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

WordPress for artists?

Children’s book illustrators,  like all artists, can reach their markets and audiences more easily than ever before, thanks to the Internet!

And I believe that WordPress, the open source content management system is one of the best ways to establish a presence on the web.

Erik Kuntz, designer, web consultant, instructor and web comic artist feels the same way I do about WordPress. Except he knows tons more about it than I do.  He consults with small businesses and big companies on this stuff.  (He’s also the intrepid webmaster of our Austin, Texas SCBWI chapter.)

Erik Kuntz with Austin illustrators

Erik (standing, right) is joined by Austin illustrators and writers and friends (left to right) Jeff and Libby Byington, Don Tate, Christy Stallop, Amy Farrier, Torran Anderson, Louise Shelby, Ross Carnes and Martin Thomas.

A couple of weeks ago he conducted a special online workshop session for my Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes class.

He did a brilliant presentation, showing us different ways to put up our illustration galleries on our WordPress blogs.  By galleries  I mean the tiny thumbnail pictures you click on to see much larger higher res versions of them.  After showing us a trick for doing it on WordPress.com blogs, he showed us how to do it on our WordPress.org blogs using the free plug-in, NextGen Gallery.

Alas, things do not always work out perfectly.  The recording did not take.

We were all so counting on the replay.  Erik shared so much with us that it was hard to get it all down in our notes!  I did what I had to:  Asked him if he’d be willing to walk us through the workshop again.

He agreed to — characteristically, because he’s a helpful soul.

So we’re doing the same workshop again. This time we’re throwing the doors open a bit, broadcasting on UStream.

The recording will stay up on Erik’s UStream channel. This way students won’t miss a thing.

But it will also be available to anyone with an interest in WordPress galleries.  Marks and Splashes students will get the first crack at questions, though.

We’ve set Thursday, March 31 as our evening for the workshop.  If you’d like a reminder with details about how to find the broadcast, please sign our guest list.

What else would you like to know about using WordPress?


Thank you for participating in our poll!
Here are links for Erik’s webcomic, Erik and Monkey (talk about life) and blog and signing up for the broadcast reminder.

Photoshop Basics

A Bare Bones Intro to Photoshop is a video lesson by another talented teacher I know. 

Steve Connor (pictured left) teaches animation, film and design media software at ITT Technical Institute and the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art. He’s also enjoyed a career as an art director for firms in the San Francisco Bay area. He  also creates lyrical abstract art.

In the video he shows how to work with layers, the brush toolshapes and effects. His information applies to any edition of Photoshop you might have.

After seeing the lesson, if you feel so moved, please take Steve’s survey to help him determine what you’d most like to learn from a series of informal trainings — on Photoshop and other software thought of as OMG-This is too hard for me! Here’s the survey: Learning Digital Media. And the tutorial link again:  A Bare Bones Intro to Photoshop.

"Marks and Splashes" course author Mark Mitchell ( second from left) with the Inklings, an Austin SCBWI children's picture book critique group. To the left (of Mark) is writer-illustrator Martin Fry. Going around the table to the right (of Mark) are Amy Farrier, Andrea Weissenbuehler, Erik Kuntz, Martin Thomas, Robyn Honig and Margaret Jonon Buford. They're holding 150 million year old oyster fossils that Fry had brought to the coffee.

Marks and Splashes course

The Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks course moves into a new phase of life next month, adding video interviews with working children’s book illustrators and more content and trainings. All current and past students will receive the new material as it rolls out.

But students who sign on after the new course “launch” date will pay a slightly higher tuition than present students did.

You can head that calamity off at the pass! Go here to get the new, bigger version at the old  price.  You’ll be glad you acted with alacrity.

Here’s the course info page link: Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks

Houston SCBWI 2011 Conference set for April!

The Houston SCBWI 2011 regional conference The Art of Book Craft is set for Saturday April 9 at Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.  Get your details and registration form here.

Editors from Disney Hyperion and Scholastic and an art director fronm 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.

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.