me and you get less than 24 hours a week to work on your current project, you need to streamline your work time. Organization keeps forgetful people like me in line and punctual. And when I know all of these things are being accomplished, that time is not being wasted, and that I'm not forgetting anything, organization makes something magical happen...

...I can sit, relax and create! *sigh*

Also, I get a great excuse to find nifty things at the Container Store online! Alas, if only they would open a shop here in Rhode Island. I LOVE that place. Love it. Looooove

Have fun organizing!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Little Raindrop: Research, Method and Technique (@LRaindropsStory)

(Firstly, I am quite aware that today is Tuesday and nearly Wednesday, and not my usual Monday blog post. My days got swapped this week, so I'm hoping this still counts as being on schedule!)

I'm nearly finished sketching Chapter One for Little Raindrop's first book. It has been a journey, figuring out how I want to illustrate it, but it has been a fun journey for sure! I was set back a few months with classes last fall, simply because I underestimated the amount of time I needed for homework. Lesson learned!

Although I can't share all the pages I've completed, I can share how I am doing it, and how I came to this method of drawing.

The Research
After reading the manuscript and sketching out some basic ideas, the author and I came to the conclusion that this book would be better formatted for a graphic novel, versus a traditional chapter book or even picture book. And then after gathering a collection of books together to use for reference, I was further convinced that Little Raindrop was destined to be a graphic novel/journal.

The books I used for reference became valuable tools throughout the entire creative process. I measured and compared book sizes, the fonts, the word count, the layouts, the margins, the age groups, the art styles, and even the fun activity pages! Here is my pile of books I've used for reference so far:

Also, because I am working on a book that is about nature, I have to research each new animal that I am not used to drawing. It needs to be scientifically accurate, even though the style is balanced between cartoon and realistic. So once I plot the layout of the page, I draw in my sketchbook to get a better feel for the animals, and then I draw them in on the page I am working on.

The Testing of Technique and Methods
Before I began sketching, I had to figure out which character style to use! I preferred drawing Little Raindrop one way, and the author preferred him drawn another way. I sketched up a few pages of character art, and after getting feedback from children and adults alike, I found the final character!

After I drew the art that landed me the job, I re-evaluated my methods. The double page spread of the River Habitat was very time consuming, and there way no way I could finish the entire story in a timely manner using that style. I had drawn the lines with pen and ink, painted a value study/under painting in sepia tones, filled in the color with watercolor, and touched it all up with colored pencil. This book is going to have about six chapters, so I decided one full color double page spread per chapter would turn out nicely, if done correctly.

This means the rest of the book would be in black and white line, perhaps with some shading and a splash of blue here and there. I decided against using my usual pen and ink method, which is not only time consuming but is also messy. I'm always on the go, and I take my art supplies with me everywhere. I needed to find something clean and easy to use. And so I re-discovered the Micron pen!

So I sketched up a few pages in my blue pencil, and drew in the final lines with Microns. Then I scanned them  and added text using Photoshop. It didn't look clean enough for my liking. I preferred the bold lines of vector images, but I am no pro using vector lines and shapes. I have this little program that turns my bumpy looking line work into nice vector lines, called Vector Magic. Well, once I cleaned up my scans and put them through Vector Magic, and imported them into Photoshop, I started to get really excited! This method looked much cleaner, smoother, and bolder.

But how was I going to color it? I couldn't use a fill bucket, for goodness' sake... it just didn't look right. Plus, I truly hate painting digitally. There may come a time when I learn to enjoy and excel at it, but for now I need the real brush and paint to make me happy.

I sent an email to some of my smarty pants arty friends, and they rescued me by sharing their knowledge about levels and multiplying layers. Once I fiddled with the settings, I knew just what to do. I needed to make a sandwich! A sandwich of Photoshop layers, using bold lines on the top and my scanned painted art.

I truly like the new final method. Sketching and then re-drawing the final lines onto watercolor paper, painting in a tonal wash and scanning it, turning it vector and sandwiching it all with three different blues. And then painting traditionally for those select, special spreads.

So now you know how it's being done! I can't share the text, or all of the art as I work on it. (You silly goose, you!) But every once in a while you'll get to see what I'm working on, and I can share my epiphanies, if any. And even though I can't spend as much time as I would like to, due to my "day" job at the restaurant, I'm still having a lot of fun drawing and painting in between!

Thanks for reading! See you next Monday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Little Raindrop: FAN MAIL!!! oh, and #ValentinesDay

Hi there!

I'm very overdue for this post, but here it goes:
A few months ago, around the holidays, I opened my mailbox to find this:

Oh! A surprise!

Inside were twenty hand written and hand drawn giant postcards from the kids in Mr. H's third grade class! (Mr. H is the author and creator of Little Raindrop, and teacher to an awesome group of kids.)

I was in SHOCK. (Actually, I nearly burst into tears. But my husband was right next to me and I would never hear the end of it if he caught me crying over mail.)

Mr. H had asked all the kids to check out my sketches of Little Raindrop and decide which style they liked best, and then to write me all about it. They even drew their own versions of Little Raindrop!

They love me! Awwww! *tears*

Awesome character art!

Little Raindrop, you look ravishing!

Loving the colors!

Is he wearing his UNDERPANTS in the city?!?!

LOVE the teenie mousie! So cute!

Favorite habitats, and excellent handling of the medium!

His caption cracks me up! I love drawing things like this myself!

Who do you think will win?

I love maps!!!


Keeping it simple... it reminds me of "Starry Night"! Nice intense colors!

I like to call this "Dog Holding a Person Balloon." It make me think- awesome!

A two part piece... and the image is sideways. Silly technology.

Abstract art can be so soothing to create... and look at!

I am baffled as to why I can't rotate these.

So pretty!

Notice the protective barrier, keeping the raindrops safe!

Zoomed-in. These are great!

The left side reminds me of a Monet, and the right is full of emotion!
This kid draws with their soul!

Feeling warm, Little Raindrop?

"I'm so hot I'm COOL."

The Evil Cloud Hotel.

There's Little Raindrop!

You can't have a habitat without a front door! Awesome eagle!

How amazing is that? I responded with my own letter, answering their many questions, and I included a calendar of my art for the kids to hang in the classroom. But that wasn't enough! Little Raindrop made the kids some Valentines! I gave him some post cards to decorate with stickers, and he made a giant Valentine for the whole class:

The bunny sticker is just so cute!

I sent them (and a bag of Sweet Tarts Hearts) to Mr. H last week, and he will be giving them to the kids tomorrow! I can't wait to hear all about it! This is one of the best parts about working on stuff for kids- you get to interact with them! (Can you tell I'm not yet a mom? I'll be 30 this year- I've still got time.)

I hope you all have an enjoyable Valentine's Day! And don't be pouting because you're single... romance shmomance. It's about giving love to others and showing that you care!

I love you all, my readers... my kid fans... my friends... and my family! Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

From Start to Finish: House Portrait Commission

Happy Monday!

Two days ago I was approached by a customer (of the family restaurant) who was interested in hiring me to draw a house portrait. "Can you have it done by this Wednesday?" he asked, "It's for a housewarming gift!"

In the words of Dan Yaccarino, who spoke at the Illustrator's Intensive on Friday of the NY SCBWI conference, I answered: "Yes!"

So Monday, being my only day off from the "day" job, I spent it in my pj's in my studio and whipped this up with pencil, Microns, and an ink wash:

This is a scan, that's why it looks so purdy!

Test run for my value wash done on Photoshop.

The final scan:

It isn't perfect. But I'm happy with the results, being that I don't usually draw such technical pieces, and that I only had about 8 hours to work on it. I hope the new home owners like it!

'Til the next post...

Monday, February 6, 2012

A New Comic! #ChewieWhipper&Toots

Happy Monday!

I didn't watch the Super Bowl last night. I really and truly strongly dislike football... (I didn't say hate). But I was very thankful for it, as I am every year, because Superbowl Sunday means Melanie's Funday.

I have been working double shifts at the family restaurant on Sundays for at least ten years, if not more. And Sunday double shifts are rotten things when you're a waitress. You get the early risers, who are waiting at the friggin door as you unlock it. Once a month this can sometimes be Drill Weekend, so everyone is in their camouflage. Then the after-churchers, who like to tip with pamphlets and kittens and all the love in the world. Then the usual after-errand lunch rush, which is just about when I usually eat my own lunch, (which I can never do on a Sunday, because I'm too busy feeding everyone else.) Then by the time I reload on supplies and swap sneakers so that different parts of my feet can hurt, the early-dinner-eaters come, and then the regular dinner rush, and then we top it all off with the late-comers who like to stay longer than my patience allows but I grit my teeth and think about art and books instead.

So why was yesterday Melanie's Funday? Superbowl Sunday every year is DEAD. We get a rush of customers before the game, and takeout can be scary, but once the game starts... silence. Ahhh.

This year I chose to spend my time working on a little comic for my cousin, Keith, who is waaay out in Missouri training to be a soldier for five months. I figured he'd like a piece of mail that would make him chuckle, and hopefully not get beat up because of the so-cute characters. But I guess I'll hear about that with his next phone call.

Anyway, it's about a bunch of nutty squirrels, because I like squirrels and we feed them here at home. We have actual squirrel feeders that we put actual squirrel feed and peanuts (unsalted, of course) in. They are so fun to watch, but because I've been so busy the feeders haven't been filled for a little while. And so the squirrels rebel. (The comic ones, not the real ones.) And here they are:

The comics are rough, to say the least. I'll get more practice as I make a few more. It was a good exercise though, to not only give myself a bit of fun for the heck of it, but to also see if I could handle digitally coloring a series of panels in a neat and orderly fashion. This is important because I've been trying to decide how to handle rendering Little Raindrop's final art.

And now I know to stick with watercolor... the real deal. Maybe with the exception of the few blue colors I'll be adding. But for the values and shading, I choose brush and paint. Soooo much easier for me.

So that's that. I made some new art, I posted on a Monday, and I'm off to work on Little Raindrop for a bit. I'm feeling so accomplished! I hope you all had an accomplished Monday too!

Have a good week! :D