“I just drew baby after baby after baby…”

It was a treat, as always to visit with children’s book illustrator Patrice Barton.  

In these two videos Patty tells us a little about her artwork for the picture book Sweet Moon Baby written by Karen Henry Clark (Knopf Books for Young Readers.)

Patty graduated with a B.F.A in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as a graphic designer for the Texas Department of Public Safety and a freelance commercial artist before she decided to focus on children’s book illustration, the art specialty she loved most.

She began with assignments from children’s magazines and educational presses. Gradually her client list grew to include major children’s trade publishers — Farrar,  Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers and Scholastic Book Club, in addition to Knopf.

Children's book artist Patrice Barton talks to students

Children's book artist Patrice Barton talks to students at the Austin Museum of Art Art School

Here are some of the takeaways  from our discussion last month.

She says “yes” to the manuscripts that pull her in emotionally. She passes on assignments where the writing does not affect her.

When illustrating a book, she plows into sketches, often working on tracing paper to discover her characters.

She’ll place tracing paper over her drawings and sketch on it to build her compositions and scene interactions.  Much of this work she’ll throw away. The “keepers” she’ll puzzle out out how to fit into her scene composites.

Her process  involves trial and error and a lot of drawing before she comes up with the images that (she feels) will do the best job of bringing the page to life.

Patty likes to show her editors black and white value studies of her sketches (painted on the computer in Corel Painter) before she works out the story’s visual flow, pace and page turns in a series of experimental dummies of various sizes.

When everyone has signed off on her monochromatic sketches she brings her line drawings (that she had scanned into Photoshop into Corel Painter and paints them in color.

 "Sweet Moon Baby" double spread

Double page spread from "Sweet Moon Baby" by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton (Knopf)

And she endures with good cheer and good faith the numerous requests from her editors for changes and redo’s that are a fact of life for a professional book illustrator — even one as highly talented and diligent as Patty.

The two videos are from a 90 minute recorded interview Patty did for students of my Marks and Splashes online course on illustrating children’s books. (We’re incorporating monthly interviews with children’s book illustrators into the lessons.)

Next time on the blog, Patty will walk us through her process of creating the art for the well-reviewed picture book Mine!  by Shutta Crum (Knopf) and give us a sneak peek at Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche, which Knopf plans to bring out in December.

In more children’s book art news…

The InteractBuilder contest deadline for creating your own interactive touch screen e-book for Interact Books has been extended to October 15.

Version 2.5 of the free software will be released by the end of August or early September, the developers say.

“There are a A TON of new and exciting features that will allow you to create even more compelling interactive books,” this week’s announcement from InteractBuilder added.  “And do not worry, any book you are working on will convert automatically, there will be no extra work needed unless you want to take advantage of one of the new features.”

conference logo

The Austin SCBWI symposium Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change  set for  Saturday, October 8 has opened registration.  Among the workshop and panels on the program:  Creating and Maintaining Your Web Persona presented by Erik KuntzThere’s an App for That presented by Amanda Williams,  Paper to Pixels: The Art of the Digital Paintbrush presented by Clint Young,  Storytelling in the Digital Age: Imagine presented by Ezra Weinstein and  Children’s Book Illustrators and Technology presented by the Girllustrators — and really so much more.

SCBWI Executive director Lin Oliver will deliver the keynote from California via SKYPE. Her topic: The SCBWI’s recommendations to illustrators and authors on how to evaluate publishers in the digital marketplace.

The ground-breaking event at St. Edward’s University will be the place to learn about e-books, interactive books for touch screen devices, iPhone game apps from Austin, Texas developers — as well as to meet and network with them. Registration is only $75 for SCBWI members.  You can read more about the symposum here. 

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Mark Mitchell teaches an online course on illustrating children’s books, “Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!” 

Check out the course Facebook pageFacebook group and companion blog.
Please “like” or join them if you’re so inclined to do so. 🙂

Discover a “big secret” of making better drawings. 

“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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