Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fox Sketch

Here's a character sketch I did of the fox from Stone Soup that I never posted. Just getting to know the character here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stone Soup - ReadingA-Z.com

What does the fox say?...

"I will make stone soup for everyone!"

At least that's what the fox says in my latest project...Ok, Ok, enough pop culture, back to art!

I had the privilege of working on a Leveled Reader book for ReadingA-Z.com based on the old folk-tale Stone Soup. I actually hadn't ever heard of the story, so I looked it up and read it for myself. This version is, of course, a very simplified version of the original and the best part is that all the characters were animals! My favorite!!

I created 8 illustrations total, one version in color and another version in black and white line art so kids can color them in themselves. Such a fun idea, AND I found a brush I like in Adobe Illustrator that is fast, easy, and pressure sensitive! SCORE!

The book will be released in February of 2014 through ReadingA-Z.com. Sign up and get this book and SO many more for your young readers at home or for school.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kobee Manatee has Arrived

Look who swam in through the mail today! Kobee Manatee and his friends!

You can get your own copy from my website store. Hurry, before he swims off again!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

CSUF Children's Book Panel Event w/Pictures!

Last night I was on a Children's Book Panel of Alumni at CSUF. All 5 illustrators have all had some kind of experience in getting published, but each with a very different story. Some work as full-time animators, some have agents that represent them, some have also done some self-published projects. We've all had jobs at one point or another that we shouldn't have taken and we've all grown to understand that we have to take ourselves seriously as an illustrator before anyone else will.

It was a good turn out and all the students had good and important questions to ask. I only hope we gave them sufficient responses and that they came away with some valuable information on how to get started.

What a supportive group these people are. This is why I love my job.

Photographs by Cliff Cramp

From Left to Right:
      Wendy Grieb : http://www.chuckandwendy.com/
      Jennifer Wood : http://artofjwood.com/
      Jennifer Gray Olson : http://www.jennifergrayolson.com/
      Lauren Gallegos : http://www.laurengallegos.com 
      Rodolfo Montalvo : http://www.rodolfomontalvo.com/

Friday, November 1, 2013

PiBoIdMo 2013

I'm officially signed up for PiBoIdMo! This is my first time participating partly because I always miss the start date and don't remember until half way through the month.

If you have never heard of PiBoIdMo, check it out here and register for yourself here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Children's Book Panel at CSUF

This Friday I have the opportunity to sit on a children's book panel at my alma mater, Cal State Fullerton! Joining me will be other children's book illustrators who have been published in the field. We will be talking about how we got where we are and the hard work that it took. What a special, and fun opportunity!

Joining me is:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kobee Manatee Book Now Available!

     You can now order your own copy of Kobee Manatee from my website!

     Kobee Manatee is a wonderful tale about a Florida manatee who takes a rare summertime trip up to Cape Cod, but needs to get back home before winter or he'll die from the cold. On his long journey south he meets two new friends and faces many unforeseen obstacles. This beautifully illustrated children's informational picture book entertains, enlightens, and educates about the habitat and behavior of the threatened manatee. 

     Congratulations to author Robert Scott Thayer on your first published book! Learn more about the book and manatees at www.kobeemanatee.com where you will also find some color pages and activities.

     Here are some reviews on the book!

     "Children can learn a great deal about manatees and their habitat by reading about Kobee and his friends and their traveling adventure." — Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation (Save the Manatee Club www.savethemanatee.org)

      "A swimmingly fun, educational trip sure to be enjoyed by young friends of the manatee." — Kirkus Reviews

      "This luxuriously illustrated, infectiously charming story makes us want to save the manatee and have a plush version to hug."
— Foreword Clarion Reviews

      "A thoughtful and entertaining introduction to manatees for young children that effortlessly mixes fact and fiction. These gentle and mysterious creatures have found effective advocates with the launch of this talented author and illustrator team." — Blue Ink Review

      "Preschool through early elementary aged children will enjoy learning about manatees thanks to Thayer's combination of enticing storyline and fun facts, not to mention Gallegos' excellent pictures." — The Children's Book Review

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Classroom Guide for Vulture Verses

Thanks to the awesome and wonderful Diane Lang, author of Vulture Verses, there is now a Classroom Guide available on my website! Great for teachers and educators to use in a classroom setting. And if you ask me there are some really fun activities and lessons!

Take a look at the Classroom Guide for yourself, and suggest it to your child's teacher, or use it for an at-home lesson for fun!

If you don't yet have your own copy, or a copy for your child's classroom, you can also order one on my website yet.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Drawing Kids

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the critiques I got on my portfolio was to have more kids. So I've spent some time just sketching kids. Pages and pages of kids (which I will continue to do). I'm still figuring out what "style" I want to draw them in, but I think no matter what I do, it will have a touch of my own style in it, so I'm not going to stress about that too much.

I'm also working on character design, so below is a character for a story idea that I'm starting on. It's still very early on so I know he will develop a lot more as the story takes shape. Another piece of advice I am taking from the SCBWI conference is to just live with your characters for awhile. As anxious as I might be to jump right in and try to finish a story, I need to let my character live in my sketchbook for awhile and see what happens. At the very least it is a good way to practice drawing the character consistently.

Here are a few more sketches that I have been posting on my Facebook Page in case you missed them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Post-SCBWI Conference Thoughts and Actions

As usual, this year's SCBWI Summer Conference was inspirational, motivating, overwhelming, and exhausting. All in a good way! Although I went to very few of the main Keynotes, I still received inspiration from other avenues and still found myself exhausted at the end of the day.

Most of what I took away from the conference this year was confidence in myself for finally reaching out and introducing myself to Art Directors. This is something I have always been too afraid to do and I always walk away kicking myself for not doing it. Everyone else does, so why not me? Well this time I just stuck out my hand and did it...and it was fine! Nothing to be afraid of! I think I'll even do it again next time.

I also had a portfolio critique, and like last year, it was very eye-opening and helpful. Last year was my first time doing the critique and I was so scared I hardly said a word and when it was over I left so quickly that I didn't even leave my card or anything. Horrible! This time I was lucky enough to receive Art Director, Laurent Linn, as my critiquer and he was so friendly and positive that I couldn't help but feel comfortable! No nerves at all and I even got to ask some clarifying questions as he talked. I gave him a firm hand-shake and gave him my card before I left. Hurray!

As for the actual critique there were some things that I did leave a bit confused about, only in as far as what my next steps should be. There were many positive things that were mentioned, but some of the main criticisms was that many of my characters are too generic. As soon as it was said I coudl see what he meant and agreed, so that is certainly something to work on. Along with that I will be exploring my character style to make them more unique, interesting, and full of life. I was also encouraged to work on drawing more kids. Now, as many of you might notice, I don't really do many kids....ever. One reason is that I enjoy animal characters over humans. It's just a preference. Another reason is that I have always struggled with knowing how I want to draw kids. I haven't spent the time to figure out how I would draw kids in my own style. I see it as this scale from super realistic, to super cartoon-y and there is this huge in-between area and I don't know where on that scale I want to be. I have made some attempts at kids and I've seen a trend of the more I draw the child, the more detail I put in and the more realistic it becomes. I may not know what I want yet, but I do know I don't want super realistic, so I will need to make sure I stop myself from doing that.

A new thing this year is that I went to a writing break-out session with Deborah Halverson on writing with rhythm, but not rhyme. This is definitely something I want to work on because these types of books led to great read-aloud stories that are fun for the child and the parent to read. As I continue my writing journey and figure out the types of stories I want to write, I certainly want to keep this in mind and try to include it often.

Finally, I heard David Wiesner and Jarrett Krosoczka speak. Two wonderful and inspiring author/illustrators. Both of them talked about their process of writing and illustrating a book. Both said they start with an idea, however small it is. Maybe it's just a character, maybe it's a book title, maybe it's something that inspires you from real life. Whatever it is, put it in your sketchbook and let it live and grow in there for awhile. Draw and redraw your character, and then draw him again. develop and explore that character and see what he is like, what he likes to do, what he doesn't like to do. Anything. Sometimes characters can live in your sketchbook for years without a story to go with it, and that's ok. When the story idea starts to come, thumbnail it, even if it's not a full story idea. Work out how the pacing might be, see how much space you have to work with (within the 32-page limit). Then rewrite and rewrite the story until you have something great, even if it takes years!

So that was my big weekend that I have been working towards all summer. Now that my mind is just starting to settle again it's time to get working! I have a lot to work on and some new seeds that I want to plant in my sketchbook and see how they grow, however slow it might be. It's never too late to start thinking about next years conference and what I want to accomplish by that time. Lots of things! Big things!! So let's not waste any more time.

To get started I already spent some time sketching some kids in my sketch book. Nothing special, really, but it's a start. I would like to do this every day...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pre-SCBWI Conference Prep and Thoughts

The SCBWI Summer Conference is tomorrow!! This will be my 3rd time going. The first 2 years were more like an introduction and a figuring out time for me. Just to see what it is like and what happens. Now that I have it all figured out (yeah right!) I am ready to jump in and make this year worth every penny.

I have found that it is very difficult for me to assert myself and just talk to people I don't know, especially the people I most WANT to talk to, like editors, art directors, agents, etc. but by not doing that, I know I'm missing out on opportunities. So this year I am going with confidence and a positive attitude. I saw this video (below) on a blog a few weeks ago and it really stuck with me. You should really watch it, but it basically explains how open body language can effect your mental attitude. The speaker suggests before going into an important meeting, spend 2 mins doing a "power pose" in the bathroom, or wherever. This will give you the confidence you need to get through that meeting successfully instead of coming across as timid and shy. That is exactly what I am going to do before my portfolio critique, and then I am going in and giving my critiquer a firm, strong hand-shake! Who's with me!?

Speaking of portfolios, did I mention that my printer broke? Yep! 2 weeks before the conference, it broke and it has been in the shop ever since. I probably wont get it back until sometime after the conference if it's even worth fixing. I might end up buying a new one. That printer has been so good to me for so long (7 years!) It got me through college and helped me start my illustrating career. But I suppose good things can't last forever...and I can only hope the next printer will be as kind to me as the first.

So, being printer-less, my friend Katy Betz was so gracious to let me use her printer for whatever I needed. So I spend a whole day printing my portfolio and picture book dummy and I'm so pleased! The colors are bright and vibrant and they came out just like they looked on the computer screen! I didn't get so lucky with my postcards and bookmarks this year. I'm pretty sure this will be the last time I use Overnight Prints because they always come out too dark and end up in a very disappointing print quality. The paper they use is nice and thick and sturdy, and feel very professional, but the quality just doesn't seem to match. Of course I have noticed that I say this every time I order from Overnight Prints and somehow I keep using them. O well, someday I will learn.

This year I will be reusing my portfolio from last year, but with mostly new work. I also switched out the pages for Kolo cloth-hinged pages. I absolutely recommend them!! Ever since I started making portfolios I have struggled with having pages that just wouldn't lay flat. It drove me crazy! Finally, I saw a blog with these Kolo pages and I will never use anything else! They don't actually come in 8.5x11 in portrait format, so I ordered the 11x14 and cut them to size. Worked great! Maybe next year I'll go for the Kolo portfolio as well. They are very nice looking!

Finally, there is my picture book dummy, which I am very pleased with the final product! Some pages are just a line drawing, some have values, and 2 are finished paintings so publishers can see different stages of completeness.

So I have everything I need to spotlight my artwork, the confidence to show it to people, an open mind for critiques, motivation and inspiration, and hope in my heart. What else would I need?

Here I come SCBWI! Who's with me!?!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mining Spots

So the big SCBWI Summer Conference is just days away and I'm making a mad dash to get a couple more portfolio pieces done before I go off to present my last year of work. I actually have lots of new art, but not all worth putting in my portfolio, and not all quite fitting into the children's book style. So in the last week I decided to round out my portfolio with a couple more pieces that did fit the children's book style more closely to the kind of work I want to do.

Instead of spending time thinking of new characters and a new narrative, I decided to go with some characters and a story that I've used before, but never really developed. The mining illustration below originally came to mind out of sudden inspiration back in 2009. Who knows what that inspiration was, all I know is I had a very clear image in my head of what it would be and I created the drawing and painting within 2 weeks. But that was the end of it. I never explored the characters and I never expanded on the story. Ever since then this painting it has been one of my favorites and has brought me some attention, so why leave it at just a stand-alone painting? Why not put a story to it? Well, ok! Now's the time to explore and expand on these ground-dwelling critters and see what kind of adventures they have.

I am starting with just a few spots. I only had time for 2 before the conference but I will continue working on this story after the conference and hopefully will have a strong story soon!

I am aware that since it has been 4 years since I made this painting that I have changed in my painting abilities (the original painting was the second acrylic painting I had ever attempted to make, so I was still figuring out how the medium worked.) and have changed the characters a bit as I've started to develop them more, so the newer paintings don't match the original painting exactly. So I'm probably going to have to retire the original painting soon. But I believe it will remain one of my favorites for a long time to come.

So now it's time to get that portfolio together with my new artworks!

Friday, July 5, 2013

ZULU: Fish and Frog Scene - Life of an Illustration, Part 2

Here is the final painting for the Zulu fish scene! I ended up making a few Photoshop edits to this one even though I'm trying to avoid that as much as I can. This one just needed a few little tweeks that would have been much more time consuming to paint (I know, excuses excuses...). Here are also some close up clips for detail.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ZULU: Fish and Frog Scene - Life of an Illustration, Part 1

      Here is another painting I picked to take to the final stage from my Zulu book. Below are a couple of thumbnails that I initially made just to get the main/broad idea on paper. They are usually terrible with no sense of composition and other times they are practically perfect on the first try! Obviously this illustration took the long route... Once I've let the ideas brew for awhile, I make a full size (or almost full size) rough sketch to work on composition and make sure I leave room for the text. For this illustration I wanted to have fun with incorporating the text into the image. The one below is a later rough sketch. I made a few for this illo, so I eventually added a bit of value to it to help see where the problems were and what needed to be fixed for the final sketch. Next I made the final pencil sketch and expanded each side of the image by about .75" to allow for a bleed. (This is important for illustrators to remember early on or you will have a whole world of problems later!) Finally I added digital color to the pencil sketch and worked out some value problems. There are still some things I will change as far as value and color for the final painting, but it's a good reference while I paint.

      Tune in next time to see the final painting!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ZULU: War Parrots - Life of an Illustration, Part 2

     Here is the finished painting for the "War Parrots" illustration for my Zulu book. I don't have any process pictures of this painting, but in my defense, I did take some! But my camera just didn't catch it very well and they aren't really worth showing.

     So instead here are a few comparison images. First is the final painting. I usually go in and correct value problems, painting blemishes, color problems and anything else that I didn't do well in the actual painting. I'm starting to try and avoid all that because it's kind of a crutch. Plus it doesn't always look the best. I shouldn't depend on Photoshop to fix my mistakes! So I spent a little extra time on this painting to make sure it was the best I could make it. I admit this image is Photoshopped a bit. But only to brighten the image a little from the scan and boost the colors slightly to make it pop!

Here is the grayscale version of the painting to check values.

Here's the digital color sketch to compare to the final painting.

And a close up shot of the focal point to see some details.

That's it! I'm already onto the next painting. I will be posting that one soon as well so come back to visit often!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

ZULU: War Parrots - Life of an Illustration, Part 1

     Finally, I have taken the time to document my process, or at least most of it, and now I want to share it with you. I am currently painting 3 illustrations for my Zulu book to complete my dummy, so I will take 2 of those 3 to show you how I get to the final product.

     This illustration started out pretty tame but I knew I wanted to show all of Zulu's flock coming to her rescue. An illustrator friend reminded me that this part of the story is the climax of the story and should really grab the viewer. So in my mind Zulu's flock wasn't just coming to her rescue, they were "War Parrots" on a mission to recover a P.O.W.!! So I took this image as my inspiration for the illustration and pushed the drama as much as I could -- without making the birds look too evil and menacing.

     So below are 3 of the sketches, rough to final value sketch. The main idea remained constant throughout so only small things were changed as I cleaned it up.

     Then I digitally added color to my sketch.

     After color and values are worked out and I'm happy with the image I print it in full color. This makes the final acrylic painting process go much faster. I don't have to spend time transferring the line work and I already have a color base so I don't have to do underpainting! The image is pretty much all there, I just have to go over it to clean it up and add details.

     I print straight onto Bristol Vellum paper (300 series so it's nice and thick!) I get the large pad of paper (19x24) so I can print full spreads on one sheet. I cut the Bristol a little larger than the image (this illustration is 20x8). **NOTE: before you print, make sure you extend every side of the image somewhere between .5"-1"to allow for a bleed. If not you will be sorry later!!** Then I print full size, or a bit larger than full size. I use an Epson R1800 printer, which is a beast of a machine, old, and eats up a lot of ink, but it allows me to print up to 13" wide and it makes beautiful prints, so I love it. Unfortunately it's difficult to get the printed image to look as nice and bright and colorful as the digital image (because I'm not using the best paper for it) but that's why I paint right over it! Actually, the final painting usually ends up even more bright and colorful than the digital color sketch.

    Once the image is ready I cut a piece of illustration board (Coldpress, so it has some texture to it) to the size of the printed image. I mount the Bristol paper on the illustration board so the painting is firm and stiff since the paper tends wrinkle, rip, or somehow get messed up when I prep it and paint it.

     I use Liquitex Matte Medium to mount the Bristol onto the illustration board. It pretty much works like glue, so I squirt some onto the illustration board, spread it around with a brush and apply the Bristol paper onto and make sure it is nice and flat and secure. To make sure the paper sticks really well (you can get bubbles if you have flimsy paper or edges that don't stay down if it doesn't dry flat) I usually put a stack of heavy books or boxes on top of the image and let it sit for about 15 mins or longer to let it dry.

     Once the Bristol paper is dry and secure to the illustration board I use Matte Medium again to make a few layers on top of the image. Don't worry, it DOES dry clear, so it wont mess with your colors....maybe slightly but not to a point that it ruins anything. By doing this I am not painting directly onto the paper or the ink, but on a thin layer of Matte Medium. I like how the acrylic paint takes to this layer better than the paper, and if you use a mini sponge roller (I get them from Michael's, love them!!!) you get an even texture to the image instead of using a paintbrush, which usually makes streaks. I usually do a layer of Matte medium, let it dry for 20-30 mins. and do a second layer to make sure it's covered all the way. Let it dry completely. Then I stick the dry, mounted image under a huge stack of books and let it sit over night to make absolutely sure it's all stuck together and flat for when I paint.

     Those are the basic steps to my process. If you have any questions about any of the steps or materials that I use, please let me know, I would love to share, and I am always interested in learning ways to improve my process so suggestions are welcome!

    I'm going to do my best to document my painting progress as I go along and I will post it with the final painting as soon as it is done! In the mean time, keep creating!!