This series was created as my assignment to create a sequential narrative for the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Carolinas Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Intensive was led by Random House Executive Art Director, Isabel Warren-Lynch and illustrator, Mary Grandpre. The intensive was fantastic, and it was amazing to hear from two people in the picture book industry with such distinguished backgrounds. You can see a more in-depth post I wrote on the conference here.
The story for my sequential narrative is based on my childhood belief that clouds were somewhat solid like cotton balls, and my fantasy of bouncing on clouds like a trampoline. Seeing the reality of what clouds are actually like the first time I flew in a plane when I was young was quite disappointing. This series is a re-imagining of my childhood daydream. You can see the full size images alone in my portfolio. Here is a shot from some character design sketches above, and the pencil drawings of the series below.
And here’s the sequential narrative as a GIF animation!
My skillshare class, Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm, now has over 400 students! The students are creating great work, and I’m so thrilled people are learning new things and enjoying the class. The course has no end date, so you can enroll and complete the class at any time and at any pace! I’m also hard at work on my next class which I think is something a lot of people will be interested in! You can check out my current class here!
I’m also still chugging along on one of my in-progress picture books. The feedback I’ve gotten on this book from conferences and editors has been enormously helpful, and I’ve been re-evaluating what I want to communicate with this story and how I can do it best. I love this character and I love this book, but I’m not afraid to break up with parts of it like Ben broke up with J.Lo! I’ve also learned an huge amount about the picture book industry and where I want to be in that industry since I first started this book. So I think it only makes sense for me to go back through it and change certain things based on the knowledge I have now.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!
Today is the day! I’ve been running a challenge in my Skillshare class, Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm, and today I’m announcing the winner! Here’s a quick description of the challenge:
To compete in the challenge, all you have to do is complete the project as described in the course lessons, but your topic must be somehow related to National Wildlife Day! National Wildlife Day is Sept. 4, and “serves to bring awareness to the number of endangered animals… that need to be preserved and rescued” as well as to “acknowledge U.S. zoos and outstanding animal sanctuaries for everything they do to help preserve this planet’s animals and educate the public about conservation.”
There were some really amazing entries to the challenge, and I loved seeing everyone’s work and their research and process behind the piece. It was difficult to choose a winner, but there can only be one! So, the winner is…
Matan Berson! Matan did a fantastic job with his illustration, from choosing an intriguing and relatively unknown scientific fact, to researching, sketching, experimenting, and final production! Matan researched animals in his local area (Vancouver, Canada) and found out that out of all the local at risk animals, only four are legally protected. So he decided to highlight this discrepancy for his project.
Here are a couple of Matan’s sketches from early in the process:
I was really impressed that Matan also sketched out his composition prior to beginning the final drawing. He considered overall composition, placement of the animals, typography, and how the viewer’s eye would move through the piece. Here’s Matan’s final illustration:
Isn’t it great?! Partway through his process, Matan posted his final pencil and ink drawing of his illustration. At that point in the project, the typography had not yet been added, and the piece was dominated by the four circles of the animals. I commented that perhaps he should consider that having an even number of elements is sometimes too balanced, and an odd number of elements can be more interesting and help a viewer’s eye travel around the image. I can see in Matan’s final piece that he took this suggestion to heart and utilized his typography to create a fifth element and really helped to balance out the piece! I also love that Matan walks the line of a realistic and personality-driven portrayal of the animals. They are drawn quite realistically, but you can still see personality and uniqueness in each animal—I love the slightly grumpy looking owl!
Matan, you’ve created a really strong illustration that successfully conveys your original message with strength, emotion, and personality. Fantastic job, and congratulations on winning the challenge! I can’t wait to see more work from you in the future—keep on illustrating! I’ll be emailing you about your portfolio review over the next few days.
Readers, if you’d like to check out more of Matan’s work, check out his tumblr where he posts fantastic pencil drawings! And you can see Matan’s full project complete with process work in the class project gallery!
Great work everyone who entered, and thanks so much for taking my class! If there’s interest, I will host another challenge for the class in the future! If you haven’t enrolled in the class, and are interested in participating, you can check it out and enroll here!
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!