Winter is on the way OUT! I say this as a huge storm is coming into Colorado right NOW!! No, I did not go to the grocery store in freak out mode stocking my cupboards. Instead, I spent a bit of time today digging in my garden resisting the urge to acknowledge the storm at all! ha!
Alas, tonight I will hunker down with my pens and paper and continue to work towards deadlines for up and coming trade shows. That is the good thing about storms! They keep me focused. I wonder how many artists are like me?
I have one problem. I can’t seem to go out to my studio to work. It’s covered with papers, receipts, file folders etc. It is my new book-keeping system in progress. Eeeeek! My friend is helping me set up my Quick Books program. She entered all my checks, deposits etc, and sent me the disk. I bought the program, installed it, imported my files… … then I went to reconcile the two bank statements that my friend did not add and suddenly I am thirty dollars off! What on earth? What could I have done?
So, I did what I do best, I locked the studio door and went in the house. ha! My right brain is not in the mood for numbers! Happy Spring everyone!
Production in the studio has been slow.
That's not to mention all of the cool stuff that's happening behind the scenes!
So let me fill you in with one biggie.
We're moving into our first house at the end of March!!
Yep, my husband and I were finally given the gift of buying our first home, and that means packing it all up. The whole month of March has been preparing and packing, and now we're at the tail end called "crunch time".
This also means working in the studio towards art has been placed aside. Artist cap off, homemaker cap on. Although, picking out paint colors has rambled our design heads a bit. ;)
I'm very excited to be moving into our new home, and the new studio (eeee!!!), and I can't wait to show you! Until I can, here is the before and after of my current studio...the after being where it's at today. Just so you can get an idea.
I still have a mini work space for painting and basic office work since we're still in the apartment for two more weeks, but everything else is getting boxed up and ready to haul.ETSY SHOP ANNOUNCEMENTMy wee shop is going on vacation Wednesday March 20th until April 15th
, that's the longest time on vacation since I opened the shop 5 years ago.
Beginning April 15th thru April 19th
everything in the shop will be 35% off
to kick off the new studio! Mark your calenders for this sale!
More details will be on Facebook
along with sneak peeks of the new studio as I get it all put together.
Want the first peek? The studio is through those doors...
The Studio of Gail Maki Wilson
Since I've been spending so much time in my studio and it's been so long since I did a post just about me, I thought today I'd link you up with some previous posts all about my studio! I hope to someday get all the photographs from when we built the studio organized and show the construction, as well as the construction drawings I drew, to build this little piece of paradise.
The Heat is On
- At least I can keep those studio doors open for a couple more months.
Just because they are about to blossom now.
March is the busiest time of year for authors and illustrators who do school events. It's all because of World Book Day on March 7th. I've already visited children in Pinner, Telford, Leamington Spa, Sheffield, Manchester and Barnsley. Next week I am part of a 5 Schools Project here in Sheffield where I'll be performing in a theatre!
Because I am hardly in the studio at all at the moment, I don't have time to tell you about the specifics of what I've been up to, but anyone who reads this blog at all regularly, will know the kind of thing I get up to.
They will also know that all this travelling around has of course generated more train sketches.
I love showing them to you - it's so much better than just closing them up in my sketchbook and storing them, unseen, on a shelf in the studio. Since I've been on the move, John has been back at base-camp, scanning them in for me.
Mostly I am still using my watercolour pencils and waterbrush, though the black and white drawing is done with a 6B graphite stick, which I would recommend for it's lovely range of marks.
Having John working with me is invaluable at this time of year. If I'm not in the studio for days on end, I need someone to answer the emails, buy my train tickets, send out the invoices, tell me where I'm going next day and, most important of all, make me a nice cup of tea when I get home! Thank you John :-)
If you are interested, here are some of my hot tips for drawing people in public. There is also a short film about keeping a sketchbook on the film page of my website.
We have a cat Boris that always keeps me company in my studio, he hangs out under the window and the squirrels love to tease him. Very fun to watch.
Ever wonder what I work with?
I am always curious to see other artists' studios, the tools they use, even down to how they brush the paint on. It fascinates me.
I'm working on a project right now that has forced me to look closer at what I work with and why I work with it.
You can find commentaries on blogs, forums, and Facebook about how one artist will voice their favorite pencil, while another artist in the same field will swear by another brand. Call it the sport of art if you like (I'm sure there's an artist out there with a rabbit's foot)
.Most of my tools have a story or memory attached to them.
The oldest tool I've used every day in the studio is my kneaded eraser
My dad is an art teacher most of my life, so I grew up with this wonderful tool laying around his art studio coiled up or made into small pyramids. Something to do while thinking or working. I was introduced to it very young.The next tool oldest to me is a retractable Tuff Stuff!
The moment I discovered this eraser years ago I fell in love and haven't gone back. It gets into the little spots and is always a clean erase. I don't go anywhere without it!My pencils are newer to me.
I have worked with mechanical pencils for at least 15 years now, but the one I used as a teenager...well....was great for a teenager.
Two years ago I did some research and tried Pentel GraphGear 500
on a whim. Love them! Great body weight, good lead selection, amazingly priced! The green Pentel is their most standard. Pentel P205
...still a great drawing pencil!Sketchbooks are personal, in every sense, like a diary.
I have always favored the large Strathmore
spiralbounds, 9x12 inch. I have several moleskines too that are smaller....and I adore them, but I like space for my hand when I draw, this allows it.
Color Theory wasn't around in the beginning for me, so I just picked colors that worked to my eye. This did not help in finding the best palette for me, or how to lay it out even.
All of my palettes up to several years ago were rectangle and felt rough to me. Nothing progressed fluidly for me, only manageable.There was a teacher of watercolor
where I work (The Des Moines Art Center)
who had a round palette out during one of her classes, and I was introduced to the Stephen Quiller Palette
. A circle! Imagine color on a wheel!
I took her class, several times, and have since learned how to better use my palette effectively.
The paints I use are a blend of Daniel Smith
and Winsor Newton
. I always have a messy palette, it's cleaned maybe once every two months. I also paint on primarily Arches Hot Press and Cold Press
140lbs. It's a comfortable inbetween weight and their brand is one of the oldest. I'm open to other papers, but I'm a snob about Arches. The brushes? Cotman series 666.
If you know my work you'll notice my use of white. This started in the phase of trying to keep the white of the paper and failing. I taught myself watercolor, so I turned to problem-solving (an illustrator's best trait).
First it was FW liquid acrylic
. I would brush it on, but it cakes easily. Nowadays I usually water it down.
The other partner in crime is the white gel pen. Discovered this while watching watercolor videos on YouTube. Genius! I don't think I use the best one, your basic Gelly Roll
, but will be ordering a UniBall gel pen
and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works!Last but not least, the infamous indigo colored pencil.
I started using this prominently last year while working on Tangerine
. I was first introduced to Verithin Colored Pencils by Prismacolor
a couple of years back. They're fantastic because of the harder lead with less wax. Because I'm not a colored pencil artist, this worked great for sketching!
The indigo was an accident. I was sketching with it, and as I added color (without thinking of the muddiness it could create) I noticed how it's more dulled tone worked. After Tangerine
I continued to sketch with it. The hue is attractive to me, mixed with graphite or color. It helps to provide me my shadows.
Although indigo can create mud very quickly (it's not for the inexperienced), it does create a more earthy visual of color hues in the painting. I trust it so much I paint with indigo as well.
I try to sharpen always with a blade so that I don't go through the pencil as fast (taught by my dad), and the electric eraser was a gift to me. Never knew I would have a need of it until I discovered it erases the indigo colored pencil wonderfully!
Do you have a favorite pen or material that you use a bit religiously?
The bookshelves in my studio were getting a bit crazy, with things stuffed into all the wrong places or flowing out onto the floor. I am not one of these people who can live in chaos. I don't mind a bit of untidiness, but I have a threshold, then I can't concentrate until things are more neat and tidy.
So I took a little bit of time this morning to sort it out. Much better:
I am showing you, because I know I am nosy to see other people's studios, especially their bookshelves.
The top shelf on the left is older sketchbooks (the brown paper package is to protect a couple of big ones from my art college days, which are over 30 years old). The shelf below is new, unused sketchbooks and below that is used ones from the last 10 years. Below that is sketching gear then, below that, all my 'in progress' sketchbooks
are on the right (I always have loads on the go: different sizes, different papers, ones I leave because they don't have enough free pages to last a whole train journey etc.).
While tidying, I pulled out some sketchbooks and found this piece of paper scrunched up underneath. It's biro drawings, obviously done on a train
. I must have forgotten my sketchbook and pencil-case one day, so drawn with what I had on scrap. I thought I'd share it with you before I throw it away:
Back to the bookshelves, in case you're interested: the bottom left is stock of my own books, for selling, plus books of my writings done on Electric Tomato nights
, and the bottom right is visual reference books (which, if I'm honest, I don't use much anymore, now Google Images
is so quick and easy). The hardbacks of my picture books, which I use for events,
are above the reference and, above that, are other people's books, bought as inspiration (or because they are so gorgeous, I just can't help myself!). The rest is reference, or design books.
I love books. I can't imagine not hoarding them. E-books are just not the same. I have loads more bookshelves downstairs for other stuff:
Right, back to work...
I've been quiet on the blog of late, in fact all social media, largely due to work on my latest picture book, Jane Sutcliffe's renaissance non-fiction The Stone Giant - Michelangelo's David and How He Came to Be. It's been an involving project in the pipeline for quite a while, with several interruptions (like an unforeseen house move!) but I'm happy to say the art work is now complete! Currently awaiting final approval before posting the art off, I'll be able to share some images shortly.
|Desktop debris, in the middle of wrestling with Michelangelo!|
'Mollie Makes' calendar with the clean, fresh sheet of January beckoning.
One of Jack kangaroos, before he was boxed off and sent to America.
Some of our peeled hallway wall seen beyond the door.
Much nicer - treasure.
Toy making books and badger skull.
Lovely 1920's cocktail cabinet, perfect for displaying the 'Puddletown Tales
Everything piled up because there is never, ever, enough storage space.
Favourite cards and ephemera.
I am having a work overdrive, so watch this space for more shop updates, new designs and news of my March workshop in the forest of Dean (or click here for more details).
I thought it's about time that I post the process I used for this illo. It's my entry to the Tomie dePaola contest. You can see my original post here
I had a lot of fun with Chicken Licken!
Here are the antagonists of the story. I really believe this is what my Chihuahua thinks the squirrels are up to. He finds them very suspicious.
Here you can see the grass and bushes, the characters, the squirrels, the trees, & some of the collage. I painted/collaged everything separately, then assembled them in Photoshop.
I painted all of the characters in acrylic. N
Hello! If you haven't yet worked it out from Twitter, the Bologna Book Fair is rumbling along right now, as I type! It's the biggest children's book event of the year, when more people than you can count all gather to buy and sell foreign rights to publish every picture book you can imagine. I went one year, the fair was amazing, and so was the GELATO. Publicist Nina Douglas and I were too busy to go this year, but we were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves, so made our way to sunny Soho and had a quick moment of make-believe at Amorino:
The book fair hasn't designated a hashtag on Twitter for everyone to follow, so people are all over the Internet. You can click on #BolognaBookFair, #Bologna2012, #BBF2012 and even #BBF12 to see moment-by-moment what's going on.
And we at the Fleece Station studio are represented! Walker Books has a taster brochure for Gary Northfield's upcoming comic-strip story TEENYTINYSAURS. I've been watching him work on it and oo-ing and ah-ing, it is amazing. Go ask about the rights, people at Bologna!
Just as all this has been going on, we got a lovely e-mail from some Portsmouth University students - Ryan McBride, Matthew Freeman Carter, Mitchell Jackson, Dale Bennett and Steven Ellis at 32RunProduction - with a video they'd made about our studio! So presenting... The Fleece Station, the Movie!
And look! Here's a little teaser for my next picture book! I don't know how much I'm allowed to say yet, but this image is in Scholastic UK's Bologna rights guide brochure, so I think I'm allowed to post it:
Back to the lovely TEENYTINYSAURS...
And good friend of the Fleece Station, Philip Reeve, also has a very exciting book just out with Scholastic UK! I've read GOBLINS and it is brilliant. Martin Chilton at The Telegraph thinks so, too! Here's his rave review...
And back to gelato, what everyone's really thinking about in Bologna. Now it's back to the drawing desk for me, to crack on with that picture book! Ooh, the deadline's not far off now...
Gary bought this orange squid at a Deptford pound shop as a companion for Plarchie, Lauren's giant squid knitted out of Sainsbury's carrier bags. (Yes, Plarchie even has his own Tumblr blog and Twitter account.) But Plarchie's a vicious squid, and he and the little orange guy never really bonded, and Little Orange Guy looked more and more miserable hanging from our balcony. Yesterday, Gary and I put him out of his misery and cut him down.
We felt terrible. He looked at us from the dumpster with this manic grin.
But we only had about twenty seconds to contemplate our actions because, wouldn't you know, the bin men turned up just then and took him away. We watched him go, with tears lingering on our eyelashes. (Well, Gary bawled like a baby, I took it much more stoically.) Here's Gary's photo montage:
Photos by Gary Northfield
We were both crazy-deadlining, but we still had a quick walk to Deptford Market. We LOVE that place, you can find anything there. Here's Gary in the background, surveying the terrain.
We spotted some lovely old annuals in one of the bookmonger stalls.
One of the annuals had endpapers that looked very much like the market.
We had bubble tea at Panda Panda and had a look at a few of them. This one has a beautiful layout and also makes me laugh. (Click on the pic for a larger version.)
More from Deptford Market... Electric shock treatment, anyone?
This picture book deadline is frying my brain, otherwise I'd come up with some sort of clever caption for this one...
Still worrying about our poor squid. I'll meditate on that for a bit.
To be honest, private commissions aren't normally something I'm that keen to do. People generally have no idea how long artwork takes and often don't understand the limitations of a particular artist's approach. Also, working for individuals can be fraught with problems: they might change their mind, decide they don't like what I create, decide not to pay up...
Having said all that, I had a 2-day gap a couple of weeks back, when I was not on the road, so decided to pay back a favour and have a go at a commission for a friend-of-a-friend's retirement present. The trouble was, I needed one of my two free days for catching up on bit and bobs of work admin and lost most the next morning to a physio appointment (bad back), which left one afternoon to do the commission. If I tell you I normally allow 2 days to design and colour a single-page illustration, that will give you an idea of the level of challenge I'd set myself! The picture was for a much-loved Headmaster at Ellis Guildford School in Nottingham (where I did a Greenaway shadowing project last year), who is apparently potty about golf and 'Buddy', his son's Jack Russell. Luckily, John came up with a silly pun for me to hang an idea on (The Ruff Guide to Golf) and, by some miracle, the pencil sketch came together in less than an hour.
I started after lunch and was still going at 6pm when John knocked off (lightweight). So I stuck on some loud
By: Mike Cressy,
Blog: Sugar Frosted Goodness
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SCBWI asked me to make a video about how I work so I made this short film about my studio and something that I did for the video.
Check it out.
Happy Jubilee weekend, everyone! Yesterday the Queen herself came to our studio. Hurrah! Here she is, just before her visit, with the corgis at the London Overground Palace.
Her Maj arrived with her faithful lady-in-waiting, my studio mate Ms Deadly Knitshade. (Who doesn't do much waiting around, more like a heck of a lot of knitting.) Look, here she's paying a visit to my desk and meeting Vern and me! You, too, can knit such marvels if you get a copy of the fabulous book that is Stitch London.
I probably shouldn't say this, but I think a corgis did a widdle on one of my pencils. In the afternoon, Deadly (aka Lauren O'Farrell) and I walked over to a nearby warehouse to take measurements for the phonebox she's cosying for the BT Artbox project.
She'll have to work fast or the whole project might go a bit wonky...
Come visit my comics friend and me as we hold court at at the Hay Festival tomorrow! Hopefully see you there!
(Read a review of Stitch London here!)
I've been trying to tidy up the studio a bit today. I need to get down to more work on my new book, but there are piles of stuff on every surface and it's a nightmare. I don't work well in mess: I have a threshold but, once crossed, I have to sort things out.
So to free up some shelf space, I've had another clear out of my foreign co-editions.
The publisher sends me at least one copy of each co-edition that's printed. They are great fun to see and sometimes I use them in my school workshops
, but they do clog up the shelves. In any case, I think a book, especially a children's book, should be out there with a child, not stuck in storage in my studio.
So, every so often I have a blitz and give them all away. Sometimes they go to relevant individuals but, if not, I donate them to Sheffield Libraries. There's always a big demand for children's books in a wide variety of languages, but with budgets what they are at the moment, it's not considered high priority.
So, authors and illustrators: dig out those foreign-editions, donate them to your library and free up some space in your studio too!
We woke up to a glorious day on Friday, despite a very so-so forecast the day before. The sun streamed into the studio and the sky through the veluxes was faultlessly blue. As I went through the mornings emails, I thought sadly about the day ahead: my re-roughs are all in and my paper is all cut to size and ready, so my next job is to pull down all the blinds, so the studio is good and dark, and then stand at the lightbox for about 2 days, tracing my line-work up onto the pastel paper.
I looked out at the sun again and over to the lightbox. There was no real contest - it took only about 3 seconds for me to decide to bunk off instead.
So John and I packed a rucksack with books, sketchbooks and bananas and walked to the Botanical Gardens, where we laid out a blanket and chilled in the dappled shade of a tree.
It was so nice to have no agenda for a few hours. I finished my book-group tome (in the nick of time), did some sketches of the trees and people watched. Much better idea!
I have finished the two pieces of artwork I showed you last time, which were left half done on Friday afternoon. Sparky is enjoying tucking into Lucy's dinner (while she gets his dog food), when Mum calls out that it's Lucy's bath time. I am really pleased with this batch in particular. A big thanks to John for the suggestion of the yellow table, which really throws the other colours forwards.
Yesterday I finished a third piece from this part of the book, which actually comes before the other two: when Lucy looks at how much fun Sparky is having being her, suddenly realising she is going to have to remain as the dog forever!
This morning I have been tracing up a new one to begin work on this afternoon: the final spread of the book (the rough has been slightly re-worked again since you last saw it, to help sort out the gutter position a little).
I have to make yet another small change before the artwork though - my publisher is not keen on the chip being extracted from Sparky's nose.
Unfortunately though this is the last spread of the book, it is far from the final piece of artwork I have left to do. The pastel artwork will keep me busy for the rest of the month. No more days off in the sunshine for me! Best get on...
On Thursday morning, I discovered that the deadline for getting my Swap! artwork to my publisher, in time for them to prepare it for presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, was today. Yikes! I thought I had a little longer, and have been trying to get as much done as possible but, come Friday afternoon, I had to stop and post what I'd done to date. It's not too bad: I've completed over 7 spreads, so enough to get a good flavour of how the finished book will look.
Luckily, with John to help me, I was relieved of the task of cutting all the mounts, labelling all the artwork and packaging everything up, (which seems to take ages), so I was able to continue with the artwork up to the last minute. By Thursday evening I'd finished the spread I started that morning, the final spread of the book, and wasn't sure how best to spend my final day.
It's always a problem when half my artwork is sent on ahead - I'm left with no colour reference for the rest of the illustrations, so have to down-tools until it's returned. So, I hatched a cunning plan... I decided to spend my last day colouring something I wouldn't send with the rest:
I worked on the vignettes for the back endpapers, doing all 6 together, since they are so similar. Sparky is in lots of positions, so I get all his markings recorded, plus the ballet costume colours, ready to do the ballet spread next.
Lately I have been working on covering the glass part of my studio door with a giant reverse papercut. (I know, we all have our little hobbies)
Here is a view of the whole thing, I can already hear the school bus honking, so check back tomorrow for some detail shots and an explanation of the process.
I'm back! I know you've been waiting impatiently to find out all about this project of mine.....
Well, my wonderful new studio space sometimes doubles as a guest room, and sometimes as my place to do yoga, so I was looking for a little more privacy. The large glass insert in the door lets in a lot of light and definitely brightens up the space, so I didn't want to lose that.
|whole door in action|
I considered frosting the glass, but I wanted something reversible, I considered a light curtain, blinds, ,window film, but I wanted something more unusual. (picky? who, me?)
I got started on this papercut when I realized how to avoid the stretching and flopping that would happen if I tried to make a papercut this large and then glue it somewhere (not a pretty thought).
Reverse papercut! I cut out all the small shapes and scenes and started from the outside in with a nod to symmetry, but not completely even. I used liquid laundry starch to glue down most things, and took a glue stick to the tiny details. Now that I'm done, I found this other tip
, it seems that milk is also good for attaching paper to glass and mirrors. I'll try that next time.
Ta da, I'm pretty happy with it, and when I'm tired of it I can use some water and a spatula and scrape it all off. Don't worry, I don't spend a lot of time washing my windows anyway....
|time to sweep up the little pieces today|
By: DIANE SMITH
Blog: DIANE SMITH: Illo Talk
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It's a bit crazy how we can jam-pack the fall season with so much busy-ness! This is the first weekend where I've been able to relax (a little), although there's still a ton on my plate - soccer season is in full swing with end-of-season parties & all-star tryouts on the horizon, the Horizons Family CoOp that I coordinate meets this Tuesday along with one of my art classes, and so on...
|Students busy in the California History class!|
I've slooowwwlly been painting layers of exterior varnish sealer on all sides of the mural. I did the backs and now I've been laying them out, one at a time, on sawhorses in order to do the fronts and all 4 edges (that way I don't have to keep turning them - they're a bear to move). I'm doing 3 thin coats on each and I'm close to being done with all 5 panels.
|Panel laid out on sawhorses in order to seal all edges.|
Part of the reason that this is taking a lot longer than I thought is because of the fall craziness mentioned above. But, another reason is that the city is changing its plans on where it will ultimately go. Looks like the Gottchalk's corner is out, but I have not yet heard what plan B (or C or D...) is. I know my contact has been busy with the recent Grapes and Grains event, as well as other fall festivities, and I've been grateful to have the time to get my homeschooling and art classes off to a solid start.
|Studio "corner" - the garage is too cold in winter and there are too many|
spiders! I have plans for some bulletin boards and wall-hanging holders for
pencils and stuff...I'll get there eventually.
I know that the mural project is at an end as my mind has been buzzing with thoughts of other art and writing projects. It's time to transition backin to new creative work - not sure what exactly, though. I still don't have a lot of free time, but I did clean off the old drawing table corner of my room in preparation. Now, joining my drawing space is a caricature portrait that I recently acquired of my Granddad who passed away about 20 years ago - I think it was given to him as a retirement gift (or something like that). It's a nice addition to my workspace.
|Granddad watching over my work :)|
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Now all my school visits are done (I have one final day next week, but that's it until mid January), I at last have some studio time to get back to my books. I'm still waiting for the 2nd batch of scans of my Swap! artwork to come back from the printer but, in the meantime, I am getting back to work on new stories.
John has proved a great help in generating ideas and brainstorming plots, so this week we got out some story ideas we'd been working up together. We have various projects at various stages. First, we fine-tuned a text that was more or less finished, but not quite right. Then we worked on another story where the idea was there but the details needed sorting out.
Yesterday, I started trying to sketch the ideas. It's always a bit painful when I begin again after a break. Visualising ideas in pencil is a very different job to pastelling artwork and it's been a while since I worked on the design of Swap!
Which meant yesterday was mostly a day of grumpiness. Hopefully I will have warmed up a bit now and it will be less like pulling teeth. This morning is indeed already going better.
Wish me luck!