Friday, August 31, 2012

New Mini Book Spread

Here's a new spread from my mini book. All the art is completed and now I'm ordering the printing done. I got an enthusiastic response to the book from my agent, who says she thinks it will go over well. Lots of work to do to make these into real hand bound books!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Mini-Book Spread, Waiting For Your Ship to Come In

Here's another spread from my mini book:

So the mini book is done, and now all I have left is the hard work of figuring out how to hand bind the thing. My friend Stef has been generous enough to teach me, so soon I hope to be gluing and sewing up some mini-books!

Waiting For Your Ship to Come In

At the risk of making a horrible pun, I wanted to discuss what is often the painful waiting process involved in submission, and developing your craft. I used to have an aunt and uncle who were always discussing what they would do when their "ship came in" meaning: what they would do when they made a lot of money. In this way of thinking, the ship either comes, or it doesn't come. The longer you wait for the ship, the less likely it feels that it will ever come, and what a disappointment when it doesn't. My aunt and uncle were deeply unhappy people. Even when they were making an income that most middle class people would envy, they were still waiting for that ship, and the ship never came.

So you've finished a book. Or a book dummy. And you've submitted it, and resubmitted it, and you've gotten rejection after rejection. Maybe you've gotten feedback from your peers--or even publishers--that it's a pretty good book. Maybe you're not entirely sure. But you're waiting. Here's how not to wait: write another book.

If you want to be an author, an author whose profession is writing, or writing and illustrating books, writing needs to be your function. Yes, write every day. Everyone always tells you to write every day. That's important. But its also important to start, and complete. Finish things. In the picture book world where book submissions involve unfinished book dummies, the whole act of making a dummy involves this waiting process. You can't complete it until its accepted.

Because of all this waiting, I found it very satisfying to make a book, even a small one, on my own terms. It's a small 4x8 wordless, 17 page book completed from start to finish by me. Its not for the purpose of sale, but that doesn't mean it won't help me sell other books some day. It's meant as a self-promotional tool, and because I just need to stop waiting and start making books.

 If like me, you want making books to be your career, its important to make books for the pleasure of it to keep you grounded in why you're doing it in the first place. Allow yourself the pleasure and satisfaction of holding that book that you made in your hands, even if it doesn't say "Simon and Schuster."It doesn't hurt to self-publish if just to have the satisfaction of saying, hey, this is mine. So often self-publishing is discouraged because it's considered giving up on "legitimate" publication. But it's hard to be an author when everything is in a drawer.

Ultimately, you have to get pleasure out of the work. There needs to always be pleasure in the work. If it's  nothing but a chore (and some parts of it will always feel like a chore, it is and will always be work), if you can't enjoy the small act of writing and drawing, you're going to be waiting for that ship.

I think ambition is great. Ambition is important. it's a fantastic motivator. My own ambitions are huge. But if the pleasure is delayed until the ambition is fulfilled by some undetermined outside agency, you're cheating yourself out of the day-to-day pleasure of the work. Being a writer and and illustrator requires you to spend a lot of time by yourself, and if you don't enjoy your own company, if you don't get some small satisfaction in that room where you spend so much time alone working, and working hard, whether or not your ship comes in, your life is going to suck. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ella and the Pirates Dust Jacket

So here's the dusk jacket for my hand bound mini book.

The extra room on the sides is for the French folds (I think that's what they're called). You know, those things that keep the dusk jacket hanging onto the book. I usually prefer a case wrapped cover, meaning: a cover that is actually glued onto the book--but my options in that area for hand binding are limited. I remember a friend of mine who use to throw away the dust jackets for all his books! I was appalled. "But the cover art!" I protested. But dust jackets are kind of drag in a practical sense.

The influence here is, in part, John Gray's hand-lettered book covers, and the work of Miro, particularly his lithographs, and maybe a little Gary Panter thrown in for good measure. I thought the design could be a little more progressive since it's only made for art directors and editors to admire.

There was a lot of experimentation with this one, checking out what I considered successful designs without appropriating them outright, even if they're 100 years old. So there's the inevitable risk of trying something new. I can measure its success by what I know about color and design--that worked, and that worked, so maybe the whole thing works--but ultimately, there's a risk.  Especially with unconventional hand-lettering. Clearly I've made no attempt at uniformity in the characters of my lettering. It wasn't done unintentionally--I did it numerous times, and was going for a certain fluidity with the marks--I wanted it to reflect the character of the brush that you see in my dry brush pieces, and since dry brush is incorporated into the book--the character of the book. The bold black boat symbol and overlapping colored shapes is all about Miro, that intense, graphic lithogaphic look. I always like it when I have the opportunity to let one color peak out from underneath another.

Does it work? What do you think? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Last Spread from my Mini Book

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I'm just finishing up my 17 page mini book, and that's what I've been spending all my time on. This is one of the spreads. The format will be 4x8, 22 pages in all with the title page, etc. I'll be posting the whole thing in some form or other, but the plan is to make about a dozen hand bound versions to send out as gifts to art directors. The next task is to actually learn how to bind books! I might also make a saddle-stitched cheaper version and make it available on my site's store, but the store hasn't been getting much traffic these days. Maybe Etsy?

I just got a new gig for Cricket Magazine for the January 2013 issue. I always like doing work for Cricket. Otherwise, I've got a number of writing projects in the works, my agent, Abi, is getting ready to submit my early reader book, Ladybug and Gentleman Beetle, and she's reading my first YA novel, Wish I Were Here,  for possible submission. There are some other possible future opportunities that just might happen, but generally, I've been pleasantly and challengingly busy, and the Pomodoro Technique has been keeping me on task. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A new Dry Brush Figure Study

Figure Study in Drybrush

Here's another dry brush figure study from a 2 and a half hour pose. Really enjoying this, and feel like I'm finally getting consistent results, that more or less every session I can come up with a decent figure. It feels good. This one is about 24 inches in width, so my main desire right now is to work considerably larger, since I fell like I'm missing a lot of detail.

This one had some challenging and subtle foreshortening--when the foreshortening is more obvious, sometimes it makes it easier in a way, but the subtle tapering as the figure receded towards the head was tricky, and i had to take care that I was paying attention to what I saw and not what I thought I saw. You never quite feel like you've completely captured it, and I lost a little bit of twist in the hips in the translation, but I'm overall satisfied with the result. In recent years drawing the figure has become a real passion, And I'm looking into sharing the price of a model with another artist for some longer studies. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Inks for First Spread for my mini-book

My pirate kid mini book is well in progress now, so here's the inks for the first spread. I'm almost done with the inks for the whole 17 page book, so I'll be coloring soon. Definitely recommended that you click on this one since it's appearing so small on the page. The end dimensions will be 4x8 landscape.

Friday, August 10, 2012

More Sea Life Studies

I'm finding I've drawn a lot more fish than I have room for in the project I'm working on. I kind of overdid it. Here's some more:

Thursday, August 09, 2012

New Kid Drawings, Appreciating Ella, and Why You Should Draw (even if you think you can't)

So this is one of the first compositions for my mini-book. This is one of the images most inspired by the photo shoot I did with my neighbor Ella and her friends. Ella came by the other day because her frisbee landed in our yard, and I was reminded of how much she inspires me. I love watching her play. It's hard to make this stuff up! She's the sweetest kid. I gave her a toy foam rubber sword that she really liked, and I remember when her friends came over she offered them the sword and used a paper tube instead, an unusual amount of generosity for a six year old. Then I had them play pirates and I took a ton of pictures.

Why Doesn't Everyone Draw?

Another incident with Ella, was when she found out I was an artist and wanted me to help her draw a birthday cake. I had in mind to teach her how to draw cylinders, but then once I got there I realized she just wanted to draw with me, and it wasn't about a lesson at all. Besides, I couldn't outdo her own birthday cake by a mile. This only reinforces my idea that giving a kid art lessons before about the age of twelve spoils what they've already got going for them. Kids have a wonderful natural sense of composition (up to about 10) and often use up the whole page in a way that older kids wouldn't think of. Older kids tend to be more perfectionists, doing little drawings in some small area of the page and trying to get the drawing "right." At least the ones who are declared "artists." At about 10 the "artists" are segregated from the "non-artists" and the rest of the kids give up on drawing altogether. Why is it that we assume kid's all kids will naturally draw while adults are discouraged from it? Why doesn't everyone draw throughout the course of their lifetimes no matter how much facility they might have, as a simple way to express themselves? There's no logical reason for it, but it's how our culture operates.

So it's always a shame to see kids and adults give up on drawing because they've decided they're not good enough. They feel as though they have to learn in some academic setting to do it properly. Really, the only thing you need to do to draw, is to draw. The act of drawing isn't about academic representation. Kids don't care if their stuff looks "realistic." If you haven't drawn in years and you draw like a six year old on your first attempt you're probably doing it right, but most adults have a more tentative approach. Unless they're drawing with their kids. Drawing with your kids is like an excuse to cut loose. You end up drawing as an act of play, which is exactly what it should be. As a professional, I have few opportunities to truly play in my work, because they're are so many technical challenges and practical goals. Even when I draw for my own pleasure it's with an academic mindset, an act of study more than fun. This isn't the case for all professionals, but for me I often find it so.

Drawing With Children

Without this training, you have an opportunity to turn drawing into an act of pure enjoyment. Avoid having goals and objectives. Don't think so much about sharing your work or showing it or having it evaluated. This is easier said than done, and the best way to do it is to draw with a kid. "Let's draw monsters" or "let's draw animals is an adequate enough excuse." But you also must be careful not to get caught up in the trap of judging their work, as much as you should avoid judging your own. This a common suggestion in child development, but one that not everyone knows: never ask a kid what their drawing is, or what it's about, or worse, ask them "What is this supposed to be." Let them tell you. If they present their drawing to you, say, "tell me about this drawing." This way you're not making any assumptions about what the drawing is supposed to represent, which can really kill the kid's self-esteem. They often assume that you should already know. It's not deceptive to ask them to describe the picture, it's just courteous. Their self-esteem remains in tact, and maybe you learn something about how they see the world. I also think that it's often a bad idea to read to much into the drawing.

Don't Try to Figure This Stuff Out, just Draw With Them

Sometimes there's a raw quality kid's drawings, especially when depicting family members and people they know. It can be useful to pay attention to the situations they're representing as a form of communication. At the same time, every drawing is not a psychological profile. Sometimes a kid wants to draw monsters because they want to draw monsters, or bloody battles because they want to draw bloody battles. Sometimes they're only emulating something they've seen, like a certain type of cartoon character. Missing hands may not mean they have some deep psychological issue about hands or touching, but maybe they just don't like to draw hands. Sometimes a dream is just a dream. A cigar is just a cigar. And this applies just as much to kids.

 Kids also are very much aware that somethings going on when you're doing this kind of thing. It can really be an impediment to play, and cause kid's to be a  distrustful if they don't know you very well. So unless you're a psychologist, don't try to figure this stuff out. Enjoy the kid, and what they have to offer. Involve yourself in what they're doing. Allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy drawing in the way they do. Drawing with Kid's is a great excuse to give yourself permission to draw.

I'm not a psychologist, and can't claim to be an expert on this subject, but I grew up with psychologists, and saw my share as a kid, and witnessed the mistakes they made along the way. So my advice is strictly anecdotal. This is what I believe.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Best Acronym EVER

D. dedicated
E. enemies of
A. and
T.Traitors to
H. Humanity

Charlton's Fightin' 5 was a series that began during the 60s in the middle of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. spy craze that gave rise to a number of other great comic book acronyms. D.E.A.T.H. though, clearly tops the list. It would seem  from the letter on Lady Dawn's chest, and the "E" on the chest of her dedicatedly traitorous compatriot, that each member of D.E.A.T.H. has a name that begins with one of the group's eponymous initials, which only makes these self-described enemies of humanity all the more awesome. This reminds me of something between Superman's "S" and the "L" that Laverne used to wear on all her sweaters on Laverne and ShirleyStill, despite their cuteness, you've got to love bad guys who love to be bad guys so much that they're willing to piss off everybody.

Fish Studies

More sea life for my work in progress. If these resemble real fish, it may be be coincidence, since these fish are a mash-up of different fish phenotypes. In other words: I mostly made them up.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Drybrush Sea Life

This is some sea life that I'm going to put into my little pirate kid book that will be hanging out under the surface of the water. I did a lot of these studies, more than I really needed, but it was fun, and I'll be posting them over the next few days. I always like drawing animals, especially sea life!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Pirate Kids: The Treasure Is Discovered!

Here's another image from my little pirate kid book in progress. Almost ready to go to inks!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Pirate Kids: The Villain Thwarted!

Here are some more pirate kids in pencil. This thing is going to go to inks soon, and hopefully I'll get it wrapped up in the next couple of weeks. About 17 pages of pirate kids, and 9 more of the little girl playing.