Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sucked In - By Deborah Cuneo

Have you ever noticed those sponsored ads that randomly pop up on your social media feeds? They just happen to be a product that was exactly of your interest and for a great price too (of course), so you just have to click on it, right? No?... Just me? 

Photo of the product from Google

Well I have, it was and yes...I did. The product was a Body Kun, articulated sketch model...translated: a glorified, overpriced, cheaply made naked action figure. I had seen these things on and off over the years, but never really had given it too much thought until a few months ago. I was working on a project (another one I can't share yet) that had a lot of humans in it.  I couldn't find the poses in the povs  I needed and my only available models were either canine, feline or humans that were always too busy to pose for me.  

After endless hours of less than fruitful Google searching, I succumbed to the pressure of one of the pop-ups from "The Best Deals" (of course it would be named that) and clicked on the ad. I almost choked on the price, despite the "One time only, 50% off sale!!" (said in your best, loudly exaggerated, tv-salesman voice ). But, it truly seemed to be the answer to my situation and it came with really cool, extra miniature body parts and accessories to draw, so I bit the bullet, ignored the soft voice in my ear whispering "suckerrrr" and pressed "place order". 

Tiny accessories - yes, that's a dime! after a couple of weeks, my brain had somehow justified the purchase of not one but two (a male and female version) and I was actually excited by the time my shipment arrived. I set up my sketching supplies and opened the box and there they were!! They were a lot tinier than they appeared on my screen, but no biggie. I was going to set them up and photograph them so, I'd be able to enlarge it later.

I opened up the package with the woman first. She was in pieces...teeny, tiny, little pieces that didn't want to go back together no matter how many hours I tried. No problem, I'm adaptable, if anything... I would use the guy for both, for now. Fortunately that one was intact...till I tried to gently pose it, at which point I snapped the little dude in half. This one went back together easier than the female, until I tried to pose him again. After a few more times of performing micro surgery to put him back together (not to mention that the voice in my ear was now repeatedly screaming the word sucker) , I decided to email for a full refund.

Fortunately, their customer service was pretty good and they got back to me right away. They were also excellent salespeople too, ugh. Shortly after, I received two, free of charge,  brand new, male and female action figurines in the mail, that were actually intact...even after I touched them! I immediately set up my photo shoots and was able to draw the poses I was after. Yay, a happy ending...sort of. 

Photo Shoot Set Up

So,  the bottom line review on this product...

I think the initial idea was a good one, because there is a true need for an articulated figure of this nature, but the product itself is really poor quality! For what it's worth, I give it a 1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars for quality and pricing,  and a 4.5 for usefulness. 

They are very cheaply made and questionably priced ( I've noticed that whatever the sale, they are always the same cost in the end, hmmm...).  But, if you can get past fumbling with a defective stand and figurine, tiny parts that you need tweezers and a magnifying glass to see, pick up and put together, and the fact that the figurines are still a tad on the fragile side (understatement!),  they actually are super handy for getting that exact pose, in the exact point of view that you're looking for! 

Photo Shoot

 But buyer beware, for sure!!  

Blog: Creating Out Loud
Twitter: @debcuneoart 
 Instagram: @ataleof2studios

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Keeping up the Momentum in 2018 by Diana Ting Delosh

Momentum © Diana Ting Delosh Ink, Watercolor & Digital
This illustration is my entry for the #scbwidrawthis January Challenge.
I always start out the year with lists to make the best of the coming year and somewhere between January and June, I get lost. Sometimes it just a temporary derailment and sometimes it's for the rest of the year. 2017 was one of those lost years. I had a challenging project (good) but  it was taking longer than I thought it should and I felt guilty taking time off. Which brings me to the point of this post in order to keep your momentum going you need to find your balance. You need to do what's on your urgent, do or die list without sacrificing what's important to you.

There were so many times in 2017 when I would look longingly at other peoples art for prompts, challenges, contest entries, whatever and thought I could have, should have been part of it. Never mind the missed family and friend fun. Never mind my own project list. But I had that project or job deadline. Now I want and need those paying projects ... but there needs to be time to take a breath and enjoy being a creative with a family.

So how can one Keep up the momentum and stay balanced? Especially if taking on less work is not an option. Here are a few thoughts in random order. 

• Being realistic about deadlines, your limitations and process.  Review the job brief with eyes wide open. Sure it's got things you can do in your sleep but what about the rest. Is it out of your usual comfort zone? Not a bad thing - but it may require extensive research and or more time. Usually, I hit the halfway point of a project and the second half goes much faster than the first. After years of this, I finally met the project that was the exception. I guess the take away is not to assume anything and budget in the extra time.

• Exercise the art muscles on a regular basis. Usually whether I'm working  on a single illustration or a 32 page picture book, my process is to do ALL the sketches, then the line art, then colors, then photoshop. The problem: if it was a BIG project it meant I might be sketching for weeks etc. Then when it came time to ink, I usually threw away the first couple inks. Same with the first couple of paintings etc. Due to the nature of my Big 2017 project, once the initial sketches were approved it was broken into smaller units so I inked, painted, photoshopped on a weekly basis. Big but obvious discovery here - I didn't have to go thru the I forgot how to ____ phase. Meaning fewer do-overs! Hm-m-m I need to sketch, ink/line, color/paint, Photoshop on a weekly  basis.

• Allow for distractions. Working on portfolio builders and art just for fun is important. It's what your future is built on. The problem with most commissions is you can't share, (for good reasons) until after the project is published.  But that means you have nothing to promote yourself with unless you have been creating art on the side. I made the mistake of thinking that if I didn't allow myself to be distracted, I'd finish faster. HA. I just became cranky and whiney and annoyed at myself in October because the year was coming to an end and I was unsatisfied with it. Note, if a job came in, it was squeezed in. In theory, I could've squeezed in more "distractions".

• Have more of a Nine-to-Fiver mindset. As a freelancer I work when there's work. It's the feast/famine mentality. Great if the commissions have natural breaks but if not.... well it maybe time to adapt. Make a point to take breaks. Get out of the studio do other things, fun things, as well as mundane things.

• Stay healthy. The usual eat healthier, exercise and take breaks. Working until you're brain dead doesn't help anything. Having fun with friends and family means going back to the studio refreshed.

Wishing All a Happy, Healthy, Creative, Productive, Prolific and Prosperous 2018!

Twitter: dtdelosh

For your picture book storyboarding process
Check out: 
The BIG ThumbNailer

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Art of The Line in a Picture Book Dummy - Patricia Keeler

I've always created dummies in pencil, (digital notwithstanding), because dummies are just sketched ideas. Since the story and art will probably be changed, any effort more than a loose sketch is probably not the best use of my time. I might have a couple of finished color images from the dummy, but they would be included separately. All this makes perfect sense.

But I also know how hard it is to sell a picture book. I might have a great art with brilliant writing, (kidding), but I still need to show it in the best possible way. Pencil sketches may be fine, but using the same amount of time, are they my best sketching tool?

Before finalizing your dummy for an editor/art director it's possible to analyze the art and story to decide what drawing tool would best work for the sketches.

If you are not doing backgrounds — just focusing on an animal or child for the dummy — you might consider using a brush pen. That's because in one stroke, the line can vary from thin to wide. This can make a simple image pop.

I love my Pentel Arts Pocket Brush pen. Look at the fine point and the fat top! It takes an ink cartridge just like a fountain pen.

I haven't had the courage to try this for an entire dummy, but I've seen dummies created with Prismacolor's Col-Erase — erasable colored pencils. The dummies were created using a single color. It may be subjective whether the editor/art director thinks using color to create a dummy is appropriate, but the dummies created in color that I saw, have stayed in my mind for their unique look.

Another interesting drawing tool I've seen used is a wide graphic pencil. This seems to work well with dummies that have a lot of trees and grasses, or rows of buildings. This seems to soften a busy landscape.

Children's book illustrators are expanding artistic possibilities in every step of the book creation process. However book dummies are not often shared publicly because author/illustrators don't want to present an idea before it's time. 

But the look of a book dummy is evolving. Now artists are creating more original dummies while working within the 'just-sketches-please' parameters. If using a certain drawing tool to make your dummy doesn't take any longer than using a #2 pencil, why not create with panache?

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeelerbooks

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ug, Reviews... By Barbara DiLorenzo

For everyone striving to publish their writing and/or illustrations, here is my advice–look beyond the goal of simply obtaining a contract. I did not do this. I honed my craft, went to conferences, networked and joined critique groups. But I absolutely never sat in on a session that was above my station. I figured I would have plenty of time to figure out what comes next IF I ever got published. I also thought those details would be the fun part. How to market your book. What swag to prepare for school visits and book festivals. I looked at the contract as the finish line–and the life beyond as a dream come true.

But here is the hard part–now that I am published, I feel like I am on the bottom rung of a new ladder. I thought for sure that the books acquired by two different publishers would leave their hands in perfect shape. I had faith that our combined efforts were making the best books possible. But now I realize that everyone else is doing the same thing–and there are A LOT OF AWESOME BOOKS! Many this year, but countless others year after year, going back decades.

So what do schools and libraries rely on to stock their shelves with great books? Professional reviews. I know now that it is very special if someone says something nice about your book–because many reviewers say lots of mediocre or downright not-nice things. Here is an excerpt from a professional review of a well-known author's book:
Frenetic illustrations in muted neutrals show the various situations, clearly meant to be hilariously reprehensible but mostly appearing mean-spirited instead. The ultimate joke, on readers as well as the narrator, is that the opening question was literal. The revelation of the (real) big elephant is amusing but not enough to save this one-note story, the joke of which will have to be explained to many a child. Ardent fans won’t mind—but this could have been better.  (Picture book. 4-8)

Ouch! Another hero of mine suffered this critique of one of my favorite books:
Squeaker, perhaps intentionally, is undeveloped and unconvincing, but the blocky bears are appealing. The story lacks depth and subtlety, although young children may find the role reversal hilarious, and the catchy title and ’50s nouveau art provide a soupçon of charm. (Picture book. 4-7)
I think this reviewer just learned the word "soupçon" and wanted to find a place to use it. SO mean! Or maybe reviewers have stacks of books to get through, and in the process, lose their sense of humor.
The text is snarky-conversational with a contemporarily colloquial feel. On first read, children may enjoy the funny pictures and silly text and situations, but, rather like a rainbow-colored belch, it’s not substantial enough to sustain many return visits.
Best seen as a joke gift for a unicorn lover. (Picture Book. 2-6)
I didn't reveal the names of the authors because I'd really hate someone to dig through and find crummy quotes and post them online from my reviews. But what I can tell you–these are all very famous authors with multiple books under their belts. AND! They also received much coveted starred reviews for their other books–from this same review site! So if seasoned professionals, who make great books, receive this sort of critique, how the heck am I supposed to do well? I just received my second Kirkus review in 9 months, and I'm starting to realize the thick skin necessary to endure editor rejections continues well past publication.

As the sting of a mediocre review starts to fade, and the camaraderie of my critique peeps boosts my spirits, I realize that these reviews make me want to work so much harder on my next project. Once the book is released into the world, how it is received is out of our control. As much as I may want to gear the next book to impress a sophisticated critic, pandering isn't going to work. And nor should it. My audience is a bunch of young readers, eager to connect with interesting characters and worlds. If a reviewer has an underwhelming report, but a child dressed as the character for Halloween, I take the latter as a sign of success. Or, if they take their photo next to the statue that the book is about, that melts my heart. (Photo of friends in Florence, Italy. RENATO AND THE LION is on the phone screen.)

I've met authors that choose to read no reviews, professional or otherwise, and just dig back into their work. I'm far too curious to follow that path. So I'm stuck in the pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps camp and try like hell to make a better book next time.

If you ever need a shoulder to whimper on while reading your own reviews, I'm here for you!
(I'll also share more lessons post-publication on subsequent blog articles.)

by Barbara DiLorenzo

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Twitter: @wavepaint
Facebook: @BarbaraWillcoxDiLorenzo

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Go with the Flow, by Mike Ciccotello

A couple weeks ago I spoke with an artist friend about why I work digitally. The short answer is, it’s practical. But there’s more to it.

I used to have a studio with three easels, a drafting table, a flat work area, and large desk with my computer. Technically I still have all of that, but it’s got a lot of boxes and stuff in front of it right now. Almost three years ago, our twins were born. I had to make a decision about my art, but I had some options. A: Was I going to stop making art all together? B: Was I going to sequester myself in my basement studio away from my family? C: Was I going to change the way I work so I could be present for my family, but also satisfy my passion to create.

I chose C. I decided to move a small table into our family room to hold my computer, and looked into a tablet that could serve as a digital studio. Coincidently, about 6 months after the boys were born, Apple came out with the iPad Pro. I researched it and purchased one. I haven’t looked back. 

Do I still use a sketchpad? Yes, but I haven’t done a full piece in paint or colored pencils in almost three years. Will I switch back at some point? I don't know. What I'm doing right now is working, so I don't have the need to change.

This isn’t the only time I changed the way I create. I used to commute on a long train ride, twice a day, for 14 years. I needed to make use of that time. I decided I could sleep, read, or sketch during that time. I learned how to draw on bumpy trains and created a bunch of work during those years. I read and slept as well, but in hindsight, I'd say, the bulk of the trips were spent drawing.

Many people run into this problem. None of this was a flip of the switch solution. It started off as a problem and over time, I figured out a solution that worked best for me. I’m not suggesting you switch to digital or start drawing in your car while driving. Definitely don’t draw and drive. I am suggesting, if your life has changed, giving you a new set of priorities, then go with the flow and change the way you work. The important thing is to satisfy your passion to create.

My Sketchpad and My iPad Pro

Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Road to Pantone - Deborah Cuneo

During my creative journey, color has always been a little bit of a "Frien-emy". Up until about two years ago, I worked exclusively traditionally. All traditional artists will agree, the color struggles span from finding the right grouping of primaries to mix from, to avoiding muddy colors, contrast, color palettes and so on.

Mixing it up Old School - Acrylic

When I started using digital as part of my art process, I discovered there were "a couple" (sarc) of extra hurdles to getting the color right. One big one was my scanner not picking everything up as it was in real life.  Another was my screen not showing me color correctly. I invested in a color calibration tool, but ultimately, there were still just too many shifts in the color from my screen to what it was in the real world. It was becoming  incredibly frustrating, creating without color consistency. Plus, I had to jump through technology hoops to get the colors to come out the way I wanted. It was a huge time-suck! 

At the peak of my frustration with color in my new medium, I remembered that years ago, I had been gifted with a Pantone matching system fan deck from a friend's father. He was retiring from the printing business and thought it might come in handy for me one day.

An old Friend

I dug it out and started using that to select my colors. I thought it would take some of the guess work out of the color process and create sort of a "control" from computer to print. What a Godsend! The fan deck was from 1987 and the colors had faded a bit, but it still was usable. It definitely helped me keep tabs on the color when working on Little Dragon and the New Baby (Sky Pony Press March 2018).

First Digital Color Palette/ Promo Sheet

Around the same time, an artist friend got me a brand new Pantone palette book, for inspiration. I loved a couple of the palettes and went to play with those colors in Photoshop, only to find out that my older version of PS didn't have the colors that were in the newer book.There was also no way for me to reproduce the color I saw, because there were no formulas for rgb or cmyk . And there was still the fact that my screen was semi unreliable.

Pantone Color Inspiration - Chronicle Books

With a new project on the horizon, I decided to go right to the source...Pantone itself! I found out that Pantone made a fan deck that not only had all the newer colors that I loved, but also the cmyk formulas for an exact or pretty close to exact, match.  It's called the Plus Series Color Bridge set. This set not only  gives you a huge color selection in both coated and uncoated, it also gives you a side by side comparison the cmyk version that comes closest to the Pantone color. For those that are designers gives you Hex and RGB info as well. Yay!! Problem solved... or so I thought. It was an expensive tool and timing was not right for me getting one, because my scanner was also dying.  I would need to choose, but they were equally critical to what I was doing. That circle of thought became a constant source of angst... UGH!  

One day, last week, I was jolted out of my daily, technological pity party, by the sound of the doorbell. By the time I got from my studio to the door and opened it, no one was there, but I was greeted by a box with a big Amazon-smiley and my name on the label. I immediately opened it and to my delight, inside was a bright, shiny new Pantone Plus Series-Color bridge set and a note that said "Happy Birthday"!  I had been discussing my new project color struggles with my Father (a more technical creative) and he went ahead and purchased the set for me.

Best Early Birthday Gift!!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Pop!!  I am so excited, and grateful for the gift and can't wait to use it! It's going to be a HUGE time saver on this new project and beyond!! (sorry for all the exclamation marks, but there seriously are not enough in my book to convey how great this gift was...!) It will be a little sad to have to retire that old fan deck. After all, it was my constant companion during the creation of my debut book, resolved my color issues and saved me a ton in production time. However, I've been informed that my Father will be happy to give it a new home. 

To find out more information about the Color bridge set and other Pantone offerings, just click on the link below: