Friday, October 28, 2011


This is a Pegasus that's meant to eventually have wings, which is why its posture is a little weird. I'm working on a sort of mock cover for A Wrinkle in Time in order to do more young adult material.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday Figure Drawing

Here's a figure from the figure drawing session last night. This was a twenty minute pose. Once again I choked on the longer pose. I just murdered it, but I'm relatively happy with this one.  It was a pretty good night for me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm Now Being Represented by Red Fox Literary!

I've been hinting at some good news for a while now, but didn't want to announce it until all the paperwork had been signed, and I just received the signed forms today! So as of now, my writing and illustration will be represented by Abigail Samoun at Red Fox Literary.

I was also honored to discover that Red Fox recently took on one of my favorite all-time illustrators, Henrik Drescher! I've been a fan of Drescher since my teens, with books like Pat the Beasty and The Boy Who Ate Around. I'm looking forward to working with Abigail and Red Fox Literary and making lots and lots of books!

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Picture, "Harvest Moon", What's my daily routine?

Harvest Moon

I did this illustration in order to include more kids in my images, but at the time I made it, it hadn't occurred to me that it was a Halloween image, so it's Halloweenness is a complete accident. In fact it didn't occurred to me until I completed it. My original plan was simply to do a birthday party, but I like to draw animals so I added the animal costumes. ThenI wanted to add some dramatic lighting, so I thought it would be nice to have it at night in the forest. Then, in the end, I decided to add a big bright harvest moon, which also helped to balance the image, bringing the eye around from the focal point.

And here's a detail:

I like the feel of this one, and now the fact that it's an unconventional Halloween image. I like that it has a little element of mystery, why these kids are out alone in the woods with no adults. It reminds me a little of Peter Pan's lost boys, and of Max, from Where the Wild Things Are in his wolf suit.

Where Have I Been? 

I haven't posted in quite a while, in part because I didn't want to show this one in progress. The images never quite looked right on their own--it's largely a bunch of drawings of kids sitting in space, since the background was done separately.  I was also a little unsure of this one until it started to come together.

The other reason I haven't been around is because I've been putting together some of my writing projects for submission. More on that later. No definitive interest by publishers yet, but there's some other news I'll be sharing soon that's almost just as good.

My Daily Routine: The Long Answer to the Question, "How Long Do you Spend Every Day Working?"

When I've gone to workshops and artist speaking engagements, someone is always bound to ask, "how long do you spend every day working?" When I used to hear their answer, I generally felt woefully inadequate comparing my own productivity to theirs. I think discipline is something you build up over time, and everyone has their own way of doing this. It took me years to develop the discipline I have now. For me, routine is critical, but time spent working and time spent wisely are two different things.

 Using the Pomodoro technique I've mentioned in earlier posts, I've gotten a better sense of what a real work day should be, but the Pomodoro technique is new to me, so the work day I describe here is something I've only developed recently. I try to work about 12 to 16 Pomodoros (as described in earlier posts), or 25 minute periods every day, while spending the morning writing. I don't time my writing period since it tends to vary, though I try to write 200 words at the very minimum, though usually I write more On bad days I write less, but these are rare. This takes about two hours. While taking breaks during my art making time maximizes my productivity,  taking breaks slows down my momentum when I'm writing, so for me, it's better to spend a shorter but focused and uninterrupted period writing than drawing. During my Pomodoro breaks I like to go on Google+ or Facebook, but these breaks go fast! (But that's kind of the idea)  I tend to work on the weekend as well, but less, because of household chores and other responsibilities, though sometimes on weekends I'll have a longer writing session. And working doesn't always involve drawing. Sometimes its about collecting reference and doing research. Sometimes it's inking, or coloring. Sometimes I'll spend the whole day spinning my wheels trying just about everything and failing miserably to get anything to work.

So my day begins at 5:30. I usually screw around for an hour, then walk our dog,  Cinder. When I get back from my walk, I eat breakfast. Writing usually follows, unless I'm doing something like a blog post, but that, I guess, also counts as writing. Drawing begins at 9:00 to 9:30, and ends anywhere from 5:00 to 6:00, or 6:30. I usually take an hour lunch around noon, sometimes longer if I have errands. 

Wednesdays I teach a student for an hour, and every other wednesday I have a figure drawing session in the evening that I administrate, which is usually a four hour time investment or more. Hiring models and other general upkeep of the group is also time consuming, so I don't tend to draw much on these days, but I do tend to write.

The Virtues of Goofing Off

Of course all of this is subject to having a life. This doesn't always represent a typical day. The math adds up just a little too perfectly, and most days aren't perfect.  There are always other responsibilities and distractions that come up, or sometimes I just take the day off. Or I'll take a trip. Or I'll go to the comic book shop.  Or I'll decide I just want to watch a movie instead. I like to spend time with my wife. I love having the evenings free. This said, I don't tend to get out much. social networking sites are great, but they're also a great time waster, but the Pomodoro Technique has really helped my limit my internet time.

 I think the consequence of being a full-time artist is spending a lot of time alone, and having your world become just a little smaller than it could be. If you want art to be a true discipline, this is the way it has to be. You have to make it an integral part of your life, but it's also important to have a life. My studio is a tiny room in our house with a single window that looks out onto the backyard. I like my work, so its not exactly a hardship, but sometimes you need to get out of your cave and get a little sunshine, or goof off, or otherwise do what you need to do to enjoy the life you have. And exercise! Get some exercise! Many Illustrators tend to get pudgier as they get older, so to avoid falling into this trend, I try to ride my bike whenever I can. For me, this isn't too hard a habit to maintain--it's more of a necessity, since I don't drive.  but it's always good to have some kind of outlet for exercise. I intend to to have a long life and career. So eat right, exercise, develop your discipline, and enjoy your life and work! That's the best advice I could give anyone who wants to become an illustrator.

Edit: I originally wrote "6 to 8 Pomodoros" when I meant to say, 12 to 18 Pomodoros. I tend to add each two in my head as an hour, so I was thinking hours instead of 25 minute periods. Oops! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More About Being an Illustrator in an Increasingly Digital World

This is an elaboration on some comments I made on  a discussion started by Leif Peng on Google+.

The most successful illustrators of the turn of the century--and I guess I should specify the 20th century at this point--were magazine illustrators. There was a golden age of print media at the turn of the century with the rise of the automated four-color press. There was a high demand for color pictures, and since there was no color photography, illustration was the only way to go.  Periodicals were a cheap, current form of entertainment, and even during the depression, everyone still read newspapers and magazines. This golden age began to decline  some time in the fifties, with the rise of TV and color photography, and now, finally, we're seeing the internet overtake most periodical print media, like magazines and newspapers. 

So what are illustrators supposed to do now?  Now we're told: make digital media. Learn to animate. Learn to storyboard. Learn to provide content for video games and movies. New media will replace old media. But I think this is approaching the problem from the wrong direction.

First, I don't think traditional illustration is going to disappear entirely. Though digital media may largely replace old media, I don't think it's going to entirely replace the inanimate illustrated book or story. You may replace the mode of presentation and distribution--it may be on an Ipad or Kindle, but the form itself will endure. An animated or interactive Cat In the Hat isn't going to be able to replace the simple experience of reading the book. It's still a unique experience that people value. Otherwise it would have happened already--Chuck Jones did a great animated version of The Cat in the Hat in the 70s (available on DVD and Blue Ray!), there's that awful Mike Meyers movie, there are video games, interactive toys, but kids keep wanting to read the dead tree version for some reason.

But still, digital media continues to grow as a popular form. You can't stick your head in the sand. So I do think Illustrators can benefit from being involved in more aspects of media production, but it's not the form of media that you work in that's going to make you a success. Illustrators need to be storytellers first, rather than simply picture makers. That doesn't mean they have to learn to animate, so much as learn to tell stories structurally and visually in a complete way. Rather than ornament someone else's story, they need to learn to tell their own. The more complete their unique vision is, the more invaluable they become. Artists who have spread themselves over the greatest variety of media have done so because their vision and ability to tell stories is what's compelling, not their aptitude for working in different media. Flexibility is important, but have a vision, first.

Illustration by Boris Arzybasheff