Sunday, December 12, 2010

Doodle Time!

Here's the art I'm using for my new postcards: a little doodle painted in acrylic on wood-burned pine. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Other Ways I Spend My Time: Hello Kitty Bridal Cake!

Hi there!

It's been a busy month since my last posting, but I'm not quite ready to show you what it is I've been working on. So to whet your appetite, I wanted to share with you my latest cake design! Enjoy!

And as a side note... Harry Potter Movie 7 opens tonight! Will you be there, because I'm going!

Have fun!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo to You!

"Hebert felt positively spooky in his ghost costume."
watercolor, acrylic gauache, watercolor pencil
© 2010 Melanie Linden Chan
In my search for my true-love-of-techniques, I played around with some acrylic gauache. Acrylic gauache is nice because the pigment is more saturated than watercolor, but it can be applied just like watercolor, and once it dries the paint cannot lift off the paper, just like regular acrylics. This was my first try, and as usual I got grumpy from my lack of talent in rendering tiny details with a paintbrush. So I whipped out my long-forgotten watercolor pencils, and behold! I may have found what I've been looking for: a way to paint texturally and keep things nice and tight. When I was about finished, I topped it all off with some caran d'ache textural scribbles for good measure.

FYI, this is also an Illustration Friday topic: spooky. "Hebert felt positively spooky in his ghost costume."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Working from Nature

For the last section in the Introduction to Illustration course, we studied Natural Science Illustration and worked on rendering things from nature with our pencils and inks. 
Acorn Squash and Gerbera Daisies
Pencil and Micron Pen on Bristol Board

The best part about this was that we all got to visit RISD's Nature Lab, which was wonderful. I'm going to have to find a good excuse to sneak away there for a couple of hours, because they have so many animals and things in their storage, and I only had time to draw ONE owl... and they have three! He still needs some work, but isn't he so fluffy and cute? :)
Great Horned Owl (fairly certain it is, anyway)
2H Pencil on Strathmore Drawing Paper
(Thanks, Jess, for the pencil!)

I will keep both of these images in my online portfolio, probably in the Sketchbook and Fine Art sections. 

Even though I've had experience in all three sections, (Children's Book Illustration, Comics, and Natural Science Illustration), taking this Intro course was helpful because it confirmed my suspicions: that I love to draw pretty much anything. I got a few more pieces to put in my portfolio, got a better idea how I want to do Bungee Bunny's book when the time comes, and got really vamped up about drawing more from life.

In all, I got quite a bit out of this course, which goes to show that one learns something new every day. Or re-learns. Hoot to that!

Other Ways I Spend My Time: Navy Birthday Cake

A customer asked if I would decorate a cake honoring the United States Navy's 235th Birthday, so here it is!

Happy Birthday to the U.S. Navy! Thank you for your service!

Building Characters builds... er, character!

Some of my most recent lessons (for both classes) have been about creating character profiles and character traits. For my illustration class, I chose to work with a little dude I made up years ago, who will be starring in his own picture book in the future. I've got his story all ready and waiting, so when I am finished with Super-Secret Project #1, and perhaps a #2, Bungee Bunny will become Project #3.

Anyhow, in the Introduction to Illustration course we talked about comic art, and the different styles it can be drawn, and how artists tell their stories with pictures.  But the number one thing of importance is your character, who needs to feel real all on his/her own. Our assignment was then to create a character, draw him from different angles, and show why he is special.

Bungee Bunny character art.
Bungee Bunny is the property of Melanie Linden Chan!

(Please forgive the watermarks, but as my little guy is so cute, he will be coveted. Kindly refrain from stealing him from me, because I have big plans for him and I'd rather my dreams not be crushed. Much appreciated.)

We also talked about this in the Book Dummy class; how your character must really be his own self, and look and act consistent throughout the story. Some students chose to draw their characters mimicking a favorite artist, (for example, how would Bungee look if Van Gogh painted him? What colors, textures, or lines would he use?), or picked out swatches of fabric patterns that their character would wear or like. Then we all did character art and turnarounds, although mine isn't quite web-ready yet so I will share it with you soon.

Character art is a great way to get yourself ready for producing a comic book, graphic novel, or a children's picture book. Do one for each of the characters in your story- you won't regret it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Field Trip: The Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors

It's been a crazy week (I'll spare you the heartache and leave it up to your imagination), so I welcomed the thought of finally getting to the Lincoln school in Providence to attend The Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors. I had missed it last year and made "To Lincoln or Bust" my mantra for 2010.

Well, I made it! and It. Was. Awesome.

I only wish I knew how to be in two places at once, because while one presentation was going on, another room was filling up with people in line to get their books signed by favorite authors and artists. I hate picking and choosing, because one never knows what one might have learnt, but I did my best.

The Beautiful Lincoln School, Providence, RI

Front display greets guests

Kazu Kibuishi

Jules Feiffer

I almost walked straight into Rotten Ralph in the hall!

Tacky the Penguin

Mark Teague

Helen Lester

Chris Van Allsburg
David Macaulay

Hilarious Mo Willems (posing for our cameras)

THE famous Knuffle Bunny, who has been around the world!
Yes, I'm supposed to be in the photo, but I miraculously
disappeared when I cropped me out in Photoshop...
 I regret missing a few presentations, (including Chris Van Allsburg's because I had to leave early for work) but it really was a great time! I think I will make it my goal to go every year from now on. And what was the very BEST part of my day?

Coming home with this:



Yep, worth every minute. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Latest Technique Test

It will soon be time to decide which technique I will use for my Book Dummy, and I still haven't any clue.  Some days I want my story to have the sketchy look, with lots of interesting lines and patterns, and an antiqued tone to the color scheme. Other days I want the more traditional watercolor look and brighter colors... and then there are days like today where I have no idea so I just play with my materials to see what I come up with.

I had a piece of Arches 140lb hot-pressed watercolor paper that had been coated in gesso and still taped to the board lying around my studio, so I decided to use that up. Though I don't always use it, I really enjoy looking at texture in an illustration, so this was my golden opportunity. The gesso'd paper showed lovely brush strokes and it made the paper more durable for scuffing and scrubbing.

 I didn't have much of a plan, so I just sketched with my favorite blue drafting pencil, then a regular No. 2 pencil. And although I know fully well that gesso is an acrylic material, I went ahead and used a bit of brown ink wash to add some toning. It worked all right, so I thought I would test my luck and see what happened if I used watercolor.

And as we all would have guessed, not a good idea. But hey, at least I know.

To be honest, I was actually putting off using acrylic paints. They're messier than watercolors and harder to control (never thought I would say that!) because the paint can get rather blobby and it is hard to get in small details. And once they dry on the palette, there's no way of reusing the product, so it can also be wasteful. But at this point I had no choice, so I tried to pump myself up by putting on some Lady Gaga music on the Pandora channel. This helped.

I stuck with three colors: Cad Yellow Light, Cad Red Medium, and Cerulean; plus white and the inevitable black, but only because the sheep is a black sheep. I try not to use black in my art anymore, unless it is  necessary.

And of course I forgot that I should have been using the Matte Medium all along, but I remembered in time before I called it quits! This stuff is relatively new to me, even though I had it with my paints for ages, I never really figured out how to use it until this year. I painted the darkest areas first, then worked my way up so I could do a bit of glazing with the lighter colors.

Then I topped it all off with Caran d'ache water soluble crayons, (I chose these because the colored pencils didn't want to work, and pastels wouldn't have either, and I don't have oil based crayons to use) and scrubbed and rubbed until it was nicely textured.

And then my least favorite characteristic of acrylics chose to show itself: lack of clean edges! I know, it's my own fault for working so messy, but I have seem to have lost some patience on that part. I cleaned them up a bit with a "shade of grey" brush-tipped pen, and I'm happy to say that it worked rather well.

In fact, I'm pretty proud of my accomplishment of the day!

Last but not least, I have a scanner comparison to share with you. The image above was scanned with a larger format scanner, the Mustek ScanExpress A3 USB 1200 Pro. The image below was scanned using an Epson V500. The Mustek is still new to me, and I am unfamiliar with the settings, but the Epson is an old friend. Because I know what settings to use, you can see more detail and texture in the Epson image. I will do more comparisons as I learn how to use the large format scanner better, so that I might be able to help someone make an educated decision when purchasing a scanner.

Thanks for reading! Have a nice week!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From Start to Finish: Fairytale Open Book

My first completed project of the new school year!

The assignment was to illustrate the front cover of a children's book (any classic story that no longer has a copyright issue, which would be a folktale, fairytale, or is over 100 years old and deems it public property) in any way we choose, in any medium. The only rule was to leave room for text. I chose to go with a Fairytale Collection book or an anthology of fairytale characters, because I simply cannot choose just one story!

I began with a sketch on scrappy paper (I do my best work on garbage paper that should be recycled... fresh clean new paper is so uninspiring), then scanned and re-sized, added a few things with tracing paper, re-scanned and re-sized, and then transferred it all onto watercolor paper.

I used my own mixture of ink for the lines and underpainting: burnt umber and black makes a nice chocolatey brown. I chose to stick with only three or four colors for my palette, which I wanted to keep warm: Cadmium Red Medium, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cobalt Blue, and Lemon Yellow for some brightness.

Brown Ink Stage.

Some color added.

Pretty much done here.

And here it is in the final scanned form:

And that was it! No secrets, just plain old art. I didn't add any touches of colored pencil or caran d'ache, or even gauache for that matter. Simple yet effective! I'm pretty pleased with the way it came out. I wonder what I will be doing next?

Walking Around Inside A Book

To celebrate the end of summer, the start of fall, (and to boldly go where it could possibly be horrendously busy), my family and I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure park in Orlando. Hubby and I had been dying to go to Hogwarts ever since we learned it had opened this summer, and it was wonderful.

For a crazy fan like me who dresses as a Gryffindor every Halloween (even though I'm at work), watches the movie if it happens to be on tv (although I can watch the dvd's anytime I wish), and listens to the audio book once every year (starting on September 1st when the Hogwarts Express picks up the students), it was like being in a dream! Not a single detail was overlooked, not one brick out of place. We drank Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice, flew on a Hippogriff, toured Hogwarts castle and listened to the Sorting Hat's advice.

And it all hit me, knowing that everything created here began with one little idea, in one person's (amazing) mind, which started as a rough draft, then a second draft, then a hundredth draft, and then eventually became one of the world's most cherished series of children's books. I can't imagine what J. K. Rowling must have been thinking the day she first walked through the village of Hogsmeade and saw HER castle for the very first time... What an amazing thing to happen!

It was just so awesome, and inspiring, to see first hand what can happen when an author works hard and perseveres! If you ever get a chance to go there, please do so. And when you do, stop a moment to really take it all in. Before you know it, you'll really think you are walking around inside a book!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Still Here...

Hello Everyone out there in cyberspace! 

I just wanted to share with you a few links and to let you know that although my blog entries have become a bit less frequent, I'm still here painting, drawing, and meeting deadlines! I promise to post when I've got something good, like these links I've promised you:

library of the early mind: A Documentary Exploring Children's Literature

Later, Gator!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Library Run: Sheepies

My most recent Library Run(s... two so far) revolved around the topic of Sheep. Since my Super-Secret Project #1 is about a sheep, I picked up each and every sheep book I could get my hands on. I needed some inspiration on the topic as well as knowledge of what is already out there, and this was the best way to do it. There are plenty more books on the sheep topic I'm sure, but looking at all those fluffy woollies made me a bit sleepy after a while (no joke! it really does work!), so after I get the rest of the books on my wish-list I will be satisfied with my research.

Books I've Borrowed SO FAR: (This list sure was fun to write... but I figured out a shortcut for next time!)
Sheep and Goat / by Marleen Westera ; illustrated by Sylvia Van Ommen
Baa Baa Black Sheep / Iza Trapani
Sheepish Riddles by Katy Hall, Lisa Eisenberg ; illustrated by R.W. Alley
Counting Sheep / by Julie Glass ; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Counting Sheepby John Archambault ; illustrated by John Rombola
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! / Mo Willems
Sam Sheep Can't Sleep / Phil Roxbee Cox ; illustrated by Stephen Cartwright
Counting Sheep to Sleep / by Mary O'Brien ; illustrated by Bobette McCarthy
Feeding the Sheep / by Leda Schubert ; illustrated by Andrea U'Ren
Baa! Moo! What Will We Do? / by A. H. Benjamin ; illustrated by Jane Chapman
One More Sheep / by Mij Kelly ; illustrated by Russell Ayto
The Strange Case of the Missing SheepMircea Catusanu
Russell the Sheep / Rob Scotton
Wool Gathering: A Sheep Family Reunionby Lisa Wheeler ; illustrated by Frank Ansley
When Sheep Sleep / by Laura Numeroff ; illustrated by David McPhail
Sheep Asleep / by Gloria Rothstein ; illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
Baa-choo! / by Sarah Weeks ; pictures by Jane Manning.

Counting sheep / Barbara McGee.
The Baabaasheep Quartet / Leslie Elizabeth Watts.
Sheep in wolves' clothing / Satoshi Kitamura.
Counting sheep / by George Mendoza ; illustrated by Kathleen Reidy.
Baaa / David Macaulay.
The sheep in wolf's clothing / Helen Lester ; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.

My Thoughts/Favorites: 
Loved the stocky look of the sheep in Sheep and Goat, the loose line work and liveliness in Feeding the Sheep, the simplicity of Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! and the overall art in Russel the Sheep. Couldn't stop laughing when reading Wool Gathering, and really enjoyed the watercolor art in Baa-choo! and the story was short and sweet. Some of the other sheep stories tended to be on the longer side, and those I just scanned through instead of thoroughly reading. Hey, I'm not perfect, but at least I'm honest! (and I'm not sheepish about it... baaa haa haa haaaa.)

While at the library I found this cute little picture book called "Bear in the Air," written by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Amy Bates. I fell in love with both the story and the art instantly, and will be adding this to my favorite collection as soon as I can! I would love to see more of the illustrator's work and I intend to borrow the rest of her books in the future. What a nice little find!

ALSO - Further research for Super-Secret Project #1 will involve lots of Nursery Rhyme and Mother Goose readings. I've got a poll on the left side of my blog here (below the owl sitting on the planet) so I can find out what are the most commonly known rhymes. I'd love your participation, if you are willing! Thanks!

Until next time, my furry friends...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Library Run: Judith Byron Schachner

In my search for new techniques to try, I had purchased "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road," a conglomerate of art by different illustrators, and there I ran into the creator of little Skippyjon Jones: Judith Byron Schachner. I LOVE the textures and colors she uses in the Skippy books, so I borrowed as many books as my library bag could handle!

Artist/Author: Judith Byron Schachner

Medium: Acrylic, watercolor, ink, sometimes pencil accents

Books I Borrowed: "The Prince of the Pond," "Jimmy the Pickpocket of the Palace," (both by Donna Jo Napoli); "Staying with Grandmother," by Barbara Baker; "What Shall I Dream?," by Laura McGee Kvasnosky; "How the Cat Swallowed Thunder," by Lloyd Alexander; "Mrs. Emerson's Cook," "The Grannyman," "Willy and May,"  "YO Vikings!," and a bunch of Skippyjon Jones books.

My Thoughts: I put the books on the floor in chronological order, and thought it was really neat to watch Judy's style change and develop over the years. She began illustrating in a sort of Trina Schart Hyman-ey sort of way, then some of her characters' faces had the Steven Kellogg look, and then she seemed to have found her calling in the world of color through "What Shall I Dream?" and "How the Cat Swallowed Thunder," and "Yo Vikings!" all of which are quite colorfully complex yet not messy or cluttered. And then, then, she found her favorite style to illustrate in the Skippyjon Jones series.

My favorites? Absolutely "What Shall I Dream?," and "How the Cat Swallowed Thunder." Could not stop looking at them, and didn't want to return them. So I found them online and now I have my own copies! My favorite Skippyjon Jones book: "Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones." LOVE her dinosaurs, especially the T-Rex!

What have I learned from this? That it takes years and multiple stories to actually truly find what makes your heart sing. I can tell that she's a bit like me- she can draw well, is great with linework in pen and ink, but has a wacky stylistic side to her she wasn't so sure how to contain at first. I could go all day just doodling things and painting, but not actually come up with  a "masterpiece" per say. The stuff I work on without actually thinking about it ends up being my favorite kind, and it looks great! But how do I harness that sort of mindlesslazyfun look while still being serious about my art? How do I paint within the lines, but still feel like I'm coloring outside of them? It goes along with the way I work- if I don't follow my own schedule, then I'm happy. If I feel like I'm getting away with something mischievous, then I get great results. But if I don't pressure myself into getting anything done, I won't! How does one schedule fun?

And it goes to show that Skippyjon also does not like to follow rules... No matter how many times I've rotated that image (both on the pc and in Blogger), it refuses to face the correct way!