Last Saturday I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Spring Spirit regional conference. Although most attendees were writers, there was a nice group of illustrators there. Being surrounded by other illustrators with the same goals and receiving constructive criticism of my work made me feel like I was in art school all over again. I didn’t realize how much I miss that environment. The amazing John Hendrix gave a talk about his experience in the children’s book publishing world. It was a great opportunity to learn that illustrating for children’s books isn’t always easy, even when you’re John Hendrix. After the session was over I mustered up the courage to ask him to critique my portfolio. (He was extremely nice and approachable, so I had no reason to be nervous.) After receiving his really valuable and pertinent feedback, I knew just what I needed to do to get my portfolio ready for publishers, and felt empowered to start marketing myself.
There was another session that was amazingly helpful—”Getting into Character” by Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon and Schuster. We were asked to bring some character design sketches to the session for him to review. I decided to kill two birds with stone and develop a character of myself as a child. I have another assignment where I need to illustrate myself as a child, so this was perfect.
Here are my sketches:
In this second sketch Laurent suggested I use some exaggeration—making the beach chair larger to make her look even smaller, making the shave ice larger and her struggling to hold it steady.
This sketch of the jellyfish actually comes from a very traumatic memory when I was a kid. Except instead of poking the Portuguese man o’war with a stick, I used my bare hands. I thought it was a blue balloon. Boy, did I pay!
Here’s another one based on a real experience of burying my dad in the sand. I edited out the sand boobs that my sister and I gave him.
This last one was Laurent’s favorite. One suggestion he had was to give her hair personality too, like the way a dog’s ears and tail show its mood.
This session was really helpful because the whole group listened to Laurent’s critique of each attendee’s work. His feedback was really universal, and I saw how every criticism he gave could be applied to my work. I realized that I often get too wrapped up in making sure my drawing is “correct,” and I miss some really important elements like emotion and personality.
I am so glad I attended the conference and can’t wait for the next!
Here’s the third illustration in my zoo series. I used the same method as my synchronized crocodiles illustration, and it was still a bit of a struggle. After I finished it I read online about another illustrator having the same problem with ink washes—inconsistencies and blotchiness. He found that black watercolor worked better, so I think I’ll try that for my next black and white illustration.
In other news, I recently joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and will be attending their regional spring conference in a couple of weeks. It’s a day conference and is conveniently located in Citrus Heights, only about a half-hour drive from Sacramento. I can’t wait!
I realize I haven’t been very good about posting my process work lately. Here it is, starting with my thumbnail sketch:
Then I did a quick value study in Photoshop:
Then I did a detailed sketch, scanned it into Photoshop and added the values again.
Then I transferred my detailed sketch (minus the grays) onto paper and did the line work and then the ink wash to get the final illustration. I realized that this detailed sketch looks a lot like the final. It’s something I think I should explore—adding grays in Photoshop instead of by hand. It would save me a ton of time if I’m on a tight deadline.
This past December I was fortunate enough to befriend John Conley, an extremely talented, Sacramento-based graphic designer and illustrator. It’s kind of a funny story the way we met…one day I saw this awesome cover design he did for Sactown Magazine, did a little cyber-stalking, and tracked him down. Luckily my persistence didn’t scare him off. After hanging out a few times and sharing ideas, we realized that our styles of work really complemented each other. So we decided to collaborate on a project: a gig poster for an upcoming Matt Costa concert. We brainstormed the ideas together, did some thumbnails, and then I went to work on the illustration. Once it was finished I passed it off to him to design the type treatment. It was our first collaborative piece, and we’re both excited and pleased with the result!
I love the way John filled the display type with the patchwork hills:
Here’s an illustration detail:
This is the second of my self-promotional zoo series, which I started a couple of months back. I originally intended the series to be all color illustrations, but realized I need to add some black and white pieces to my portfolio. So the rest of the series will probably be all in black and white. I decided to do this illustration in ink as opposed to acrylics or oils, which presented a challenge for me. I’m not very experienced in ink and ink washes, and I kept getting globby puddles of ink everywhere. And unlike oils or acrylics, I couldn’t really fix my mistakes. So I’ll consider this a lesson in letting happy accidents happen!
After my four and a half years at NYU Libraries, I’ve taken a liking to librarians. Especially Jessica Zaker, librarian at the McKinley branch of Sacramento Public Library. So when she asked me to help her out by creating an illustration for their alt+ library program, I was more than happy to oblige. Alt+ library is a variety of library programs designed for people in their 20s and 30s, and ranges from book club meetings to speed dating events to Zombie Survival aerobics (yup, you heard right). Friends of alt+ library supports those programs, so they needed a fun, catchy image that shows they are about more than just books. See Jessica’s blog post here.
The Red Dot Gallery reception on Saturday was a success! My fellow exhibitors, Amber Rankin and Kristina Karson, have amazing work and it was really great to be able to show with them. Thank you to everyone who came out to see our work and show your support! It made me realize in the short time I’ve been here that I’ve gained a really nice community of friends and fellow artists.
In other news, my illustration was published in the Sunday issue of the Sacramento Bee! I really enjoyed working with them on this project. The article is about the decline of cooking in America. Oil on paper.
I just dropped off my pieces for a show at Red Dot Gallery and I’m super stoked! The show will be up February 6 to March 2 and the reception is on Second Saturday, February 9 from 6-9pm (on J street between 22nd and 23rd). If you’re in the area, please come by!
Just got my Valentine’s Day cards in, and I’m so excited! This is sort of an experiment to see if selling my own greeting cards is something I want to do. I had so much fun making my holiday card that I thought I’d give Valentine’s Day cards a try. All illustrations were done in pen and ink and watercolor.
If you’d to buy a card for your sweetie, you can pick one up at Peradice and University Art (available next week) in Midtown, Sacramento. Those outside of Sacramento can order one from me via email (online shop coming soon). Each card is $3.50 plus shipping and comes with an A-2 French Paper Company Speckletone Kraft envelope.
Happy New Year! I’ve decided to start the year with a new series of illustrations for my portfolio. The series follows two children at their day at the zoo. This is the first of the series, and there will be more to come. Acrylic and oil on illustration board.
My process work began with a thumbnail of just shapes and values. I limited it to three shades to keep it simple, as I tend to get carried away otherwise.
Then I created a sketch, keeping the major shapes similar to my thumbnail sketch.
I brought my sketch into photoshop, and added color to create a color study. I kept referring back to my thumbnail sketch to make sure the light areas stayed light, and the dark areas stayed dark. The background is a little darker than I had originally planned but I left it because I didn’t think it distracted from the subjects.
After moving to California I was pretty sure I was finished with the New York, Illustrated, blog. But last month, halfway through an illustration job, my client cancelled it. I really wanted to finish it just to have it done for myself, but I knew that would be a waste of time. Instead, I put my creative energy towards my last New York, Illustrated, blog entry.
This is a musician I would regularly see at the Union Square train station. I guess he saved up all his money to spend on his crown, because his guitar was looking pretty janky. Acrylic and oil on illustration board.
This time I decided to be good and do a color study in Photoshop, just to get all of the color decisions out of the way before I began painting.
Here’s my final sketch on illustration board:
I painted the background areas in acrylic since I wanted them to be pretty flat. After that was dry I painted in the rest in oils.