Friday, November 26, 2010

Illustration Friday: Savour

The last cup of water before the light goes out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #7: Live Near a Good Coffee Shop

I have two young kids and the chaos in our house is not often conducive to thinking. When I need to write, I ride my bike to the coffee shop, order a cup of coffee and then grab the table in the corner. I order only a cup of coffee because as soon as I start thinking about whether I need a muffin or a pumpkin cookie moon pie or whatever other amazing pastry they've whipped up for the day, the focus is no longer on the writing.

I like the commotion and activity of the cafe. Silence is deadly for me. Thank you cafe owners for allowing me to "rent" a table for $3.00 when I need to get something done. :)

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #6: Your Experience Will Serve You

For most of my life, I have wanted to write and illustrate books. I've tried on and off over the years to do so. It is only recently that I'm beginning to find inspiration and a voice that feels authentic. I'm realizing though, that all of my various pursuits up to this point are informing what I do now. This is amazing to me because when I wasn't illustrating or writing, I always felt so far away from it. My jobs and pursuits felt completely unrelated. But when I look at my current work, I see all of those years woven in. For example:
1. I worked as an art director for years. Most of that time was spent designing multi-page publications. Some were magazines but most were (gulp) catalogs. I realize now that this was my bootcamp for understanding pacing and page design.
2. I worked in a calligraphy studio. This was my bootcamp for lettering and drawing with nibs. I am more comfortable with a dip pen and india ink than a marker.
3. I've spent a lot of training time on a bike. I've gotten to know Northern California from the seat of a bike. The terrain and early morning scenery live in my brain. I find that I gravitate toward those colors and landscapes frequently in my images.

I suppose my point is that all life experience gives us resources from which to draw. And when the time is right, those experiences can come together in unexpected and wonderful ways. I'd love to know if you agree. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Illustration Friday: Burning

Burning cheeks: the realization that polka dot footie pajamas are no longer okay to wear to school. My daughter is four. She has pajama day at her preschool. I'm assuming that, at some point, she probably won't think wearing pajamas to school is the best thing ever. When exactly does that happen?!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #5: Getting Ideas Down on Paper (Part Two)

Last week I wrote a bit about my process. Did I mention that I love thumbnails? Okay, good. Then, picking up where I left off:

My thumbnails are rough (they’re only about 1” x 2”). I enlarge them and refine. I do this again to arrive at a rough sketch. I like to sketch at a small size. That is my comfort zone. As a student, I tried to begin by sketching large images, assuming that beginning with a larger sketch would result in more detailed images. I was always frustrated by the results. It has taken me years to develop this process, but I’ve finally figured out that working from a thumbnail is the right method for me.

I enlarge the rough sketches to use in my dummies. I think this works on two levels. One, I can work in my comfort zone (smaller sketches) and two, it keeps the sketches from becoming unnecessarily detailed at this early stage. It’s easy to get drawn into the details and distracted from the purpose of each image.

I’ve arrived at this method of working because of my background as a designer, illustrator and writer. I continue to be amazed at the ways in which we all bring our unique experience and strengths to the process of creating children’s books and always love to hear about what works or doesn't for everyone else out there.

Here's a progression from smallest, roughest thumbnails to intermediate thumbnails and then a loose sketch:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Lessons Learned, #4: Getting Ideas Down on Paper (Part One)

Hi all, just a quick note to let you know that I am SWAMPED with work. I may not be doing Illustration Friday quite as much (sniff) but I'll still be posting on Wednesdays. I hope to be back to IF soon. I miss it already. Now, on to the topic of the week:

People tend to be curious about my process and whether I begin with words or images. In my case, both are woven together. Most projects begin with a spark of inspiration—usually a character idea or an observation of a quirk that develops into a character. After that initial spark, I do rough sketches of the character. I keep them very loose and try various poses and expressions. This helps me get to know the character.

I also begin to consider dialogue: what does the character think or say? This guides me into the story. I try to envision the character’s environment and how the character exists within that environment. I also begin to envision the other players in the story and their relationship to the main character.

Next, I like to think about spreads. What are the moments of action in the story? I jot down notes about various scenes, sometimes with sketchy thumbnails in my notebook. I brainstorm and put as many possibilities down on paper as I can. This stage is not about the plot. It is about getting to know the character(s) and key interactions. I am drawn to humor so this is often about the moments—either visual or written—that make me chuckle.

After some time has passed, I review the scenes with a fresh perspective. I circle the most cohesive parts. Often an order begins to suggest itself. At this stage, I like to do thumbnails of the whole book. In art school, I didn’t understand thumbnails. It frustrated me that I couldn’t put any detail into those little squares. It wasn’t until I began to work as a designer that I came to value them. Now, I love thumbnails for their ability to show size relationships, positive/negative space and pacing at a quick glance. In my studio, there is a drawer full of legal sized sheets, each printed with thumbnail rectangles. There’s no need to mess with rulers or drawing rectangles or anything else that might distract me. I write. I sketch. I write. I sketch.

(Part two will be posted next week!)