Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Storm Preparedness for Illustrators by Diana Ting Delosh

We wake up and take for granted that the power will go on, until it doesn't. And then we say a prayer and hope it's just the fuse or something easily remedied. But if it's not, then what?

I will admit that since Super Storm Sandy, October 28, 2012, sometimes I am nervous about impending storms. One of the frustrating things, during that 13 day power outage, was that I  couldn't deliver illustrations to a client because they were in my computer. I was able to  contact my client to tell them they were finished and I would deliver them when the power came back. Thankfully it was for an E-book Project with a flexible deadline. Still a super annoying situation.
© Diana Ting Delosh – Ink & Watercolor
Traditional art created during the power outage caused by Sandy, 2012. Thankfully my drawing board was near a decent sized window

Nowadays, if a storm is threatening, when working on a project:

I pop a copy into my DropBox folder as I go. This way if something happens I can still deliver/show the client the work.

I also attach files (if they're under 10MB) to an e-mail. Yes, I know it may not be the wisest to send out the e-mail I typed late at night. But attaching the file to a draft e-mail works. If something were to happen I could still access my e-mail on a different device and send it off to the client.

 I also try and finish ahead of deadline – whenever possible. Even a few hours earlier has been helpful.

No, you can't plan for everything. Power outages. Computer/scanner/hardware malfunctions. Family members of course are also a big X-factor. Recently, I updated my Mac OS  which knocked out my QuarkXpress and MS Word, Excel and Power Point. Sigh – pre-update, I worried about loosing my Photoshop & InDesign and corrupting files... so I backed up files. Apparently, I worried about the wrong things. Oh well, you can't cover all bases.

Would love to hear if you have other tips or strategies for dealing with possible power outages or other disruptions. Please share them in the comments.

Twitter: @dtdelosh
ThumbNailer a book of boxes for your creative process

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thumbnails - By Deborah Cuneo

As an illustrator,  when you hear the word  thumbnail, you probably  think of  a rough, miniature doodle.  It's  always been a tried and true way to flesh out an individual piece or an entire storyboard.  And... while I do start each new illustration with a small, rough sketch, over the years, the idea of "thumbnail" has become so much more  a part of my entire, creative process.

I generally start every illustration with a rough thumbnail.  If I'm working on a group of spots for my portfolio, or a book project, I eventually end up with a series of these rough little drawings in the form of a  storyboard. I've also been using thumbnails to write out the text with illustration notes for myself. But, for me, their usefulness doesn't end there.

I like to work on the entire series or book project  all at once to keep everything consistent, but tracking all the details  while working that way, can be a bit overwhelming, especially now that I 'm working more with digital tools and layers. I tried many different ways to keep track of what I did, but being a very visual person, I kept coming back to those simple little rectangles with the line down the middle. I use the thumbnail format for everything from tracking how many of the main elements have to be rendered in separate  layers, any revisions that need to be done, to mini color studies to give myself a full color overview and pretty much everything in-between.

Color Tracking - Little Dragon Sky Pony Press-2017

Color tracking thumbnail, close-up - Little Dragon Sky Pony Press- 2017

I find that the "at a glance" of the entire book, at different critical points in my process, really help me to keep tabs on all aspects of the project. And, I always have the thumbnails close by, so I can look them over with fresh eyes from time to time. Kind of like occasionally stepping back from a painting, only in this case, it's the whole project. When I do that, I can see things about the project that I couldn't, by just looking at one piece at a time, for hours on end. If something jumps out, I jot it down on the thumbnail sheet and mark it off when I address it. It all becomes part of the documentation for my project and they're nice and small, so easily put in the file.

Overview thumbnails - Little Dragon Sky Pony Press-2017

I had always just printed out my own thumbnail sheets, but we all know what happens to loose sheets of paper, despite our best efforts to keep everything together. So,  I'm happy  to announce that one of my blog buddies, Diana Delosh, came up with a small portable book, with lots of pages of my favorite little rectangles with the line down the center.

ThumbNailer / interior-   created by Diana Ting Delosh
 It's lightweight, portable, feels great (I'm also a very tactile person), has 51 pages with 8 thumbnail boxes per page and best's totally affordable ! It's called ThumbNailer and you can get your book through Amazon.  I have Prime, so I got mine in 2 days and no shipping!
ThumbNailer /cover -  created by Diana Ting Delosh

I think this is going to work out really well, not only for the beginning sketching part, but also for keeping all aspects of my book projects together in one place.  For the price of a big, fancy cup of coffee, I can get one book for each project, as well as have one in my purse at all times in case inspiration strikes.

I'm just about done with the art for Little Dragon, but I always have another couple of book projects in the works that the ThumbNailer will be perfect for!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

(Set) Design Within Reach by Jason Kirschner

I've recently started a new day job. (woot!)  I'm a set designer by trade, and I've started on a new television show (that I think is going to be great btw) but the hours have been LONG. As a consequence, I haven't been doing much work on my books and my mind is preoccupied with set stuff. And here it week to blog. It seemed unfortunate until I started thinking about the way my day job informs my night one--that is how my set design training impacts my writing/illustrating. I thought I'd share a couple of things.

My first takeaway is one that I go back to really often, especially when I'm stuck.  As a set designer, when I’m sketching out a scene-- any scene— whether it's a Late Night skit, Hamlet Act IV scene iii, or “Luck be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls,  I don't start with the set or the lighting or the special effects. That's kinda huge, no? The set designer doesn't start with the set!  So where I start? I draw only what’s necessary to depict the action of the scene. If I'm designing Romeo and Juliet Act II scene ii, I know right away that Juliet has to be up on a balcony, forlorn and wistful. Romeo is down below about to surprise his true love. Not much else is needed to tell the story in that scene. (And Baz Luhrmann would tell you you don’t even need the balcony. He did it with a pool.)   I'm not worried about what the backdrop looks like or the lighting or the style of architecture that best describes the palace. That's all icing on the cake.  The same holds true for any two page spread in any picture book. Establish the characters' relationships correctly and put down on paper only what you need to complete the action in the script. Once that's solid you can get to bells and whistles.  I always draw characters first and backgrounds second. (It has nothing to do with the fact that I don't like drawing backgrounds. I pinky swear.)
Rough Sketch "Luck be a Lady" circa 1997. Don't judge harshly

Got the characters down. The emotion is clear.  Backgrounds come later.
Here's another. Did you ever notice how most classic sitcoms open every episode with an exterior shot of the house where the main characters live? Then they fade into a wide shot of the living room or the kitchen where we can see all the characters?   I love that they take the time to do what’s called an establishing shot.  It’s on the screen for maybe a second but it's SO vital. It tells us where we are and quickly defines some parameters for that world. Maybe that status quo is a deserted island with 7 castaways, movin' on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky, or a Miami bungalow with four elderly divorcees. (I watch a TON of Nick at Nite.) Then once we understand where we are and what the status quo is, they cut to a close-up of a main character where they can do more character work. Close-ups are also better for comedic situations so you can see more detailed expressions. Conversations occur on a two-shot (where two characters are in frame.)   I think all of this applies to storytelling picture books as well.  Establish your status quo on a wide framed illustration.  Zoom in for character moments or funny stuff.  It really does work.
Establishing shot of the Brady Bunch house.

Establishing shot of Mr. Particular's house.
I think good storytelling is good storytelling and it transcends media type. I'll try to come up with a few more for a future blog.  This is all I've got for now.  Remember -- I've got that new job?  Long hours?  Geez.  Give a guy a break, will ya?

By day, Jason is a set designer for television, with credits that include 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 more of Jason's work at Follow him on twitter @jason_kirschner .

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

No Doodle Left Behind, by Mike Ciccotello

©2016 Mike Ciccotello
As creators, we all suffer from those maddening creative blocks. Picture yourself walking along a beautiful path of sunshine and daydreams. Rainbows of light shoot from your hands and everything you create is the most amazing idea ever.

©2016 Mike Ciccotello

Then, out of nowhere, you SMACK your face right into a giant wall and bruise your nose. You can't seem to figure out where it came from, or how to get around it. You try to push it down. Then you try jumping to reach the top or walking around it. It's HUGE.

As a last ditch effort, you back up and run toward it with all your might, kicking, punching, and screaming. Then you collapse to the ground and cry.
©2016 Mike Ciccotello

We have all heard that taking a break will help. Yes, it does, but if you're like me, you can't take too long of a break. You need to create. Stay calm. Believe in yourself and the best tool you have in your arsenal, your creativity.

At a young age, I was taught to keep a visual diary. It's just a sketchpad or a journal. They come in all sorts of sizes and vary in price. Get one. Write. Draw. Fill it up. Repeat. Do not throw them away. They will serve you well.

©2016 Mike Ciccotello
I keep all of them. They are little windows to my past. I look at various sketches and ideas in a new light. Some are meh, and some are better than meh, but ALL of those ideas have possibility. Don't leave them behind.

The next time you hit that wall and can't think of a way around it, sit down. Pull out your old sketchpads or journals. Pour through the pages and explore your old ideas. Give them a second chance. See if your past self was planting seeds for your future. You may find a secret portal that gets you through that wall. 

©2016 Mike Ciccotello

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Easy Peasy Photoshop CC Animation - by Patricia Keeler

LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL animation Mike created from my art. ©pkeeler

First, you need to find someone what knows animation. Then you tell them your best jokes

and suggest the thick sliced French toast with orange butter and blueberry syrup.

When they say they don't really have time to teach you how to animate, tell them to just do their best. Offer more syrup.


So here is what I learned in a nutshell and an afternoon. (This was the easy bit I could remember from what Mike explained.)

Trace an object three times-like a butterfly. 

1. Wings up

2. Wings half way up

3. Wings down

4. For 4, use the wings half way up image again. They look the same going down.

Scan each image into Photoshop as usual. 

You have four layers. The two red layers are the same 'wings half way' image. 

(Make sure each image is stacked directly on top of the other or you'll have a drunken butterfly. Which is kind of funny . . .) 

This is the exciting part! Go to Window/Timeline. See the colors on the Timeline? 
They match the colors on Layers.

Click on the right side of each color line and drag each one to the left to make a small box. 

Then drag and drop the other three boxes onto the top line. It looks like this.

Click on the  arrow on the top left, throw your head back and yell, "IT'S ALIVE!" 
and watch the butterfly flap her wings! 
The smaller the boxes, the faster the butterfly will flap her wings. ©pkeeler

I think Photoshop CC Animation creates choppy movements. 
There are better animation programs, but I kind of like the stuttering, 
retro feel of these animations--like a moment from an old silent movie! 

Leave a comment letting me know if you would like info on how to save your animation as a GIF and/or post it on social media.

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency