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.

 

Conference Notes

This weekend’s MD/DE/WV conference, “25 and Still We R(ev)use” was a success!

I’ll share the experience that I had as much as I can. I can’t share ALL my notes because, well, I encourage other writers/illustrators to go to these conferences and hear from agents, editors, speakers, other authors and illustrators for themselves.

At first I got lost in the building. I don’t really know why I got lost, the place wasn’t that big, but I still found myself wandering back and fourth to find the volunteer spot. Eventually I found it of course with the help from the staff and another lady who was ALSO lost and volunteering at the time, which I found out later that she will be the new illustrator coordinator for the MD/DE/WV SCBWI if I’m remembering correctly.

As kind of a side note I’ll say that volunteering is a great way to talk to people if you have social anxiety like I do. When you volunteer you act as a group working toward a similar, simple goal. Being put to use is also a plus.

Technical problems began the keynote speaker session. You know, mic and the slideshow clicker problems. Luckily James Ransome got past that pretty quickly and went on to tell a little about himself:

  • The quote he kept using was “I feel like a lucky so and so” when speaking about his journey to becoming a known illustrator. Quite the journey it was!
  • Has a drawing table from high school which was used a dining room table at some point. (My scribbled notes say “Damn! That must be a sturdy table to last this long!”)
  • He’s created all kinds of different artwork from sports illustrations to children’s books to christmas designs made into bags and cards to landscape paintings. Basically he just wants to create whatever he can in whatever medium he feels like it at the time, which is great in my opinion!
  • A lot of his art inspiration comes from fine artists like Degas, Matisse, Kerry James Marshall, Diebenkorn, and John Singer Sargent to name a few.
  • He loves football.

At this point I had my volunteering time as a walk in critique timer. I feel like this was one of those fated moments that could potentially further a career, but I’ll write about that later.

The “In the Trenches” talk was a good one, mostly for the quotes:

  • When dealing with an agent you don’t want anymore for whatever reason, “Don’t be afraid to leave” advice from Leah Henderson.
  • “Get agented with someone who matches your personality” and when dealing with rejection and stress “Drink wine, eat chocolate, and have a support group” from Courtney Pippi-Mathur.
  • Maria Gianferrari says to “Give yourself a day to wallow” after a rejection.
  • John Micklos Jr says to “develop thick skin” in this business.
  • From my personal notes I wrote that one needs to find an agent that’s more excited about your project than you are because you won’t be able to make a good relationship with your agent if they are not excited about your work (duh!)

I don’t want to spoil too much of Leah Henderson’s “What to Think About when Writing Cross Culturally” so I’ll just write the one thing that stood out to me. When asked about too much censorship, she said something along the lines of “it’s not about censorship. It’s about being aware of blind spots that make their way into the book.”

The best advice overall that the conference gave:

  • A good story brings out an emotional response, laughter, anger, sadness, hope.
  • A good story has STRONG CHARACTERS THE READER CAN RELATE TO.
  • When talking to an agent/editor/author/illustrator/basically anyone human with a different cultural background than you, please don’t “accidentally” be racist, like speaking Japanese or Chinese to an Asian American who doesn’t speak that language…
  • Write from the heart, don’t write fads. Fads go out of style.
  • Allow yourself to cry but don’t allow yourself to give up.

And that’s it folks! I think this conference was more successful to me personally than last years and I’ll soon write about that as well. Again, I suggest writer or illustrator to go out to conferences like this. 🙂

 

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Jump In! 

 

 

 

ReFoReMo Time!

It’s that time of year again!

The time where everything seems to happen all at once and you make too many promises to too many projects and then explode.

This also happens to be the time for ReFoReMo!

If you don’t know what that is, click on that link above for a more detailed explanation than what I give here.

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ReFoReMo is a full month of picture book reading and reading about other people reading picture books haha. Each day a guest speaker is posted on the blog and talks about a theme for your set of books that day. Some books are repeated because each guest speaker has a something different to say. ReFoReMo is a great way to analyze picture books and talk about what makes each book WORK.

I didn’t quite get to ALL the books last year, (there was around 100 books I think?) but I certainly got to most of them and the blog posts are always good. Oh, they end with a prizes too.

So go sign up… if you and your local library is up for the challenge. 😉

 

 

The Thing About Business Cards

Okay so you have your promo cards, or you’re skipping out on them. That’s fine.

Now it’s on to business cards!

There are several questions you have to ask yourself when designing business cards. Personally, I like business cards more than promo cards simply because of the size. Having all those postcards from other illustrators is nice to line them all up on a cork board for references, but at the end of the day too many postcards just means a bigger paper mass to deal with at the bottom of your bag.

The thing about business cards, the creation:

  • WHAT IS YOUR ILLUSTRATION STYLE? I mentioned this with postcards as well, but there are a few elements that can make a style other than your drawing or painting. Your compositions can be just as important to style as the drawing. Do you want just one spot illustration of a funny character? Do you want some environment in there? Do you tend to add your font into the illustration or keep it separate? Do you illustrate your own font? And…
  • ROUNDED OR SQUARE CORNERS? Yes, the physical appearance of the card is also part of your style.  This year I want to pay more for rounded corners as rounded corners give a softer, “bouncier” characteristic that matches the shapes of my drawing style. You can also have rectangle or square cards. And…
  • GLOSS OR MATTE? Matte is what I usually go with because gloss doesn’t work with my illustrations. Matte has that soft look that also works with rounded corners. If you think your illustrations would work best in gloss, like I can imagine a space scene looking pretty rad with a gloss layer, then go with gloss.
  •   NO MATTER YOUR STYLE, KEEP IT SIMPLE. A business card image is typically 3.5 x 2 inches so don’t add too much. Your information might get lost or someone is like my dad who can’t see details up close won’t be able to know whats going on haha. I kind of did this with last years business cards…
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  • WHAT’S ON THE BACK? Again, I would keep it simple. Last year I had a cute image on the back but this year I only have my illustrated font and type in color. This is the back of last years..     tobee copy.jpg

 

The thing about business cards, the distribution:

  • WHO SHOULD YOU GIVE YOUR CARDS TO? Anyone and everyone! That’s the beauty of business cards, they fit in your wallet. You can just pull out the cards whenever you get a chance. Most likely you’ll be stacking up the cards next to your portfolio at a conference, but I’ve given my card while having small conversations with  random strangers waiting in line at retail stores. I’ve given my cards to the women at the library whenever they give me that look while I go straight to the children’s book section and take a stack of picture books to the counter.
  • SHOULD YOU HAVE A LOGO? I would say yes. Having a logo makes you recognizable if you continue giving out different business cards and promo cards with it on there. I’d say a logo is good business. I have my bee for b.handi this year.
  • WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD YOU HAVE ON THE BACK? Instagram, Facebook, twitter, website, email. Everything you want, just make it neat and easy to read.
  • And last, the friendly reminder to HAVE A CRITIQUE GROUP. Oh, and make sure whatever image you have on your business card matches the genre you’re going for  of course.

And that’s all! I hope I’m more prepared for the conference this year. I like my business card much better this time around.

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The Thing About Postcards

In light of the upcoming conference, postcards are a great way to promote your illustrations! It’s simple, just send out a small sample of your work to any ol’ publisher and they’ll certainly be interested in you!

Just kidding… I wish it was that easy.

There are a few things about postcards that any illustrator new to the children’s book world needs to know, things that I wish I knew before I went and spent money on sets of wasted postcards… I really should’ve done more research.

The thing about postcards, the creative side:

  • THE POSTCARD SHOULD HAVE ONLY WHAT YOU WANT TO ILLUSTRATE ON IT.  This seems pretty obvious so maybe I’ll back up and ask…
  • WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO ILLUSTRATE? If you don’t know exactly what you want to illustrate I would hold off on making a postcard for now. Why would you send something to a publisher if you can’t repeat or don’t want to make more of what you sent them? So…
  • FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE TO CREATE BEFORE PROMOTING YOURSELF. I’m harping on this because I personally did not know what I wanted to draw or who I was as an artist. I still struggle with this sometimes. For some illustrators, they know their style and they can repeat it and those are the lucky ones.
  • MAKE SEVERAL DRAFTS BEFORE COMMITTING. Design matters just as much as the image itself. You might have the PERFECT image that represents your work but it doesn’t fit in postcard size because of the image being too detailed or it doesn’t really work with font, then that might not be your image.
  • While we are on fonts, CHOOSE THE RIGHT FONT FOR YOUR BRAND. You don’t want to have a font like Papyrus for a children’s book illustrator promo card, I mean unless it somehow matches a quirky pirate and you really like illustrating pirates.
  • THINK ABOUT THE FRONT AND THE BACK. Okay so you might be able to get away with the image not being font friendly so you now need to worry about that information looking professional on the back. Oh, and while your back there, make the information memorable by adding some quirky image that works with the front image. The best postcards I’ve see are the ones that continue their little story on the back with something unexpected. Note that it might be a good idea to make it clear your images CAN work with type if you are illustrating for children’s books.

The thing about postcards, the business side:

  • RESEARCH THE PEOPLE YOU’RE SENDING THESE THINGS TO. You can’t just send a card with sea animals on it to, I dunno, Shen’s Books, an imprint of Lee and Low Books which focuses on multicultural stories only.  You might be able to send those cute sea critters to Boyds Mills Press though, depending on the style. Go look!
  • MAKE THE POSTCARD STAND OUT. I added this part in the business section because standing out amongst other illustrators is a good business tactic. It’s a combination of an eye-catching image, great design, and good story telling. That publisher will have postcards everywhere and it’s the same for conferences too. The last conference I went to I came home with half a bag full of postcards.
  • COMPARE WITH BUSINESS CARDS. Do you have a business card with a completely different style than the one on your postcard? That might actually be a problem. Sending mixed messages there…
  • SENDING HOLDAY CARDS MIGHT BE THE WAY TO GO. I haven’t done this yet, I’ll admit it. But I can see how constantly sending out cards to different places and keeping up with the times/season might be actually a good way to get attention. Now I’m not saying to like bombard one publisher with a bunch of your postcards constantly. That would probably get you BAD attention. Having designs for holidays every year would even be nice for family and friends too, just get people interested in looking at YOUR work.
  • AND LAST, GET CONNECTED WITH YOUR ILLUSTRATOR COMMUNITY. Okay I just like to add this with every post because it is important to be around other illustrators and see how they solve illustrator problems…CRITIQUE GROUPS!!!

I’m NOT a published illustrator but I’m learning. Everything I just mentioned is based off of the mistakes that I’ve made, some research I’ve done, and things I’ve noticed from successful illustrators.

For kicks and giggles, here are some of my failed postcard designs… alltheanimalsinballoons.jpg

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I’ll make a better one this time, I promise haha.

Review: Princesses Wear Pants

Sure, Princess Penelope Pineapple loves her closet full of tiaras and dazzling dresses but she has things to do! She can’t be bothered with beauty when planting her beats. Her lab coat suits her just fine for science fairs and she likes to unwind with comfy old jeans, the patched-up kind. And princesses certainly can’t save the day with frilly frills that get in the way! Guthrie and Oppenheim’s rhyming picture book for ages 4 to 8, along with Eva Bryne’s sparkling illustrations, says that girls can be fashionable and functional. 

Unfortunately this concept is pretty outdated. 

There are plenty of other “girl power” picture books out there. Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts are just two books that immediately come to mind. Here you can find more girl empowering picture books and with just a quick google search you’ll find even more.

Guthrie and Oppenheim’s book is NOT recommended and here is why with the good/bad list:

  • Bad. Obviously a little behind the times. I shouldn’t have to say more…except maybe if it was a book about how boys can wear dresses it would be better.
  • Bad. Everything in the book is layered with PINK, a popular gendered color, not to mention Penelope’s brother is in BLUE, another popular gendered color.IMG_4313.jpg
  • Bad. The illustrations fall short due to the bad anatomy. Here are some examples…Unknown.jpeg
  • Bad. The main character’s alliteration name makes me cringe, probably makes Ann Whitford Paul, the author of Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide  from Story Creation to Publication, cringe as well.  
  • Only a little bad… Rhyming is only so-so.
  • Good. I like the styles of clothes in the book.

 

If your child likes sparkly glitter and fashionable clothes, then maybe Guthrie and Oppenheim’s work is for them. However I do not feel that this is an accurate “activistic” book that I think the authors are trying to go for. I didn’t buy Princesses Wears Pants personally, it was a gag gift.

And last, here is just a short list of picture books of mine and that I recommend over Princesses Wear pants:

  1. Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts.
  2. Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Sadler
  3. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  4. Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim, illustrated by Sophie Blackwell
  5. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddelley
  6. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoet