An amazing way to learn illustration

So what is musician-performer-dancer-composer Lindsey Stirling doing on this blog about children’s book illustration? She’s an artist but she works in a different medium. She hasn’t published a children’s picture book. (Not yet, anyway, but give her time.)

I’m sharing this video of her 2011 tune Shadows, because twenty-two million YouTube viewers are not wrong — it’s a great music video. It also helps me to make a point about something I see happening that I like to call:

Are you ready?  (It’s a big phrase.)  Ahem... The toppling of the hierarchy of learning.

Lindsey has studied classical violin since age six. Private teachers for 12 years.

But my question is…

Where did she learn to dance like this?

Answer: YouTube! She says so here on her website. She analysed music videos, studied the footwork of the dancers, put her own moves together and practiced in front of a mirror.

So my next question is:

If Lindsey can learn her choreography from the Internet, do you think you can you learn to design and improve your drawing and painting similarly?

I  certainly think so! Good thing, too because in recent weeks four new art courses have launched online. Two of them, focusing on illustrating children’s books start next month (June, 2013)

Mira Reisberg (aka: The Picture Book Whisperer) is offering The Craft and Business of Children’s Book IllustrationJune 3 — July 15.

Will Terry and Jake Parker are offering Illustration for Storytellers, June 10 — July 10.

Last week I interviewed these teachers to discover more. We decided to open up our discussions so that anyone watching could ask questions. You can catch the replay of our session with magical Mira here or by clicking on the graphic below. (You’ll be asked for your e-mail address. It will be worth it.)

The Picture Book Academy

Mira Reisberg’s Picture Book Academy

Mira’s class promises a full-immersion experience into the world of children’s publishing, with her own video interviews with editors, art directors and author-illustrators. There will also be wide-ranging lessons on craft/technique and the business/career-building side of being a children’s book artist.

Will’s and Jake’s training will take you through design, draftsmanship, painting and building flowing storyboards and successful full-colored final art. They’ll cover how to prepare your art for a traditional print book, e-book, story app, help you to understand traditional vs digital illustration, file types, pagination, pacing, layouts — and how to build your online presence as an artist. The live interactive class is already full, but through July 15 you can still register for the lite version, to receive the recordings.

You can access our amazing two-hour session with Will and Jake here or by clicking on the graphic below. Will and Jake each taught a very cool, generous lesson that you won’t want to miss.

Mark Mitchell, Will Terry and Jake Parker

Mark Mitchell, Will Terry and Jake Parker

Of the two classes, which one should you pick? It’s a no-brainer! Take both!

They’re by gifted people, professionally experienced artists who are also natural teachers (as you’ll see in the replays.) Their curriculums are different and as rich and rewarding as any you’d find at a brick and mortar campus. (This is not surprising, since Mira, Jake and Will all teach or have taught at brick and mortar campuses.)

And when you finish their classes, consider taking my Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! online course, too! It’s also about children’s book illustration. Online art classes like these rock! They’re fun. They’ll make you better. And they’re re not as difficult as teaching yourself to dance while playing the violin.

At author-illustrator Mary Sullivan's launch party for her one word picture book "Ball!" (Houghton Mifflin) at the Writing Barn. Left to right Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor and author-Illustrator shelley Ann Jackson, Austin SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Amy Farrier, Mary Sullivan, author-illustrator Mark Mitchell, author Julie Lake, author-illustrators Erik Kuntz and Jeff Crosby. Photo by author Bethany Hegedus.

At author-illustrator Mary Sullivan’s launch party for her one word picture book Ball! (Houghton Mifflin) at The Writing Barn, in Austin Texas on May 4. Left to right Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor and author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson, Austin SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Amy Farrier,  author-illustrator Mary Sullivan, author-illustrator Mark Mitchell, author Julie Lake, author-illustrators Erik Kuntz and Jeff Crosby. Photo by author Bethany Hegedus. To see a recent post and video interview featuring Mary, go here.

A spread from Mary Sullivan's "Ball!"

A spread from Mary Sullivan’s new picture book Ball! published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

From Mary Sullivan's new book Ball!

From Mary Sullivan’s new book Ball!

Julie Lake reads "BalL!" at The Writing Barn.

Julie Lake reads Ball! at The Writing Barn.

Bethany Hegedus with page proofs of her new picture book "Grandfather Gandhi"

During Mary’s signing party at The Writing Barn, Austin SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Amy Farrier, authors Greg Leitich Smith, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Bethany Hegedus, author-illustrators Jeff Crosby and Erik Kuntz and author Julie Lake review the early page proofs shared by Bethany from her upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk. Due out in March, 2014.

Cover of the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk.

Cover of the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk.

From the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi,

From the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk.  Scheduled for publication 3/11/2014.

From the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi,

Illustration by Evan Turk from the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi by Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi.  Scheduled for publication 3/11/2014

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Post by Mark Mitchell.

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Conjuring a young witch’s world in watercolor

University of Texas BFA grad Marsha Riti worked at her first creative love, ceramics before she saw an opportunity to make some extra money with her studio art craft — illustrating books for children.

She did some additional study (including taking my class at the AMOA Art School), joined the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and built up her portfolio.

Eventually she landed the assignment from Pelican Press to illustrate the picture book The Picky Little Witch by Elizabeth Brokamp.

In these excerpts from a video interview she did for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course, Marsha shares her process for illustrating a picture book.

Her technique of patching together and occasionally manipulating her watercolor illustrations in Photoshop has served her well.

Her blog that she fills with her images and interviews with her illustrator and artists friends caught the attention of an agent, which led  to a contract to illustrate a series of chapter books for the Little Simon imprint of Simon & Schuster.

In the slideshow below you can see Marsha garbed as her witch-in-training heroine at last month’s book launch party.

She’s joined by friends from her Austin SCBWI illustrators’ critique group, the Girlustrators who came out to support, babes and broomsticks in tow.

Marsha Riti signs at BookPeople, surrounded by her Girlustrator pals.

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InteractBook contest winners announced

Our judging team has named the winners for the create your own iPad
book app  contest by InteractBooks.

The first place winner in the contest for creating an interactive book using the InteractBuilder software received an iPad2 and a publishing contract.

Other contestants received prizes, too.

First Place –  It’s Time for Carrots by Dan Byrne

Second Place –  Put the Ow in Meow by Adreienne Jervis

Third PlaceThe Magic of Lizzie Boo by Leslie Dennis

Coming in fourth and neck in neck with third place – CAE Club gets Ready for a Great and Scary Halloween by Ann Kesselman.

Congratulations to all contenders!

Stand by for some videos about the entries, an interview with the winner and news about the next InteractBooks contest.

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Read a fun post by South African artist and new student Helga Pearson about the Marsha Riti interview and her experience of her first lessons of the Marks and Splashes course.

Find out more about the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course on illustrating children’s books in a changing publishing world.

Diorama to the rescue! Creating your own sculptural reference

A clay-sculpted cat plays with a paper moth, diorama for sculptural reference created by Theresa Bayer  
Theresa couldn’t find reference of a cat in the pose she imagined for this scene, so she made her own cat of clay, and her own moth of paper and string. She assembled her own little stage set, replete with twigs and texture, to place her critters in.  After creating her world in 3-D, she felt comfortable recreating it in 2-D as an acrylic painting. 

Illustration, diorama and mini-lesson by Theresa Bayer

When I used to do a lot of clay sculpture, I got to the point where I didn’t need much reference. Over the years I developed the ability to sculpt something straight out of my head. When I started painting, I tried doing it purely from my imagination, only to find it much more difficult than sculpting that way. With sculpture, I didn’t have to deal with foreshortening, chiaroscuro (light/shadow), and composition. When I started painting from my imagination, these three aspects of painting confounded me, and I realized I was out of my depth, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Conversely, I found painting from life the simplest way to go. Easy enough to find reference by setting up a still life, or going outdoors to paint, or painting from a live model. But how to tie this in with composing from imagination? Photographic reference was good, but didn’t supply everything I needed for each project. Sketching from life was good, but it still presented some problems: it’s really hard to draw something that doesn‘t hold still, and I’m not skilled at photographing such things.

My answer came in the form of sculptural reference, ie., creating a little scene, or diorama, and painting from it.

I wanted to do a small, whimsical painting of a cat playing with a moth. I sculpted the cat from sketches of my two cats, plus photos I found of cats. I picked out a moth from Animals, by Dover Publications. This book has copyright free reference for artists– although whenever I am using reference such as clip art or photos I always change it around to keep my work original. I made a model of the moth using a clay body and cardboard wings. I set up the models in a box, and added some greenery–the boxwood hedge from our yard had tiny leaves, just the right size. I added a small pan of water for the pool. I painted directly from the diorama; the photo above is strictly for illustrative purposes.

Theresa Bayer\'s painting from the diorama she created
Here is the finished painting.

There are three kinds of clay that can be used to sculpt from: pottery clay, which is water based, poly clay, and plastiline clay, which is oil based. The advantage of pottery clay is that it can be kiln fired, making the model permanent. Poly clay can be made permanent too, if it is oven baked. The advantage of plastiline clay is that it never dries out, so the same figure can be adjusted. I use both pottery clay and plastiline clay.

Creating your own models saves time and frustration. Last year I had a 24 hour deadline for an illustration of a hang glider.  The photo references baffled me; I did not see how I could use them without running into copyright issues. I accomplished the task by making a model of a hang glider out of cardboard and wire, with a tiny clay figure of a man. I used several photos for reference for the model, and ended up designing my own hang glider (I have no idea if my design would actually fly). The model was fun to make, and easy to draw. I made my deadline.

Commercial figurines and toys also make good 3D reference (again, they should be changed for the sake of originality), but there’s nothing like sculpting your own models. Your own style comes through, reiterated in your painting or illustration. You can light sculptural models any way you want, and reuse them for other projects. To sculpt from any kind of clay, all you need is a book to inform you of the technical aspects of that kind of clay, or take a sculpture course or two. Once you’ve made the models, placing them inside a diorama makes it easier to come up with a good composition. 

Theresa Bayer Theresa Bayer received her B.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.  See examples of her watercolors, acrylics, sketches, sculpture, caricatures, professional illustration, ceramic art, including ocarinas at her website http://www.tbarts.com.
And check her three blogs: 
http://tbarts.blogspot.com (fine arts),  http://tbarts2.blogspot.com (fun arts) http://waterlark.blogspot.com (watercolors)

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