Super exciting news! I’ve been chosen as this month’s featured illustrator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)! I couldn’t be more thrilled and am over the moon to see my work on the homepage and be recognized by such a respected organization. As I mentioned in my previous post, I learned so much and met so many wonderful people at the SCBWI Conference in New York last week and am so thankful for everything SCBWI does for illustrators and authors.
So thank you SCBWI for choosing me as the featured illustrator! You can click either of these screenshots to go straight to the website and check it out!
Last weekend I attended the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, and had such an amazing time. I met a lot of people I had previously only spoken with on Twitter, met new illustrators and authors, and learned more than I could have hoped for. The conference was held in the Grand Hyatt hotel right above Grand Central Station, which was absolutely beautiful (and also fascinatingly hectic on weekday mornings). There were so many wonderful keynotes, panels, and workshops—I just finished typing up and organizing my notes and it came out to 5 1/2 pages!
There was also a Gala on Saturday night in the hotel lobby with a cupcake bar and mashed potato martinis! It was great to meet so many other illustrators and authors and speak with them about what they’re up to!
Here are a few of the very talented authors and illustrators that were on faculty:
Tomie DePaola, Strega Nona
Brett Helquist, A Series of Unfortunate Events
Paul O. Zelinsky, Z is for Moose, Rapunzel
E.B. Lewis, Coming On Home Soon
Jack Gantos, Dead End in Norvelt, Joey Pigza series
Kate Messner, Over and Under the Snow
Peter Brown, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Raul Colon, My Mama Had a Dancing Heart
Marla Frazee, Two Boys Have the Best Summer Ever
Oliver Jeffers, The Day the Crayons Quit
Shandra Strickland, Bird
I can’t even begin to summarize all of what I learned at the conference. Some of the things that really resonated with me were overarching advice that I am going to focus on in the future (like being sure to have emotion in each piece, courtesy Arthur Levine), to specific techniques (like story structure tips from Jack Gantos!).
Welp, now it’s back to it! I’m super inspired and ready to pump out my story. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m in the process of writing and illustrating my debut picture book, and this conference gave me exactly the boost that I needed to complete it and make it a strong story. I feel really great about how the story feels, and how it’s coming along. Thank you to everyone at the conference who spoke, critiqued, looked at my portfolio, took a business card, and spoke with me! You’re all amazing!
Yeah, yeah, yeah! I’m super excited right now. I get to post this awesome project that I worked on recently, Monday was my birthday, I ate a lot of sushi, tomorrow I’m going to New York for the SCBWI Winter Conference, AND I just ate the best almonds I’ve ever had in my life. It’s been a big week.
Anyways, this is the most recent illustration set I created for Thriving Family magazine and will be published in their upcoming March/April issue. It accompanies the article, Someone Believes in Me!, about how positive encouragement and listening skills can help build up your partner and your marriage. This assignment was really conceptual; there were no characters or story so it was really challenging and fun to work on. I feel like the art director and I really collaborated well and came out with a strong piece. The above image is a full page illustration that I created with hand-drawn type. Here’s a detail shot so you can see some of the textures:
In addition to the full page illo, I also created a half-ish page illo seen below. It was interesting to present the same couple twice, once in a more simplified way and once in a more detailed way, but have them still obviously be the same people.
One reason I love editorial work is because you can go crazy with concepts. I filled a ton of pages in my sketchbook with random drawings, and also filled these two pages with thumbnails of various concepts. At this point, I don’t filter anything, I don’t try to draw perfectly, and I draw every single thing I think of. Which sometimes leads to weird stuff that doesn’t work. But then that weird/wrong thing might just lead you to the right thing! It’s a strange process that’s both exhausting and invigorating, and I love it.
After I narrowed down the concept, I moved on to finalizing the way things look. A couple months ago I read Drawn to Life by Walt Stanchfield (which you should totally read if you haven’t), and I tried to put a lot of what I learned from the book into practice with this assignment. One thing he really pushes is to focus on the gesture (and not details like hair or clothing) when drawing initially. So once I knew what action/scene I wanted the illustration to depict, I did a series of gesture sketches focusing on the movement, weight distribution, and body position, without thinking about clothing or even body parts. It was a great process, and I think it really helped strengthen the final drawing. Walt calls this kind of process eating the main course before dessert; or drawing gesture, not anatomy; or drawing verbs, not nouns. All great things to think about!
The two images below show the progression of my finalized drawings based on feedback from my art director, ending with the final drawing used in the illustration. You can see in both progressions that I drew the bodies, and then went back to basics again to strengthen the gesture, before moving onto details.
From there, I made a lot of color studies to see where I wanted to go with a palette. I knew I wanted it to be bright and uplifting to reflect the feel of the text.
And here’s the final print layout! I’ll post photos of the printed spreads as well as iPad screenshots once I receive my copy in the mail. I really enjoy posting my process here and talking it through. I’m not actually sure if anyone reads it, but it helps me to reflect and learn what worked or what didn’t work, and what I should do differently next time.
Next week I’m sure I’ll have tons to say about the SCBWI conference! I am so excited to meet tons of new people and learn more about the kid lit world!
Out here in Texas it’s been cold and rainy and gross, so I’ve been hibernating inside working on lots of things! Above is a teeny screenshot of a piece I’m working on. This little guy is way in the back of the illustration and is very small, so I thought I’d give him his own spotlight to shine in momentarily.
I’ve also been busy preparing for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, which is now just a couple of weeks away! I have new business cards, new postcards, and have put together my printed portfolio book. I’m beyond excited to finally get there!
I also got the most recent issue of Thriving Family that I illustrated for in the mail last week. It’s always nice to see your work in print!
I’m also…(drumroll)… in the process of writing and illustrating my first children’s book! Don’t get too wound up, it’s not being backed/published by anyone yet. I’m still in the early stages of planning the story, but eventually it will be a picture book dummy that I send out to publishers! Yay! The story is really fun and exciting (but also totally secret), and I’m having a great time studying and learning about what makes a good picture book. All I can say is it’s a story about a girl and an adventure. I can’t wait to see how it evolves and what it becomes!
And finally, I’ll include a little photo of my studio mate, Oni, and his new puppy friend, Zuko, who was temporarily an extra studio mate. Puppies!
I’m just over here chugging away on illustrations, enjoying the mild Texas winter while it seems everyone else is being blanketed with snow. You know, Texas isn’t my favorite place I’ve ever lived, but during the winters I gotta admit, it’s pretty pleasant.
Anyways, I’ve got a few different projects going on right now, and thought I would post some process work. The shot above and two below are from a project I’m currently working on. I can’t really say too much about it, but I’ve really enjoyed drawing the little characters and creating all the delicate pencil textures. I love love love making intricate, tiny pencil textures and incorporating them in my illustrations. Drawing the textures makes my hands ache and I think this gives me some sort of physical connection to the finished piece.
The following shots are from a finished set of two editorial illustrations, but I can’t post the full illos before they’re published in March. Sad. But in the meantime, I can post some process work! Below are a pile of ideation sketches to find the right concept; a set of gesture sketches to get the feel of the body poses before I focus on clothing, facial expressions, etc; the semi-final rendering of hand-drawn type elements in pencil; and a in-progress screenshot from digital coloring and applying textures.
Now it’s back to work!
This set of illustrations were created for the January/February 2014 issue of Thriving Family, for an article titled, Your Digital Life. The article is about how you can get sucked into the digital world and how dwelling too much on what other people are reporting in their digital lives can affect your own in-person life negatively. I created one half-page illo and two spot illos, which were published in both the print and iPad issues of the magazine. You can see more in my portfolio here and here. Below are the illos in their print and iPad (respectively) habitats.
And here are a couple process shots! Lately I’ve been really focusing on getting the drawing perfect before I begin any work on the computer (like colors and textures). I’ve realized and recognized that the final illustration is only as good as the final drawing. Below is an abridged progression of the drawings from the initial quick sketch to get the concept down, to the refined sketch sent to get approval from the art director, to the polished inked drawing that was used in the final illustration.
And then I created a bunch of quick color studies to play with color palettes. Here’s a screenshot of a few of those. I quite like the last yellow and pink palette, but didn’t feel it was right for this illustration. I plan on coming back to that palette in the near future though!
I had a blast making these illustrations, and can’t wait to post the next ones that I just turned in today!