Mary’s magic

Children’s book illustrator Mary Sullivan will add “author” to her extensive illustration credits when her new picture book Ball comes out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this Spring.

Based on the ball chasing dog Mary never had, Ball uses only one word, repeatedly to tell of a dog who dreams of chasing a certain red ball.

The Junior Library Guild, a library collection development and review service used by school and public libraries across the U.S. has selected Ball for its Spring 2013 catalog. I predict more nods like this in the coming months because the book is a treasure — a wacky treasure in the Mary Sullivan drawn-style, which is to say that it’s universal and very funny.

Originally from San Antonio, Mary graduated with a B.F.A from the University of Texas. While raising her family in Austin she ran a personalized greeting card business that featured her original designs and “cartoons” (a word not really up to capturing her art that you can see in the videos above and on her blogwebsite and agent’s site.)

Drawing cards led to illustrating a story for Highlights for Children magazine, which led to more assignments from Highlights and book publishers such as Scholastic, Innovative Kids, School Zone, Oxford Press UK, Pearson and other educational and trade presses.

Most recently she’s completed a series of picture books for Zondervan (HarperCollins) by popular TV evangelist and author Joyce Meyer.

Below she talks about the challenge of keeping her drawings fresh as she moves them through the stages to final art.

Actually Mary did have a dog and Ball is dedicated to the memory of him. He was more interested in joining her for soulful walks in the woods than playing sports. He never played ball, but he kept Mary company while she worked long hours on deadlines.

I first interviewed Mary back in 2008 on my blogA second post showed a black and white dummy draft Mary did for the picture book Frog Jog by Barbara Gregorich (School Zone Publishing.)

She talked with me again recently — this time for students of the Make Your Splashes — Make Your Marks! online course. She showed F&Gs for Ball and gave us a glimpse into her illustration process that involves pulling her done-by-hand drawings into Photoshop and adding colors and shadows digitally. The videos here are a snippet from our recorded interview for the class.

A hands on Digital Symposium

Entrepreneurial artists and writers convened on the third floor of Fleck Hall at St. Edward’s University October 6 to learn about tools of the “new” publishing. Guest instructor, author and consultant Kirsten Cappy, with the digerati of Austin SCBWI introduced The Nuts and Bolts of Success with WordPress, Photoshop, Book Creator, iBooks Author, social media, making video book trailers for the web and more.

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Austin SCBWI assistant regional adviser Carmen Oliver set up a conference blog on Blogger on the spot to electronically seize the day of discovery, helping, fun and friendship.

Google + for Artists

Pooja's Google+ workshop screenshot

Watch Pooja Srinivas’ video presentation, Google+ for Artists and Illustrators  – and discover how to network, find and build community, extend your reach and promote your art and illustration with free Google+ tools.  Go here for Pooja’s superb 80 minute workshop.

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Illustrator E.B. Lewis heads up the Austin SCBWI 2013 conference, Kick It Up a Notch

A few years ago  American Artist Watercolor magazine assigned me to interview E.B. Lewis for an article. His realist watercolors were so exquisitely sensitive yet seemed so effortless. I was just as struck by his passion for excellence in his work and teaching and inspiring)his fellow artists.

He insists on watercolor even when he’s painting for galleries and collectors. Watercolor is an anomaly in a market fixated on oil and acrylic creations. Except for the signature Earl B. Lewis that he uses for his fine art pictures, it’s hard to tell the difference between these and his children’s story illustrations that are among the “finest art” ever produced for book publishers.

Lewis will deliver the keynote address for the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2013 conference. Kick It Up a Notch, set for February 8-10 at St. Edward’s University will also feature Crystal Kite award winning illustrator Patrice Barton and author Shutta Crum, Caldecott Honor author Liz Garton Scanlon, author Cynthia Levinson, editors Neal Porter, Kathy Landwehr, and Tamra Tuller and literary agents John Cusik, Erzi Deak and Rubin Pfeffer. Learn more about the gang on the conference faculty sheet.

Sign up for a special illustration intensive workshop with E.B. Lewis and/or portfolio and manuscript consults with the agent or editor of your choice (while time slots remain.) Download the complete conference info packet with registration forms.

Help Save the Farm

My friend Richard Johnson is on the home stretch of his Kickstarter campaign for his novel Saving the Farm — a fictional account of a marriage counseling workshop at a bed and breakfast in Maine and the documentary crew that comes to film it.

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

See the video on his Kickstarter page and consider kicking in as a backer.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects, everything from films, games, and music to art, design and technology,” states the main page of this site.

If you’ve never explored Kickstarter, Richard’s endeavor provides a fine introduction. Take a look at his video and positive proposal. For a keen understanding of the crowd-funding phenomenon, jump in with a small pledge.

It’s SCBWI conference scholarship time

National SCBWI is now accepting applications for scholarships (for full-time college or graduate school students) to the 2013  SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. For more information and instructions on how to apply, go here.

Entries now being accepted for the Tomie dePaola lllustrator Awards

December 14 is the deadline for the 2013 Tomie dePaola Illustrators Awards 2013. It’s all about classic chapter books this year.  Try a black and white scene from a novel by Louisa May Alcott, Tom Sawyer or Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Read the official guidelines and learn how to send your art to the contest’s “unofficial” online gallery established by SCBWI Houston Illustrator Coordinator Diandra Mae.

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Children’s book author-illustrator Mark Mitchell penned this post and did a short video on the “best drawing secret.” 

Author-illustrator Mary Sullivan

“How to Illustrate Children’s Books” A review

Last month we awarded Will Terry’s instructional video series How to Illustrate Children’s Books to the winner of our “Epiphany Essay” contest, Maya Scharke.

Lesson 3 - character design - Will Terry

This is a screenshot from the video, not a video player. To see the lesson, click on the linked name of Will Terry's course in the text above the image.

Since I proffer my own online course on children’s book illustration I was ready to take a fine tooth comb to this “competitor” that several of my illustrator buddies and colleagues were giving high marks to.

By Will Terry

By Will Terry

I didn’t get too far into the videos, though,  before I put away the comb.  How to Illustrate Children’s Books is a wonderful resource  for anyone interested in doing any kind of narrative illustration.

Will Terry has illustrated children’s books for Houghton Mifflin, Random House, Simon and Schuster and Scholastic. He’s also published his own e-picture books, like Monkey and Croc, which he sells for the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook readers, as well as a downloadable PDF.  So he’s able to speak to the digital revolution confronting traditional children’s publishing.

He teaches a course in children’s book illustration at Utah Valley University.

Will Terry's course

He explains how he’s painted most of his children’s books in acrylic paints, but tried his last couple in Photoshop after a friend showed him how to use the software. Now there’s no going back, he says.

He also sells separate videos on painting in acrylic and in Photoshop.

TheIllustrate Children’s Bookseries consists of  eight 20-30 minute video lectures that feature mini-demos, mostly done in Photoshop.

Will shows how he starts by making gobs of 1.5 inch diameter pencil thumbnail sketches in his sketchbook — to get a feeling for the scenes in a story, article or editorial and how to “manage the space”  in each picture.

He enlarges his favorite thumbnails (via Photoshop or photocopier) to more comfortable 4 x 5 inch dimensions. He traces this.  It becomes the comp, where he works out the most important shapes and details.

By Will Terry

By Will Terry

He next enlarges the comp — to a size that the finished illustration will be. When he’s completed his detailed outline drawing, he paints (via stylus, Wacom tablet and digital “brushes”.)

The final stage (one often short-changed by aspiring illustrators, Terry says) is the tweaking and refinements necessary to bring the image to a professional finish.

Reading words about any artist’s process is one thing. Watching it demonstrated in a crisp live action or screen capture video is a whole other experience.  Here’s where the series shines — not just in the visuals but in Terry’s plain-language commentaries that give the universal lesson in what we’re seeing.

I particularly enjoyed #4, Illustration design and # 6, Working with color where he makes sophisticated ideas simple for the viewer.

I also appreciated the last one, #8, Submitting your work where he talks to us like an artist buddy about self-publishing opportunities and the “Oklahoma Land Rush” of the new digital publishing marketplace (and how it won’t last forever.)

Will Terry Cover

That’s a refreshing virtue — that he doesn’t shy away from the hard issues such as “How much is your time worth?” and the imperative of having passion in your work and putting in that “time in the saddle” —  significant time (as in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours) to achieve any real mastery of craft.

I’ll leave you with a couple of his quotes from the lessons — and my strong recommendation that you include How to Illustrate Children’s Books  in your art instruction arsenal.

“You’re making characters from shapes and their placements. Be deliberate.
Shapes really matter. Shapes communicate your ideas.”

“Color harmony is colors relating.”

“Don’t let the image design your thumbnail.”

See the complete  lesson #3,  Character design on the website that also contains Terry’s online portfolio,  store and blog that’s characterized by the same good information and candor as his video presentations.

You can orderHow to Illustrate Children’s Books along with Will’s other instructional videos on his Folio Academy website here.

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We have another Epiphany Essay – this one by Lacy Morgan.  (Readers were asked to write about, “What epiphany in connection to drawing, painting or children’s book illustration have you experienced in the past year?”)

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Children's Book Illustration Class at AMOA Art School

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Becoming Child-like Again

By Laci Morgan

Epiphany Essay no. 2  

As a freelance illustrator and animator, I think it’s important to learn from others to keep up on your skills.

This last year, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a few conferences in my industry by becoming a student volunteer.

At the Creative Talent Network Expo (CTN-X), a conference that focuses on character design and animation, I was in charge of directing VIPs like Pixar and Disney artists to their panels, making sure that everything ran smoothly and according to schedule.

During the talks, I would stand in the back of the room and observe the audience.  What surprised me more than anything else is the sheer number of attendees that whipped out a sketchbook and were drawing their fellow seatmates or the speakers.

Though they were listening to the speakers intently, they were also using the time to brush up on their skills and add to their sketchbook!

It struck me as being something unique to artists…at no other type of convention would you find audience members doodling and have it be not only “OK to do,” but actually encouraged!

(It took me back to the days where my elementary school teachers would catch me doodling behind my desk when I was SUPPOSED to be learning math, and end up having to skip recess) I was hit by the thought that this is a mindset I myself need to get into.

These artists had a sketchbook on them at every moment, and grabbed any opportunity they had to draw. I realized that I can’t even remember the last time I randomly whipped out my sketchbook and just drew what I saw around me…most of the time my “creative powers” are channeled into client work or school work, not creating for myself.

I was inspired to start bringing the sketchbook with me on a daily basis, and I’m trying to become more aware of the fact that it’s OK to draw just to draw…I don’t HAVE to be creating for the paycheck or the degree.

I also recently sat down with a client whose 7 year old daughter had “helped” her dad by drawing out some logo ideas with crayon for him to take to our meeting.

While some artists would roll their eyes at this (“oh no, ANOTHER client who has an “artist” in the family), I have to admit that I was amazed at the creativity this little girl possessed in her drawings.

She had come up with pages of ideas and drawn detailed, intricate patterns and lettering, not limited by what logos “should” look like.  (In fact, those drawings reminded me of myself at that age!)

I think as we get older and keep hearing things like “you can’t do that” and are forced to conform to what the public thinks looks good, we begin to lose that magical quality of imagination that children posess.

We start to get afraid that our ideas will be rejected, so we don’t push the envelope and stay with “safe” ideas. We as artists need to learn how to be unafraid to think outside the box, and brainstorm without fear of acceptance.

Because of some of these insights, my goal in 2011 is to find a way to go back to that creative, child-like place again, and begin to “dream” and create more art for myself again!

I think that having this new mindset will really show itself through my work this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me!

Laci Morgan
www.lacimorgancreations.com

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Learn how to impress an art director…

Illustrator Intensive Fla SCBWI FLorida Illustrators’ Intensive 2011

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

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Animator,  illustrator and now author Laura Jennings has launched her new science fiction e-book, The Highsong Project.  (Amazon Kindle users can go here to order.)  She’s produced a compelling video book trailer, which she animated herself and  a new blog, The Highsong Project, to promote her book and share  experiences and discoveries on her e-book self-publishing and marketing journey.  I’m pleased to add Laura’s blog to my blogroll.

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"Marks and Splashes" courseMark Mitchell is the creator of the “Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!” online course on illustrating books and other media for children. He also hosts this blog.

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Is it time to really learn Photoshop?

Children’s book illustrators increasingly are using Photoshop to bring their images into the “final art” stage.

Photoshop files are the raw materials for building interactive digital books for the iPad and smart phones.  In a previous post Ezra Weinstein,  publisher of InteractBooks discussed the need for Photoshop layers from illustrators.

Here in the above video abstract artist Steve Connor discusses uses of Photoshop and different ways to learn the program that is fairly oceanic in applications and features and, Steve suggests, becoming a part of everyday work and life.

Yes,  the cameramen should be fed more tranquilizers — or go out and get a tripod for his Kodak Zi8 camera. (We’re working on the problem.)

Meanwhile  Steve, who teaches art and multimedia at ITT Technical Institute and other campuses in Austin does great in the interview.  Trained in the fine arts at Syracuse University and Pratt Institute, he worked as a designer and an art director for advertising agencies,  corporate marketing departments and in his own creative services agency in the San Francisco Bay area.  He teaches a wide range of design, media-editing  and publishing programs including InDesignIllustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, 3ds Max and Premiere. He also provides online training and consulting. You can read about him and the  beautiful compositions (lyrical abstractions) that he creates on his website and blog.

Steve has put up a short and easy  survey,  Learning Digital Media to determine what you would most like to learn from an online Photoshop class series and he’d appreciate any of your responses on it.

For participating,  you can watch his  video lesson,  Bare Bones Intro to Photoshop.

Roughly 15 minutes long, it shows how to work with layers, the brush tool, shapes and effects. This will  help you get started — no matter what edition of Photoshop you have. 

Actually, Steve says that even if you don’t answer the easy questions on the survey, you’re still welcome to see  his  video. You’re asked to register with your name and e-mail address to see the lesson. But otherwise it’s free.  Watch the lesson.

Sign up to watch the replay of Steve’s 90 minute online tutorial:  An Intro to Photoshop Art-Making: Vector and Paint.  (It’s excellent!)

But your responses on the  survey will help Steve put together a course that might be exactly what you’ve been looking for in a Photoshop education.

Here are those links again:

Survey:  Learning Digital Media

Video Lesson Presentation: Bare Bones Intro to Photoshop

 An Intro to Photoshop Art-Making: Vector and Paint

Then there’s WordPress

Speaking of tech trainings,  Erik Kuntz of Austin gave a fantastic presentation to our Marks and Splashes students last week.

He showed us different ways to build picture galleries on our WordPress and WordPress.com blogs.  He covered lots  more in his offhand conversation and answers to our questions during the session.

A web comics creator, writer,  illustrator and website developer for small and large businesses, Erik has long championed WordPress as a most plausible web platform for artists and other creative people.

So there’s a survey up for him, too, because he’s considering putting together a series of trainings,  WordPress for Artists. Tell him what you’d like to see in informal trainings for WordPress and his other software specialties, Corel PainterAdobe Illustrator and Manga Studio for cartoonists, graphic novel artists and children’s book illustrators. Take Erik’s WordPress survey.

Austin SCBWI Conference Photos

Books, Boots and Buckskin, the 2011 regional conference of the Austin Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators was a happy success, thanks to the many chapter volunteers, extraordinary presenters and faculty and the wonderful  historical campus with its intimate theater auditorium and state of the art presentation rooms.

The conference was hosted by St. Edwards University, which provided the gorgeous setting and wonderful support staffand InteractBooks.com –  an Austin, Texas-based  publisher of interactive children’s picture book apps and a developer of software building tools for iPad and mobile phone book and rich media content apps.

David Diaz

Caldecott Medal winning illustrator David Diaz illustrates a scene from a manuscript by one of the conference attendees.  He’s illustrating on the back of a door bought from Home Depot.

He’s joined by Austin SCBWI assistant regional adviser Carmen Oliver and illustrator Clint Young.

David Diaz’s completed illustration on the back of a door.  See more photos from the conference.