I recently did new illustrations for my portfolio, using the 2019 SCBWI LA Conference Illustrator Intensive: A Modern Retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Here's How I did the illustrations...
I start with loose thumbnail sketches for ideas and concepts.
I then sketch the layout larger, to place all the elements.
I gather reference images which help develop iterations of the finish drawing. The final art size will be big enough to capture the details.
Sketching & Reference
Between each sketch iteration, I get feedback and critiques. My crit partners note the characters look too doll-like and need to be more expressive. So I do more research and sketching in my sketchbook and on my iPad. Pigs and bears! What could be more fun?
On to the Value studies.
I start by doing a black and white "Notan" with a thick marking pen.
Then I do some value studies to determine the light and dark mood of the piece.
Ok, ready to move to color!
Before I start painting, I try various watercolor mixes and blends, keeping notes to figure out how I will mix my colors and create a palette. I narrow it down to 13 colors. Is that a lot?
On my watercolor palette, I tape over the colors I will not be using, to force me to "limit" my palette.
Sometimes I sneak my brush under the tape anyway!
I then do a small Color Study for the illustration, based on my value study and color notes. This is my favorite part of the process.
I keep it loose and impressionistic. I love these little gems.
I have to be careful not to fall in love with it, or I won't want to continue on to the next step...
It's time to to paint the finish illustration.
I transfer my final drawing on watercolor paper. Then I stretch and mount the paper on to board. This is my "transition" phase and helps me psych myself out to paint.
I go piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle. Layer after layer, pushing the values darker and the colors brighter.
I use my color study and notes as a guide.
I also use colored pencils to add texture and refine areas.
When in doubt, I consult reference images to help with tricky areas...
like the bubble bath!
Next, I have to Scan or Photograph the paintings into digital form. These finishes are too big for my scanner, so I photograph them.
I tape the illustrations to the side of my house in direct sunlight. I include a "grey card", to help with the color correcting in photoshop.
With Photoshop, I can make even more adjustments, but I try to limit them so I don't loose the fresh watercolor quality. Someday I'll try a whole painting in photoshop.
Goldipig and the Three Bears.
My ART WHEEL
I found this cool wagon wheel with clips. I hung it up on the wall and walked past is for a couple days. Pretty soon it occurred to me to use it to document and organize my art goals for the year.
I am excited to report that I am an official participant of the 2019 Storystorm Movement!
For those who don't know, this is an online writing challenge. So I will be braining-storming my way into the new year with creativity and feverish writing!
The droplets will be picture book ideas, concepts and visions, that will soak the land of my poor studio, which is certainly not equipped to receive the onslaught of genius that ensues. I have already done THREE WHOLE DAYS of picture book ideas, and more is sure to come.
This is a storm that an umbrella will not endure. So I GOT A STORYSTORM JOURNAL and writing implement (pen) of such fortitude that it can shield me from the multitude of ideas that will deluge me for the whole of January.
I have found the perfect weapon/shield that I believe was forged from the same Gods that sent my little kitties, Achilles and Hercules, down from Heaven to the shelter where we found them. Lives are changed by such incidents, as will mine be by this one! Kitty cats will take shelter when they see the ideas that flood my studio in the next 28 days.
Below you will find my humble book, and, not counting any chickens or anything, but I have all my tabs set up for #!, no wait, without the shift key, that would be 31 days of mind dumping madness.
All set up and ready to go.
This kind of Cat-nado needs a tactic, a strategy, a mis en place, so it doesn't just land like a shark fest. No, this storm has a plan and this Storm Bunnie (I guess that's me) is gonna be ready for it.
My plan is this...
Wait, wait, wait. All day long. Each day. Wait for something to happen. Most likely, nothing will happen, so I'll just go about the day as if it were any old normal day.
But come 9 pm... well, that's when good pirates go to work. I shall pull out the trusty Journal, all set up with the numbered pages and table of Content. That's the Witching hour when genius will strike. All will be quiet. The workday done. The dinner hour long past. The news hour done (THANK GOD!) and I will be ready for the RAIN.
The other part of my devious plan, is that I will take the illustrations from my portfolio, (that I plan to redo, I swear it) and write stories to go with the upcoming amazing illustrations.
Until then, I will listen to the whispers from my new journal ...
WRITE YOUR STORY!
Memory Sketch Challenge - or - "No Drama on Christmas"
My husband and I went to our favorite little town, Calistoga, for a pre-Christmas overnight getaway yesterday. We had a nice dinner to celebrate his birthday and the next morning (today) it was still dark when we awoke. We were both antsy to get out of our hotel room. He, to get on the road back toward home and the cats, and celebrate his real birthday. Me, to get to the local coffee shop, while it's still dark, to see the holiday lights of the sleepy town on a quiet morning. We got to the Calistoga Roastery, purchased our coffee and scones by 6:30 am, still dark. I started into my coffee, sat down at the counter facing the street, and admired the view with my childlike mind. “Oh Goody, I have time for a 10 minute watercolor sketch to capture the moment,” I thought.
I reached in my bag and realized, no watercolor kit, no sketchbook, and no super expensive iPad either. So while I sank into the pit of self loathing, I began the hard but necessary task of telling hubby I had left my stuff in the room, along with our keys, and we needed to go back and try to find and attendant before 7:00 am on Christmas eve morning. It took about 10 minutes to break the news to him, who really did not want to hear about it on his birthday. So while I hemmed, hawed, and mentally chanted “I will not leave my iPad in the hotel room ever ever again,” I also managed to save a piece of my dim brain, to admire the beautiful scenery, and in particular, Cafe Sarafornia, across the street, that happened to also be open and seeming like a very cheerful place to be, at the moment. But I was too mad to take a picture with my phone, and had to use my mental energy to figure out how to get the iPad back and make it seem like no big deal.
I remembered the wise words of a college illustration teacher, Bill Sanchez, from the Academy of Art. “You can draw with your mind, you know. You don’t always have to have a pencil.” He had spent 4 years in Vietnam without the opportunity to draw or paint. But he said he practiced in his mind the whole time, so by the time he got back, it was as if he had been painting the whole time.
Which brings me to the topic of my blog…
Drawing from Memory.
Well, we got the iPad back, and my watercolor kit too, but birthday boy was in no mood to hang around town while I tinker with my craft. So we drove directly home to the Bay Area, and the whole way out of the Napa Valley, I imagined the well lit cafe. When we arrived at our house, nearly 2 hours later, I pulled out my sketchbook, pen and watercolors, and I forced myself to sketch the moment as I could remember it. "10 minutes or less," I challenged. Here is what I got…
No photos, no reference, this is what I did from my memory.
Well, then I googled some real images of Cafe Sarafornia, CA, to see how I did. It turns out I took some large artistic liberties, and there are some serious gaps in my memory. I have never claimed to be good at memorization, and that’s partly why I went into art, not history. Alas, but I shall riff off of this moment, and challenge myself to make a portfolio piece.
Memory Sketch Challenge:
Hold on a minute. Shouldn't one of these "agonists" need to be the "ANTagonist"?
Hm.. there may be something in that.
Give me a little time, and I will see if I can come up with something worthy of my kidlit portfolio.
It’s holiday time, and you might be in the thick of it…signing cards, stamping envelopes. Maybe you’re decorating the house for a party, or making reservations for a festive meal out to spend down your profits and claim those year end tax deductions. Maybe your baking cookies for a family gathering and trying not to burn them, or eat them all before the guest arrive!
However we find cheer, the end of the year is also a good time to reflect on the year’s activities so we can be ready, come January 1, to make goals and resolutions for the next one.
So I say, the holidays are a time to stop, take a breath, relax a bit. Order an eggnog latte get our your journal and reflect…
What did I do this year?
What was it about for me?
In a nutshell, for me it was about reaching out and making space.
On the never ending journey of writing and illustration, sometimes it feels like I am going no where, especially with all the other things one has to do, like make a living.
But here’s what I came up with and I’m proud of it…
SCBWI - Not only did I maintain my membership, but I volunteered and met lots of wonderful people. Same time last year, I felt like an outsider peering in. Now I have lots of friends and I feel part of the community.
CRIT GROUP - I am blessed to have co-founded a solid author/illustrator critique group. We meet twice a month, and are all, creating, sharing, learning, and growing together. May mates are awesome and I’m grateful.
SOCIAL MEDIA - Not an easy thing for me to put my voice out into the digital ether, but I did it. I’m starting to use instagram and twitter
and now, a blog! How’s that for an breaking free of shyness. I still have much to learn, but I’m starting to catch on with all the pound signs and where to put them.
GETTING OUT THERE - I forced my self, to attend workshops, conferences and retreats….as much as I could fit, afford and manage. For an introvert, its not always easy to be around lots of people all striving for success in a tough business. But I keep showing up, and I call that success.
EDUCATING MYSELF - I am happy to say I participated in some wonderful online resources, webinars and groups. I joined SVSLearn, and The Complete Picture Book Submission System. I have learned loads about the children’s book industry.
ON CRAFT - I love to read non-fiction, so I meandered my way through these wonderful books on writing…
How did it impact my work? Well…
PRODUCTION - A silly word, but the right one. I produced some new work with all the inspiration I got from these activities and books. New illustrations, new stories, reworking old picture books with fresh eyes. I even secretly started writing a novel! Are they perfect, and published? Well, not yet, but I’m working at it and that’s what this is all about.
Those are my brags. What are yours? Big or small, every little thing counts.
I invite you to have a cookie and order up your favorite beverage, and think upon all that’s going well in your creative journey.
Have a happy day,