My friend Rob and I are making some little ‘lightly animated’ illustrations for short videos to be used in teacher training software. I had never really delved into animation before, and am finding it is really fun to see my drawings move. I might have to start exploring stop motion and other animation techniques myself…
It was a good one, folks! Wonderful faculty (featuring Newbery Award winners Matt de la Peña and our own dear Victoria Jamieson), lovely participants, and (for once) we missed only a drippy rainy day while ensconced deep inside the Holiday Inn, Wilsonville.
I did not take notes, sadly. I did have the good fortune to participate in a first pages picture book round table with Sylvie Frank. She has a remarkable ability to make a quick, lucid, direct yet kind critique in her very first encounter with a manuscript. I suspect that everyone at the table (myself included) went home with valuable insights from her comments and those of others at the table.
I was also one of twelve participants in a two part workshop with Martha Rago. The homework was an immense challenge: create a wordless dummy, start to finish, and include two pieces of finished art as well as an array of process work (character sketches, storyboards, etc.). We had about two months to complete the homework, which seemed tight enough, but then life intervened, as it does, and, although I had developed my concept and had previously completed a piece of art that served as the starting point that inspired my characters and finished art, I ended up with very little time to actually create the dummy and finished art. The final process felt kind of like a marathon or college finals week. Grueling, but so satisfying when I was ‘done.’ But of course I am far from done…Martha put in a stunning amount of time making reams of notes for each participant. In the words of our illustration coordinator, Robyn Waters, those notes are GOLD.
I always experience conferences as an emotional roller coaster. It ain’t easy for us introvert artist types to put the work out on tables and screens for the world to view and comment on. The overwhelm can be extreme, and it is difficult to process on the spot. But after a few days or weeks the valuable input begins to rise to the surface while the useless comments drift away.
The hurtful experiences are the hardest to deal with. It’s hard to ignore the stuff that stings and it takes a while to know if it hurts because it’s so true — or because it is so far off the mark. A year ago I had a session with an agent who really crushed me. And I am here to tell you (and by you, I mean anyone who has been through this kind of critique recently and is still feeling the pain) that a year later I can see where he was coming from, and I can really see that the main reason his critique hurt was because he didn’t at all recognize where my art was coming from or what I was trying to do. Which doesn’t mean my art wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. He just couldn’t see it because he was not a good fit for me. And that is good to know before I invest in pitching anything else his way!
This kids’ book business is not for babies, right? Time to put on my kick ass boots and get back to work…
When I am not doing illustrations, I paint like this.
For a glimpse of my secret other life as a very occasional courtroom illustrator.
Oregon has been in the news for the last 4 weeks due to the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge building out on the east side of the Cascades. Yesterday, 7 of the protesters were brought into federal court in Portland after being arrested. I got a call mid-morning from one of the local news channels asking me to go down to the courthouse to draw.
The courtroom experience is always a little fraught for me.The initial procedural hearings happen in a heartbeat — it is a crazy challenge to capture the general appearance of each defendant in less than 10 minutes. Accustomed as I am to working alone in my backyard studio, with no attention and little time pressure, the adrenaline rush of getting to court, angling for a seat where I can see the defendants, setting up a miniature studio around my feet, and cranking out reasonable likenesses of each defendant without knowing how much time I will have to do so — all of this gets my heart beating fast. But once I am drawing, the surroundings slip away and I experience a kind of hyper focus that I rarely achieve in my other work.
But it’s such a relief to return to my hidey-hole!
Ammon Bundy (one of the spokespeople and leaders of the occupying group)
I’ve decided to give myself a daily sketch challenge. I’d like to create a morning routine that kicks me right into creative work mode (instead of loafing around in social media land), so the plan is to make a sketch first thing when I enter my studio, before I even turn on my computer or check my phone. I’m tempted to post on instagram, but I think I’ll limit myself on that too. I might choose my favorites from the previous week on Mondays and post a couple as part of my new and improved ‘internet presence’ routine. But I will post them here, at least a few times a week — fair enough since more frequent blog posting is one of my goals this year.
The challenge paramaters (for now):
• materials: dip pen and ink, plus one additional color if I want it
• theme: kids and pets
• bonus: a hand lettered word or phrase relating to the image
Here is day 1:
Note: noodlers ink BLEEDS on watercolor paper.
Oregon Children’s Theatre has a wonderful new-ish tradition of inviting artists to the dress rehearsal of their performances.
It’s always fun and a little exhilarating: drawing in the dark with only a clip-on booklight to illuminate my paper, scrambling to capture an interaction, gesture or expression that grabs me from the stage. It’s not clear why I choose to work in watercolor under these circumstances — apparently ‘logical’ and ‘strategic’ are not my top qualities. But there is no opportunity to second guess or fuss over details, so sometimes the results are refreshingly loose and lively.