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!?!