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.