Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lost in (work)Space by Jason Kirschner

My workspace. I know I'm a mess. But it's MY workspace.
Workspace, and more importantly, workflow is something I've been mulling over a bunch lately.  According to definitions I just made up, workspace is the physical space where you work and how it's setup and workflow is the way you do your work and the tools you use to do that work.  I want to be turning out new and exciting work and I want to be working in the most efficient manner. Time is, after all, money. (I'm pretty sure I made that up too.)

For those reasons,  I get antsy every once in a while and want to change everything about the way I work. I want my desk on that wall instead of this one. I want to use watercolor instead of digital color. I want shade with markers before I scan my sketches. I want to draw on an iPad Pro instead of my Wacom tablet.  As I think these things, I’m quite certain that these changes will help me work faster and/or make my work more vital. And they might? Or they might not, I guess.

There's also something to be said for comfort level and familiarity.  Knowing how to work the scanner with my elbow does help me speed things along. I’m very comfortable with my grayscale Copic markers and I know just how hard to press when shading so I don’t screw up my drawing.  I’ve also memorized the Photoshop shortcut keys to the point that my brain couldn’t tell you which key to press but my fingers know all on their own. 

Changes are good though.  I tend to make them incrementally instead of all at once — mostly because I’m cowardly and lazy but also because I like where I’m at artistically.  Some people bounce all over the place and I must admit that both fascinates and terrifies me at the same time. 

When it comes to workspace and workflow, I also feel that we, as a community, should share more. When I flip through other people’s work online  (yes — I keep tabs on all of you. ) I am always SO curious as to how they achieved this look or that effect.  I also think people are too timid to ask one another how we did things or why we did them that way.  We should share more. 

In that spirit —not that anyone asked— here’s my workflow.  I always draw using a Prismacolor PC943 pencil (Burnt Ochre) because I think its a great middle tone. I more sculpt than draw with the pencil because I draw so many damn lines to get to the right one.  I then draw over my mess with a Prismacolor PC935 and find the right lines to punctuate.  The brown falls back to a sort of shading.  I then scan into Photoshop and color digitally.  I do adjust levels but I try to leave some of the mess underneath so it still looks “homemade.”

(Here’s the interactive part)
If you have the chance to share how you make your work, do so. (Hint: There’s a comments section here.)  Also, tell us about any changes you've made recently to your workspace or your workflow and how it worked out.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s amazed at how you do what you do.

By day, Jason is a 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 twitter @jason_kirschner. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Thoughtful Critique, by Mike Ciccotello

Be open to thoughtful criticism. It's important to listen and consider what a suggestion may bring. It is entirely possible that your illustration will become better. Try to understand where that person is coming from and why they are suggesting changes. You may learn something new.––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Don't Let Go - Click to view larger image

At the same time, remember, a critique shouldn't be overly harsh. You didn't fail a test. We are all learning. A thoughtful critique should make you want to try harder, not give up. When you are involved in a critical discussion, ask questions. If someone says they don't like it, ask why. Don't accept a simple, "I don't know ... It just doesn't feel right." This creates a problem for the person being critiqued. Not only will it make them think their work is subpar, it won't give them a way to improve it. If you are ever in that situation, don't challenge the person, but try to guide the answer and pin-point where the problem lies. Is it the composition? Anatomy? Color? Emotion? Through a proactive discussion you may be able to figure out what the person meant.


Injured - Click to view larger image


Currently, I'm working on emotion. Specifically, I'm concentrating on the emotion in my characters' eyes. This is a process. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. All of the work I put into this process is good, it teaches, it gives experience. Recently, I signed with Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. She has been pushing me to explore my characters and challenging me to improve my work in many ways. I have found this incredibly productive and I'm learning from it. Rachel gives thoughtful critiques and presents them in a way for me to see her point of view. I am open to her suggestions and truly want to make the work better.

There will always be something to work on, something new to learn. By keeping an open mind, you will grow and improve.


 Teatime with Grampa - Click to view larger image


Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 
Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Getting a Picture Book Contract - and a Kill Fee by Patricia Keeler

This video seems strange because I'm telling this difficult story while boats and trucks are rumbling around me. But maybe the chaotic location is the right setting for talking about navigating the arena of children's books. I guess that's why I keep laughing.

I was getting cold so I had to go, but on my next blog I'll explain why getting fired changed my thinking and lead to a 2 picture book contract.

An image from DRUMBEAT IN OUR FEET, (Lee and Low Books), which lead me to my first fiction book contract.

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Raise up your paintbrushes! By Barbara DiLorenzo

This week's The New Yorker cover
by Abigail Gray Swartz. 
What a crazy January. While normally quiet or mild about political issues, I've found myself in a healthy group of authors and illustrators voicing strong opinions across different social media platforms. The shifting political winds caused this strong reaction. Speaking only for myself, I'm concerned we are losing hard-earned reverence for equality and diversity for all people. For that, I'm willing to risk losing some of the good-graces earned from being a docile online community member.
But the other day, a well-known author and illustrator posed the question about whether we should voice our concerns, since we may lose some folks who like our work–which may affect book sales. This is probably going to happen. And if the topics at hand were slight, I'd agree to keep our opinions to in-person conversations. But today, anyone writing and illustrating books for children has to have an opinion on how those children are treated–in terms of gender, ability, orientation, cultural background or geographical birthplace. If we don't voice our opinions now, it will only become more difficult down the road. 
For me, having spent years researching World War II for RENATO AND THE LION, I don't have a choice. I can't know what I know about that period of history, and turn a blind eye to this. And even if I tried, I can't ignore the numerous art classes I teach for children where they bring up their own fears about deportation. And even if I could somehow ignore that, how could I ignore the three Syrian refugees in one of my after school classes? They are siblings, sweet and bright, who I've gotten to know since September. I can't see the finer points of the current partisan dialogue because I've got real children to lead, to inspire, to encourage that this is their country too, and they can be anything they can dream to be. 
I don't know what is right for all artists, authors and illustrators. We must all follow our own hearts and our own paths. I think healthy debate and dialogue can help opposing views find common ground. But I also know that if we use the skills we have been honing for years, instead of simply drawing a cute character, our words, our illustrations, our art can become so much more. I've reposted so many home-grown illustrations inspired by today's events. And I just discovered that the recent cover of the New Yorker Magazine was done by an artist who felt compelled to create the artwork (above)–then decided on a whim to submit to the magazine. The editors went right past their normal illustrators (some of whom I worship!), and chose her. How amazing. This encourages me that when we feel so moved to make art from the heart, we should. We may lose a few fans, but those that resonate with our art, will only build a stronger connection to our work. And in the process, we give a more polished expression to feelings they may have trouble expressing themselves. 
Use your skills, creative people. This is what we have been practicing for. 

My art from the heart.
"Sowing the Seeds of Love"
Illustration by Mike Ciccotello