Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PRINT GIVEAWAY by Patricia Keeler




If you purchase a copy of Lizzie and Lou Seal and email a screen shot receipt to Sky Pony Press at 

wsparkles@skyhorsepublishing.com 

you will be eligible to win this signed 10" x 13" print entitled PETAL POWER!

And that's not all!
You will be entered to win the
GRAND PRIZE
of a manuscript critique by 

Sky Pony Assistant Editor, Kylie Brien



LETTING GO TO GET IT RIGHT


Several years ago I got a contract for a picture book I had written and illustrated. But when I turned in the final images, the book was cancelled.

I had made the editorial and illustration changes my picture book group and then the publisher’s editorial staff suggested. My realistically portrayed main character stayed under the watchful eye of her dad. She never smacked her chewing gum or stamped her feet.

I had no idea how my work could be any more appropriate for the children's book industry.

When attending to the remarks of children's book groups and the publisher’s editorial guidance didn't lead to a successful book, I decided to stop listening—to follow my heart—and take artistic chances!

I created a solid little girl with red hair that stuck out in all directions, much like the rock star PINK’s hair does.

©pkeeler 2017
I wanted a noisy girl who races around the beach in joyous abandon, while dragging a blow-up seal twice her size. How cool if her home was a retro beach trailer?

©pkeeler 2017
Lizzie and her pal Lou Seal were born!

Then I began experimenting with mixed media. I created page spreads using photographs of seashells that I collected from the beach. On the back cover I painted partially over a photograph of a sand castle I built.

I tried hand lettering. Then I threw sand across the page!

©pkeeler 2017

I wanted Lou Seal to look like she was made of plastic. I tried using an encaustic wax process. That worked for Lou Seal, but I discovered it created dynamic ocean waves!



Add a Lizzie and Lou Seal and . . .


©pkeeler 2017
Now I write about the things I love­—feisty girls, retro trailers and the beach. I dauntlessly experiment with new artistic techniques. Now there is magic!
  
Meet Patricia Keeler at Book Expo America 2017, Booth AM34, this June!
 
Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency www.lizaroyce.com

 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Invest in your dream. It's way more efficient than playing it safe for decades. –By Barbara DiLorenzo

This is going to be a very odd year.

My first two picture books are coming out–one in June 2017, and the other in February 2018.
And any day now, my baby girl will be born. If I wasn't writing this blog post, I'd find this amount of good fortune completely obnoxious. And I'd stop reading.

But that's why I'm writing this post–to let folks know that what appears to be stupid good luck, is really the cumulation of decades of struggle. I wrote my first picture book dummy in 8th grade. I'm 41 now.

I focused on illustration at art school, excited to take classes specifically geared to writing and illustrating picture books. This was going to be my launching pad to a great career in making books, starting at the age of 21. The only problem… as skilled as I was at rendering realistic drawings and paintings, I had absolutely no skill with visual or literary storytelling. My teachers graded me mostly on my efforts, but deep down I knew I was no good at crafting a story. I watched as some of my peers secured book deals within the first year after graduation. They came by storytelling more easily. Their illustrations were hilarious or poignant, and their final projects clearly professional. My collection of words and pictures, in contrast, still resembled a brainstorming session.

What I wish I could have known back then is that it's ok not to have all the answers. If I was still in the brainstorming phase, then ok. The only key is to not give up–which I did a few times over the years.

When I graduated from college, I decided to earn money as a graphic/web designer. While some of my friends were investing in themselves, choosing part-time work so they could have time to make books, I slowly became used to the comforts of a full-time job. I learned skills in working with clients, taking art direction, and meeting tough deadlines. I told myself that these were all good things to learn, and that I'd figure out a way to make books in my spare time. But all I had time for was an occasional painting or illustration. I moved so slowly that looking back, there are only tiny moments of growth–truly the base line of an asymptote curve.

In 2001 I had a portfolio review with an art director, who seemed unmoved by my work. Yet, a few weeks later, she asked if I'd submit a sample in a bid for a project. I did, and somehow I won the job. It was to illustrate a Dutch folk tale. Although I was over the moon, it felt like this good fortune came out of the blue, and a little too suddenly. Still, I worked diligently, all while pregnant and planning a wedding. (Another year of stupid good luck.)

Yet the luck ran out, as both the editor and the art director left the publisher, and my book project was orphaned. I turned in the final artwork, had the baby, and then learned that the book needed a major overhaul. For six more months I jumped through every hoop, bleary-eyed with sleep-deprivation from a newborn. Yet in the end, they killed the project. They paid me the kill fee. But I was devastated. After that blow, I sort of quit for a few years. I still painted on the weekends here and there, and convinced myself that storytelling wasn't my thing. But I pined for this dream to come true. Every children's book store I visited was both an exciting and bittersweet experience. Reading books to my son was the same. I cherish books. But I couldn't figure out how to make them myself.

After my family and I moved to New York City, I finally stopped working as a graphic designer. To brush up on my skills, I attended the Art Students League 5 days a week. After a full year of taking classes, I realized that I was on a track–but it was in the world of fine art, not illustration.

During a conversation with my dad after Thanksgiving, I finally articulated that I needed to switch gears. Trying to be kind and supportive, he suggested that I self-publish. But I said out loud to him, and to myself, that I was ready to climb the mountain to trade publication. He offered several other ideas to give me the satisfaction of seeing my work in book form. But I realized that what had been bothering me for years is that I was trying to casually sidle up to this career–instead of looking at the looming mountain of work ahead–and facing it directly.

I was still terrible at storytelling, but my artistic skills had developed over time. I wasn't bound to realism any longer. Funny or sweet characters started to emerge in my sketchbooks, and I crafted mini-stories around them. I started teaching art classes, switching from graphic design. I think working in this field allows me to grow in skill with traditional media.

This transition took place in 2012. I locked onto my goal, drew and painted with passion, entered contests, went to conferences, talked to people I didn't know despite not being an extrovert. I made a ton of mistakes in the process. But–by the end of 2014–I sold my first book! It's only coming out now, in 2017–the timeline became short once I took my career seriously. Everyone's timeline is different of course. Many are a lot shorter than mine.

Even if your timeline is longer than mine, take a look at the structure of your life, and evaluate whether or not you are dedicating yourself to your dream. Invest in yourself. It's so much more efficient than playing it safe for decades.

Illustration Blog: Paint & Paper
Twitter: @wavepaint


Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency


Written and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo
Published by Viking Children's Books 
Release date: June 20, 2017


QUINCY
Written and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo
Published by Little Bee Books 
Release date: February 8, 2018


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Creative Confidence by Diana Ting Delosh

Work Space
The amount of space is not important just that you have a spot you can claim your own. I claim a small spare bedroom as my studio space. I definitely need more shelving and flat files. It is chaotic but it is mine. I do most of my thinking and artsy mark making here.
My Drawing Board:
Working on sketch revisions for my picture book dummy. On the desk:  
Finished sketches on tracing paper clipped to the desk so I can flip through as needed. Various storyboard printouts so I can check the flow. ThumbNailer for doodling sketch revision ideas for page 26. Sketch page 27 that I thought was done but now I think it needs to be changed. Orange triangle. bits of blue tape

I also have a bag packed with my notebook, scribbling implements, small sketch book and ThumbNailer for those times I need to be on a train. While I can't do finished art, I do find the train rides great for thinking, scribbling concepts and solutions or just sketching. All I need is a seat and some elbow room. Is it just my imagination or has the Long Island Rail Road gotten bumpier?
My Travel Bag: note book, ThumbNailer, small sketch book,
Pencil case with pens & pencils, LIRR train ticket.
Mental Space
Sometimes I need to get away from all the noise of social media, TV, etc. Good or bad sometimes it's is just too much. Probably why I like just doodling in a sketch pad or writing longhand in my notebook with only the natural sounds of my environment. The physical act of writing or drawing connects directly to my day dreaming brain. Sometimes I listen to podcasts. I usually start my day with a cup of tea and some journaling in my notebook. Helps me set the tone of the day.
Tea Steeping and Vitamins © Diana Ting Delosh
Biro Sketch from INKTOBER 2016 series.


Creative Confidence
This last one's a must. Without it creating is almost impossible. It is also a very fragile commodity. Unfortunately, it's too easily effected by outside influences. The nice comment on your WIP can buoy you up and make the process fast and smooth. It can also puff you up so much that it's hard to get your butt back in your seat. While the off remark can make you question every mark and send you down a creative black hole or spur you on in defiance.

So how does one build Creative-self-confidence? My thoughts are to practice, practice, practice. Fake it, put pencil to paper or however you begin and work it. Build your creative skills. Develop your own aesthetic. Seek out reviews from trusted peers and industry professionals. Sure, this opens you up to the possibility of an ego bruising review but it is the only way to improve and develop a thicker hide. Take in the advice. Decide if there's some merit to the critique then go back to the drawing board. At times you may feel like an imposter but keep at it.  Sometimes you just have to take the leap and believe in yourself.
Fox and Butterflies © Diana Ting Delosh
Brush Pen, Watercolor, Digital.

A small quick Illo created for the weekly illustration challenge on Twitter #colour_collective for the week, Sweet Potato.  Realized  that I had been working on mainly sketches and I needed to do a finished colored piece of art just to keep my hand in the game. Practice, practice, practice. Also, sometimes you just need a break from what you're focused on to recharge.

Twitter: dtdelosh

Check out: 
The BIG ThumbNailer
ThumbNailer

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sometimes...You Fall. - By Deborah Cuneo



Did you ever see those memes being passed around on social media? It shows a group of pictures showing what "THEY" ( fill in who they are) think I do vs. what I actually do? Of course I laugh at a lot of them, but unfortunately, there is an element of truth in that humor. (all meme images are from Google, they are not my images)

 (That last one hit a little too close to home, as of late!)


Being a visual creative, you realize that everyone has a different perception of how we make art happen, what skill set might have been needed to accomplish the final product and how long they think it should have taken. The reality is, that it's extremely hard work, long hours in isolation, and is not always a smooth journey....especially when you decide to try something new!  


Not to say that every single project is a total disaster. Sometimes I start a job and everything seems to just fall into place, with the exception of a couple of minor speed bumps on the road to the finish. But occasionally, both the creative and technical hurdles to get a job done, can become overwhelming. And just as you jump over one hurdle , you're met with another and another after that. Sometimes those hurdles come fast and furious, one right after the next, so you just keep jumping over them and continue moving forward, right? But, sometimes...you fall.
 
Illustration by ©Deborah Cuneo - "How The Coyote..." - Pioneer Valley Books


And it's okay. It's during that rather abrupt halt in artistic momentum, when you're laying on the cold, hard ground of reality, feeling totally exhausted, emotionally drained (and somewhat defeated), that you realize it's not just your artistic skills that are going to pull you through. It's your ability to troubleshoot and find creative solutions for problems you never even knew existed, that now become your most valuable skill! It's also in that moment of despair and frustration, that we seem to be the most creative!


Being a bit of a podcast junkie, I recently came across a great Ted Talk about frustration as a catalyst for creativity. ( link below) 




By the time I listened to this, I had already begun to figure out how to resolve my technical hurdles for my current project,  but I found the similarities between what lead to my solutions and what was intentionally done to those creatives to inspire innovation, really intriguing. I also found it interesting that the scenario that most people usually do everything to avoid, can actually produce a very positive, creative spark!  

Little Dragon - Sky Pony Press

Thinking back, it truly was in those toughest times, when everything in my creative process was overwhelmingly frustrating, that I seemed to tap into my most creative thinking. Now ...I hope it all pays off !


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lost in (work)Space by Jason Kirschner

My workspace. I know I'm a mess. But it's MY workspace.
Workspace, and more importantly, workflow is something I've been mulling over a bunch lately.  According to definitions I just made up, workspace is the physical space where you work and how it's setup and workflow is the way you do your work and the tools you use to do that work.  I want to be turning out new and exciting work and I want to be working in the most efficient manner. Time is, after all, money. (I'm pretty sure I made that up too.)

For those reasons,  I get antsy every once in a while and want to change everything about the way I work. I want my desk on that wall instead of this one. I want to use watercolor instead of digital color. I want shade with markers before I scan my sketches. I want to draw on an iPad Pro instead of my Wacom tablet.  As I think these things, I’m quite certain that these changes will help me work faster and/or make my work more vital. And they might? Or they might not, I guess.

There's also something to be said for comfort level and familiarity.  Knowing how to work the scanner with my elbow does help me speed things along. I’m very comfortable with my grayscale Copic markers and I know just how hard to press when shading so I don’t screw up my drawing.  I’ve also memorized the Photoshop shortcut keys to the point that my brain couldn’t tell you which key to press but my fingers know all on their own. 

Changes are good though.  I tend to make them incrementally instead of all at once — mostly because I’m cowardly and lazy but also because I like where I’m at artistically.  Some people bounce all over the place and I must admit that both fascinates and terrifies me at the same time. 

When it comes to workspace and workflow, I also feel that we, as a community, should share more. When I flip through other people’s work online  (yes — I keep tabs on all of you. ) I am always SO curious as to how they achieved this look or that effect.  I also think people are too timid to ask one another how we did things or why we did them that way.  We should share more. 

In that spirit —not that anyone asked— here’s my workflow.  I always draw using a Prismacolor PC943 pencil (Burnt Ochre) because I think its a great middle tone. I more sculpt than draw with the pencil because I draw so many damn lines to get to the right one.  I then draw over my mess with a Prismacolor PC935 and find the right lines to punctuate.  The brown falls back to a sort of shading.  I then scan into Photoshop and color digitally.  I do adjust levels but I try to leave some of the mess underneath so it still looks “homemade.”



(Here’s the interactive part)
If you have the chance to share how you make your work, do so. (Hint: There’s a comments section here.)  Also, tell us about any changes you've made recently to your workspace or your workflow and how it worked out.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s amazed at how you do what you do.


By day, Jason is a set designer for television, with credits that include Harry, The Meredith Vieira Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Late Show with David Letterman. By night, Jason is an author and illustrator of children's books. You can find his debut picture book, Mr. Particular: The World's Choosiest Champion on shelves in bookstores everywhere. See Jason's work, both illustrations and set designs, at www.jasonkirschner.com . Follow him on twitter @jason_kirschner. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Thoughtful Critique, by Mike Ciccotello

Be open to thoughtful criticism. It's important to listen and consider what a suggestion may bring. It is entirely possible that your illustration will become better. Try to understand where that person is coming from and why they are suggesting changes. You may learn something new.––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––


Don't Let Go - Click to view larger image



At the same time, remember, a critique shouldn't be overly harsh. You didn't fail a test. We are all learning. A thoughtful critique should make you want to try harder, not give up. When you are involved in a critical discussion, ask questions. If someone says they don't like it, ask why. Don't accept a simple, "I don't know ... It just doesn't feel right." This creates a problem for the person being critiqued. Not only will it make them think their work is subpar, it won't give them a way to improve it. If you are ever in that situation, don't challenge the person, but try to guide the answer and pin-point where the problem lies. Is it the composition? Anatomy? Color? Emotion? Through a proactive discussion you may be able to figure out what the person meant.

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Injured - Click to view larger image

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Currently, I'm working on emotion. Specifically, I'm concentrating on the emotion in my characters' eyes. This is a process. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. All of the work I put into this process is good, it teaches, it gives experience. Recently, I signed with Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. She has been pushing me to explore my characters and challenging me to improve my work in many ways. I have found this incredibly productive and I'm learning from it. Rachel gives thoughtful critiques and presents them in a way for me to see her point of view. I am open to her suggestions and truly want to make the work better.

There will always be something to work on, something new to learn. By keeping an open mind, you will grow and improve.



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 Teatime with Grampa - Click to view larger image

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Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 
rko(a)prospectagency.com
Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello