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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

San Francisco Illustrator's Day 2013

Tracy's Report

Cool venue for the day, just steps from the bay.
Last weekend Laura ZarrinJoy Steuerwald, and I made our annual trek to San Francisco to attend SCBWI SF South’s Illustrators’ Day. This year’s main speaker was the fabulous Melissa Sweet.

Melissa Sweet was the first person we saw as we all signed in for the day. I’m afraid to say that all of us lost all sense of dignity and squealed as we introduced ourselves to her. (Joy Stewy even exclaimed, “You’re so TINY!”)




Our view during breaks.

All of the presentations focused on the theme of how creating a picture book is the result of teamwork between everyone involved. It’s so easy to forget this simple fact when we’re all so focused on our slice of the work (in my case, illustration). I loved the format of having Melissa Sweet presenting with the art director and editor of two of her books. You can see how an exceptional picture book was created because everyone trusted each other’s expertise.

Another part of Illustrators’ Day that is always fantastic is to connect with other local illustrators that I don’t get to see regularly. I loved seeing old friends (Hi! Brian Bowes and Shirley Ng-Benitez!) and making new ones (Nidhi Chanani, Susan Rankin-Pollard, Alina Chau, and Alison Farrell).


As much as I love the conference itself, my favorite part of the day is always the drive home with Joy and Laura. Every single year we’ve always hit awful traffic while trying to get out of San Francisco to head south but we don’t mind. We all talk about what went on during the day and share what we learned and what we need to do next. I always come away so inspired to take on new challenges.



Laura's Report


Kristine Brogno, Design Director at Chronicle




Melissa Manlove, editor at Chronicle talking about the making of Little Red Writing by Joan Holub & Melissa Sweet.

Melissa Sweet reading a note from Melissa regarding a spread in Little Red.

My favorite part was meeting Melissa Sweet. She's always been a favorite of mine. I seem to have a section of my personal library dedicated to her books. (Shhh…don't tell my husband!) She spoke about her Sweet Squares project which she started as a way to observe nature. There were a lot of ooo's and aaaah's when she showed her gardens and studio. John Clapp, Associate professor at San Jose State, spoke about our work needing 'obsessiveness' like Melissa's has.

Isabel Warren-Lynch spoke about emotional connections in illustrations. Tracy and I were both lucky enough to have a portfolio review with her. She gave us both lots of ideas for improving our work.

I especially enjoyed getting to talk children's books with Kristine Brogno and Melissa Manlove. Their passion and dedication is contagious. I also enjoyed Melissa Greenberg's presentation with Isabel and Melissa Sweet. It was a day of Melissa's. I learned so much and left inspired.