Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don't Let Go, by Mike Ciccotello

Do you have a special memory from childhood that you hold dear? Is it your first solo bike ride? Is it playing on a long summer day? Or maybe that time you got hurt while doing something your parents told you not to? Take a minute to think about your memory and the emotion tied to it. 

This year's SCBWI, Tomie dePaola competition, has a beautiful prompt that spoke to me immediately.

... cast yourself, as a child, in a picture book. Show your autobiographical character in a scene and make sure to convey the emotion of your character. The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly.

  After I read that, the timeline of my life flashed back to 1981, directly to "my moment."

My mother and father divorced in 1978(ish). My brother was six and I was four. Our mom didn't have much money, she ran her own flower shop in Lindenwold, NJ. She did the best she could with the money she had. She has always been a creative influence, and taught us to respect others and never give up on our dreams.

The setting was a concrete parking area, behind my mother's flower shop. It was our play area while she worked. In the piece, I was dreaming of flying. I was convinced if I had the right positioning and strong enough gust, I would lift off the ground. Of course, I didn't want to leave my mother and brother, but I was curious of exploring the sky. I would have been sure to be home by dinner.

Recently, a friend asked why I didn't take flight in the piece. In situations I am not too sure about, I tend to play it safe. I hold myself back. In a sense, I come back to the safety of my mother, and wait until the time is right. My mother has always said I do everything late, but when I finally decide to move on something, I do it with determination and all of my heart. I am getting into children's literature a little late in the game, but I'm following my dream and I'm not letting go.

Whether you take the time to enter the Tomie dePaola competition or not, I think it's an idea worth exploring for all of us. It was such a meaningful process for me, and who knows, it may be for you too.

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The effect of a picture... By Barbara DiLorenzo

"Girl With A Balloon" By Banksy
Many people begin drawing at an early age because making a mark–whether in mud, on paper, or for the rascally few–on walls, gives such a sense of pleasure. Dragging a bright purple crayon across a white sheet of paper changes the paper forever. Young children, unburdened by realism, see art as the joy of making marks in different colors. This early form of picture making is the first step on the road to becoming creative adults. (Which, I believe we are all capable of becoming, though some plot a course to other passions in life.) Though the marks carry no representational meaning to the audience, the young artist may tell a complex story about who the characters are, and their saga.

As a young person grows, there is a struggle between this joy of simple mark making, and the desire to represent reality. Initially there is delight in drawing something recognizable, even if the figures are stick people. Everyone's path is unique, but many young artists doggedly study how to improve their drafting skills as a primary goal in improving their art.

Somewhere along the line, when an artist has achieved some mastery over drawing, the focus shifts from HOW to draw, to the more meaningful, WHAT to draw. And in this question, we see art become more than a pretty picture. Artists begin to express their personal views–whether funny or dramatic. When the desire to draw something specific falls short of skill, the artist returns to studying the medium again. This balance between technique and concept is important–something all working artists live with regularly.

So why do we have this drive? What is the use of these skills, especially after years and years of struggle? From my experience, my best guess is that pictorial communication was the earliest form of written communication–and is one of the tools we humans have for more efficient survival. Perhaps this is ingrained in us from thousands of years of depending on information derived soley from pictures. I've never been to the caves in Lascaux, France, but I did get to see pictographs by the ancient Puebloans in the Southwest of the United States. Rock paintings of animals were left to communicate with others on the same route, as to where to find food and water. While people must have had a drive to learn how to create these images for communication, people also must have learned to keep their eyes alert for these images.

Art making, then, originated to communicate. Today, fine art is under no obligation to communicate a specific message to everyone. And we have accepted this. But illustration remains obliged to communicate–at least a main message. Subtleties and nuances can be included for some to discover and some to miss, but illustration remains the form of pictorial communication began by our ancient ancestors.

So why bring this up now? After a week where the political climate has been highly charged, and folks are eager to support their causes, I think about pictorial communication and how art-makers can effect change through imagery. For years artists have made posters protesting wars or unfair treatment of people. Artists have also been commissioned to make art for logos and campaigns to sway customers and voters. And of course, in the past designers had the darker purpose of creating graphic design for the Third Reich. This imagery really does what the cliché suggests–replace a thousand words. For better or worse.

Without taking a political stand, I encourage the communicative arts community to make work that expresses their views. My hope, of course, that it is with kindness and love and inclusion. Right now we are walking down the trail with our eyes alert to signs of what's ahead. Unlike our ancient ancestors, we aren't just looking for food and water, but the depth and breadth of our humanity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Who's BEHIND THE BOOK? by Patricia Keeler

                                                                                                                               © patriciakeeler, Lee and Low Books, 2006

Sagrado Corazón de Dienstag
©Myra Hernandez 2006

It's a good thing Myra Hernandez started her life journey in the mountains of Peru working with a witch doctor, because it takes a kind of magic to put free books in the hands of hundreds of kids below the poverty line.

Last week Myra and I walked into the classroom and every child was holding Julio Leitao's and my book DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET! I've done school talks before, but seeing that each child was gifted their own book, made the visit unique.

Myra and I helped the students make a water circle where we stepped into a puddle of river water and called out to our ancestors. We painted a dot on every child's wrist in memory of a lost relative. The children acted out a tale from the life of Nzinga, a famous African queen.

                                           Ms. Ramirez's 3rd grade class at PS 46, Edward C. Blum School                        © patriciakeeler

Next week Myra and I are returning to the classroom for a Draw-A-Thon. We are sketching side by side two different images. The children are guessing from our drawings:

1. Which elephant is from Africa? I am sketching an African elephant. Myra is sketching an Asian elephant. (Hint: The little ears are a giveaway.)

                                                                                                                                                                           © patriciakeeler
2. How many types of instruments below are made from gourds? 

                                                                                                                                                                           © patriciakeeler
3. Which animal is a REAL African animal? (Hint: A trick question, but can you name this unique animal?)
                                                                                                                                                                           © patriciakeeler
1. Number 1 is an African elephant 
2. Three instruments are made from gourds – shaker, xylophone, and a stringed instrument called a kora or lute
3. Both 1 and 2 are animals found in Africa; animal number 2 is an opaki, a member of the giraffe family

You don't need to be published to help out in New York Public Schools with BEHIND THE BOOK. Volunteers are needed for research or writing or art coaches. Here is a link for more information on BEHIND THE BOOK. 

And if you do a picture book presentation or volunteer, Myra might take you out to lunch!

                                                                                                                                                                           © patriciakeeler Website:
Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Eleventh Month by Diana Ting Delosh

It's that time to rally one last huge effort before times up. Tick... tick... tick...BOOM! It's November, the eleventh month and a few of us, myself included are prepping for a few final Reviews, Illustrator contests, Events etc. of the year. And to add to the stress there is a major holiday at the end of this month. The clock is definitely ticking. So what to do or not to do?
FRIGHT © Diana Ting Delosh
Brush pen, watercolor digital.
Don't try and hide. Feeling overwhelmed and procrastinating only prolongs the inevitable. While I have been inspired by things I see on TV and Twitter, sooner or later you need to sit down and face the work.  It's the fear that it may not come out the way you want or whatever that's making you uncomfortable but the only way to conquer the fear is by working through it.
ZEN RAM © Diana Ting Delosh
Ink, watercolor
Find your Zen Mode. When I feel like I'm in a time crunch I make a list. Cross things off the list that aren't MUST DOs. Do I really need a brand new shiny postcard? Do I need to make a real dinner or can we have whatever? Can it wait until after the deadlines?  Simplify the list and breathe easier.
HOT DOG © Diana Ting Delosh
Brush pen, watercolor
Juggle or not. Some of us are better than others with multitasking. I'm not. I like to wear blinders and focus.  However I still use a trick from my student days, before I fall asleep I tell myself to dream/or think a solution for whatever I need to be working on next whether it's how to tie up loose ends in the story or how to layout the hand lettering on the current illustration spread. 99% of the time I wake up with a solution of sorts and I'm energized to see if it works.
JESTER PIG © Diana Ting Delosh
Ink, watercolor
Dig in and do the work. Sketch, sketch, sketch. Ink, ink, ink. Paint, paint, paint. Write, write write. Pixel by pixel it will get done. If I need to do 16 sketches by (pick an almost impossible date) I divide the number of of sketches that need to be done by the REAL days/hours I have to work with and that's what must be done before I sleep, within reason of course. Allowing that some days will be naturally more prolific than others. Pass the caffeine and chocolate.
DIGGING DOG © Diana Ting Delosh
Brush pen, watercolor
And that's all folks. Now back to the studio and drawing board for me.

In case you missed it, I was recently interviewed by Dana Carey on the SUB IT CLUB. Take a peek and read  The Postcard Post: Diana Ting Delosh.

twitter: @dtdelosh
Check out my ThumbNailer

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Art for a Cause - By Deborah Cuneo

You know how when you go to a gathering at someone's home, and there's that person sitting on the floor in the corner, playing with the dog? ...That would be me!  I've always  loved dogs, actually all kinds of animals and despite my parents protests, I've been rescuing all sorts of animals, bugs, fish, amphibians, reptiles and rodents, since I was a little kid.
Take Me Home - Pencil sketch

Fast forward a few years... Aside from being adopted by multiple rescue dogs and cats over the years, I have always collected for and donated to our local shelters . "Admission" to any of my home parties, is usually spare cans or bags of food for the shelters.  There are still so many animals that were either surrendered because the owners were too sick or too old to continue their care, or were rescued from horrible neglect and abuse, then put into shelters.  Some are lucky to get adopted right away, but some are there much longer and not all shelters have the funding to care for and rehabilitate them for any length of time...and, know how that ends.  I wanted to do more.
Dog Sketches - Pencil and Liquid Pencil

So...While organizing all my artwork in my flat files, I discovered that I had a lot of dog illustrations and sketches that I've done over the years, either  as samples for submissions or for different SCBWI events. Looking at that pile of orphaned illustrations, I immediately came up with a plan! A couple of the more involved ideas are already in the works and I will be able to share them with you on my personal blog at a later date, but because I'm in the throes of finishing my book, it's hard for me to do everything right now, so I decided to start small, until the book job is done. 
More Dog Art - acrylic/colored pencil/ digital

Character Study - pencil sketch

A couple of months ago, I started  posting one piece of dog art from that pile of illustrations and sketches, on Instagram every Friday.  Once my book is done, I will begin sharing a newly created piece of dog art, hopefully each week. While I work on my drawing skills,  I am also hoping to encourage  people, through my art, to consider the shelters and rescue organizations  when looking for a pet. 
Mini Sketch Series - Pencil

 Some of the art is kidlit, some of the posts are more fine arts pet portraits, but all are posted with the same hopefully lead to placing as many shelter animals as possible,  in a loving,  "fur-ever" home. 
Dog Character - Pencil sketch

More to come, so feel free to follow along at:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Inktober to me, by Mike Ciccotello

What's Inktober? (from Jake Parker's site)
Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. I created InkTober in 2009 as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.
–Jake Parker
This year, at the end of September, I posted on my Facebook and Instagram account about the tools I’d be using for Inktober, 2016. I wanted to show you a little more about my process and what Inktober is to me. 

Last year, I invested a lot of time each day, coming up with an idea, sketching said idea, and finally, completing an inked illustration. I like to be efficient with my available time. We all have busy schedules, family obligations, child care, a full-time job, or even looming deadlines. Everyone's schedule is different, but what time do these busy schedules leave for an art challenge like Inktober?
Here's one way to go about it, and it very well may give you some good ideas for other projects.
I decided to spread out the work. One night in early September, I took 31 sheets of Strathmore Mixed Media 400 series 14x11” paper and drew an 8x10” outline centered on every sheet. This would be the paper for the final inked illustration.
8x10" pencil outline on 14x11" Strathmore 400 series Mixed Media Paper


Another night that week, I paged through 642 things to Draw (Chronicle) and picked from their prompts. I wound up swapping out a few to form my final list.
Next, I started creating rough digital illustrations on my iPad Pro of each prompt. This took some time, but I broke it up over a few weeks, leading up to October. There is nothing wrong with being prepared.
Catalogue of digital illustrations to be used for Inktober
Catalogue of digital illustrations created on the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil in Procreate

Finally, I printed out all of my illustrations and I was ready to begin. I have a slim LED light board that I use to ink on. I tape the digital illustration on the light board with the 14x11” paper on top, and then start inking. I usually ink at night during the week and whenever I have chunks of time on the weekend. 
Printouts of digital illustrations
Printouts of digital illustrations

Overall, I don’t look at this challenge as creating an ink drawing every night as stated by Jake Parker. As I said before, I need to be efficient. I am about a week ahead of schedule. In order for me to succeed, I need to utilize whatever time I have and keep working. By working that far ahead, I can prep for other things I have going on, RUCCL (RUTGERS UNIVERSITY COUNCIL ON CHILDREN'S LITERATURE) on October 15th, and I can finish up two picture book dummies for agency submission shortly after the Rutgers conference. 
Illustrations for Inktober by Mike Ciccotello
Final inked illustrations
Like last year, I will pull from these Inktober illustrations to create new portfolio work. I'm planning a solo exhibit with my best work from Inktober 2015 and 2016. And best of all, I'll be using the 2016 Inktober illustrations as story prompts for creating new picture book ideas.
To me, it’s not just about keeping up with a 31day challenge, it’s about nurturing those ideas into something bigger and making the most out of the body of work. If you ever thought about participating in Inktober, I highly recommend it. It's worth the effort. If you want to follow along with my progress find me on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my tool list below.
Tools for Inktober
Some of the tools I use to ink

Here are a list of tools I've be playing around with this year. These aren't absolutes when you pick tools, just items that I like using. Every artist has their preference. This might provide some guidance, if you want to try some pens out, but don't know where to begin. By using different tools multiple times, you learn what is comfortable, what needs work, and what you absolutely despise. 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello