Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Picture Books and the 2016 Election - By Barbara DiLorenzo

This election has made everyone feel a little crazy. We all are suffering campaign fatigue at this point.  So why do I need to rope in the shenanigans of our politicians on a picture book blog post? Well, like I mentioned in my previous post, we are a bit of a tribe. (An all-inclusive one that accepts any creative person.) And as an inclusive tribe that celebrates all backgrounds and faiths, it's my opinion that we should stand up against people who prefer to spread bigotry, fear and hate. I have no concern about left, right, up or down leanings. I just care that the dialog in this country has somehow permitted open hatred of those who are different. Our children hear these harsh words. Young children are designed to mimic. That's how they learn. They practice from the examples set by their elders. So if adults openly speak about racist, classist, sexist or homophobic themes, our children believe this is correct. And then they repeat the same words.
Thankfully, we have books. We have authors and illustrators that uphold hope, that challenge oppressive belief systems, that find beauty in the odd or rare soul. If children can read about this, they can take a step toward that unfamiliar person, and maybe reach out with a friendly smile. If a girl whose family is from Turkey mentions she is Muslim during a class discussion, how wonderful if her classmates respond, "Hmm... What is that like?" That may seem far-fetched, but that is exactly what happened in one of the art classes I taught over the summer. My class had an entire discussion on an upcoming holiday, and what the Muslim food traditions were. Granted, the kids were teenagers, and not necessarily from fear-based families. But I was proud of them for being inquisitive and respectful, comparing their own food traditions with hers. Maybe because the girl was already a beloved member of the class, no one judged her. But that's kind of the point too... The kids knew her and weren't scared of the unknown. They regarded her as one of the most skillful artists in the class.
I also have been teaching a weekly class made up of a population of economically challenged kids, whose backgrounds range from Southern and Latin American countries, to African American and Caucasian backgrounds. But in my class, they are artists first. Some struggle to find their voice artistically, and some precocious young folks already know exactly what they want to say and how to express it visually. We all know each other better and better each week-seeing less of the physical person, and more of the complex artist inside. At this point, when I hear a derogatory remark about an entire swath of geography and the people who belong to it, I just can't understand. It feels like a caveman has been thawed out and given a microphone. The fear-based, quick judgements that ensured survival in those days are no longer a functional way to view today's world and her people.
So what is the modern way forward? At the risk of sounding like a hippie, my feeling is that encouraging children to have compassion, to dig deeper to understand the unfamiliar, will yield a generation of the respectfully inquisitive. That is a far better than grooming a generation of the fearfully hateful. As makers of books for children, we have the ability to build this hopeful world in their imaginations. Which of course, can then become reality.
Let's collectively take the microphone away from the caveman, and maybe even ask compassionately why he is the way he is. After all, he's unfamiliar and different to me.

Written by Barbara DiLorenzo
(On her iPhone because every computer in the house is broken right now-please forgive misspellings!)
Twitter: @wavepaint

Author & Illustrator of RENATO & THE LION
Viking, Summer 2017

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 .