Tag Archives: illustrator

Present Much?

28 Apr

Book Week

I recently gave a 30-minute presentation to an assembly of socially distanced, masked 6-12th graders and their incredible teachers at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Forest City International School in Johor, Malaysia. What an honor!

The wonderful upper school principal asked me to include:

  • pathways into becoming an author/illustrator using my personal story (“A Day in the Life”) as a springboard
  • other career opportunities in publishing
  • the importance of resilience, relationships, and responsibility
  • course recommendations for potential authors and illustrators
  • a list of skills to develop
  • at least five minutes at the end for Q&A

Wow—so much to cover!

Prep Time

Between book deadlines, I spent an entire week putting together a PowerPoint presentation. I made tons of visuals, which allowed me to sneak in lots of my own art. Yay! Also, I knew from experience that I would be very nervous, and the slides would keep me on track in case of a brain malfunction. As an added bonus, the visuals would hopefully aid comprehension. (Did I mention ESL? Most of the kids SSM-FC speak English as a second or third language.)

Time to Kill Some Darlings

I rehearsed for days, cutting content after every run through. Half of the slides that I created ended up on the discard heap, including some really great ones about the illustration process. Those, I relegated to individual classroom presentations, given to younger students on other days during Book Week. In the end, even with all of the editing, I still went on a few minutes longer than I should have. Everyone seemed happy, though. I think it went pretty well. :o)

Live and Learn… and Research!

My only regret: I cut RESEARCH from the list of skills that an author or illustrator should develop. What was I thinking! I had so much to say about research that I had to cut it—there just wasn’t time—but I wish I’d simply left the word on the slide. Research is an integral skill for writers and illustrators!

When working on any kind of historical project, of course, careful research is critical. I love working on biographies, because I love research! Learning makes me feel young and vibrant. But research is important in less obvious areas of publishing, too… especially when it comes time for authors to submit proposals to publishers. It’s essential to spend time determining which publisher is best suited for your project, and then, how they prefer that you submit it. It can take a lot of digging to figure all of this out.


Oh, well. Next time.

If you like, click here to see the complete presentation.

Studio Time

1 Apr

Office Space

Inspired by internet photos of awesome-looking illustration studios and cozy, inviting writing nooks, I once went to a lot of trouble to decorate my studio. A few months after every last detail was perfected, my husband got a new job out of state.

One of the only photos I have of my sweet little studio in Savannah, GA (circa 2012).

We sold the house, packed up my studio along with everything else, and moved north. The new home office was nice enough—same furniture (slightly banged up from the move), same colors—but was definitely not as precise and perfect. Not long after that, my husband began taking international gigs. We sold a bunch of stuff and put everything else in a POD, not knowing what the future would hold. Ultimately we became globe hoppers, never staying in one place for very long.

LEFT: One of my New Zealand work spaces. Had to hang a hoodie on the desk lamp to protect my eyes from the sun. RIGHT: Zooming into a midwestern classroom from the office space in our apartment in China.

While I have fond memories of the perfect little studio space that I decorated all of those years ago—especially my books, which are still in storage in the US—I’ve gotten used to working at any available table-like surface, preferably with a comfortable chair and a solid wifi signal.

Quiet Times

In late October 2020, my husband and I moved to Malaysia for his new position at the international boarding school where we now live. We were given keys to a lovely small apartment in the residence building, and a set of auxiliary rooms across the hall.

In the mornings I’ve been taking an on-line class, working on new book ideas, and writing. When I’m thinking, writing, trying to catch illusive flutters of creativity, I need silence. As in, please don’t drop any pins.

Stay-at-home orders had my noisy husband, whom I adore, working from home. Constant loud classic rock and Jets news (egad!) filled the place. God help me. To preserve my sanity, I had to get out of there. Luckily we had keys to those auxiliary rooms!

Bare-boned, but blissfully quiet. We moved my work table across the hall.

Working on my latest book (HarperColins/Spring 2022) in my lovely new work space.

Turn Up the Volume

When I’m illustrating final art for a book and most of the important decisions have already been made, I do listen to stuff while I work: music, TED talks, audiobooks, podcasts. Illustrating an entire book takes some serious time, so there are many silent hours to fill. I once binge-listened the entire canon of Gilmore Girls (153 hour-long episodes) when working toward multiple simultaneous deadlines, followed by one and a half traces through all 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. No joke.

Note that I could actually cohabit with my fella and his playlists—and even the NY Jets—during this phase of the illustration process, and often do, but now that I have a space across the hall, that’s where you’ll find me. Fred is back to work in his own office and our apartment is empty during the day, but I’ve grown to love this white box with it’s powerful ceiling fan and… well, that’s pretty much it! Just me in an otherwise empty, completely unadorned room.

For Your Listening Pleasure… and Professional Edification

Now that I’ve exhausted my Netflix favorites, podcasts have become my listening preference. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and Office Ladies are perpetual favorites. Funny, insightful, heartwarming, inspirational. Great stuff.

Recently, though, I made an important discovery: Children’s Book Insider‘s KidLit Distancing Socials!

Photo of the first CBI Kidlit Distancing Social that I was able to join live, after listening to most of the recorded sessions via Youtube. My Photoshop file at the top of the screen is blurred because it’s much too soon to share the art I was working on that day, which is for the same upcoming book referenced above.

These weekly socials (recordings of Zoom calls, basically) feature amazing interviews with all sorts of kidlit professionals. I’ve learned so much from these videos! They easily get five stars from me; I highly recommend CBI’s Kidlit Distancing Socials to anyone who is interested in writing books for children—from absolute beginners to highly published pros. You can join live via Zoom or catch the replays on YouTube. In the first few minutes of every episode, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get connected to Children’s Book Insider and their website WriteForKids.org, which is an amazing resource. Drumroll: newsletters are involved—newsletters!—and they are jam packed with seriously incredible content.

CBI’s Kidlit Distancing Socials have broadened my horizons, which was a delightful surprise. Who knew such treasures were available on Youtube?


Click here to be redirected to Children’s Book Insider, and/or click here for CBI’s Youtube channel where you’ll find replays all of their wonderful, informative Kidlit Distancing Socials.

And You?

Do you need silence when you work? If not, what are your listening preferences? Let me know in the comments section below.

Happy creating!!

sketchbook

9 Oct

*

The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad… He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it. It’s found anywhere, everywhere. Those who are not hunters do not see these things. The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.

~ Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (p. 17)

*

Do you keep a sketch book?

True confession: I don’t. I never have. (And the earth shook ever-so-slightly as Robert Henri* rolled over in his grave.)

It’s not for lack of Sketch Respect, or for a lack of trying. I have bought dozens of sketch books over the years: little ones to carry, and big ones as an organized source of paper. The big ones are filled from cover to cover with process work for illustration projects, which doesn’t count. (I stopped buying them decades ago anyway, in deference to good old printer paper, which I recycle.) And the little ones? Sadly, a tiny army of them has been taking up space on my bookshelf for almost twenty years. If my son hadn’t doodled in them when he was four and five, they’d be all but empty.

Now wait just a ding dong minute. Artists are supposed to carry handy little sketchbooks, right? Robert Henri said so. Every art prof I ever had, said so. We’re supposed to be armed with pencil and pad, ready to record inspiration the moment it hits. We are not allowed to pack a suitcase without including a tiny watercolor kit and a baggie full of charcoal, because we are visual ninjas, and as such, we must be prepared.

Now that I am an old lady, Class, I have something to tell you about sketchbooks: There are obvious benefits to carrying them, if you use them. And. You can succeed in life, if you don’t. So let go of the guilt. (Guilt is even heavier than that empty sketchbook you’ve been toting in your bag.) Non-Sketchbook Artitsts do exist, and we are a happy and well-adjusted people.

*

My scant collection of inspirations captured on napkins, receipts, and hotel stationery fits unobtrusively in a slender file folder.

__________

* American painter Robert Henri (1865 – 1929) taught at the Art Students League in the early 1900s. He wrote The Art Spirit—a must read—at the insistence of his students. My first year teaching, I began every class with a Robert Henry “quote of the day.” Now, I tweet him. Class, meet Robert. You’re welcome.

__________

How about you? What are your sketch habits?