Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My First School Visit, by Mike Ciccotello

A few years ago I was contacted by the principal of Mary Roberts Elementary. He was inquiring about a mural I did at a local kids hair salon, Hair for Kids. After some discussion, and decision making, and maybe some more discussion, I was hired to create a mural at his school. I finished the painting over a few days. On the last day I spent some time talking with the kids about art. 

This is the mural I created a few years ago.

Last year, the same principal reached out to me. He noticed new art I was posting on my social media feeds. He asked if I was working on picture books and was curious if I would come to the school to speak with the children. I said sure, but there's one problem, I don't have a published book. He didn't think that mattered. He believed I had a compelling story and the students would be interested to see how much work goes into writing and illustrating. WE HAD SO MUCH FUN!

I'm sketching a pig wearing a top hat.

As the children filtered in and took their seats, I did some devil stick juggling. I dropped the juggling stick a few times. Each time, I asked the students what I should do. They immediately responded, "PICK IT UP!" I showed them a few different ways to pick it up. You could use your hands, or the other sticks, or even your feet. They got a real kick out of it.

I'm trying to figure out how the pig's ears would look with the top hat.

Then we talked about illustration and how many mistakes I make. I make a lot of mistakes. Well, when you make a mistake, you need to try again – just like juggling. Nothing comes out perfect the first time you do it. You need to keep working at it every day. The example I gave was a drawing I worked on for over a month. I had a bunch of help form my artist (critique) friends. Through thoughtful critique, I was able to solve multiple problems and finish my illustration.

Talking about my book dummy

After the illustration talk, we read one of my picture book dummies. We spoke about the characters and the problem they had. We tried to find similarities in the children's experiences. They pointed out so many fun things. Then we spoke about submitting a book to a publisher and how much work goes into a story before it gets sent. They couldn't believe it.

It was such a wonderful day. I learned a lot about myself, and hopefully made an impression on some of those kiddos. I can't wait to do it all again.

Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sucked In - By Deborah Cuneo

Have you ever noticed those sponsored ads that randomly pop up on your social media feeds? They just happen to be a product that was exactly of your interest and for a great price too (of course), so you just have to click on it, right? No?... Just me? 

Photo of the product from Google

Well I have, it was and yes...I did. The product was a Body Kun, articulated sketch model...translated: a glorified, overpriced, cheaply made naked action figure. I had seen these things on and off over the years, but never really had given it too much thought until a few months ago. I was working on a project (another one I can't share yet) that had a lot of humans in it.  I couldn't find the poses in the povs  I needed and my only available models were either canine, feline or humans that were always too busy to pose for me.  

After endless hours of less than fruitful Google searching, I succumbed to the pressure of one of the pop-ups from "The Best Deals" (of course it would be named that) and clicked on the ad. I almost choked on the price, despite the "One time only, 50% off sale!!" (said in your best, loudly exaggerated, tv-salesman voice ). But, it truly seemed to be the answer to my situation and it came with really cool, extra miniature body parts and accessories to draw, so I bit the bullet, ignored the soft voice in my ear whispering "suckerrrr" and pressed "place order". 

Tiny accessories - yes, that's a dime! after a couple of weeks, my brain had somehow justified the purchase of not one but two (a male and female version) and I was actually excited by the time my shipment arrived. I set up my sketching supplies and opened the box and there they were!! They were a lot tinier than they appeared on my screen, but no biggie. I was going to set them up and photograph them so, I'd be able to enlarge it later.

I opened up the package with the woman first. She was in pieces...teeny, tiny, little pieces that didn't want to go back together no matter how many hours I tried. No problem, I'm adaptable, if anything... I would use the guy for both, for now. Fortunately that one was intact...till I tried to gently pose it, at which point I snapped the little dude in half. This one went back together easier than the female, until I tried to pose him again. After a few more times of performing micro surgery to put him back together (not to mention that the voice in my ear was now repeatedly screaming the word sucker) , I decided to email for a full refund.

Fortunately, their customer service was pretty good and they got back to me right away. They were also excellent salespeople too, ugh. Shortly after, I received two, free of charge,  brand new, male and female action figurines in the mail, that were actually intact...even after I touched them! I immediately set up my photo shoots and was able to draw the poses I was after. Yay, a happy ending...sort of. 

Photo Shoot Set Up

So,  the bottom line review on this product...

I think the initial idea was a good one, because there is a true need for an articulated figure of this nature, but the product itself is really poor quality! For what it's worth, I give it a 1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars for quality and pricing,  and a 4.5 for usefulness. 

They are very cheaply made and questionably priced ( I've noticed that whatever the sale, they are always the same cost in the end, hmmm...).  But, if you can get past fumbling with a defective stand and figurine, tiny parts that you need tweezers and a magnifying glass to see, pick up and put together, and the fact that the figurines are still a tad on the fragile side (understatement!),  they actually are super handy for getting that exact pose, in the exact point of view that you're looking for! 

Photo Shoot

 But buyer beware, for sure!!  

Blog: Creating Out Loud
Twitter: @debcuneoart 
 Instagram: @ataleof2studios

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Keeping up the Momentum in 2018 by Diana Ting Delosh

Momentum © Diana Ting Delosh Ink, Watercolor & Digital
This illustration is my entry for the #scbwidrawthis January Challenge.
I always start out the year with lists to make the best of the coming year and somewhere between January and June, I get lost. Sometimes it just a temporary derailment and sometimes it's for the rest of the year. 2017 was one of those lost years. I had a challenging project (good) but  it was taking longer than I thought it should and I felt guilty taking time off. Which brings me to the point of this post in order to keep your momentum going you need to find your balance. You need to do what's on your urgent, do or die list without sacrificing what's important to you.

There were so many times in 2017 when I would look longingly at other peoples art for prompts, challenges, contest entries, whatever and thought I could have, should have been part of it. Never mind the missed family and friend fun. Never mind my own project list. But I had that project or job deadline. Now I want and need those paying projects ... but there needs to be time to take a breath and enjoy being a creative with a family.

So how can one Keep up the momentum and stay balanced? Especially if taking on less work is not an option. Here are a few thoughts in random order. 

• Being realistic about deadlines, your limitations and process.  Review the job brief with eyes wide open. Sure it's got things you can do in your sleep but what about the rest. Is it out of your usual comfort zone? Not a bad thing - but it may require extensive research and or more time. Usually, I hit the halfway point of a project and the second half goes much faster than the first. After years of this, I finally met the project that was the exception. I guess the take away is not to assume anything and budget in the extra time.

• Exercise the art muscles on a regular basis. Usually whether I'm working  on a single illustration or a 32 page picture book, my process is to do ALL the sketches, then the line art, then colors, then photoshop. The problem: if it was a BIG project it meant I might be sketching for weeks etc. Then when it came time to ink, I usually threw away the first couple inks. Same with the first couple of paintings etc. Due to the nature of my Big 2017 project, once the initial sketches were approved it was broken into smaller units so I inked, painted, photoshopped on a weekly basis. Big but obvious discovery here - I didn't have to go thru the I forgot how to ____ phase. Meaning fewer do-overs! Hm-m-m I need to sketch, ink/line, color/paint, Photoshop on a weekly  basis.

• Allow for distractions. Working on portfolio builders and art just for fun is important. It's what your future is built on. The problem with most commissions is you can't share, (for good reasons) until after the project is published.  But that means you have nothing to promote yourself with unless you have been creating art on the side. I made the mistake of thinking that if I didn't allow myself to be distracted, I'd finish faster. HA. I just became cranky and whiney and annoyed at myself in October because the year was coming to an end and I was unsatisfied with it. Note, if a job came in, it was squeezed in. In theory, I could've squeezed in more "distractions".

• Have more of a Nine-to-Fiver mindset. As a freelancer I work when there's work. It's the feast/famine mentality. Great if the commissions have natural breaks but if not.... well it maybe time to adapt. Make a point to take breaks. Get out of the studio do other things, fun things, as well as mundane things.

• Stay healthy. The usual eat healthier, exercise and take breaks. Working until you're brain dead doesn't help anything. Having fun with friends and family means going back to the studio refreshed.

Wishing All a Happy, Healthy, Creative, Productive, Prolific and Prosperous 2018!

Twitter: dtdelosh

For your picture book storyboarding process
Check out: 
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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Art of The Line in a Picture Book Dummy - Patricia Keeler

I've always created dummies in pencil, (digital notwithstanding), because dummies are just sketched ideas. Since the story and art will probably be changed, any effort more than a loose sketch is probably not the best use of my time. I might have a couple of finished color images from the dummy, but they would be included separately. All this makes perfect sense.

But I also know how hard it is to sell a picture book. I might have a great art with brilliant writing, (kidding), but I still need to show it in the best possible way. Pencil sketches may be fine, but using the same amount of time, are they my best sketching tool?

Before finalizing your dummy for an editor/art director it's possible to analyze the art and story to decide what drawing tool would best work for the sketches.

If you are not doing backgrounds — just focusing on an animal or child for the dummy — you might consider using a brush pen. That's because in one stroke, the line can vary from thin to wide. This can make a simple image pop.

I love my Pentel Arts Pocket Brush pen. Look at the fine point and the fat top! It takes an ink cartridge just like a fountain pen.

I haven't had the courage to try this for an entire dummy, but I've seen dummies created with Prismacolor's Col-Erase — erasable colored pencils. The dummies were created using a single color. It may be subjective whether the editor/art director thinks using color to create a dummy is appropriate, but the dummies created in color that I saw, have stayed in my mind for their unique look.

Another interesting drawing tool I've seen used is a wide graphic pencil. This seems to work well with dummies that have a lot of trees and grasses, or rows of buildings. This seems to soften a busy landscape.

Children's book illustrators are expanding artistic possibilities in every step of the book creation process. However book dummies are not often shared publicly because author/illustrators don't want to present an idea before it's time. 

But the look of a book dummy is evolving. Now artists are creating more original dummies while working within the 'just-sketches-please' parameters. If using a certain drawing tool to make your dummy doesn't take any longer than using a #2 pencil, why not create with panache?

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeelerbooks

represented by Liza Royce Agency