Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We're on the Let's Get Busy Podcast!



We were all interviewed on Matthew Winner's fabulous Let's Get Busy podcast!
It's out now so go over and listen to us talk about this blog, critique groups, and illustration.

If you've never heard of the Let's Get Busy podcast, you have to listen to our episode first then catch up on all of the previous episodes in the catalog. Matthew Winner interviews a diverse list of children's authors and illustrators in his podcast. I love it because it's truly like taking a university master class for children's book publishing.

If you appreciate everything that you learn from this podcast, you show your support by donating on his website ;-)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Starting From Scratch in Your Sketchbook

At the 2014 New England SCBWI conference, I taught a workshop with fellow author/illustrator, Russ Cox. Our workshop was titled "Sketchbooks are Awesome!" 

Why? Because they are. 

Both Russ and I have had rewarding career experiences through sharing our sketchbooks and we wanted to stress how important it is to draw every day...How, no matter what, you should set a little time aside for yourself. You might not always make something worth loving, or sharing, but drawing in a sketchbook is like writing in a journal. "Getting it out" is both therapeutic AND a way to become a better artist. 

 


We wanted to encourage fellow illustrators and writers to use their sketchbooks again and assumed that the attendees signed up because they weren't and needed help. With that information we were able to put together a (hopefully) inspirational presentation, not without humor of course:

Photo Cred: Lisa Griffin

One thing I briefly touched on with to attendees was how to get over fear of the blank page by drawing light circles. I realized the best way to explain this was to film a demo of how I do it. Because that video is filled with blabbering on, I will not blabber on any more in writing... :)

Please enjoy! Let me know what you think or what you'd like to see more of in the comments!

Cheers!
~Renee


Monday, April 7, 2014

Where do ideas come from?

I think we all get asked where our ideas come from as if there's a store you can go to and pick them out. Sadly, this is not the case. Ideas are everywhere. They're in every interaction, random thought, daily task, dog walk, the Olympics (here), and even the news.

Tracy and I went to a conference last Saturday (we'll give you the scoop in a future post). In the frenzied preparation to get my portfolio up to speed and create a new postcard, I was mining for ideas. Remember that not really true or maybe it is true story about knitting sweaters for penguins? Even Snopes isn't sure about that one. Well that gave me a great idea! I imagined a little girl knitting sweaters for penguins. Now to write a story to go along with it (which needs to include chickens).


First sketch on Instagram

Revised sketch

Finished piece.
I used this image as my postcard which is now en route to various publishers.

If you're an editor, art director, art buyer or anyone else at a publishing house and would like to receive one, let me know!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Simply Messing About with New Paints, Pencils & Brushes!


I recently finished a new picture book project and I promised I would reward myself with a bunch of new art supplies. The perfect opportunity arose when my local art store had a HUGE 25% of EVERYTHING sale. I was waiting for just such an opportunity, being that I've been wanting to invest in some traditional media once again. A little background: when I was pregnant with my oldest (who is now 7 years old), I got rid of all of my paints.  I had visions of my toddler getting into my paints and eating the Cadmium Red. So--out they went. Ooh...bad move. Blame it on Nesting Syndrome!

My all-time favorite paints to use are M. Graham Walnut Oil paints. They are rich, buttery and don't need toxic mediums to paint with: a bottle of walnut oil will suffice. They are on the pricey side, so I sat and waited for the perfect time to purchase a set. Can't wait to dig into them!

Also on my wish list was a set of Acryla Gouache. In art school, I was not really a big fan of gouache, but lately I'd been seeing samples of this particular brand floating around the interwebs and I really love the look. These will be perfect for experimenting.




After digitally painting for such a long time, I was itching to put brush to papers/board/canvas. Experimenting with different media and colors will really push my art a bit outside of my box which will help me grow and create more exciting pieces down the road.

What medium are you itching to experiment with?

Toodles!

~christina

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Music Makes YOU Happy?

This is a bit of a different post for our blog, but I think anyone can argue that for most of us, music aids creativity! A few days ago, I polled Twitter to find out what songs simply make people...happy. When you're happy, you're confident, and your creativity just flows. 

I thought it would be really fun to compile everyone's song suggestions into a playlist. It turned out so awesome, I just had to share! 



There's something for everyone, enjoy!!
A special thanks to these rockin' awesome tweeters for participating:


And, as always, you can follow us on Twitter at:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Experimenting with Gouache, a not quite tutorial

I've recently started using gouache. I'm still calling it experimental even though I've used it for client work. No matter what I do, I always end up using a variety of media. It's usually some combination of paint, acrylic inks, Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils, and Photoshop or Manga Studio, with a side of collage of some sort. In other words, I use whatever works to get the job done.

In this first photo I first printed out a colorized sketch onto my Fabriano hot press watercolor paper (reddish sketch). Then I painted in the shadows with a mix of blue gouache and purple acrylic ink.

Underpainting of acrylic ink mixed with gouache.

Here I've laid in the basic colors in gouache on the figures. There's not much detail, yet.

Basic colors laid in.

Now I'm starting to define details and add more modeling to the figures with color pencil. I use Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils.

Adding details with color pencil.

I decided the yellow background wasn't working so I took this old watercolor and salt painting into Photoshop to colorize and lighten it.

Watercolor with salt painting.

Colorizing the background.


I added a vignette border to the background for the final piece. At Renee's suggestion, I also painted some glare on the ice in Photoshop.
The final piece.


I hope you find this helpful. I'm still learning to use the gouache, but I'm loving it so far.

This piece came from my sketching while watching the Olympics. If you're following me on Instagram, you'll recognize them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Transition from Photoshop to Manga Studio 5

Hello everyone! It's been quite a while since I posted here! For the past few months I've been knee-deep in illustrating a new picture book set to come out in the Fall.

I've had my head down illustrating pretty much every spare moment I had since September, but I've finally emerged from my art coma and want to tell you all about my experience with Manga Studio 5!

I transitioned over from Photoshop to Manga Studio with this latest project, so I got four months of serious on-the-job training with the program. I went from ZERO knowledge of the program to it becoming second nature.

I have to admit that I had tinkered around with the program for a while last summer, but gave up because I just wasn't feeling comfortable with it. Then right before I started this last project, I fiddled with Manga Studio some more. At the same time, Photoshop started becoming finicky and began feeling super clunky. I went back to Manga Studio (with some nudging from fellow SMA illustrator Tracy Bishop) and gave it another try because I was just getting too frustrated with Photoshop feeling like it was laggy and slow.

When this last picture book project came along in September, I bit the bullet and decided to go for it--to try and complete a painting in Manga Studio. The cover was due first and I figured I could attempt the cover in Manga Studio and switch back over to Photoshop if things didn't pan out.

Well, let's just say I fell in love with Manga Studio and never looked back.

Here are a few of the main reasons Manga Studio is the clear winner for me:

  • The brush engine is a million times better than Photoshop's. There are way more options to finesse your brushes in terms of pressure and color blending, etc. Manga Studio also allows for creating brushes using multiple images at once which is something I have always wished that Photoshop could do.
  • The perspective guide/ruler is AMAZING. It came in handy SO MUCH. Manga Studio allows for your pencil/brush lines to snap to the perspective ruler which takes a lot of fuss out of drawing cityscapes (or anything in perspective, really).
  • The ability to create models of people in different poses and angles really helped for my latest project. I painted scenes where there were many, MANY people in them and my husband would only model for me for so long, so I had to build poses in Manga Studio (which is supremely easy to do).
  • You can set the fill bucket to close gaps in your line drawing, making laying on the first layer of color so much quicker than attempting that in Photoshop. 

Just one window of the MANY different brush options Manga Studio 5 has.

The poseable 3D models are an amazing feature. It isn't a memory hog and never slowed my computer down at all.

In all, I worked 100% in Manga Studio with this latest book project and just figured it out as I went. I have to say that my fellow Simply Messing About blogger, Tracy Bishop really, really helped me out if I found myself stuck. She's been using Manga Studio for a while and had the answer to pretty much all my questions! ;) Check out her wonderful Manga Studio tour video!

In case you're wondering, I never had to take any of my images back to Photoshop for any retouching or post-painting work. I suppose everyone paints differently, so there is a chance you might need to go back and forth for certain things, but I didn't have to. I pretty much found a solution to anything I needed to do in Manga Studio. However, if you do need to switch back and forth, Manga Studio makes it easy to export or even save your file as a Photoshop file!

If you have the opportunity to try out Manga Studio, I highly, highly recommend it. It's like Manga Studio's creators took everything illustrators and painters love from Photoshop, made them a million times better and then added more awesome stuff on top! All without having to deal with the bogged down feeling that Photoshop can bring. I must also mention that Manga Studio is a mere fraction of the cost of Photoshop. Yay!

In the weeks to come, I will be doing tutorials based on some of my favorite things about Manga Studio....keep an eye out for them! Until then, do yourself a favor and at least download a trial version of Manga Studio 5 if you can!

'Til next time!

~christina