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.”

 

 

 

The Sound of a Picture Book

The noise, the sound. What do I mean by the sound of a picture book?

I think I’m more questioning myself.

But really, what do I mean? Is it the noise, the volume, tone, rhythm, or dialogue when reading a picture book?

Is the sound of a picture book the interaction between the reader, the listener, and the story? There seem to be many different ways to have some kind of lively interaction.

The first obvious sound of a picture would be rhyme. A good rhyming picture book has a way of guiding the reader through the tale with it’s rhythm.

The book that immediately pops up in my mind when I think of great rhyming is There Once Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle. Through rhyme, Klostermann tells a story about a dragon who, yes, swallows a knight, and a steed, and a squire, and a few other things too. Try reading that picture book without a rhythm and a bob to your head! If you’re like me, it’s hard to do.

Hey prose can have a rhythm too! Just look at Pete the Cat; I Love My White Shoes, it has only one repeating sentence that rhymes throughout the entire book, but the rest of the story doesn’t rhyme at all. The big rhythm making sentence here is singing the song, “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes” or whatever color shoes he happens to have at the time.

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While I’m thinking about non-ryhming rhythm, I can’t help but point out one page in particular of The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Nathaniel Stookey.

 

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There is this lovely back and forth action between the names listed of the deceased composers and the word “dead,” and if you can pronounce all those names correctly, good for you because I can’t! I can still feel a rhythm here that I haven’t really seen anywhere else, and this particular page really brings out the peak of the story, the reveal of who killed the composer. Was it the strings, the brass, the woodwinds, or the percussion? You won’t know until you read!

Another sound of a picture book can be dialogue, or I’ve referred picture books written only in dialogue secretly as scripts.

Books like I Don’t Want To Be A Frog, written by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt, or Thank You, Octopus , by Darren Farrell need some kind of acting involved because the reader is not just the narrator speaking for the character in the story. The reading IS the character speaking as the character. There is no narrator here that separates character and reader anymore. Now I’m not saying there is no “acting” involved in a normal picture reading during story time, it’s just when I read dialogue I think more in mind of the character.

Could just be me!

Perhaps I could go a little bit further and say that the sound of a picture book is a type of reader manipulation. A good picture book, or story in general,  seems to manipulate the reader into doing what the story wants them to do, either by feeling what the story wants the reader to feel, or make the reader read the story a certain way.

Manipulation from a picture book? Sounds kind of obscure.

It’s like when I’m reading Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Every page shows the bull getting bigger and BIGGER and every page I’m reading louder and LOUDER until everything deflates and you return to normal speech, maybe even quieter as the bull main character is feeling the ashamed by how much of a bully he has been towards his friends.

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I wanted to focus of these stories because they made me realize what I enjoy about the interaction of reading a story aloud.

So, what is the sound of a picture book?

Eh I still don’t really know, but I think it’s the auditory interaction between story, reader, and listener.

And it was phrase I thought just sounded good at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

I Miss Looking at Art

What do I mean by that? I miss looking at art? I look at it EVERY DAY.

Constantly analyzing.

I constantly wonder if a piece is good. I judge the design on a page and determine if the words match a scene or if they’re in the right place and then I’ll write about it or read about what makes good art and what makes bad art, what makes a good picture book, what makes a bad picture book.

I judge the work of others therefore I judge myself, a constant state of judgmental criticism that means well.

How can this piece be better? What’s missing? What needs to be left out?

Or… this piece has everything lined in place and there are no awkward tensions and the words match and this scene conveys this particular message extraordinarily well and there is emotion detected and each character is diverse enough and this placement is purposeful and this concept could sell well…

I don’t just look at art anymore or just appreciate it for what the it is, and because of this I’m losing my own enjoyment as an art and book lover.

I miss looking at art. I think I should go back to doing that.

 

 

The Pause

The Pause is personally one of my favorite techniques an illustrator could use. Please pause that writing, let the illustrations take over in the silence. Let me as the reader understand, realize the moral of the story the writer and illustrator has worked so hard to bring together.

I’ve written about how A Sick Day for Amos McGee creates the pause in it’s pages. A story about an elderly zoo keeper visits his animal friends at the zoo, but then he becomes sick! So what do the animal friends do? They visit him. The turnaround in the story is shown with four page spreads, two of those pages lacking words and altogether only nine words on the eight pages of content. 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is only one example of the pause. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is another. 

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Throughout Barnett’s work, the play between color verses black and white sets the concept of adding a little color with creativity into the world where color and creativity may be lacking. Each page spread has text all except the second image above. 

To shorten the story, the main character finds this box of never-ending colorful yearn and uses it to change her grey environment. A Duke learns of this never-ending colorful yarn and steals the box. However, when he opens the box for himself, it is empty and he throws it away. The box eventually comes back to our main character and again it is full of the colorful yarn. 

The pause here only uses the word “But” and then silence as the reader knows that box is going to end up back where it began, to the creative individual who has never-ending creativity, finding value in the “empty” box. If that pause wasn’t here the ending wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it was. Perfect example of show, not tell. 

So there are pauses like the two examples above, and then you have a pause like in Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 

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In this entire story, the narrator constantly reminds the reader that while dragons love tacos, never ever EVER give them spicy ones. This pause here is to simply give the reader a comedic, complete and utter visual effect of just why you should never give a dragon a spicy taco. 

Even Maurice Sendak used the pause in Where the Wild Things Are.

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This pause lasts for three page spreads of Max and the wild things romping around and being…wild. Another example of show not tell until the last image shown above where Max is beginning to miss home. 

The moral of the story? There is no place like home. One may wander away from a familiar setting, get lost in day dreams and adventures, however they always return.

I think these four page spreads really dig this theme in deep. The wild fun, the lost in time adventure that Max has becomes stale and his reaction is illustrated in that sitting pose and home sick face.

The last one I want to look at is very different from the four mentioned above. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen pauses the illustration, not the text. 

 

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Above you have three images that represent pretty much what the entire story looks like. Abstract illustration compositions, lots of space, little text throughout the entire story…except for one page.

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Space, space, space and then…BAM! Wall of text, a pause in the illustration and design! What? Who does this? Is this acceptable within the picture book world nowadays to have a a wall of text like this? 

This wall of text symbolizes confrontation. The main character is confronting his fear of the emptiness, the darkness. The wall of text is confronting the reading, interrupting that abstract, design based flow. The main character realizes the dark isn’t all that bad and this text makes the reader realize this as well. 

I’m still not sure if this text would be appropriate to some readers. Text ultimately should be evenly spaced throughout the book, not forced in on a single page. However, without this pause in illustration, I don’t think the point of not fearing the dark would have come across as well as it did. 

So that’s it folks! The pause is a technique that I’ve tried using as well. I may not have it down as masterfully as the creators did mentioned above, but I might make a great pause one day.

The Pause, The Noise, The Concept

As I’m going through these picture books that I love on my list I’m noticing a few similarities.

I felt like I was repeating myself when writing reviews.

So I’ve been doing something different. 

The Pause is something that grabs my attention quickly to any picture book that does this. It’s the turnaround in the tale, the “Ah ha!” moment, the pause in time and space when the viewer can finally come face to face with the moral of the story. A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Extra Yarn, Where the Wild Things Are, and Dragons Love Tacos are a few examples of this technique. 

The Noise is just simply sounds that make a scene in a book worthy of attention. This includes shaping words, dialogue, and words molded into the illustrations. Bully, There was an Old Dragon who Swallowed a Knight, Pete the Cat, Iggy Peck Architect, and Bloom are a few. 

The Concept is the idea of the picture book. Most of the stories I love have characters that learn how to deal with themselves, who they are, what they are afraid of, and how they interact with the world around them. Most of these concepts almost have a bitter sweet tone to them.  I Don’t Want to be a Frog, Please Louise, The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty, and The Dark all kinda deal with facing oneself, fears, and the world. 

These are the big three. I could totally get into more themes like stories that end full circle, stories with interesting narration, stories with only dialogue, stories that rhyme vs prose, and some others.

Instead of doing the  stories separate I’ve created some posts that deal with these three themes. I feel like this has helped me with STORYSTORM this month a great deal. 

 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Amos McGee loves visiting his friends at the zoo while he works. But one day the zookeeper wakes up sick and his friends the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl decide to visit him instead.

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The Stead’s work brings you a wonderful story with a great friendship, splendid pacing, cute animals, and the charming Amos McGee all rolled into one. With Philip C. Stead’s wonderfully written work and Erin E. Stead’s beautifully illustrated woodblock printings and pencil, you have a timeless work of art here.

Now I’m going to be steering a bit from my usual review formula because it is the month of STORYSTORM. These are the books I love and cherish.

I would like to start off with looking at the great characters, the main character being an elderly man instead of a child and IT WORKS. There are tons of children’s books out there that have animal and child characters that work but not many with an elderly old man who is sick for a day. During the thousand times I’ve heard or read that I need only children and animals (that’s it!!!) in my illustration portfolio, I always think back to Amos McGee and remember there are exceptions.

Aside from great characters (hey the animals are great too) the pacing is wonderful. I’m talking mainly about the images below…UGGGGG 7.jpegUGGGGG 8.jpegUGGGGG 9.jpegUGGGGG 10.jpeg

Only nine words here and that is eight pages worth of story and it is the best thing these creators could have done. Sometimes when there is a turning point in a story, the best thing is to allow the illustrations take control to set the mood. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, also does something similar with their turing point. I will show that later.

And to wrap up, the Steads’ work really is a timeless story. Most people who do read pictures books (teachers, parents, kids, book lovers, creators…) have read this book. And if you haven’t and you are interested in writing and/or illustrating picture books I highly recommend it.

The good list:

  • GREAT bedtime story
  •  Short, sweet, to the point
  • Illustrations are marvelous
  • Good story time material as well I would think
  • Lovable characters
  • Pacing is good enough for taking notes on a way to pace a story
  • The story is simply about a good friendship.

That’s it for today! Hopefully these images remind or inspire anyone who is reading this and is doing the STORYSTORM challenge. They most certainly inspire me!

Oh! Philip Stead’s website