Monday, October 25, 2010

SCBWI-WI Illustrator Contest - Part 5

With the adjustments in place I grabbed my piece and headed for Racine, WI (by way of Madison to pick up my brother who was coming along). I am so grateful I took the time for the last minute changes. The piece was well received and spoken of enthusiastically. And if it garnered some modest award, you didn't hear it from me.
I'm quite anxious to see what the contracted illustrator of the book will do with this scene. I can't see this scene any other way. Hope you like it and keep an eye out for "Seed Magic" when it is released from Peachtree Publishers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SCBWI-WI Illustrator Contest - Part 4

Having transferred the drawing onto a piece of double thick illustration board (via projector), I fine tuned it, sealed the board with acrylic matte medium and got to work.

I spent a full day painting and when I was done I had a problem: a major color (the bricks) were competing with and drowning out my other elements. I had painted the bricks to be warm, like the setting sun was illuminating them. The birds were supposed to jump out but instead they could not compete with the bright wall. So I scanned the image and tried some possible solutions in Photoshop. Below are the two options I settled on.
The answer was to go with the first option and so early the next morning, hours before I had to leave for the SCBWI retreat with my finished piece in hand, I began to make the necessary changes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

SCBWI-WI Illustrator Contest - Part 3

Next, in Photoshop I tried out some color ideas. These color sketches were done on separate layers so that I could make adjustments easily.
At this point I still have the street lamp in the lower left hand corner but as I approach the final piece I will decide that it is more of a distraction than a help in the composition.

SCBWI-WI Illustrator Contest - Part 2

So after the thumbnail is chosen, I enlarge it and print it out on a 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper and prepare to carefully figure out the perspective. I used a portable drafting board and basic triangle to set things up. I knew from experience that if I tried to fudge this compositions perspective I would destroy the illusion I was trying to create, so I was very careful to measure and place the elements as accurately as I could.
I drew the building first working out the various shapes including the perspective on the brick pattern and then I drew the birds separately, scanned them and laid them out in Photoshop. That gave me the freedom to resize and rotate as I needed. I chose birds to work with the manuscript call out for red, yellow and blue.

I didn't feel like this was a kind of story to make up Dr. Suess type fantasy birds. I wanted to show how beautiful real bird species you might find in a city can be if you are willing to see them. That said, I will admit that I have added two bird species that would not be attracted to seeds - they're insectivores. Can you guess which they are?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SCBWI-WI Illustrator Contest - Part 1

This is the second year that we have done this in our WI chapter of the SCBWI. I wasn't able to attend last year so this is my first year participating. Each illustrator was given 2 manuscripts that are currently being worked on for publication by Peachtree Publishers. Of the two, I chose one called, "Seed Magic" by Jane Buchanan. It's about a girl who wishes for a garden of beautiful flowers but, living as she does in the inner city, she has no place to plant it. A local character, the "Bird Man," an elderly wheelchair bound man with a love for the birds, gives the girl some of his seeds declaring that they are magic seeds and that if she puts them on her window ledge she will have her garden. Uncertain how that would be possible, she exercises a little faith and does as she was instructed. To her delight she finds herself surrounded, not with a garden of flowers but of beautiful birds of red, yellow and blue.

That last moment was the scene I wished to capture. The manuscript described that the Bird Man was watching this all unfold from the sidewalk and glorying in her delight. The manuscript suggested that the scene be shown from the Bird Man's point of view but I could not understand how that could be effective - no... I had to see the scene from the sky.
Here is the thumbnail I chose. Normally I try to do multiple thumbnails but in this case, I really knew that this was the layout I wanted.

SCBWI-WI Fall 2010 Fall Retreat

This was only my second time to a SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) retreat and this one was even better than the last. We have an amazing group here in Wisconsin and our retreat featured some wonderful guests. I can only speak to the presenters I was privileged to see but:

Bruce Hale was entertaining and informative. I have been working on a novel (a story for another time) and his thoughts on creating suspense were very helpful to me. Also a very pleasant fellow.

Lisa Yoskowitz was wonderfully knowledgeable and approachable. As an editor for Dutton books she talked in great detail about how to pitch your book effectively and understand the publisher (how to "think like a publisher" to quote Lisa). I was very grateful for her candid approach and she was very generous with her time.

Loraine Joyner, art director from Peachtree Publishers, was an absolute treat for me (being an illustrator and all). Her presentation explored the process of the creation of the illustrations for
the book "Saturdays and Teacakes" by the artist, Chris Soentpiet. Wow! I wish that was available in video form. Chris actually drove from NY to Alabama (I think it was) to come to the author's home town (which was the setting for the book) and spent a couple weeks there creating references to more carefully capture the author's memories (which is the basis for the story). It was really amazing to see the pages evolve from the thumbnails to the sketches to the final drawings and, at last, the paintings.

Another treasure was the time that Loraine took with each of us at our portfolio critiques. I expected a glace over the work and then to discuss some general themes about my work. Instead, virtually each piece was carefully examined and discussed. I was very grateful for her comments.

Now we get to Mary Kole. If there was one of presenters that I felt I really hit it off with, it was Mary. On a personal note, her personality reminded me of a dear friend from HS so I am certainly biased. Outside of that, she was smart, well-read and had the greatest snarky, sarcastic sense of humor. Her presentation on getting an agent (which she is well qualified to talk about since she is one) was very informative, with lots of examples from children's literature. She is also an excellent reader - a great sense of voice for narration or for the character without sounding fake.

Mary was a fan of the piece I entered into the illustrator's contest (which could also make me biased). What? I haven't told you about the contest? Let's make that the subject of next time and I will take you through the process of it's development.