When kids’ book illustrators go wild…

Children’s book author-illustrator Jeff Crosby says he came up with the idea for his funny new picture book, Wiener Wolf  (Hyperion) while he was in the shower one day.

For a long while after that he asked his wife author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson if she would write the story for him so he could paint it.

Shelley suggested that he try his own hand at putting just the right words together in just the right order to tell his story.

Then he’d be that appealing combination (for some children’s book editors) — an author-illustrator.

Jeff’s response was to work up a little pencil sketch dummy that told the story without any words at all. But later his and Shelley’s agent urged him to add at least a few words to his pictures — to appease that segment of the market that believes that picture books are meant to be read.

The result is Wiener Wolf  about a dachshund who hears the call of the wild and decides that he’ll leave Granny’s home  to run with the wolves.

The release party for the book is Saturday, July 2nd at BookPeople, 11:30 a.m.  (Yes, there is a dog costume contest, but check the store for details.)

For anyone in the Central Texas area Jeff will teach a University of Texas informal class on illustrating children’s books starting Tuesday, June 28 at 6 p.m.

The above video is from a 90 minute interview I did with Jeff and Shelley for students of my online course on children’s book illustration Make Your Splashes-Make Your Marks.

You can see a little more from that interview here.   

And  you can see how their four year old daughter Harper responds to her daddy’s picture book below.

Author-illustrators Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby

Author-illustrators Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby

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Mark Mitchell hosts this blog and conducts the online course Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! that teaches how to draw and paint for children’s books and other media.

How to win a logo illustration-design contest

Debbie Gonzales, the regional advisor for the Austin Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators wanted a logo.

Dallion's logo

Logo design by Dallion McGregor

Ideally,  the logo would have to say a lot on its own about the premise of our upcoming symposium Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change.

We (Debbie,  Austin SCBWI assistant regional advisor Carmen Oliver and I,  as the chapter’s illustrator coordinator)  decided to put a call out for entries.

Dallion's thumbnail pencil sketch for logo

Dallion's original sketch for the logo

Our talent pool would be the Austin SCBWI illustrators community and students, new and old, past and present of my online children’s book illustration course and classes at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art.

Dallion's line art final after revisions

Dallion's line art final after revisions

The winning logo would be used to help promote the conference and also appear on the conference program and other materials.  The winning designer would be paid to create the final art for the logo he or she had dreamed up.

We asked for rough thumbnail sketches first.

Any one of the many little pencil drawings  that came in as a result would have resulted in a fun, solid logo for our event.  In the end, the nod went to Dallion McGregor, one of our chapter members.

He spoke to us recently. To help with illustrating this interview post, several other contenders in the contest graciously consented to having their entries included in this post.

1.) What made you decide to enter the contest?

Dallion: I entered the contest primarily to help focus my efforts.  I often practice at home, but it’s nice to see something to completion.  If someone is waiting for a finished product it’s harder to get bogged down and over-think it, which seems to happen more often with my personal projects.  I also wanted to prove to myself I could win.

2.) Can you talk a little about your background? How have you happened to attract so much logo design work in your biz?

I used to love drawing when I was a child, yet as a young adult I foolishly overlooked this passion. Distractions and detours eventually led me to a fairly successful career in the tech industry, but despite having obtained a comfortable lifestyle, I soon discovered I wasn’t happy.

thumbnail sketch idea by Ressa McCray

Thumbnail sketch idea by Ressa McCray (U.S.A.)

I began keeping a journal and painting on the weekends, and slowly, my creative side began to re-emerge. In some epic search for myself, I moved from Los Angeles in 2006 and have found Austin a good spot to let this little sprout grow.  It’s been wonderful.  In addition to the fertile creative soil, the lower cost of living has allowed me to devote more time to personal development.

I’ve picked up many logo design gigs simply from knowing people with small businesses.

Often I’ll work for barter. I don’t mind cutting friends a break. It’s good practice anyway!

3.) What brought you into the Austin SCBWI community and how have you benefited by being a part of this group?

You reeled me in, Mark!  Children’s books have been so important in my life, when I saw your class “Children’s Book Illustration” being taught at the AMOA Laguna Gloria campus, deciding to attend was a no brainer.
In that class you introduced me to many new concepts, including the SCBWI.

H.T. Yao's thumbnail for the logo

H.T. Yao's thumbnail for the logo (U.S.A.) http://WWW.YaoIllustration.com

Since then, the Austin SCBWI chapter has been an incredible resource.  I find illustration to be a very solitary experience, but when I emerge from my studio, it’s nice to know the Austin SCBWI is there with encouraging words and a tried and tested roadmap to publication.

4.) What were the challenges you saw in creating a logo for a conference on digital publishing. What ideas did you want to communicate in your logo?

I think the biggest challenge when designing a logo is communicating an idea clearly and quickly. A logo doesn’t exist for its own sake, like a painting. It’s there to essentially advertise, or point to something larger, like a business or event. So the best logos relate their message effectively. Bonus points if it elicits an emotion.

 I saw the announcement for the logo contest, considered entering, but did nothing about it for a few days.

During this time, I suppose my subconscious mulled it over, because by the time the deadline approached the image was there in my head.

That said, it does seem the logo communicates some relevant ideas:

1.) That digital publishing is the next evolutionary step in children’s books and

2.) It doesn’t have to be scary.  In fact it can be exciting and fun.

The night seems to represent the end of an age, while the sun represents a new day dawning.

It almost looks like the children can step into a new world, which is a powerful and magical motif, and how we authors and illustrators feel facing this transition to digital publishing!

color thumbnail sketch by Jenni Davies (South Africa)

Color thumbnail sketch by Jenni Davies (South Africa)

I also feel this logo is effective because the children are dwarfed by this thing we call technology, which while uncomfortable to acknowledge, has become a sort of god to us. We give it our money, our attention, we spend time learning it, and in return it gives us power like never before. Technology is godlike and I think that comes through in the piece.

5.) How do you go about brainstorming for “best images” to communicate your main ideas in a logo design?

The subconscious does the idea making, I just take the credit. Random doodling seems to help.

6.) Can you discuss your process in creating the first rough pencil sketch?

The initial drawing was very crude. Details were not important, nor were proving my drawing skills (I referred you to my website for that). The only important thing was getting across the concept. Since there was no guarantee I would be chosen for the job, I only spent 15 minutes on the initial thumbnail sketch.

Thumbnail sketch by Sylvia Liu

Thumbnail sketch by Sylvia Liu (U.S.A.) http://www.sylvialiuland.com

7.) Can you discuss the process of turning your rough sketch for the Digital Publishing Symposium logo into a more finished pencil sketch?

I’m leery of using pencil under-drawings because I feel it undercuts the spontaneous energy of the finished image. Using a ruler to make lines is a big No-No for the same reason. I usually draw directly on the blank page using a Micron mechanical pen. When drawing I’ve learned not to fear mistakes, since it’s easy to erase stray lines later in Photoshop.

I draw each element separately because it removes the stress of creating a single flawless image.

With this project I drew the books and e-reader on their own, then drew the children, the dog, the stars – all separately – then scanned them into the computer and pasted the pieces together in Photoshop.

Dallion's children sketches

This is an effective way for me to work and also seems compatible with the way app designers work since they want the art separated on different layers.

8.) Can you discuss the process of turning your finished  sketch into a colored rough and then final art?

When I’m happy with the finished line work, I print multiple copies on 90lb Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

Thumbnail sketch proposal by Paola Tavoletti (Italy)

Thumbnail sketch proposal by Paola Tavoletti (Italy)

With multiple copies I can try different color schemes and not be tense about making mistakes. After getting a watercolored version I’m happy with, it’s re-scanned into Photoshop and further adjustments are made.

In this case I added tone, shadows, and a glowing effect around the edge of the e-reader’s screen. With this method I’ve found a happy compromise between traditional and digital techniques.

9.) What is the next project you plan to tackle related to children’s illustration? Care to tell us a little about it?

I’d be happy simply continuing to hone my craft.  I do this through daily practice and by creating gifts for people. There are a few stories I have floating around that would be fun to illustrate and I hope to start producing more of these soon. I try not to think about creating for the masses. As long as I’m having fun, good things will come.


Thumbnail by Pascale Mackey

Sketch proposal by Pascale Mackey (U.S.A.) http://www.MackeyWebDesign.com

 

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Angela Black answered the question that was put to readers of this blog in the spring:  “What epiphany in connection to drawing, painting or children’s book illustration have you experienced in the past year?”

Illustrator Joel Hickerson (far right) shows his illustrated storyboard for an animated video "chalk talk" to students in the children's book illustration class at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art

Don’t grow up too fast!

Epiphany Essay # 3

by Angela Black

You may already consider yourself a mature artistic adult, but the most
effective tip I have discovered when drawing for children is to look at the
world through “their” eyes. It all begins with *perspective* and the best
advice I can give a would-be children’s illustrator is to do the following
three things:

1. Surround yourself with children! You have to get to know your
audience, and the more personally you take this on, the better your artistic
perspective will be.

2. Become an analyzer of children’s art!  No, not the art made
“for” children, but rather the art made by children! Look at the pictures they draw, and see what stands out most to them. What attracts their eye, excites their imagination, etc.?

Ask young artists questions about the pictures they draw. “What is that?” “Who
are those guys?” “What are they doing?” “Why?” etc.

3. Draw with children!  This is one of my favorite things to do! Find a
child (or several) who likes to draw and who would be willing to draw “with
you.”

Let the child lead the way. You may suggest a topic but let the
child tell you what is happening in the picture by asking questions and
drawing whatever the child would like you to add.

Draw on the same piece of paper with the child and remember to *follow the child’s lead*, because you want to see art through a child’s eyes.

When drawing for children, it truly pays off to get a clear insight into their world, and in doing so, you might just have so much fun yourself, that you “feel” like a kid again too!

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Cool conferences to consider:

Coming up this month:

Florida SCBWI Illustrators Intensive

Join Lucy Cummins, associate art director with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Priscilla Burris, SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator and  author- illustrator  Linda Shute for a one-day event for committed illustrators who wish to hone their craft through hands-on activities and discussion.  Read more and register for the Saturday, June 24  SCBWI FLorida Illustrators’ Intensive 2011.

North Central North East Texas SCBWI Illustrators Intensvie

Join author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson in several interactive character busting exercises designed for both writer and illustrator in an Illustrators’ Workshop June 25th in Arlington Texas.

In this one day event by the North Central/North East chapter of the SCBWI, HOW TO HUNT, HOGTIE, & TAME A PICTURE BOOK CHARACTER: Character and Story Development Techniques for Writers and Illustrators of the Wild and Elusive Picture Book  you’ll learn how to track down stubborn picture book characters and develop their true selves.

You’ll also discover ways to think outside your own boxes and create memorable picture book text and illustrations based on character driven discoveries.  Read more about it.

Coming up in August:

SCBWI Summer Conference

It’s the big one.  Get the scoop on this year’s SCBWI National Conference in Los Angeles, August 5-8.

Coming up in September…

The Southwest Texas  SCBWI Fall Conference,  Saturday September 17 in San Antonio, Texas featuring Beach Lane Press Editor Andrea Welch and Balzer and Bray Editor Kristin Daly Rens, along with agent Elena Mechlin, InteractBooks publisher Richard Johnson,  author Diana Bertrand Gonzales and online media specialist Kim Murray. Read more and sign up here!

Coming up in October…

NCNE Texas SCBWI Regional ConferenceThe North Central North East Texas SCBWI chapter annual conference, Traditions and Technology  in Arlington Texas, October 7th and 8th features Simon and Schuster Art Director Laurent Linn,  illustrator Alan Stacy and editors from Delacorte,  Scholastic and a host of top authors and agents from top literary agencies.  Read more and sign up!

Austin SCBWI special symposium:   Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change ! — October 8 features illustrators Erik Kuntz, Clint Young, Amanda Williams, Ezra Weinstein,  Joel Hickerson, picture book author and playwright Lindsey Lane , author P.J. Hoover and many other emerging stars in digital publishing.  The highlight will be the keynote presentation via SKYPE by the SCBWI National Executive Director (and co-founder) Lin Oliver, about the SCBWI’s stance on digital publishing and how to evaluate those publishers and opportunities in the new marketplace.  Oh my gosh —  Read more! 

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