New Products and Process

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January has flown by! This month I was busy working on my picture book, making new products for my Etsy shop, and doing some design work on the side. Here’s a little peak at some of the new pieces in my shop:

MC-january-2-blog-2A wood burned ampersand typography sign.

MC-january-2-blog-3A new set of custom-ordered nesting dolls—this one with a science theme!

MC-january-2-blog-6And an illustrated kitchen tea towel. I was quite happy with how the artwork printed on the towel—look at those crisp lines!

MC-january-2-blog-4And finally, a few peaks into my ongoing sketches and drawings for my picture book. We’re getting close guys… real close!

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What a Year!

MC-new-year-2-blogWhat a year, what a year! 2014 went by crazy fast, but I’m excited to begin 2015. Like anyone who freelances for a living (or anyone who works in the arts… or maybe anyone at all), I’ve gone through my ups and downs and my “Look at me, I’m killing it!” ‘s and “Oh god, what am I doing with my life?” ‘s. Haven’t we all? Internet lives (like this blog) are funny because you typically only post the “look at me, I’m killing it” moments. You obviously don’t see everything from someone’s life by reading their blog or following their Instagram. So, before I jump in to talk about what’s on my studio desk on this first Monday of 2015, I want to thank the only person who sees my floundering, “I just want to wallow in a sea of blankets and socks” moments. This year was probably my most successful and most accomplished year since I began freelancing and illustrating, but it was also the toughest by far. I grew physically, emotionally, and artistically and went through all the growing pains to get here. And there was one guy who was there for it all—who always gave me the kick in the butt I needed to emerge from my blanket cocoon. He’s the hardest working, smartest, most ambitious person I know, and I’m lucky to have him here with me going into 2015. Thank you for everything.

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Ok, ok, sentimental commentary over! Welcome back if you skipped that paragraph. One of my favorite experiences of last year was teaching on Skillshare! I currently have three classes: Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm, Picture Books I: Write Your Story, and Picture Books II: Illustrate a Story. As of this post, I have 2,312 students, 62 reviews, and a 98% positive rating on Skillshare! I’m so excited that people are enjoying the classes, and learning how to follow their passions. I also recently took Elizabeth Olwen’s Skillshare class, Pattern Design: Creating Inspiring Repeats, and I highly recommend it! She does a great job showing her process of creating repeat patterns, which was something I had been wanted to learn for a while now. Here’s the project I created for her class, based on an illustration I made earlier last year:

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In illustration commission news, I’ve been working on a set of logos for young kids, and have been having a BLAST (ha) making them! Here’s a snippet of the most recent version of the logo design. I’ll be making a blog post about the final design and process work once they’re complete.

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And… you guessed it! I’m still chugging away on my picture book. I think it’s been almost a year since I started it, and it’s changed drastically with each version and each round of feedback. It’s been extremely fulfilling and frustrating, but I finally feel like it’s all coming together and accomplishing what I set out to do with it. Getting close to dummy-ready!

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In non-illustration news, I’ve set up on Etsy shop and have actually had people order things! Amazing. I made this set of nesting dolls below for a woman’s nephew, of the nephew in his hockey uniform, his two dogs, and two cats. The largest doll is 4″ and the smallest is .5″! It was so much fun to make, and I’ve already got an order from someone else to begin! This upcoming set is science-based and I’m super excited to get started on it.

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I also bought a wood burner in 2014 after a camping trip where I was plopped down in front of a log and handed a lighter, and immediately became obsessed. This wooden plate charger below took an extraordinarily long time to make, but was so lovely and put me instantly in my meditative zone each time I worked on it. The pattern is inspired by the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. I definitely want to burn more things and put them up in my Etsy shop.

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Here’s a little Instagram video showing a snippet of my wood burning process:

That’s it for now! Happy new year, and I hope you have a fantastical year ahead of you!

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Picture Books II: Illustrate a Story


An Online Skillshare Class by Christine Fleming

Happy Post Thanksgiving! I hope everybody else ate as much pecan pie as I did, and had a relaxing long weekend!

I’ve got some great news to share with you today! This week was the official release 0f my third class on Skillshare! This class is called Picture Books II: Illustrate a Story, and is the second in a two-part series on making your own picture book. You can watch the video above to see what the class is all about, or visit the class page to read more! I’ve already gotten some 2 reviews on the class, including this fantastic blurb from a student:

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“This much-anticipated sequel to Picture Books I can’t be missed! This is the most comprehensive set of instructions on book illustration that I have found anywhere on the internet. Christine patiently and thoughtfully takes you through each step of her process, and shows you how to analyze a manuscript, conceptualize your characters, refine the flow and rhythm of your storyboard, and figure out your overall colour palette before finalizing your images in Photoshop. After watching this class, I finally have a plan of attack for illustrating stories on my own. Thank you, Christine!!”

Whoo-hoo! I’m so happy that people are enjoying my classes! I really kicked it up a notch with this class, and focused on having live demonstration tutorial videos instead of all slideshow based videos. I also did the Project Assignment myself, and recorded my entire process from blank page to final colored illustration—and it’s all in the videos! It was kind of scary to record my whole process live, but it turned out to be really exhilarating.

This class has 22 video lessons that make up 4 units:

SKL-pb2-manuscript-blog Picking Apart Picture Books: Learn about he elements of picture book illustrations including composition, color, white space, perspective, style, and typography, revealing spreads from some of her favorite picture books to show strong examples of each concept, as well as my process of breaking down a manuscript.
 

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Developing Your Characters: Learn about my criteria for a successful character and my character development process, from experimenting, researching, refining, and creating a final character model sheet.

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Drawing Your Storyboards: Learn how to storyboard a story, from types of illustrations in picture books, setting up your storyboard, breaking up the story, creating rhythm, pacing, and movement, and creating a tiny dummy.

 
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Creating Your Final Illustrations: Learn how to set up your sketches, refine sketches, create final drawings, clean up your drawing in Photoshop, add typography, and digitally color in Photoshop.

 

Plus, as with the last class, there’s a bonus locked layer of content explaining the step-by-step process of creating an illustrated dummy and how to submit it to publishers! This booklet is available to enrolled students as soon as they post their process work in the Project Gallery.

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I’m so excited about this class, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s illustrated spreads! 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! I hope you’ll join me over at Skillshare!

A Good Nose Isn’t That Hard to Find

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This series of illustrations is my most recent work 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 A Good Nose Isn’t That Hard to Find. The article, written by author and dog expert Cat Warren, is about working dogs, and how scientists have tried (and failed) over the years to find an animal or machine that can perform better than a working dog. You can see the series in context and read the article over on BuzzHootRoar! Here are some of the illustrations:

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And now for some process work! I began by drawing lots of dogs. ALL the dogs. Even a dog thinking about a banana (I don’t know?)

 

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Then I moved on to redrawing some the concepts I liked for the series.

 

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Then I made some color studies in Photoshop to plan out my color palette. This was the study I ended up liking best!

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And then I made the final art! This one was a bonus illustration that appeared at the end of the article with our bios. All the other dogs in the series are based on German Shepherds or other working dog breeds, but I couldn’t resist including my own dog, Oni!

 

BHR-a-good-nose-products-1-blogAnd since you guys requested it last time, I went ahead and made some dog art products and put them up in my Society6 shop! I really like this color combination, and I think these turned out pretty well. You can check out the pieces here!

 

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And this post is all about dogs, so you know I have to include some photos of my favorite dogs! My dog, Oni, is the one on the top left, and the dog leaning next to him is his (real!) brother, Kee’an. Our friends own Kee’an and also Blaze at the bottom.

 

BHR-a-good-nose-dogs-3-blogAnd this is Oni and another friend’s dog, Zuko, trying to tempt me away from work!

Yay, dogs! Thanks for reading!

Picture Books I: Write Your Story

An Online Skillshare Class by Christine Fleming

Eek! I can finally tell you my newest piece of great news! Today is the official release 0f my second class on Skillshare! This class is called Picture Books I: Write Your Story, and is the first in a two-part series, with the second class, Picture Books II: Illustrate Your Story coming out later in early December out now! You can watch the video above to see what the class is all about, or visit the class page to read more! Here’s a snippit from the class description on the Skillshare site:

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In this 50-minute class, you’ll learn Christine’s step-by-step process for molding a vague story idea in your head into a sparkling picture book manuscript… This class is perfect for illustrators, designers, writers, and everyone who has ever thought to themselves, “Now that would make a great picture book.” No prior knowledge of writing, picture books, or publishing is required! By the end, you’ll have everything you need (and the inspirational push!) to write an impeccable picture book.

There are 11 video lessons that make up 4 units:

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Exploring Picture Book History: Learn about what a picture book is, it’s purpose, the history of picture books, and the different types of picture books available on the market.

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Deconstructing Picture Book Anatomy: Learn all about the structural elements that make up a picture book.

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Writing Your Story: Learn how to come up with story ideas, writing your first (terrible) draft, plot structure, point of view, prose, and character development.

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Refining Your Manuscript: Learn about common plot issues, writing good openings and endings, cutting word count, making a writer’s dummy to help refine pacing, and my 10-step process to writing a picture book.

Plus, there’s a bonus locked layer of content explaining the step-by-step process to submit your manuscript to publishers! This booklet is available to enrolled students as soon as they post their process work in the Project Gallery. If you’ve ever dreamed of having your book published, this is the information you need on how to properly submit to publishers and get your story in front of the right people.

MC-picture-books-1-promo-blogI’m so excited about this class, and I can’t wait to read everyone’s stories! 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! I’m thrilled to be able to share everything I know about one of my favorite things in the world—picture books! I hope you’ll join me over at Skillshare!

New Work: Cloud Chaser

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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.

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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.

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And here’s the sequential narrative as a GIF animation!

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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!

MC-cloud-chaser-MH-blog 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!

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