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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Finding Your Tribe - By Barbara Willcox DiLorenzo

When I'm not working on my own illustrations, I teach art classes at the Arts Council of Princeton. Over the summer, instead of the regular 6-8 week sessions that include adults, I agreed to teach summer camp. Where regular adult classes meet once a week, camp is 5 straight days, with a morning and afternoon session. These are long days, but it's a great way to get to know the artists and help then grow in a short time span.

This week I'm teaching a Character Design camp, which pairs with the afternoon class of Animation (taught by someone else). Yesterday, I was with 15 students for both sessions. Although normally that would make the day hard to get through, these teens (ages 14-16) were eager to tackle any challenge I put in their path. By the end of the day, the gallery walls were covered in truly accomplished drawings of funny, scary, silly and beautiful characters in interesting situations. I was really proud of them. To relish in their accomplishments, we spent the last 20 minutes of the day critiquing work. I praised them as a group for all they had done. I mentioned that they should all keep artistic friends in their life to give them feedback, and help them feel supported as they continue to make art (some students express a desire to pursue art as a career). And then, on instinct, I said, "Because, sometimes, well-meaning people that aren't in the art world, can say an innocent but dumb comment that totally deflates an artist. It has happened to me." I noticed heads turn, and realized, they too, had most likely already encountered this. So I asked. "Who here has had that happen to them?" Half the class raised their hands.

I called on student after student to share, and an unbelievable thing happened. For every, "Geez, that head looks like a pear," or "Your drawing is horrible," –that students shared–the room was filled with murmurs of support. I could feel the connection between these artists build as they shared their stories. After awhile people were laughing at the ridiculousness of those without the ability to constructively criticize. I had to acknowledge the minor miracle of how each and every artist in the room that had been deflated by a flimsy comment, had moved past the sting, and continued with what they love to do. I let them know that this won't be the last time they endure moments like these, but that the secret is to find others of their own tribe, the art tribe, to give honest feedback with the intention of helping the art–and the artist– be even better.

If the students in camp this week learn nothing else, I hope they learn that. After all, in the fall when I return to teach adult classes, I will come across talented artists that admit they let an upsetting comment prevent them from taking themselves seriously as an artist–decades ago. While art is something any age can excel at, it always breaks my heart to hear these stories. No one should set aside their creative selves based on outside judgements, opinions that are usually not articulate enough to encourage the artist while giving something substantial to make it better.

So if you come across someone that seems on the fence about their creative work, welcome them into the art tribe. There's room at the table for everyone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Celebrate the Small Steps - by Diana Ting Delosh

Running Bunny in Spring © Diana Ting Delosh
Ink Brush, Watercolor, Digital
We've all heard the phrase, celebrate the small steps that make up the journey.  I knew what the words meant in an abstract way but spraining my ankle taught me to appreciate them in a literal sense. The road to being a picture book author /illustrator is a long circuitous marathon. Just when you think you're getting close to your goal there are a few more hurdles to jump and mountains to climb, maybe even a swamp or quagmire to navigate. Two steps forward, one step backward and onward you go, hopefully without falling into a ditch along the way.

Wrap around cover art for a picture book dummy that I'm submitting.
© Diana Ting Delosh
Submitted to editors, art directors and agents? Pat on the back. Ditto,  promo postcard designed and printed. High fives all around when the mailing list is updated and the postcards are mailed. Go ahead, cheer for yourself, after all, most of the time you'll only hear crickets back. Get a rejection? Gasp, give yourself a hug and submit something out, ASAP to counteract the negative! Oh Joy, if you get a positive response - pass the yummies.

My Promo Postcard featuring my illustrations:
Front - Jabberwocky-Boy meets Octopus
Back - Boy, Book Bed & Cat
© Diana Ting Delosh

Created new illustrations, stories, dummies, experiments? I keep a running created list. Writing down what I've created cheers me on. Doesn't matter if it's a personal art, experiment or big commission they all make my list. Seeing the list grow is it's own reward.
Peace To ALL © Diana Ting Delosh
Having some fun with Hand Lettering
All line art is hand drawn than digitally colored

Create, promote, submit and cheer for yourself and your buddies with or without chocolate. In a competitive field with few positive responses to balance the long waits, rejections and too many crickets, celebrating the small steps may be the antidote to self doubt. Be your own best friend along your journey.
Cherry Gelatin Dessert © Diana Ting Delosh
Ink & watercolor

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

When Good Eggplants Go Bad (...and other tales of technical woes) by Deborah Cuneo

I don't know about anyone else, but this last few months have been especially challenging. Between kids leaving the nest, family health issues and a reboot on my book, I've been operating at a higher stress level and pace than normal. Unfortunately, real life goes on no matter what disasters are happening around you and there didn't seem to be any relief in sight, so I did what all of us do...worked right through it, cause' we're all professionals, right? (flashback to David Wiesner at njscbwi).  And for a while, I was able to successfully juggle it all and bury my stress in my art.

Burying the Prize - Pencil Sketch

Part of my "therapy"  was working out the palette for the book and spending countless, grueling hours teaching myself how to use my new digital tools. I was now ready to bring my color vision to life for Little Dragon!

 I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction from the accomplishment  and that had almost completely balanced out all the stress from my personal life... when somewhere between finishing the final sketches and right before turning in the final cover art, the Earth must have shifted its rotation, causing a permanent state of full moon. Out of nowhere, my cover art and almost all my new tools, completely disappeared from my computer.  The ones that remained, well, any time I would select them, they would shut down Photoshop and destroy the file I was working on. Did I mention that the cover art was due the following week?  <Insert stress here!>

MINE! - Pencil Sketch

My hubby, who never met a mechanical or technical device he wasn't able to fix, was more than a bit baffled and no quick fix was in sight.  Panic set in! So what do you do when months of developing digital tools have completely left the universe and the art is due in a few days?  You take a breath, regroup, say lots of prayers and recreate the tools......"old school!!!

Creating Textures

I have to say, it was quite therapeutic  to use all my organic art tools again, after a year of focusing on digital. I didn't realize just how much I missed them.   After a couple of days of work, I was able to recreate pretty close to what  was lost in the computer and  the act of doing so, put my mind back in balance. I also found another way to use the two media together , which made me very happy and I'm thinking that in the end,  the art for the book may be better for having the experience (maybe that was the master plan all along???). 

Life...or at least kid lit, book life, was all good again... and quite randomly, as mysteriously as the programs and the computer in general , stopped working... it all went back to normal and I made my deadline! < insert sun shining and angels singing here!

From the book: Little Dragon - Sky Pony Press 2017

So, how do eggplants work into all of this?  During one of the days that I was having a bit of an internal, meltdown over the situation, I decided to go to the local farm stand, get veggies for dinner and just try to clear my head. Starring at all the colors and textures of the produce that's out this time of year, is quite inspiring!

 I began to make my way through the little marketplace and I happened to notice all these beautiful eggplants to one side of the wooden bins. On the other side, two eggplants that were every bit as fresh (just a little weird looking) caught my eye. They were seemingly cast off to the other side, rejected, in favor of the new, shinier eggplants.

I decided against eggplant for dinner and started to walk away, but my heart went out to the two rejects. I wondered what would happen to those poor vegetables after being cast  aside like that. Do they start hanging out  with the wrong eggplants and turn to a life of eggplant crime?...what was their story? So, I created a little photo shoot ( yes, right in the middle of the crowded farm stand) to highlight the heartbreaking reality of what happens when good eggplants go bad.

("The Meeting") When Good Eggplants go Bad   By Deborah Cuneo
When Good Eggplants go Bad  By Deborah Cuneo