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Hello! I'm Victoria Jamieson, a children's book author and illustrator. My first book as author-illustrator will be published by Bloomsbury in Summer 2009. Additionally, my illustrations appear in "The Gollywhopper Games" (Greenwillow Books, February 2008), and "Grandpa, What's that Sound in the Middle of the Night?" (Trellis Publishing, Fall 2008). By day, I work as a graphic designer at a major children's book publisher.
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Here I am, participating in my first blog tour! Tour bus not included. I was invited by my pal Abigail Marble, a fellow Portland illustrator. Isn't this illustration of hers charming?
So much warmth and tenderness between the characters. You can see more of her work (and read her responses to the blog tour questions) here
Alright, let's get down to business. Here are my responses to the bloggy questions:
1. What am I currently working on?
Answer: I am currently "working" here!
Just for the week, though! I'm on the faculty this week of the wonderful OCCBWW conference
(Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop). Yes, I'm being forced to spend a week in Oceanside, Oregon with a bunch of amazing people talking about children's books, while I am fed delicious gourmet meals three times a day. It is a rough life.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am currently working on quite a few projects at once! Several middle grade jackets and interior illustration projects are just waiting for me, and I for them. I love what I do. I can't share any of those images yet, but I CAN share some from my other current project...
This is a (rough! unfinished!) page from my upcoming graphic novel with Henry Holt, coming in 2016. It's the first of a young reader series about a bunch of classroom pets creating meyhem in a school by night.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
We often discuss style in the classes I teach at Pacific Northwest College of Art
, and in a recent class I came up with what I think is a very poetic description of "style". Many people worry that they don't have a "style", to which I say, relax. Most people also think that their house doesn't smell funny, but that's probably because they're used to it. Visitors to your home can probably smell your distinctive house odor, even if you can't. (*note to self: clean Sharon's litter box upon return home). Point is, you probably DO have a style, just as you have distinctive handwriting or a particular way of walking- keep drawing and it will become more and more obvious.
I think your style will evolve naturally depending on your interests. I tend to gravitate towards humorous stories, so I guess that's how my art has evolved, too...
3. Why do I write what I write?
I always write about things I care passionately about. The Olympics, for example, or Broadway musicals. Probably the closest correlation to real life is my forthcoming graphic novel, ROLLER GIRL.
It's a subject I care about deeply and I wanted to channel my love for roller derby into my other love, writing & illustrating. It was so fun drawing on my past experiences with the sport and translating them into a work of fiction. I'm so excited for the book's release (March 2015!!!)
Me in my glory days.
4. How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?
My graphic novels and my picture books both start off the same way: sketches. Lots and lots of sketches.
I like to work on loose sheets of printer paper because sketchbooks make me nervous. With loose paper I'm free to screw up without worrying about crummy drawings being stuck permanently in a book.
This is how I get to know my characters and start to think about their story. Basically I'm just doodling and thinking up funny situations for my characters to get into. After a while, plot points start to emerge and I begin to weave together various scenes into a cohesive story. I go back and forth between typing a Word document manuscript and scribbling tiny little indecipherable thumbnail sketches.
Once I have a general sense of the story arc, I do a set of more detailed sketches:
Still on loose paper. At this stage I then scan my sketches and add text to send to my editor for her input. Once I've received her feedback and I've sent in revised sketches, it's on to final art! This page, for example, needed a few added panels.
I've graduated from junky paper now, to nice smmmmoooooth Bristol board. I use a brush pen along with some smaller pens for detail work.
The next step is adding color to the ink drawings. In Photoshop I add placeholder colors (also called "flatting"). The colors are close to the final, but not exactly. The final step is adding lighting, shadow, mysterious creepy effects-- and of course, word balloons. I'm not there yet with this book, so you'll just have to take my word for it!5. Who are the two author/illustrators that you are passing the interview to?
is a dear friend of mine from art school. She's the author/illustrator of MOMO & SNAP ARE NOT FRIENDS
, terrific illustrator, and all-around great gal. She's been an early set of eyes on many of my projects and I'm very thankful.Deborah Hocking
is a Portland illustrator. I just love her work! We share the same agency- go Team Rodeen
! We've been meeting with small group of illustrators recently and that support has been very helpful with my recent projects.
Here's a little somethin' somethin' I did for a buddy recently. It's Portland- chickens are required.
I love the beginning of a new project. My desk is clean (for me) and the future is bright and rosy. Here is the first page of chapter one of my next graphic novel, THE GREAT PET ESCAPE! And a few concept pieces of the main character, G.W.
Just a little sketch! I grew up in Florida (well, from age 12-18), and it's funny- I didn't appreciate the weirdness of that state until many years later. I wish I had discovered the joy of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks or the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Springs while I was still a resident...
I've been cleaning up my studio this week in the burst of "grown-up-edness" that always follows me doing my taxes. Usually, I have about a week's window in which I attempt to tidy up, get grades in, and otherwise get my life in order before my previous slovenly ways take hold again. So, I found these early- and I mean, some of the EARLIEST- sketches I did for ROLLER GIRL! Behold!
Most of my early sketches look like this- a combination of drawings and random words and phrases.
Here's an early watercolor sketch:
And some of the drawings haven't changed much from sketch to finished book!
Several months ago, I had the pleasure of creating a jacket illustration for the middle-grade novel AVA AND PIP, by Carol Weston. It's an endearing story of two very different sisters- it's sweet, funny, and touching all at once. It gets a gold medal from me!* (*I have Olympics fever.)
I thought maybe you'd like to see the jacket sketches. Well, here they are!
Typically I try to send in 3-5 jacket ideas, and the publisher then chooses the one they like. Any guesses as to which one they chose?
... They chose this one!
Here's a closer look at the whole jacket. We flipped it around so it could be a wraparound image.
Many thanks to everyone at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
- I had such a fun time illustrating this cover (and reading the book). And thanks of course to Carol Weston for writing such an inspiring book! I could not wait to draw these two girls. You can visit Carol's website here
, and buy the book here
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the sequel! I just handed in the cover art last week, and let's just say... there is a cat involved.
... and I'm just going to pick up where I left off, and pretend I HAVEN'T been absent for four months!
Here's a piece from a few months ago that I found while cleaning off my desktop:
I have the time to clean off my desktop because... my derby graphic novel is now DONE! (Well, except for revisions and the like.) Files are off to my publisher!! I can't wait for this book to come out, and in the coming months I will share more about my process, now that I actually have the time to do so! Yay!!
Only a few months left to get EVERYthing done for my graphic novel! Almost all of the pages are inked, and almost all have preliminary color. I'm inking some of the few spreads (or, "splash pages", as my husband tells me they're called in comic books!) today. Here's the title page, mid-inking:
And here are the stacks of inked pages, piled on top of my good-for-nothing, piece of junk printer. I have so many arguments with this lazy pile of parts. Sign that I spend too much time working alone? Maybe!
Anyway, should be close to 240 pages by now!
Here's a direct link to Maria's funny and informative blog
... as well as the link to her fundraising page
. Cause you know- cancer ain't cheap.
Wish me luck! If you want to find out more about Derby Daze, check out the Rose City Rollers website!
Looking over my past few posts, I realized I haven't talked too much about my graphic novel... which is strange, because I'm working on it ALL. THE. TIME. I am SUPER excited about this project- it really is a dream come true. It's a middle-grade graphic novel about roller derby. Right now I'm at the inking stage, which means (in my working habits), I'm going from my rough page layouts:
to finished black and white art.
Color, text, and word balloons will come in at a later stage.
I promise to do a more complete breakdown of my process at some point. But right now I'm in "the zone", and days when I can't sit and draw all day, I feel like this:
In the meantime, if you're interested in process, check out this fantastic free ebook
on the making of the graphic novel Templar
by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland. I've been a big big fan of LeUyen's
picture books for a while, and I can't wait to see her work in graphic novel format!
Two weeks ago, I had my first book signing for my newest picture book, PEST IN SHOW!
It was held at Green Bean Books
, one of my very favorite bookstores in Portland. I mean, look at this little fairy hidey-hole in the backyard!
Can I admit something to you, internet? I was actually TERRIFIED of this book event. I love reading. I love being the center of attention (ha ha). So why was I terrified??
Because at this event, I had to...
That's right, PEST IN SHOW is a MUSICAL, so I had to belt a few tunes in front of an audience. Yikes.
To help take the edge off (and to take some of the spotlight off of my singing), I decided to bring along some musical instruments and some dress-up clothes for the kids to play around with during the reading.
(This is me pre-show. The sunglasses are hiding the terror in my eyes.)
But you know what? Once people started arriving and the reading actually started... it was totally fun! And the singing that I had worried about for an entire week- I was kind of sad when it was over. Maybe I am a diva in disguise.
Toe-tapping fun on the patio.
So, thank you, Green Bean Books, for hosting me once again! And thanks to all who made it out that day!
I really struggled with putting something so personal up on the internet. But I've been listening to a lot of TED talks recently about the need for connectivity and the power of vulnerability, so I figured, why not. I was also really blown away by Hyperbole and a Half's latest post
, and really admire her honesty. After all, why create art if not to bare your soul from time to time?
People often ask me if I "am" any of my characters. The answer is no- but I do find little bits of myself in each of the characters I've written about. My current heroine is somewhat like me... but feistier and with a quicker temper. However, there is one subject on which we agree entirely, namely: Clothes Shopping and Why I Hate It.
I'm leading a few panels next week at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference here in Portland (you can find more information here- still time to sign up!). I realized that I have holes in my favorite jeggings* (*not a good sign to begin with), so I hit some stores to find some pants, and this is exactly how I felt:
One of my favorite "Rich & Famous Author"* daydreams (*also not a good sign) involves a personal shopper with a knack for finding me comfortable, sporty-yet-chic clothes that always fit me perfectly.
I teach illustration courses at Pacific Northwest College of Art
, and recently the Continuing Ed department asked me to create an image for their catalog cover. I tried to warn them that my illustrations (and sense of humor) are both a little weird and juvenile...
... but they didn't listen. So this is the new cover for the upcoming catalog! I'm SO glad the kind folks in the CE department went along with it, because it makes me so happy. Why? I DON'T KNOW. I do know I'll be buying a fancy gold frame and we'll hang this portrait in our house.
And of course, check out the great Continuing Ed classes offered at PNCA! The next course I'll be teaching (the current semester is already underway) is an intensive class this summer. One week. Four visiting illustrators. ONE PICTURE BOOK DUMMY BY THE END OF THE WEEK! It is always a fun and inspiring four days for me. You can learn more about the class here
... but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold! Anyone else remember that song about friends? Anyone? Anyone? I always wondered which one was silver and which one was gold, and what that meant for ranking purposes.
Anyway. Here's a new book I highly recommend:
POISON, by Bridget Zinn!
The story follows Kyra, a highly skilled potions master on the run from the law for (gasp!) attempting to poison the princess. It's funny and sweet and full of adventurous romps. And romance.
I'm lucky enough to have gotten my hands on a special signed edition from a lovely event held at A Children's Place bookstore
in Bridget's memory.
And when I say I'm lucky enough to have gotten my hands on it, I mean, literally. I took the very last signed copy out of the hands of author/illustrator Johanna Wright's
husband. It's the kind of fight you don't usually see at a children's bookstore, but like I said, I WANTED THAT BOOK.
Now for the old. Do you have books from your childhood that have haunted you, even if you don't remember the title or the exact story? Well, I was milling around the library the other day, and seeing the cover of this book stopped me in my tracks.
I believe this book was required reading in elementary school, which was shocking to me as I re-read it. Basically everyone in the world over the age of 12 is killed by a virus, and kids have to rebuild society. Now, wasn't there a big hubbub about the amount of violence in Lauren Myracle's book SHINE? (a book I loved, btw). Well, I read this book in elementary school, and there were kids making Molotov cocktails, and the main character (age 10) gets shot, and another kid performs (vividly described) surgery on a kitchen table. What the what?! I brought this up with my brothers to see if they remembered the book. They didn't (repression), but my younger brother brought up the laugh riot that was HOMECOMING
and DICEY'S SONG
, by Cynthia Voigt- required reading in our household. Why the big to-do about the violence in THE HUNGER GAMES when the 70s dealt such harsh psychological blows?!
Man, I love my job.
And some more images, just because...
Another part of my creative process? Procrastinating work on my new, daunting project by working on OTHER projects! So here's a flier I made over the weekend for my roller derby team, the Break Neck Betties.
It's fun, yet somewhat awkward when I work in a more "grownup" style. Much like how I feel when I have to dress like a grownup in fancy clothes and high heels. Get me back to my jeggings & my Chuck Taylors, please- I'm more comfortable there.
If you're going to be in Portland in March... seriously, the Roller Vixen Revue is an experience NOT to be missed!
Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.
So basically, Sherman Alexie is telling me not to blog, and who am I to argue?
The truth is, I've been doing A LOT of writing recently- and not too much drawing. And me sitting around in my p.j.s creating Word documents does not make for exciting blog posts.
However, I DO have a few visual things to share! I've also been teaching a new illustration class this fall at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Teaching is a challenge, I will say that. I am challenged each week to prepare lesson plans for extremely talented students, and to keep learning myself. One of the (many) benefits of teaching is learning about artists I didn't know much about before. Check out these amazing postcards by Rudolf Kalvach
, an artist working in Vienna in the early 1900s...
OMG, I am IN LOVE with that Leda and the Swan postcard. It makes me happy in my heart every time I look at it.
Along with this new BFA course, I am still teaching a Continuing Education class in children's books
. And it's funny- the same topic has been coming up in both classes, and continues to come up in my own work. How do you keep the freshness & vitality of early sketches when you move into "final" illustrations? One thing I recommend to both classes is to copy (literally) the work of illustrators you admire. I liken it to how, when you're in art school, you spend many hours drawing and painting from masterpieces in museums. For children's books, the big difference is that you get to take these masterpieces home with you, and you can draw from them in the comfort of your p.j.s (p.j.s are a big thing with me, apparently).
This morning I took a little break from writing and decided to put my money where my mouth is. I've been a great admirer of illustrator Julia Denos
for quite a while now- her watercolors are fresh and lively. And, I just so happened to have a copy of DOTTY
out from the library. (It's a wonderful book- written by Erica S. Perl
, one of my favorite authors. Do yourself a favor & read her novel, WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU OJ
So anyway, I recently bought myself some new watercolors, and this morning I picked out two of my favorites from DOTTY, and copied them. (PS- my scanner does NOT do any favors to the original book. I implore you to check out the illustrator's website
for better examples of her work!)
It's a totally fun exercise, and it frees you from worrying about "screwing up"- because it's not really YOUR artwork- who cares if you make a mistake? I always learn something when I do this exercise- in this case, how to be more free and loose when I put down color.
It's fun- give it a try!
I'm still playing around with watercolors.
Every 6 months or so, I think to myself, "Vicki, you're poor. Why not try and make your millions on Etsy?" And this sounds like a great idea, and I start picking out the color of the Mini Cooper I will buy with my earnings. And then, eventually, I remember why all of my Etsy Get Rich Quick schemes fail: 1) I hate selling things, and 2) I hate the post office.
My first Esty outing began with my Derby Dolls. They actually sold pretty well! But because of the aforementioned reasons, I never restocked my Etsy shop & still have a big pile in my closet.
Then, this holiday season I thought of a new Get Rich Quick scheme- custom portraits! I used to be a portrait artist on a cruise ship, after all. Since it was the holidays, I made a few portraits for my friends and family members:
Yes, my friends and family DO have exceedingly cute children!
And now, the holidays are over, and there's no reason NOT to try the Etsy thing again... but the truth is, I love making things SO much more than I love selling things. Any of you other creatives struggle with this, too? How do you get around it?
You guessed it- it's to update my blog more often! I've been working working working, and so very thrilled about it. My first draft of my roller derby graphic novel is almost-kinda-sorta completed!!!
Maybe this will be news to you, but guess what? It turns out graphic novels are a TON OF WORK. Who knew? But I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work on a project so near & dear to my heart. I'll post progress reports as the year goes on, as I feel like I'm just making up a ton of stuff as I go. So please- join me in the year 2013- the year of the graphic novel! (for me).
And, just because... some bunnies on a Vespa.
It's been a long time since I've done an Illustration Friday assignment! If you're not familiar, Illustration Friday
is a website that gives a weekly assignment (this week's is "Ocean")- and illustrators then submit their solutions. Since I turned in the first draft of my graphic novel on Tuesday (WHAT??! More on that later!)- I had a little extra time on my hands this week & gave it a go:
I first learned of these books when I was working at HarperCollins, and I was instantly taken by the jacket designed by Christopher Stengel (now with Scholastic. I couldn't find a website for him, but you can read an interview with him here
.) Anyway, they are lovely books about a girl named Sapphire and her brother Conor, and their adventures under the sea with the Mer people. That's a lame summary, but they're really good books. I've read them countless times by now- when I find myself in the position of having finished all of my books from the library (the horror!), I'll reach for this one. Sapphire is a fiesty character, and if I could I'd name my first daughter after her. Unfortunately, this has already been nixed by my husband (and pretty much everyone else I know), saying that Sapphire is a stripper name. Whatever. I'll have to settle for naming my scooter Sapphire.
Sapphy and me
Another illustrated excerpt from my 1989 diary. You can see previous entries here
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Always exciting, always slightly scary. Tonight is the first class for the winter semester for my Continuing Ed class at Pacific Northwest College of Art. The class is writing and illustrating children's books, and it's one of my favorites. Since the class is about taking nebulous wisps of ideas and turning them into concrete stories- I thought I'd share some of my process!
So, I turned in my graphic novel about 2 weeks ago- and I knew during my month or so "break" I'd need to start thinking about my next project. The only problem- I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WANTED TO DO. I had a few ideas, sure... but I wasn't sure which was the right one to pursue. Cue a week of slight depression, grouchy disposition, and lots of naps. And I mean LOTS OF NAPS. I always feel guilty during this time in the process, because to the untrained eye, napping does not look like working. However! I find that my mind is most free while in that sleepy/half awake phase. Slowly, slowly, one idea began to dominate over the others, and I found myself thinking about those characters more and more as I drifted off and woke up. I started doodling more and more, and after a well-timed trip to the library for inspiration... Bingo! I was on my way.
*Something* just clicked. I don't know what that *something* is, but whatever it is, it made me happy, it made me want to draw instead of nap, and it made me giggle when I thought of something new. My "sketches" during this time tend to look something like this:
Basically, like the ramblings of a crazy person. But that's OK, it doesn't seem crazy to ME. When I needed to take a break from crazy rambling, I did some watercolor sketches of the characters- another one of my tricks to free my mind and think about the story.
So, that's where I am now! What does YOUR creative process look like?