World touring sketchbooks

Have you drawn in your sketchbook today? It’s a question that humbles every aspiring children’s book illustrator.

But in our “high touch era” where the handcrafts site Etsy numbers near the top of online marketplaces and scrapbooking became so cool that it inspired the social media phenomenon known as Pinterest, sketchbooks and the art of filling them are no longer restricted to fine artists and commercial artists and hobby painters.

It’s a more general cause celebre and maybe even a craze, if popular blog groups like SketchCrawl, Urban Sketchers and Everyday Matters are an indication. Since 2009 the Brooklyn Art-House Co-Op has been gathering up sketchbooks and sending them on national tour in a traveling library. This year the effort extended across the Atlantic to include London. Hence the name,  2012 Sketchbook Project World Tour

“The Sketchbook Project is a global, crowd-sourced art project where participants from all walks of life are sent a sketchbook and have until January 15th to fill the pages and return it for inclusion in a traveling exhibition and permanent collection at The Brooklyn Art Library,” the co-op’s website says.

You can see some 500 photos on the Facebook page. And some more cool photos in this Instagram gallery on Tumblr.

Sketchbook Tour stops in Austin

Our children’s picture book critique group under the Austin (Texas) Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Inklings decided to take part in this year’s tour with a group sketchbook mosaic.

It’s all explained (twice) in this riveting cinéma vérité documentary. Notice how the camera is not only hand-held in the respected auteur tradition, but often entirely neglected as the chronicler starts talking with his subjects and the lens tips to study T-shirts and shoes, picnic tables and dirt on the ground…

Austin (September 12-16) was the last North American stop before the books moved on to London. Starting from Brooklyn they’d already traveled to Chicago, Portland, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Lynn, Portland (Maine), Toronto, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Orlando.

Co-Lab Project Space on Allen Street in East Austin was converted into a library replete with signage,  computers, workers, loaded bookshelves and waiting lines.  According to the Brooklyn ArtHouse archive, 2,435 books were checked out and viewed during those four days in Austin and 300 new Sketchbook Project library cards were issued.

The sketchbooks, new ones will be back in Austin next year — at Co-Labs again and at the SXSW Festival scene on March 15-17  for the 2013 World Tour.

Maury Tieman, Martha Carleton, Mark Mitchell, Joyce Chambers-Selber and Allissa Chambers of the Austin SCBWI Inklings — with “Willie Lisa.” Other “Inklings” who participated in the mosaic project included Margaret Jonon Buford, Martin Fry, Ann Hartman, Jeff Crosby and the late Louise Shelby.

November events

The biggest news of recent weeks? No, it wasn’t the U.S. presidential election. It was Disney buying LucasFilm/LucasArts and all Star Wars rights for $4 billion. Here’s a Forbes take on the purchase and more particulars and videos from Mashable. It means more Star Wars movies to come, a re-thinking and possible scrapping of Star Wars games currently on the boards and a new (apparently long overdue) Disney line for boys.

No, Star Wars didn’t start off as a children’s book, but it could have. The Disney purchase evidences the staggering value of an intellectual asset and of what sometimes can happen when a story with good characters ascends to the status of a meme.  This was not a freak occurrence, either. In 2009 Disney paid $4 billion  for Marvel Comics.

The other news of course is the publishing merger. Two of the “Big Six”, Random House, owned by the conglomerate Bertelsmann and Penguin, owned by publishing giant Pearson announced joining forces in a deal exptected to close sometime next year (to counter the threat of Amazon, some industry watchers suggest.) Combined companies willl have a fourth of the English-language consumer book sales, asserts the Publishers Weekly story on the announcement,

The merger takes the “Big Six” down to five:  Random House Penguin, Hachette, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan,  HarperCollins,  which is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the CBS owned Simon & Schuster — with those pesky 21st century publishing upstarts Amazon, Apple and Microsoft nipping at their heels.

November is Picture Book Month and author Dianne de Las Casas with co-founding author-illustrators Elizabeth DulembaKatie DavisTara Lazar and Wendy Martin have assembled this this delightful blog where author-illustrators guest post and the joys and significance of this peculiarly demanding literary art form.

November is also Picture Book Idea Month, if you didn’t know. It’s what PiBoIdMo stands for, writes children’s author Tara Lazar. “Tired of novelists having all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month]? That’s why I created PiBoIdMo, as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers,” she says.  “The concept is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes).” The PiBoiMo part of Tara’s blog  is  loaded full with super “process posts” and tips from practitioners, along with some great author-illustrator “war stories” that will move and inspire you.

On the storm front, Chronicle Books editor Melissa Manlove is offering what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an aspiring picture book author — a FREE PASS to one of her company’s editorial meetings, along with a private  critique before yourstory goes to the meeting. It’s one of many neat auction items touted for KidLit Cares, a Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Read all about it on organizer and children’s book author Kate Messer’s blog.

E.B. Lewis to headline Austin SCBWI conference

Caldecott honor-winning illustrator E.B. Lewis will keynote the conference, Kick It Up a Notch as well as conduct a special illustrators’ intensive on Sunday after Saturday’s main event.

In the video below Lewis speaks compassionately on his painting exhibit Lotto Icons, which began as scribbled ideas in his (what else?) sketchbook.

Drawing in Photoshop

Steve Connor is an abstract fine arts painter, former art director, Adobe CS-6 certified instructor and CEO of Deep4D Digital Media & Training. He demystifies the PS tools and the difference modes of drawing and painting with them in this free 90 minute workshop, Vector and Paint: An Intro to Photoshop.

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Award-winning author-illustrator Mark Mitchell wrote this post. Get on the blog mailing list and see some short videos on  “the best secret” to good drawing.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Baby steps

I’ll admit that I was floored by the quality of  the essays turned in for our “Epiphany” contest.

The deadline was Wednesday. Contestants were asked to compose an answer of no more than 400 words to a rather broad question, “What’s the major discovery you’ve made or the biggest insight you’ve learned this  year in drawing or painting, or marketing yourself as an artist in the children’s publishing field?”

The winning essay would net its author a terrific video course by illustrator and teacher Will Terry,  How to Illustrate Children’s Books.

Will Terry's course

Collectively the submissions gave me fresh insight into the readers of this blog. I already knew that many of you are illustrators or artists and love children’s literature.

I didn’t know that so many are writers — good,  analytical, thoughtful — eloquent in several cases — and practical-minded language handlers. These pieces were a pleasure to read.

The answers were so good that I can hardly wait to publish them all here.  I feel a pushing sense of urgency to get them out to you. But it will happen steadily over the coming weeks.

Tonight we’ll publish the winner, by Maya Scharke of Quebec, Canada with its theme of doing, but doing bit by bit.

Epiphany by Maya Scharke

A glimpse into the mind of an artist…oh how quickly the wings flutter, perhaps as  fast as a hummingbird hovering  around gooey artificial red syrup. It seems to churn in the middle of the night, in the early morning, over granola at breakfast, during quick skis in the woods, and most often in front of a warm fire with a glass of wine.

The flurry of activity in my mind is analogous to that of a newly filled bird feeder on a cool crisp day, it scurries, dips, dives, spins and circles. I have often found myself looking into my mind, or that blank canvas saying, “Wowza, what should I do next? I have so many things to do, so much to learn!

Do I develop my story ideas through gesture drawings, do I practice my perspective skills, do I work on character design, or value painting, or brush up on my figure drawing, or, or, um, or…oh boy, Wowza, what shoooould I do next?” I suspect these feelings of confusion that stem entirely from sheer excitement to ‘do’, often overwhelm many of my fellow artists in the same way. I have found it often translates into blocks of anticipation rather than productivity.

This can be stifling, especially when life doesn’t produce many windows of time to deliberate! This type of activity in my mind has forced me to step back, re-evaluate how I quantify my productivity, or should I say qualify my productivity. I mean doesn’t it all contribute to the ultimate goal?

The spinning and thinking and especially the heartfelt, ‘deep in your belly’ emotions experienced for loving the creative process, it has to count for something!?! It must, I really do believe it does! Therefore, in hopes to  practice what I preach,

I have made a pact with myself to approach my expectations of productivity differently, to focus on the overarching aspiration and contribute to that with baby steps.

Open my sketchbook every day, try out new techniques, plan time to move my creative projects along, engage in discussions about art, and really make the ENTIRE creative process a part of my everyday life.

So, that’s it, my epiphany, my insight, lift the pressure and just create! I encourage others to do the same. We don’t know what will come out of it but you can  guarantee satiation, sheer satisfaction, and contentment from fulfilling such an intrinsic desire.