Happy Monday! My newest Skillshare class went live last week and I’m super excited to share it with you! This class is called Character Illustration From Feelings to Faces and here’s the description of the class from Skillshare:
Learn how illustrator Christine Fleming visualizes emotions and injects genuine feelings into her illustrated facial expressions.
This 30-minute class is broken up into two parts: Learning and Drawing. In the Learning section, Christine will introduce the 6 primary emotions—like joy, surprise, and anger. Then, she’ll expand each primary emotion and discover the 15 secondary emotions—like excitement, wonder, and rage. As you go through each emotion, Christine will point out universal physical changes in the face that communicate with each emotion using photo references. These physical features are vital in understanding how to draw strong, recognizable emotions.
Then you’ll put that knowledge to work in the Drawing section, where you and Christine will draw emotions together through speed drawing exercises! You can choose to complete the Core Project and draw the 6 primary emotions, or go for the Bonus Challenge and draw all 26 emotions! This style of speed drawing is a great way to loosen up and get comfortable drawing expressive emotions.
By the end of the class, you’ll have a full set of facial expressions drawn in your own style that you can use as a reference for future character design projects, or just drawing people for fun! You don’t need any prior knowledge of drawing or character illustration for this class, and no software is required. All you need is a piece of paper, a pencil, and 30 minutes!
And look at all the lovely projects students are creating! I’m so happy people are enjoying the class, and having fun drawing emotional faces! Go check out the project gallery to see more of their wonderful work.
Skillshare has a new feature called Sessions, and they asked me to host one! I created a session called August Session: Illustrating Science with Charm, that includes both my scientific illustration class, and my newest character illustration class. The sessions are really cool because when you enroll in the session, you get to go through the class (or multiple classes) with the teacher and a set group of students with a project timeline and reminders and task deadlines along the way! So it’s more like taking a real class and will hopefully more more interactive than a normal online class. The session started today, but you can still join at any time and catch up!
In other news… I am B-U-S-Y. Which is fantastic. I definitely thrive best when I’m busy, it gives me more energy and confidence to have a lot going on. I’m currently working on: illustrating my first magazine cover, four(!) nesting doll sets, two typography-based animated videos, a couple graphic design projects, and brainstorming more on my graphic novel. Better get back to work!
Wow, oh, wow! Last weekend I was at the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles! This was my fourth conference, but I can confidently say it was the best one! I love the set up of this conference, the weather, the speaker line up, the workshops, the people I met… everything! It was an awesome experience and I learned an tremendous amount. I came back to Texas reinvigorated, inspired, and excited! Armed with advice and confidence builders and new friends! We aren’t supposed to share specific notes from the conference (otherwise we’re giving their stuff out for free!), but I’m going to do a quick little synopsis of what I enjoyed most in LA, share some tips that I wish I had known before my first conference, and some things I’ve learned along the way!
Friday: Day 1
- Keynote: Mem Fox, “Inside the Writer’s Head: The Writerly Thoughts that Lead to Success”
- Workshop: Miranda Paul, “Creative Nonfiction Picture Books”
- Keynote: Adam Rex, “How I Make Picture Books”
- Workshop: Alexandra Penfold, “Poetry and Prose in Picture Books”
- Manuscript Critique: April Wayland
- Evening Event: Illustrator Social
Saturday: Day 2
- Keynote: Dan Santat, ” All It Takes is a Little Taste”
- Agents Panel: Jenny Bent, Brenda Bowen, Barry Goldblatt, Kristen Nelson, Alexandra Penfold, and Jodi Reamer
- Workshop: Candace Fleming/Eric Rohmann, “Seven Simple Fixes for the Picture Book Text”
- Keynote: Varian Johnson, “If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It”
- Workshop: Adam Rex, “Characters with Character”
- Keynote: Molly Idle
- Evening Event: Portfolio Showcase
Sunday: Day 3
- Keynote: Deborah Halverson, “Up-to-the-Minute Market Report”
- Keynote: Stephen Fraser, “Middle Grade Perfection: What We Can Learn From Classic and Best-Selling Books”
- Keynote: Shannon Hale, “Opening Up the Clubhouse: Boys, Girls, and Genderless Books”
- Workshop: Molly Idle, “Incorporating Cinematic Sensibilities into Your Work”
- Luncheon: Dan Yaccarino, “Golden Kit Awards Presentation”
- Workshop: Dan Santat, “Writing From An Illustrator’s Perspective”
- Keynote: Kwame Alexander, “Taking the Creative L.E.A.P”
Monday: Illustrator Intensive
- Laurent Linn, “Show and Tell: Exploring the Toolkit”
- John Rocco, “Knowing What’s In Your Toolkit and How to Use It”
- Patti Ann Harris, Laurent Linn, Lauren Rille: “Art Director’s Panel: Matching the Right Tools to the Right Job”
- Lunch: Craft (also right next to the conference hotel!)
- Melissa Sweet, “Drawing In: Creating Inspiration From Tools At Your Fingertips”
- Brenda Bowen, Alexandra Penfold, Cecilia Yung, Pat Cummings: “Homework Assignment Review”
- Dan Santat, “Form Follows Function”
- All Illustrator Faculty: “Tips and Techniques to Go”
- Go to the illustrator social! It’s a great and easy way to meet people early on in the conference and collect postcards so you can keep up with new friends once you get home. It’s nice they do this the first night too, because you’ll keep bumping into the people you meet at the social throughout the weekend.
- Sign up for a manuscript critique! I got one of my stories critiqued in a manuscript critique with the poet April Wayland, who has won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Poetry (7 times!), the National Parenting Publications Gold Medal, the Sydney Taylor Gold Award, the Scholastic Blue Ribbon Best Seller, and her books have been recommended on PBS’s “Storytime”! Eek! I was really excited when I was assigned to her because I new she’d give me great advice on the writing of my manuscript—and she definitely did! She pointed out a few things no one had before that I thought were fantastic ideas, or problems I hadn’t really noticed before. So thank you April for all your help!
- Don’t be afraid to skip something! I think a lot of creatives, myself included are introverts. So 4 days of 1,400 people and 8 hours of programming can start to take it’s toll on your brain. When I attended my first conference I felt like I had to attend EVERYTHING because I had paid so much to be there. I’ve since realized that sometimes you may need to take a little break and have some time to yourself during the day so you can stay energized. Take a little solo cookie break in the afternoon if you need to and don’t feel bad about it! Better to be awake and present to what you choose to attend than a zombie that attends everything.
- Corollary Tip: Attend some things you think might be lame! I went to a Middle Grade keynote this conference that I though I wouldn’t be interested in, but it was actually really awesome and inspired me to look more into that category of books!
- Bring promo stuff to hand out! You can see all the things I brought above. I ordered some new postcards to promote my picture book dummy, but I also had some leftover business cards and bookmarks from previous conference. I passed out A TON, but still came home with leftovers! Oh well, better to have too many than run out. I’d guess I passed out 300 pieces including the portfolio showcase. I also brought my portfolio and two picture book dummies for the showcase.
- Bring a jacket or sweater! The conference events are almost always freezing, so you’ll definitely want a sweater to pull on during long keynotes. But then, you might go outside and eat lunch in the beautiful sun! So be sure to dress in layers. My favorite outfit (speaking functionally, not necessarily fashion-ally), was a casual-esque pencil skirt, a sleeveless blouse, a sweater, and ankle booties. This suited all my needs, looked good, and—most importantly—was comfortable.
- Take tons of notes! You’ll want to remember so many things it will be impossible unless you write them down! I like to bring a little tiny notebook I can jot things down in quickly. Then I organize the notes when I get home in Google Docs.
- The hotel the conference is held at (Hyatt) is SUPER expensive even with the SCBWI discount. Some people find a roommate to split the cost of a room, but it’s still probably $100+ a night.
- If you’d like to save some money and are willing to give up a little convenience, try looking for an Airbnb! We stayed in a wonderful place about 15 minutes away from the conference hotel, and it worked perfectly. You’ll have to either rent a car, take an Uber, or get someone to drop you off at the conference, but that was pretty simple. Our place was a really lower/private room in a house in Mar Vista, and was $60 a night. Our host was super friendly and helpful.
- But that said, the hotel (pictured above) is reeeeeeally nice, so if you have the extra money to spend, it would be nice and more convenient to stay there. Personally, I’d rather spend my money on food…
I don’t know about you, but when I travel, where and what I’m going to eat is high priority. I usually go in to a vacation with a Google Doc full of places I want to go. So here, have my research!
Restaurants we went to this year that I highly recommend:
- Hinoki and the Bird: Right next to the conference hotel! Try the crab toast and curried mussels!
- Louie’s of Mar Vista: Try the sriracha honey fried chicken!
- Ink: Michael Voltaggio’s (winner of Top Chef) restaurant. Try the Japanese raw scallop, beef cheek with eggplant, and kind-of-apple-pie dessert!
- Craft: Tom Collichio’s (Judge of Top Chef) restaurant. Try the crispy lemon halibut and side of mushrooms!
- Santouka Ramen: Try the Toroniku Pork Ramen, pictured above! (FYI: cash only, though they do have an ATM.)
- New York Bagel and Deli: I know—it’s New York bagels in LA, but they’re really good! It was right down the street from our Airbnb, so we sat outside and relaxed before the conference with our bagel and coffee!
- The food court in the mall right next to the conference hotel is also a really easy place to get lunch in between events. It’s not your typical Chick-fil-A food court—this place has Ramen, sushi, and bao! Try the BBQ Pork Bao!
Restaurants I’ve been to previously that I highly recommend:
- Cha Cha Chicken: Carribean food, cheap, outside seating, near the beach, try the Caribbean chicken (duh) and fresh cantaloupe juice!
- Daikokuya: Amazing ramen in Little Tokyo!
- Father’s Office: Wonderful burger-y goodness with caramelized onions.
Restaurants I want to go to next time:
- Pot: Roy Choi’s Korean restaurant downtown
- Kogi Food Truck: Roy Choi’s Korean taco food truck that basically started the whole food truck craze years ago
- n/naka: Japanese, featured on the new Netflix show, Chef’s Table. I think it’s pre-fix menu only… so probably expensive.
- Maude: Curtis Stone’s restaurant, he picks one ingredient each month and makes a pre-fix menu around that food. This month’s was fig! I think you have to get reservations pretty far in advance.
- Animal: Specializes in unusual animal dishes like pig cheek
Don’t Forget You’re in California!
Try to leave yourself sometime to do something non-conference-y while you’re in LA! I wish I was able to take an extra day just to explore more, but even if you don’t you’ll still have a couple hours in the evening to go adventuring! The city in itself is really inspiring, and the weather is amazing, especially after being the freezing conference all day.
I hope this post helps out if you’re thinking about going to the next SCBWI LA Conference! I tried to answer some of the questions/worries I had before my first conference last year, or things I would have liked to have known before going. Anyways, it’s an awesome experience, and no matter where you are in your career, I think it can be a huge help to everyone and you’ll come away inspired, reinvigorated, and with more direction for your work! And maybe best of all, you’ll meet a bunch of really friendly and wonderful people who love the same things you love.
Hope to see you at the conference next year!
It’s finally here! I’m flying out in a few hours to California for the SCBWI LA Conference! I skipped the NY Conference this year so I could see what the LA version is like, and I’m so excited! Here’s the goodies I’m bringing with me in my oversized conference bag! I’ve got my portfolio (for the portfolio showcase), two picture book dummies, two postcards (promoting the dummies), bookmarks, and business cards! I ordered some new stuff for this conference and brought some leftover things from previous conferences.
Here’s the new postcard I printed up for this conference, promoting one of my picture book dummies. They turned out well! They’ll be stacked next to my portfolio at the showcase if you’re there and would like to pick one up!
I also remade this illustration into my portfolio end page, to thank whoever takes the time to look through it! My portfolio is waaaay better this year than it was when I attended the NY Conference a year and a half ago! I have more series pieces (from my dummies), more illos of kids, and I only have two stand alone pieces this time. My style is also much more cohesive and recognizable. I’m so glad to see I’m growing and I can’t wait to soak up all the inspirational illustration work, amazing speaker wisdom, and meet new kid lit friends this weekend! I’ll be sure to write a follow-up post when I get back, and if you aren’t going, you can follow the conference on the SCBWI conference blog or with #LA15SCBWI, on Twitter and Instagram! I’ll be posting stuff on there too, I’m sure.
July is always such a crazy month! And I have a big news announcement! I achieved a big freelancing milestone in June—I made more money from freelance work over the month of June, than I ever have before, and that includes my monthly salary when I was working full-time in a graphic design studio! EEK! This is a big milestone for me and is a definite nudge that I’m on the right track and things are going well. I’m super thrilled and can’t wait to keep working on the things I love!
In other news, I wrapped up my daily drawing series in June where I drew a different sea creature every day. Here are a few of my favorites from the last bit of the series:
I saved my favorite creature for last: Jellyfish! These are actually called Moon Jellies, and they’re adorable. Although they’re in close contention with my other favorites: Cuttlefish and Siphonophores. I could talk about those things for hours! Really, don’t ask me about them unless you want an earful of “did you know?!”‘s.
Along with personal drawings, I’ve also got some exciting client projects going on. Last week I wrapped up an animation project that was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to post it once it’s finalized! I created the whole concept, storyboard, and all artwork, and worked with an animator to bring it to life. I’m also working with another client to make some school administrator worksheets and infographics with a karate theme! So I got to explore drawing karate poses and powerful girl kicks! Hai-yah!
I’m also making an illustration for a Little Lending Library in one of my hometowns in North Carolina. So that means drawing lots of kids excited about reading!
I’m writing this right after my morning run, and look at that sunset! I had to stop before I ran and snap a picture it was so beautiful. Sometimes Texas just knocks me off my feet with it’s gorgeous sun and huge skies. Now, to get to work!
At the end of July I’ll be attending the SCBWI LA Conference, and I’m so excited! I also signed up for the Illustrator Intensive, and as part of the intensive we were given a homework assignment that will get critiqued during the event! The assignment was to revamp a piece from our current portfolio using one or more of the tools they specified which included things like: changing perspective, focusing more on setting, changing to monochromatic palette, etc. I chose a personal illustration I made about 2 years ago called Bug Brigade. This is the original illustration:
I’ve always liked this piece, I think it has an interesting concept and alludes to a story or narrative. Why are there beetles wearing flight gear? Why are they standing in front of a plane seemingly posing for group photo? Are they a military brigade?
However, I made this piece two years ago and my skills and style has changed drastically since then. But that’s a great sign that I’m improving as time goes on! Anyways, I had a few things that bothered me about this piece now: the perspective of the plane is whack (and flat), the bugs are all wobbly and don’t seem to be standing on the same linear plane, one bug is missing a leg(!), the color palette is ok, but I tend to work in more refined 2 color palettes now, and lastly, I prefer to work with pencil now instead of paint. So, I set off making the new illustration with all those things in mind!
Here’s a GIF of my process of making the illustration:
Here’s the pencil drawing that is the base of the final illustration:
Here’s the final piece again:
And here’s some close up shots of the final piece!
June has been crazy so far! We moved out of our apartment and into a house with a couple of friends of ours! We’re just 10 minutes away from where we were before, but look at our new view and new neighbors! This is practically our front yard, ha. We’re also right next to where I run with Oni, so I’m happy as can be!
In other news, earlier this month my newest illustration series with Buzz Hoot Roar was published! My illustrations accompany an article titled Things That Get Under Your Skin: Parasitoids. The article, written by Chris Hedstrom, an entomologist studying biological control for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, is about parasitoids who lay their eggs in other insects, and then eat their hosts alive from the inside out! Gross! And cool. You can see the series at their full size and in context and read the article over on BuzzHootRoar! Here’s a sneak peek:
In Etsy news: I’ve been selling more nesting dolls! Here are two sets from earlier this month.
This set was HUGE! The biggest I’ve painted by far. The largest doll is 8 inches and the smallest doll is 1 inch.
And finally, I started a daily drawing series for the month of June! I’m going to draw a different sea creature every day in June and post it on Instagram! Here’s a snippet of my favorites from the 10 so far. You can see more and follow the series here!
And one last update! I’m going to the SCBWI Conference in LA and attending the Illustrator Intensive, so I’ve been working on our assignment! We’re given an assignment that we have to submit by late June that will get critiqued during the Intensive! Here’s an snippet of a screenshot from some early work on my piece. Gotta wrap it up soon!