Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

We want to start off with a huge thank you to all of you who have embraced and spread the word about our little blog. It's become something so much bigger than we ever expected. Thank you and hugs!!!

As you might have noticed, we've been a bit MIA lately. It's all good. Everyone is busy illustrating. We hope to be back with a bang in the New Year. For now, here are some holiday illustrations for you.

Tracy Bishop


Laura Zarrin

Renee Kurilla


Monday, December 16, 2013

Get out of the studio!

Last week I was so happy to get out of the studio with a college friend of mine. We went up to San Francisco to the DeYoung Museum to see the David Hockney exhibit. I knew nothing of his work, but I've found that I can always find something inspiring to fuel my own creativity. (Forgive my fuzzy iPod photos.)



There were watercolors, oils, charcoal drawings (my favorite), as well as iPad created paintings. His paintings are huge! He paints them using multiple canvasses. In addition to the art, there were also videos of nature shown wall size across many monitors. I'd love a wall of monitors with snowy or spring scenes in my living room. They were so peaceful and beautiful.


 The most fascinating part of the show was the iPad paintings. There were 24x36 inch monitors with iPad art slide shows, including a video of a painting in progress. They also had iPad created art blown up and printed in huge installations. Some were full body portraits printed in about 6' panels. Others were huge images printed in multiple large panels.

To show the scale of one of the iPad paintings.

Detail of iPad painting

It was so nice to just get out and see something different! It's so important to fill the well, so get out of your studio and see something new.

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco



Thursday, November 21, 2013

On the Importance of Attending SCBWI Events

Becoming a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators might be the second most important thing I've done for my illustration career besides getting an art degree.  Last week I attended SCBWI Los Angeles’ Art Director’s Day (scroll down the linked page to see the details).  It was probably the sixth or so Illustrator’s Day I’ve attended. Yep, that’s a lot of events, but I can’t stress how important it is to try and attend local SCBWI events at least once a year if you can.

No matter which level you are in your illustration career, these local events are helpful, fun and so informative that they really shouldn’t be passed up if at all possible.

Last week, for example, I had the good fortune of being able to listen and speak to well-respected art director Lauren Rille of Simon and Schuster, Isabel Warren-Lynch of Random House, Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Cliff Cramp, an awesome illustrator and instructor at California State University Fullerton.

They all shared really, really tangible information that is relevant to attendees at any level of their career. Lauren Rille, for example gave a very detailed presentation on the working relationship between the art director, the illustrator, and the editors. Isabel Warren-Lynch discussed the emotional connection between the art and the reader and Cliff Cramp gave a very inspirational talk on how the fundamental role of an illustrator is to tell stories. And Kelly Sonnack really broke a barrier and gave some straight-talk on the topic of money and the illustrator.

Here is a really bad (dark and far-away) picture of agent Kelly Sonnack showing an example of a great illustration website. Whattya know?! It's a page from our very own Renee Kurilla's website!


Not only do attendees get to hear invaluable information from the esteemed speakers, but they also get the chance to display their work for all to see. Yes, that sounds like a daunting task to some, but getting your work out into the world and in front of the right eyes is a necessary part of being an illustrator. Be brave! Having your work up there with everyone else’s gives you a chance to see how you can improve your craft and get ideas for portfolio presentation.

Yes, the informative aspects of an event take up most of the day, but the other HUGE plus is getting to connect with other illustrators. Sometimes (or most of the time), illustration is such a solitary activity and getting to hang out with other illustrators is so important! I’ve made so many friends over the years and we’re all at various stages of our career at this point. It’s great to be able to learn from my friends and share stories as well as help others out! I spent so much time chatting with friends such as Eliza Wheeler, Kimberly Gee, Ken Min, Mary Peterson and many others! It’s also super cool to meet online friends for the first time in 3-D. Hi Bob McMahon

So here's a few pointers to consider when planning to attend a local event:
  • Research all of the speakers in attendance
  • Be brave and show your work and enter any contests that might be held. These are the places where you can put a face to a name and the presenters can too. I met Lauren Rille at this year's big SCBWI summer conference and she remembered me this time around. It's so important to build and maintain relationships
  • Be brave and connect with as many fellow attendees as possible (this is the hardest for me, by far! I'm pretty shy)
  • Take photos so you can have them when you blog about your experience (I really need to work on this too...haha!)
  • Take copious notes. I have a journal that contains notes of the past three SCBWI events I've attended. They are great to refer back to
  • Try and introduce yourself to at least one presenter
  • Send a courteous thank you note to any presenter you thought made an impact on your experience
  •  Here is a calendar of all the local and regional events you can try to attend in your area

By the end of the event, exhaustion has usually set in, but it’s such a great type of exhaustion! A long day of learning, sharing and hanging out with friends will get you tired, but it’s so worth it in the long run! Leaving for the drive home with a mind and soul full of inspiration is worth so much more than the price of admission!!!

Just do it!

What are your tips or things you try to accomplish when attending local illustration events?


Monday, November 18, 2013

Experimenting with pencil and coloring in Photoshop

I've been experimenting in my work this week. I really love working in black and white, but I wanted to try my hand at combining the black pencil on coquille or pebble board with coloring in Photoshop.
Black Caran d'ache Pencil on Coquille Board

Colorized version of the Black pencil drawing
I scanned in the black pencil drawing and brought it into Photoshop where I colorized it using the Hue/Saturation menu. I then set this layer to Multiply.
Finished piece.
I painted on a layer underneath the drawing and added a few highlights on a layer above it. I'm really pleased with the results!



Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Prickly Postcard Process

A lot of time is spent looking at what we call "final art," but so much work goes into a piece before we can call it that! The following is the process I went through to with my fall postcard mailer, starting from sketch...to final!

First, I had to decide on which image to use. I had my soggy, prickly, porcupine character, but should I show him arriving at the fox hole, or walking past a squirrel family collecting acorns for winter? 

Option 1

Option 2

I almost immediately decided on the following image for the black and white postcard back.


After choosing my story (Option 1), it was all about working out the composition:

1. Adding color to my original sketch.

2. Playing with cropping and zooming.

3. Figuring out my light source and finishing the quill detail.

4. And finally adding an indoor shadow for drama! 

These are my final postcards, printed fabulously by Moo.com. I highly recommend them, but do pay attention for sales because they can run a bit more pricey. I decided to pay a little bit more for quality after my last postcard batch from Overnightprints.com got ruined in a rainstorm. It's really embarrassing to think that all my artwork arrived smudged with torn edges to an Editor or Art Director's desk. Never again!



Cheers and happy self promoting!
~Renee



*For those of you using Overnight Prints, here's a handy Coupon Link:  http://verified.codes/Overnight-Prints

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pushing a New Style: Photoshop Process GIF

When it comes to creating art for deadlines, my current weapon of choice is my Wacom Cintiq. But last week, I had a serious urge to grab a (real) pencil and put it to (real) paper beyond a simple sketch.

I decided to do a piece that will hopefully become one in a series of paintings based on classic fairy tales. 

I cracked open my sketchbook, cranked up some Henry Jackman music for some dramatic ambience, and got to sketching!

I got the drawing pretty far along and completed in my sketchbook, then scanned it into photoshop for some minimal refining. My goal was to remind myself that I can draw and that I don't have to rely on the Undo button to create my art. I'm really focusing on trying to create portfolio pieces that incorporate more traditional media.

So, a quick rundown of how I did it (it's very basic):

The cleaned up drawing was set to a multiply layer on the top of the others and the coloring was done using flat blocks of color on subsequent layers. Being that I tried to get all the darks and lights figured out in the pencil drawing itself, only minimal highlights were added to the color. After that, some glows were added on top of all the layers, and that’s it!

I had amazing fun doing this and can’t wait to sink my teeth into more!

Until later!

~christina

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's time to play


This is my favorite painting that I've made.

Play is important. Like REALLY important! I’ve forgotten that lately. In my push to improve my work, get more work, and life in general, I’ve let go of play. I think it shows up in my work. I keep thinking about all the preliminary play Melissa Sweet does in the beginning of her projects. I want some of that in my life.

Work in progress.
So with that in mind, I pulled out some old canvases that weren’t working and just started gluing on different papers, smearing paint around. When I paint for fun, I don’t worry about what the end result will be, I just start playing. The hardest part is making that next mark, unsure if it will make or break the painting. I have to remind myself that this is just for fun and if I hate it, I’ll just cover it all over. I have a few canvases with a lot of layers that didn't work under a painting that really works. I think all of those layers make the final piece just work even though you can’t see most of them. Painting like this requires a bit of bravery and a lot of letting go. I make a lot of bad paintings. It just doesn’t matter. Every once in awhile I fall in love with one of them and the process keeps me sane.

I've repainted this canvas several times.

Go out and paint! Here's some books that'll get you started:
Brave Intuitive Painting by Flora Bowley 
Painted Pages by Sarah Ahearn Bellemare 
Daring Adventures in Paint by Mati RoseMcDonough 
Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts 

Not sure about this one yet, but it's growing on me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why November is the best month of the year!


November is one of my favorite months because of Thanksgiving, of course, but it has some other amazing things going for it. One of them is Picture Book Idea Month (aka PiBoIdMo)!! I participated for the first time last year and I loved it!!! It's run by Tara Lazar and features lots of inspirational posts starting the last week of October. I wasn't writing at all last year when I joined, but since then I have one completed dummy, two more are in the works, and another one is brewing in my sketchbook. It's a really a low pressure thing to join. A lot of my ideas are just sparks or titles, not fleshed out stories. Don't worry about whether they're good or bad. The mere act of being open to ideas all month gets your brain working and open and receptive. Even if you don't intend to write, I guarantee it will improve your illustrations. You'll be so focused on story that your work will automatically be showing more story in it. Isn't that what children's illustration is all about? Check out Tara's blog, sign up, and start catching all of those ideas swirling around out there! There are prizes, people!

Our own Renee Kurilla will be a guest poster on the PiBoIdMo site on Tuesday, November 26th

I put all of my ideas in a cute little notebook by my bed I kept by my bed.


SkADaMo 2013 post monkey

As excited as I am about PiBoIdMo, I may be even more excited about SkADaMo started by one of my favorite illustrators, Linda Silvestri! I'm already sketching everyday, so this one's a given. I also don't beat myself up if I miss a day or two. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful!!!



Now if you're feeling really ambitious, do both, like me. Jenn Bower has a great little organizational tool for you here. She also has some great links to get you started on stories, too.

Remember to have fun! Play! Don't stress, it defeats the whole purpose. Nobody ever has to see what you're doing or not doing.

If I can keep on track I'll be posting my sketches on my personal blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Backing up your Illustration Files

Raise your hand if any of these things have ever happened to you:
1) You’ve worked for hours and forgot to save and then Photoshop freezes.
2) You flattened all of your layers for a Photoshop file and saved it without knowing it. You only realize this when your client needs revisions a week later.
3) Your hard drive has crashed and all of your photos or work for the past x amount of years are gone.

Yup. I’ve been through all of these too. And because of that I’ve learned from it. The topic of saving and backing up your files is sooooo boring and paying for a new hard drive or cloud service seems like an expense you can put off… until you lose priceless files.

Here’s what I’m using right now to make sure I don’t lose my illustration work. As usual, the caveat is my solutions are very Apple centric but a lot of it is available in PC platforms as well.

Auto-save Backup: ForeverSave 2 (Mac Only)


I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to save my work and Photoshop crashed. I feel like an idiot every single time. That’s why when I found out about a program called ForeverSave 2 after I lost about 2 hours worth of work in Photoshop, I just bought it.

ForeverSave auto-saves documents at an interval that you choose. I have it set to save every 5 minutes. Not only does it auto-save, it saves multiple versions of your work. So if you collapse layers by mistake or just want to go back to a much earlier version of your work, all you need to do is open up ForeverSave and select the version of the file you want to restore. This program has saved me countless times it’s absolutely worth the $20.


Time Machine local backup (Mac Only)

The most basic kind of backup you can do if you own a Mac is to buy an external harddrive and use Time Machine. Sure, Time Machine can be wonky at times but it’s worked for me for the most part. I’ve never had to do a complete restore before but I’ve gone into old time machine backups many times because I’ve accidentally flattened or deleted a file. It’s not fancy but this is your first line of defense in terms of protecting your files.

Dropbox

Another way I try to keep files safe is by using Dropbox. I use Dropbox only for current project files. That way I can share finished files with clients and work on them on multiple computers.

In a pinch, Dropbox is also another way you can recover older version of files. To recover older version of files from Dropbox : 1. Login to your account on the website. 2. Select the file that you want to restore. 3. Right click or press control click to bring up a hidden menu 4. Select “Version History” and then choose which version you’d like to restore Dropbox’s selection of version history isn’t quite as robust as ForeverSave but it’s really good to know that it’s there.

Cloud Backup

While I have a external harddrive that I use as a backup at home, I don’t trust only that anymore. A couple of years ago I had an external harddrive get corrupted and I lost photos from an old computer that were stored ONLY on that device. I couldn’t recover it. Ever since then I make sure I have things like photos and old illustration files backed up in multiple places. That’s where cloud backup comes in.
The good news about larger scale backups in the cloud is there are a lot of good inexpensive options out there now. Crashplan and Backblaze are both services that I have tried and both are great. Which one you choose depends on which service have a better upload speed for you and which features you like better. They both have free trial periods so it’s easy to compare and choose for yourself.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Picture Book Crush: Jane, the Fox & Me

Jane, the Fox & Me / written by Fanny Britt; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault 

They say not to judge a book by it's cover, but there was just something about this one that warranted me picking it up. As soon as I flipped it open, my heart pounded: Isabelle Arsenault's illustrations are so thoughtful, sweet, and lively that they made my eyes pop open. 

And then, when I sat down to read the story, I discovered that, in marriage with the text they are even better. 

Without spoiling too much, the story is about a young girl, who you very quickly learn has had a recent falling out with some friends. She's sort of lost in her own world and seeks solace in stories. One of the stories she is obsessed with is Jane Austen.

I remember being a kid and feeling the sting of awkward social situations. . .friends who one day just–weren't. I have to imagine that lots of kids go through emotional stress and really struggle to figure out what will make them feel whole. Many of them choose to get lost in books. I remember that, in those moments, the story you're reading becomes your own just for a little while. 

That's why the moments when Hélène lets go of her internal stress voice are my favorite in this book. 

Hélène's mom stays up all night making her a dress...
(Insert Page Flip Here) ...and she's lost in it.

As an adult, I don't have that feeling as often as I used to. Time is short and all the worries of bills, work, maintaining relationships, remembering birthdays, etc. . . . they catch up with you. In this particular case, though, it's easy to get lost in Isabelle's artwork. Here are some close up shots of her scratchy textures and trees:




Full of life, confident. . . vibrant.


I won't describe who the fox is, because I believe he will be something different to everyone who reads this book. It's quite genius.

You'll find me carrying this book around under my arm for the next few weeks as I refuse to put it down. :)



I'd love to hear what your book crushes are, I know you've got one! Leave a comment below!

Cheers!
~Renee



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Being an Illustrator with Kids or, OMG what did I get myself into??? Part 2


In my last post, I discussed how being an illustrator with kids is hectic. Heck, being anyone with kids is hectic. But we illustrators come with our own set of issues such as looming deadlines, no "real" weekend and being alone in our studios with just Facebook to keep us company.

In my previous post I promised some methods for how I try to keep it together and make the most out of my sometimes short working periods. So, here are a few tips and tricks I've employed:

1. Warm up drawings
We all learned in art school that warm-up sketching is important. I learned that too. But somewhere along the line, I totally forgot about how important it really is. Up until very recently, my mindset was, "I don't have much time, I just have to sit down and dig into this deadline." So I would just sit and start working on my assignment. Sometimes though, my lines just felt wonky and the drawing didn't turn out right. Then it would be time to pick up my son from school and I would leave, frustrated and waiting for the next chunk of work time so I could fix what I previously attempted to draw.

But recently, I decided that every single time I sat down to work, I would spend at least 15 minutes warming up. Doodling, sketching and hopefully, getting the "uglies" out up front.  It has actually really been helping. Fifteen minutes of getting my muscle memory going and my hand-eye coordination ready really has saved me time in the long run because I'm not wasting time futzing on bad drawings.  My post warm-up drawings are more relaxed and flow much easier. See?

Before warming up...

A warm up...


After warming up...

2. Neatly organize working files
90% of the time these days, I work digitally using many layers (oh how I miss my oil paint though). A habit which I've really found super helpful is to make sure I clearly label my Photoshop layers AS I CREATE THEM. Also, I make sure I create and label groups of files as I go. It saves a lot of time both as I'm working and when it's time to send the files off to the client.  Clicking through 20 unnamed layers to find that little thing I need to adjust the color of is a total waste of time. Now, with my specifically-named layers, I can go straight to the item I need without much fuss.

Also, when a client comes back and tells me they need a revision, having  labeled layers and groups of layers makes it quicker for me when I have to revisit a file days later to make corrections.

Another thing that correctly labeling your layers does for me is shorten the time it takes to get my files ready for delivery to the client.  In the past, I have spent hours the night before a project is due labeling and grouping layers so it was clear for the client. I finally figured out I could save so much more time if I do the labeling as I go.

3. Tune out
We all know that social media is the like the office water cooler for us illustrators. Because illustration is often a very solitary activity, things like Facebook and Twitter keeps us looped in with fellow illustrating friends. However, when it's time to get down to the nitty gritty, to really hit that deadline, social media can really provide too much of a distraction. It can become a means to procrastination and really get in the way of getting work done. DUH! We all know this, it's nothing new. 

But, did you know there are apps that exist which will keep you off the internet for a predetermined amount of time? I mean they REALLY keep you off the internet? Like in a kind of scary (but good way)? I've used one of these apps before, called Self Control and it's pretty amazing. Obviously, it's not going to keep you off your iPad or phone, but it does it' job for keeping you from trolling around on your computer when you're supposed to be WORKING. There's another one you can try called Freedom that is pretty popular too.

Another way I tune out and keep the distractions away from my workspace is to either shut down my email application or change the settings so new email only comes in every hour or so. Also--turn off the distracting "you've got mail" sound in your email preferences so you're not tempted to check to see if that three-book deal came through.

So, these are a few things I've employed which really help me to streamline work and get it done in those small chunks of time I have. I know it sounds like doing simple things such as layering your files aren't important, but time spent doing these things as you go really shave off wasted time down the road. 

I'd love to hear what your time-saving tips and tricks are! What do you do to make the most of your precious work time?


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Digital Collage Illustration in Photoshop Tutorial

After much trial and lots of error, I finally have some videos of my process. I made a three part tutorial of my entry for the Tomie dePaola Award. This was an experiment of a style I've wanted to try. I'm really happy with how it turned out and can't wait to do more like it.



Elements used in this tutorial
For this piece, I worked in Photoshop CS6. Most of the elements in it were scanned in textures, art, and collages. I only painted a little bit of it in Photoshop.

The first video focusses on the background elements.


In the second video, I did a little painting on the pig.


In the last video, I created the swirling leaves and petals out of a background painted on canvas paper.