Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Illustration Friday: Soaked

Yeah, it's been about two weeks since IF posted this topic, but at least I'm trying! Didn't scan the original sketch before I inked it...

"It was finally my turn to do the Spring Solo, and I soaked in every minute of it!"

and here it is alllllmost finished...

brown ink, watercolor, and soon to be colored pencil

I'll post it when it's done, (and scan it on the good scanner!)

ArtLibs: "soaked," "elephant," and "cardinal"

Still in sketch phase, but I plan to fully finish and color it in!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Doodle Time: sketches... and a new GAME!

Here's a cute little sketch I'd like to color in eventually:

And here's another one I also plan to finish:

But the SUPER cool thing about the last sketch are the words written at the top of the page: "prancing," "dinosaur," and "strawberry." I was at work and needed to draw a bit, but I couldn't come up with any ideas. I know, that's what Illustration Friday is for! But I had already been working on it at home, and left it there, and I really just wanted to do something new. So I came up with a new little game for myself.

I'm calling it ArtLibs, (although once I Googled it I realized that is the name of some one's blog, but oh well!) And the way to play is through texting, Facebook, and Twitter. I ask different people each a question, and then I use their answers to make a picture... regardless if it makes sense or not. These are my questions:

1. Name a noun, a non-living thing
2. Name a living thing, like an animal of some sort (but plants are fine too!)
3. Name a verb, an action word, (or sometimes an adjective will do)
4. Name a setting, place or time (haven't used this one yet)

And I'm even incorporating Illustration Friday topics when they come around! This game is neat because I don't have to think about the what, just the how, in making a picture. It gives me a challenge and I focus more on problem solving, which is good because in the Real World an illustrator is hired to do that very thing.

So I've got my next two "games" ready to be drawn: (1) soaked, elephant and cardinal; and (2) Asleep, virus and/or Asian Lily, and cake!

I guess we'll see what I come up with! Give it a try yourself, and let us all know how it goes. Link to your blog in the comments box so we can see what you did! 

Happy ArtLibbing! :D

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Doodle Time: Wolfy and Kitty, colored in!

Told you they wouldn't be just sketches for long...

Materials used: Brown ink line, burnt umber ink base layer, watercolors, finished with colored pencil.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Success... Time Management... and The Balancing Act

Today I'd like to talk about Time Management Skills. This happens to be the area I am most... well, I'll just say it- struggling with at the moment. (And the result of my struggle is the "s" word we are not allowed to use in my family because it becomes our scapegoat.)

Drawing, painting, writing, reading, blogging, networking, emailing (and now Twittering), waitress-ing, wife-ing, exercising, living... how do I prioritize? When I'm on the treadmill, I think of how I should be painting instead. When I'm painting, I think of the other stuff I need to be doing. How to I fit it all into my day without biting my nails down to the bone, going prematurely white-haired, and losing myself in the process?

I guess my first step is to break it all down and find out what is really most important to me. You can skip on down to the end if you'd like, because I'm sure this little exercise will bore you to pieces, but I need to sort it all out in the open to find a solution. Once it is out there in cyberspace, I might feel more inclined to follow through with my solution because there are eyes that can see whether I fail or succeed. You are those eyes.

The Important Stuff:
1. Practice Makes Perfect: Draw, Write, and Read!
One of the recurring themes of this past weekend's NESCBWI Spring conference (#nescbwi11) was not only in almost every one's speech, but it also was the most important (and probably why it was in every one's speech. Actually, I'm sure it is why it was in every one's speech). It was said in multiple ways:
  • "BIC... Butt in Chair," from Jane Yolen, Keynote Speaker
  • "Follow Malcom Gladwell's 10,000-hour Rule," from "The Search for Singular Style" panel
  • "Humor is not a shortcut to hard work," from Donna Gephart's "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones" workshop
  • "Do the Work... Make your creative life your TOP priority," from Lin Oliver, Keynote Speaker
  • "Read. Write. Read some more," from Mark Peter Hughes' imagination-sparking workshop
  • "Success can take you years to achieve... but if you don't keep at it, you won't make it," from Harold Underdown's Keynote Speech
And here's another blogger's talk on the practice topic: http://ingridsnotes.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/butt-in-chair-put-in-the-hours/

2. Get Your Stuff Out There
At the conference we also talked about Social Networking, Twittering, Facebooking, and self-promoting. In particular, there was a workshop called "Improving Your Online Presence," and you can find the lecture here. And on the topic of social networking, what does a children's publisher expect from us?

3. Get Moving
And because we artists and writers are Sedentary Beings, let's not forget to get our hearts pumping and our butts moving! There is an article on Illustration Island "What I Wish I Knew When I Started," where someone says they wish they had gotten into the habit of exercising every day, because it gets harder as you get older to stay in shape. Health is very important to me- how else will I live to be a hundred and fifty so I can read to my great-great-grandchildren???

4. Spend Time With Family
With my rotten upside down schedule, it's hard to spend time with family and friends. Most people are just getting out of work when I clock-in to serve the world some delicious Chinese cuisine. I'm lucky because many of my friends and family visit me while I'm working, and sometimes we even get to have a nice conversation... but I'm still working and not totally there mentally so it isn't quality time.

5. Do Something... else
My new career is super fun! I love to draw, read and write! But sometimes it is also good to step outside of the box (or studio... or house) and just find something of another kind of fun to do. Go for a walk, watch a movie, take a drive, go on a date with Hubby. But I shouldn't chastise myself for taking a guilty pleasure when I do go out and have a bit of fun. It is Life after all, it's okay to do some living!

6. Write Lists
THIS part is by far my best quality. I am a professional list maker! I have a Short-Term Goal list, a Long-Term Goal list, a Blog Post Idea list, an Audio Books to Read list... the list goes on! The cool things about lists are that I forget less, and I even get to see my progress as I cross things off. And I can almost feel myself getting calmer as I write something new down on my Master List, because I know I won't be forgetting to do it!

7. Oh! I almost forgot... SLEEP!
Regardless of what time we get home from work (sometimes as late as 1:30 am!), I need to be sure to get eight hours of sleep. It isn't good to lose out on sleep- not for the mind or the body. So what if the public eye thinks ten o'clock is too late to get up? They should be seeing my art, not when I'm eating my breakfast. I need to let go of the guilt I put onto myself for not "sticking to the schedule." It just gives me heartburn to worry so much!

8. Savoring
There is this book, called Savor, which I've been trying to read (and have yet to finish) but at least I've got the general gist of it. The author explains and teaches us how to really live in the moment of what we are doing. Don't think about other things while you are doing something- don't even DO other things while you are doing something. If you are eating, focus on the thing you are eating. Don't watch tv and scarf it down. Really immerse yourself in that thing. So from now on, I'm going to do that. With everything that I do, I'm going to savor each moment, enjoy it for what it is, and not think about the other things I could or should be doing.

And What About that Evil, Time-Sucking Thing We Call the Internet?
Email, reading the "daily news" via Facebook or Twitter, you know... the path you end up on due to your self-promoting social networking? The one that takes five hours from your day? The one I am effectively adding to by writing this huge blog post? There is an article I found on this, so here it is: Getting Sucked Into the Internet. I think it's time I really put a stop to my tomfoolery, and to start focusing on the real work.

I'm sure there is plenty more I could add to the above list, (notice how I didn't include chores on there? I did too... I wonder if that's a bad thing?) but really, life doesn't work that way anyway. Weddings and birthdays and stuff just happens, but if I have a set of rules for myself, (really simple, easy rules), then I won't feel so much pressure when things go awry.

My New and Improved Goals:

  • 30 minutes of cardio, five times per week, (or a total of 150 minutes in any combination)
  • ONE finished illustration per week. Sketch all I want, but I need to follow through and paint at least one of them. Spot illustrations count. Illustration Friday helps.
  • ONE blog post per week. Don't feel pressured to do more, just put the new idea on the list until after all my other stuff is done. Make Mondays my blog-posting days!
  • Listening to audio books on the way to work = reading. I've got a forty-five minute commute, one way. Anything else I choose to pick up is just an added bonus! If I watch less television at night, I can whittle down my pile even faster.
  • ONE writing session per week. Sit down and write. Blogging counts as writing, however I've got manuscripts to edit and stories to put down on paper. So my Special Writing Time should be committed to my stories, and nothing else. I'm working on how long that session should be...
  • ONE relaxing and fun activity. What will it be? Should it be weekly? Do I have time for that? I guess I'll try it and see what happens!
  • Make plans and visit with somebody, IN PERSON, not at work, TWICE a month. Only twice a month seems a bit lame, but I need to start somewhere. 
  • Remember to SAVOR it all.
  • As for the Time Sucker, the Internet... I will check my email briefly each morning to see if there is anything pertinent, and if there isn't, I will dutifully put away the Internet until I have accomplished some of the stuff on my list of goals. I can do all the Internet Dawdling I want on my phone when I'm on the go, and NOT while I am trying to get some work done. No Twitter or Facebook unless there is an actual message. I can post stuff for self-promotional reasons, but that will be all.

    AND! Drum roll, please...
  • I'm taking a night off a week from work for the summer. No phone, no Internet, no tick-tock of the Mickey Mouse clock. Just me and blank paper in the studio for a few hours. I think this is going to help me quite a bit, at least for now. We'll see what happens when classes start up again in September.

Well! I think I'm feeling better already! In fact, I'm going to print my goals and stick them onto my studio door to remind me what I've promised myself. I'll keep you posted on how it's all turning out, and it would be super duper nice of you to share some of your own Time Management and Balancing tricks down below in the Comments box! 

Thanks for reading, and Happy Balancing! If things go as planned, I shall see you again next Monday! :D

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sketchbook: Wolfy, Kitty, and Porcupines

I ignored the mess surrounding me in my studio and did some sketches this week. I'm planning to make them finished pieces, so they won't be in the sketchbook section for very long! :) Photo quality isn't so hot, but neither was my scanner for some reason...

These are MINE, do not steal them, you mangy scalliwag!

© Melanie Linden Chan 2011

© Melanie Linden Chan 2011

Library Run: Melissa Sweet

*For some weird reason this blog post got UN posted. So I am RE posting it here today. Strange.*

I've got a confession to make.

I'm a little sweet on children's book illustrator Melissa Sweet. (She probably gets that all the time- sorry, but it's true!)

My awe-crush started last fall, when someone brought to class "A River of Words: the Story of William Carlos Williams." The cover grabbed me immediately- a rainbow of ripped paper!!! Be still, my heart!

I seriously could not get enough looking time with the book, and had to get my own copy to get lost into. Which then also led me to purchasing "Carmine, A Little More Red," and then "Tupelo Rides the Rails." With each new book that arrived, I was captivated by her simple childlike renderings loaded with color, texture, typography and recycled book covers. I can practically smell the old faded library cards, graphite and lined paper- and when art makes me want to eat it (don't ask why I start wanting to chew art and touch the texture of butter cream... I have no logical answer to give to you), then I know it's good.

My three favoritist books right now. Yes I know favoritist isn't a word-
this is a blog for goodness sake! Let me have my cake!!

And on top of it all, I realized she and I must have one very important thing in common (and this is based on my very scientific deductive reasoning method- this has yet to be confirmed in real life): we are both pack rats! How else would she be able to use all these wonderful fabrics, textures, and re-used materials? She must have a pile of goodies collected from various treasure-hunting escapades, just waiting for their turn to be featured in her latest book! And I'm willing to bet she's got them organized by color, too. Ummm, hero!

So in my own personal quest to find my absolute favorite books, I ran to the library and found some more yummy things indeed:

Want to hear something cool? She's also my Facebook friend! She doesn't post very often though- I am thinking she is spending her time wisely doing things like painting and drawing, (yes, yes, unlike myself lately... shush!). But I hope to meet her one day, perhaps at a conference or a book signing! Wouldn't that be just dandy?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Field Trip: NESCBWI Spring Conference, Fitchburg MA

This past weekend, I attended my very first New England SCBWI conference, (you know, that thing I've been talking about for a bit...), and it. was. AWESOME.

Three days in Fitchburg, MA, chock full of stuff. Books and writing and art stuff! And I made a bunch of new friends while having fun hanging out with my RISD pals- what could be better than that? There was a Poster Showcase & Contest (where half of the winners were from our own RISD group!), awesome Keynote Speakers like Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaola (and more), a viewing of the documentary "Library of the Early Mind," , book signings, and even a fun Cabaret show!

And of course, some amazing workshops run by some amazing people. These are the ones I was lucky enough to attend (and funnily enough, this person attended all the same workshops, with the exception of one! I wonder if we met?):

To top it all off, the most exciting thing for me all weekend was my fifteen minute critique session with Harold Underdown. He gave me plenty of helpful advice and ideas of ways to improve my manuscript (Project #1), and I'm really looking forward to making some significant (but much needed) changes to it. I know it will be much better once I do, and I'm happy to do it! One step closer to publication! I can almost taste it!

I was so busy that I didn't have a chance to take pictures...well, except for this one on the first day:

Other than having a lack of photographs, my only regret is that I didn't participate in the Poster Showcase... but since I this was my first time I really wanted to just absorb and learn, and see what it was all about first. So next year, I WILL do a poster.

And I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Portfolio

In addition to updating my website in preparation for this weekend's SCBWI conference in Fitchburg, I have also been reviewing my portfolio and printing up my best work to carry with me in my little leather folio.

As I was doing so, I started to wonder/worry about what I was putting out there for the world to see. Does this work represent who I am as an artist? Is this truly my best work? Should I (and could I) have done more to prepare for this weekend? So much depends on The Portfolio. And the stress of it all began to bubble up to the surface.

I had to stop and remind myself that, first of all, stress isn't good for anybody. So stop it right now!

And also that if I look at the entire spectrum of my art career, I have only been in the Children's Book business since Fall of 2009, when I signed up for classes at RISD. There is a reason why my portfolio needs so much more work. I'm still learning! I have plenty of non children's book art, and plenty of school-assigned pieces, but not a lot of things that are really mine. Things I've created just because I wanted to, and for the love of the craft. Well of course not- I have been a busy student, still working, and now blogging, and still having (somewhat) a life.

So with that information in the front of my brain, I looked again at what I had to offer the world. And you know what? It made me happy and proud. Yes, I could have done better on some of the projects we were assigned, had I given myself enough time (or watched one less movie with Hubby). And yes, I know not all the images didn't print or scan the way that I would have liked. And, yes, I know there are WAY better artists out there that will get the job instead of me.

But my current portfolio is proof that I'm heading in the direction of my dreams. I am doing what I love to do! It means I will be spending more time illustrating and writing, and getting better at it with each new project. It means I've got a grin on my face that can't be wiped off by my own insecurities, because I know I'm doing the best I can with what I've got.

So, take THAT, Stress, and take your worries to someone who cares. :)

And take this, Readers- some tidbits I've found on building one's portfolio. Maybe they'll help us all shine a little brighter, and do our best a little best-er!
Tips from artist Tony Sansevero
Tips from artist Nina Rycroft
Tips from artist Phyllis Pollema-Cahill
Tips from Harold Underdown
Tips from artist Chris Tugeau
Three Mistakes Illustrators Make in their Portfolios
Selecting Images for Your Portfolio