Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On Gratitude by Diana Ting Delosh

Thank You Owlet - Ink & Watercolor Illustration, Hand Lettering
© Diana Ting Delosh

It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so here's a few thoughts on gratitude as an illustrator /author. I am most Thankful for Friends and Community. As someone who spends most days isolated in my studio in suburbia, I am thrilled to have found my tribe via: the CBIG, SCBWI and the LICWI. Not to mention connecting with an even bigger pool of artists/writers/creatives via Twitter.

CBIG, Children's Book Illustrators Group
After many years of trying to do it alone, I discovered CBIG through my sister, who had a friend, who was a member.  CBIG is a local NY metro area group. They invite children's book publishing professionals to their meetings, so members can grow as illustrators and of course make connections.

SCBWI, Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
SCBWI is an international group that offers oodles of info and conferences. Over the years it's given me loads of networking opportunities with industry professionals.

LICWI, Long Island Children's Writers & Illustrators
I joined LICWI because I wanted to get serious about my writing. LICWI members meet monthly and may read their writing to the group and receive feedback. I'm still getting the hang of reading to a group. Nerve wracking. But the valuable feedback is worth it.

Because sometimes I'm working in the studio by my lonesome and it's nice to feel connected to the world at large. Remember those illustrators/writers you met at the big conference, most likely they're on Twitter or Instagram. There are many Twitter art challenges to participate in. Or if you're too busy to participate, just view. Always inspirational, sometimes even motivating.

In fact, this blog and my Art Crit Group would have never formed if it weren't for friendships via CBIG and the NJ SCBWI June Conferences. So, a really Big THANK YOU to CBIG and the NJ SCBWI.

Just in case you're wondering, yes, all this connecting and socializing, both real and virtual, does help your  discoverability and may lead to opportunities and even commissions. But that's a topic for another post.

Here's to Friends and Community and a Happy Thanksgiving to ALL!

Twitter: dtdelosh

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How Do You Turn An Idea Into A First Draft? by Patricia Keeler

Most author/illustrator groups will critique your manuscript once you've got it as finished as possible, but are there groups that help develop a seed of an idea into a first draft?

In a large room with two walls of floor to ceiling windows, about 20 graphic designers, theater people, art teachers and others, gather to develop portfolios and create children's books. They make up Monica Wellington's Monday (and Wednesday) night class, Children's Book Illustration, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City on 21st Street.

Monica's class is different from other classes I've taken. In the past I haven't presented a picture book idea to a group until I had at least a rough draft. In this class, we begin by drawing a sample illustration of a picture book concept that we are thinking about. We post our images on the wall.

Sometimes Monica introduces a story prompt. In one class we wrote down jobs that our extended families have had. I was thinking of my brother-in-law who is a chef, so developed the idea of a witch who was a chef. (Think Oily Snail Soup and Crispy Spider Legs.)

For each new story idea, we create an illustration. Monica asks each artist how their artwork relates to their story idea. The class critiques the artwork, and discusses the possibilities of the related story concept.

We are entering the second half of the semester, and the class has introduced a lot of new art and ideas for picture books. We now choose one story and are asked to create a thumbnail dummy with the story written under the pictures.

From here our art will expand in size and detail as the story line evolves.

My classmates have a unique, insightful and sometimes funny takes on the work. They are kind and sharing, and bring a wide variety of illustration styles and techniques.

For me, Monica Wellington's approach to creating a picture book from one sketch feels like tiptoeing up to a sleeping tiger. It's a smoother, easier method than sitting down at a keyboard facing the open jaws of a blank screen. And artwork that doesn't develop into a picture book, works as a portfolio piece.



As a visual thinker, I appreciate Monica Wellington's unique approach to creating children's books. It's wonderful to have support from a terrific teacher and classmates when you're going from the fragile, uncertain beginnings of an idea, across that wide abyss to a picture book dummy.  

Helpful comments from Sophia Dookh, Estella Morgan and Monica Wellington.       ©patriciakeeler

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeelerbooks

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Nine Little Years - By Barbara DiLorenzo

Last Wednesday, I moved from an apartment to a house, eager to have more space for my children and room for my studio. I have shared common space for years, and though it's fun to be right where everyone else is, the distractions were starting to have a negative effect on my work. In my new home, the entire dining room is my art room. There is even one door to keep folks out! The other doorway has no door, but it's open to the kitchen. I'll accept visitors from the kitchen if they bring me snacks.

In the packing process, I came across my first real world art accolade–from the North Shore Arts Association. My painting won the Hazel Morey Memorial Award. I remember feeling so proud to get in as a member, to have my painting juried into the show, then finally, to win an award. As exhilarating as it was, it wasn't exactly what I wanted. All my life I had wanted to write and illustrate picture books, and I felt that I was simply spinning my wheels in that department.

"STARBUCKS" Plein Air Painting from the series, THE PLACES WE SHOP
Acrylic, 2008 by Barbara DiLorenzo
Winner of the Hazel Morey Memorial Award

Looking at the frame, I realized the date on the award. 2008. Nine years ago. So much has happened in those nine years. A mountain of rejections–both for fine art shows and for illustration. But also, so much has gone well. I'm writing and illustrating my own books at long last, with one out now and one coming out in the spring. I'm going on school visits to share the bookmaking adventure with young students. And I'm teaching art and illustration to all ages through the Arts Council of Princeton. In just nine little years. I thought it had been at least 25. It felt like it anyway.

LEFT: Art award from 2008
RIGHT: Book award from 2017
MIDDLE: Max, always causing mischief in the studio...

That helped me put into perspective all my current anxiety about how well my first book is doing, whether I'm doing everything I can to support it, whether anyone will ever let me make a book with them again. Believe it or not, these thoughts, and worse, run in a rotation through my head regularly. I had always believed anxiety would ebb with the first book. In some ways, yes. But a whole mess of new worries crop up to take the place of the old worries. But seeing this frame, marking the timeframe between the start of my career and today, I realized that if I'm lucky to be alive, the next nine years could be amazing. And of course, filled with a mountain of rejections. But also, hopefully, with more projects that go well.

by Barbara DiLorenzo
Now booking author visits for 2017-2018!

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

In the Mud by Jason Kirschner

I haven't posted on this group blog in a while. I've been off in the "dayjob" world and my fellow bloggers have been kind enough to deal me out of the rotation for a bit. (I mixed metaphors. I know. I'm ok with it.) But it's my turn today, and since we all know that I consider this blog the closest I get to therapy, I thought I'd share what's on my mind.

I have recently been taking a break. Not only from this blog but from creating kidlit altogether. Since the end of the summer, I haven't really written or drawn anything that could potentially end up as a book of any sort.  I was tired and I felt I was spinning my wheels but getting nowhere. I started a new season of tv at "dayjob world" and told myself I just didn't have the time but I think I was making excuses. I think I was just a bit burnt out. I doodled a bit here and there and wrote down random story ideas or plot points but nothing really constructive.
And then October rolled in. I forced myself to try Inktober as a way to start drawing daily again. Now I would consider myself a pencil guy. I draw with pencil on cheap paper and mostly color my stuff digitally. Ink doesn't really enter into my process. Plus, I've tried Inktober before and never gone further than 8 or 9 days. But it seemed like an escape ladder out of the small muddy pit of not-drawing I'd dig for myself. I don't know why it was muddy-- that's a mystery to me too.

SO...Inktober day 1, I posted something I wasn't entirely happy with but I felt an ounce of satisfaction at having completed something. I made a decision to do no erasing or digital doctoring.
"Don't be fussy," I found myself saying as a mantra.  Day 2, I started to try to explore the different things I could do with the few ink pens I found in my bucket o' art supplies. Maybe a teensy bit more satisfying.

Day 3.
On day 3, the prompt reminded me of a character I had written a picturebook manuscript about. It was the project I was spinning my wheels on earlier this summer. Day 3 was the turning point for me. On day 3,  I decided to make my Inktober about the bunnies in the book I wanted to finish. I christened it "Bunntober."

It started to be fun to visit the characters each day. And the ink became fun too. I got a few more markers and pens at my local art store. Now I could do grey washes with Copic wide markers and really teeny details with Micron pens. I still did my layouts in my very comfortable Prismacolor pencil #943 and then inked over it. The prompts gave me aspects of the characters to explore that I hadn't yet and the ink somehow made the drawing fun again because I got semi-finished sketches that did, but also didn't, resemble the work I was familiar with.
And people were commenting and liking my stuff. I wasn't an Inktober star like fellow D2PB'r Mike Ciccotello but I got a bunch of new followers and some really lovely comments. I know that's not why we make the art but encouragement is always lovely.  Most importantly, I think I've dug my way out of the pit and I'm ready to start my dummy. I've actually already started roughing out some pages and I think I might be finishing the finals in ink!

Day 24.
Day 31.

Day 25.
Day 27.
I guess this is a super duper, barely coherent, long winded way to say...if you're stuck in the mud, try something new.  A new medium, a new color scheme, heck...sometimes just a new sketch pad or a sharpened pencil might be the answer. It just might help you climb back out of the mud. Geez --there's the mud again. I'm going to go wash my hands.
Day 9.

BTW, if you haven't checked out the amazing work people have posted as part of Inktober, you really should. Superstar Mike Ciccotello is on Instagram @ciccotello and if you want to see more of my #bunntober experiment, you can find me on IG at @jkirsch118.  Our other D2PBrs are posting art on social media too...check out the links in their profiles.

By day, Jason is an emmy nominated 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 . Follow him on instagram @jkirsch118. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Going Dark with Gouache - By Barbara DiLorenzo

Artists evolve their style. It's what we all do. We may intend to change the medium or application of paint. Or it may just happen organically, in ways we don't even notice until there is a body of work that looks slightly different than before. 

Last year I worked on two books, painted in watercolor with gouache touch-ups (RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children's Books), and QUINCY: THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN'T BLEND IN, little bee books). Normally, I don't use gouache much. But in the case of final art under deadline, I needed gouache to save me from having to redo pieces at the last minute. For those unfamiliar with gouache paint, it is a cousin to watercolor, but opaque and matte in final appearance. One can cover mistakes with this paint. It's not as bold as acrylic. Some genius invented acrylic-gouache, which behaves like a watercolor but then has the permanence/coverage of acrylic. But I can't figure out how to work with it. So gouache is the next best thing. 

The book experience emboldened me. I realized that I can push my watercolors darker, and bring them back with the opaque paint of gouache. I didn't realize how much this impacted my work until I recently completed three pieces for various projects. (Examples below–including a piece I showed preliminary sketches of in my previous blog post.)

While I'm not sure I have the color palettes down, there is something about the deeper range of values that I like. I've been boldly painting dark washes over the whole paper, then pulling out highlights afterwards. The one obstacle right now is using white gouache to mix with other colors in my palette. Perhaps I'll get a better effect from buying the specific gouache oranges, blues and greens. If anyone has gouache expertise, I'd love to know how you use them. 

As an artist, it is our job to embrace that inner tug to explore a new direction. We may not be entirely pleased with the outcome right away. But with time and practice, and a bit of bravery, we may find a whole new visual voice that outshines the previous portfolio. 

Challenge yourself to try something new until it works. That's what I plan to do with this new direction. Stay tuned to see where it goes!

RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children's Books)
by Barbara DiLorenzo
Now booking author visits for 2017-2018!

by Barbara DiLorenzo
To be released on April 3, 2018!

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Illustrator Promo Sheets by Diana Ting Delosh

Promo pages, Promo sheets, Tear sheets. Whatever. They're a letter sized sample sheet of your illustration. Handy as hand outs whenever you have an  in person opportunity. Park them on your website where art directors/editors/art buyers can view or download  and print. Send the PDF out in e-mails. Change them up as often as you like.

What goes on a promo sheet? Current work and your contact info. The minimum is your name and website. More than that is up to your discretion and how much room you have on your sheet. I personally prefer just my website, maybe my e-mail IF it looks good. I may put more if I'm giving it to someone specific. Artfully design it or keep it simple and clean. I create mine in INDesign or Photoshop.

Make 2 templates: Vertical and Horizontal. The better to fit your art needs
No, they don't take the place of postcards. You do plan on doing at least one postcard mailing a year, right? However, they do have a few advantages over postcards. You can change them up as needed. There's no  minimum print order. No waiting for delivery. You can print them out at home in the middle of the night. Or if you're fussy or your printer has run out of ink, take your PDF Files to your local Staples/ FedEx and print out only what you need. 
Flip through the Directory pages on CBIG

I am a co-president of CBIG, the Children's Book Illustrator Group and one of my projects is the CBIG Illustrator Directories. Basically they're a collection of Promo Pages from our participating members. One of the things, I love about the project is that I get inspired by all the art and the different ways to design a promo page. Take a peek, get inspired, and create your own.
Flip through the Directory pages on CBIG

Twitter: dtdelosh

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