Friday, May 28, 2010

Everyone Can Do Their Part

Art by Olivia Bouler, 2010

About a week ago, a friend of mine brought to my attention a very special person. She is only one person, (a young one at that- she's only 11), and she isn't rich, or famous, or anything other than an American Girl who wants to make a difference.  She has a talent, and a passion, and she's doing everything she can to help save the wildlife from the recent oil spill.

Her name is Olivia Bouler, she has raised thousands of dollars by sending her art all over the country in exchange for donations to organizations like the National Audubon Society, and you can read her story here, here, or here.  You can even keep track of her art through her Facebook page.

A talent and a passion. That's all anyone needs to make a difference!

Now it's time for YOU to think about what you can do. Can you wash cars, run a bake sale, read to kids about the environment?  It doesn't take much- just a little time and effort and a whole lot of heart!  I've put up a collection box at my work for donations, and I've donated in honor of Olivia (I'm hoping she'll have time to send me a picture, too!). I wonder what else I can do to help?

Here's a list of organizations that are doing what they can to help clean up (and prevent more of) the mess:
National Audubon Society
Sierra Club
National Wildlife Federation
Weeks Bay Foundation
Mobile Bay Estuary
National Resources Defense Council
World Wildlife Fund

It's time everyone does their part!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Finally... all three projects from CBook2 are FINISHED!

I told you they would all be due today, didn't I?

Let's start with our folktale project, the story of Sigo the boy who lived with the bears...

Left side of the double-page spread...

Right side of the double-page spread!

Both pieces of art were wood-burned on (scrap) pine, scanned and then put into Photoshop to do the page layout.  I tried to make the words look like they were "burned in" too!

Here are the final double-page spreads for Mother Nature.  I've included the text, though it is copyrighted to the author, but this is for educational and learning purposes, and I hereby do not take any credit whatsoever for the text.  I find it an important part of the process, because the assignment was to work around the original text layout, versus coming up with one like we did with Mooin. (Should anyone find this to be problematic, contact me and I will remedy it immediately.)

In case you forgot, these were done in ink and watercolor on pre-stretched Arches 140lb hot press paper.

As for our collage project, my "Song of Spring" poem has yet to be actually merged with the art in proper layout form.  I still haven't had the time to re-learn how to do a text path.  Yeah, I know it's one of those silly easy things, but hey I've been busy!  Also, it needs to be re-scanned because I've got a seam in the middle, where the gutter usually is.  Here it is anyhow, so we can see the whole body of work together in one blog post.
Once again, this was done by painting old Chinese and English newspapers with non-toxic acrylics, cut and pasted with Matte Medium, with a few finishing touches done in either acrylic or colored pencil. I almost feel like it needs some little blossoms in the tree... but I'm going to wait and see what it looks like with the words before I do anything else to it.

All in all, a very satisfying semester! Four finished double-page spreads, a finished picture book manuscript, and a cover letter.  I don't think I could of asked for more, especially in a three month period!

Now... What's next???

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Talk on Style

Monday night was the last night before our last night of class. Which means next Monday is the night where everything we've worked on all semester must be complete, final, and perfect! Not only that, but we will also be looking for secret messages in our work that tell us each what our style looks like, and what it's all about.

I think I'm slowly starting to get a few clues to what my style is...what really drives me.  Cheryl said that anything that makes you insanely happy, (before, during, and after) is a good way to go, since picture books  have a lot of art in them, and we will be so very tired of the book by the time we finish drawing it.  Thinking back over the years at the projects that I loved doing the most, there are some things about them that are very similar.  Cheryl noticed during our crit that I have a tendency to draw a particular way, and it showed up in "Mother Nature" and "Mooin," and I realize now in a lot of other things I've done as well.

But I think I'm going to wait to reveal what that style actually is...mostly because I don't have all the photos I need to show you at my current location.  But I will.  (If you want a hint, though...when it finally came down to the implementation of my ideas for "Mooin," I really enjoyed the technique!)

Anyhow, we talked a lot about style in class, and looked at a bunch of amazing books from our Bookshare table.  There were two books in particular that showed a lot of different styles all within the same story!  The first one won a Caldecott Medal!


"Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?" by an assortment of artists!

Both books were very useful to demonstrate different styles, looks and techniques that an illustrator may use when creating a picture book.  Also mentioned was the artist David Shannon, who has multiple styles in which he works. Some of my favorites: 

"How I Became A Pirate," by Melinda Long

"Duck on a Bike," by David Shannon

There will be many more talks on style, versatility and technique as time goes on.  That's the topic we talk most about in my classes, because it is the thing that makes you different from everyone else, the thing that makes you stand out... and the thing that could potentially get you a Caldecott Medal!

Did I ever tell you that was one of my life goals? Yep, I'm going to get a Caldecott Medal if it's the last thing I do!  It probably will be the last thing I do...I've got a LOT of improving to do.

From Start to Finish - Mooin, The Bear's Child, Part 3

(Note: I realized that I hadn't actually posted my last blog post when I created it, so it looks like I posted twice in a row...I swear I didn't mean to!)

Critiques are life savers.  Yes, they're a royal pain in the patootie, and man can they draaaaaag!  But without some of the crits of art-classes-past, and the one on Monday, many of my pieces would have turned out entirely differently.

For example, during the last crit, a very smart and insightful person brought up that most of my stuff is super colorful.  Like straight-from-the-tube colorful.  And I've been trying extremely hard to stay away from that, because I tend to yield better results when I do.  My problem is that I wasn't brought up to use neutral colors, or rather, no one seemed to point out that I didn't mix my own colors. That explains why I have such a problem deciding which colors to use in my art, because I don't use a limited palette.  If the whole wide world is available, why not just use them all?

So I am very thankful to my dear friend for bringing that point up, and reminding me that I'm an artist, and not a toddler with a 280-count box of Crayolas, (or whatever number they are up to now)! Those days were much simpler, though.

Well I'm done blathering about that.  Here's what I've been up to in the past few days...

New composition and style to my design!

My wood-burning friend, the tool I'm using for my line work.
(I wear a mask and turn on the kitchen hood fan for proper ventilation when burning the wood.)

Left side of my double-page spread.

Right side of my double-page spread.

New & Improved! color palette, using 3 primary colors, white, and one brown.

Not done yet... but I'm liking the results!  Thank goodness for the color changes!

This project, as well as "Mother Nature" and "Song of Spring," will be completely finished by Monday, and all three will be scanned and posted here on my blog most likely a day or two after that.  I'm so glad to have some nicer pieces to put into my portfolio! Can't wait to have it all done!!

From Start to Finish - Mooin, The Bear's Child, Part 2

It's color study time!

Although I'm still working on (and constantly thinking about) my final composition, a color study is still a helpful exercise to do.  (Plus, it's due this Monday in CBookII.)  After much deliberation, I have decided to go with my first idea of painting on pine wood, with burned-in accents. 

When I told him this, my husband asked me, "If one of your problems is that you haven't stuck to a certain style, why are you trying this new style on a new project?"  That is a valid point, but I told him what I'm going to tell you now:  If I don't experiment enough with different techniques, how will I know which I love the most?

Also, I have already done a project using this techniques, and I really enjoyed it.  This is a part of said project:

I did quite a bit of research and messing around to figure out the kind of look I was going for, and came up with this rainbow of colors:

(These are my happy acrylic paints.  I use the student grade stuff for now.)
And my color comp:

Let's see what teacher thinks in class!

Monday, May 10, 2010

From Start to Finish: Mooin, the Bear's Child

Project Number Three has commenced!

You may notice that I've still got a little bit of work to do on my two previous projects, however, as many of you students out there understand... What Teacher says, Student does!

Our third and final project for Children's Book Illustration II is a storyboard and a double-page spread of a folktale.  It must include a child, and it must be completed in acrylic paint!  It can be any size, theme or style we choose, as long as it matches well with the story.

I chose to do the Native American tale of "Mooin, the Bear's Child."  In this class, I have done a Japanese themed project in watercolor, a Chinese themed project with acrylic and cut paper collage, and I think it will be fun to try a Native American theme for the last project.  I love nature, and all things woodsy (my daddy does woodworking- love the smell of sawdust!) so I am entertaining the thought of painting this all on pine... but I guess we'll see how it goes.  Art tends to have it's own mind when it comes to things like this!

Our first job was to paginate the story, which means we need to break down the story's text and determine where it will go, and on what page, in a way that enhances the story.  I've learned in my writing class that this is also an essential part of writing a picture book - you need to make the story build itself up, create tension and excitement, and slowly bring it back down to a conclusion.  And you can do all that not only with the plot, but also how and where you place the text.

Here's what my story looks like paginated:


The next step is to do a storyboard, or a visual layout of text and page composition of the entire story.  This includes things like borders, square-ups, and page bleeds.

Mine read from left to right- across both pages. 
(The pages are numbered...follow those and you'll get the idea!)

Then we choose our favorite double-page spread that features a child, and we work on possible compositions:

(I didn't include the ugly ones...maybe one day I will when it won't be so incriminating!)

Then we need to work on the final sketch.  This part is much harder for me, because my story is about bears, and I've never actually drawn real bears before!  So I went surfing around the web and watched some nice bear videos, clips from Disney's Brother Bear movie, and browsed Google images.  I also reserched Native American iconolgy and symbols, because I might be using them for a border. 

 Here are some sketches I can now use for my composition:

That is all I've got right now, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done!  I've got more wrestling bears, boys, and comps to draw, and some serious polishing up to do.  Though I've got an image in my head, I'm still excited to see how it all turns out!

In the meantime, Happy Drawing and Writing to you!  :)

Kid Art!

I love the way kids draw, so anytime they leave behind a piece of artwork at my restaurant, I snatch it up and hang it in the back!  Here's my latest favorite:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Style or Versatile?

Lately I've been really thinking about my art style, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't really have one!  It really depends on the project I'm working on, what the customer/teacher is looking for, and the theme of the book/image.  When I work with watercolors, my art tends to look one way, but when I work with acrylic or collage, it looks another way.  I like to think of myself as being very versatile, because no matter what medium I choose to work with, or what problem is set before me, I can always come up with a finished piece that I can be proud of. 

My style or look can range from this:

Kirkland's Warbler studies and final piece in pencil, ink and watercolor

To this:
Gauache Baby Girl and Birthday Boy (this was actually my first try...maybe not a good example of gauache!  But the cartoony look is right on.)

I brought this topic up in class, and my teacher confessed that not only do many artists have the same problem- but she and her colleagues have also been discussing it lately!  They have come to the conclusion that for an up-and-coming artist such as myself, being consistent with a style or look will help me land a job better.  That way, when I send out my quarterly postcards with sample art to art directors, my style will pop into their heads for a story.  

That's all well and good, but I don't know what I want to do! I really love it all!  I guess it will just take me some time to get a better feel for what I like doing a lot, and what I like doing the least. 

But in the meantime, here's a story about an artist who's got multiple styles pretty down pat:  See more of her books on her Amazon Page!

Cover Letters & Dummies

Hi there!  Been a few days, hasn’t it?  Worry not- I’ve only been a busy bee, finishing up old projects, starting up new ones, and writing things like cover letters. *shudder* 

We’ve just about finished our manuscripts in my writing class, so now I have my very own written book I can submit to publishers!  I’ve done my research and have a few places I’d like to send it to, (though I won’t send them until my book dummy is done).  And we are now working on our cover letters, which is a rather daunting task that needs a few trials and errors before we get them right.  But my teacher, the ever-awesome person that she is, has posted some tips for writing cover letters on her blog.  I’ve also found some good things to read about cover letters on Nathan Bransford’s site. (Scroll down and look to the left on his page, and you'll see more writing tips and stuff.)

Book Dummy, you say?  If you’re not familiar with what a book dummy is, just imagine a sample book (smaller than actual size, but to scale) with text and images the way they will look when the book is finished.  Only two double-page spreads are in color, and the rest of the images are black and white final sketches.  The two color pages are copies of the actual art and color theme that will be used in the final book.  When you send a book dummy, you also must send separate copies of those final pieces of art, (which means you have to do the art!)  

Some nice little sites on book dummies: Ginger Nielson, Ginger's Blog, Bob Staake (I like him, he's silly)

Since I’ve made it my goal to go to the SCBWI NY Conference in January of 2011, I will need to be prepared with my completed book dummy, sample art and a manuscript to present during a meeting with an editor. (!!!!!!!!!)  Exciting, and just a little bit scary, isn’t it???!!!  That's why I will be taking a Book Dummy course this coming fall- I could do with a little more experience...and confidence!

There’s plenty more to come, but that’s for another blog entry.  I’ll keep you posted!