Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Beaver

One of the characters I came up with for the Moose project was The Beaver.

In the story, the moose comes across a beaver, who ends up being of no help to the moose as he tries to find friends along his journey.

Never having drawn a beaver before (I don't know why), I looked them up and came up with these sketches:

I ended up refining his head to look like this:

So this was the final sketch for the page:

Here is the beaver in color:

Here is the facing page, where the beaver goes about his business, 
since the moose is no use to him.

I found that when designing and drawing a character, the slightest nuance or gesture matter; an arched eyebrow, a sidelong glance or a tilt of the head can dramatically affect the character's expression and role in a story. Here, the beaver cares more about his business than about the moose as they go off in different directions. 

The sticks were fun to paint! The beaver was really my favorite character, although the bug-eyed bird was a close second (see last post about The Moose Project).

The Moose Project

Right after last year's SCBWI's summer conference, I received an offer to illustrate a childrens book - a leveled reader for Reading A-Z, called "Moose on the Move."

The book, published in November 2011, is about an inquisitive yet sensitive young moose - separated from his family, looking for friends he can live with. He just does not quite fit in. The first pages show the moose optimistically prancing through the forest, coming upon a squirrel that invites him to climb a tree. 

The moose’s eyebrows arch, his eyes widen while he studies his hooves, which are clearly not meant for climbing. As the story progresses, the frustrated moose receives an invitation from a bug-eyed bird to join him in the sky, but the moose has no wings. 

The moose sulks away, head down, eyebrows furrowed with a forlorn glance at the clueless bird.

 Later, when the same moose finds friendly deer he can relate to, our main character is illustrated with a smile of relief, ending a long day asleep with his new-found friends.

For this project, I started with rough sketches, then refined as clean pencils and painted. The story takes place in one long day, so I had fun showing the transition of morning light to nightfall in the color scheme. 

With my background as a photographer, I pay a great deal of attention to light source, saturation and hue when painting in value studies and color.

Coming up with the look and feel of the multiple animal characters in this book was exciting. The beaver was my favorite character - he deserves his own post, which is coming soon. 

Just published: Penny the Rude Penguin

It's always super exciting to have something published. I worked on this project, "Penny the Rude Penguin" this spring for Learning A-Z and now it's out. This was my second project for them - and there were no revisions which is always a miracle. They said they loved it, which makes me happy.
Here is the site where you can find a black and white and a color version:


Here is the synopsis:

Penny thinks it’s funny when other penguins fall down. Sometimes, she even knocks them over on purpose just to see them fall. She says she is sorry afterward, but she doesn’t really mean it. One day, Penny herself gets bumped and falls down—way down. Suddenly, it’s not so funny anymore!

It's about bullies and friendship - a theme that resonated with me since I was a bullied kid when I was little; I was small for my age, painfully shy and awkward. The audience is for first graders - it's a leveled reader.

Here are some sketches for the project:

   Here are some of the pages. After approval of final rough sketches (done in pencil) I used Pitt pens and Microns, then painted the project in "Digital Water" (Thank you, Prof. Cliff Cramp) then layering in textures with lots of transparency in Photoshop. Some painting was done in Corel Painter and some was done in Photoshop. I love to blend traditional media with digital media. Set in Antarctica, I favored a cooler palette, favoring complimentary colors in blues and oranges.

   The biggest challenge for me in this project, was to keep the characters consistent. Penny, the rude little snot of a penguin is identified by her little flippy red ribbon, her snarky smirk and her chubbiness. She still has her baby-penguin fat. Peter, her long-suffering friend is taller and leaner. He is identified by his wide eyes and long spikey top hairs (he uses hair gel). The characters always seem to come alive for me while working on a project.

  From start to finish, I like to show subtle changes in the time of day. You will see the color palette turning warmer as she finally "gets it" after being such a pain to her friend Peter, and his family.  The last panel shows the colors of sunset as she realizes her friend Peter could see behind her general rudeness. It was a cute project.

Look for more, coming soon. Next, I'll share the first project we did together that stars a moose! Love illustrating with animal characters!

Artwork at the OC Fair!

For years, I have been encouraging - and even insisting - that my students should enter their best work in the Orange County Fair. After going to the OC Fair this year, I am thrilled to find over 60 of my students' work is hanging in the photography area in the Visual Arts building. Many have earned medals.

So then, I decided to submit some of my artwork to this juried exhibition. The cool thing is that millions of people file through the exhibits and see the work. It's not easy to get in. Only about 1 in 5 photography submissions make it past the jurors, while 2 in 5 fine art submissions make it in.

So here is my work that made it in:
Fat Cat  and Racing Dachshunds
It's a trip to hang out and overhear what people say while passing by the artwork. This happened accidentally; I happened to be grabbing for my camera and watched people react. Some folks took pictures with little smart phones, and most smiled and laughed - which made my day. One guy said, Oh, I love wienies!! I'd totally buy this if it wasn't $600.00!"

Prints are available through my web site, though - with the watermark removed:

That's me in front of my artwork at the OC Fair

Ted looking at the art.

After spending hours at the Visual Arts galleries - there is so much to see - we headed over to my next favorite fair hang-out (besides the wine bar - recommend!), the livestock area. Living in Orange County, you rarely get a chance to get up close and personal to beasties, unless you get to the fairs. I love animals, drawing and painting animals, telling stories about animals, and photographing animals.

So this was one of the things that bothered me at the OC Fair - they had these guys right next to the bacon stands.  Even chocolate-covered bacon. I won't tell them.

Get to the OC Fair, if only to see the artwork. OK, the food is amazing also and most of it is sinfully fattening - but you'll wear it off. The rides are a blast also. So are the concerts - and don't miss the wine bar, seriously.

Inspired to create a blog

It's already the last day in July - what a busy summer I'm having!

Right now, I'm all excited; I'm feverishly getting ready for the upcoming SCBWI conference, held every summer in Los Angeles. This is where "my people" - my fellow illustrators who work their magic making artwork for kids - get together and learn from publishers, top talented published illustrators and amazing writers from all over the world.
       Here is my bio on the SCBWI site:

SCBWI stands for: Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.

My portfolio for the conference is all ready. This year I actually did spring for a decent portfolio case that hopefully won't come apart when 100s of people plow through the pages at the portfolio showcase. This is also where publishers, art directors, creative directors, agents and editors peruse our artwork. No pressure here :)

So I am inspired to join the many illustrators and photographers (I live a double life - I do both things professionally) who blog. I'll share my process; sketches, artwork, thoughts and other content as the days and weeks go by. I have a lot of catching up to do!!

Now to add blog entries and update my website...which is the next big project I'll work on. Happily, I have been very busy with lots of freelance illustration work for clients, and getting ready for a fresh new semester at my two schools - CSUF - where I'm earning my Masters in Fine Art, and Saddleback - where I teach part time. So look for more blog posts to come....!

Oh, here is a sneak peek at my latest postcard....