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1. Illustrator Saturday – Mehrdokht Amini

photoMehrdokht Amini has worked on many books for children. One of her latest picture book “Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns” in collaboration with” Hena Khan” has been highly praised and has been selected in the 2013 ALSC notable children’s booklist, which is a list of best of best in children’s book.

She lives in Surrey, England.

Below are her clients:

The British Museum Press,
Chronicle books
Random House
Stentor Publication
Harcourt Publishing
Overbrook Entertainment
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Here is Mehrdokht explaining her process:

This is the step-by-step process of one of the illustrations of the book that I have written myself. At the moment I am working on some samples of this book to take to the publishers. The book is called “The day I met Poppito.”

In this image, the main character of the book has come down for breakfast and sees that his parents are very annoyed by this news that a family of hippos have moved in next door to them. The mother is particularly not happy with the situation.

I start the project by first sketching the overall composition that I have in mind and a bit of character designing.

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 Gradually I delve into more details of the image .The character facial expressions are especially very important to convey the massage of the picture.2

 

I scan all the sketches and save the files in tiff format to make sure all the details are kept as accurately as possible for next stages. Then I start to take photos for my image based on the composition. I might not use all the photos I take but at this stage I try to gather whatever material I think might come in handy in later stages of the work.

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I might need the texture of a plastered wall.

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Or details of a room because it is an indoor image.

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After the sketches are finished and I am done with taking photos. I start working on the background of the image.

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I brush the surface of a watercolor paper with GOLDEN Molding Pastes a few times on intervals to get the desired texture and then I color the surface with Acrylics in layers. I put one layer of color, wait for it to get dry then repaint it again with another color. That’s because sometimes I scratch the surface to get to the layers underneath and have a more interesting surface.

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I take then everything to Photoshop. Here the floor needs to be change so I make another surface for it.

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I then fit it into its place in Photoshop in a separate layer. In the “Hue/Saturation” I bring down the saturation of the floor layer to zero and finally put it in the “soft light” mode so the layer beneath could be seen through.

There I arrange the sketches on the background in a different layer and change their mode on “intensity” to be able see through them. Then I start painting on them with the brush tool.

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Using my photos I work a bit more on the texture of the wall and the staircase.

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I feet the table perspective doesn’t really work this way so I change it too.

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Eventually this is how the picture looks like when finished.

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Finished image

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Book Covers

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Book covers

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How long have you been illustrating?

I went to Secondary School of Creative Arts in Iran and I remember once a teacher asked us to choose a story and make illustrations based on that. I chose “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Anderson and it was the first time I tried to illustrate a book. I enjoyed the process so much that I decided then that I wanted to continue my career in that direction. What I enjoyed most and continue to take pleasure in was that for a short time it gives me the opportunity to live in an imaginary world and create my own characters and scenes and share them with others.

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I see you attended Alzahra University in Tehran. How did you decide to study Graphic Design there?

After getting my Secondary school certificate in Art it was a natural thing for me to continue my higher education in the creative field. As there was no BA course available in illustration I decided to study in Graphic design. At the time it wasn’t a very well known subject to study in Iran and studying art was considered by many parents as something for the students who couldn’t do very well in scientific subjects. So I guess it was a brave act for my parents to go along with my desire to become an artist.

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What were you favorite classes?

I enjoyed life-drawing classes partly because we used to laugh a lot during that course. The thing is, in Iran a lot of restrictions are imposed on art students. As ridiculous as it might sound, in life drawing classes no nudity was allowed. So we had to sketch the models all dressed up. We had to guess what was under the folds of clothes and so occasionally our sketches looked ridiculous. I also enjoyed photography courses. It was the pre -digital era and we had to develop and print our photos in the dark room. I loved the dark room anticipation of seeing the result of the work appearing gradually on the paper and the various techniques we could do with the developing materials on the photo papers.

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Now that you live in the UK, do you think the Universities are different than the ones in Tehran?

They are totally different. Here the art students have the freedom of expressing their feeling with no boundaries whatsoever. It is an essential ingredient for an artist which some might take it for granted. Over there, there are many taboos and lines that could not be crossed.

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Did you immediately decide you wanted to get your MA in Art Research or did you get a job right out of college?

I was still in college when I got my first commission to illustrate a book. It took me some years to go back to university to get my MA and the reason I chose Art research was because I felt a lack of enough theoretical knowledge in myself.

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What types of things do you study when you go for a degree in Art Research?

I am not sure weather such a course is available here in MA degree or not. But over there it ranges from history and philosophy of art to critical thinking in art.

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What was your most interest class while going for your MA?

For me it was a course during which we did lots of discussions on contemporary theories of art. We worked mostly on “A reader’s guide to contemporary literary theory” by Raman Seldon and Peter Widdowson. There I learned for the first time about the developments of modern art theories; A fascinating subject that change my point of view not only on art but also on life itself.

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Did the School help you get work?

No, Unfortunately in Iran schools don’t feel any obligation to find work for the students.

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Do you feel the classes you took in college have influenced you style?

No, I don’t think so. They help me a lot in term of having a better critical mind as an artist and choosing my path. But thankfully the professors didn’t try to influence our style. I think it is a catastrophe when the art teachers try to impose their ideas on students. They should probably just show the ways and let them decide.

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What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

Apart from illustrating books I did occasional designing jobs here and there but I have always been freelance.

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What was the first art related work that you were paid?

The book that I did for “Khane Adabiat” publication during my BA was my first paid job.

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Do you have an agent or artist rep.? If so, who are you with? When did you join them and how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to find representation?

Yes, I decided to find an agent for myself last year because I am not that good at representing myself.

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At the moment I am working with “The Illustrators Agency“(www.theillustratorsagency.com) based in Australia. So far we have been connected only through emails. They have managed to find me two book commissions so far from “Cengage Learning” which is a global educational publisher and I am very happy to be able to work with them.

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When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?

There is a very famous Iranian poet called “Ahmad Shamlou” who sadly passed away a few years ago. He has a few long poems, which in form are quite rhythmic and seem to be written for children but their contents occasionally have some political connotations.

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One day when I was still studying for my BA I decided to work on one of these poems and as it was not very long for a whole book, I came up with this idea to illustrate it in a new format. Something like a big three folded brochure. It worked and subsequently I worked on other poems of the same writer and some other famous contemporary poets in the same format.

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How did that contract come about?

I didn’t have any particular publishing house in mind at that time. The only thing I knew was that most of the publishing houses were clustered around a few avenues around Tehran University. So when I finished the draft of the work, I took in my portfolio case and started searching around in that area for a children’s book publisher. By chance I came to Khane Adabiat and the editor of the time liked the idea very much. Every thing started from there.

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Do you consider that book to be your first big success?

I do. It was vey successful and after more than fifteen years copies of it is still selling in Iran. But it is greatly due to the fact that the poet is very famous in Iran and these series of his work were only published in collections and not individually -illustrated format. The new format of the book also made it stand out in the shelves of the bookshops. But if I could illustrate them again I would totally change the illustrations!

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It looks like you did a large amount of books with Khane Adabiat Publications. Are they the big publishing house in Tehran?

At that time they weren’t huge but after some years they made a good name for themselves in children’s publishing industry in Iran.

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Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?

This is my ultimate goal to be able to illustrate my own stories.

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What made you move to the UK?

I guess it was destiny that brought me here!

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After ten years of publishing with Khane Adabiat Publications, you get to do a picture book with a publisher in Poland and Harcourt in the US. How did those two books contract come about?

I came to live in UK ten years ago and at first I didn’t know how to continue my career here as an freelance illustrator so I decided to learn Photoshop and Corel draw and try to find a job as a Graphic designer. It took me 6 months to learn these two software and during the process of learning them I discover how powerful they could be as a tool for making illustrations. Eventually I did a few digital pieces and decided to have a website to showcase them. These were the ones, which gained me these two commissions.

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What was it like to illustrate a picture book for the British Museum in the UK? Did they have an editor or art director?

It was a great honor for me to work with the British museum. Apparently Helen East, the author of the book “How the Olympic came to be”, had spotted my website and recommended me as the illustrator for her upcoming book with The British museum. We had a few meetings with the editor of the time and discussed the sketches together. It was a really enjoying experience.

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How did that come about?

It was a year before the London Olympics and the book was the story of Olympics through Greeks myths and legends. I was supposed to get inspiration from the objects of British museum related to the story for my pictures. It was really fun because it gave me the opportunity to study the classical period of Greek art and learn more about Greek mythology. I particularly fell in love with their ancient potteries and all the delicate silhouettes painted on them, each telling different stories about Greek heroes and villains.

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How did you hook up with Chronicle Books to illustrate GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS?

They had found me through childrensillustrators.com and contacted me to see whether I was interested to work on the “Golden domes and silver lanterns”.

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How did you connect with them?

Our contact was only through emails, which at the beginning created a bit of problem. We didn’t have the chance to discuss the pictures face to face and as a result my first round of sketches was almost completely rejected. I had imagined the settings to be depicted in an ancient time, whereas the editors and writer had a clear objective to have the story portrayed in a contemporary atmosphere.

I had to redo the sketches but I think eventually we were all happy with the final result.

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Do you feel living in the UK has broaden your career as an illustrator?

Living here has lifted many obstacles in my career. I have more access to different sources of inspiration and could keep myself up to date. In Iran many Internet sites are blocked and young artist have limited way of displaying their work or connecting with the rest of the world.

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What illustrating contract do feel really pushed you down the road to a successful career?

It is not one contract that helped me in my career but the whole portfolio of my work. Each piece has it’s own importance and has pushed me a bit forward. I am not completely satisfied with my early pieces and wish I had a chance redo them again but each had its own importance in my career.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

When I was still in the university one of the teachers who was running a magazine for children asked me to do some illustrations for her but after that I didn’t have the chance to work for a children’s magazine any more.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I usually make a background with the help of GOLDEN Molding Pastes and acrylics or whatever medium I think is appropriate. Sometimes I paint straight on this background or use other surfaces for different part of the illustration, then I scan all the materials and take everything to Photoshop and continue to work on the image from there.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

For some years now I have been subscribed to childrensillustrators.com and had some commissions coming from that site. Occasionally I send samples of my works to the publishers who accept unsolicited materials. Social medias is a powerful tool for getting noticed too but it is very time consuming and needs lots of dedication. Right now I am hoping that my agent will find me work so I could have more time for the creative side of work.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

It is my digital pen.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Not really. When I start to work on a piece I lose the track of time.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I do take pictures all the time and with the help of Photoshop might use them in my illustrations too.

The research phase is the first and one of the most important parts of the work for me. It helps me to have a more accurate picture of story in my mind. For example I had a commission few years ago to do a few pieces based on a short story that was related to Hispanic culture. I had to do a long research through photos, their art, history etc… to familiarize myself with the setting in that story.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely. All my commissions are coming from the Internet. But the truth is that as much as Internet had made the life easier for illustrators, in my opinion, it has created the problems of its own.

The industry is really tough and the competition for getting a commission is really high.

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Occasionally I am approached by clients who ask for a great amount of work in exchange for a ridiculously low fee. I usually say no because thankfully I’ve got other means to support myself, but I am sure there are illustrators in countries hit by economy crisis who might be happy to work with that amount of money. There are also graduate students who are willing to work for low fees just to have a published piece of work in their portfolio. So I guess it has created a bit of financial instability for illustrators too.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Yes, I work with Photoshop all the time but I try to use it carefully. The problem with digital work is that if you limit yourself to just drawing with a digital pen and nothing more, the end product would be something bland with no spontaneity in it. In manual works you often make mistakes, an unintentional drop of ink on the surface or a wrong stroke of the brush etc… that make the work even more interesting. So I try to have a mixture of manual and digital techniques in my works.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, it is many years now that I have one and I think it is one of the best tools that I have bought for myself so far.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I wish that one day I get the chance to illustrate a collection of the “One thousand and one night”.

Many artists have tried it so far, among the best in my opinion is the one by Edmund Dulac but I think it still has a great potential for exploration and hope that one day the opportunity rises for me to do it too.

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What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on a story that I have written myself called “The day I met Popito” I have finished the first draft of the story and I am working on some samples to take to publishers now. The story is about a family who one day finds out that a family of hippos has moved next door to them. They are not happy about having hippos as their neighbors at all but in time they learn to know and appreciate each other more.

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I think the message in the story is probably appropriate for our time. More and more people come across a situation where they have to co-exist with people who might be different from them. Different in color of skin, nationality, religion etc… we have to find a way to harmoniously live together and accept our differences.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Recently I have bought this gadget from Wacom called “Inkling digital sketch pen”. While you sketch on paper with a ballpoint pen provided, it captures your sketches digitally and then you can transfer the files to your computer with a USB connection. It lacks a bit of smoothness and occasionally misses the lines if you don’t press your pen hard enough on paper but I found it a very interesting device to have for sketching digitally.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Once, one my college professors gave me a good piece of advice, which I still remember. She said” if you try, all your life, to perfectly imitate someone else’s work or style you might end up becoming very good in it but your work has really no artistic value and doesn’t take you anywhere Eventually you would be just a good imitator. But if you try to draw one straight line, it belongs to you and it has some originality of its own.”

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Thank you Mehrdokht for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.

To see more of Mehrdokht’s illustrations visit her at:

Website: http://www.myart2c.com

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Mehrdokht, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books Tagged: Alzahra University in Tehran, Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns, Graphic Design, Mehrdokht Amini

8 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Mehrdokht Amini, last added: 9/13/2014
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2. Illustrator Saturday – David Hill

dhDave Hill graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1983 and began his career as a painter with exhibitions in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and London.

He worked in the video game industry for ten years as a concept artist producing character and environment designs in both 2D and 3D.

As a freelance illustrator Dave’s passion is children’s books although he has also illustrated comic books, storyboards, greeting cards and product packaging.

Dave produces most of his work digitally although he still accepts traditional commissions and paints in oils and watercolour.

step1

The rough sketch.

I begin by preparing a rough sketch in Painter using a custom pencil. I prefer drawing in blue line because its less obtrusive than black or grey.

step2

Inking

I create a new layer and begin inking over the blue line rough, tightening up as I go along and working on multiple layers as I draw new areas.

step3

The finished inked drawing is flattened onto one single layer.

step4

Creating a mask in Photoshop to help with colouring.

The inked layer is set to ‘Multiply’ so that all white areas of the drawing become transparent and this is renamed ‘Line’ and placed at the top of the stack in the layers palette. I create new layers beneath the line drawing and block in each area of interest with different colours which will easily let me select and isolate a specific area of the image.

step5

Colouring

In Painter, I hide the mask layer and create a new blank layer for the colour. I don’t need to be precise at this moment so my brush work can be loose and fluid which is the look I prefer. Painters ‘digital watercolour’ brush variants are terrific at creating that rich dabbled texture of traditional watercolour painting and because I’m laying in washes I need to use large custom brushes to achieve that effect.

The large brushes are difficult to control but it’s ok if the colour bleeds over the line work at this stage.

step6

Edit in Photoshop using the masks.

Once I’ve blocked in the main areas I need to tidy up the edges and to do this I select areas using the mask I made in Step 4. By simply selecting with the magic wand tool I can very quickly balance up the coloured layers and remove any colour that has bled over the lines. I do this in Photoshop because it’s far superior at colour management and much more accurate than Painter at selecting intricate areas.

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Adding detail

Back to Painter and on a new layer I start adding the finer details and use my masks to help if needed.

step8

Creating the background.

I usually create my backgrounds as separate files because I like to play around with brush marks and textures. These are pretty experimental exercises and they’re great fun to do but they can result in really big file sizes which is another reason for doing them separately from the main image.

I begin by using washes to build up the sky keeping things simple as I want the figures to stand out heroically. I also want to create the illusion of depth so I keep the sky soft and I add some texture to the ground since it’s in the foreground.

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I drop the flattened background into the main image file at the bottom of the layer stack. Some of the sky shows through the figure work because they were painted with semi-transparent washes and I need to rectify this.

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Using my coloured masks I simply select and fill the areas with pure white.

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This white mask is then positioned between the figure layer and the background layer and the illustration is complete.

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Can’t show you all of David Book Covers, because there are too many, but the above cover illustration was created for SPLASH written by Lucy Courtenay and David Hill.

Below are some additional covers to view:

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ABOVE AND BELOW: Front and back Book Cover

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

As far back as I can remember. From a very young age I realized that I attracted attention whenever I drew pictures and this made me feel good.

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How did you decide to attend Glasgow School of Art?

The Glasgow School of Art and especially the ‘Mackintosh’ building is famous the world over not only for its architecture but also for its reputation as one of the finest painting schools there is, so the opportunity of actually studying there and painting inside those hallowed walls was such a thrill. I knew I just had to go there to benefit from the expertise of the tutors and staff if I was to be serious about a career as an artist.

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What was your favorite class?

Life drawing
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What was the first piece of art you did and someone paid you for your work?

The first paid commission was a very long time ago when I was aged 12 or 13 and was a watercolour landscape of the River Clyde in the village where I grew up. I think I got £20 (about $30) for it which at that time seemed like a small fortune.

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How did you get involved with doing the art for video games?

By pure chance as it happened! I was in a print bureau in Glasgow having some of my comic book pages and character designs photocopied when the creative director of ‘VIS games’ walked in to get some stuff copied too.

He had nowhere to lay his artwork since mine covered the entire counter space, but instead of being annoyed he started leafing through the illustrations and asking if he could have copies made for a games pitch he was preparing. We struck a deal there and then and that was the start of a brilliant 10 years in the games industry.

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Can you tell us a little bit about lanarkshire, where you live now? Is it near London? Is it a strong artist community?

Lanarkshire is a large county comprising several satellite towns on the outskirts of Glasgow, which is roughly 400 miles from London. Coatbridge, the town where I live is formerly a ‘coal town’ but all of the mining and steel industries have gone now, leaving the town much cleaner and greener. There isn’t a strong art scene in the town but Glasgow with its rich history is only 10 minutes away and it has a wealth of artworks dating from the Renaissance to the present day.

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How did you get interested in doing illustrating for children?

I always loved including a narrative element in my work and telling stories with pictures led me initially to drawing comic books. I did this for several years before I realized that my real passion was children’s stories. I used to write adventure stories for my children when they were young and adding illustrations to those ideas was the first step in finding my vocation.
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Have the materials you use changed over the years?

Yes indeed! I graduated with honours in Fine art so my materials were all traditional painters tools. Charcoal sticks, putty rubbers, sables, oil paint, turps and oily rags. They cost a lot of money too.

Nowadays and for the past 18 years I’ve been working digitally. This was a conscious decision as it suits the nature of the industry where editing artwork can be quite extensive and time consuming. This would be disastrous for ones profit margin in a traditional workflow but is made relatively easy in a digital workflow. I still draw occasionally in pencils and I miss the smell of linseed oil and getting my hands dirty. I don’t miss the expense though and I love the Undo button.

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Do you have an artist rep?

I do have a rep. It’s a very open agreement though compared to some agencies, which suits my creative exploration. I keep my own clients and any new work that comes directly to me. I would be interested in forging new relationships with other reps but only if it’s not exclusive and allows me to work with my own clients too.
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When did you illustrate your first children’s book? What was the title of that book?

My first book was ‘Speak Along French’ by Isabelle Bennett for Mantra Lingua Publishers in 2005.
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How did that job come your way?

The art editor saw my website which had gone ‘live’ just two weeks before. I couldn’t believe my luck.

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How many children’s books have you illustrated?

Seventy Five
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How did you get the contract with HarperCollins to illustrate SPLASH?

Through my artist rep. I love that book. It was a real joy to draw and I had so much fun with the changing weather.

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Was that the first contract to illustrate a picture book for a US publisher?

No. It was done for Harper Collins London.

‘What happened to Merry Christmas’ for Concordia was my first U.S. contract published in 2006.

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Have you thought about writing and illustrating your own books?

All the time! I have loads of ideas and character designs but no time to pursue their development. I’m always too busy illustrating for everyone else which is a nice complaint I suppose.

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Are you open to illustrating self-published books for other children writers?

Yes. I work a lot with self-publishing authors and have done many books like this. I’m working on two right now both of which are for American authors.
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Have you done any work for educational publishers or children’s magazines?

Yes. I do a great deal of educational illustration. I’ve only done the odd job for magazines though.

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What type of things do you do to find more illustration work?

I don’t really have to look for work anymore. I’m very fortunate in that I have built up a respectable client base and they return to me or if it’s a new client they’ll come directly to me through my website. If I did have a quiet spell I guess I’d prepare a digital portfolio and send it out to as many publishers as possible.

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Do you ever use paint as a medium or is it all digital?

It’s all digital.

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When did you start working digitally?

In 1996 when I started working as a concept artist in the video games industry.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes. Photoshop is priceless in my workflow because of its stability and efficiency at handling and processing extremely large files. I use it at every stage of my process and flit between it and Painter constantly, using each programmes strengths to maximum effect. Final stages of an illustration like compositing and colour balancing are always done in Photoshop.

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Do you use other software programs when you illustrate? If so, which ones?

Most of my colouring is done in Corel Painter which beats photoshop hands down when creating an organic looking illustration. Painters brush engine is fabulous. It feels so natural and you can create digital artwork that looks just like it was made using traditional media.

I use Adobe In Design for creating dummy books to help me get a better idea of the flow and pacing of the story. I build the page layouts, drop in the script and then import my rough sketches to give a clear view of how the final book will look and feel.

I also use Adobe illustrator when scale able artwork is required or if the client is looking specifically for a more graphic approach.

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Do you use a graphic tablet to draw your illustrations?

Yes. I use a Wacom intuos 3

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Do you spend a specific amount of time working on your own illustrations?

Unfortunately I can’t seem to find the time to do my own illustrations.
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What is your biggest success story? The thing you are most proud of doing?

Making a living as an artist is probably the biggest success story for me but the work I’m most proud of doing is probably an illustration titled ‘Dancing Mouse’. It was done as a self-promotional piece way back at the start of my career and shows my daughter Amy watching in amazement at a little mouse doing a handstand.

The amount of work this one image alone has generated is quite staggering, so for that reason it’s my most successful piece.

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Do you still exhibit your art?

Not in the conventional sense, but I subscribe to a couple of online galleries who host my work.

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Do you take pictures or do any other type of research before you start a project?

I take photographs of everything and anything and also buy licensed pics from image banks whenever specific references are needed. I do quite a bit of historical illustration where attention to factual detail is of paramount importance so having good reference is essential.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. The world is your market place and getting a website to show my work has been the biggest factor in my success. Most of my clients are British or American but I also have clients in Ireland, Israel, Egypt, Germany, and South Africa. Being able to transfer digital files electronically has made things so much faster, safer, cheaper and easier.
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Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your materials changed?

My style changes to suit the demographic of each particular job. As a professional illustrator I think it’s beneficial if you can adapt your style to encompass a variety of situations and not limit yourself to a single area of the market. One day I’ll be drawing realistically for 7th graders with perhaps close attention to historical detail, the next I’ll be drawing for 4 year olds completely from my imagination.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes. To one day have my own story books published. Oh how I would love that!
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What are you working on now?

I’m doing 3 book covers for different authors, a picture dictionary for Egyptian/English Schools, some black and white spots for a poetry book, an isometric map of a fictional American town and two 24 page picture books for independent self-publishing authors.

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Do you have any art type tips (digital or traditional) you can share with us?

I work digitally so my tips relate to that process.

Mask! Mask! And Mask! I can’t stress how important it is to produce accurate masks before you start to colour digitally. If done properly your production time will be drastically reduced and your work load will be so much more streamlined and made much more manageable due to the control you’ll have over isolating, editing and finishing.

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Decide on a file naming convention at the start of your project and stick to it. Save regularly with Sequential numbering to keep your files organized and easy to find. On average I have about 15 variations of each illustration saved throughout the production process.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Dedication. I work on average 14 hours a day but it’s worth it to be doing something I love.

Build up a reliable reputation by always meeting your deadlines and your clients will come back time and time again.

Draw everything you see that interests you and take a sketch book and camera with you always.

Get your own website or rent space on one of the many host sites out there. You need as much exposure as possible and the web is a window to the world.

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Thank you David for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.

To see more of David’s illustrations visit him at:

Website: http://www.davidhillarts.co.uk/

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Annie, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: David Hill, Digital Painting tops, Glasgow Scool of Art, video game industry

2 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – David Hill, last added: 9/8/2014
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3. Illustrator Saturday – Annie Wilkinson

imageAnnie Wilkinson is the youngest of eight children and the mother of two. She works in a variety of mediums including traditional and digital, creating bright and whimsical illustrations for both books and products. She also has a background in design and as a fine artist, two skills that she calls upon quite frequently when illustrating. She is currently working on her own picture book.

Clients include:

Simon & Schuster –  Macmillan
LadyBird Books –
 Hallmark 
CJ Educations – American Greetings
Oxford University Press – Hasbro  
Yeowon Media – National Geographic

HERE IS ANNIE  EXPLAINING HER PROCESS:

All of my work is done on the iPad. For the project for Story Corner, the guidelines were really loose – the story was to take place in outer space, after that I had a lot of free reign to draw whatever I like.

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So I started with some quick thumbnails, using the app Paper by 53. I had some loose concepts – riding space beasts, hanging out in a space garden, swimming with ‘star fish’.

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I like to share the thumbnails with the client to see if they’re happy with the general idea and composition, and if they are I then work on more refined sketches. Mostly I use the Vellum app to create my sketches.

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There’s also an app called Art Studio that functions like Photoshop, I can make selections and move things around if I need to refine the composition a little.

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When the sketches are finalized, I create the colour versions in Paintbook, which is a vector drawing app.

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Sometimes at this stage, depending in the spread size, I might have to export the pdf file to my computer and add textures in photoshop.

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Since these we’re going to be playing cards, The iPad could actually handle their print size, so I added my textures using iColorama.

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If I find the textures wash out some of the details then I will paint over some of the edges and add more shadows and highlights using either Photoshop or procreate.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating as a job for about 6 years, but for about 5 of them I was also working as a web & graphic designer . This is the first year that I am solely illustrating. I have always loved drawing!

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Where do you live?

I live in Vancouver, BC Canada

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Did you go to school to study art?

I have not. I am completely self-taught, but I do dream about going to art school some day – maybe when the kids are old enough.

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What area of art did you study?

I took an independent course with Geraldo Valerio “http://www.geraldovalerio.com” a Brazilian illustrator who was for a time living in Vancouver. I had belonged to a drawing Meetup group, and on a message board there, several people had mentioned taking his course on illustrating children’s books and how it was better than anything offered by the universities or libraries.

After my first illustration job, when I started to realize it was something I might really like to do, I thought I should learn more about it and enrolled in his course. It was extremely helpful to have someone with experience to turn to! Even though he’s no longer in Vancouver, we still email every now and then and I still ask him for advice.

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What was the first art related work that you did for money?

Prior to working as an illustrator, I played in bands for many years, and toured a lot. These would have been my first paying art jobs.

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What was the first job you took after you graduated from school?

I did take a multimedia course about 15 years ago that was a very basic introduction to Adobe & Macromedia (who originally created Flash) software – it was just enough to get you going on everything and it was up to you if you wanted to take it further. I had expected that I would move into web design from there, but my first job after finishing that program was illustrating and animating Ecards in Flash for a Toronto company. It’s funny now that I think about it, it didn’t give me the idea that I would be an illustrator! I think probably because looking back at it my illustrations were fairly crude!

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How did you find your first illustrating work?

Robeez Baby Shoes gave me what I consider my first real illustration job – they had a job posting for a web designer, and I applied and sent them a link to my online portfolio, which also contained some of my artwork. They got back to me saying the job had been filled but would I be interested in doing the illustrations for their shoes. Prior to this it hadn’t even occurred to me to be an illustrator! (Robeez shoes designs)

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Have you done any illustrating work for a US publisher?

I have done work for a few publishers, including Simon & Schuster, National Geographic, as well as a handful of educational publishers.

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How did you start doing greeting cards?

Not long after the Robeez job I was contacted by the Bright Agency in the UK http://www.thebrightagency.com, and I have been with them ever since. Another illustrator who was also working for Robeez, Ken Gamage http://www.sparklefishworld.com told me about http://www.childrensillustrators.com which is based in the UK, and I believe this is where Bright found me. Bright works in both publishing and art licensing, so my greeting card work was through them.

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What made you want to illustrate children’s books?

I had not thought originally that I could even be an illustrator! I was always drawing but in my mind it was just a hobby. I met another illustrator when our bands played a show together, Jenn Playford, http://www.jennplayford.com, who I think at the time had just got her first illustration job, and her telling me about it put the idea in to my head. I didn’t really do anything about it until I got the Robeez job though! I guess children’s books seemed the best fit for me, given the way I draw, which tends to be cute and colorful.

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How many books have you illustrated?

I’m not sure I can count them all! I’ve done around 4 books for the Korean market, 1 in New Zealand, 3 in Canada, a few in the UK, and maybe 10-15 for the US market, which would mostly include the educational market.

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What was your first picture book?

My first picture job was with Rubicon Publishing in Canada, with AD Rebecca Buchanan, now over at Pajama Press, she was lovely to work with.

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When and how did that happen?

They found me on a portfolio site, practically the day I finished my How To course with Geraldo, so I was pretty glad I’d taken the course. It was called “Splish-Splash” and had 4 illustrators illustrating about 4 pages each, so it was the perfect job to start with.

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Of the picture books that you have published, which one is your favorite?

It may be because it was the most recent one I illustrated and so am not tired of looking at it yet! I’m actually still working on it, but it’s called Nanna’s Magic Globe for Benchmark publishing. Another favourite I did recently was for Story Corner, which is a brand new company in the Uk – not a picture book but illustrated story cards, where the child lays out the cards and then tells their own story – that was a particularly fun job for me because I was allowed input in what happened in the story, and also because it involved telling the story in a non-linear fashion. (Thumbnails in paper by 53, Sketches in Vellum, final art for Story Corner)

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When did you decide to get involved in children’s illustrtation?

A big thing that happened was having kids of my own, and reading books to them – there are so many beautiful picture books out there! I particularly love Isabelle Arsenault and Oliver Jeffers, whose work really borders on fine art. I also am a big fan of Sophie Blackall, Peter Brown, Giselle Potter – there’s so many!

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How did you connect with LadyBird Books?

This was a job through my agent – I had done a test illustration for The Secret Garden (which also happened to be one of my favourite books as a child!) and my AD thought my rendition of Dickon made a good Peter Pan, so I got to do both books.

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(The Secret Garden, Ladybird Books)

How did the get the contract to do My Wonderful Clothes for Korean Publisher, English Hunt?

I was approached by them, this book was slightly different than the other books I’d done in the Korean market as it was an English reader. I love working with Korean publishers as they are so invested in picturebooks!

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(My Wonderful Clothes, EnglishHunt)

What do you consider is your first big success?

Getting paid to draw! To be honest, it’s still an ongoing thing – I’m one of those people who can be their own worst critic, and I’m still trying to make art that impresses me as much as other illustrators work can.

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How did that come about?

Luck :)

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How do you promote your work to get more business?

I have a few portfolio sites that I try to keep updated regularly, and most of them have news sections which I find helpful. I also started sending out email newsletters to keep in touch with previous clients, I do one every 6-8 weeks or so. When things are slow I remind my agent I need work.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

All my work is done digitally. Originally it was done traditionally because I was never comfortable drawing with a graphics tablet, where your hand is drawing in one place and your eyes are somewhere else. In the beginning I would have loved a Cintiq but couldn’t afford one, then I got an ipad. I went from oil pastel drawings to vector illustrations, because the limitation of the iPad is the print size of your drawings. I grew to love it so much that I only occasionally think about the Cintiq still.

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(Personal work, ipad)

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Do you use do any black and white illustrations?

I have not done many, except for the comics I like to do in my spare time.

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What type of paint and other materials do you use to when illustrating a picture book?

Everything is done on the iPad, even sketching. I discovered I hate the tedium of scanning! I tend to do thumbnails first, generally in Paper by 53 or a Bamboo Paper, sketches in Vellum, and color in Paintbook, which is like Adobe Illustrator except that it behaves much like a pixel based painting app, rather than making shapes. I usually export this as a pdf and then do final touch ups in Photoshop on my mac. The funny thing is that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with digital – it certainly makes it easier to make amendments and clients love layered files, but I just love the look of traditional materials. So I’m always trying to make that aspect better. Ultimately, a good drawing and good composition is the most important thing!

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Has your style changed over the years? Materials?

I’m really hoping it’s getting better! I am always, always trying to make my work better. I’m getting in to using textures a lot lately. There’s a great ipad app called iColorama which let’s you paint your textures using masks, and then I usually do a little finishing work using Procreate, which is a great painting app but can only print up to around 10-11 inches, which makes it difficult to do spreads. I have been known to deal with single pages when the app can’t handlethe spread size and then stitch them back together in photoshop.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

I have done work for Laybug and Cricket in the US.

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(Cricket Magazine Nov/Dec 2013 issue)

Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Tons! A lot of my work comes from Educational publishers and so for that I am grateful :)

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Given that I work on an iPad my studio is not one specific location, but I like it best when I have my ipod and dock to listen to music or podcasts while I work.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes, but I don’t think of it so much as that. I love drawing, so I have my work drawing, and my hobby drawing, which is usually playing around with different apps or doing comics. Another fun aspect if doing greeting card work or licensing art is just drawing whatever you feel like and maybe someone can turn it into a card. So I’m not consciously trying to improve myself unless I’m in the middle of the job, and mostly this happens at the sketching stage – can I make this drawing better, more visually interesting? Sometimes that is constrained by deadlines, though!

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(illustration of Mary Anning for http://www.coolchicksfromhistory.tumblr.com

Do you have an agent? 

I work with The Bright Agency, who are based in the UK but have offices in New York also.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, lots on internet research. I’m currently working on a book that takes place in Kenya. I’m always looking at images of how things look, their clothes, their houses, vegetation, etc. Some clients want the pictures of trees, for example, to look like actual trees you might find in the area, some don’t mind if you make everything up.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. If it wasn’t for the internet I would probably have to move to New York and walk around every day with a hard copy portfolio.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop along with a hundred ipad apps :)

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I have an old Wacom Graphire tablet that I use for photoshop touch ups. I’ve tried all kinds of styluses for the iPad, but the ones I like the best are the microfiber tipped ones,as there is no drag whatsoever. I suffer from tendonitis, so when it gets bad I just start drawing with my finger!

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I’d love to do more picturebooks, and maybe write one of my own.

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What are you working on now?

I’m currently working an interactive iPad storybook, which is my first. I’m also doing a small job for a family in the US who are doing a book as a gift for their daughter. I’m working on a second book for Benchmark while waiting for feedback on the final artwork for the first. And I have a couple more books coming up very soon with Cantata Learning, who are a new Educational publisher in the US.

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(Illustration for the Boston Family)

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

For traditional materials, I love Koi watercolours and Holbein Acryla Gouache. Also I’m a fan of Caran D’ache oil pastels.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

All the old stuff is true! Keep drawing as much as possible. Go to the library and find those illustrators that inspire you!

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Thank you Annie for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.

To see more of Annie’s illustrations visit her at:

Website: http://www.anniewilkinson.com/  

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anniewilkinsonillustration

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Annie, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: American Greetings, Anne Wilkinson, Hallmark, Illustrator Saturday, Simon & Schuster

5 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Annie Wilkinson, last added: 9/1/2014
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4. Illustrator Saturday – Inés Hüni

inesphotoineInés Hüni was born in Mendoza (Argentina), the land that produces the finest Malbec wine grapes in the world.

She remembers that as a little girl, she always dreamed about having her “taller de arte” with lots of small “frasquitos”, colored pencils and brushes of all sizes.

She moved to Buenos Aires – the big city – when she was 11.

During high school, in her spare time, Inés was always involved in drawing and arts & crafts activities. She could not wait to finish high school in order to begin studying what she really loved: Arts.

She graduated from Fine Arts with major in drawing and engraving. Inés also studied humoristic drawing and animation with some of the finest professors in Argentina and USA.

Ines is a great observer of the world that surrounds her. She loves the challenge of interpreting every brush stroke of reality and capturing it in her artwork.

Already married and with two daughters, she moved to México. What was initially supposed to be a 3-year-experience, but it has now turned into an 8-years-one, tasting and living Mexican flavors and colors. The family has recently added a fifth member, her little Mexican daughter named Mora.

Inés is a versatile creative professional. She illustrated children magazines, scholastic manuals, worked for animated movie studios, developed characters to be used in murals and posters and has illustrated several children’s books from renowned Editorial Houses from many countries.

Some of her customers are: Animation: Heart of Texas Productions (Texas, USA) in films for Disney Studios, Warner Bros and Lyric Corporation – Illustration: Garcia Ferré, Infantil, El Gato de Hojalata, Guadal, Perfil and Quipu (Argentina), Richmond, Mac Millian, Cordillera, Trillas, and Bilineata (Mexico), Santillana (Puerto Rico & U.S.A)-   Everest (Spain).

Here is Ines explaining her process:

This is one of my illustrations in “Mymini moleskine.” Myninimoleskine is a little red sketchbook that I take everywhere, especially if I travel.

The idea is to draw women in different poses and moments of their lives, in one small space, that’s a challenge!

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I start the sketch with the blue pencil and on it I remark with black pencil.

Here we have a sketch of a woman who is a football (soccer) fan. She is celebrating a goal with all her soul. That’s an example of how I like to start with the blue PRISMACOLOR  col- erase pencil and then remark with black pencil.

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Woman of the Cats: here you can see the hole process and my work space.

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After scanning I clean it up with Photoshop.

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This is my workspace with my lightbox, I use this table to trace and transfer the illustration to a good paper. You can also see all my painting materials, including color inks and watercolors.

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You can see how I start to paint the big areas and views of my desk and materials.

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Continue to paint.

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With the whole illustration painted, I begin adding details with color Prismalo Carandache pencils.

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Illustration almost done.

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Finished Illustration.

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Character sketch.

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Finished illustration

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Sketch

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Finished illustration.

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Finished Book.

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Here are several drawings I made after a trip by the south of  Mexico, in Chiapas State.  I was delighted by this place, especially by a town called San Juan Chamula, it’s church, and it’s popular market.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I always drew, but it has been 20 years since I started to illustrate.

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How did you go to school to study art?

I wanted to study Fine Arts since I was a little girl.

I finished school since I needed to, in order to pursue a University Degree in Arts.

When the time came to choose a career I had no doubts in my mind: Fine Arts. At the same time, I took a course in Humoristic Drawing in another school.

It was a lot of fun since I realized that everything that I was learning was really interesting to me.

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What made you move from Argentina to Mexico?

We moved to Mexico with my family due to my husband’s job. It was supposed to be a 3 year experience but it has been almost 9 years already!

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Do you think the culture of Argentina influenced your style?

Every experience a person has gone through contributes to defining you as an individual. Regarding specifically my illustration style, I think I have influence from many places, not only from my Argentinian background, but also from other places I have visited, books that I read, movies that I watched and also from some of my colleagues’ works.

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What was the first art related work that you did for money?

That is a tough question! I started out by doing Christmas Cards and painting T-Shirts with original designs. I guess my first customers were my parents and my family.

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Did you start out doing freelance art or did you do other work to pay the bills?

It was really a mix. At the same time that I looked for free-lance jobs, I worked in a greeting cards editorial house (similar to Hallmark) and also worked in a company that made sticker albums.

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How did you get involved with animation with Heart of Texas Productions (Austin,Tx USA) in films for Disney Studios, Warner Bros and Lyrick Corporation?

Wow, that was one pretty chance! My husband and I had just moved to Austin, Texas to study a postgraduate and a neighbor of our condominium worked in that study of animation. When the person who rented us the apartment learnt that I was an illustrator, she made arrangements for me to visit the studios. After the tour, I asked if I could show my portfolio. I think that they had not finished telling me that I was already leaving my folder with them. A few days later I was called to sit for a test and then I was chosen. In Heart of Texas, we also worked for larger studios such as Disney, Warner and Lyric Corporation and that is how I ended being part of films like Aladdin, The Quest for Camelot and three children’s animations on St. Francis and his friendly world.

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Do you still do animation?

No. Animation was a great learning experience and I learned it well from the inside: I was trained while I worked in Heart of Texas. In addition to that, I attended College where I experienced going through the whole process of designing: from scratch, to filming my own short (very short) animated movie.

I soon found out that the process of making animation was like a very long, mechanical chain, where one is just a small link and the only way of applying your own creativity was by designing the characters, backgrounds or the story itself. So I turned completely to illustration, which is less mechanical and a greater challenge, because each job order demands my own imagination and creativity.

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What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

I worked doing typographies and some illustrations for greeting cards.

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When did you decide to get involved in children’s illustration?

Well, as I already said, while I was studying Arts, I attended another school for humorous drawing, where I learned the basics on how to create characters and move them from side to side, to explore and to draw different topics and to make comic strips… But while I was studying, I realized that it would be hard for me to come up with a joke every day to go with an illustration, like the comics in newspapers. That was when I said to myself: my thing is children’s illustration. I do come up with cute illustrations that can actually be funny but are still not the daily joke or comic strip.

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Have you ever illustrated a children’s book or book dummy?

Yes, I have several illustrated books:

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The collection Palabrerio by Infantil.com

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The collection Hadas Virtuosas – Editorial Guadal, El Gato de Hojalata

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Collection Hadas con patitas – Editorial Guadal, El Gato de Hojalata

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Several pedagogical publications with Santillana of Puerto Rico and the United States.

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Historias maravillosas de la Biblia [Wonderful histories of the Bible] – Publishing Everest.

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Deseo of Mateo [Mateo’s wish] – For Kraft, Oreo

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Kazurá.Un manifiesto infantil – Editorial Quipu

 

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It looks like you have a friend who writes and you do the illustrations. Could you tell us about how the two of you connected and how many books have you done?

Yes, my friend Agustina, another coincidence in my life! One day in Mexico, I went to a birthday party where new comers had just arrived. I ended up sitting next to one of the new ones, and the host looked at us and said: “Inés, this is Agustina and she writes. Agustina, this is Inés and she illustrates. You must know each other!” Just a few days later, I was contacted by a publisher to make a Christmas Story for Kraft Foods about the Oreo cookie. They wanted it immediately but there was no story yet and they requested the cover and an inside page… I told them that I knew two writers and we could see if they already had something written to adapt into the project… So I contacted both writers. Agustina responded immediately with a story, thought and written especially for the project. It was called “El deseo de Mateo” [Mateo’s wish].

It ended up being a beautiful book, and the best part was discovering what a wonderful team we made together. Then, new projects came up and we continued working together.

Recently our book “Kazurá” was published. It is an illustrated children’s book that we presented in Buenos Aires Book Fair this past July and continue to promote here in Mexico.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

I believe that my biggest success is to be able to turn my passion into work, to let my imagination fly, to face challenges with each job order, which sometimes can be something completely new in my life. I sometimes worry but in the end, I always come up with something that I like, and that amuses me!

Each stage of my life had its own hit, like working for Disney and Warner Bross or winning a contest for and important hospital: My character became the Pediatrics’ mascot!

Success for me also meant travelling to the greatest Illustration Fair in the world (Bologna) and being contacted for different jobs after those interviews. And lately, success meant to materialize one of our projects with Agus: our book “Kazurá” recently published.

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How did that come about?

The most recent success was our book “Kazurá”, which we worked jointly with my friend Agustina, designing each word and each illustration so that each of us, in our own specialized language, would tell the same story without repeating each other. We made a very good presentation of the book, with a dummy, at the Book Fair of Guadalajara. This was an efficient way to introduce ourselves and the book to the different publishers. Not only did we make a good impression on them but we ended with more than one publishing offer for “Kazurá”.

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How do you promote your work to get more business?

Mainly through Blogs and webpages. I am in Childrensillustrators.com and I have recently created a blog on Facebook called “Hüni la ilustratera”.

I also promote my work presenting dummies of books in fairs such as FIL de Guadalajara in Mexico (the greatest Spanish-speaking fair of the world ) to show a complete, well presented idea, something which publishers seem to look forward to seeing, lately.

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The above is an illustration which represents everything that a book can contain, and how they can amaze us. In this illustration I used a photograph of a painted wall taken by me, as a background. Then I worked on creating the characters with several sketches. I transferred them into final lines in good paper, then I scanned them and once in the computer, I worked digitally on the color in Photoshop.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I like to work with inks and watercolors, on good papers, and on those backgrounds I work on the details with coloured pencils. Finally, I finish up digitally in the computer. Lately, I have been applying textures and photos with digital collages.

How I work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP0nLgk_PF8#t=196

Here is a link to a video of an e-book called “Al son the Rigoberto”, a story about frienship between a mosquito and an elephant. It is in Spanish, published by Editorial Bilineata. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/al-son-de-rigoberto/id658854724?l=es&mt=11

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Do you do any black and white illustrations?

Yes, I do. Although I am a colour fan, I have studied and made many engravings in the past during my Fine Arts career. I also made several comics with ink and pens. It is a different type of exercise, to think in black and white, and I love it, especially in my sketchbooks.

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Above and Below: Painted with inks and watercolors (usually I use Colorex by Pebeo) in a good watercolor paper (Strathmore cold press),  retouching the details with colored pencils (Prismalo by Carandache). Finally, after scanning it I worked digitally with Photoshop. The shells are a digital collage of my photographs.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, in Argentina I worked for García Ferré’s magazine “Anteojito” and for women’s magazine called “Mia” by “Editorial Perfil”.

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Above and the four below are illustrations made for a collective exposition in honor to the Grimm brothers, the story I had to illustrate was “All-kinds-of-fur” (is that the translation in English for Bestia Peluda?) – 2012 Buenos Aires International Book Fair.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

Yes, I worked for many educational Publishers illustrating pedagogical texts.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Uh, one? Just one? I cannot work without good light or without music. And, by all means, I am very careful to have the right and best materials to work… If I must choose just a single item, that is a good, well-sharpened pencil.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

In theory, I try to… but in practice, I can´t always do so. I generally work at night. I like it when everyone at home is asleep. I do burn the midnight oil.

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Do you have an agent?

I do not have an agent. And yes, I would love to have one that could make my work known worldwide and sell it for me.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I am also a photographer. It is a great advantage that today we have easy access to document everything that we like or calls our attention. When I began to study humoristic drawing, the professors encouraged us to have a file with cut-outs and photos of things that helped us draw, for example: things from the field and from the city, examples of animals and of different leaves and plants. Today, everything is a click away and we must do research before we begin to draw.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! Today, you can be reached from anywhere and everywhere in the world.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I use both. They are the absolute key to my work.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

A long time ago, I believe in 1998, I bought my first Wacom tablet. Today, I cannot work without it!

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes, indeed… there’s always a goal ahead.

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What are you working on now?

I am working on a new book and a complete project to take to FIL de Guadalajara, and on personalized illustrations that my clients have ordered.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

In animation I learned to sketch with blue pencil, Prismacolor Col-Erase is the brand, which has become almost an addiction to me as I can no longer sketch without them. The idea is to make all the necessary lines and scribbles in blue and then clean up the definitive lines with a black pencil.

There are some drawings that I like better in their primary state of sketch, and sometimes I decide “not to remark them with pencil or ink” and even let them without paint.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I really don’t know how to be a successful writer or illustrator, but I do know that a great part of our learning takes place as we observe, and perfection is reached through practice.

The more you feed your senses, the better you tell the story.

In reality, writers and illustrators are devoted to tell, to convey something. Nobody can do this successfully, unless they know it and feel it deeply from within. Last but not least, it is important to demand respect and value for our work so that our profession keeps growing strong.

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Thank you Ines for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Ines’ illustrations you can visit her at:

Website: http://ineshuni.blogspot.com/  

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Ines, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Agentina, Children's Illustrator, Inés Hüni

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Inés Hüni, last added: 8/26/2014
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5. Attacking A Conference

artshowsailer_njscbwi_showcase

This illustration by Eric Sailer was in the NJSCBWI Art Show and was the winner of the Unpublished Illustrator award. Congratulations, Eric! eric.s.sailer@gmail.com

erikaphoto-45Hi there. Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

Attacking A Conference

This past weekend was the NJ SCBWI conference. It was my first. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences with you all.

First part of a conference that has to be attacked…

Actually Registering!

You can’t get anything out of a conference, if you don’t go.

Are they cheap? No. They’re not. And to be honest, as a simple farm girl, it wasn’t a small nut for me. But all jobs have their expenses. I buy feed for my piglets. This is feed for my writing. (And remember, even if you’re not published, talk to your accountant about deducting the conference cost, hotel and travel.)

So I was determined to go. A few days after registration opened, I looked at my husband and said, ”I’m going to stop THINKING about registering and just go register.” Then I said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

And three hours later, I had completed registration.

The conference had so many amazing options. On top of choosing which workshops to sign up for, we had the options of which of the amazing list of agents and editors to pitch to, eat with, various opportunities for one-on-ones and even peer critiques.

After researching which agents and editors I thought I was a good match to stalk – I mean be around, I was excited to have registered!

Then, a few days before the conference came the part I didn’t expect:

Feeling like I didn’t deserve to go.

Who do I think I am, going to a “writer’s conference”??? I’m not good enough to be a REAL writer.

To be painfully up front with you all, it’s a good thing it wasn’t something that you paid for at the door, because I may have chickened out.

I have tomatoes to plant anyway, and I have to get that sheep fence fixed!

The excuses were just FLYING out of me. I was nervous and antsy and felt like I had absolutely no business being there.

Putting on my big-girl boots and getting over it.

I got in the car early Saturday morning and told myself… this is one of those times you just have to act braver than you are. MANY writers, published or not, feel like they don’t deserve their acclaim.

But I knew I had to get past that in order to get the most of the weekend.

And walking down the ominous skywalk into the check-in area, I decided to officially leave the frightened, non-deserving part of me completely behind.

And within moments I was swept up into the whirlwind that is the NJ SCBWI conference, with amazingly friendly faces, positive encouragement and more information than you could possibly imagine.

Agent & Editor Interactions

This is my biggest take-away that I feel I can pass on. Here’s the big secret:

They’re people!

Who’d have thunk??

And while I’m not saying not to tell them the concept of your book or the super special twist on your novel, what I am saying is: be able to talk about other things as well.

(I’m not sure what the protocol would be to mention names here, so I’ll just say:) I had a great time chatting with an agent, an editor and a fellow author during a social time Saturday night after the comedian. I wasn’t pitching. And I wasn’t looking for an opportunity to pitch. We were just talking. It wasn’t an agent, an editor and two authors. It was four people.

I’m going to call myself out here:

Before this, I had seen agents and editors as these all-knowing, powerful beings that step in and make exciting things happen, or not happen.

While I’m still in awe of their wealth of knowledge, and grateful for all I learned from them, I think I broke down the mental wall in my mind. They’re people.

And (at least the ones I met) REALLY nice, laid back, fun people. They like books! So we have at least some similar interests.

And they have HARD jobs. A few of them confided in me that they don’t love the level of spotlight attention they’re given at conferences sometimes. But they all handle it with grace. When the editor sat down at our lunch table, people stopped mid-chew and all 14 eyeballs darted up towards her. But she introduced herself (even though we all knew who she was) sat down and seamlessly laughed at the length of the line for food.

I can honestly say that I had a wonderful time getting to know some of the agents and editors at the convention on a personal level. And I truly think that’s important.

But of course, when you are pitching…

Be honest. Be specific. Be READY!

Have the CONCEPT readily pitch-able. I learned a great way to think of concept in Jill Corcoran’s workshop. It’s not just the plot, the story, the characters. It’s why should someone read it? The same way you’d try to convince someone to go see a movie. People say, “what’s it about?” But really, what they mean is, “why do I want to see it?”

Cut the fluff.

Words like “adventurous” “mysterious” or “changes everything” (ALL of which were in my pitch on Saturday morning) don’t hold any real meaning.

I guess what it comes down to is that we need to be showing and not telling in our pitch, just as much as in our manuscript.

Everyone thinks their book is a “page-turner”. So that doesn’t give them any information. Tell them WHY. Use specifics. Use adjectives that matter. “Memorable” doesn’t cut it. Use an adjective that describes why she’s memorable instead.

Be READY!

I don’t just mean be ready to pitch. I mean be ready to hear the feedback, positive AND negative. And embrace them BOTH.

These are high-level professionals. I was very lucky to have their feedback. They’re not pointing out fault for their own sake. It doesn’t matter to them in the least. When they pointed out my faults, they were doing it for my sake, so I could improve.

And improve I did.

I had more “ah-ha!” and “I never thought of that” moments in those two days than I can count.

An example you ask? Well, I learned about the importance of drawling the reader in at the end of every chapter.

So I’ll give you a few examples of some of the most important, tangible things I learned in my next post. 

Erika, another great article, so glad you are on my team!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: article, Conferences and Workshops, illustrating, inspiration, Kudos Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, Eric Sailer, Juried Art Show

9 Comments on Attacking A Conference, last added: 7/4/2014
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6. NJSCBWI Conference Thoughts

amalia fish with girl

This fun and colorful illustration is what Amalia Hoffman entered in the NJSCBWI Art Show. Here is the link to her website: http://www.amaliahoffman.com

Amalia wrote the following about her time at the conference.

The last weekend of June, I attended the New Jersey SCBWI conference in Princeton, NJ.

This is really a great conference. So much to do and you get to pitch your idea to an agent, dine with the faculty, view the great illustrations and display your art if you are an illustrator.

But the best part is that you get to meet groovy super creative people, some of which could become your pals forever.

Of course, you can’t do it all. I had a hard time choosing where to go and what to do.

I can only say that going to this conference is like going to a great restaurant – wonderful creative menu but you can’t do it all.

On Saturday,I started with a first page appetizer with Susan Dobinick from FSG and Carter Hasegawa from Candelwick. Of course, I was eager to know what they thought of my first page but it was also very useful to hear what they said about other writer’s first pages.

For main course, I chose Kathy Temean who gave a great session on how to sell more books. She actually took the time to look at each participant’s web site and / or blog and gave suggestions and recommendations. She inspired all of us.

Carter Hasegawa gave a great presentation on narrative Nonfiction. It really helped me realize how to improve my non fiction manuscript. He brought lots of books with him and we teamed and made comments why these were fantastic books. Yes, he did mention that the book were heavy but it was well worth the schlepping.

For desert, Rachel Orr gave an informative presentation about plotting.

I had to miss some of the goodies because I had a very wonderful one on one critique with Emily Feinberg from Roaring Brook Press.

On Sunday, I had a wonderful first course treat as Kathy Temean delivered a very informative session on the state of the market. I don’t know how long it took her to prepare all this, we were lucky to have her put all the ingredients together.

The next course I tasted was Natalie Zaman’s session. Natalie reviewed each participant’s non fiction proposal. It was very helpful to hear her suggestions on how to write the kind of proposal that will get a publisher convinced that you could write and deliver.

Unfortunately, I missed some of Katie Davis’s presentation on how to use video to explode your career because I had an agent pitch but Katie gave a few links to websites and lots of information to a newbie like myself.

There was so much to whet my appetite and, oh, I forgot, the food was yummy too!

__________________________________________________________

Kathleen Bakos said, “I am quite happy to say I’ve attended my first NJ SCBWI conference. I left there in the midst of multiple epiphanies about how to change my stories for the better. There were so many ideas popping in my head while I drove home, I had to record them with Siri in my notes app on my phone so I wouldn’t forget them! Kudos and thanks to all the SCBWI organizers for featuring an awesome faculty and for a well organized conference. My favorite workshops were humor cells, great novel beginnings and endings, and the character development double session. I walked away with many a gold nugget to chew on! Write on!”

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: article, authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, illustrating Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, Agent Rachel Orr, Carter Hasegawa, Conference Thoughts, Emily Feinberg Roaring Brook Press, Susan Dobinick

1 Comments on NJSCBWI Conference Thoughts, last added: 7/9/2014
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7. Ebook influences on Book Sales

art show falkenstern_scbwi

The art show that took place at the NJSCBWI Conference continues with this evening illustration done by Lisa Falkenstern.
ebookinfluences


Filed under: illustrating, inspiration, need to know, Publishing Industry Tagged: 2014 State of the Market Report, ebooks fluences on book sales, Kathy Temean's State of the Market, Lisa Falkenstern

1 Comments on Ebook influences on Book Sales, last added: 7/15/2014
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8. Ebook Sales and Who is Reading YA

art showAngie Kidd ShinozakiFrog on a Log

Angie Kidd Shinozaki entered this cute summer frog in the NJSCBWI Artist Showcase.

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whoreadsya

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: illustrating, need to know, Publishing Industry, Young Adult Novel Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, 2014 State of the Market Report, Angie Kidd Shinozaki, Ebook Sales and Growth, Kathy Temean's State of the Market, Who'es Reading YA?

8 Comments on Ebook Sales and Who is Reading YA, last added: 7/16/2014
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9. "Family Camp-In"


Illustrating for The Friend is not only a pleasure, but can be exciting as well, especially when one forgets about an illo only to open the newly arrived issue and discover it there! I never get tired of seeing my work in print! VERY satisfying, unless of course I wasn't pleased with the finished work, which happens, and then I cringe!
I had so much fun with this one, watercoloring it traditionally, and then sending it to Photoshop to add the final lighting etc. I still am struggling to get the techniques down, but am enjoying it as well, and appreciate the confidence placed in me now and then.
On to the next assignment! What fun!

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10. Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski

 

colleen_baby_cropped_300x300Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always been involved in creative projects. She is an alumna of Moore College of Art and graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Visual Arts. While in college, Colleen worked with The Robert Wood Johnson Hospital as part of her curriculum. She developed, designed and constructed step-by-step instruction booklets to be used by nursing staff. After graduation, Colleen worked as a jewelry designer. While working as a designer she won a scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America and earned a certificate in Colored Stones. Colleen, having a great interest in science, volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. She worked with Dr. John Gelhaus in the entomology department rendering illustrations of insects for scientific publications. She also worked at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, were she designed illustrations for a cookbook featuring Ben Franklin’s favorite dishes.

After the birth of her first child, Colleen opened her studio and virtual gallery. She has been working as a visual artist, with clients all over the United States, for the past eighteen years. You can visit her site at http://www.myartsite.com. She specializes in pet portraiture and still life. Her mediums of choice are oil or pastel.

Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund and volunteers at the local animal shelter. During the summer you can usually find her nursing a sick squirrel or robin back to health.

Here is Colleen explaining her process:

This painting example was created for the NJSCBWI 2014 Conference. I knew I wanted a dreamy, fairytale-ish feel. I wanted the viewer to wonder what would happen next. I also wanted to include the theme of the Jersey shore.

First I researched elements I needed for this particular piece of work, ex. I needed to research old-fashioned bathing suit attire, seagulls, and Victorian style homes in Cape May for this piece.

Next, I drew (in pencil) each element that was to be included in the artwork. I scanned in the early sketches and placed everything in the space to see if worked. I’d drawn a lifeguard chair and the Cape May lifeguard boat but they didn’t fit in the composition, so they were cut.

Then, I went back and shadowed each drawing in pencil.

I scanned each shadowed piece into the computer and placed them on the page.

All the shadowed pieces were built as their own layers. I then painted in colors, using varying opacities and brushes.

colleenstep_1_pencil_sketch_cape may girlOriginal pencil sketch

colleeenstep_2_scan_and_cut_cape may girl

Scanned image, cut out, cleaned up and contrast adjusted.

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Colored layers built up.

colleenstep_4_highlights_shadows_cape may girl

Shadows and highlights are added last.

colleenseagull_pencil_sketch

colleenseagull_full_colorI brought the colored drawings back into the original composition.

colleencapemayflag sketch

colleencape may flag_full_colorI adjusted scale and brightness.

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I then layer in shadows into the final composition and sometimes I add various textures into the composition.

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Finally, when the painting looks finished to me, I put a bump map of a watercolor texture over the entire painting. This makes the work look less “computer-like”. Copyright ©artshow colleenscbwi entry 2_6

After critiques by my trusted artist friends, I add my finished piece to my portfolio. For example, they suggested her head should be tilted toward the bird so I made the adjustment as seen here.

colleendiving girl comp5

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing forever. I participated in my first “show” when I was thirteen (and won first place.) I’ve been seriously working on illustrating for children for the past three years.

What made you choose to get your degree in visual Arts at Rutgers University?

I was originally granted a full scholarship to Moore College of Art when I happened upon a portfolio day after a Saturday class at the Philadelphia College of Art. I attended my freshman year, but then transferred to Rutgers to follow my boyfriend. I know. I know. But we’ve been married now for 27 years. : )

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What were you favorite classes?

I loved figure drawing, creative writing, and anthropology. I’d always try to convince my professors to hold class outside on beautiful days. All except figure drawing. Naked models posing outside in the middle of campus would have been frowned upon—but would probably have drawn quite a crowd.

Did the School help you get work?

Actually, Moore College of Art helped me get my first internship as a scientific illustrator for the entomology department of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

colleenriver of wishes9hair lowered a smidge3tdep5_6_14_3NO-WORDS

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In high school the teachers would commission me for artwork.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

After college I worked in a jewelry store and did some jewelry design. I was fascinated with gemstones and won a scholarship to study colored stones with The Gemological Institute of America.

 

colleenmermaid comp 8Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

The figure drawing classes may have helped a bit but my style has organically evolved over the years.

When did you do your first illustration for children?

I started working on children’s books illustrations about three years ago.

colleenswimming with the fish7

How did that come about?

I had worked as a fine artist for many years, but stopped drawing to seriously study writing. I’ve written screenplays, YA novels, and MG novels, along with picture books. NJSCBWI was holding their first illustrators showcase three years ago and I decided to participate and developed a character, which then became a story.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

After all the positive feedback at the NJSCBWI conference.

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How did you get interested in writing novels and when did that happen?

I had a friend who worked in the SAG office in Philadelphia. I had an idea for a movie and asked her how I could try to sell my idea. She told me I’d need to write a screenplay. I bought books on the mechanics of writing screenplays and started networking with other screenwriters. I decided to try to convert one of my screenplays into a novel. Then I wrote bad novel after not as bad novel until I finally had one that I thought was good enough to submit. But it really wasn’t. So I kept writing more and more. I think my eighth book was the charm and is now being read by several editors.

Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a writer who would like to self-publish?

I think I’d rather work on my own books or be paired with an author from a traditional publisher.

colleenflying girl comp4

Have you worked on illustrating a book dummy to help market your illustrating skills?

Yes.

Since you already are writing novels, have you thought about writing and illustrating you own picture book?

I’ve written quite a few PBs and I have one finished dummy and one in process.

colleenbad luck boy new comp6

Do you have an artist rep.? If not, would you like to have one?

I’m presently not represented, but would love to work with an agent interested in an author/illustrator. I’m a hard worker and not afraid of revisions.

What types of things do you do to market your work?

I show at conferences, tweet, network on FB, display my work on the SCBWI illustrator showcase, and I have a website—ColleenRowanKosinski.com

colleenjaquar11What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m currently working with a combination of pencil sketching and digital painting. I also love oils, and soft pastel.

Has that changed over time?

Many years ago I worked primarily in pen and ink and watercolor. I did a lot of hand-numbing stippling with a rapidograph pen. I transitioned to pastel. Sold quite a few, then fell in love with oil painting. Oil painting is a long process because of the practice of building layers of colors and the drying times involved. That’s why I love digital so much now. I approach color the same way I did in my oil painting but have zero drying time!

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Do you have a studio in your house?

I don’t have a designated studio. Because of very bad back issues I have trouble sitting for long periods of time in a regular chair, but I’ve found a recliner takes the stress off of my lower back so you can usually find my there, either writing, sketching or working digitally. I do have an office with my supplies, a desk, computer, scanner, printer and bookshelves from floor to ceiling.

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My laptop computer.

colleenHanging Around4

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I work every day for at least eight hours or more. I try to attend at least one SCBWI conference a year and as many other workshops that I can fit into my budget and schedule.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I take pictures and research reference images online.

colleenskunk girl_portfolio3

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. I used to have to find reference photos by paging through books and magazines for hours. The Internet also helps me network with other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

What do you feel was your biggest success?

I don’t know if I’ve experienced a “big” success yet. I just keep doing what I’m doing while constantly trying to improve.

colleenfox running picture 16Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I actually use GIMP, which is a free version of Photoshop. I did finally bite the bullet and start subscribing to Photoshop (you can’t buy it outright anymore, you must pay a monthly fee.) I’m experimenting with it but feel more comfortable with GIMP.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Wacom pad when creating my artwork.

colleen02_2ps_mother_and_baby_all_the_layers4

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I dream of finding an agent who knows the craft and market, and being traditionally published. I guess if I want to dream big, I’d love to win a Newberry or Caldecott.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a story called Lydia Light Takes Flight. The character I created for the 2014 NJSCBWI Conference Art Competition inspired the story. The text is finished and I’m currently working on the dummy. It’s a lyrical story with a fairytale’ish feel. I also have a couple PB biographies ready to go, and two other lyrical PB texts. Editors are reading my older MG novel and I’m hoping one of them will make an offer soon.

colleen06_2ps_fire_all_the_layers4

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I don’t know if I can really speak to being successful, but I can say that you have to be a fighter. Don’t wallow in rejection and keep moving forward. Be open to critique and learn from it. Lastly, be involved in the kidlit scene. It’s a wonderful, supportive community.

colleencozette and the black umbrella7

 

Thank you Colleen for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Colleen’s illustrations you can visit her at: www.ColleenRowanKosinski.com Twitter: @writergirlrowan 
Facebook: Colleen Rowan Kosinski

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Colleen, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, Interview, Process Tagged: Colleen Kosinski, Illustrator Saturday, Moore College of Art, Rutgers University

9 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski, last added: 7/26/2014
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11. Illustrator Saturday – Sharon Lane Holm

sharon1

Sharon Lane Holms is a published children’s book author/ illustrator with over 20 years of experience. She has illustrated over 65 children’s books; trade, mass market, board books, workbooks, school/library, craft books, fiction and non fiction, and recently released 2 Itunes Apps which she wrote and illustrated- “Kids Counting Kitties 10-1″, and “Kids Counting Kitties 1-10″ (available in English and Spanish). She wrote and illustrated “Zoe’s Hats” (a color concept book)- published by Boyds Mills Press.

Sharon graduated with honors from The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale with a degree in Visual Communication- ie: Advertising Design. She says, “I have always wanted to be an artist, I have always just wanted to spend my life drawing pictures. Advertising Design offered the most illustration classes at that time. Upon graduation I was offered a job at Hallmark but turned it down.”

sharoninterview 2She was an art director in S. Florida for 4 years winning several advertising awards for advertising design work. As much as she loved design work, Sharon still missed drawing pictures.

Sharon says, “With a move to Connecticut and a child on the way, it was perfect timing to transition into children’s illustration. I was fortunate to acquire a children’s artist representative my first time out.”

Her client roster includes but not limited to- Boyds Mills Press, High Five, Dutton, ABDO, Twin Sisters, Harcourt educational, Child’s World, Kids Can Press, Lerner, Flowerpot Press. She is also, a licensed artist of greeting cards, puzzles and calendars.

She teaches a literacy/art course for grades 3 through 5 for the local school system’s PTO and just earned/received a black belt in TaeKwonDo, martial arts.

Here is Sharon explaining her process:

sharonprocess3

Initial concept or idea, very loosely sketched.

sharonprocess4

Overlays of tracing paper refining, tweaking original concept.

sharonprocess5 (1)

Refining the art till I have it to the degree of “tightness” I want to take the art to

sharonprocess6

Transfered the sketch onto 140lb. Arches HP brite white watercolor paper. I traced the art using a #2 Ticondergo pencil for this piece. Sometimes I will outline with a pigma micron marker, for a more graphic approach. This time I wanted a softer pencil line.

sharonprocess7

 

I sprayed workable fix over the pencil lines. And painted a light ochre wash over entire art. The ochre base color adds a slightly different “dimension” to the paint colors.

sharonprocess8 (1)

 

Final painted piece. I paint using Golden fluid acrylics, gouache, even acrylic craft paint. I then add some highlights with Prisma color pencils.

sharonhats9

How long have you been illustrating?

Professionally for over 20 years. I have illustrated everything from trade books, mass market books, board books, educational books and readers, science/nature, craft books, workbooks , lift the flaps -even cloth and bath books! I have been drawing pictures all of my life, I won a Scholastic Art Award in High School. Drawing has always been the only thing I have ever wanted to do with my life.

sharonkitties10

What made you choose to attend the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale?

I lived in South Florida at the time. Art school was a highly intense 2 yr. art program and college was 4 yrs, I was also in a bit of a hurry to get started in the art field.

sharonpraire

What made you choose to go for a degree in Visual Communication- ie: Advertising Design?

It offered the most drawing/design classes – while its very important to draw well, I feel it is equally important to know how to design the art to work on a page. Where will the art go, how well will it work with the type treatment, will my art tell the same story as the words?

sharonthanks

What were you favorite classes?

All the illustration courses, advertising design and hand lettering.

sharonbook_04

Did the School help you get work?

Yes and no. They did not help with job placement, but I feel the education I received from the Art Institute helped me get to where I am today.

sharonbooks5

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In art school I did some illustrated logo designs for which I was paid.

sharonbooks6

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

Working in advertising agencies, started out doing paste up and mechanicals. I learned even more as to how to design a page. How to grab your attention. I went on to become an art director/creative director winning several awards for advertising design along the way.

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Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

Maybe to a degree. I believe we all have our own sense of style which develops over the years. I have been told I have a bold graphic approach style of illustrating which may have evolved from the years of illustrating for advertisements, brochures, logos. I can look back at art school illustrations and see the same graphic like approach I have now. Only over time my illustrations have gotten much better!

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When did you do your the first illustration for children?

Aprox. 25 years ago. It was a baby wrapped in a quilt.

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How did that come about?

We moved from Southern Florida to Ct when my son was born. I interviewed with an art representative when he was 2 who wanted to take me on. But my comfort zone was still in advertising so I started my own advertising studio. I was fortunate that a few years later they called and asked if I might be ready at that time to get into children’s art. By then I was more than ready. I was with them for 13 years.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I have always wanted to illustrate books. The opportunity arose while doing educational artwork.

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What was the title of your first picture book that you illustrated?

Trucks all Around, Dutton and Playskool were the publishers.

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How did that contract come your way?

Through my agent.

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I see that you wrote and illustrated It’s Silly Time (Read and Sing Along). Did you do the singing, too, on the CD?

Unfortunately, I did not write Silly Time-that credit belongs to Kim Thompson of Twin Sisters. I did the illustrations. We are also fortunate that it wasn’t my singing either!

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How did you get the idea and contract with Twin Sisters Productions?

I got my contact with Twin Sisters Productions through my second agent. I have had the pleasure of working with Twin Sisters for many years, illustrating more than 7 board books, readers and puzzles.

In 2009 “Five Trick or Treaters”, which I illustrated, for Twin Sisters was awarded the National Parenting Seal of Approval.

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How and when did you get involved in licensed art?

I illustrated a “color pencil by numbers” for Dimensions crafts. I have done some greeting card designs on and off for few years. I recently did advent calendars for Vermont Christmas Company. I would love to do more licensing of my artwork.

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How many children’s books have you illustrated?

Over 65. That includes many educational readers, trade books, mass market books, board books, craft books ,workbooks.

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How many books have you written and illustrated?

I wrote and illustrated “Zoe’s Hats”- a color concept book, published by Boyds Mills Press.

In 2012 “Zoe’s Hats” was recognized by Libraries Unlimited ABC-CLIO as a Best Book to Enhance Content Area Curriculum for grades Pre K- 2. I also have two Apple/Itunes Apps which I wrote and illustrated that were released in 2013- “Kids Counting Kitties 10 to 1, and Kids Counting Kitties 1-10.”

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Did you always want to write?

Always. I still have my first book, written and illustrated in 3rd grade.

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How did you end up working with Boyd’s Mill Press? Did you attend Chautauqua? How many books have you done with them?

I did attend Chautauqua. That was quite a wonderful experience! I had met the president of Boyds Mills Press (at that time) at an adult education class-who insisted I submit something to them. I had taken the class to meet him and find out how I might be able to illustrate for Boyds Mills Press. I ended up getting a scholarship to Chautauqua and they accepted “Zoe’s Hats.”

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Have you worked with educational publishers?

many many many

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, Highlights and Highlights High Five

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Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? And how did you connect with them? If not, would you like to have one?

Right now I am networking myself on my own although I am being brokered by Janet De Carlo of StoryBookArts Inc. She was in a partnership with my last agency PortfolioSolutions. I left Portfolio Solutions a few years ago to be on my own .I often think a literary/art agent might be the way to go in the future.

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What types of things did you do to market your work?

I do postcard mailings on a regular basis. I have my own webpage-www.sharoholm.com, I have online portfolio pieces/pages on CBIG, PictureBookArtists,ThatsMyFolio and Jacketflap. I also have a blog that I wish I kept more current- sharonlaneholm.blogspot.com.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m still “old school”. I love the feel and touch of paper and pencil. I love the look of pencil on tracing paper. I still paint traditionally and send the art digitally. I paint with Goldens fluid acrylics, qouache, prismacolor colored pencils, pigma microns(for black line art), even craft project acrylics.

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Has that changed over time?

I like to think my style is evolving- I’m trying to draw looser, not so tight. The process of sending art has changed- now its scanned into Photoshop, clean it up, tweak it and out it goes.

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Do you have a studio in your house?

yes

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Mechanical pencil and tracing paper.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to create or work on art and/or writing every day.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, my family have been posed as models numerous times. Google and Yahoo are a good way to find reference material.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. Besides being able to digitally send art to my clients, its a great source for online portfolios, networking with other artists / illustrators, and writers. I met you, Kathy online and I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your time and consideration in interviewing me.

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What do you feel was your biggest success?

Zoe’s Hats was a great success for me. It was the first book I ever submitted. But success to me is measured in many ways- my biggest success is having had the opportunity to have a successful career doing what I love the most. Drawing pictures and writing stories.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop mostly at this point to scan, clean up and tweak my traditional paintings. I am taking Photoshop lessons at the moment. I can do art in Photoshop but feel much more comfortable with traditional paints, for right now.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I do own a cintiq.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to have more of my own stories published. I have several stories/dummies in varying degrees of “ready” to submit. But I get the elephant in the closet syndrome, where I’ll submit to a few places , even get a positive rejection, and back in the drawer it goes.

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What are you working on now?

Currently I am illustrating religious craft book. I have 1 dummy circulating and several more stories/dummies started.

And I am continually trying to update my portfolio.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I love working on Arches 140 lb HP for painting. I order all my supplies through Dick Blick.One method I learned which I don’t use often enough- scan your tissues/tracings into Photoshop, and then print them out directly onto your WC paper. Saves you a step in transferring your art. You must run the paper through a printer that accommodates archival inks and the weight of WC paper. I have an older Epson Stylus photo printer which handles this.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Draw and try to create your art every chance you can. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cant be what you want to be. With patience, persistence and passion you can make your dreams come true. I did.

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Thank you Sharon for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Sharon’s illustrations you can visit her at: Website: http://www.sharonholm.com Blog: http://www.sharonlaneholm.blogspot.com

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Sharon, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Sharon Lane Holm, The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, Zoe's Hats

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Sharon Lane Holm, last added: 8/3/2014
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12. Illustrator Saturday – Rebecca Caridad

I would like to introduce you to illustrator Rebecca Caridad. I think you will enjoy reading the interview I had with her and getting to know her through her playful artwork. Here is Rebecca:

rebeccapicFor me, illustration is the key to my secret garden, my golden ticket, my looking glass, my glass slipper. I draw and paint as a way to free my mind and escape into the many worlds of the written word. Whether it be for the pages of children’s books, greeting cards, gifts, or decor; I incorporate children, adults, animals, fantasy creatures, and landscapes in a unique and imaginative way in order to tell the story. I work digitally to bring my characters and environments to life and transport the viewer to a place of dreams.

Sep 2003 – Present, Whippany Park High School, Art Teacher

Sep 1997 – May 2001, University of Delaware, Bachelor of Fine Arts; concentration: Photography

Jan 2002 – May 2003, William Paterson University, Initial Certification Program; K-12 Teacher of Art

Jun 2010 – May 2014, Academy of Art University (AAU), Master of Fine Arts; Traditional Illustration Program: Children’s Book Illustration

2014 MFA Illustration Spring Show

Here is Rebecca discussing her process:

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I shot a reference photo for the girl (this is a picture of my cousin’s daughter) and used this to draw out the pose. I found other references for the animals using Pinterest.

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Then I began sketching. I had an idea of the composition, but I drew out my characters separately first so that I could scan them and make the arrangement and adjustments in PhotoShop.

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I change my sketch layers to blending mode: multiply so that I can see through them and I start to build my layers of color. I start with my background color and a few background elements.

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I then start to build up some of the surroundings – adding layers of textures.

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In this particular image, I added the archway next, this provided the frame for the composition.

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I painted in my characters with their basic colors and shapes.

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I then turned off the visibility of the arch sketch and added in the detail and the layers of ivy.

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I turn off the visibility of the sketch layers and put in highlights, shadows, and details of the characters.

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Work to finish the highlights, shadows, and details.

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View of screen and layers in Photoshop.

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Final illustration.

How long have you been illustrating?

I haven’t been illustrating long. I just finished my MFA program in May and I have just started to promote myself as an illustrator.

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I see that you got your BA at the University of Delaware; concentration: Photography, what made you choose to get an MFA in Illustration from Academy of Art University in San Francisco?

I actually started as a painting major at the University of Delaware. I always knew that I wanted to do something that involved art, I just didn’t know what exactly.   It wasn’t until I took a photography class as one of my BFA requirements that I fell in love. I loved capturing an image and then watching it emerge on paper in the darkroom. I decided to pursue photography after that experience and was even able to do a study abroad trip to New Zealand during my time as an undergraduate. Soon after graduating I realized that I wanted to be able to share my passion for the arts, so I went back to school for my teacher’s certification. I have been teaching ever since. I truly love sharing through my artwork, and I thought what better way to do that then through illustration. I still remember the artwork and stories that I read as a child and how they shaped me. I wanted to be a part of that experience and help express the words of a written page into a world that any child could enjoy. I chose the Academy of Art University to pursue these dreams because of its excellent reputation and the convenience of taking my classes online while I continued to teach full time.

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Since you live in New Jersey did you do most of your studies online? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

At first I was a bit hesitant about pursuing an art degree online, but the way that AAU runs its classes is pretty incredible. I didn’t miss trucking my supplies to different classrooms and I was able to enjoy being part of a University with peer feedback and discussions and professors that were extremely helpful and available! Artwork is submitted digitally, whether you work traditionally or not. If you are working on an oil painting, you shoot photographs of your work, if you are drawing, you can scan it, and if you are using Photoshop you just save it. Classmates and professors review your work and make comments. Many of the professors would mark up the files using what they called a “whiteboard” and even left audio files of their comments. Demonstrations could be viewed as videos, so that they could be reviewed whenever you wanted. I thought the experience was fantastic and I am so glad that I was able to do it.

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Does getting your MFA online, help to cut the cost of getting your degree?

The MFA program was not any less expensive then taking traditional classes. You still pay tuition and buy the supplies that are needed. What was better about the online degree was that I was able to attend a university across the country and work on my artwork and lessons when I had the time… evenings and weekends.

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Does the school promise to give you help in getting established with work?

They didn’t promise an established career, but they certainly prepared me to head out into the world. All of the professors were working professionals and their expectations for us during our classes were to prepare us for working in the industry.   Previous to graduation we were required to take a Professional Practices course that shared valuable resources and pushed us to do research that would get us started on our path to be recognized by art directors and agents. During that class I was able to create my first promotional postcard and business card, as well as a list of 50 contacts in order to start my promotional mailings.

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What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

The very first artwork that earned me money was in high school. I painted a fantasy garden mural for a baby’s nursery that included a frog prince and fairies of my own design. I babysat for many years and it helped me pay for my teacher certification program after undergrad, but creating artwork for the families to decorate their children’s spaces helped me earn even more.

What type of work did you do after you graduated with your BA?

I have been teaching high school art, photography, and graphic design now for 11 years and in that time have designed, built, and painted the scenery for the dramas and musicals, designed t-shirts and posters for the school, and have even been the head yearbook adviser. I have continually found ways to share my artwork no matter what I was doing. I have even done event photography, event décor, and face painting for an event planning and rental company on the side.

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Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

The classes that I have taken have definitely influenced my style. I feel that with each course I took I was able to learn more and develop more through the experiences and expertise of those that taught each class. At first I had a hard time keeping my characters consistent, but after taking a Character Design course with the Animation department I was able to start to develop set character traits that could be used in multiple poses and more dynamic gestures. And, of course my medium of choice changed as well… I was able to try everything from oil, to watercolor, markers, collage, and digital painting. After several classes where we were able to choose our medium, I really started to pick up digital painting and I thoroughly enjoy it now.

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When did you do your the first illustration for children? 10. How did that come about?

My illustrations for children started back while I was babysitting. I was inspired by the kids that I saw everyday and I would draw and paint things that I knew they would enjoy. Not all of it was for profit, but it made me happy because it brought smiles to their faces.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I decided I wanted to illustrate books during my years of teaching.   I have been an avid reader all of my life. I love all forms of books… the children’s book section is a place of wonder and inspiration, YA books are fun to read with the fantasy worlds they evoke, whether reality based or imagined, and I wanted to be a part of it! I have been teaching book cover design in my graphic design classes for years and it is one of my favorite units. I thought it would be incredible to be able to create books for real!

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Have you worked with educational publishers?

I am just getting started as a professional illustrator and have not been published yet.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No, but I would like to.

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Are you open to illustrating a self-published picture book for an author?

I am in the process of self-promotion so I am examining all options. I’d have to make sure that the author was serious about their venture, but I believe it would be an excellent opportunity for me.

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Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?

I have tried writing in the past and although I want to illustrate picture books, my words and stories always seem more suitable to chapter books. After attending the NJSCBWI conference this past June, I was re-inspired to try it again. Maybe one day I’ll go for it, but in the meantime I would love to be able to illustrate for the stories of others.

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Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? And how did you connect with them?

If not, would you like to have one?

I do not have an artist rep., but I think it’s an excellent idea to get one. It is one of my goals to try to connect with a rep. through my promotional mailings or even online.

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What types of things did you do to market yourself and get your work seen?

So far, I have designed promotional cards, a business card, and updated my resume. I have a website, a Facebook page dedicated to my illustration, a Twitter account, a Behance portfolio account, and a Linked In profile. I have been submitting my work to contests and shows in hopes of getting recognized for my art. So far I was honored to be a part of the Academy of Art’s MFA Spring Show, an honorable mention from 3×3 The Magazine of Contemporary Illustration in their International Show (both for my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover design concept), and I am submitting work to Creative Quarterly’s competition this month.   I also think attending the recent NJSCBWI conference was a great start to the process of getting my work seen, because I took part in the Juried Art Show and the Portfolio display. I was also able to meet many new people in the industry that have been incredibly helpful and friendly!

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What is your favorite medium to use?

I love to dabble in just about everything, but my medium of choice is definitely digital.

Has that changed over time?

The reason I prefer digital painting is the easy clean up. There really isn’t any, plus it is safe, odor-free, and I am able to make corrections fairly easily without having to start over, like I might with watercolor paints. I was terrible at digital painting in the beginning, but I have grown and learned so much through my MFA courses and I think I have really developed a style through it.

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Do you have a studio in your house?

I have a room dedicated to my work and art. It has everything I need in it for my digital painting process. I have a drawing table, a light box, a bookshelf with inspirations and supplies, a computer, a scanner, a printer, and my wacom tablet.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

I could not live without my Wacom Drawing Tablet. I love to be able to paint using what feels like a brush or a pencil, instead of my laptop’s track pad mouse. It has controls right on it, so I can easily zoom in, or change my brush size, or even pick up new colors. Eventually I would love to trade up to a Wacom Cintiq tablet. That would allow me to “paint” on the actual surface of my artwork, instead of next to it. I think it would feel more like the natural painting process and I look forward to that – someday….

rebeccahappy

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I dedicate a bit of each day to my artwork. Sometimes it’s actually working on a painting and other times I am sketching ideas, either way it helps me realize my ideas.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I like to shoot references for my drawings/paintings, but if that opportunity isn’t available look at myself for expressions and poses, or use the Internet (google images or Pinterest).

rebeccastaurt

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The Internet has definitely opened doors for me after all I was able to earn an entire degree online. It is a great resource for references (although I prefer to shoot my own) or inspirations. Most of all, I think it has provided me with many opportunities to share my work with people that I may not ever have the chance to meet in person, or even know about. Social networking has brought about many more chances to network.

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What do you feel was your biggest success?

So far my biggest success was earning my MFA. It has allowed me to realize my dreams and create a body of work that really reflects my style.

Do you use Photoshop and/or Painter with your illustrations?

I mostly use Adobe Photoshop, but sometimes I will bring my illustrations into Corel Painter to enhance some of the textures. Sometimes, I will even use Adobe Illustrator to draw or even refine my sketches.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, as I mentioned before, it has really made the painting process so much more natural. I love it!

rebecca1Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to illustrate a children’s picture book and have it published. I know that many of your reader’s have already achieved this goal, but I’m so excited and passionate about reaching it!

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What are you working on now?

Right now my goal is to develop more portfolio pieces and character designs. Much of what I took away from the workshops at the NJSCBWI conference was that the ability to develop a strong character (and show him/her in multiple ways) could get you noticed by an art director or agent. Strong characters mean the possibilities for additional stories or even merchandise. So I am continuing to draw and paint, and of course trying to promote my work and get it seen.

rebeccapajama

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I like to use Non-Photo Blue pencils as I begin to sketch. It allows me to rough out gestures and poses and make mistakes and corrections without interfering with the final result. The great thing about them is they will not copy. So, I can go over the lines I want to keep with a graphite pencil and only see them when copied. If I scan my drawings, I can easily remove the rough blue lines in Photoshop and just keep what I need to get started in my painting. I like the quality of line and movement that you get when you are first drawing a subject. If you have to trace the lines later, I often feel like they stiffen up.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Since I am just starting out I don’t feel like I can properly impart any words of wisdom, but I know one thing… enjoy what you do and never lose your passion. It is what has gotten me where I am so far and I’m hoping it leads me to fulfilling my dreams.

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Above: One of Rebecca’s oil paintings.

Thank you Rebecca for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Rebecca’s illustrations you can visit her at:

Website: http://www.rebeccacaridad.crevado.com  

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Rebecca, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: MFA Children's Book Illustration, Rebecca Cardid

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Rebecca Caridad, last added: 8/11/2014
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13. Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise

Christopherbio_photo_bw_cropshort
Christopher Denise is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and visual development artist. His first book, a retelling of the Russian folktale The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, was pronounced “a stunning debut” by Publishers Weekly.

Since then, Chris has illustrated more than twenty books for children, including Alison McGhee’s upcoming Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’ Following Grandfather, Phyllis Root’s Oliver Finds His Way, his wife Anika Denise’s Bella and Stella Come Home and some in Brian Jacques’ acclaimed Redwall series.

His books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and have been recognized by Bank Street College of Education, Parents’ Choice Foundation, and the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition.

Christopher Denise lives in Rhode Island with his family.

Christopher has two books coming out in the next few months. The first is SLEEPYTIME ME written by Edith Hope Fine coming out May 27th.

The second book, BAKING DAY at GRANDMA’S is written by his wife Anika and will be available in August.

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Christopher gives us a sneak peek of some of the interior shots below, with his process pictures on how he did a double page spread for the book. (Please check back later today. Christopher and I got our wires crossed with the process text. He is at a book festival and will be sending it as soon as he can get to Wi-Fi)

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Rough sketch

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Adding more details

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More details and first layer

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Laying in some color

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Refining details, inking in bark on tree, and deepening color of sky

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Painting in color on clothes

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Worked on background and more detail on clothes

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Adding shadows and details on house

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Continuing to deepen shadows and details

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Adding highlights

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Deepening colors

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Adding color to tree.

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Changed my mind about the color of the clothes and added for detail to the final illustration.

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Above are the bears in this double page spread on their way to Grandma’s and below they are getting ready to bake.

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When did you first get interested in art?

As a kid! All kids love art-I just never stopped. I never let anyone talk me out of it-it is too much fun.

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Why did your family move to Ireland from Massachusetts after you were born?

We moved to Ireland when I was six years old. My father had been working with General Electric and they offered him an opportunity to relocate and set up a headquarters in Shannon. He saw it not only as a great career opportunity but a chance to expose his kids to a very different way of life. This was in the early 70′s so Shannon was more like the States in the 50′s. It was an amazing place to spend some of my formative years.

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What made you move back to the states?

He had completed much of what he set out to do and my oldest brother was preparing to enter high school and my parents thought it best to return to the states.

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Do you feel Ireland influences your illustrations?

Absolutely. In Ireland we kids had an amazing amount of autonomy and unstructured time. Broadcast television began after 6pm and there was very little programing geared at children so we spent our days outside exploring the countryside and creating our own adventures. I look at the art I created for The Redwall picture books and I see so much of those childhood days.

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Do you still have an Irish brogue?

Only after a very long dinner party with old friends!

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How did you decide to go to Rhode Island School of Design to study art?

After high school I was studying Art History and Archeology at St. Lawrence University. I was also spending a lot of time in art studio classes. It was fantastic and I was doing very well but I felt I needed more direction. My brother was studying architecture at RISD and after my first visit I knew that I needed to be there. While RISD students were dancing on the tables listening to The Talking Heads (very appealing to me) they were also having serious conversations about art and their own work.

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What was the first piece of art that you sold?

I started freelancing for the Providence Journal in my Junior year at RISD. I created a series of black and white illustrations for a re-printing of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

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I read that you started illustrating books for educational publishers while you were still attending RISD. How did you make those connections?

I did and internship at Silver Burdett and Ginn, an educational publisher just outside of Boston. I was in charge of opening the submissions from artists and filing their promotional materials. It was not long before I realized that I wanted to be on the mailing end of the equation. When the internship finished I created my own mailers, asked the art directors to look at the work and for recommendations about where I might send them.

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Did you always want to illustrate children’s books?

I never had any intention of becoming a children’s book illustrator, I sort of fell into the career. I knew I liked making art, so I left St. Lawrence University and transferred to Rhode Island School of Design. I remember while at RISD I had an assignment to create this illustration using an animal of our choice doing something specific. I think my animal was racoons and the subject was things you do at camp. Honestly, I Bobbaton Questthought I was way too cool to do something like that. I had been painting these big abstract paintings and when making illustrations they were always very cool and smart. But animals with clothes on? Forget it. I never finished the assignment. Fortunately, the teacher stayed on me and gave me another assignment. This time she had me illustrating scenes from Wind and the Willows. Somehow the writing grabbed me and became something that I could sink my teeth into. I really thought about the characters and what they should look like, their clothes, their houses, how they would walk and stand, etc. Then I surprised myself by really enjoying the process of making the art and people loved it. I ended up using those images to start my professional career when I was still a Junior in college to get freelance jobs with educational publishers. The rest is history.

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Were you continue doing freelance work when you graduated? Or did you take a job illustrating?

Since that day it has been all freelance work.

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How did you connect with Philomel to illustrate your first picture book?

That was a friend of a friend situation. I heard that this person, whom I had met a few times socially, worked as an assistant editor at Philomel Books. She was incredibly generous and offered to look at my work. I don’t think she expected much but she actually liked my art and offered to take it down to the Art department. The Art Director promptly rejected it and told me to come back in a few years. Luckily she hung one of my mailers on her wall where it caught the attention of the esteemed editor Patti Gauch (Owl Moon, Lon Po Po). Patti called me up right there and asked when I could be in New York. I borrowed the cash for the train and within a week I was sitting in her office talking about books.

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Your name is the only name for THE FOOL OF THE WORLD AND THE FLYING SHIP. Did you do the writing of the retold Russian tale?

Patti suggested that I consider illustrating the story of the fool and sent me on my way. The first edition I found was the Caldecott award winning version illustrated and retold by Uri Schulevitz. Lets not forget, that this is the guy who had literally written THE book on writing and illustrating picture books, Writing With Pictures. After being paralyzed with fear and then realizing there was no way out of this I started my research. I came across a wonderful version of the text by Petr Nikolaevich Polevoi published by St. Petersberg in 1874. Patti and I loved the language and just made a few minor edits. There is a note about the text on the last page of my edition.

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What was the next book that you illustrated and how did you get that assignment?

My next book was The Great Redwall Feast by Brian Jaques. Patti was Brian’s stateside editor and had been hounding him to write a picture book. Brian saw The Fool and wrote The Feast for me to illustrate. We quickly became close friends and I had the pleasure of working with him for many years. He is missed and I think of him often.

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Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

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Did anyone hire you just to illustrate a cover for a book?

Yes, I created the artwork for Brian’s Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. I created two paintings for the cover but ultimately they were never used.

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I see that your wife Anika is an author. How many books have you illustrated for her?

We have a really fun wintertime read-aloud book due out this August called Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel Books). That will be our third. Before that we collaborated on Pigs Love Potatoes (Philomel Books 2007) and Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010). Both are still in print and seem to be popular!

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Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Desire-yes but I have not felt like I have had the chops to pull it off until recently. Writing a solid picture book, as many of your readers know, is incredibly difficult. I have a few things on my desk that are showing some promise and with the help of my incredible agent and friend, Emily vanBeek at Folio Jr., I am sure that a few of them will come to fruition at some point. Recently, I came up with the initial concept and art for a book that I tried writing but it was terrible! Thankfully, Alison McGhee (Someday, Bink & Gollie, Shadow Baby) came to my rescue and penned a gorgeous novel called Firefly Hollow that I am working on right now.

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Christophercollector

How and when did you get involved in visual development work for animated feature films?

A RISD alumni who knew my work called me to work on a project that was in development with Blue Sky Studios ( Ice age, Rio, Epic). I was part of a very small team of artists all outside the film studio creating images for what the film might look like. I ended up staying with the project for nearly a year. Its a beautiful story that I hope they make into a film someday!

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Which animated films did you work on?

Left Tern (Blue Sky studios), Beasts of Burden (ReelFx), a bit of work on Rio (Blue Sky studios) after it was already in production, and a few others that have not yet been made and I am not supposed to talk about!

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What is involved in visual development in animation?

Visual Development artists are called in to work with a director and/or production designer to help envision the look and feel of a film. You need to check your ego at the door, stay flexible, and work very, very quickly. I would turn out 20-30 paintings a week. Many loose, some more finished. Sometimes your paintings would be sent off to another artist to paint over and then sent back to you for work again. Often there is not a solid script and you are flying by the seat of your pants with a story summary and a few story beats (moments in a film) that you need to nail down. I love the collaborative aspect of the work and the idea that it is all about the story-not just making one or two pretty pictures.

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I noticed that you used pastels on one of your illustrations. Is that your favorite medium?

I love pastel work but really I love whatever is working for that particular book. Its always about the book on my desk and what it needs from me. I do enjoy the flexibility and speed of photoshop. I am impatient with my work and want to get to the good stuff as soon as possible. I need to get in there and start painting and changing things. Acting and re-acting. Photoshop is a wonderful tool for that type of work.

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Has your style changed over the years?

Sure, with every book and the demands of each manuscript. Writing is hard and I think it would be a great disservice to the author and the story for me to impose a particular style on a book.

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How did you connect with the lovely agent, Emily van Beek?

How long have the two of you been together? Emily and I met when I signed on with Pippin about 5 years ago. I was thrilled to re-connect with her later on when she started Folio Junior.

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What do you think has been your greatest career accomplishment?

Wow. Tough question. Ask me again in about twenty years! A Redwall Winters Tale and Oliver Finds His Way would both rank pretty high up there for different reasons but I always think that I am only as good as my last book. I feel pretty good about the last year. I completed two books that I am VERY proud of. Sleepytime Me by Edith Fine (Random House, May 2014) and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel, August 2014)

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How many children books have you illustrated?

About twenty two I think. A few of the titles were created for educational publishers then re-published for the regular trade market.

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How did you get involved in illustrating the Redwall series of books?

Patti Gauch was responsible for showing Brian Jacques my work. Thanks, Patti!

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How many of those books have you illustrated?

I illustrated three books for the the Redwall picture-book series. The Great Redwall Feast (Philomel 1996), A Redwall Winters Tale (Philomel 2001), and The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel 2005)

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It looks like you have done a lot of books with Philomel. How many books have you illustrated for them?

Nine books with Philomel so far.

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OLIVER FINDS HIS WAY was published by Candlewick. How did that contract come about?

Chris Paul at Candlewick called me up out of the blue one day and said she had a project that she would like me to consider. They are just up in Somerville so I drove up for lunch and met with Chris and the wonderful Mary Lee Donovan. I knew right away that I wanted to work with them. Candlewick is a fantastic house, beautiful books, super nice people.

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I think Jane Yolen lives near you. Did you know her before you illustrated THE SEA MAN? Was that the only Merman you have illustrated?

I did not know Jane before I illustrated The Sea Man, but of course I knew Jane’s work. We just saw each other at Kindling Words in January and since then have talked about the possibility of working together again. Yes-that was the very first Merman I was asked to illustrate.

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Do they have a studio in your house?

My studio is about 15′ from my back door in a separate building that I re-built just three years ago. For years I had studios in Providence. Downtown is only about twelve miles away from the little beach-side community where we live but the drive home, late at night if I was working on deadline or a film project, was not fun. It was convenient when I was teaching at RISD but I was also missing my wife and the kids. I like to be able to quit at 4:00, spend some time with my family, have a glass of wine, dinner, read to the kids, and put them to bed. After that I walk back out to the studio for another session. Making books is hard work but my family life and walks on the beach keep me anchored and very happy.

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I was able to see some of your wonderful black and white interior drawings that did you do for Rosemary Well’s book, FOLLOWING GRANDFATHER. How many did you do for the 64 page book?

Gosh, I don’t remember-quite a few! I loved working with Rosemary and since then we have become good friends.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes, I think I did work for Ladybug magazine. I may have done work for Cricket.

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Your new book coming out in May titled, SLEEPYTIME ME is beautiful. How did you get that contract with Random House?

I was working with Elena Mechlin at Pippin and she brought the manuscript to me. Edith’s (Fine) writing is so wonderful. That was another fantastic project. Random House gave me lots of support and complete freedom.

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How long did you have to illustrate that whole book?

I created that suite of images in about six months. They were long days but I loved the work.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Not so many things personally. Emily, my agent, makes sure that I have plenty on my plate. I work closely with her making sure that we have a plan and chart out the production schedule. Our biggest challenge is leaving some blocks of time off-especially in the summer

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My sketchbook-no doubt.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I do try to take some time in the summer to go landscape painting. But in truth I work on my craft every single day. I try to start each session as a novice.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I do take some pictures. I browse books ( fine art, photography, other picture books) from my own shelves and the library-seeing what comes to me. The internet, of course, is amazing.

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christopherchefs

I notice that you are doing the illustrations for Betsy Devany’s debut picture book, SMELLY BABY. Both of you are represented by Emily van Beek. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Great match-up! How was Emily able to get you two together?

This is one of the great things about Emily. We were talking about what I wanted to work on, scheduling and such and she was already thinking way ahead of me about what would serve us (because we are most definately a team) professionally but also allow me to stretch artistically. She called me up a few days later and asked how I felt about working on something funny and emailed Betsy’s manuscript for Smelly Baby. I read it through and forced my self to wait for ten minutes before I said YES!

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Have you won any awards that you are particularly proud of?

Yes but it has nothing to do with publishing! I was nominated for the Frazier award in teaching at RISD. That nomination was particularly meaningful to me because it is the students who vote for the few nominees that make the cut. That was such an honor because I loved working with such wonderfully talented young artists and I put my heart in soul into teaching those classes. Of course I am grateful and honored when any of my books receive recognition.

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Out of all the books you have illustrated, do you have a favorite?

Another tough question. The books are like my girls, they are all my favorites for different reasons. If I had to choose I would choose four. Pigs Love Potatoes (Anika Denise) Oliver Finds His Way (Phyllis Root), Sleepytime Me (Edith Fine), and Baking Day at Grandma’s (Anika Denise).

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Do you use Photoshop or a graphic tablet when illustrating?

I paint and draw in Photoshop using a medium size wacom intuos tablet and pen.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I am in the process of doing just that! I spend my days drawing pictures and coming up with stories. How great is that?!

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What are you working on now?

Firefly Holly ( Simon & Schuster) an illustrated novel by Alison McGhee, and Betsy Devany’s picture book Smelly Baby (Henry Holt & Company)

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Do you have any material type tips or software type tips you can share with us? Example: A new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I think my breakthrough with digital tools came when I stopped trying to “learn” the software and started to think of using photoshop to replicate my traditional process. To use the program in the same way as I used my traditional tools. Same layering process, same ways of applying color. Make the digital tools work for you-mistakes and all. In the end you have more flexibility and can change things. Also-be brave and create your own brushes to get the effects that you want.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Trust your instincts. Do what you need to do to get by but after that point do not be afraid to say no to something if your heart is not in it.

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Thank you Christopher for sharing your talent, process, expertise, and journey with us. Please keep in touch and let us know all of your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Christopher at: http://www.christopherdenise.com You can link over to his blog and his Etsy shop where he sell original artwork.

facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Denise-Illustrator

I really appreciate it when you leave a comment, so please take a minute to leave Christopher a comment. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Tips Tagged: Anika Denise, Baking Day at Grandma's, Christopher Denise, Patty Gauch, Sleepytime Me

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Christopher Denise, last added: 4/12/2014
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14. Illustrator Saturday – Dana Martin

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Dana Martin is an illustrator and designer who was born in New Mexico and has been roaming ever since. A recent graduate of Montserrat College of Art, her work has appeared in several local shows and was recently featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives.

Her clients include the Peabody Essex Museum, Hendrickson Publishers, Chrysler, ABDO, ArtThrob Magazine, and Ploughshares. The Johnstown Flood, scheduled for release this fall, will be her first illustrated chapter book.

Here is Dana showing and discussing her process:

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Once I’ve worked out my composition in thumbnails and sketches, I make a preliminary drawing.

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Then I transfer it to watercolor paper.

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I ink the drawing, but I keep it pretty light, sticking to a color I know will blend well with the paint and feathering my edges. Once it’s dry, I add masking fluid to any light areas I want to preserve.

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I wet the paper and paint my first coat, adding a little ink wherever I need the color to be bolder.  Once that’s dry I add more masking fluid to the flower stems.

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I do a second coat with darker red, and this time I really soak the paper to float the paint.

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After that, it’s just about adding detail and building up a tonal range.

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As a final step, I add a little splatter around the corners for texture.

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Above: The Cover of Dana’s First Illustrated Book. Below: A few back and white interior illustrations. 

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How long have you been illustrating?

3 years professionally.

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How did you decide to attend Montserrat College of Art?

Because I knew so little then about how to choose an art school, I started my search with two lists. One was of all the schools in the AICAD (Association of Independent Schools of Art and Design) and the other was of those in the NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design). I wanted to go to a private college and I figured any school that made both the lists was probably pretty good (now that I know more about accreditation processes, this seems amazingly naïve). After that I just started investigating every school that was in both associations. Most of them didn’t offer illustration programs, so they were easy to cross off. Others I could tell just weren’t the right fit. I eventually applied to RISD, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and Montserrat, and was accepted into all three. At that point, the smart thing would have been to visit the campuses, but since I was in the middle of gen. ed. classes at a state university on the other side of the country, I couldn’t get away. I kept calling and emailing the admissions offices with more questions, and they all did their best to get me the info I needed. Montserrat was always the pleasantest to deal with, though, and I just started to get the sense that it was a place where I would really feel at home. This turned out to be true.

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Can you tell us a bit about that school?

Montserrat is a quirky little school slightly north of Boston. They offer all the standard art school concentrations, but the illustration department is particularly strong. There’s an emphasis on building foundational skills rather than chasing the latest trends, and the learning atmosphere is great because the students and instructors are serious about their work, but not their self-image. It’s a down-to-earth and unpretentious community, something that’s not always easy to find in the art world.

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What were you favorite classes?

That’s a hard choice, I had a lot of great ones. I really enjoyed the natural science illustration class, because we learned a lot about botany and insects, and there was a whole closet full of butterflies, dried flowers, stuffed birds, and other treasures that we were free to borrow for sketching. My thesis class was also amazing, because I got to plan my own assignments but was supported by everyone’s feedback. Even the classes I wasn’t enthusiastic about, though, such as typography and web design, have proven invaluable since graduation.

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Did the school help you get work?

No, not directly. If there is one downside to a small college, it’s that the career department is also small and just doesn’t have the resources to place students in jobs right after they graduate. But the school did give me the skills I needed to get work for myself, as well as a wealth of friends and colleagues to help me on the way.

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What did you do right after you graduated?

I continued with some of the things I’d already been doing in college – working at a library and helping with Montserrat’s summer program – but I did manage to get some small illustration jobs almost as soon as I graduated.

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Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

One thing I appreciated about my instructors was that they didn’t steer students toward one style or another, but instead worked to help each of us sort out the voices we already had. I’ve always had an eye for detail, but when I started school, it was out of hand. My compositions were cramped and everything in the picture was competing for elbow room, so nothing could flow. The instructors helped me recognize the problem and find ways to open up the page.

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What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I did some architectural illustrations for an organization that taught adults with developmental disabilities. They were planning to renovate a veterans memorial park, with the idea that their students would maintain it once it was finished and the whole community could enjoy it. But first they needed to raise the money, so my illustrations of the future park were designed for the fundraising brochures. It was the kind of obscure job that you only find through the friend of a friend; I heard about it because the assistant director of the organization was friends with a Montserrat alum, who kindly posted the job on one of the school’s social network pages.

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What was the first illustration work you did for children?

It was for Clubhouse Magazine. I was nine years old. So actually, come to think of it, that was my first paid work. I got ten dollars.

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How did that come about?

Clubhouse used to put out one issue a year that was exclusively written and illustrated by children. Amazingly, the process hardly varied from what I now do professionally. I sent them a sample of my work (a horse, because to my nine-year-old self, horses were the supreme challenge, so drawing one was proof that I was a master artist). Someone from Clubhouse wrote back to say they liked it and would I care to illustrate the story they’d enclosed? It was a mystery story written by another child about a ticking bomb and a school band (it wasn’t really a bomb, just a metronome, and this was before bombs in schools had become such a fraught issue). I did a top-notch job on the metronome, because I’d just started piano lessons and knew exactly what it looked like. I did a derivative job on the bomb, because the only ones I’d seen were in Bugs Bunny cartoons. They also wanted a drawing of a trumpet, and I did a really terrible job on that. I couldn’t figure out all the twists and turns in the brass tubing, let alone where the trumpet player’s hands were supposed to go. The big difference between this project and all the subsequent ones was that I had no contact with the art director and nobody looked at my sketches; I was just supposed to mail everything in when I was finished. I’m pretty sure, though, that the art director felt the same way about the pictures as I did, because the story, the metronome, and the bomb made the first page of the magazine and the trumpet picture disappeared quietly into the night. They never printed it and I never saw it again, thank God.

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How did you get to be featured in CMYK’s Top New 100 Creatives?

I did have to submit work to be considered, but unlike most competitions, the judging was based on the whole portfolio rather than any one piece.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I expect from the moment I first saw a children’s book. Even before I could read them I never went anywhere without one. Come to think of it, I still don’t.

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How did you get the contract to illustrate the chapter book titled The Johnstown Flood?

I had sent a black-and-white postcard to the publisher, ABDO, and one of their editors contacted me shortly after that because she had some black-and-white interior work. I’m thankful that she liked the card enough to comb through my blog, because the medium we went with was not at all what I’d sent her. She liked my preliminary drawings, which were all done in graphite. I’d never considered marketing them, because to me they seemed unfinished. I did push the drawings a bit for the book, using darker pencils and some Photoshop to get a wider tonal range, but the style was basically the same.

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How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

I did the whole thing in a month. I could tell the editor was anxious to get it done; I think because it was part of a new line, the Up2U adventures, she needed some artwork to show the rest of her team.

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I know Lisa Mullarkey, but I didn’t know that her husband was writing with her now. Have you met Lisa?

No, sadly I have not had the pleasure. It’s so cool that you know her, though! I hope she and Mr. Mullarkey like the illustrations.

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Do you have any other work planned with ABDO Publishing?

At the moment, no. As far as I can tell, the majority of the work they use is digital. The editor I worked with also left shortly after that book was finished.

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Do you plan on marketing your illustrations to other educational publishers?

I have, yes, and will continue to do so.

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What was your first illustration success?

I did a t-shirt project for Ploughshares, and I was happy both with how the project turned out and how it was conducted, so I guess that was my first big success. Technically it was a design contest, but I and the other two artists were paid for our participation, and we all got to work with the wonderful editor Andrea Martucci to come up with designs that fit the magazine. The contest entries got so many online votes that Ploughshares decided to produce all three designs. So everybody won. Later that year I ran into Andrea at the Boston Book Festival, and she was just as nice in person as she’d been in her emails.

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Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

Oh yes, I already have and will continue to write more. I just haven’t gotten them published yet.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, the main one has been Spellbound magazine. The editor and art director are both really great to work with and the magazine always has interesting, fantasy-related themes, so I always enjoy their assignments.

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Do you have an artist rep or an agent? If so, could you tell us how the two of you connected? If not, would you like to get representation?

No, I don’t have one. I’ve heard some agent horror stories that made me wary of pursuing the matter. Obviously there are some amazing agents out there, but you are giving them a lot of power over the direction of your career. I can’t say I’d never be interested, but I would need to be confident that we were on the same page about where my work was going and how it would be represented.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I send out a lot of postcards and emails, meet people at conferences and events, and try to maintain a strong internet presence.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

Watercolor

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Has that changed over time?

No, but I’ve upgraded from the Crayola set. Now I use Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith watercolors.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

A cup of tea.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I track the time I’m spending, but it’s usually not my goal to spend a specific number of hours. Instead, I review my time records now and then to help me evaluate things such as: how long did this project take and which part took longest, was the time well-spent, is there anything I’m repeatedly struggling over, when was I most productive, etc. This helps me figure out whether there’s anything I need to adjust in my routine.

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Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Yes, cautiously open. Self-publishing has come a long way in the last decade, and there are some interesting projects out there that are too specialized for traditional publishing but can be successful as self-published books. I have worked with self-published authors in the past, and sometimes it was a great experience. Other times it was anything but.

Sometimes when authors pitch their projects to me, they say something along the lines of, “I have the whole book pictured in my head, and I know you’ll be able to paint it the way I see it.” But that is exactly what I cannot do, as I was born without mind-reading powers. I almost always turn these authors down, because I know they’re going to be disappointed once they figure out I’m not telepathic. (I wish I was joking about this, but it’s all too true.) Another problem I’ve run into is that authors may not realize just how massive an undertaking a book is. I’ve had authors offer me a few hundred dollars to do all the art and design work on a picture book, with no royalties, and they wanted me to sign away all rights into the bargain. They actually seemed to think it was a fair price.

Of course, there are also lots of brilliant authors who have done their research and have more realistic expectations. All in all, though, I am generally more willing to take on smaller self-publishing projects, such as novel and chapter-book covers, than I am self-published picture books. It’s simply less of a risk.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I do lots of research; in fact, I’m particularly drawn to projects where research is required. Investigating historic fashion, rare plants, and obscure legends is all part of the fun.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Without a doubt. My whole business is conducted online.

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Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I do use Photoshop, but just for minimal editing, such as adjusting for contrast or stitching a piece together if it was too large for the scanner bed.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I’ve used them, but so far I don’t need a tablet enough to invest in one.

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Do you find exhibiting your artwork gets you jobs?

No, because most of the shows I’ve been in have not been the sort that would attract editors and art directors.

Rather, the shows are their own experience. They’re an opportunity to interact with my audience and hear their thoughts on my work. I never know what to expect, but people have actually been extraordinarily positive and encouraging, and I always come back from a show energized to make more art.

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes, so many! Bringing out my own picture book is the one I’m focused on at the moment.

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What are you working on now?

I have some small magazine assignments, but the projects I’m most excited about right now are actually personal ones. I’m working on a picture book manuscript set in Venice, and I’ve also started a new series of paintings. I’ve recently become fascinated with really limited palettes, so each of the paintings (which are based on some old stories) has a different dominant color. They’re also all set in different decades, because I wanted to explore some of the ways fashion has changed in the last hundred years.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My painting methods can be hard on the paper, so I need something sturdy. Arches cold press is the paper for me. It stands up to washes, doesn’t tear from tape or masking fluid, has enough texture to get interesting effects with the paint, but not so much that it interferes with pen work.

dana800Johnstown-Flood-horse480

 Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Everyone knows they have to work hard, but I don’t think everyone realizes how long they’ll be working hard. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to neglect everything else in the pursuit of your craft, but over time that undermines you. Art has to be about something. If you cut yourself off from your friends, your hobbies, and whatever else fuels you as a person, you eventually will have nothing to say artistically. In the words of Gore Vidal, the unfed mind devours itself.

So keep an eye out for all the wonderful and interesting things that are happening around you and cultivate an agile mind. That, rather than any technical skill, is an artist’s greatest asset.

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Thank you Dana for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know of all your future successes. 

You can visit Dana at www.dana-martin.com or find out what’s new with her on her blog at http://danamartinillustration.tumblr.com/

Please take a minute to leave Dana a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Book, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process, Tips Tagged: ABDO Publishing, Dana Martin, Liza Mullarkey, Montserrat College of Art

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Dana Martin, last added: 4/20/2014
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15. Happy Easter!

easter2104-Kathy

Ana Ochoa sent in this cute Happy Easter illustration to help me wish all of you a Happy Easter. Ana’s illustrations have been exhibited in many countries around the world. Her art is represented by Chris Tugeau and she was featured on January 11th 2014 on Illustrator Saturday. Click here to see her feature.

Easter Parade

This Easter Parade illustration was sent in by Joanne Friar. She has been creating art for children’s books for over 18 years, researching history and nature from ancient civilizations to the Great Depression, from wetlands conservation to endangered species. Her books have won awards such as the CBC Notable Social Studies Book, the CBC Outstanding Science Book, and John Burroughs Nature Books for Young Readers. Joanne is represented by Christina Tugeau and was featured on Illustrator Saturday on March 10th, 2012 - Click here for the link.

easteregg

You never know what is in those Easter Eggs, but Lisa Falkenstern used her imagination to show us in this illustration. Lisa has been a professional illustrator for more than thirty years. She’s illustrated The Busy Tree, published by Marshall Cavendish, and My VeryOwn Pirate Story, published by I See Me, written and illustrated A Dragon Moves. You can read about her new book, “Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC”. Here is the link to Thursday’s Post about the book, which includes illustrations. Lisa was also featured on Illustrator Saturday on October 2, 2010. Here is the link to visit her feature.

 

easter bunny bird

This cute Bird in bunny pajamas was sent in by Jennifer Geldard from one of her series illustrations in watercolor, black fine-tip marker and white gel pen. She is a glass artist by trade, and new to the world of illustration. I’m still getting my bearings, and learning the business end of things, but she says, “painting is pure joy for me, and I’m enjoying every minute of my education.” Her website is www.glassgirl.com

easterbulbgarden

Susan Detwiler is the Illustrator Coordinator MD/DE/WV SCBWI illustrator of several picture books including On The Move and One Wolf Howls. She is the author/illustrator of Fine Life For A Country Mouse, which will be published by Penguin in September. Susan was featured on Illustrator Saturday March 9, 2013. www.susandetwiler.com

eastereggsandhen

Katia Bulbenko has been drawing ever since she can remember. After studying printmaking andpainting at Tyler School of Art, she pursued her interests in sculpture and silk painting, then worked as a freelance textile designer for many years, her specialty being “conversationals”—paintings of things like coffee cups and hats, mostly for pajamas ortable linens. In addition to spending her time teaching art to grades pre-k through 8 and creating beaded fiber pieces, Katia is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. Her favorite mediums are watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache. 

I want to thank everyone who sent in an illustration. I loved them all and will be using the rest with my posts in the next few weeks. Please keep sending me your illustrations. They add so much interest to this blog. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator Sites, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration Tagged: Ana Ochoa, Happy Easter, Joanne Friar, Lisa Falkenstern, Susan Detwiller

2 Comments on Happy Easter!, last added: 4/21/2014
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16. Illustrator Saturday – Eric Freeberg

ericpicEric Freeberg discovered the Tolkein art of the Brothers Hildebrandt in high school. Their influences were N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle, who are enduring influences. The illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration continue to resonate with him after decades of studying painting and making pictures as a professional.

He studied painting at the New York Academy of Art, and also at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, and at the Art Students League.

His hope is to combine the gallery quality of fine arts representational painting with the magic and narrative of childhood. His art straddles the fence between the fine arts and the commercial.

Eric has illustrated many books for children, in addition to work for magazines and ad campaigns.

He has exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York, and at the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles Annual. He is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Wendy Lynn & Co. represents his artwork.

Eric forgot to take process pictures, but he has given us a lot of information about both his painting process and his black and white illustrations. Here is Eric explaining his painting process:

This is the typical process with a color illustration.

Sketch

ericRevisedKudu54

(1) Color study

Once the sketch has been approved by the publisher/client, I make a rough color study based on the sketch. To make the study, I print the sketch onto quality paper with a copier. I seal the surface of the paper with acrylic medium so the oil paint won’t soak into the paper. Then I do a quick painted sketch in color on top of the copy to give myself an overall feel for a possible color harmony. In addition to a painted color sketch, I might do a value study as well–same method– if I have time.

ericTug of War Value Study2

(2) Enlarge drawing to painting surface

I then have the approved sketch/drawing enlarged onto a sheet of quality drawing paper. Strathmore Bristol Board 2 or 3 play is a favorite. I do this at a printing place. This allows me to work fairly large while retaining the detail of the drawing, and removes the step of having to transfer the drawing.

ericTug of War Color Study

(3) Mounting

Next, I mount drawing paper(with drawing printed on it) onto 1/2 inch plywood. I briefly soak the paper in water. After patting the paper dry with a cloth, I brush acrylic medium onto both the plywood surface and to the back of the drawing paper. I then position the paper onto the plywood. The acrylic medium acts as a glue. I then use a brayer(a roller) to smooth out the paper on the plywood, to make sure the paper adheres completely and without bubbles. Once that’s done, I brush on a layer of acrylic medium onto the surface of the drawing, to seal the paper so oil won’t be absorbed. Once that layer dries, I sand it and apply a second layer of the medium. I might do 3 layers with sanding between.

When that’s all done, I have an underdrawing upon which to begin painting, and a nice, large, solid and relatively smooth surface for painting.

erictug of war

(4) Underpainting

The first layer of paint is usually an underpainting of a solid color in acrylic paint. I often like to use raw sienna or something similar as an underpainting color, because I like the feel of the the warm color. It seems to work well, and sets the tone for the painting to come. Sometimes I’ll mix the sienna with opaque titanium white in order to lighten some of the dark printed blacks of the underdrawing.

ericKudu book 1 page 7

(5) Painting Block-in

Next, I start painting full color with oil paint. I try as much as possible to get the final intended color in the first try. I refer to my studies, the color study and possibly a value study, as I paint with oil. I use the studies as a guide, but usually expand on the color and value in the final work. When I’m painting I’ll usually paint area by area. For example, I might just work on painting a character. Typically, I’ll glaze (a transparent color diluted with painting medium) over the area to be worked with. Then I paint directly into the glaze with opaque and thicker paint. The glaze, if done with a fast drying medium like alkyd mediums, will quicken the drying of whatever is painted into it. Plus, the glaze improves the flow of your brushstroke.

ericMoving Day Color Study

(6) Detail

Next, I repaint and work detail into the picture as needed. Sometimes I’ll glaze, sometimes I’ll paint opaque visible brushwork. A word about glazing–I have been using walnut alkyd medium. It dries quickly and is nontoxic. One thing to know about alkyd painting mediums is they dry a bit dull and matte. You’ll need to either “oil out” the painting after its dry, or varnish it. I find oiling out works pretty well when I’m in a hurry. What that means is, you brush oil onto the painting’s surface, rubbing the oil into areas that appear dull. It should bring out the richness of the oil paint. Ultimately, varnishing is needed.

For brushes, I block in big areas with bright bristle brushes. I like the Princeton 6300 Series for this. They’re a hog bristle, synthetic combo that I find works well. But for smaller areas and detail, I use softer hair brushes. Right now, it’s Dick Blick’s Red Sable Filbert size 10, along with a pointed round for fine detail. I keep trying new brushes though. It’s good to experiment.

ericMoving Day-Eric Freeberg

Drawing Process:
When I’m asked to create black and white drawings, the following method is typical.

(1) Value study in charcoal

I like working with pencil in the final drawing. Before I begin the final drawing, though, I’ve found doing a study in charcoal to be helpful in helping me get my dark values appropriately dark when I later work with pencil.

ericdancing

(2) Transferring

I have an opaque projector that’s great for enlarging sketches onto larger drawing surfaces. I project the approved sketch onto my drawing surface and then lightly trace the lines of the sketch with an HB pencil.

(3) Darks

Once the lines of the composition has been lightly traced, I like to take a 3B graphite pencil and decisively knock in the darks of the composition.

(4) Detail

Once that’s done, I use a variety of pencil lead ranging from 4H to 8B, in order to get subtle modeling of value, and the soft leads between 4B and 8B allow me to get fairly dark darks.

More black and whites further down. 

ericfrogsWhen did you first know you wanted to make a living doing art?

I was lucky in that I had very encouraging and supportive parents who probably planted in my mind, very early on, that art could be a future career for me. The first “drawing” I did was when I was 2 years old, supposedly of a witch; I think it looks more like a mosquito doing yoga, but I’ll take my mom’s word for it.
But I’d say, by high school, I was thinking of pursuing art as a career.

erichouse

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for 6 years.

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What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

When I sold some paintings in a college scholarship exhibition.

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I see that you attended the Academy of Art in New York City and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Which one did you attend first? Did you transfer or branch out in a different direction?

I went to the Pennsylvania Academy first. I’d already had 4 years of art study at a state college, so after a year in Philadelphia I’d decided I needed a break. I went to New York a couple of years later and, while it wasn’t a transfer, it offered a similar traditional academic training for artists that included drawing from cast of classical sculpture, lots of figure drawing, that sort of thing.
The New York Academy also had a Masters degree program, which was a factor in my choosing to go there. And I wanted to live in New York.

ericgirlkitty
How did you decide to attend these two schools?

There’s a Salvador Dali quote, “Learn from the masters, and then do what you want with it.” The illustrators Greg and Tim Hildebrandt (The Brothers Hildebrandt—from New Jersey, by the way) said the same thing. That was my attitude as well and it influenced my decision to study at both PAFA and NYAA. They both had, and have, a respect for the old masters and value representational painting. Nowadays, there are more options for a student who wants to study that kind of painting.

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What did each school bring to the table?

I only did the foundation year in Philly, so it was mostly basic drawing and painting. In New York, the focus was the human figure, so there was plenty of figure drawing and figure painting, along with painting techniques, etc.

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What type of painting did you study?

If you mean media, it was oil painting. Painting of the figure was the emphasis.

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Did the school help you get work?

Ultimately it did. You hear respected illustrators say “learn the figure.” In the children’s genre, I think that skill can get you jobs illustrating history and biography,etc. Also, a knowledge of anatomy and rules of the figure is hugely helpful when you’re creating figures from your imagination. When I’m illustrating in a goofier style, I have to let go of some of my fine arts education(laugh). It’s about what’s appropriate for the job.

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Did you go right into a job after you graduated or did you immediately start freelancing?

After I graduated, I actually moved to Ireland for a year with a girlfriend. With the help of 2 arts grants, we were able to live there and travel around Europe for a year. I was able to see a lot of art in the museums there.
After that, it took me a few years of trying different things and building a children’s book portfolio to finally arrive on my current career path.

ericlionking
Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

They have. Whether I’m working in what I would describe as a goofier style or more realistically, there’s an element of representationalism. For example, if I’m painting orangutans playing volleyball (as I did for this current job) there are still elements of realistic painting, of light falling on objects, as a fine arts painter would do. But the characters are, as I said, goofy, and hopefully appropriate for a young age group. I switch back and forth stylistically as needed; I think it’s good to be able to change gears. It’s fun too.

ericmonkey
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

Toward the end of grad school, I already had a few portfolio pieces completed, so I guess I’d been thinking of it even before then.

ericsky
What was the first illustration work you did for children. How did that come about?

My first illustration job was Jack London’s “White Fang,” which was a fun way to start out. My agent got me the job. I would speculate that the publisher saw my portfolio piece for Goldilocks and the Three Bears and decided, based on my paintings of bears, that I could paint wolves (laugh.)

ericwolves
How did you get to work with Compass Publishing on the Classic Starts Readers?

“White Fang” was a Compass title.

erictomtree
Then you illustrated the Classic Starts Series for Sterling. The names are very similar. Did Compass sell this line to Sterling?

No, there’s no connection. It’s just a coincidental similarity of titles. Compass is I think primarily for the educational market, and Sterling is owned by Barnes & Noble.

erictom500
I counted a total of 24 books between 2009 and 2014. That is a lot of books for each year. How long does it take to illustrate one of these books?

It depends on the contract. The Compass books, if I remember correctly, had to be done quite quickly—I remember I had to compete a painting every 3 days, which works out to a little over a month per book.
For the Sterling books, as another example, the contract spread over several months, so there was a bit more breathing room. For 4 titles, that’s roughly 3 months per book. I think, with most illustrators, they’d agree that more time is always welcome, if you can get it, to better be able to raise the quality of the artwork.

ericsnowdog
Is the interior art done in black and white?

How many is usually in each one? For the Sterling jobs, they required a full color cover painting, plus 10 black and white interiors. Compass was a color cover plus 10 color interiors. It will vary from publisher to publisher.

ericsnake500
Are you under contract to illustrate more?

Not with Compass or Sterling. The last thing I did for Sterling was “The Iliad” and “Roman Myths” last year.
But I am currently under contract to illustrate 3 books in a chapter book series about a turtle character named Kudu. Also, my agent is currently negotiating another book contract for the coming year.

ericb&wbattle
How did you connect with Wendy Lynn for representation?

I found Wendy in “The Children’s Illustrators Market,” in the agents listing. I sent my work to a few agents and chose Wendy.

ericbattlerun
What was your illustrating first success?

Well, I would call my first job, “White Fang,” my first success, as I was happy to have begun illustrating. I would also say, it felt good doing the Sterling jobs because they were my first non-educational job and would be widely available in the Barnes & Noble children’s departments.

ericurns
Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

Yes, I’d love to. I did a book dummy for the Grimms story, “Iron John,” which I know wouldn’t be my writing, obviously. But its a picture book project I have in the works. I’m not happy with the first run through, but I think I could eventually come up with a fresh new take on the story.. I would like to write something of my own some day.

ericmythrun
Have you done any illustrating for chldren’s magazines?

Yes. I’ve illustrated for Humpty Dumpty magazine, and for Spider magazine, part of the Cricket Publishing Group.
For Humpty Dumpty, I illustrated a story called “Fit for a King,” about a Lion (who’s a king) and his cook, an Orangutan (Orangutans again). I got an honorable mention from SCBWI’s Magazine Merit Award in 2013 for that work. For Spider magazine, I illustrated “Nelly’s Sweet Song,” a story about George Washington and his niece. I also illustrated “Samuel Peppard and his Windwagon,” another American history piece for Spider.

ericline500
How did you illustrations become considered for the Holbein Prize for Fantasy Art? Is that something an illustrator can enter? How did it feel to win that prize?

It felt great! I don’t recall how I learned of the competition, but anyone can enter. Their definition of Fantasy Art included fantastical illustration in any genre.

ericbow480
Then in the same year you won the London Book Fair’s Illustrator’s Competition. How did it feel to win those two prizes?

Well, it was a good year (laugh.) London was the most exciting thing to have won because it’s such a major venue. And it involved traveling to the Book Fair and staying in London. I love travel.

ericmount500
What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite medium is oil.

ericheadsnakes
Has that changed over time?

Yes. I used to work exclusively in acrylic, when doing color work, because of the quick drying time. But I learned a way to work in oil that’s quick drying as well.

erichansel
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My Madmen-era drawing table. It’s a wooden, swivel drawing table that is, as far as I can tell, the style of drawing table from the 60’s.

ericmobydick
Do you spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I usually work 40 hours a week. That’s the goal for each week. Some days I’ll work fewer hours, other days more, but I make sure I work about 40 total each week. I find, if do that, the work usually gets done. Granted, with deadlines, the number of hours a week can go above 40.

ericunderworld500
Are you open to working with self-published authors?

Yes. To date, I’ve worked with one self-publisher author.

ericcreatures500
Do you take pictures or do any type of research before you start a project?

I use lots of reference photos as part of my process. As for research, I illustrated “The Iliad” last year, as an example, and, in order to get a certain level of authenticity, you need to research the period. What type of armor and helmets were worn? What were the methods of warfare, etc.? Those are the kind of questions you have to answer. Even for a project like the current one I’m engaged in with anthropomorphic animal characters, you still need to look at a lot of photos of animals to decide the look of the various characters, and to help with convincing detail, etc.

ericbattleships
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. It basically opens up the whole world to your work. I’ve had clients from Ireland, Korea, for example, and was approached to do a painting demo by a children’s literacy council in Dubai. Then there’s London and the various competitions that are easier to access. It’s so different from just a generation ago, when an illustrator usually had to live in proximity to New York. So, yes, I think the Internet’s existence has a definite upside for an illustrator.

ericchariot500
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop for creating digital files. The only time I’ve altered an illustration with Photoshop is if the values need punching up when a scan doesn’t come out as well as hoped. So, the short answer is, I work traditionally—it’s just traditional painting. I’d like to develop my digital painting skills when I can find the time.

ericchristmastree500
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing tablet in your illustrating?

No, but I’d like to try.

ericriverwatch
Do you find exhibiting your artwork gets you jobs?

I think exhibiting may help—it raises your profile. I would say, the major venues in big cities, or at conventions would be potentially bigger audiences. I’ve exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York, and at the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles. I got a job offer from being in the New York show, but couldn’t do it because of timing. I think, sometimes, you’ll be seen by someone but it won’t bear fruit until later on when the person has an appropriate opportunity for you and your style.

ericcrowd
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Probably I’d like to have a career that eventually shifts more into picture books. I wouldn’t mind crossing into other genres too. I think I’d be happy to just have a long and varied career illustrating. I’d like to show my illustrations in gallery shows. That’s something I’ve yet to delve into.

ericelephant
What are you working on now?

I’m working on the first book in the Kudu the turtle chapter books that I mentioned earlier. Nearly done.

ericgiant
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: paint or paper that you love—the best place to buy—a new product that you’ve tried—a how to tip,etc.?

Best paint—I currently use Winsor & Newton paint, mainly. I like to try lots of different brands, but I’d like to try Old Holland.

Best paper—Strathmore 500 Bristol

A new product I’ve tried—I tried Walnut Alkyd Painting Medium a while back, and have been using it regularly to thin my paints.

The best place to buy—Dick Blick online is a good place to find a range of art supplies. I check Pearl Paint as well.

A how to tip: I’ll share 2 tips I’ve found useful.

erichectorTip 1:

The typical process when creating illustrations for a publisher is to create sketches first for approval. Once the sketches are approved, you move into completing the final art. Because I like to make sketches that are detailed and comprehensive, I don’t like to redraw/transfer the whole drawing to the painting surface. Instead, a method I use is to have a printing service enlarge my sketch onto a large sheet of high quality drawing paper (I like Strathmore 500 bristol board 2 or 3-ply). That way, you don’t lose any of the detail put into the sketch, and it can be enlarged to a size of 20 by 30 inches or thereabouts. I then mount the paper to plywood panel and seal the surface of the paper with acrylic medium. I do 2 or 3 coats of the medium with sanding between. The medium prevents the oil paint from being absorbed into the paper and therefore should be archival. Sanded, the painting surface will be quite smooth. That’s my method of transferring a drawing without having to redraw. It saves time and allows me to work on a fairly large scale, which I like to do.

Tip 2:
If you paint in oil, drying time is an issue for an illustrator who needs to make
deadlines. A way I work to ensure all the paint dries quickly is, using an alkyd resin painting medium, I lay down a glaze (a small amount of transparent color diluted with medium) of color over the area I’m going to work on. I then paint wet-in-wet into the glaze. The quick drying alkyd medium in the glaze ensures that everything you paint into the glaze will dry quickly. No need to add the medium to every brushstroke to quicken drying.

ericsitting
Any advice on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

My advice is: The portfolio is the first priority—take time to develop it. Don’t dabble, go in all the way. Be patient—slow and steady wins the race. Have a career model—ask yourself what kind of career you imagine for yourself, what illustrators you like and do a case study of them. Become an expert in your field. Read the SCBWI Bulletin, Publishers Weekly, etc. Utilize the resources that the SCBWI has to offer—it’s an excellent source of information and support. Take ownership of your career—every decision has an impact. Understand the market and where you fit into it. Don’t follow trends, but be aware of them. Be flexible and have a good attitude—forge good relationships with publishers. Be nice. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t abandon ship—stay positive, stay on course.
Do the kind of work you love to do—there’ll be an audience for it. Enjoy the ride.

erocwalkinh horse

ericChicken Ribbon spot

Thank you Eric for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know about your new books and all of your future successes.

You can visit Eric at http://www.ericfreebergillustration.com. Please take a minute to leave Dana a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Eric Freeberg, New York Academy of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Wendy Lynn & Co.

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Eric Freeberg, last added: 4/27/2014
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17. Illustrator Saturday – Omar Aranda

OMAR_01

Omar Aranda was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on November 16, 1963. He began at an early age in a study of comic Buenos Aires with artists Gustavo Trigo and Alberto Saichann later developed and completed his studies at the National School of Fine Arts “Beato Angelico”, also conducted painting workshops.

His career began in 1992, carrying out worked designing scenery for theatre and television for the mainstream media.

In 1995, as an artist freelancer, integrates the staff of DC comics for publications Animaniacs and Looney Tunes, also begins to work for Disney Studios in publications of children’s books.

In 2003 started his own studio consisting of numerous artists collaborating in this way with numerous publishers in the world for various publishing projects.

From 2007 to date is represented by “The Illustrators Agency ” and through them published numerous books for the most popular publishing companies: Zondervan, Harper Collins, Hinkler Books, Pearson , OUP name a few.

OMAR_04

Initial concept sketch to final artwork. This wonderful illustration is a personal project for Omar based on some of his earliest childhood memories in Argentina. Here is Omar explaining his process:34

 

Stage 1 – The Concept. I already have a picture in my mind of exactly what I want. I just need to get it down on paper as quickly as possible.

Omarstep2OTOO_2~1

Stage 2 – Here I add some colour from a previously created palette. I apply some textures in Photoshop using ‘Artistic’ pencils and brushes, gradually building layer upon layer until I create the correct atmosphere.

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Stage 3 –  With the main colour base now in place, I work on the light and shade, adding detail and trying not to lose the initial ‘freshness’ of my sketch.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally about 23 years before that had not published anything although of course drew and painted a lot.

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How did you decide to attend Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina?

From the age of eleven began my love of drawing and then almost casually discovered a study drawing near my house where comics and cartoons were made and there were lots of artists. One of the artists gave me the opportunity to go and see what they did, and I was very happy of course, so I helped him with some tasks and they helped me in my drawing issues. from that moment I knew I wanted to draw, and so it was that years later career start Bella Artes.

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What were you favorite classes in college?

Well, there were many. If I have to choose, of course, drawing and painting (traditional on easel), but they were my favorite classes of sculpture and engraving.

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Did the School help you get work?

No, well not helped me at that time had not yet decided to be an illustrator, my idea was to devote myself to painting, doing exhibitions and if all went well sell paintings which was quite difficult and unlikely. I did some exhibitions with some success and satisfaction. The truth is that at the time the money was not a concern, but yes!, the desire and the desire to paint.

09

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? 

About painting, it was precisely at that time, I was about 22, and was in an exhibition at a Cultural Center well known in my country, there a man bought 3 paintings mine.

As for my first illustration, really submitted some samples to make a comic for Hanna and Barbera (Top Cat and the gang) and were accepted was the happiest moment of my life, my first job!. After that I worked for “DC Comics” drawing Animaniacs and Looney Tunes, the going very well with that and were some good years. I also worked in some projects for Disney always on the editorial side.

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What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I made several, some related to the artistic and others which bore no relation. I will mention that if they do.

I worked in a workshop where stage designs for theater and television were made. In this place also designing scenography and also painted large-scale decorated, I liked working mainly in children’s theater projects. I made some great designs scenery and costumes and even gladly did.

Then, I worked as an assistant to a great cartoonist in my country, making backgrounds or even layouts for a monthly series that was published in Italy.

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Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

Yes, I think definitely yes, although the influence was through knowledge, about how to put together a design,or respect to the color, or also on issues of composition, ie although the paintwork to call it a “traditional” way and illustration are not the same, share many of things in common.

21

When did you do your the first illustration for children?

The illustration consider professionally, it was not so long ago, it was for the book Jimba……., in 2008 authored by Alexis Tapp who had approached my agent, The Illustrators Agency. Before that did a lot, but this was, no casually, that opened the door to something new.

22

23

How did that come about?

Well … I was going around in my head, that of children’s illustration, it was exciting, but really did not know how it would be because until that moment all my work had more to do with the genre of the cartoon and comic , which felt like a fulfilled stage. But the idea of illustrating stories excited me much, working with my own characters, my own scenarios, more interior and freer world.

13

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

It was shortly before the draft Jimba, so when it arrived I could not believe it. It was the opportunity I was looking for .

14

How long did it take you to get your first picture book contract?

It was very fast, I have been a lucky person about it !!!. Since I contacted The Illustrators Agency and began to represent me, soon after, few months emerged Jimba project.

15

What was your first book that you illustrated?

Well I’ve already answered, I consider the first was Jimba ……… publication was in 2009.

16

How did get the contract with HarperCollins to illustrate the Princess Parables books?

It was through my agent, The Illustrators Agency, I think that they must have consulted the catalog of illustrators looking for someone with the characteristics of style they were looking so I was elected. Once the proposal came to me, I made a sample series and designs of different characters which featured in the stories, which apparently was liked and so I started to draft of 5 books over two years.

17

Was that the first time you illustrated a book for the American Market?

A book yes, but I had previously worked before in comic book projects.

18

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, I have worked several times, is a good experience but not the one I like. If I can choose I prefer children’s stories, if I can not choose a good job and can become very interesting work.

19

How many children’s books have you illustrated?

A lot, counting all: educational, children’s stories … about 40 I think, but I do not remember exactly.

24

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes, that is a desire, probably the next step, the idea excited me, though I’ve never written, but there are some ideas floating around that I hope to carry out soon. It is an outstanding debt.

25

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

If it refers to children’s illustration, no. I have done many cartoons for children’s magazines.

27

How long have you been represented by The Illustrator Agency?

The first contact with them was in 2007

28

How did you connect with them?

Well … as I mentioned, had any idea of giving a turn of my profession, so I started to search the internet agents with the idea of dedicating more children’s illustration, and sent them an e-mail. From that moment began this relationship of which I am very happy, they are great people.

29

 

What types of things did you do to find illustration work before you had an artist rep.?

In my beginnings, knocking on doors of publishers in my country without any success.

Then, by a fortuitous event, send samples of work to publishers outside my country with some success.In my beginning, editorial market in Argentina was very depreciated so this led me to look elsewhere outside my country.

It is an advantage of the artists have a universal language.

30

What is your favorite medium to use?

My favorite medium right now is digital, this may change because I’m feeling the need to return to traditional materials, perhaps a combination of both soon. I am referring to textures, watercolor, acrylic.

31

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I’ve changed a lot, and I hope to keep doing it, keep learning.

32

 

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, fairly recently I work in a small studio at home, since leaving a studio I shared with many other artists.

33

 

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My computer, without a doubt.

04

 

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try but it is difficult, the hours pass in a strange way in this profession, time is very short, and it turns out not realizing you’ve been sitting at the computer 12 hours. In general, I try to be not more than 10.

05

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

No, I do not take pictures but before starting each project I search some reference, especially with the scenarios that I will use and when it comes to historical stories. So looking from the costumes that was used until the architecture of that time.

03

 

Which illustrated book is your favorite?

There are more than one, and many talented artists !!, if I have to choose one, as a reference would by Rebecca Dautremmer Princesses

01

 

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Internet is a great medium and yes, it has opened doors, but I take it with some caution

11

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, always. Is the par excellence program and one has wonderful tools.

12

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

It is another essential tool. When I began this I did the manual mode,

that is to say brush and airbrush, then appeared the computer I never thought I was going to use and with it, the mouse, never thought that I would leave. Today could not survive without my tablet.

36

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

This profession has complied me many dreams, but appear always new. Basically my dream is to continue working in this beautiful profession that I love and allows me to live, be able to maintain passion is essential to realize your own project … would not be bad.

omarstumpingsneakers

What are you working on now?

Now, I am working on a series of 12 books of 50 pages each, right now I go by the number 6, this series tells the story of a girl who wants to be a ballerina.

And parallel in some children’s books whose stories are related animals and a child who wants to work super hero.

omarfarm

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I have no tips, because what is good for an artist can not be for another.

The materials are just that, which means you feel more or less comfortable to use. Personally I use many different brushes and textures that resemble materials like acrylic or watercolor and I think give it a more plastic spirit illustration but luckily there are no formulas in this, and the best is the own experimentation.

There are very good brushes, eg for photoshop, is available easily from internet and worth trying.

26

omardogs

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I do not like self-reference, and less I consider myself someone success, hard work is the watchword.

I can imagine however the desires and anxieties of young people who are beginning, when things do not go as you want, when you take longer and these results are not as expected, or simply when you suffer some rejection. I think that’s the point to overcome, this work takes time … and it takes a long, until one day, after much work and much try, a door opens.

No experience is a formula, I like to think that’s not it, rather a way to walk the easy doing the best you can, always.

38

Thank you Omar for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know about your new books and all of your future successes.

You can see more of Omar’s work at The Illustrator’s Agency  and at ChildrensIllustrators.com  Please take a minute to leave Omar a comment. I am sure he would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview Tagged: Buenos Aires, Children's Books, Disney Studios, National School of Fine Art, Omar Aranda

4 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Omar Aranda, last added: 5/5/2014
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18. The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award

TomiedePaola-Award_logo-1024x324

The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award is given annually to an illustrator of promise chosen by Tomie himself. The award consists full tuition, transportation and accommodations to the New York Winter Conference held in Manhattan. The winning piece of art will be featured at the annual winter conference in New York.

THE GUIDELINES HAVE CHANGED THIS YEAR! TOMIE HAS SET UP A TWO PART CONTEST SO PLEASE FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW CLOSELY!

Deadline: June 15th, 2014

Award:

The winner will receive a trip to the 2015 SCBWI New York Conference at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, where the award will be presented. As a special addition to the prize this year, the winner will also get to have lunch with Tomie at the conference!

Eligibility:

The Tomie dePaola Award competition is open to all SCBWI members.

BELOW IS THE NEW 2014 PROMPT
FIRST PART

Visual sequence is key to conveying feeling, action, storyline, interest and character, especially in children’s book illustration.

One of the hardest things to do is to know your character so well—what he, she, or it looks like, how they move, how they project emotion, and at the same time to make the character immediately recognizable and consistent —all without resorting to a generic depiction, but making sure your character has charm, individuality and special qualities that make young readers fall in love with them. All of this is the same whether your character is human, animal, and yes, even vegetable! (Maybe inanimate as well)

The task is to create a six-panel sequence that has a beginning, middle and an end that is obvious, featuring a character of your own invention. It can be funny, sad, dramatic or ordinary, but interesting and with lots of invention and finesse.

I understand that there are computer programs that make “sequence” easier than good old-fashioned drawing. But, I don’t know any of them. I leave it to you.

SPECS: 4 to 6 panels – illustrator’s choice

SIZE: 8 ½” x 14” – horizontal or vertical

COLOR: B&W or Full Color – your choice

NO WORDS

DUE DATE: June 15, 2014. This is very important. Ten semi-finalists will be chosen by July 30, 2014, to go on to the next step: A final assignment that will be announced after the first phase of the competition is complete.

PART TWO WILL BE POSTED AFTER JUNE 15TH!

Guidelines:

Read these instructions carefully! Submissions that do not follow these guidelines will be disqualified.

1. Submit your entry by midnight PST on June 15, 2014. No files received after that time will be considered.

2. E-mail a single, high resolution JPEG, titled with your name (firstname_lastname.jpg) to sarahbaker@scbwi.org with the subject “Tomie”. The image must be an attachment, not a link or showing in the body of the e-mail. No original artwork should be mailed. All submissions must be digital. You will receive a confirmation e-mail within three days.

3. Tomie will select the 10 semi-finalists July 30, 2014.

4. You must be a current SCBWI member to win.

Do you want to be included in the “unofficial” gallery of submissions?

Three years ago, Diandra Mae, Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI Houston region, started an “Unofficial Gallery” of submissions to the award. It was such a great success that we’ve made it more official and easier to enter. Any SCBWI member who enters the award is eligible to be included in the gallery. The gallery will not be made public until the winning piece has been chosen and announced.

If you are interested in having your submission included please follow these guidelines that will be posted after round one.

Questions? Email the Grant Coordinator – sarahbaker@scbwi.org

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Artist opportunity, authors and illustrators, Competition, Grant money, illustrating, opportunity, Places to sumit Tagged: Illustraor Grant, The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award, Win trip to NYC SCBWI 2015 Winter Conference

0 Comments on The Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award as of 5/4/2014 12:21:00 AM
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19. Illustrator Saturday – Denise Clemmensen

deniseBird Cat Caterpillar header

Denise Clemmensen240Denise Clemmensen has been an artist from the moment she tore open her first box of crayons. In fact she became a drawing maniac. She drew on everything. Her parents finally bought her a little table where her coloring passion could be unleashed a little less destructively. Being a very shy child during her school years, she kept her passion for art quite. Though, one time in fifth grade, while helping out on the class history mural, her fifth-grade teacher noticed she could draw. For the rest of the week her teacher asked her to work on the mural while the rest of the class studied math.

Artistically, Denise has worn many hats; she has done both fine and graphic art, and has even made handmade rag dolls. But, throughout her artistic journey, her love of children’s books has never wavered.

In 2011, Denise illustrated the award-wining picture book, “Just Because.” This is her first picture book and in 2013 it won the prestigious Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award. And, in 2012 it won the Young Voices Award, The Mom’s Choice Gold Award, and was named a Book of the Year by Creative Child Magazine.

She has illustrated artwork for various traditional and Internet-based educational publishers, and produces illustrations and character designs for many private clients.

Denise lives in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles, with her husband, and for the time being, her grown kids, grandkids, two dogs, two cats, and three fish!

deniseatworkIMG_1797

 

Here is Denise explaining her process:

deniseClemmensen picture 1

Sketch of the kids. Sometimes when I start a project I do character sketches. That way I can get to know and shape the different characters and their personalities. Here are three children from “Just Because” and their favorite toys.

 

deniseClemmensen picture 2

Sketches of Mom and Dad. This is the rest of the family getting ready for breakfast. The family even has a fluffy dog.

deniseClemmensen picture 3

Sketch of page 9-Dad holding the kids in a chair. Here is the finished sketch of the kids sitting on their dad’s lap that was used in the book “Just Because.” The white square is where the text will go. I always put in the text, so I can make sure that the words and the picture fit together well.

deniseClemmensen picture 4

Light box. Once the sketch is finalized I transfer it on to watercolor paper by using a light box. My favorite watercolor paper is Canson 140lb cold press.

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The start of painting. I use either acrylic matt or gouache paints.

 

deniseClemmensen picture 6

 

The second picture of the painting. I paint in layers so I can build up the colors and add depth.

deniseClemmensen picture 7

The final painting.  After I finish painting I go in with colored pencils to help bring out the details.

deniseClemmensen picture 8

All the paintings together. When I do a project that has more then one illustration I like to work on all the paintings at the same time. I rotate my time on each one so I can keep a constant color palette.

deniseJB cover

How long have you been interested in art?

All my life, I even remember as a small child having a drawing table in my bedroom. denisefoxes

Did you study art in college?

Yes, I was a Fine Art major all through college.

deniserollerskater

deniserollerskating

 

Did you study to be a librarian?

No, being a librarian is something I just kind of fell in to. I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and when the time came that I needed to go back into the work force, a friend of mine, who was a library aide with the Los Angeles School District, suggested I might like it.

Before I was a mom I had been a graphic artist, but with the coming of the computer age, I no longer possessed the skills needed to compete in that market. So I have been a library aide for 14 years now and I really enjoy the job and the kids. Plus I am surrounded by children’s literature, how great is that?

denisegrandma

 

What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

In my early twenties I tried selling my artwork at local craft shows. I did a bunch of pen and ink fantasy drawings. I think the first one I sold was of a baby unicorn.

denisehansel

 What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I never quite graduated from college. You know that old story. I was only taking a semester off, I meant to go back and finish, I only had a year left, but life got in the way. My first art job was as a graphic artist. When I took graphic art in college I really didn’t care for it, my heart was really in the fine arts. That quickly changed, I learned so much more on the job and it turned out that I really enjoyed being a graphic artist. By the way, I learned everything old school: T-squares, triangles, French curves, mechanical pens, rubdown type, and so on. It was right before the onset of computers.

denisecowboy

What do you think influenced your artistic style?

I have always loved animated movies. I hate to admit it, but I think Disney had a lot of influence on me, and so did getting married and having a family. Before I met my husband, my artwork was always a little sad and dark.

denisesketch old lady on scooter

deniseold lady and the scooter 1 When did you do your the first illustration for children?

While I was a stay-at-home mom, I still did some freelance illustration jobs here and there. I was hired to do some black and white line drawings for a science book for children.

denisewaiting

How did that come about?

A friend of a friend knew the gentleman who was writing the book and knew that he was looking for someone to do some of the artwork. They introduced us.

deniseflyingwagon

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I think this is something I have always wanted to do, but in my early twenties I took an extension class, How to illustrate Children’s Books, through Cal State Northridge, and that cemented it.

denisebreakfast

 How long did it take you to get your first picture book contract?

It took a long time to get the first book contract and then there was a fourteen year gap between “Aides: first facts for kids” and “Just Because.”

denisebluecape

 

deniselunchbox

What was your first book that you illustrated?

My first book was an educational book “Aides: first Facts for kids” written by Linda Schwartz. All of the illustrations where done in pen and ink.

denisebrushingteeth

Was it a self-published book

No, the book was published by The Learning Works, Inc., a small publisher in Santa Barbara, Ca.

denisecatintreecropped

 

Are you open to illustrating a self-published book?

Yes, the second book I illustrated “Just Because” written by Amber Housey was self-published.

 denisefrog

How did you get the contract to illustrate JUST BECAUSE?

The author found my illustrations through a website that I belong to. She then contacted the self-publishing house she was using and they in turn contacted me.

 denisegrapescropped

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, I just recently did four illustrations that will be included in an educational textbook and a few years ago I did two eight-page booklets written for English learners.

denisekitegirl500 

How many children’s books have you illustrated?

To date, I have done four books, but only one is a traditional 32-page picture book.

denisejumprope

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes, I have a few stories that I have been working on.

denisesuperdog 

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No, not yet, but I am hopeful.

denisetugofwar

Do you have an agent to represent you? If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one?

No not at this time. I did submit my portfolio to an agency once. They were very polite and helpful but were not interested. I might try again because having an agent does allow more doors to be open for your work to be seen. Though, I believe even if one does have an agent they should still self-promote.

denisecan'tsleep

deniseoctogirl

 What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I have a website and a blog. I also advertise on a Children’s illustrators website and I send out post cards to publishers and editors. SCBWI has a spot on their website for illustrators to show their work. Last year, I also ran an ad in the Directory of Illustration.

 denisewatchingtvWhat is your favorite medium to use?

I would have to say pen and ink, and colored pencil.

deniselabpartner

 Has that changed over time?

Yes for me there has not been much demand these days for just pen and ink and colored pencil is very time consuming. In order to save time I started to use acrylic paints with the colored pencil (though I am not sure if any time is actually saved) and I have just recently started to explore painting in Photoshop.

deniselist 

Do you have a studio in your house?

For years my studio was the kitchen table, then I was able to set up a drawing table in the corner of my family room. Two years ago, one of my children moved out, and I was able to turn that room into my art studio.

deniselunch

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My eraser.

denisemarylamb 

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes, I look at it as another job. If I am not working on a project for someone I am working on something for self-promotion. I work everyday.

deniserainynight500

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I have taken lots of photos and I do online and book research. Whenever I go on vacation somewhere I always end up taking photos of all the different plants I come across. Sometimes at home when I am working on a sketch, I will physically put myself in the character’s pose to see how it looks and feels. I even have a small mirror next to my drawing table to reference hands or facial expressions.

denisemusicroom500

 Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely, it allows me to show my portfolio to more perspective clients than I could before.

 denisespelling bee

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I have just started playing with Photoshop. I bought a Wacom Tablet a little while back and I have been experimenting with it ever since. It’s fun and I have put a few of my digital works up on my website and blog.

deniseflyingwagon 

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I have just started using the Wacom tablet and for right now, I have just been scanning in my pencil sketches into Photoshop.

denisepicnic

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to illustrate a 32-page picture book from a traditional publisher and I also think it would be great fun to do the cover and inside drawings for a children’s chapter book.

 deniseworriedtwo

 

deniseworried

What are you working on now?

At the moment, besides learning Photoshop and the Wacom tablet, I am busy finishing up some new illustration to add to my portfolio.

denisebw flying girl with kite

 

denisestarcat500

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

When I was working on “Just Because” I bought a light table and that was the best investment I ever made. It took one step out of the process of transferring the sketch on to the watercolor paper. I have found that anything that saves any time when working on a project is great, because deadlines are always so tight.

denisegoingtoschool

 

denisedragonraost

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Never give up. Work hard. Keep learning and honing your skills, and most important illustrate what you love.

deniseredridinghood

 

denisedog

deniseself portrait line and colorThank you Denise for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know about your new books and all of your future successes.

You can visit Denise and see her work at http://deniseclemmensen.blogspot.com/ Please take a minute to leave Denise a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process, Tips Tagged: Children's Illustrator, Denise Clemmensen

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Denise Clemmensen, last added: 5/11/2014
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20. Happy Mother’s Day – Spinelli Poem

2014mother's Day

Children’s illustrator, Vesper Stamper sent in this whimsical mother and daughter illustration to help us celebrate Mother’s Day. Vesper was featured on Illustrator Saturday http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/illustrator-saturday-vesper-stamper/.


Happy Mother’s Day! Eileen Spinelli has shared a poem to help us celebrate Mother’s Day. It reminds us how a mother feels about their child and that our Mom will always be with you. Today is the day to remember her.

RESPONSE TO A CHILD

Always

 

I will be your mother.

 

Long into the spill of time
and when time no longer
has anything to do with
dawn or dark.

 

I will be your mother…

 

the local newspapers
and the rattling cat-bird songs.
You can grow up
wild and bright.
You can be wind
or fire,
willow or oak.

 

You can breathe green.
You can wear poppies
in your hair.
You can stand astonished
in the moonlight
or peek from a safe,
moonless space–

 

I will be your mother.

I may turn into sky
or red clay
or simply bones.
I may become delicate
as milkweed
or hammered hard
as canyon cleft–

but I will be
your mother.

 

Yes.

 

Always.

 

by Eileen Spinelli

 

Thank you Eileen for sharing your poem with us. Did you see Eileen’s latest book, ANOTHER DAY WITH EMILY?

another day as Emily
Spinelli’s free verse presents a summer of self-acceptance for one girl. Suzy is almost 12 when her 4-year-old brother sees their elderly neighbor collapse. He dials 911 and becomes a “little hero” in their town. Suddenly everything revolves around him, and no one seems to care about Suzy’s needs. Worse, she doesn’t get a part in the community play, but her best friend, Alison, does. Suzy is feeling decidedly unloved and decides that her best bet is to emulate a poet she has recently learned about—Emily Dickinson. Suzy insists on being called Emily and makes a list of Emily-appropriate activities (write poems, dust, read, listen to crickets). But Suzy soon finds that being a recluse is a lonely occupation. Lots of white space on the page, short chapters and appealing illustrations make this an unintimidating read for even the most reluctant readers. And besides, it’s a rollicking good story. Spinelli mixes dollops of wit with her dabs of pathos to keep things lively and realistic in a fresh way that nevertheless feels comfortably old-fashioned. The interspersed bits of history (the origin of baseball, some famous people of the 1800s) and wholesome activities (bicycle riding, helping neighbors, going to the library) make this a story to be enjoyed and appreciated by readers weary of the mall-shopping, cellphone-centric, mean-girl genre. A witty and endearing story with a timeless message. (Verse fiction. 9-12) – Kirkus Reviews

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Holiday, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, poetry Tagged: Another Day with Emily, Eileen Spinelli Poem, Happy Mother's Day, Vesper Stamper

1 Comments on Happy Mother’s Day – Spinelli Poem, last added: 5/11/2014
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21. Illustrator Saturday – Alison Jay

Alison-Jay260Alison Jay was born in Hertfordshire, grew up in Derbyshire and studied graphic design in London where she now lives. After graduating she worked in animation for a short while but gradually started to get commissions in illustration.

She works in Alkyd a quick drying oil paint on paper and sometimes adds a crackle varnish to give the work an aged appearance.

She has worked in all areas of illustration including advertising ,packaging, editorial and design. Her commission’s include a 48 sheet poster for B.T, a TV commercial for Kellogg’s corn flakes and has recently illustrated the new baby range of products for Crabtree and Evelyn.

She has also illustrated lots of children’s books including ‘Picture This’, ‘William and the night train’,’The Race’, ‘I took the moon for a walk’, ‘The Emperors new clothes, If Kisses were colours, ‘ABC Alphabet’.an unabridged fully illustrated version of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’,Listen Listen’ ,Welcome to the Zoo ‘, A Child’s first Counting Book’ ‘Today is the Birthday of the World’ and ‘Nursery Rhyme Rainbow’. She recently worked with Aardman Animation on the development of a feature film and is currently working on a version of ‘ The Nutcracker’.

Her book ‘ Welcome to the Zoo’ which is a wordless visit to a cage less ‘ animal hotel’ has been selected as one of New York’s Bank Street’s 2009 best books of the year.

Here is Alison explaining her process:

alison1Spread 12

This is the rough I e-mailed to the publisher, which I drew at A4 size.

alison2Pic 2 progress

The next is a photo of the drawing  enlarged to A2 size, slightly larger than the print size. I trace the drawing very faintly onto thick smooth cartridge paper using a very heavy weight 100lbs/220gms.

alison3Pic 3 progress

I then start to paint, usually the sky first using Alkyd a quick drying oil paint and then the rest of the background.

alison5Pic 5 progress

If I am painting fine details, I sometimes add liquin to my paint. This helps the paint to flow easier. It is also helps the paint to dry quicker. I do not use any liquid adhesives to avoid painting mistakes. I just avoid the area and paint the background as close to the edge as I can.

Alison6pic 6 progress

Final without text. The publisher always needs to see the work before I apply the crackle varnish in case of any changes or mistakes so I usually e mail photographs or scans for them to check. Then after I finish that final step I send the art work to the publisher to scan. If the commission involves fewer illustrations I have scanned the art work professionally and uploaded the scan to yousendit or wetransfer for the editor or art director. This especially works well if the job is urgent or when the publisher is located in another country.

alisonagift for Momma
How long have you been illustrating?

I have been Illustrating for nearly 20 years.

alisonalicecover

Where did you study Graphic Design?

I studied Graphic design at the London College of printing which is now  the London College of Communication.

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Did the School help you get work?

No I think it was a bit of a shock when I left college, although my older sister who also studied Graphics and specialized in illustration had left college two years earlier and was finding it very tough so I should have realised .. My illustration tutor may have suggested how to make appointments and show my portfolio but she didn’t introduce me to any art directors or help me get work.

alisonfirstcover

What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I think the very first thing I was paid for was an illustration for an article in a music paper NME ,I was so excited to see my work in print, it was a simple black and white  pen and ink drawing.

alisonlisten

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

After I graduated I found it difficult making a living at illustration, I had been very interested in animation at school so  in addition to making appointments for illustration work I visited animation studios ,I was given some freelance work painting and tracing ,then quite a lot of background work and a little bit of animation work  . I loved the idea of working as an animator but at the time I think I wanted more control over  style and narrative. The animations I worked on were advertisements, a children’s series and a feature film all of which were already in production.

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Do you feel the graphic art classes you took in college influenced your style?

No I think we had a very good illustration tutor who worked in the industry but she didn’t have any influence on my style .I think I probably looked at artists and illustrators I admired and took influence from them but tried develop my own style.

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How did you start doing advertising work?

The advertising work came later after I got an agent.

alison countsheep

When did you do your the first illustration work for children?

The first work for children was about two years after I joined the Organisation Illustrators agent. I think it was a book cover for a children’s novel.

alisonachilds123

How did that come about?

By the time I joined the organizationI I had developed my style of painting ,after a few months I started to get more and more work in all areas of illustration. I  illustrated some greetings cards which were quite popular and then Penguin books offered me a manuscript for a children’s book ,I was thrilled.

alisonalice

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision ,I think I was just so lucky that my style could be applied to lot’s of different areas of illustration .I always loved the idea of story telling in my animation days so illustrating a Children’s book is a bit like a very detailed story board and I had a lot more control over the style and compositions.

alisonanimalteaparty

A CHILD”S BOOK OF GRACES was published in  2003. Was that the first book you illustrated?

No The very first book was Emma’s Doll by Brian Pattern.

alisonbunny

Did you continue to illustrate children’s books at that time, or did you do other things and come back to doing children’s books later?

After my first Children’s book  I was soon given another manuscript for a very big project, ,a” Treasury of Children’s prayers”. At the same time I worked on other commissions including packaging ,editorial work and some advertising, so I managed to work a few days  a week on the book and also fit other work in at the same time, the book took about a year all together.

alisoncabbageballoon

What was the first picture book that you did for the American market?

The first picture book for American was for Dial books (part of the penguin group) it was “A World of Wonders “ by J Patrick Lewis although Dial had bought the rights to publish “Picture This” which is how I was noticed by the editors.

alisonChristmasdinner

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes I have ,it was a while ago for different reading stages.

alisonchristmastree

What was your first illustrating success?

I think it was “Picture this” published in 1999,It won the” Transworld Childre’s Book Award” and was nominated for the “ Kate Greenaway” award.

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I see you have done many board books. How many have you illustrated.?

I am not sure it must be about 15.

alisondoubledip

Do you think board books represent a large opportunity for illustrators?

The board books I have illustrated have been produced after the full size hard back books have been published ,they have been re formatted by the publisher . I have never set out to illustrate specifically for a board book.

alisonfarm

How many picture books have you illustrated?

I think about 30 but there maybe more as sometimes publishers  re use illustrations to produce more books as with the touch and feel books.

alisonflyingcropped

Is your new book, OUT OF THE BLUE, coming out in June, the first book you have written and illustrated?

I illustrated a book a few years ago called” Welcome to the Zoo” a wordless picture book ,which although the publishers asked for a book about a zoo they  allowed me to weave little narratives into the illustrations. I had been doing that for previous books and now I always try to put in little sequences .“Out of the Blue” came about by the publisher suggesting a beach combing book and I though up the narrative ,again it is a wordless picture book with a main loose story and other little narratives happening in the backgrounds. I hope to write  and illustrate a book  (with words) one day but need a lot of practice   on my writing skills.

alisonfourfrogs

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes I  have had quite a few commissions from ‘Club house Junior” and “Nick Junior”. I really enjoyed working on those jobs  the subject matter is often fun and it is nice sometimes  to work on shorter projects than a full books.

alisonlighthouse

How long have you been represented by The Organisation in London?

I think it must be about 18 years.

alisonpopup

How did you connect with them?

My sister who is also an illustrator joined the Organisation a few years earlier than me and she suggested I meet  them for advice .I was amazed when they said they would like to represent me too.

alisongirlsleeping

What types of things did you do to find illustration work before you had an artist rep.?

When I first started trying to get illustration work it was just before the days of e mail so I had to phone art directors at magazines ,design companies and advertising agents and try and make appointment for them to see my portfolio. My partner worked in a graphic design studio so he gave me a few contacts but it was hard work just getting appointments.

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What is your favorite medium to use?

I use alkyd paint which is a fast drying oil paint.

alisonmomandbaby

Has that changed over time?

When I was a student I used a lot of  coloured ink and made three dimensional model illustrations which I painted with gouache it was a time of experimenting, I tend to use the same type of paint now but I would like to try water colour one day.

alisonroses

Did you study painting or did painting just come naturally to you?

I have always painted ,I think I just worked out a way of painting that suited me,. I know my sister and her husband paint in different ways ,I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way ,it is a personal thing I guess.

alisonskating

How long ago did you come up with the crackle look technique and what made you think of trying that out?

I first used the crackle varnish about the time I joined the Organisation. My cousin used crackle varnish on some decoupage trays and products she made , she also worked as an interior designer and used the varnish for paint effects on walls. I always loved old paintings I think they have a mysterious quality so I tried the varnish to give  my work an aged look.

alisonwinterscape

Do you have a studio in your house?

I use a small bedroom in my house as a studio ,I am rather a messy worker so it is usually a bit chaotic.

alisonsnowglobe

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

I think apart from the obvious paints ,brushes and paper it is my light box.  I work on rough drawings at a very small scale,it seems to helps my see the composition early and quickly, I then enlarge them to  slightly larger than print size on a photocopier and  faintly trace off the drawing onto thick cartridge paper ready to paint.

alisonstrawberry81291

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Not really I have been working constantly for a long time on commissioned work but I think my work has changed naturally over the years,. When I look back at my very first books they look very crude to me now.

alisonsquidd

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes I sometimes take pictures ,when I started working on “Alice in Wonderland “ I took photos of different houses and buildings that I used as the white rabbits house and the little hut in the croquet court . It is also nice to let my imagination go and make up landscapes etc,I had fun doing that in “ The Cloud Spinner.”

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I think it must have done ,I have never got around to setting up my own web site but it is on my to do list I would love to   sell pictures , prints , cards etc and that would be a great way to do it.

alisonroostercropped

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

No I am so old fashioned I work  with paint  on paper so if I make a mistake I either stick paper over the area or start again.

LISTEN 10-11

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I bought a graphic pen and drawing tablet recently but haven’t got around to installing it yet ,I’m ashamed to say it is still in the box.

LISTEN 8-9

It looks like GIFT FOR MAMA that came out at the end of March is getting good reviews. Was that the first book that you did with Barefoot Books?

The book, A Gift For MAMA was commissioned by Gullane Children’s Books  and bought I think by Knopf Doubleday. I also illustrated, “ The Cloud Spinner “ for the same publisher so it was the second book with them. I think they have sadly been a victim of the recession so those are the only two books I will have illustrated for them.

alisonanimalswalk

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I have been so lucky with my career sometime things happen that I could never have dreamed of.  Recently I have been asked to exhibit some of my illustrations from “The Nutcracker “ in the Ghibil museum ,Tokyo Japan by the amazing Hayao Miyazki the director of the wonderful ‘Spirited Away’ and The Wind Rises. I am being flown over to Japan for the opening of the exhibition and spending a couple of days touring the animation studios and the museum. I can’t believe my luck.

Apart from that I would just like to carry on illustrating and as I mentioned earlier write and illustrate a children’s book.

alisonriver500

What are you working on now?

At the moment I am working on a nativity book for Lion Children’s books ,I am really enjoying painting the illustrations as they wanted a medieval slant as apposed to a biblical look, I have always loved early renaissance  paintings, medieval art and the work of Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch so I have been looking at their work for inspiration.

alisoncastle500

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

No not really, I think it is best to try lots of different mediums and decide which one suites you best.

A lot of people use computers nowadays with amazing results, but I think I will stick to paint for now.

alisonmaze500

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I can’t really advise about writing as I am still struggling with that part myself but I think it is important  to illustrate  whatever you love or feel passionate about as it will always show .

LISTEN 22-23

Thank you Alison for sharing your illustrations, journey, and process with us this week. We look forward to following your career, so please let us know about your new books and all of your future successes.

You can see more of Alison’s work at :

The Organisation
42 Delavan St

New York, NY, 11231

or on ChildrensIllustrators.com  

Please take a minute to leave Alison a comment. I am sure she would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: Alison Jay, London college of Communication, New York's Bank Street's 2009 best books, Twelve Days of Christmas, Welcome to the Zoo

6 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Alison Jay, last added: 5/19/2014
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22. Illustrator Saturday – Favorites

Hi everyone!

The illustrator I had scheduled for today did not get the interview questions into me, so since I usually pick my favorites for the first half of the year in June, I decided to post those illustrations a few weeks early. I have provided the link to each illustrator’s featured post, so you can link over if you missed visiting on their Saturday and to make it easy for you to see if you would have chosen a different picture. Believe me it’s not easy to pick just one illustration when so many are exceptional. I listed them in chronological order.

MICHELLE HENNINGER

michellechoir_dvd_cover_paint_crophttp://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/illustrator-saturday-michelle-henninger/

ANA OCHOA

anaducks

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/illustrator-saturday-ana-ochoa/

SUZANNE KAUFFMAN

suzannewonder_girl_balloon_facebook500

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/illustrator-saturday-suzanne-kauffman/

BOB MCMAHON

bobSing Clap Praise

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/illustrator-saturday-bob-mcmahon/

CAROL HEYER

carolblackwingsback

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/illustrator-saturday-carol-heyer/

KAREN LEE

karenleeHFC What Is It_ final

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/illustrator-saturday-karen-lee/

JENNIFER THERMES

jenniferwhipingwind

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/illustrator-saturday-jennifer-thermes/

MICHAEL DOOLING

michaelfap_looking_glass_LG500

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/illustrator-saturday-michael-dooling/

WENDY MARTIN

wendyorch

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/illustrator-saturday-wendy-martin/

ELISABETH ALBA

albapiedpiper-b

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/illustrator-saturday-elisabeth-alba/

MIKE CRESSY

cressyWhenTheSunWentDownSML

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/illustrator-saturday-mike-cressy/

MELANIE HOPE-GREENBERG

melanie07

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/illustrator-saturday-melanie-hope-greenberg/

LYN STONE

lyncatdogfight

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/illustrator-saturday-lyn-stone/

CHRISTOPHER DENISE

christopherbearcropped

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/illustrator-saturday-christopher-denise/

DANA MARTIN

dana800sinbad

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/illustrator-saturday-dana-martin/

ERIC FREEBERG

ericsnowdog

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/illustrator-saturday-eric-freeberg/

OMAR ARANDA

omarbedfall

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/illustrator-saturday-omar-aranda/

DENISE CLEMMENSEN

denisecatintreecropped

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/illustrator-saturday-denise-clemmensen/

ALISON JAY

alisonflyingcropped

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/illustrator-saturday-alison-jay/

Let me know if you would have picked other illustrations. Hope you have a great long weekend, kicking off summer.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Art Exhibit, Asking opinion, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday Tagged: Carol Heyer, Christopher Denise, Elisabeth Alba, Link to illustrator processes, Michael Dooling, My favorites

5 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Favorites, last added: 5/25/2014
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23. Illustrator Saturday – Rob McClurkan

robAwNuts-Homepage-banner1

rob mcclurkan photo290Rob McClurkan grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and spent many happy summers visiting his grandparents on their farms.

In college, Rob studied graphic design. Upon graduation he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he got his first job at an in-house art department. After several years of job hopping Rob, settled in at a non-profit that gave him a children’s magazine to art direct. This gave him the drive to build a portfolio and eventually work as a full time illustrator. Rob has worked with HarperCollins, Scholastic, Usbourne, American Greetings, Highlights for Children. Rob’s first picture book Aw, Nuts! The nutty adventure of a squirrel in pursuit of the perfect acorn is in stores Aug 26.

Here is Rob explaining his process:

robstep1

Step 1: I always start with a sketch that I create in sketchbook pro. Sketchbook has been a big time saver for me. I can sketch without having to scan the image in and it saves on paper too. Sketchbook pro offers a desktop version and a version for the iPad so you can sketch on the go.

robstep2

Step 2: I like to start with the main character. I feel like it sets the tone for the illustration. If I get it right the rest seems to fall into place.
I enjoy using texture but I try not to over use it. Here I used a brush to add a little texture under the runners eyes. The rosy cheeks and red nose with highlight  adds a little more interest to the characters face.
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Step 3: Next I colored the ground. I always struggle how I want to deal with the ground especially when it is grass. Here I just decided to add interest by using a gradient.

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Step 4: I then move to the smaller characters and elements of the image. Here I took a wood texture that I had in photoshop and brought it into illustrator.
The wood texture was originally a black and white wood texture but when saved as a tiff, you can change the black color to any color you need in illustrator by choosing a swatch.
I then create the shape I want for the wood sign and use a clipping mask so that you only see the wood grain in the wood sign.

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The final result of the mask a fun little wood sign complete with wood grain.

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Step 5 : Next I add the other elements in the mid ground as well as the background color.

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Step 6: I waited until I had the background to add these buildings. I was not sure how I was going to solve them but once I had the background color I really liked the effect of the buildings fading into the background as if there was a ground fog.

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Step 7: I created a texture using photoshop brushes and brought it into illustrator the same way as I did the texture in for the wooden sign.

I never want to overdo texture so I limited my use of it since I knew I was going to use it in a big way in the background.

robdexter-and-dinger1_0

How long have you been interested in art?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy drawing and creating my own characters.

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Did you study art in college? If so, what college did you attend and what did you study?

I attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. I studied graphic design.

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Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you liked?

The classes I liked were geared toward concept, design, layout and typography. I am a big fan of type I just don’t think I am particularly good with it. I took a class on cartooning and comic strips that I loved. After the class I started submitting cartoons to magazines and created a comic strip for the school paper.

robRocket-boy

What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

Barbie Magazine I did an activity scene in watercolor.

robspace-alien

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

My first job out of college was the world’s worst waiter. I thought I was doing a good job but one of my customers didn’t think so. My first design job out of college was working for a wholesaler of RV parts and anything that goes along with the RV lifestyle. I had to design a weekly marketing mailer that RV retailers would use in their stores. The mailers were similar to the Sunday circulars that are in the Sunday paper. My claim to fame was removing the foot from a camping toilet that you flush with your foot. This was before layers in photoshop. That took mad skills. ;)

robspace-alien-earth

How did you get involved in Advertising art?

I landed a job at a small advertising agency. I think I knew someone that knew someone. They did newspaper ads which were similar to what I did for my first design job. There were a few illustration opportunities as well.

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Did you have to leave Tennessee to find opportunities in commercial art?

No – I followed a girl that I eventually convinced to be my wife.

robDog-show

What do you think influenced your artistic style?

My biggest influence I would have to say was the Sunday Funnies. I loved reading them and the art seemed accessible. I felt like I could draw those characters. Saturday morning cartoons were a big influence as well. Any other day of the week I was not a morning person but on Saturday I was up by 5:30 watching the pre-cartoon show which was “Farm Digest” with Murray Miles. I thought that 30min show would never end.

robValentines-kids

I see that you have done greeting cards. Do you still do them?

Or was this something you did only early on in your career? Greeting cards are so much fun to do. I still enjoy working on them. I have some that I want to show in my portfolio so badly, but they have not been released yet. Greeting cards are like comic strips quick reads and funny. Sometimes I buy a card just because the art is awesome and they make me laugh.

robmcclurkan-owl

What was your first big success in illustrating?

Being able to quit my day job and illustrate full time. That was a huge step.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for the children’s market?

Early on. I ended up at a non-profit that had 2 kids magazines, and they gave me one of them to art direct. Budgets were tight and so I would hire out some illustrations and then do some on my own. That was a great time of learning because I tried different mediums traditional and digital. I also couldn’t believe I was getting paid to draw.

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When did you do your the first illustration for children?

My first illustration for children was the Barbie magazine I mentioned above.

robboy-and-dog-laughing500

How did that come about?

One of my best friends from high school lived in New York. At the time, he was a designer at Marvel comics. I was surprised to learn they also created Barbie Magazine. He knew I wanted to be an illustrator so he thought of me for the job. I think I redrew that image 5 or 6 times trying to get it right. It was my first illustration job and I was very nervous.

robfrog-mom

Do you have an agent to represent you?

If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one? I do have an agent. I am with the Bright Agency. An artist friend recommended them. About the same time I realized that Bright’s New York agent was following me on twitter. Once I connected those dots I just direct messaged her through twitter.

robfrog-tadpole1

How did you get the opportunity to do the WHAT TO DOODLE? Activity Books with Dover Publishing?

I sent out postcards within a day or two of mailing them out Dover called, referenced the postcard and wanted me to do the doodle book. That’s my plug for direct mail. It’s very effective.

robfrog-turtle

Is AW, NUTS coming out in August with HarperCollins you first picture book?

I have illustrated a couple of short run books in the UK and some Bible story books here in the U.S. but “Aw, Nuts!” is the first picture book I have written and illustrated.

robcomputer-thief

How did that contract come about?

It was actually sort of a happy accident. My agent was pitching another story and the publisher mentioned they would be interested in a board book about color. They were not necessarily asking me to write a book it was just mentioned in passing. That was on a Thursday. I wrote Aw, Nuts! over the weekend and sent it to my agent as a dummy book on Monday morning. In the end, I really saw “Aw, Nuts!” as a picture book so I dropped the color idea and reworked the story and then HarperCollins came along.

robCircus-animals

How long were you trying to get a picture book opportunity?

I had toyed around with writing and illustrating my own book for several years, but the bug really bit when I attended the 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference. Mark Teague and Mo Willems both spoke that weekend and if I remember correctly encouraged the artist to write their own stories. Their speeches fired me up.

robcowboys-singing-snake

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

I have another book right now we are pitching and others ideas I am noodling with.

robcrow-banjo-house

Are you open to illustrating a self-published book?

I may be in the future at the moment I am focusing on working with publishers.

robfarm-barn-animals

Have you worked with educational publishers?

I have. I really enjoy working with education publishers. My wife is an elementary teacher and if I am not careful she steals my printed samples.

robhedgehog-cakebox

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I do. That is how I got my start so I always enjoy working on an editorial piece.

robhedgehog-cakebox2

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

My agent helps a great deal, but I also use direct mail and I am on a few websites. Dribble.com has been a fun way to connect with artist and get jobs at the same time.

robdad-man-hammock

What is your favorite medium to use?

I work digitally, but for fun I like pen and ink. I am also planning on pulling out my watercolors this summer.

robkids-summer-swim

Has that changed over time?

Digital has always been the way I preferred to work. I like the idea that I can easily rework a piece if I need to and send to the client without scanning or dealing overnighting a project.

robboy-dog-biking

Do you have a studio in your house?

I do. I call it a studio everyone else calls it a basement.

robLion-cub

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Windows. In our old house my studio was tucked away in a room with no windows. I was so excited when I actually got a studio with a view.

robscarecrow-crows

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I am constantly writing and sketching ideas, visiting the library, bookstores and toy stores. I also throw ideas out to my kids and wife. She loves picture books as much as I do. She is a great to brainstorm with.

robsquirrels-acorns

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I rarely take pictures for research. I used to keep magazines or cut things out that I thought would be an excellent reference. Now I use pinterest. My boards are research, inspiration or image boards for ideas I have brewing.

robHalloween-candy-vampire500

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, especially social media. It has been a great way to connect with other artist, clients and agents.

robHaunted-House-med2500

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

For a long time I mainly used Illustrator but I am starting to work in photoshop.

robigor500

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, that is another thing in my office I can’t live without. I have a Wacom Cintiq that I use for sketching and Photoshop and an intuos that I use when in Illustrator. Those tablets are tools of the trade that I have to have.

robhalloween-houses500

What do you think is your biggest success thus far?

“Aw, Nuts!” is by far the biggest. I am so excited for the book’s release. I had the opportunity to share the book at my wife’s school and the kids loved it! Seeing how they responded to the book was probably the biggest reward. My new favorite thing is the letters I received from the children after the visit. The other really cool job I got to do was creating the packaging for a toy that Mattel gave to John Lassiter as a gift. The toy was a John Lassiter action figure/doll the packaging was inspired by the fact that he wears lots of Hawaiian shirt. I had to create pixar characters as tiki idols. I never knew what happened to the toy, but I always imagined it in his office. One night I was watching a documentary on Pixar and sure enough at the end of the show they showed a zoomed in shot of the toy and I can just make out some of my art. That is the 2nd coolest job I ever worked on.

robFrankenstein-Monster

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to continue writing and drawing my own books and would love to work on chapter books.

robpenguins-snowman

What are you working on now?

I have a couple of story ideas brewing. I am also trying out a new style. I don’t want to be just the Adobe Illustrator guy. Aw, Nuts! was the first thing I have worked on where I didn’t use Adobe illustrator. I enjoy pushing myself and moving beyond my comfort zone, which at the moment is Adobe Illustrator.

robsanta-christmas

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My biggest tip is to connect with other writers and illustrators. I have learned a ton from just listening or asking questions. If you can join a crit group they can be super helpful.

robSanta-Claus

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

For me it has been as simple as read a lot and draw everyday. Quit dreaming and start doing.

robwinter-animals

Thank you Rob for sharing you process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we would love to hear about all of them, so please drop me a line when good things happen.

To see more of Rob’s illustrations you can visit him at: http://seerobdraw.com/ Please take a minute to leave a comment for Rob, I am sure he would love to heard from you and it always makes me feel like Illustrator Saturday should continue. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Process, Tips Tagged: AW NUTS!, Comics/cartoons, HarperCollins Childrens, Rob McClurkan

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Rob McClurkan, last added: 6/10/2014
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24. Illustrator Saturday – Marcelo Elizalde

marceloMarcelo Elizalde was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1953. He is a self-taught, dedicated children’s books illustrator.

At school he considered his drawings as average, but his peers and professors saw a difference that he hardly acknowledged. What really differenciated him from other children was his rather excessive love for cartoons and picturebooks. Pictures, especially those intended for children, made him dream of something that he could not fully understand.

In Argentina he contributed to the most important publishers of books and magazines, and after the year 2000 he started to work for abroad. He began by Spain, but soon he added clients in the USA, Korea, Sweden, Canada and other countries.

A few years ago, he started teaching Children’s Books Illustration at the main art school in Buenos Aires, what made him review all he knew about the craft and conceive a conceptual basis for a criticism of the images intended for children. He is nowadays writing a book about the subject, that has his mind in a state of continuous bubbling, which he says, “makes him look a little absent-minded, or deranged, if you will.”

HERE IS MARCELO:

I work with an iMac 21.5″, 8Gb RAM, OS Mavericks; an Intuos 4 graphic tablet, and an Epson V500 scanner.

The application is Photoshop CS6

Step 1

Step 1

I very rarely draw directly on Photoshop. I feel that the tablet has this limitation and that I cannot move my hand with grace to set the first ideas on paper. There are some illustrators who do not start in paper, to whom I strongly recommend to use the pencil. The sketch comes out faster and dances better.

I sketch on a light semitransparent paper that lets me trace and refine the sketch. When I have it as I wish, i.e. precise where I need and loose where I am more confident, I scan it to 300ppi.

Step 2cropped

Step 2

I always work upon the very layout, to be sure that the image is always in place in relation to the whole graphic space. When needed, I do it on the spread, so that both pages talk smoothly-or at least not fight to death. For that, I open the PDF of the layout as individual PSD files and save them in this format. I paste the scan of the sketch and put it in place and resize it if needed.

Step 3cropped

Step 3

I open a new layer, fill it white and reduce its transparency to a value that lets me trace the drawing with a black common round brush.

Step 4

Step 4

I put a special attention in refining these lines so they have movement and profile and they don’t appear blunt or clumsy. I think that every bit of the illustration must have a beauty of its own and not depend on fellow sectors to look good.

Step 5

Step 5

When I´m done with the black lines, I open a new layer below this one and set a background. It can be any color, as long as it is dark enough to be visible when I “paint” the subject. I prefer dark blue, or red, or an earth hue.

Step 6

Step 6

In the times when the capabilities of Photoshop to build brushes was very primitive, I made this one up for very general painting purposes. And albeit I now have a box full of gorgeous brushes, I still use this one from time to time. I named it “Ancient” in the brush presets box.

Step 7

Step 7

Between the blue Background layer and the black line layer, I open a new one and I paint a background that will belong to the subject and that will give it the desired general hue. I chose a brownish color and set the layer to 50%. This I do so as to help the image have a chromatic coherence, as if working with washes of paint.

Step 8

Step 8

I start the always uncertain process of applying color in steps, using the Ancient and varying the transparency with the pressure of the pen. First darker colors, then the lighter.

Step 9

Step 9

I keep on applying layers of “paint”. You can see the blue background a little through this layer. It may not look like very important, but try otherwise and the difference will be huge.

The application allows me to go back some steps and retry and again and so forth. Luckily, you can’t see my doubts here. See that the borders f the paint are slightly loose with respect to the outline.

Step 10

Step 10

I apply the lighter color in the illuminated parts. By default, I make the light come from above to the left.

Step 11

Step 11

I continue with the other subjects and objects of the scene.

Step 12

Step 12

Added the color to the ground that the subject is standing on. I apply, always in a separate layer, the highlight, generally in white.

I do it in a separate layers so as to control the intensity by varying the transparency of the said layer.

Step 13

 

Step 13

I open a layer above the blue background and, using again the Ancient, I proceed to “smudge” it to produce a soft, textured new background, suited especially for illustrations that either don´t need a scenery or are requested as standing alone in the blank of the page.

Step 14

Step 14

Finally, I apply the heavy Shadows layer. For that, I open a new one and set it in Darken mode, 25-30% opacity. Then I (usually) draw flat shadows with blue C100 M100 Y0 B0.

I set it in Darken mode so the details underneath are not painted over but are modified as if under a shadow. I change the transparency according to the color of the subject and the need of stress or character.

Step 15

Step 15

This is the final picture as I give it in. CMYK, 300ppi, TIFF format.

I hope you like it.
marceloharry

How long have you been interested in art?

I was the “artist” of the family, albeit no one knew what we actually meant by that. It was easy to see that I would drop out from any technical career, which I did.

marcelo

Did you study art in college? If so, what college did you attend and what did you study?

I assisted for less than a year to the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts) in Buenos Aires. In those days the syllabus was very good but rigidly classical, and Illustration was a very, very bad word. Everyone liked what I produced, but it was just illustration or it looked like such. Nobody knew what to answer to the question “So, what?”. I dropped out and went back home to teach myself.

marcelofiremanhose

Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you liked?

I liked especially Sculpture and Engraving, partly because the professors were very talented and open minded, and were of the idea, which I learned then, that you must try to master the technique to liberate yourself from material burden as much as possible. Their message was “do what you want, not what you can“. I forgot about Gravure, but Sculpture is still a blissful place where I want to get someday.

marcelocat500

What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

The very first were a couple of single-panel cartoons for a sailing magazine. They were funny and I still like them.

marcelograss

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I did not graduate, as I said, and the things that I did one can hardly call them a “job”. My career started out in the wilderness.

marcelowritingbook

How and why did you start going digital with your art?

In the 90s I contributed to a magazine –that was the dream-come-true of my childhood– and for production reasons they encouraged us illustrators to switch to working with computers. I like gadgets, so I bought a Mac and all the peripherals one Friday, a friend helped me plug everything correctly on Saturday and Monday evening I was giving in my first digital illustration. I felt like I had been illustrating in Photoshop for years and that I could finally perform things that were impossible with traditional materials.

marcelocircus

Have you always lived in Argentina?

Yes, except for a 6 month stay at Bogotá, Colombia. I moved with the idea of settling there, availing a publishing boom, but I soon found out that it didn’t smell like books but rather just like paper. That was a vaccine against any will to migrate.

marcelopurpleears

What do you think influenced your artistic style?

I have a straightforward and humorous approach to my subjects, and that I learned from Sergio Aragonés, a Cuban cartoonist that did the little drawings in the corners of Mad magazines. He knew everything about producing funny situations in black and white ink thumbnails. I also learned a lot with Richard Scarry, who conveyed humor and expression to his very simple animal characters. And for the image itself, I always loved and longed for the illustrators of the 50s and 60s, like the Provensens or Celestino Piatti or my compatriot Ayax Barnes, among many others.

marcelopointing

What was your first big success in illustrating?

In Colombia I illustrated a cookbook for children produced by Nestlé (the swiss dairy company) to be distributed to supermarkets that sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But this I learned when I was back in Argentina, so nobody even patted my shoulder for that.

marceloalligatorsandbomb

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for the children’s market?

Nearly always, or at least since I was 17. The trouble is that I didn’t know then that that was called illustration and that doing it for children was a specialty in its own right. I always wanted to produce the kind of images that I saw in the books I read.

marcelocatandcookies

When did you do your the first illustration for children? And what was it?

In a sense, when I was 17, an age that I mentioned before, and it was in the most direct and brutal manner.

marceloaligatorapples

How did that come about?

I assisted to a secondary school where they thoroughly taught us English language, and the last year we had to make teaching practices within the school, to primary pupils. My first assignment was a first grade, Friday afternnon, last hour; the worst possible combination. To make things harder, the teacher was very beautiful and we were all in love with her.

The subject was The Farm. I could neither refuse nor desert so I produced a series of cutout animals and people and farm objects that the little demons had to stick to a big paper with background field and sky. Though I made this up the night before, the lesson was such a success that I could have the children quiet for 15 minutes. The cutouts were much admired and I thought “Where did this all come from? How could I do it out of nothing?” It took me ten more years to find out.

marceloeyes

Do you have an agent to represent you? If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one?

I did have one in the UK, but it didn’t work. I would like to have one. There should be agents to get you an agent. An Uberagent.

marcelohenandchicks

I see a few pictures that look like you sculpted a character. Is this something new you are trying out?

I started that back in 1995, blending my untested talents in sculpture and my profession. I did some works with clay, and I even took my models (yes, the very models) to the Bologna Book Fair in Italy, where I got much praise, but no assignments. The market for such technique is very, very small, as one can see in any bookstore. Anyway, my models availed me interviews at Aardman, the makers of the Wallace and Grommit series, and in the Spitting Image studios, both in the UK.

marcelodatenight

Have you published with any USA publisher? If so, who? And how did you get the contract with them?

I attended the SCBWI’s Winter Conference in 2001, where I made good contacts, particularly with Don Curry at Mondo Publishing, from whom I got my first assignment in the USA. Then came Innovative Kids, MacGraw Hill, Scholastic, Meredith, Klutz, and some more. I was assigned very interesting projects that I enjoyed a lot.

marcelonutshell

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Oh, yes.

marcelodoor

Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a self-published author?

As long as they pay me my fees, yes, why not. I stumble from time to time upon a request of this kind, but I couldn’t so far find out why these authors assume that you will do it for free, for the glory of it or for an uncertain future reward.

marcelopaino

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, and I particularly enjoy illustrating impossible books, like math books, and make of them a thing worth seeing. So much so that educational publishers in Argentina used to call me when they had one of those unillustratable books. This is where I apply what I learned from Sergio Aragonés.

marcelomouseinnyc

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, and I am currently contributing to one. But for many years I illustrated for the magazine that I (and everyone else in Argentina and the region) read when I was a kid. That is a badge that still makes me proud. I also worked for newspapers, both for children and adults. I particularly enjoy this kind of quick, concentrated effort, where you have one or very few shoots to make a story. You have to be very efficient.

marceloscary

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

My repertoire is a little limited. I have a subscription to Children’s Illustrators, and I mail the news about my recent work to clients. In fact, I concentrate my efforts in keeping my clients rather than go hunting new ones. That’s not for mere conservatism but simply because I don’t have a bold strategy to do otherwise.

marceloswamp

What is your favorite medium to use?

Apart from the computer I love gouache. I started my career with that medium and it made a deep impression in my style. If you look at my pictures you will see that many of them imitate that juxtaposed color planes mode, as if it were gouache. I like the smell of it, too. And I have an unconditional love for the common, old black graphite pencil of eternity.

marcelotigers

Has that changed over time?

As I said, I started with gouache, but then I tried everything else. Watercolor, acrylic, color pencils, pen & china ink, crayons and pastels, paper cutouts, plasticine, collage and I even tried baked dough (It didn’t work).

marceloboat

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, habitually. Not in this very moment. To have the studio at home is both a blessing and a curse, but I have decided long since that it is much more the former than the latter.

marcelodinner

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

The radio.

marcelofivenose

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

No, I’m not that disciplined. I am a very curious person and i have a lot of interests that claim for their share of my time. I am disciplined to meet deadlines, though. As writer Douglas Adams said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by”.

marcelotigerviking

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, but to a certain point. My style does not support much documentation. It becomes very evident when I stick too much to researched images. Anyway, I do google my subjects, be it a rhinoceros or an airplane, but I usually make it just to avoid horrible mistakes or pick features that will enhance the result.

I have very seldomly taken photographs as documentation. When there was no internet, I used to go to the zoo and take some pictures when I couldn’t find the angles that I needed. Now you type “mouse-deer” and you have loads of photos to choose from.

marcelowaves

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Not doors but gates! I could write an essay on the favorable changes that the internet brought to my work. It added extra dimensions to the creative process, the professional life, the research, the relation with colleagues, the access to other illustrator’s work, which was very limited before; the delivery of the pictures, the invoicing, the wiring, the meeting of new people from everywhere. I just cannot remember how it was to finish the work, tidy myself, dress up and go bring it to the editor. Do you remember?

marceloseagullsand bread

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes. I love it. They made it thinking of me. Anyway, I would love to meet the crew someday and tell them a couple of things!

marcelowitch

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

After my first month struggling with the mouse, my Mac dealer called me and said “You should try this”.

First comes my right hand, second my Wacom, then my left hand.

marcelotub

What do you think is your biggest success thus far?

I didn’t have any big successes that I can think of.

marcelomom

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I am currently finishing the research for a book I want to write about illustrating for children. Not about technique nor professional development, but about the essence of what we do. I want to give an answer to the question “What is it that we do? For what?”. I never heard of a good answer to that. I think that in reality nobody knows. Well, I think that I am slowly coming to the point and I will struggle to publish it. That is my dream.

marcelowatering

What are you working on now?

I´m illustrating the second batch of a series of books whose translation would be The Jungle Gang, obviously about the adventures of a group of animals. They are coming out funny.

marcelospaceship500

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Always buy the best material that you can afford. Saving in this matter is like bandaging your fingers, or maybe banging on them.

marcelocabbage500

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I use to say that I had to navigate my profession looking at the stars. Now, the young illustrators have their GPSs –the internet is one of them– and there are tons of advice everywhere. But there’s one thing that I try to never forget, and that is the children; the children that see my pictures and incorporate them along with the story, and feed something into their minds, or hearts, or souls. In many parts of the world (not in the USA) the child as a viewer is being neglected and the images are becoming cold and distant, as if intended for adults, more concerned about the aesthetics of the matter than the emotions one has to help express.

To say that I mind the child within me is too commonplace and expresses nothing. I’d rather say that I work for the real, average child out there.

marcelofrogumbrella500

 

Thank you Marcelo for sharing you process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we would love to hear about all of them, so please drop me a line when good things happen.

To see more of Marcelo’s illustrations you can visit him at: www.marceloelizalde.com.ar   Please take a minute to leave a comment for Marcelo, I know he would love to heard from you and always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, picture books, Process, Technology, Tips Tagged: Buenos Aires, Marcelo Elizalde

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Marcelo Elizalde, last added: 6/14/2014
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25. Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron

Croc&flag

craigCraig Cameron is originally from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication.

After graduating, armed with paintbrushes and guitar, he travelled across to the north of England to pursue a career as an illustrator, working initially as a graphic designer in advertising and Children’s Book Publishing, and since 2002 as a freelance artist.

Over the last decade Craig worked on many exciting projects – with book publishers in the UK and US, also creating illustrations for licensed characters, magazines, greetings cards, and product packaging.

He currently lives in Manchester, UK, with my wife Annette and 3 children, Ellie, Lewis and Joe.

Here is Craig Explaining his process:

The steps I take in my process of creating an illustration

Client – NetJets – International Children’s Day Card / promotional item.

This brief was to create a colorful illustration to celebrate International Children’s Day, which would be handed out to passengers on 2nd June 2014.

I generally start with very small sketchy thumbnails in my sketchbook, thinking about the general concept, layout and composition. From this I then work up more detailed sketches in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and pen. I enjoy both sketching with pencils and directly into Photoshop. The benefit of Photoshop is that you can rotate, enlarge and move items around easily.

I submitted 3 concept ideas to the client as sketches. I think my sketches tend to be fairly detailed, probably due to my personality and wanting to get them resolved in terms of tone and composition so I have a clear idea of how they will look when I go to final color artwork.

Netjets 1

Rough concept sketch

Netjets 2

Refining sketch

Netjets 3

First concept sketch sent to client.

Netjets 4

Second concept sketch for client.

Netjets 5

Third concept sketch for client. The client liked options one and three best but decided to go with option 1. There were pleased with the design and asked for a few small changes including adding the livery /stripes on the plane and NetJets branding.

Netjets 6a

Although I work digitally primarily, I often like to use painted textures and backgrounds. In a small messy corner of my office I like to create these textures, using canvas boards, acrylic paints, gesso and dry brushing techniques until I get a texture which looks suitable.

Netjets 6b

I’ve built up a library of these which can also be used with the photoshop brushes to give a more hand tooled effect. I scan the texture as a grayscale tiff file, using an Epson A3 scanner at a fairly hi-res (approx 400dpi).

Netjets 7

Once scanned I import into Photoshop and position the sketch on top as a positional guide.

Netjets8

I color the background, often using layer options and adjustment layers, allowing the texture of the canvas effect to show through.

Netjets9

Netjets10

I tend to use a lot of layers, grouping the various items into folders. I paint using the airbrush and lasso tools, blocking out the general shapes before adding shading, details and highlights.

Netjets11

 

Netjets11b

 

Netjets11c

 

Netjets12

 

Netjets13

The final stages often take the longest time – adding highlights and extra texture until I’m happy with the overall look and feel.

Netjets14_final

Recently I have enjoyed trying out new brushes in Photoshop which can give more natural, painted or hand tooled effect. The client was really pleased with the final artwork and asked for one small change which was to make the clouds on earth look less scribbly and more like soft swirls.

spaced out1The Rough Sketch

spaced out2The Final Sketch

spaced out3

Working on tones.

spaced out4

The final illustration.

BHJ

Backhoe Joe, written by Lori Alexander and Illustrated by Craig Cameron will be released on 16th September by Harper Collins US.

BJ_

Above is some interior art from Craig’s Debut Picture Book.

3 little pigs

When did you first know you wanted to make a living doing art?

I went to Art College after A Levels, knowing that drawing/art was definitely the direction I wanted to go as a career after school. I attended a place on a Foundation Studies course in Art & Design at Belfast. At that stage I hadn’t made up my mind that I wanted to be an illustrator but my interest has always been in picture books and children’s brighlty coloured artwork. I then went on to an Illustration HND course at NEWI (North Wales). It was during those 2 years that the idea of actually working as an illustrator became more of a reality.

Big-Train_cvr

How long have you been illustrating?

I was fortunate to get my first commercial illustration commissions when I was at University, so have been illustrating for just over 20 years. After leaving University I initially worked in a design agency for 3 years and then for another 3 years as a book designer for a UK publishing house before going freelance in 2002 as a full time illustrator.

Engine-color_p26-27

What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

At school I had 2 brilliant art teachers. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be an illustrator today. They were very supportive, inspiring and encouraging and I loved working in the environment of the art studio. They both commissioned me to paint their portraits!

My first commercial commission was for Alton Towers theme park here in the UK. It was for a promotional page in a national newspaper and came through an illustration agent who had seen my work as part of my graduate exhibition. I think this was the turning point where I realized that having a career as an illustrator could really happen!

City-Train_cvr

city_train-15

I see you graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication. What made you choose Ulster and Visual Communication?

I am from Nothern Ireland and grew up in a town called Carrickfergus, 15 miles outside of Belfast. I had previously studied for 1 year on an Art&Design Foundation course and I liked the University and of course it was close to home, friends and family. The Visual Communication course offered lots of flexibility to try different disciplines, photography, graphic design, art history, film making etc, which appealed me me as I was trying to figure out my possible career direction. Other famous children’s picture book artists have graduated from the same course at Belfast, including the wonderful Oliver Jeffers and Alison Brown.

freight_train-7

What types of things do you study with Visual Communication? What makes it different from getting a BFA?

The course offered a grounding across a range of diciplines in Art & Design but then the opportunity to specialise in the final years, so it was ideal for students who were initially unsure of their specialist subject or who wanted a more general Art & design qualification which might be suited to education or similar.

BaM_colour

Did the School help you get work?

Prior to my degree at Belfast I did a 2 year illustration HND course in North Wales. (NEWI). This course was extremely practical and designed to help graduates find relevant commercial experience and contacts within the industry. During these years I was very fortunate to do a work placement with Penguin Books in London. Also, our final exhibition was moderated by an illustration agent based in Manchester, UK. She liked my work and asked me to meet her for an interview which lead subsequently to my first commercial commissions and having a artists rep whilst still at University.

BaM_front-cover

Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

I’m not sure that the colleges really pushed my work in any particular direction, but certainly the working environment and seeing the work of other students helped to inspire and encourage me to constantly develop and improve my work. The biggest influence came through the illustration rep. The agency I joined was called The Art Collection and there was a studio with about 8-10 in house professional illustrators. I was completely blown away by their talent, humour and professionalism.

BTB_Tum-Xmas_col12

Was your after graduating trip with your guitar just for fun or were you on a quest to find a job?

After graduating I moved from N.Ireland over to Manchester, England to work with the Art Collection. I have always loved music and have played guitar in college bands, but never really considered following music as a career – maybe in the future, who knows…!

Bob4

How did you find your first job doing advertising graphic design?

Again I was quite fortunate. An illustrator friend of mine had been renting space from a design agency in Manchester. They were looking for a junior designer with good drawing skills as they did lots of work for local restaurants and businessess. She gave them my name and I went for interview. The position was really good in that I spent about 50% of my time on illustrations and the other 50% on graphic design, logos, concepts etc. I really enjoyed my time although it was a bit hectic at times and often long hours. I learnt an awful lot in terms of producing artwork for print and using commercial DTP software such as Photoshop, illustrator etc.

Bob2

What children’s book publisher did you work for and how did that come about?

I have always loved children’s picture books so when I saw an advert for a book designer in Manchester for Egmont Books, I jumped at the chance! I was fortunate to pass the interview and worked there for 3 years, prior to going freelance full time.

It was a small design team, friendly, fun and a great environment to work in, surrounded by toys and books. I worked mostly on educational, licensed character and novelty books.

cook

Was that job the reason you got into illustrating for children?

It certainly didn’t put me off, but I think my love of illustration and books has been there since I was a child. It was a really good platform to start from as I learnt a lot about the business of publishing. I developed valuable skills in layout, design, typography and in producing artwork for print. Also I made good friends, many of whom I still keep in contact with now.

Rocket-&-croc

What was the first illustration work you did for children? How did that come about?

In the early illustration agency days, I received a number of jobs aimed at the children’s market, including the work for Alton Towers and a promotional Children’s Book for Boots the chemist. I think my illustration style always tended to fit the chidren’s market best as the colours are bright and playful.

croc's-away

How did you get to do eight early readers books with Stone Arch Readers?

I have advertised my illustration work on the Children’s Illustrators website (www.ccillustration.com) and have received a number of really good commissions through this page over the last 4 years, particularly from the US. I was initially approached by Stone Arch Publishing, through this website in 2012 to do a series of 4 x Early Readers based on train characters. They followed this with a second set of 4 books in 2013.

bears1

Illustrating seven books in one year must have been a lot of work? How long did it take you to illustrate each book?

The work fell into 2 sets of 4 books. Each project took around 4-6 months from start to finish with each book taking around 6 weeks to complete.

mac_box1

Are you under contract to illustrate more?

No.

mac-box2

How did you land the contract with HarperCollins to do BACKHOE JOE?

Backhoe Joe came through my agent here in the UK, called Beehive Illustration. I think Harper had also seen my work on the children’s Illustrators website as I had a number of examples of diggers and construction vehicles on there which fitted the look they were going for.

JCB-wall-chart

Was this your first book with a US publisher?

This is my first children’s picture book which is very exciting. It’s due to be released in August 2014 so I’m really looking forward to seeing a printed copy! I have worked with a number of US publishers before on early readers, magnet and sticker books and educational illustration.

JCB_frankie

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? If not, would you like to have one?

I am currently represented in the UK by Beehive Illustration and also a local agent in Manchester called Monkey Feet Illustration. Some really great projects have come through these in recent years, including a style guide for My First JCB and publishing projects.

jcb2

 

Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

I would love to!… and have a number of ideas that I have been recently working on.

I’ve always particuarly loved children’s picture books and this is an area I would really love to develop and focus on in the future.

bob1

 

How did you get to illustrate Bob the Builder books?

I have worked on licensed character illustration since my days at Egmont Books as a designer. I worked on a set of Bob the Builder Story Library books and have illustrated Bob for BBC magazines on a monthly basis for almost 10 years.

kids

 

How many picture books have you illustrated?

Only one so far, although Harper collins have mentioned the possibility of a second follow up title to Backhoe Joe – to be confirmed.

height-chart

 

mouse skate

Do you sell a lot of your black and white illustrations?

I have been commissioned to create B&W illustrations for publishing editorial and for the my 1st JCB licensed character style guide. I was approached recently to work on a young fiction title with B&W interior illustrations, which is something I would enjoy doing more of.

icecream

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes – lots! I have worked for a number of BBC magazines here in the UK, including Bob the Builder, Cbeebies , Thomas the Tank Engine and The Magic Key magazines. I have been commissioned also for a few editorials including Practical Parenting and Woman’s Weekly!

mermaids

What is your favorite medium to use?

I almost always work digitally now, mostly in photoshop or illustrator, although I love to include painted textures and patterns in the artwork if possible. Working digitally allows so much flexibilty in colouring, designing and making alterations when required – and it’s not as messy! Although I do still really enjoy sketching in my sketchbook.

monkey

Has that changed over time?

It used to be that all my work was drawn or hand painted – but over the last few years almost everything is done directly on my Apple Mac. I use a Wacom pen and tablet to draw with. I now also do the pencil roughs on the mac using a style/brush effect that has a sort of pencil look to it.

Over recent years I have intentionally tried to create artwork with a more painted, textured feel.

max

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My Wacom drawing pen and tablet.

EDU_moose+canoe

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I’m typically busy with commissioned work during the day. We have three children and I drop them off at school at 9am – I then have the remainder of the day to work on commissioned projects.

The challenge I find difficult is to find time to work on personal projects or sketchbook time. I tend to put client work first, especially if there’s an urgent deadline to work to. However, I do really want to focus on some personal projects and development over the next few years.

ringaround

Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I am contacted quite regularly through the Children’s Illustrators website by self-published authors. I tend to say no, as the work is speculative and I have personal projects I want to concentrate on. That said, I did agree to work with one unpublished author a few years ago, called Giles Paley Phillips, on a project called Balloon and Me. I really liked his writing and we went as far as to collaborate and complete a picture book dummy and colour cover and spreads, which we sent out to a number of publishers in the UK. We received an offer and some advance payments but unfortunately the project fell through shortly after. Giles went on to have a number of successful books published including The Fearsome Beastie, which won The People’s Book Prize 2012 and is currently being made into a CG Short Animation.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes – I generally take reference photos and also spend a considerable amount of time online finding reference as the first stage in my process. I also often create a mood board, which might include colours and textures and reference which I find helps me to develop a clearer idea in my mind of the general feel and direction of the illustrations.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! 10 years ago all my work was coming from UK clients, whereas in the last 5 years that has changed and I am receiving more interest and commissioned work from the US and Europe. Also It has become so much easier to network and publicise our work through personal websites, the internet and social media. It’s easier to source reference materials and there are fantastic resources available such as podcasts and online tutorials. It’s probably never been easier or cheaper to promote yourself, but with that is increased competition, Global competition! and the challenge of competing in an extremely competitive market.

undersea

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes – Photoshop is my preferred software for creating illustrations. If I’m putting a book together I would tend to use InDesign and sometimes use Illustrator for logos and flat colour or black and white illustrations.

teddies

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes – I currently have a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet which I love, although I have been looking at the Cintiq’s and am considering splashing out on one of those – They look fantastic but are expensive!

walkinwoods

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

As I mentioned previously my first love is children’s picture books and I would really like to create my own. I have a few ideas – so watch this space!

forest

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a fairly large educational project for a UK publisher and also a set of editorial illustrations for Thomas the Tank engine magazine.

puppies

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I have really enjoyed working with painted textures in Photoshop. There are lots of really interesting brushes available or you can make your own. That’s an area I’m exploring and enjoying personally. Also listen to podcasts from other practicing illustrators. I tend to listen while I work and it can be very inspiring and encouraging to hear about the experiences of other professionals as they discuss their methods and share advice and expertise.

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balloon

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Draw a lot!  When I was at college/university the tutors always stressed keeping a sketchbook and drawing constantly. I didn’t do it enough to be honest. But certainly I appreciate the value of drawing now… it will make life a lot easier!

Also experiment and don’t bogged down too quickly with one particular style. It’s good to be versatile and to be able to work in different ways, mediums. Try some photography, graphic design and computer software too… When you’re working as an illustrator it’s very easy to get recognized for one particular style. That can be good but it can also be restricting. My feeling is that you should constantly be developing and pushing yourself to be the best you possibly can.

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Thank you Craig for sharing your process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we’d love to hear about all of them, so please keep in touch.

To see more of Craig’s illustrations you can visit him at: http://www.craigcameronart.com/

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Craig, I know he would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Picture Book, Process Tagged: Backhoe Joe, Craig Cameron, licensed characters

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron, last added: 7/1/2014
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