This past weekend I attended the SCBWI Carolinas conference in Charlotte, North Carolina and had such a blast! It’s always so great to meet and talk with other author/illustrators, and this one makes me want to go to a conference every month! If only travel was free! Here are my postcards I took to the conference, above…
…and I also brought bookmarks with me this time, seen here! This conference had a terrific line up of speakers and opportunities to mingle and get feedback on my work. The first day was the Illustrator Intensive, where a group of about 20 illustrators listened to presentations from illustrator Mary GrandPre, and Executive Art Director Isabel Warren-Lynch from Random House.
Mary GrandPre is an illustrator creating “ethereal pastel paintings” with a geometric focus. She began working in editorial, and has transitioned into children’s books, with 7 published picture books. She has also worked as a concept artist, creating environmental concept art for the Dreamworks movie, Antz.
And perhaps you recognize her work from a little book series called Harry Potter? Isabel Warren-Lynch has worked with Mary Grandpre on some of her children’s books, including the illustration of the woman with her cat pictured above, Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat.
Their newest picture book together as illustrator and art director is The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, which looks fantastic!
Later in the conference, I had a portfolio review with Isabel Warren-Lynch where she gave me fantastic feedback on my two picture book dummies. I also had a manuscript review with Pieta Pemberton who is an Assistant Editor at Grosset & Dunlap, and she gave me amazing feedback on my dummy as well. With the picture book that she reviewed, I knew that it was good, but not perfect, and I needed some extra help to figure out how to push it that bit farther to make it publish-ready. With Pieta and Isabel’s critique, I now feel like I know what the story was missing and how to make it flow more smoothly and really make an impact! I’m excited to keep working on that dummy to bring it up to the next level.
The opening keynote was given by North Carolinian author Linda Ashman who has written and illustrated over 30 picture books! She was very lively, and a great presenter. She has written many popular picture books on my to-read list, including Rain, and the upcoming Little Baby Buttercup, illustrated by the amazing illustrator You Byun. She also talked about writing and submitting wordless (or nearly wordless) picture book manuscripts (like her book No Dogs Allowed, which was extremely interesting.
Later in the day there was a panel presentation with a group of 3 agents including Susan Hawk from The Bent Agency, Emily Mitchell from Wernick & Pratt, and Christa Heschke from McIntosh & Otis. They also had a lot of advice and talked about their work as agents in the children’s book industry.
The last day of the conference, I attended a break out presentation from Nancy Castaldo, author of many children’s books. Her most recent nonfiction book is a middle grade book called Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World. She also recently wrote Pizza for the Queen, a historical fiction picture book. Her wonderful presentation was about nonfiction children’s books, and we learned how a book must be presented in order to be a REAL nonfiction book. I also spoke with her about historical fiction and what I’m calling (for lack of a word I could find) science fiction.
I’d like to thank everyone I listed above and everyone I didn’t get the chance to mention for everything they did during the conference to make it so entertaining and informative! And thank you Teresa Fannin and Bonnie Adamson for your work in preparation for the conference and running it smoothly. And thank you illustrator leaders Deb Johnson and Stacy Gray! You all made this weekend a spectacular experience!
Whew! I feel like I’ve been in a whirlwind with everything in hyperdrive lately! In a good way though. I’ve been busy working on 4 different things, plus a little extra personal project.
First up, my Skillshare class is going amazingly! As of this posting, there are 241 students enrolled, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! The class has four 100% reviews, giving the class an overall review of 100%! A few people have started to post their projects, and it’s so wonderful to see their work and give them feedback.
To encourage more people to post their projects, I’ve created a challenge based around National Wildlife Day (which was Sept. 4). Anyone enrolled in the class can submit their project (somehow revolving around the idea of National Wildlife Day, ie. conservation, endangered species awareness, etc.) by Sept. 30, and they can win a portfolio review and feature here on my blog!
My class has been featured on the Skillshare featured classes page as well, in the “Best of Digital Illustration” category, alongside illustration giants Jon Burgerman and Dominic Flask! I’ve also been asked to be featured on the Skillshare blog next week, speaking about my class and being a teacher on Skillshare! I’ll post about that once it’s live!
In addition to promoting my class and interacting with my students, I illustrated my most recent article as the Artist in Residence at Buzz Hoot Roar. The article is on working dogs, but I can’t say much more than that because it hasn’t been posted up yet! I’ll write a more in-depth process post on the work once it’s live as well. For now, here are a few little process and detail shots. And if I’m illustrating an article on dogs, you know I have to add my dog, Oni, in there. Here he is being his typical curious self.
My other two projects I have going on are my picture book dummies. I’ve got two complete dummies now, one fiction and one nonfiction. I’m attending the SCBWI Carolinas Conference next weekend and have signed up for a dummy critique for one of them, and will display both of them with my work in the Portfolio Showcase. I’ve been busy prepping for the conference as well, and have ordered new postcards and bookmarks! I’m really excited to meet lots of new illustrators and authors and to be back in North Carolina for a while. Here are a couple little sneak peaks from my second picture book dummy.
And FINALLY, as if I haven’t been swamping myself with work enough already, I painted these little nesting dolls as a fun personal night project. I had always wanted to paint my own nesting doll set, and what better subjects than Oni and all his friends! Plus his wannabe friend that doesn’t like him: my childhood cat, Elvis. Oni’s tail ended up looking kind of like a toothbrush, but oh well! If you’re interested in having your own custom nesting doll set, I’ve listed them on my Etsy shop!
That’s it! I’ll see you again after my conference!
Buzz Hoot Roar, where I am the Artist in Residence, is currently having their first real live art exhibition! Artwork from the blog, including two pieces of my work, as well as fantastic work from other contributing artists, are now on display at the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Buzz Hoot Roar is based. Here are my two pieces that Buzz Hoot Roar chose to hang in the exhibition:
This piece was created for an article titled “Jumping Spiders: An Evolutionary Love Story” and the six piece series explains the evolutionary mating rituals of jumping spiders.
This seven part series (with one not shown here) was created for an article titled “What’s the Difference” and points out the simplified differences between commonly confused animals.
The artwork will be up now through the end of September, so check it out if you’re around the area!
You guys! I’m so excited to finally be able to tell you my big news! I’m teaching an illustration class on Skillshare! I’ve been creating the class with Skillshare over the past month, and have loved every second of making it. The class is titled, Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm. You can watch the video above to see what the class involves, or visit the class page to read more! Here’s the class description from the Skillshare site:
In this course, you’ll learn how to take a scientific fact or concept and turn it into an exciting illustration that steps beyond reality, but still communicates the concept accurately. You’ll learn about the steps of creating an illustration, including research, brainstorming, sketching, refining a drawing, and digital production in Photoshop. I’ll also walk you through some illustration fundamentals that are often misunderstood including line, value, and color, to make your work as strong as possible.
Plus, I’ll address the number one question in art/illustration: how do I find my style? While I can’t tell you what your style is—it’s your own fingerprint after all—I will walk you through how I came to understand my own style and why I think it suits me, and perhaps it will help you get on the right track to discovering your own creative fingerprint!
There are 11 video lessons that make up 5 units:
Researching and Thinking: Learn about whimsical scientific illustration + style.
Sketching to learn: Learn how to overcome blank-page-phobia + start sketching.
Refining the Drawing: Learn techniques for strengthening + finishing a drawing.
Working with Line, Value, and Color: Learn about values, linework + color theory.
Color, Texture + Hand-Drawn Type: Learn to work digitally with color, texture + type.
I hope you think the class looks interesting, and I can’t wait to see what the students create! Students can post progress work in the project gallery and view and comment on each others work. I’ll be looking at all the posts as well and giving my own thoughts about everyone’s work! Making this Skillshare class was a really fun experience and now I can’t wait for people to enroll and for us to all start to have fun and learn about illustration! I hope you’ll join me over at Skillshare!
I’m so excited to share this piece! This illustration was commissioned as the base design for a client’s sleeve tattoo. A sleeve tattoo! To be tattooed on a real person! I was given the desired subjects—a fox, roses, orchids, butterflies, and a skull—the suggested style of semi-old-school tattoo, and given free reign over the design. This piece was a lot of fun, and quite a step out of my comfort zone! I kept solid lines all around the piece (to reference old school tattoos) which is not usually how I apply linework, so it was fun to have new constraints. I’ll post pictures of the actual tattoo once it’s complete! Here are some close ups to show the textures and details:
And here’s a bit of process work!
From sketches, where I was trying to figure out how to fit the fox and the skull together in a narrow composition…
To the final sketches that I sent to the client for feedback…
To the final inked illustration (minus the wonky butterflies, which I was still figuring out) combining the parts of each sketch the client liked, to create one final composition…
To experimenting with texture directions for the fox fur…
To the final inked texture of the fox fur with a redo of the head… and then from there it was all digital magic! And I can’t waaaaait to announce the next thing I have coming up! I’m so excited about it—here’s a little sneak peek:
This series was created for BuzzHootRoar—a team of scientists that run a “graphics-driven blog that shares and explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less—where I am the Artist in Residence! My illustrations accompany an article titled Pronking: The Happy Dance That Should Kill You (But Doesn’t). The article describes the technique of pronking, a motion where animals pogo into the air lifting all four feet off the ground at once, and why they do it. I created two animated GIFs for this series, as well as one still illustration. You can see the series in context and read the article over on BuzzHootRoar.
As soon as I was given this assignment and learned what pronking was, I knew I had to make an animated GIF. The article was talking about a “joyous all-four-hooves-in-the-air leap”—how could I not?! Only problem was… I’ve never made one before. Eek! But have no fear, I dove right in and figured it out! Here’s my process of creating the GIF if you’re interested in making one as well, or just curious!
First, as always, I started out researching the subject. I began by collecting references of alpacas and gazelles, and drawing them in lots of different ways to figure out what their bodies look like, and how I wanted to draw them. Here’s a page from my sketchbook of a bunch of alpacas I drew during this stage.
Then I started researching pronking, watching videos and drawing them in action, figuring out how their bodies move when they pronk. The alpacas and gazelles pronked pretty differently. The gazelles almost went limp up in the air with their backs arched, legs dangling beneath them. The alpacas sprung up into the air (not nearly as high as the gazelles) and straightened their legs when all four were off the ground, making more of a subtle motion. Anyways, it was cool to watch, and I ended up with drawings of them in sequence, like the sketch above of the gazelle.
Then I scanned in those sequence drawings, played around with color schemes, colored them digitally and added textures, as seen above.
Then, I merged a bunch of layers together (after saving copies along the way so I could back track if I needed to—which always happens!), so I had each animal on a separate layer, and converted those to frames. Next, I aligned each animal up using the shadow as the base, and resized the canvas. It took a bit of experimentation to find the perfect alignments and frame delay to make the animation flow smoothly.
After that, you just export that baby as a GIF!
In other news, I bound and mailed off my (highly revised) picture book dummy to SCBWI Carolinas last week! I’m attending their annual conference in Charlotte, NC in September and signed up for a manuscript/dummy critique. I took a past version of this dummy to the SCBWI Houston conference in April, and got some great feedback from art directors and fellow illustrators on how I could improve it. I also got heaps of fantastic advice from my online crit group that helped make the story more clear, and the illustrations more true to me and my style. This book has improved so much over the past few months, and I’m thrilled to show it to more people in September at SCBWI Carolinas! Thank you everyone who has given me comments and feedback—you’re the best!