Hello Robot!

Looking back at past projects I completely forgot how tedious my process can be sometimes, especially when I need to depict a light source just right, an emotion just right. I’ll never get anything just right. It’s more like “good enough for now” or “well the viewer will understand this image just enough I hope.”

I hope that in this particular image process that I’m about to share, the viewer will understand the story of Hello Robot in one image.

The story of Hello Robot is very incomplete. I have the images but I can’t seem to get the manuscript “just right” or even “good enough for now” because the reader wont understand the story just enough. Words just can’t describe the way I feel about Hello Robot so maybe light and emotion will.

I’ll start you off by introducing Hello Robot, or Bucket, here.

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My process for a completed image always begins with character development. I need to know the character before I can accurately create an image of them. Getting to know the character is the longest part of the process, I mean it takes a while to get to know someone properly, right?

Now on to the image which I hope the viewer will understand that is the peak show of character for Bucket here. I first start with a thumbnail and then a detailed sketch like this:

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Here I don’t have the lighting quite right but I have the shapes down. The lighting is very important for the entire story but especially this image. You might be able to see why in a bit.

I’ll go on to several color sketches. Depending on the final product, if I work traditionally then I’ll do digital sketches, if I work digitally I’ll do traditional color sketches like these.

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I’m starting to figure it out in the first color sketch and by the second sketch I know what I have to do in order for the emotion and the light to bring about proof of character and peak story arch.

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Here I’m finally on the digital. This image is about half way, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I did not track all my process with the digital piece. I never do! Maybe I should do this is the future.

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And there you have it, the final! Okay so I went on about light and emotion and stuff for a bit. Light to me can have a bunch of different meanings but the core meaning for me is spiritual. Here Bucket is leaving the light from below to explore the darkness above, an attic. He must do this to complete his exploration of the house to find someone to say “Hello” to that will say “Hello” back. He doesn’t find a hello in the darkness but he does find something else.

Sounds kind of spooky when I put it that way.

Do you understand his emotion? Do you get the “well the viewer will understand this image just enough I hope.”

Hello Robot is a whole story about exploring shadows and saving light sources. but...28_29.jpgUGGGGG 14.jpegbw5 copy 2.jpgcomplete? copy 2.jpg

 

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2019 Maryland Conference

It’s that time again! Yes, the annual conference. 

For my own sanity, I’m making another list of things that I’ll need in order to be completely prepared so let’s see if I can gather everything!

 

Updated Portfolio

Every year my goal is to update the portfolio. I ALWAYS try to make some FANTASTIC piece each year right before the conference.

This year? Well I’ve made quite a few new pieces that I deem portfolio worthy, but are they really enough? I don’t think I’ll ever know…

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Two Manuscripts for Official Review 

That’s right, I have TWO manuscript critiques this year. I’ll also be bringing two more for walk in critiques so I want to make sure all four manuscripts are the best they can be. 

 

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Completed Book Dummy

This year I want to bring the completed Remember Me Emily book dummy. I tried to do this last year with Hello Robot, but I’m afraid Hello Robot wont work quite yet so I didn’t get to bring a dummy last year. I will this year though!

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My Handy Dandy Notebook (or sketchbook)

Yep, this is actually one of the most important item to bring! This is where I take all my notes the critiquers give me and the information on the panels. I have to make sure I’ve got a fresh one, easy to carry (small) and flexible so I can abuse it haha.

 

New Postcards and Business Cards? 

Last year I really liked my digital bee that I made. However, I’ve been creating a lot of water color pieces this year so I think I need to use a watercolor image. Should I create new ones or use ones I already have? Hmm… maybe one of these will work.

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And Finally, My “Professional” Self

 

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Okay ignore that picture. That is NOT professional AT ALL.

Anyway, some nice semi informal clothing seems to be the trend at these conferences so cardigan, black jeans, small cute boots, clean shirt. That seems to work every time!

 

Pretty sure I need to bring more things but here are the most important, well these and a positive attitude.

Oh yeah and a side note, I’ve started doing reviews again yay! Time to get to posting on this blog again for my own research and lists.

 

Portfolio Critique Dos and Don’ts

Back in March I had received my fourth professional portfolio critique. It’s been a couple months since then, but I needed to let the feedback settle in my brain before I started following the advice.

As always, I think back to my first conference and how much I failed myself then. Now… well I’m still a failure, but a better failure!

Here’s why with the Dos:

  • TAKE EVERY ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. It’s very easy to just take in all the criticism and get down on yourself. Quitting is easy, “I’m garbage because this ‘professional’ person says I am, might as well become an electrician like Pa said.” A lot of the critique is based off what that person likes and doesn’t like, not necessarily you as an illustrator.
  • GO IN WITH A SMILE. This sounds lame but it actually worked for me. If I’m smiling and being social, a lot of that heart clenching tension dissipates. Smiling and talking gets me ready to be open minded and prepares me for change. Try it.
  • DRESS NICE, BUT CASUAL. I was rocking a nice sweater with a lacy tank top beneath, maroon colored jeans, and cute brown boots. All was comfortable to wear and I looked like a real human that could possibly be in public!
  • BRING YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST WORK. Sounds obvious, but it helps if you feel good about what you’re bringing to the table. If you don’t, you need to do more work or just have a short portfolio. Feedback might actually be good for you if you are not satisfied with your work, it helped me a year ago when I felt awful about mine.
  • RESEARCH YOUR CRITIQUE. Courtney Pippin-Mathur gave me my portfolio critique. I chose her specifically because she worked in watercolor and digital mix, which is what I was doing. I also liked her cute style. The rest of the illustrators there had a bit of a realistic style and were mixed media for the most part. I wanted someone who worked with what I was trying to work with, and the feedback I got was very helpful because I took the time to look at her website.
  • COMMUNICATE WITH THE ILLUSTRATOR. I mean, join in their rambling about your artwork. Sometimes asking questions can help guide the one critiquing you. Lets face it, they’re human too so helping them will help you. Even if it’s just simple questions such as, “What are my strengths? Should I be working in this medium? Am I ready to look for an agent?”
  • WRITE DOWN WHAT THEY SAY AFTER THE CRITIQUE IS OVER. Sometimes it’s okay to jot down notes, but make sure you look like you’re paying attention. It’s good to write some more after your critique so you can look at it later. (later that day, later that week, two months from then…)
  • SEND AN EMAIL THANKING THEM. I was bad and didn’t email Pippin-Mathur. I emailed my manuscript critique though! But still, email them. It’s good to do that. I shall email mine next time.

My first critique went horribly and it had me crying in the shower for an hour after.

Here’s why with the Don’ts:

  • DON’T GO IN THINKING YOUR STUFF IS GOOD. Unless it is of course, but if you’re new to this field you probably aren’t quite there yet. Even if you are good and you go in thinking that you’re good but the one giving you a critique says they don’t like something, this could possibly lead you to…
  • IGNORING ALL ADVICE BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU KNOW BETTER. Everyone can improve. EVERYONE. If there is something off with your work and you choose to ignore it, like I did with my messy backgrounds for forever, your work will suffer for it.
  • DON’T NOT SAY ANYTHING. Silence is second worse compared to cutting off the critique with your arrogance. I practically said nothing my first critique and that just built tension between the us and it led to me tearing up. That got awkward. Don’t do it.
  • DON’T OVER DRESS, BUT DON’T WALK IN WITH JEANS AND A T-SHIRT. Okay I didn’t really do this one. I mean, I had jeans and tennis shoes on but at least I had a sweater that didn’t look too bad. You’ll feel better if you look better though.
  • DON’T TALK BAD ABOUT THE ONE GIVING YOUR CRITIQUE. I’ve never done this but I’ve read pretty bad blog posts and it just never looked good to me. It just looked butt hurt.
  • DON’T THINK ABOUT YOUR CRITIQUE AND RUIN THE WHOLE DAY. This is the most challenging one. Its one thing to anticipate your critique and prepare yourself. It’s another thing to stew over a bad critique for the entire weekend and ruin the experience. Take your notes, store them away, and come back to them once your mind has cleared. Maybe get drunk that night and go see a friend who knows nothing about the field, but don’t stew in disappointment.

And that’s all I got! I wrote this blog post because I decided to do something that was suggested in my critique. Apparently I succeeded in last years goal of practicing line work because that was one of my strengths with, actually, my traditional pieces. So she wanted me to recreate some images that were digital in watercolor and here’s one she suggested.

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These are so different, but I like both! I was told to move away from digital but I’ll take that with a grain of salt. 😉

Draw For Animals

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So I saw a #DrawForAnimals on my twitter feed about three weeks ago, aiming to raise money for the Chester Zoo through selling donated animal illustrations.

The DrawForAnimals group I believe is still taking illustrations before August when the online auction happens.

This was a chance to put my artwork to good use! The Chester Zoo will use the support to continue working with endangered animals. Hopefully someone likes my illustration!

When You Have To Have A Day Job

Every now and then I have to remind myself of all the ways that I can be creatively productive throughout the day, even when I have to have a day job.

Now I don’t mind my day job at all. It’s just… when I have several manuscripts, book dummies, illustration prompts, commissions, and blog posts to make, spending 40 + hours a week at a job that has nothing to do with any of this can seem like a complete waste of time.

IT’S NOT A WASTE OF TIME. I NEED MONEY ;_;

But there are also small ways to be creative with a piece of paper (or paper towel or tissue or cardboard piece or…) and a writing utensil.

Things I can do:

  • Write random ideas down on anything. Good sentences, concepts, character ideas. I got most of my PiBoIdMo and STORYSTORM ideas at my various day jobs.
  • Write whole first draft manuscripts. I wrote two manuscripts this year during lunch and one during a slow day. They were horrible but most first drafts are.
  • Draw quick thumbnail compositions without much thought. Actually I do better with first drafts and ideas when I work on something else. That’s why illustrating and writing go hand in hand for me. 
  • List blog ideas/begin writing blog posts. This is actually harder to do than manuscripts. 
  • Play out stories in my head while walking around. I do a lot of moving at work. They say that creativity works when you aren’t actively trying to be creative or something like thatthis article says so.

Things I shouldn’t do at the day job:

  • Edit manuscript. Writing firsts drafts is fine, editing them is not. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have to read my manuscripts out loud and that can get awkward.
  • Act out manuscript. I mean anyone could do this but…
  • Don’t get too invested. The whole point of creative thinking while doing other things is to not concentrate so hard. Hard concentration most likely leads to doubt and frustration and it’s incredibly difficult to get ideas with these two demons showing their ugly faces. This is why day jobs can be useful. 

Some days I just do my job because it gets pretty busy being Quality Control. This is why I need this reminder of the little things I can do to continue this journey to one day illustrating and writing children’s books.

Image below, always accurate!

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Passion Projects

As I continue to look through my notes from the conference I realize that… sheesh I have alotta notes.

That’s a good thing though!

These next set of notes are from a presentation titled “Passion Project”that was given by Alyssa Nassner, one of the people who critiqued my portfolio. Mostly for illustrators, but I think you can apply this to writing as well.

To start out, a passion project is a series of works that focus on a specific skill or topic, whatever the illustrator (or maybe writer!) is passionate about.

What makes a passion project? She listed:

  1.  Motivation (The will!)
  2. Inspiration (Idea)
  3. Creative Freedom (No one tells me what to do!)
  4. Time (Carve out time in you schedule!!!)

What does a passion project do?

  1. Improves work through practice.
  2. Increases online visibility.
  3. Demonstrates a consistent art style.
  4. Show cases interests (what inspires creativity?)
  5. Inspires others.

What should YOU do?

  1. Ask yourself what interests you?
  2. What skills would you like to improve?
  3. What type of industries interests you?
  4. Is there a grab in the market?
  5. What is fun and makes you happy?
  6. SET A REALISTIC GOAL!!! (This one is in all caps for me haha)

Nassner also goes into a bit about social media (side note, she pretty much scolded me for not having a URL or domain name, whoopsies, need to do that.) Pinterest and Instagram seem to be the big ones. Twitter, Facebook, and tumblr are others.

Basically, if you’re making a passion project share it! Everywhere! 

To end, my personal passion projects will be to work my on my line work with a weekly illustration, and to work on figure drawing/painting.

The line work will be a weekly project where the figure drawing/paintings will be a daily thing, starting next month when I clear my shed of the winterly spiders.

And this is where I begin my passion project.

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Hope you guys have fun with yours!

Small Press VS Large Press

Veronica Bartles, author of The Princess and the Frogs, gave an informative presentation Saturday at the From Dreaming to Doing 2017 MD/DE/WV conference about the differences between publishing your work at a small press vs a large press.

She began by listing a few things to the audience that I think every writer (and illustrator!) should think about:

  1. Figure out where you want to go.
  2. If you do not know where you want to go then it doesn’t matter what path you take (just think about the cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland when Alice asks what path she should take)
  3. WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?

She then went on to listing the differences between the two types of presses.

Small Press:

  1. Niche market or specific audience. This is good if you have a VERY specific type of book that may not work in a Large Press.
  2. Individualized attention.
  3. “Family” feel. Basically everyone knows you in that small company and you have like a sibling rival feel with the other published authors there.
  4. Innovative marketing. You’ll be pretty much marketing yourself.
  5. No agent required.
  6. Advance and royalties. Some have a higher royalty rate, some don’t even have them.
  7. Also, make sure to know your contract inside and out because the small press could own your rights one day and then they might go under the next day and STILL have the rights to your book despite not existing anymore.

Large Press:

  1. Expanded market, which is great for a wider distributer.
  2. Perceived status.
  3. “One of the gang” feel, like you are now with the “big kids.”
  4. Powerful marketing.
  5. Agent required.
  6. Advance and royalties.
  7. Again, pay attention to contracts. Every press is different!

As  for picture books, a bigger press would be a better option so for me I would not go with a small press.

Bartles ends on this note, “Whatever path you’re taking, make it YOUR path, not someone else’s.”