Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recent Updates and #PiBoIdMo Strikes Again!

Art by Joyce Wan
Well, hello there!

It's been some time, which is my now usual thing lately. It's bad, I know. But I'm not going to fight it! Plus, if you've been paying attention, I'm keeping up with Little Raindrop's Blog on a regular basis. So that still counts as blogging, doesn't it? (I "help" Little Raindrop write his posts. His spelling is still on the elementary level!)

A couple of updates on what's been going on...

Art copyright 2013
Melanie Linden Chan
-I will soon be sending out Little Raindrop's manuscript to my parent, science, and teacher helpers for revisions, ideas, and overall hawk-eyeing! This step is important, as Richard and I need some fresher eyeballs to look over this now EIGHT CHAPTER graphic novel/journal hybrid. After that, we will do some finishing touches on revision, and then we'll be sending it off to our editor, Marlo!

-I made some nifty buttons for our helpers, too! ->>>>

-I'm currently researching, sketching, and planning the full color double page spread for Chapter 3 of Little Raindrop's book: the pond habitat! (I will be working on all the double page spreads, as well as the Activity Pages, for each chapter as I wait for our text to be edited.)

-Last weekend, I attended SCBWI's Encore presentation. It was FABULOUS! Usually Encore has more talks on writing children's books versus illustrating, which is exactly what I need since I already have a slew of illustration knowledge stuffed in my brain.

-Due to the lovely talk given by Karen Day at Encore, I have been spurred on to finally FINISH that draft of my MG/YA environmental fantasy novel. It's no longer going to be sitting in the back of my brain, but truly in the foreground. I'm really dying to get this story out!

-Also, thanks to the tips from Lynda Mullaly Hunt, I am also now renewing my search for an agent. I've sent out 3 submissions in the past, and obviously no one has bitten just yet. But it just wasn't meant to be, I think!

-I have a new client that I am doing graphic work for their business. Logos and business cards and all that stuff. I sometimes like doing things that pay the bills! ;)

-I am still in the middle of turning my sitting studio into a standing studio. It's been on the bottom of my to-do list, but as I am sitting here typing, I realize I need to hurry up and do it!

-In crafty/homey news, I custom painted a few tees, painted our hallway a lovely teal color, finally hung up all our awesome vacation photos, and I'm in the middle of creating some fun art for the walls as well.




It's only a month away and I totally can't wait! It's like my brain goes dormant all year long, and then- bAnG! The juices start flowing and I get all sorts of ideas and inspiration! Woo! Last year, I made up all these awesome idea journals, and it's about time I rip off the shrink wrap and start using one of them!

And I'm totally in LOVE with this year's theme art by Joyce Wan! Check out all the cute stuff on Tara Lazar's blog! Wheeee!

So, that'd be all for now, Folks! Sorry for being away for so long... Life has been sending our family through a lot of hoops these days. But where there are bad things, there is always some sort of good to come, too. And I'm really digging the good stuff!

Keep on being creative!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: "Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb" by D.R. Martin #amreading

Hi! How has your summer been?

Mine has been BUSY. Full of work, work, work, and some more work. Ugh. But I am not really complaining, I'm just a little tired is all. Plus, I was able to have enough time here and there to finally finish up a great little book I had been reading! There is nothing like a good book to distract you from your boring everyday life. :)

Oh, oh, oh! Aaaand I have been super inspired to write more of my fantasy novel! (My muse came out of hiding or wherever she was.) So that has been taking up some of my time, too.

So! Back to the book!

How do you like my Mike Wazowski thumb? :)

Firstly, I’d like to say- I really loved this story!

As a fan of the mysterious world of the ethereal, (though not of scary spooks), I enjoyed reading about a place where ghosts not only exist, but they are also a part of one’s everyday life. These ghosts were once live people who have since passed on, but are still here on Earth. However, in this world, not all who pass on become ghosts, so death is still a tragedy. Those ghosts who remain are able to live on with the world they left behind by working, “living,” and integrating themselves in everyday communities.

In “Johnny Graphic andthe Etheric Bomb”, it is the 1930’s and twelve year old Johnny Graphic lives in that very kind of world. Not everyone can see ghosts, but Johnny Graphic sure can, and he also isn’t the kind of guy to discriminate against them or treat them badly like some other people do. But during his quest to become the youngest star news photographer as he tries to uncover the mystery of his parents’ disappearance, Johnny and his sister Mel soon discover a bad batch of ghosts with a really bad plan- a ghost-powered bomb that could kill everything in its path! And it just so happens that everything, and everyone, that Johnny cares about lies directly in that path. It is up to Johnny and his unique team of family and friends, both dead and undead, to expose the ghostly plan and save millions of souls. That’s IF he can!

I found it both interesting, and a little bit cathartic, to explore the idea of a world where it is possible to still have your loved ones by your side, even after they have died. The blow of losing someone you love is a lot less harsh if there is a chance they can become a ghost and still be there with you until the end. I also like how the author didn’t even attempt to explain the whole “what happens after you die” topic. In Johnny’s world, there is still some mystery as to how or why some people become ghosts, and how or why some people move on into the afterlife, Heaven, etc. This may change, of course, as there are more books to come in the series, but for now the book is still pretty lighthearted on the topic, and not at all controversial in my opinion. It is very simply put, and matter-of-fact.

I not only liked the “otherworldly” quality of this story, but I also enjoyed the 1930’s setting, and that it was done consistently well throughout the book. It takes place during a time where life was much simpler, where people were just a tad more decent, and the media was only just beginning to influence the world, (versus ruling it, as it does today). Not once single mention of texting, Facebook, etc. can be found within its pages, because those didn’t exist yet, which is very refreshing!

Overall, this book was just good, clean fun!

I was even surprised to find myself caring about the characters- and in the end, wanting to read more about Johnny’s quest to find his parents. I say “surprised” because often when I read a book from this age bracket, I will not necessarily want to read the next book in the series as I don’t feel compelled enough to know or care about what happens next. The characters would be too shallow, too selfish, or too dumb to bother reading more. Not so with this book. Martin’s characters have enough depth and humanity to them that I understood their points of views and wanted to see Johnny and Mel solve their problems so they can go find their parents once again.

In conclusion, I say- bring on the next Johnny Graphic book! 

For anyone interested in reading the story themselves, the book is available on Amazon.com. It was edited by my friend and teacher, Marlo Garnsworthy, who is SO SMART when it comes to story editing. She is amazing. If you ever have the need for a good editor, or the opportunity to take one of her CE classes at RISD, definitely do so!

Also, a side-discovery, if you will...
I had originally started reading "Johnny Graphic" ages ago, on my tablet, via the Kindle app. (I also have an actual Kindle.) Three quarters of the way into the book, something happened where I had to put away my tablet (perhaps we were having company or something), and just like magic- POOF! Out of sight, out of mind... totally forgot I was reading a book. Don't you start to think it was the story's fault, either- I am known for doing this. I not only forgot about the "Johnny Graphic" book, but also some really good classics, such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland... it's pretty sad, actually. So far I have only been able to completely finish reading ONE digital ebook because it was super short, not counting picture books, of course. So it wasn't until months later, when I rediscovered my tablet, that I remembered poor Johnny. I immediately ordered the real book online and finished it in a day. My point is, now that I realize this, I will FOREVER choose the regular book over the ebook, no matter what book I am reading! Some things in life are just good to know! 
That is all, for now! I have some Little Raindrop work to do, so I'll see you later! Keep on creating! :D

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Planning to be Creative! #timemanagement

Hi There!

I read this article the other day: "The Pace of Productivity and How to Master your Creative Routine" (thanks to a friend of mine who shared it!). It was interesting and inspiring, and it gave me a big enough nudge to evaluate my daily habits.

I waste SO much time.

I don't really mean to waste time. I have come to the point where I only blog about stuff I truly feel is important, versus blogging because it's "Blogging Monday". I'm pretty good at not constantly nitpicking about housework, because even when the house is clean, there is still something to be done. I don't turn the television on during the day. I don't go out drinking for hours. I do well at only going on Facebook in between customers as I wait on tables, or while I shove cereal down my throat before work, or while in the car (but not driving, of course!). And I hardly ever play silly games on my smart phone. (If you're wondering, yes, I still have time for fun...)

My biggest problem?

The After-Work Time Suck.

That's what I'm naming it, now that I can easily recognize the monster that it is. Being a waitress most nights and a creative person most days, by the end of the day both my body and brains are tired and sore, and I just need to zone out. So my husband and I plop down on the couch and then it goes all down hill from there.

The worst part is that half of the time we aren't even watching our pre-recorded shows. We're mindlessly staring at whatever garbage happens to be on, even re-runs and stuff we don't care about. We're just too tired to go to bed. Go figure!

Normally this sort of thing wouldn't matter, since I am pretty useless at being creative or even receptive to new information at that time of day, but the late nights turn into even later mornings, where I am hitting the snooze button about fifteen times. And THAT is a waste of precious creative time!

Plus, I really do miss being able to sit and read a book for a bit just because I want to.

So I compiled some notes and put together a little schedule for myself. It's strict only during those important morning hours, and then after 11:00 am I am welcome to do whatever my little heart desires. Like chores. (Ha!) But it gives me those few extra morning hours of creative fun, a solid seven hours of sleep, and an enforced bed time... all of which I am in dire need.

Here is what it looks like:

Of course, this can all change at the drop of a hat when the schedule gets all messed up or someone goes on vacation or calls out sick. But this can be useful for the majority of my days. And, here, take one for yourself! Print it up and fill it out, and give this Creative Planning a shot!

I don't know if I will fail or succeed, but I'm certainly going to give it a try to see if these new habits stick! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! Do you schedule your creative time, and how well does it work for you?

As always, thanks for reading! :)

So far, it has been over a week, and EPIC FAIL.
But I will conquer this.
I will.
I will do it!!!
I will try again, fresh, starting tomorrow, June 8th.
(Plus, I have begun to read "Manage Your Day-to-Day" and it is spurring me on!)

Monday, May 27, 2013

From Start to Finish: Froggie Birthday Invitation!

Hello hello!

Today I'm sharing my latest project: a birthday invitation for a cute little boy named Nathan!

Nathan's family has been friends with our family for ages, so when his mom decided she wanted a custom invitation made, she knew just where to turn. Originally, she was looking for something with Kermit the frog on it, as the character has a very special meaning to the family. We knew that since he is a copyrighted character, I couldn't actually create something with Kermit on it, so I chose to use him as inspiration instead!

I began by sketching out a basic layout, based on my client's idea:

Using Photoshop, I scanned the sketch and kept the line work to come up with a cleaner design layout:

I found I really liked the rough lines from my original sketch, and with my client's approval, I decided to turn it into a design element. So I roughed up the text a bit, and added texture to the background:

My client and I were both happy with the results, so from there I created my own little Froggie:

The front...
The back

He very much captures the essence of the real Kermit without infringing on anyone's rights, (at least not intentionally!). This way, Nathan's family will still be able to recognize the cherished character that decorated his hospital room, and who helped them keep their chins up as they wished upon a star for their little boy's recovery. Hence, the theme, "A wish come true- Nathan is two!"

We're all so excited to be able to wish Nathan a very Happy Birthday!!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

From Start to Finish: Dragon and Mouse! #fromstarttofinish

Hi There!

Today I am going to share with you a super secret project I've been working on for a bit... and I hadn't been able to talk about it until now! That's because this painting was a commission, and a surprise gift, for my cousin's girlfriend!

My cousin asked me to draw a picture of him (Dragon) and his (Mouse) girlfriend, to give to her for her birthday. I didn't quite make the timing cut (it was originally going to be a Christmas gift... then a Valentine's gift... what can I say, I've been busy!!!), but the piece turned out great so that is all that matters!

Here are my original sketches. They are kind of "ehhh" and weren't really jumping out at me. I was trying too hard to include all the little details about the couple and not enough emphasis on the actual couple...

I tried fixing the dragon...

And then I realized I didn't think he looked like a dragon to me. That was my problem, right there! So I jumped onto my new favorite place in the digital cloud, Pinterest, and put together a Dragon and Mouse Pinboard to collect some nice dragonish-looking dragons. Just staring at dragons for a few hours was all I needed, and I started sketching again...

I felt MUCH better about this dragon, though it looked a tad girly. But I fixed it up...

When I was happy with my sketch, I photocopied it, rubbed the back of the page with carbon, then traced my drawing onto a watercolor paper block. I like the blocks a lot, because I don't have to bother with taping anything down or finding a drawing surface...

Then I inked in the lines with my quill pen and the special dark brown ink mix that I make...

and I used Winsor Newton's Nut Brown ink to paint in the values...

added a nice blue wash to get the mood and tone of the piece...

painted in the base colors and pushed my colors and values...

...and removed the liquid mask I used to protect the highlights. Then I added a touch more blue to the piece. You might have noticed that I chose not to draw all of the dragon's scales. I was afraid they were going to take over the whole picture. So I went back with my Nut Brown ink and pen and added some scales here and there, and also some foliage and water details.

And here it is, all scanned and pretty!

Thanks for reading! :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Other Ways I Spend My Time: Pin Collection Display Case!


I did another craft! I've been into the messy gluey stuff lately. What I made is more of a functional item than anything. But I had this problem, you see. I collect Disney pins (yep, I'm one of those, sorry to say) and I was having a hard time figuring out how to display them. Thanks to Pinterest, I got some neat ideas, and this is what I did!

First, I found just the right shadow box at Michael's craft store. I inspected the shadow box to determine my measurements. I took out the back panel to see how much the spacer frame takes up. This spacer is what keeps the back of the box from touching the front glass, and is what gives a shadow box its depth.
The inner most frame is the removable spacer.

Then, I gathered together my materials...
Cork board, black felt, and fabric.

I cut a piece of cork board into a size that would fit when placed on top of the back panel, and that would still accommodate the spacer frame.

Using craft glue, I glued down a layer of felt onto the cork board, and then wrapped it with fabric. I chose a nice dark pattern that would make the pins and black frame pop out (more than a solid black would). I sandwiched it between cardboard and weighed it down with books, and let it dry overnight. Then I used my hot glue gun around the perimeter of the back of the cork board, and glued it down to the shadow box's original back panel.
Notice how I left room for the spacer frame?

Then I popped all the pin backs off my pins, arranged them the way I liked, and stuck them right into the cork board! Now all my pins are secure and in a dust free zone, and on display in our Disney themed spare bedroom/library!

And to Pay it Forward for the snazzy crafters on Pinterest, I put this together:
Disney pin collection and display!
Now it's your turn! Don't forget to share your masterpieces, either in the comments below or in Pinterest! (This is my pin pinboard: http://pinterest.com/mlcillustration/disney-pins-wish-list/)

Have fun!

Other Ways I Spend My Time: #Disney Doodle Thank You Cards!

Hey again!

You might have noticed, I (re)caught the Disney bug. I go through withdrawals and then I make up for lost time. I can't help myself- Disney has always been a HUGE inspiration for me as a child, a teen, and even now as an adult, I would consider myself lucky to be among the Disney artists and animators or even Imagineers.

Anyway, for my most recent trip to the World, I made little business card sized Thank You cards! I was inspired to do this because I had been reading this thread on DISboards, A Simple Thing A Cast Member Did, about all the awesome and kind things people do for one another, just to make some one's day. Many of the things these Disney workers (Cast Members) do for the guests are not necessarily part of their job, though allowed and encouraged by their employer, but are usually something they choose to do for another human being.

It might sound silly, I know. But for many, little things in life make a difference. So to further encourage the Cast Members who often work under lots of pressure, and with difficult customers (I'm a server, too, and I know the feeling...) I decided to create these little cards to let them know that their hard work and smiles on the job are truly appreciated. I know it would make me feel nice, knowing someone noticed me as a person, and not just as a servant.

Anyway, I sketched out a few faces...
Me and the Hubs.
...then used my Sharpie and scanner, Vector Magic and Photoshop... and here they are!

We used them to thank our Backstage Tour guide, our waitresses and waiters, Guest Relations workers who helped us out, and, of course, our Mousekeeper at our hotel! It felt nice to be able to express my gratitude to those who make my Happy Place truly a happy one, and I will continue to use these in the future.

And as a plus, Hubs and I both now have new profile pictures to use on our various social media accounts! Hehe!

I'm going to end this post with a nice quote from Albert Einstein, which I read recently and found very inspiring:

"One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community."
From "On Education" by Albert Einstein

Don't aim for success. Do what makes you happy, and what makes you meaningful to others.

I like that idea, don't you? :)

Other Ways I Spend My Time: Holiday Crafting #Disney #ornaments

*NOTE* I started writing this post a gazillion ages ago, and didn't finish it until now. So half of it is a bit out-dated. But I still like what I wrote, so I just left it the way it was!

Hello! Happy Holidays to you! :)

It's been a wicked (as we say in Rhode Island) busy holiday season for me this year, and even more so than usual! I've been working on my PiBoIdMo journal, one commission (as you saw in my last post), selling calendars and prints of my work, catching up on my blogging for Little Raindrop's blog (who also has been a busy little drop!), created art for the Providence Athenaeum's owl button project, reading and answering the latest batch of fan mail from Mr. H's 3rd graders, Christmas-ing and on top of alll that...


It's a holiday tradition, that sometimes occurs yearly in our family, if we are lucky. But I really love making new ornaments for family and friends, and for myself, of course! Every year, our tree has a new theme.

We've decorated by color, and even ornament collections...
Frosty Blues and Winter Friends
(A tiny First Tree from way back!)
Lime and Teal
Teddy Bears and Toys

But this year, I went to my hero for some inspiration... Mickey Mouse! And since my tree was Mickey themed, I thought why have a Disney themed ornament making session? So that's what we did!

First, make your stencils.

Mickey parts made from glittery craft foam!

Minnie wreath!

Mickey's sorcerer hat! Craft foam and glitter, galore.

Candy cane holder!

Colorful fun! Mini Styrofoam balls and a few coats of glitter.

A foamy Jack Skellington.

I put my new ornaments on the tree, with some colorful themed ribbons and other appropriate Mickey and Disney ornaments, and voila!

Our almost-too-large tabletop tree.

This was by far my favorite tree, ever! We don't always put one up, because it takes so long for me to put everything back. (It is February now, and although the tree is gone, all the decorations are still in a pile on the table! Tisk tisk.) But it was well worth it, because I couldn't stop looking at it.

While I'm at it, here's another ornament I made a few years ago...

"So you made some knockoff Mickey things, who cares?" some would say. My point of sharing this, is that it's okay to do stuff for the fun of it! Sometimes when art becomes work, it starts to feel like work, too. Crafting and playing keeps my brain happy and full of fresh ideas. Go find something you are passionately happy about, whatever it is, and go create something to honor it. Creativity is much like a can of paint; it needs to be shaken and stirred regularly!

So go shake and stir up some fun! :)
p.s. you can see more Disney ornament making ideas on my Pinterest board! https://pinterest.com/mlcillustration/a-very-disney-christmas/