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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P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z

The childhood thrill of make believe looms large for Dublin-based artist P.J. Lynch, 2X winner of England’s Kate Greenaway Medal for IllustrationHe may not come out and say this. But you can’t not feel it in his children’s book illustrations and murals, YouTube videos and lectures about art and painting in Ireland and the U.S.

He puts pretending first, which makes his formidable technical skills as a draftsman and painter accessible to all.

Lynch created two remarkable murals on the theme of Gulliver’s Travels for the Johnston Central Library — in Cavan County, Ireland (where Johnathan Swift wrote most of his classic satire.)

In the video Lynch shows us how he acted out the character roles for one of the large panel paintings.

Illustrators are actors, as Howard Pyle suggested to his students more than 100 years ago.

In the above BBC film short Lynch talks about illustrating the old Norwegian folk tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon and how he asked his mom, girlfriend, neighbor “and anyone who was handy” to pose for him as characters in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

In the videos above and below an older Lynch walks us through the stages of creating illustrations for American Frank Stockton’s The Bee-man of Orn. 

He shows us how he uses the computer to re-arrange his drawings and compose his scenes to best effect.

Elements from his piles of sketches can be “moved about like paper cut-outs,” he says.

“The great thing is they can be enlarged or reduced and you can even change the shape of them. You can even flip them over, like this…”

“Then all I have to do is paint the pictures,” Lynch says with a hint of drollness.

Some of these pictures will take up to a month to complete, he says.  He’ll make sketch after sketch “before the image ever starts to take shape.”

His watercolor demo speaks for itself. At the end he adds touches of gouache for highlights. You’ll enjoy peeking into his blog, where you’ll find more examples of his spellbinding art.

Voyage to Lilliput mural for Cavan County Library

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by George Webbe Dasent (translator)

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See what happened when Walt Disney (and Boy Scouts  movement founder Lord Baden Powell, too) discovered Baloo, Mowgli and other characters from Rudyard Kipling’s darkly themed stories about animal society in the Indian jungle. You’ll enjoy the latest video post up on the Illustration Course blog.                                                                                                                                                      * * * * *

Check out illustrator and teacher Will Terry’s guest post on  preparing your picture book dummy to send to publishers.  The post is part of the terrific on-going PBDummy Challenge series by illustrators on the #KidLitArt blog.

Will offers  some great video courses on illustration and other art-making at his Folio Academy website. My favorites are How to Illustrate a Children’s Book and his two Photoshop video courses. You can read more about them here.

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2-19-2013 4-48-58 PM

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Are you interested in writing children’s books as well as making pictures for them? You can download two free examination copies of the Children’s Writer newsletter at the newsletter’s website here.

The newsletter is a publication of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Writer Mary Furlong has profiled Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! (On Your Mark, Get Set…Illustrate!) in this month’s edition of the Children’s Writer  (June 2012).

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Discover an instant way to righteously better drawing in these free videos.

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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell teaches an online course on children’s book illustration that you can read more about here.

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“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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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.

Your “Epiphany Essay”

It should have something to do with children’s book illustration, or illustrators or drawing or painting or simply communicating to younger readers with your art.

American painter Aline Rhonie working on wall mural

Aline H Rhonie learned mural painting from Diego Rivera.  She painted the large aviation themed fresco mural in Hangar F at Roosevelt Field.


By it,  I do mean — your epiphany.

What epiphany, you ask.
The epiphany that you’re going to write and tell me about in your essay.

What essay?  I can almost hear you.

Your  essay for the contest to win illustrator Will Terry’s eight video course, Children’s Book Illustration.

Will  Terry's video course on children's book illustration

Tell us that aha insight you had, or were keen enough to see when someone showed it to you or you  saw, heard or read somewhere.

Keep it under 400 words and e-mail it to me at Mark@HowToBeAChildrensBook Illustrator.com

Or leave a comment here on the blog.

Or,  if you prefer, use the form above. If you don’t want to enter the contest, use the form to express where you think children’s publishing is going, or what you’d like to see in the way of  informal online trainings for visual artists.  Your comments will get you a soapbox here.

But they won’t get you the prize.  The prize will go to the writer  of the best short essay about his or her aha moment or uniquely personal learning experience pertaining to drawing, painting or children’s book illustration.

No, your epiphany does not have to be a result of my lessons.  As much as I’d appreciate the references, your essay probably will be scored higher if it’s on your own inspiration or problem solution.

Many good essays already have been turned in since the launching of the contest a few weeks ago. You can enter more than one, by the way. But I want to make this an open competition. Open to everyone — not just those caring, responsible souls who always get their homework in early.

There’s a real deadline, though. It’s this Wednesday (April 6.)   The winner will be announced here Friday (April 8.)

All submitted essays will be published at some point — along with attributions and links to sites and/or blogs, contributors willing.

Thank you to all of you who have taken pen in hand and submitted fun pieces.  Good luck to everyone who’s  been or will be daring enough to try.

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WordPress for Artists workshop

You’ve probably already heard from me, or others how awesome it was.
If you haven’t received an e-mail with the link to the recording yet, you can get that e-mail by signing up for the replay here. Web developer and animator Erik Kuntz of  Square Bear Studio brilliantly walked us through how to install great looking and elegantly functioning picture thumbnail galleries on our WordPress blogs.

If you’ve ever wondered how to get your portfolio up and looking smart on line,  here’s a great way to do it with some free WordPress plug-ins.
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Houston SCBWI Conference set for this Saturday

Get your details and registration form here.   Editors from Disney Hyperion and Scholastic and an art director from Simon and Schuster will present there, along with author-illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw.  Simon and Schuster art director Laurent Linn will do a 90 minute breakout session with illustrators and portfolio reviews.

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When was the last time you really doodled?

See the amazing Sunni Brown of the  “Doodle Revolution” in the video made of a presentation she gave at Duarte Design. It’s up on my blog, Illustration Course and you really don’t want to miss her or her ideas.

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Courses page

Check out the new Courses page, which compiles all the “ala carte” offerings from the Marks and Splashes course — for those who like their learning in small doses.

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