Friday, August 28, 2009

Lion and Mouse Friday Update

Woo!! Another Friday so soon!! LOL! I only got to work on this for three days this week. I was sick on Monday and Tuesday, food poisoning. (Don't ask and I won't tell!)

After drawing the lion in with more detail it was time to flesh him out a bit. Start filling in information and get him blocked in fairly well. You "SHOULD" work the entire image at the same time. Make sure that all the elements work well against one another. Determine your light source and lock down your forms in a fairly 3-dimensional way. Well, sometimes I do that, sometimes I don't. My instinct is not to. To just jump into an illustration and paint what I have the strongest urge to first. Which honestly creates a lot of problems later on because you tend to work on the elements you are comfortable with and leave what you think are hard parts for later. (Achemm...notice strong continued absence of mouse in image!)
In situations where I know my enthusiasm will surpass common sense, I at the very least force myself to work from back to front. Which lets me incorporate the background into the mid ground, the mid ground into the foreground and so on and so forth. I'm sure that much is apparent from the process steps you see in these posts. I hope so anyway!

On Thursday I'm still nailing down things and blocking in forms. I'm also trying to remember elements of the first lion that I liked and want to definitely include on this image. The dark streak in his Elvis-like Pompadour was a definite keeper. My Lion is definitely styled by Vidal Sassoon! Lots of hairspray for his majesty! Mroowwwrr!! LOL! I also want to make sure that I am pulling a lot of pinks from the background into his skin and hair. The Mucha hair tribute wasn't something I thought I would be keeping. But for giggles I put it in. Right now I worry about it flattening the lion since it is so graphic in execution. We'll see what the rest of the hair allows.

On Thursday it's time to deepen my shadows and liven them up with the compliment for the dominant orange, yellow orange tones in the piece. You can see all the blue/purple tones going into the shadow areas and giving some final sense of form and depth to the lion. It's also time for me to go in and start smoothing out a bunch of the rough areas and cleaning things up. I still think that in the end I will need to punch up the brightness of the Lion and push the shadows and highlights more to help pull him from the background. Adding those blue purple hues seems to have dulled out a lot of my dark areas. But I'm gonna force myself to execute the mouse first and then adjust the entire image when done. It's really funny looking back at the original image now and I am very glad that I went with the idea to paint the lion the way that I would now rather than trying to duplicate what I did 13 years ago. I'll have to put up a little animation or side by side and get you guys input on what you think about the differences.

I attempted to redo the mouse but I was rushing and making it up out of my head. It just wasn't working for what I wanted. I'm also not sure what moment I want to capture with this image. Will this be the moment that the Mouse is still afraid of the lion and cowering? Will it be when he is offering hi services to the lion? Or will it be after he's pulled the thron out? The lion's expression says that it will be one of the first two, but we'll see! Let me know what you think!

So Monday all I'll be doing is finding reference for the mouse. I took a quick dig at it today and found an African striped back mouse. How much fun will that be! And it will add some regional clarity to the image. Hopefully the mouse ends up in a pose that shows his back to the reader. We'll see!! Also, looking at the image shrunk makes me think that I need to pull more of the dark areas of mane from the left to the right along the inside of his right paw. Do you see what I'm talking about? Hmmm...Well, have a good weekend folks. Don't forget to click the images for larger views if you like!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wisdom Wednesday

Good evening folks! Today I'm gonna talk about a couple of other blogs that keep my ears occupied on those long nights slaving away at my desk! LOL! First up is a blog that I have been enjoying for quite some time.

Big Illustration Party Time!
Hosted by Kevin Cross and Joshua Kemble. A funny and insightful couple of guys who speak about the trials and tribulations of being a freelance artist. They talk about the things they've done right and the things they wish they'd done better. They interview other artists within the industry and get insight into their processes and wisdom. I highly recommend giving these guys a try! They don't speak specifically about children's books but what they say about the freelance illustration industry applies to us just the same.

Also of note, Joshua Kemble's wife Mai is a published Children's Book Illustrator and SCBWI member. He talks about her and some of the things she does every now and then on the show as well. I may have to write them and see if they can get her to do an interview for us Children's Illustrators out there! Her blog is located here! :)

My second feature is LibriVox. Librivox is a group of volunteers who do audio recordings of public domain literature. Thanks to them I have enjoyed all the Wizard Of Oz novels and in anticipation of Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland movie, Alice in Wonderland. They have tons of literature there for free and it is an easy way to re-read classics while getting your work done at the same time. I have seen Aesop's Fables, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Mother Goose rhymes available.

Be aware that these are volunteers recording these stories. So the quality or professionalism of some will be very different from one recording to the next. But I have never encountered one that was completely unbearable. There are a number of Children's Stories and I plan on listening to one entitled Japanese Fairy Tales fairly soon. I get a lot of great ideas for illustrations from these older stories! And the idea of doing Japanese art style inspired Illustrations is intriguing to me!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Lion and Mouse Friday Update

I'm working hard to keep the Lion and the Mouse piece a strictly during my lunch time experiment. But I just got through uploading it to my web page so that I can download and work on it at home if I want to. Tee Hee!! Even though I know that I have so many other PAYING things that I need to be working on at home instead. We'll see if I can stick to task and focus on what I need to this weekend!

Ok let's go through how this Monster is progressing!At this point I spend around half my lunch hour plucking away at this. Which is about a half hour. Here is a daily progression from the last image I posted which was from Tuesday. This image is from Wednesday. I'm starting to get close to finalizing what I "think" I want for the background. And finally feel like I am getting the hand of the brush I am using in photoshop to get the watercolor-ish look. But so far so good. The mouse has yet to make an appearance though. Poor mousey. 

The Thursday image I am starting to lay in some tones on the lion. Trying to flesh him out and battling with whether or not I'll just break down and render him in my current style or do  my best to keep it as close to the original execution style as possible. I settle on a blend of the two. Try my best to keep as much of the watercolor looks as possible. But when it gets down to it I need to see current me in what I do! So a blend will be necessary.

The Friday image. I realize that I need to flesh out the Lion a bit more and get a more solid foundation on how he looks and how I want light to affect him and whatnot. I was getting to be too much of a slave to the original piece. Constantly looking back and forth at it. I've currently removed it from my piece and I'm just gonna draw and paint the rest of this the way I would currently do it!  So I redrew the Lion and I feel a lot better about this now! Still no mousey though. Maybe Monday!!! 

Have a great weekend folks!!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the Drawing Board-WIP

So, what's on my drawing table, other than some freelance work? (Which I should have wrapped up by the end of this weekend.) The W.I.P's (Work in Progress) are as follows, the image above is a second image from the Singing Chef John story. Since I need to show some character continuity, I thought this image made sense to move towards completing. The other Chef John image is here on my website. I've laid in some very base colors, but I still need to go back in and correct all the perspectives and whatnot and make the character a bit shorter. He is too tall to match the other image, in my opinion. And his ears should be a lot bigger!

Below is another sketch. Something with animals and children. The scene is from a story about a little girl named Bernice(on the left) and her magic red boots. When she dances magical things tend to happen. This sketch isn't done. I'm going to finish it in Photoshop and finalize the girl on the right, have her(Bernice) throwing her hat in the air and add another mouse on the left that will be dancing with her. Anything else you folks see needs fixin' let me know!!!

To my left is where I currently am with the redo of the Lion and the Mouse image. The original is in this post. It's taking a lot to try and maintain the watercolor feel of things and figure out how to get the look. But surprisingly, going back to an old piece and reworking it is quite eye opening. There's so many decisions I made in this as far as design and composition that I wouldn't do today. SO many things that I uncover and wonder, "What was I thinking?" So many things make no sense whatsoever. It's comforting to know that I have learned and grown in the past ten plus years. LOL! 

This is my work piece. The image I work on while I'm on my lunch at my daytime job. And it is proving fun. I'm very curious to see how it evolves. I plan on maintaining the watercolor look in the background but going more with my current style in the foreground characters. But we'll see!! I also can't wait to redo the little mousey! Should be fun!!! Let me know what you guys think!!


Wisdom Wednesday

"We are our own worst enemy" rings very, very true to me. I look at so many portfolios online and so many books in the library and stores and wonder, why not me? Well the answer is pretty simple. I have never believed enough in myself to let it happen. The difference between me and the folks with published books on those shelves that I browse is that they believed enough in themselves to be persistent and keep pursuing opportunities until somebody gave them a chance and they followed through.

All this is being brought on by me going through some old boxes of mine. (You see I'm a slight pack rat. I would swear I inherited it from my Mother but I'm sure the scientific validity of that could be called into question fairly easily.) I was looking through these boxes because in the back of my mind I remembered that I had held onto all the rejection letters I'd received from publishers I'd sent samples to after graduating from college.

You see, I'd graduated rather gung-ho and enthusiastic. Enthused at the prospect of doing for a living what had always been my passion. Drawing and Painting. I remember going to Kinko's and creating all these sample packets with a resume, cover letter, a few postcard size samples, and a SASE. I don't remember mailing them off. I do remember the responses trickling back in to my mailbox over the next few months. And I remember feeling very depressed and sad at the responses when I opened them. But I made myself keep those letters with the thought that when the day came that I started getting positive responses, I'd look back at those rejections and have a little laugh about what it was like getting started. A token of wisdom to share with family or children in the future.

I was looking for the letters to get some perspective. To see what kind of things I had done wrong so that I wouldn't make the same mistakes. As the new sets of letters began to come in I wanted to post those on this blog as part of my current journey. A way of cataloging the things I've done correctly and the good responses I get as well as the things I do wrong and need to adjust or do better the next time.

So imagine my surprise when I found this packet of letters and found that the scathing rejections I remembered weren't there. I know I didn't throw them away. So what happened to them? I remember the letters coming to me and being depressed. But they weren't there. No mean spirited art director rejections in the whole stack. I found to my pleasure that while some didn't currently have work for me, others liked my samples....Yes LIKED my samples and simply wanted me to send them more.

How in the world had this come across to me as rejection? Why had I never simply done what the Art Directors wanted me to and sent them more artwork? Was the prospect of being successful really that intimidating? Maybe I expected the letters to come back all negative and confirm my fears that I simply wasn't good enough. And when positive letters came I convinced myself of something else rather than deal with the fear of acceptance I was feeling rather than the fear of rejection I was expecting. I'd prepared myself for one and not the other.

Now here it is ten plus years later and I am just now ready to jump back into this possibility in my life. It took this long to get over that fear. Only to look back at it and see that I only had success to be fearful of.

It reminds me of a show I used to watch when I was younger, Tales from the Crypt or Darkside or something like that. During the ending credits a voice would come on and say something. I can't remember what it said exactly, but it managed to spook the bejeezums out of me. After that I remember every time the show was over, I had to get up and run to cut the show off before the spooky voice came on. As an adult I saw the show on TV in reruns and rewatched it. It got to the end and that urge in me to turn the channel before the voice came on was still there. But I no longer remembered what about the voice or end of the show was so scary to me. So I let it play. And you know what, I still have no idea what was so spooky to me about the end of that show. I'd managed to hold onto the fear all this time and had actually stopped being scared of whatever it was a long time ago. Lesson learned.

This time I'll prepare myself on both ends. I'll have support systems and crit groups and forums and art websites to help push me forward. I will promote myself in every way that I can. I'll have honesty about my capabilities and the things I need to work on and improve as well as confidence in the things that I FINALLY feel I am good enough at. I'll stay a student of this industry and learn all I can about it and how it works and do my best to pass on those lessons to others.
I am also going to put up a few of those letters I'd kept. And use them as a positive springboard for myself. Let the process I started ten plus years ago still be the start of my process today. And I will post the letters I get as things move forward. Be they positive or negative. And I will learn and grow from them as I make myself good enough to gain access to this industry I have wanted to be a part of for so long. Wish me luck and endurance folks!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wisdom Wednesday

When I sit down to my computer to work on an assignment or just for fun. I need, no, crave to have some kind of background noise to help set the mood. Something to give me some equalization to the ceaseless chatter that runs through my head while I work. In some instances I want my mind to be thinking and working out the problems within a piece as I work. And other times I want the experience to be instinctual and natural. To get to the end of a painting and not know how I got there. In both of these instances I have my own ways of helping the time pass and keeping other aspects of my psyche stimulated while I work. I'm sure that most everybody is the same way! The same way I have to have a TV or Fan going to fall asleep. I also need some kind of audible noise while I paint or draw.

My weapons of choice are music, movies, audio books and podcasts. For this Wisdom Wedneday I'll highlight a podcast that is stimulating as well as informative to my chosen industry, freelancing. Now, I listen to multiple podcasts that focus on the freelance creative industry. But for today I'll only go into one.

I've been listening to this podcast for months now. It's great! An extremely informative and diverse group of freelance individuals. Not all are illustrators per se. Some are web designers, graphic artists and copy writers. Yet and still the experience of working with clients and dealing with issues that arise are common across the board. Within this podcast you'll find tips on how to deal with clients, contracts, making initial contacts and then maintaining those realtionships. These podcasters share there experiences and there multiple ways of dealing with the similar problems that come up within their different industries. I would suggest starting at the beginning and working your way to the most current. 

This podcast is just a small part of a much larger website that has many reference sources and outlets for freelancers. You'll find articles, blogs, forums, resources, hourly rate calculators and job postings all within the site . So stop on by and have agood time browsing and investigating the site and seeing what it has to offer. You could find your next gig or make some great contacts within the industry of your choice. Enjoy the wisdom!


Just a Touch Up

I have an account on DeviantArt. One of the major benefits of that site is that I get to see which of my pictures gets viewed and faved the most often. There is a particular piece from my years in college that is far and away the favorite piece of my collection and it is below.

The Lion waited impatiently for the Mouse to explain his proposition.

For my senior thesis in college I did a giftcard set of African Folklore. That included Aesop's fables and that included, "The Lion and the Mouse". This was one of my first watercolors and I haven't been able to get it out of my portfolio SINCE!! LOL! It haunts me to no end! But I have to be honest with myself about why it is so popular.

But my problem right now is that I want my portfolio to be completely digital. No mediums other than a pencil sketch that is then colored in Photoshop. Watercolors are just too unpredicatable and difficult to edit for me to see them as a viable medium for freelance work at this time. In time I want this to change, but for now this is how I feel. I don't mind emulating watercolors in Photoshop, which I haven't figured out how to do quite yet. But I definitely want to make my entire portfolio digitally based. While I love this piece, I know that adding it ensures that I will get many requests to do work in this medium and style. So it can't be part of my portfolio in its current state.

So how do I correct this issue? I was wondering recently how this piece would look if I redit it in Photoshop? Created a digital version of it. And maybe not just this piece but some others of note from my previous portfolio. Does this sound like a good idea? Do you think something like this could enhance my portfolio and get "The Lion and The Mouse" monkey off my back? I definitely think I could add a lot more character to these and my rendering skills have improved a good deal since then (I like to think so anyway).

So what do you guys think? Below are more potential contendors for a digital do over. All of them are watercolor/gouache pieces. Any input is great!



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wisdom Wednesday

From this point forward I will try to throw up some of the great advice and wisdom that I have come across in my quest to break into Children's' Publishing.

On the day after the arrival of the book 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market . My mind is racing with all the possibilities available to me within Children's Publishing. Thank goodness my Portfolio and website are finally ready to go! Or are they?

This question led me to do some digging and double and triple check the things that editors look for in a Children's Book Portfolio. My search led me to Elizabeth Dulemba's website and a great article she wrote in regards to preparing your portfolio for this industry. (Follow link to article.) Read the article all the way through and find some great links to other resources at the bottom of the article.

All of these resources seemed to point out to me that my portfolio isn't quite there yet. At least not for Children's Books specifically. The biggest thing I feel I'm missing are pieces that show I can handle continuity of characters. The markets I do seem prepared for currently are Magazines and Educational materials. Which works out just fine. This will cut down the amount of research I need to do and let me focus on specific fields separately. Most new Children's Artists cut their teeth with Magazines and Periodicals.

Looks like it will be my turn to do so next!! Now to figure out how and what I will use to promote myself! And come up with a list of potential people to mail those promotional items to! Whew! Looks like it will be a long but rewarding weekend of research! But I can't wait to get the eventual rewards! No matter how long that may take!

"Little Susie had to modify her cheering tactics if she was to motivate her brother's team to victory!!"