It’ sure has been cold hasn’t it? It’s a new year and that means new resolutions, new plans, and hopefully lots of new ideas. I usually start the year with such good intentions, and then they start to fizzle out by March (and that’s generous). This year, instead of making resolutions like “blog more” or “draw more” I really wanted to figure out concrete ways I could add more to my writing and illustrating life this year. With a full-time job, it’s often hard to find the time or the will power to commit to something like “draw everyday” or “write everyday”. To be honest, that would be awesome. Knowing myself, it is also highly unlikely that will ever happen.
One idea I came up with for the blog is Work in Progress (or WIP as we said in art school) Wednesday. This is not an original idea by any means, but it appealed to me as a way to take a break in the middle of the week and just take stock of where I am and where I am going. Plus, it’s fun to share in progress pictures with all of you!
Of course, I am working extra hours in January at the day job, so that means I don’t have any pictures to share this week. However, as I was thinking of what to write today, it occurred to me, aren’t we all works in progress? (Yep I know that is super cheesy) Many of us are constantly striving to be better versions of ourselves today than we were yesterday.
This got me to thinking about my progress as a writer and an illustrator in the last couple years. 3 years ago, I went to my first NJ SCBWI event. I had been a member for 2 years already, but that was the first event I convinced myself to go to. The people there were so kind and so generous with their advice and friendship that I immediately realized that the kidlit community was the right place for me. The next year I got up my courage to go to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and participated again in an NJ SCBWI illustrator event. Last year, I went to the same conference again, participated in the next version of the NJ SCBWI illustrator event, went to my first ever NJ SCBWI Conference (amazing! Highly recommend it!), joined 12×12, joined a writing group, submitted my first query, got my first rejection from said query and wrote 14 picture book drafts. (That was a mouthful!)
Looking back at my years like this was the first time I realized that I have been building towards this dream of mine to be an author/illustrator consistently for the last 3 years, and each year I’ve built a little more than the last. Were there rough patches in there? Sure! And there is still a lot of work to do. I’m still working towards publication. But making myself an “I Did List” instead of thinking of what there still is to do has made me realize, I really have made a lot of progress this past year towards my goal.
So for this year I want to build on that by looking for new opportunities to grow. I am going back to both the NY and NJ SCBWI conferences this year and I’ve already signed up for 12×12. (If you are writing picture books, this is a great group to be a part of!) I’ve started listening to podcasts. (The Creative Pep Talk is great, I highly recommend it). I’m going to doodle at work. I’m going to write on the train. Most of all, I am going to enjoy the process, even when it’s hard, by remembering that I am taking steps towards my goals.
As a work in progress, I’m glad to have made progress in 2016! I’m also going to keep making “I did lists” to remind myself throughout the year that I am making progress. You should too!
My heart hurts. It seems that you cannot turn on the tv anymore without seeing some act of violence, terrorism, or racism. One feels powerless to change the systems that create these actions, these environments. We cry out angrily to politicians “DO SOMETHING!” and yet nothing changes. A terrorist shoots up a night club, police officers kill black men, snipers shoot down a peaceful protest. . . when will it end? How do we make it end?
I wish I knew the answers to these questions. Anytime something happens like this, I think, but how do I help?
After two black men were unjustly killed this week, I am reminded of something by the writing community I am surrounded by. Words are important. One of the members posted a link to this blog Crawling out of the Classroom. This post talks about the importance of sharing the stories of those affected by racism with students to educate them on racism in America. I am not a teacher, but I think it is a very important post so I am sharing it where ever I can.
This post also reminded me of two phrases I heard from children’s book writers this year at conferences. I carry these words in my heart and I hope to carry them into my work.
“We write to express empathy in a broken world.” – Gary Schmidt
“We do not have to save the world, we just have to tell its stories.” – Suzy Ismail
As a writer and illustrator I will hopefully one day have an effect on children reading my words, looking at my pictures. I may not have much power to affect changes in political systems, but by teaching children kindness, respect, and inclusion in my art and words, hopefully I can make a difference.
Anytime something terrible happens in the world I am reminded of a video that went viral after the Paris attack. A father is comforting his scared child and tells him that the flowers and candles will remember those who lost their lives and protect them. (I am paraphrasing.) I was very struck by that video and have since wanted to create an image based on this father’s remarks. Today I was having a hard time focusing on the work that needed to be done in my studio when there are so many people hurting today, so I went ahead and just created the image.
I want to draw and write to express empathy. I want to share the stories of those affected by these acts of violence.
This image is my vigil for the victims of violence, no matter what kind it is. A light for the brokenness of the world and of our country. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. I hope for a better future and for the wisdom to know how to make a better tomorrow for everyone regardless of race or religion. I pray for peace.
This week’s post is another Flashback Friday instead of Throwback Thursday. I may have to change it to just be Fridays! I think for now, this post will appear on whichever day I have more time. Subscribe on the right to be notified when I write a new post!
This sketchbook is from my third year at FIT. Therefore, it has a mix of some fashion illustration and some general illustration. I had already graduated from the Fashion Illustration program at this point, but I still loved it so fashion illustration is strewn through a lot of my sketchbooks. Most of the sketches in this particular sketchbook however, are sketches for projects I did in school. For now, I will simply post the sketch, but someday when I can go through all my files I will show you the finishes too!
This first sketch is a picture of my dorm room done with pen and marker. I was obviously sitting on my bed when I drew this. There is no way my dorm room was this clean; I must have edited! I used to have art supplies all over the place. My roommate was the most understanding roommate ever. The room was a studio style room. After our first year living together, we decided we didn’t need the kitchen table so my roommate let me take it as an extension of my desk. I like the limited color in this sketch. I also like how I drew my art supply drawers!
This was a sketch I did for my illustrator class that semester. We had to create a promotional pamphlet for ourselves. I decided to do mine based on the season, with my twin sister and me as my subject. These are the sketches for winter and spring. (sledding and puddle stomping). The puddle stomping image is still one of my favorite pieces from this class.
This was a sketch for a project we did in our History of Illustration class. We had to do a piece to illustrate Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I wanted to do something that showed both personalities. The finish had to be black and white, and I did the final on scratchboard. (We may have had to do it on scratchboard). This is done in pen and marker and based on photos I took of a model who posed for us. It was my first time using scratchboard, and I liked the look, but the scratching part was kind of irritating so I haven’t really done it again.
Last but not least I found this illustration I did. Like my last post, this was based on an ad in a fashion magazine. It is drawn in pencil. Something about this drawing is very appealing to me. Maybe because I actually drew the face!
I am always surprised when I find these sketchbooks and they are only half used. I did do a lot of concept sketches on loose pages, so that explains why they aren’t all in sketchbooks. I will have to go back and fill them all up eventually! This sketchbook was obviously well loved as it is coming out of it’s spiral binding. I have a feeling a lot of pages were ripped out.
Until next week!
Happy Thursday Everyone! It’s super rainy here today, which makes it the perfect working day. That doesn’t mean I am working that hard. I gave myself a tiny vacation this week because my sister is visiting from the West Coast. Tomorrow it will be back to work, but for today, here are some watercolor drawings that I did when studying Fashion Illustration at FIT. The colors seemed appropriate for the weather today.
The first image was probably a 7-10 minute pose. I think this because there are pencil lines under the watercolor. the figures beneath were probably 3 minute poses to warm up, which is why they all overlap. These were all drawn from a model with concentrated watercolor. We used concentrated watercolors in fashion illustration because they dried fast and the colors are so brilliant. Also they were fun.
It is really funny what you remember when you are flipping through old sketchbooks. I can very clearly envision where I was standing in the room when I painted these. There was another instructor wandering around. He was out of sorts because the model he had booked for his class hadn’t shown up. He flipped through this sketchbook while I was working on one of the longer poses in the class. He really liked these images which made me happy. I think it made him sad because he couldn’t have his students working too!
Looking at these images reminds me of how fun it was to draw like this. Using watercolor, there wasn’t much planning before you started, you had to simply jump into it. Any mistakes had to be worked into the image, or dealt with some other way. It was a very freeing way to draw. In a way, even though you can’t erase, it takes the pressure off. You know you will probably make mistakes, it won’t be perfect, and it’s ok. Maybe today I will pull out my watercolors again!
It’s time for my last post about the conference that happened this past weekend (I know you are all excited about that.) Sunday was the shortest day of the conference, but I got there the earliest so I could grab some books from the bookstore to get signed at the autograph party later. They started the day with announcements about who won various awards (unfortunately, my tired brain did not think to write them down), and then went straight into the first keynote. The speakers for the day were Rita Williams-Garcia, Jacquelyn Mitchard, a panel of publishers and agents, and last, but certainly not least, Gary Schmidt.
Rita Williams Garcia – I have to say, Rita was a fabulous speaker. Her talk was humorous and she had so much wisdom to share! She gave us a list of Don’ts for our careers: Don’t isolate yourself, find your community, Don’t fear Doubt, Don’t not hear criticism, Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long, Do learn who you are in the marketplace but don’t be afraid to evolve, Don’t drop the ball, Don’t know it all, Don’t stop writing, Do What you’re doing, you’re here, Live in the Plan, Do Live with Gratitude, Be all about the Do!
I really really enjoyed hearing about her journey and especially her “Live the plan” advice: how what you are doing should be working towards your plan.
Jacquelyn Mitchard – Jacquelyn was a great speaker and definitely very engaging. I didn’t take many notes on her talk though, as it was all about writing good endings, and seemed more applicable to longer books and not picture books. However she had very good advice about different kinds of endings. One of the things I did find as food for thought: Your ending should take the reader slightly by surprise. That could definitely make picture book writing very interesting!
Panel: The last panel in the conference was about the acquisitions process in some publishing houses. This was very involved information, and sometimes varied by person. Some things that I found helpful: if an editor brings your manuscript to the acquisitions team, it is no longer about the quality of your work and rather is a business decision (it means they already like it), sometimes you have to be flexible or change direction, It is a serious endeavor, love what you do, pick an agent who will be an advocate for you.
Gary Schmidt – Gary was the last speaker of the conference and wow. What a way to end a conference! He was so inspiring. He talked about writing, but I believe all of what he said was also applicable for artists. Some key thoughts I wrote down: We all have the same mission, we all do our best work for kids; express powerful and real empathy, express a connection between two souls, story insists that though we want things simple it insists on human complexity and multidimensionality, show children that even though this world is broken it is still beautiful, everything matters. The line that I thought summed it up for me? “We write [draw] to express empathy in a broken world.”
I have to say, Gary Schmidt was my favorite speaker of the conference. He talked so beautifully and so sincerely about craft, and why we do this. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, GO!
After the conference there was a book signing, and I got a LOT of books signed. Thus I got to “meet” (as much as getting a book signed and saying omg I love your work counts as meeting): Paul Zelinsky, Mike Curato, Rita Williams-Garcia, Gary Schmidt, Matt de la Pena (didn’t speak at the conference, but he won the Newbery this year for his book Last Stop on Market Street, which is a big deal since it is a picture book and only the second time in the award’s history a picture book has won! but I digress), Sophie Blackall, and William Joyce. Thus I got my second picture (yeah I only took two pictures at this conference):
The conference was so much fun and so exhausting. I cannot wait to get back to writing and illustrating, having learned what I have learned.
My big takeaways? Love what you do, draw what you are passionate about, express empathy in a broken world.
Hope to see you all there next year!
Hello again! As promised, I will continue my overview of the SCBWI conference this weekend.
Saturday was a great day and I learned sooooooo much. I didn’t want the day to end! The day was a mix of speakers, panels, and breakout sessions. The speakers were William Joyce, Rainbow Rowell (interviewed by Lin Oliver), Linda Urban and Kate Messner. The two breakout sessions I attended were Picture Book Art with creative director Patrick Collins, and the Ten Mistakes Illustrators Make with senior art director Giuseppe Castellano.
William Joyce – If you read my post yesterday, you know William Joyce also spoke on Friday. On Saturday, he did talk about a lot of the same things, but also his road to the Oscars, and what he is doing now. The title of the talk was Books are Like the Ice Cream Sandwich: How New Technology Doesn’t Change Much of Anything but it’s all Kinda Cool, so he talked about how the story is always the bottom line, but if you use technology, make it special and different from the print book so that it furthers your story. He then showed how he had done this with different apps for his books. Not just Kinda Cool, so cool!
Then there was a panel about the current state of publishing and the future of children’s publishing. All of the people on the panel were presidents or vice presidents in their respective publishing houses. Some notes: Children’s books have gone from being the step-child to being the golden child in publishing; they are leaders in diversity; everyone aims to make good books; the current publishing climate is good for children’s books right now, but it is very competitive; expect working with an author/illustrator to be a collaboration, you are part of a team.
After the panel, we all split up into various breakout sessions. The one I went to was with Patrick Collins about picture book art. He went over the key elements of picture book art and what to think about when creating illustrations for books. Notes: Character – needs to be appealing, personality is important, helps tell the story, body language is important, a lot can be said through facial expressions and body language; Setting – think about how you are going to include setting so it does its part of the job, helps create mood, think about scale to give importance or drama; Action – creates excitement and interest, moves you across the page; Color – use it to your advantage, sometimes you need to use color sparingly and sometimes you have to be bold, doesn’t have to be the same throughout the book; Simplicity – paring things down to the necessary elements, a lot of power in simplicity; Humor – can be subtle, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Variety is important!
This breakout session was so helpful to me. I know some of this seems like common sense, but now I have an actual list to think about when I approach my books. That is priceless! I can’t wait to go back to the book dummies I have been working on and apply these thoughts and see how I can make them better.
After a quick lunch break, we all went to our next breakout sessions. I picked The Ten Mistakes Illustrators Make by Giuseppe Castellano. Instead of giving you the mistakes, here is the link to his blog post the session was based on. Wow did I learn a lot at this session! Every thing he went through I went through in my head: do I do that? Need to fix that portfolio piece! etc. Seriously I am so inspired to redo my entire portfolio. AND I am actually excited to do it! It is going to require a lot of thought, but I am happy I went to this break out session.
After this, Lin Oliver interviewed Rainbow Rowell. They talked about her work, her process, how she came to write, etc. This was a good interview. Lin really listened to Rainbow, and had great questions! I liked hearing them talk to each other, but since it was mostly about Rainbow’s career, I didn’t take many notes but just enjoyed the interview.
Kate Messner and Linda Urban followed with a very quick inspirational talk about what they do to find inspiration when they are uninspired. For each of them it was something different: for Kate it was climbing mountains, for Linda, learning to play the Ukulele. They were fun to listen to, and the message was very clear: get out of your chair once in awhile!
After this, was the Art Browse. This was a lot of fun, as any illustrator who was there got to put out a portfolio of work and then you could just walk around and look at everyone’s art! It was fantastic. The amount of talent in that room was a little overwhelming, but also inspiring. I picked up a lot of postcards and business cards, and I can’t wait to contact people and tell them how much I admired their art. I am very glad this is a part of the conference, otherwise, we might not get to see what everyone else is doing!
Then came the gala. The gala is a fun way to meet people from your own area and network. There was some delicious food and drink, and adorable mini cupcakes. They had the area divided by region, so all you had to do was find the tables marked as your region. I got to meet some great people from New Jersey, and reconnect with some I had met at NJ SCBWI events. I can’t wait to see some of them again at the NJ SCBWI conference this summer!
To end the night, there were several different socials. I went to the illustrator social so I could meet some fellow illustrators. I got to speak to Giuseppe to thank him for a great break out session. I also ran into a professor from art school which was fun! He didn’t remember me, but I didn’t expect him to. He did remember one of my pieces which was kind of cool. I spoke to several other people from the NY area, found out I am allowed to go to NY SCBWI events which I didn’t know, and generally had a good time.
I was pretty wiped out by the end of Saturday, but it was so good. I can’t wait to apply the things I have learned. Tune in tomorrow for a recap of Sunday!