Saturday, April 30, 2016
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Updating a Portfolio Piece
|This piece shows off my technique but is too sedentary for my portfolio. |
I wanted to keep the basic image, but update it with more interaction.
|More interaction between the characters!|
|Not very interesting.|
|Cute, but boring.|
|Looking at my characters I decided that it would be better for the
drummer to be performing |
and to have the other toys reacting to the music. So I modified the doll, and the lamb
and added a second arm to the wooden soldier to show more animation:
|First, I traced the original watercolor and then modified the characters (keeping them to scale), |
scanned the image and printed it out on my watercolor paper.
|Once I had my image I made note to the original pallet and painted traditionally glazing and building the colors.|
|You can see the phantom soldier arm and foot. These will be layered onto the digital image |
altering the original watercolor image.
|Here is the finished "revised" illustration. I scanned and used Photoshop to all a new layer and merge the two images.|
|Here is the finished image.|
(but I see in this pic, his foot is still a little transparent.... I will have to check on that.)
Friday, December 19, 2014
|Me with Linda Dorn and her assistants.|
(From right: NakYong Choi, Linda Dorn, me, Mike Piwowarczyk)
The New York SCBWI conference always opens doors. But this year who knew the door would actually open onto sunny southern California, and an opportunity to push my craft even further, through the eyes of animation and storytelling.
It seems silly that I hadn't connected the dots between illustration and concept animation art until I met Linda Dorn, a book illustrator who just happens to be a successful animator and professor at the prestigious CalArts. I saw her portfolio at the New York SCBWI conference. It turns out she heads a pre-animation residency at California Institute of the Arts (yeah, the Disney people). "Hey, you should come!," she said.
At first it seemed crazy. Just leave my job for the summer? Live in a dorm? Draw, all day... everyday. That was crazy! But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not going would be crazy. It really was the perfect progression after my SCBWI mentorship. I had more questions than ever. And, there was something in Linda's portfolio that I couldn't put my finger on, that I wanted in my work. Of all the portfolios in the room (a BIG room) that was the one, the one I loved. So I did it. I took a leave of absence from my job, got in my car and drove to California.
The Story Begins:It's had been 25 years since I'd lived in a dorm room. Most of my roommates weren't even that old, except Kevin. Thank GOD for Kevin. We're what you call 'returning' students.
I was able to keep my wine in the fridge without getting a time-out, but the bathroom situation brought me back to the days of old. I never thought I would be wearing flip flops in the shower again.
|Linda showing her portfolio on the first day.|
My time at CalArts brought back a lot of memories. Reminders as to what I wanted to be when I grew up, and if it was working. It reminded me that I have always been a storyteller. No matter the subject or conversation, when I have something I want to communicate, I turn it into a story, much to the dismay sometimes of people in ear shot, as they unwittingly become my audience.
This experience gave me a new energy, perspective and appreciation for creativity and the importance of telling the right story, the right way. Linda and Robert immersed us in story, characters, gesture, pacing and the list goes on. It was revitalizing and just what my creative muse needed. At the beginning I wasn't sure what to expect. Was this chapter in my life going to be a thriller, a drama? Maybe a comedy, or (gulp) perhaps a tragedy.
Figure drawing in the Palace.
Robert and I.
Turns out he is a Cougar Fan!
The Story:Robert Lence was a bonus! I had no idea how instrumental his depiction of storytelling would be on my experience. His teaching pushed my understanding of concept, setting, and humor to a new level. His input has already had an impact on my work.
Some of my projects:
Thanks CalArts, Linda Dorn, Robert Lence and the rest of you. Miss you all!
|Project from Robert's class. Telling a story with one frame and no words. |
This was inspired by an actual event I shared with my dad on my 6th birthday.
|Final project; beat boards and a pitch!|
|A quick pic on our way to a private screening of Malificent at theScreen Writers Guild Theatre.|
Thanks to Robert Lence for a wonderful day.
|Robert signing his picture book for me.|
Yep, of course he's also an author/illustrator.
The Final Chapter:Many lessons learned, new friendships, and insight that I couldn't have found anywhere else. Looking back on the story of my CalArts experience, I would have to say it was a combination, thriller, comedy and drama all wrapped into one.
Thanks CalArts, Linda Dorn, Robert Lence and the rest of you. Miss you all!
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Creativity isn't linear. It's on a pendulum.
I've created more work in the past six months than I have in the past 5 years. And looking back, I'm a different person than I was at the beginning of my mentorship. I used to think progress was linear. This frustrated me because many times it would seem like I was right back where I started. I felt like I wasn't progressing. Through experiences in this program, I now realize its more like a pendulum. Situations seem similar because as my work evolves I revisit the same questions. Each time the bar swings to the right or left I am back in the same place. But now it's with new perspective through working so hard during that last swing. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And every time, (in theory) my work gets better.
It's ironic, but the things I deem successful on this side of my mentorship are entirely different than that of my original agenda. The real magic wasn't in perfecting my painting, or even finding my voice. It was forming this wonderful community of writers and illustrators, people who know what I have to say before I speak. They know because they are experiencing the same things, fear, anticipation, anxiety and joy. There are no words for how important they are to me. Knowing my fellow mentee's have my back is so empowering. It's through their support I have rediscovered confidence in my own work and have acquired such respect and admiration for theirs.
David Diaz, our mentor extraordinaire!
Our discussions and exercises have been informative and insightful, graciously lead by our fearless leader, David Diaz. He has a way of posing questions and situations that allow us to discover what we need to know for our own personal journey. Nothing condescending, nothing preachy and always with utmost respect. The past six months have been a time of taking risks, pushing the envelope, and not being afraid to get my hands dirty; all things that came quite easy at age seven. So I'm relearning, reprograming and the most important having fun again.
(Illustrator Mentees) Sylvia Liu, me, LoriAnn Levy-Holm, Steve Roe, Sidne Teske, Heide Sheffield,
(Our Fearless Mentor) David Diaz.
That support from my creative community makes me realize what I was really looking for I have had all along, it's just that I didn't see it in myself. It's with the support of the entire group I have gathered strength, confidence and an appreciation of what I do and why I do it. I see now that it's been my insecurity that's held me back, not my technique.
|The tables turn when mentors David Diaz and Jim Alverbak, take a lseeon from mentee LoriAnn Levy-Holm.|
Thank you Nevada SCBWI, we appreciate you!
|The epicenter of our group was in the kitchen of our haunted hotel in Virginia City.|
|"Hey Cathy, have you tried this Granola? It's the bomb." |
"No David. But thanks, I think I will."
Thursday, May 22, 2014
"Did you get discovered?"The first words out of my bosses mouth upon my return from the New York SCBWI conference. Not intending to be rude, I stared back my face void of any emotion. I could see he was expecting something.... anything but the blank stare he got, straight through him to the clock on the wall. Tick....Tick....Tick.
I'm sure his intent was to be optimistic and supportive. He had no idea what a terribly loaded question it was. And, at that moment, between the jet lag and information overload, I kind of wanted to punch him. Instead, I took a breath, managed a smile and answered politely, "No, ....not yet." It was the simplest way to avoid a long drawn out explanation that would most likely bore him to tears. He was just trying to be nice, he didn't really want to hear the seven part, two-tiered answer complete with footnotes, references and a three page bibliography, compiled over the past fourteen years as to why being discovered is an ambiguous and I might add ridiculous question. Frankly, it was just the wrong question.
The right question would be, What did you discover? But, in hindsight and fairness to him, and looking back to the beginning of this journey I did think of it as being discovered. But it was an abstract dream, kind of like when we refer to an arbitrary group as they, merely a metaphor and not an actual group.
If you're good enough you hang around the right people and follow their words of advice until eventually you get your big break, the red sea parts, they see your fabulous talent and poof! You're discovered, and on easy street! Just sit back and let the contracts roll in.
Back to Reality, sort of.Los Angeles, 2003, my first SCBWI conference. I received immediate recognition with a portfolio award. So, check international portfolio award winner off my list. Now onto that book contract. Right!
At the risk of sounding smug and ungrateful, recognition so early on really just muddied the waters. I didn't know that wasn't supposed to happen. The next couple of years were a bit frustrating as I waited for things to just fall into place. I'm not quite sure how I expected publishers to know about me when I didn't actually contact anyone. It takes years of making stuff, lots of stuff, mostly bad stuff, taking risks, putting yourself out there and talking to people, everyone you can, asking questions then putting out more stuff. I now understand all the hard work it takes to gain the respect and craft necessary to sustain success as an author/illustrator. And, I'm still here.
With all of the information and advice I have acquired from conferences, writing workshops, my mentorship program and my newest endeavor, a Summer Artist's Residency program at California Institute of the Arts (more on this later), I realize that it's not about being discovered. It's about meeting people and asking questions, immersing yourself in your work and just plugging away at it every day. This industry is full of amazing people and resources and I haven't met one (okay, maybe one) fellow author or illustrator that isn't rooting for me and everyone else in this crazy industry. We are all capable and it's a matter of doing your work, lots of work, volumes of work! It's about The 10,000 hour rule and not being afraid to fail, knowing that even the bad stuff has to be created to get to the good stuff.
Okay, guilty! When I started this journey I was hoping for that magic bullet, the parting of the Red Sea and being discovered! If that's what you're looking for, I regret to inform you that you're probably in the wrong place, at the wrong blog, in the wrong industry. I have been doing this for a long time, writing and illustrating (among other things). So long in fact that had I chosen a different field, I could have an MD by now open up a nice little family practice. Through the journey, many things have happened, good and not so good. Although I focus on the good, I am grateful for all of it.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
|Tomie looks hungry.|
|Akiko's winning 'cakilstration.'|
No, really!After learning that she was chosen as 2014's Tomie dePaola Illustrator Award winner Akiko White did what any Cakelstrator would do. She baked and illustrated Tomie a cake! And look at me, the official cake cutter!
Akiko was one of the many talented illustrators I met at this years Winter SCBWI Conference in New York. And as with every conference the community that is formed within a small amount of time ads to my arsenal of friendships that I will cherish and continue to cultivate for years to come.
|Lin Oliver, Tomie DePaola and myself pose for a candid.|
It's about community.The talent is abundant, but the most amazing thing is the grass roots sense of community this organization practices. Whether it's your first conference or you're a published veteran, you are welcomed and encouraged.
Tomie dePaola has probably set the grandest example of this. I had the rare opportunity to spend an evening with him. And, he couldn't have been more personable and supportive if he were my own father (not that I'm dissing you daddy)! His passion for life, creativity and genuine love of his craft was evident in his bubbly laugh, his smile and the big wonderful bear hugs, of which I got two! Oh, I suppose there was the interview with Pricilla Burris regarding his 60 some odd year career.
In addition to Tomie's insight to our craft, other highlights included the evening portfolio showcase and several break out sessions and keynote speakers. To get the best reviews, highlights of each session are available on the Official SCBWI Conference Blog. Can't wait for Los Angeles.
|Rachel Hamby, me, Connie Krebs|
SCBWI's Inland Northwest Representatives
|My amazing mentors, David Diaz and E.B. Lewis with Pricilla Burris speaking at the Illustrator's social.|
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
"It takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill...."
Upon arriving home from Tahoe I ordered my new brushes, took the necessary reference photos and set my sights on my first assignment. Things went smooth. I applied my techniques, careful to pull out all the stops in hopes of wowing him.
First Submission: Technique, or the lack there of.I emailed my masterpiece.... two days early, and called him. And with new found enthusiasm I answered his first question.
"How did you approach this?"
Perfect, I thought as I began reciting my vast arsenal of technical expertise: glazing the face... the hair effect.... the 40% shadow rule... my pigment formulas for making the various ethnic skin tones and on and on.... and on. I spilled the beans on every precious technique acquired over the years from various workshops and instructors. I took a breath and awaited his reply.
"Hello?" Had we lost service? Then he spoke.
'Those are techniques, not painting. I don't want you to paint hair, I want you to paint what you see, not apply a technique that makes it look like hair.'
Me: You mean just paint?
You're saying, just paint?
EB: Yeah, just paint.
I stood there stunned. What the hell is that supposed to mean? I took another breath, my mouth hung open like a marionette. And then it occurred to me, the gig was up. My secret was out, my biggest secret! I hadn't been formally trained. And if I didn't pay attention I ran the risk of achieving my biggest fear, to become the Bob Ross of Watercolor.
Those who know me would probably describe me as laid back and low key. And, this is true in every facet of my life EXCEPT my work. I am obsessed. I over think, I worry and most important, I rely on my techniques! I've spent the past ten years squeezing my obsession between ice skating lessons and laundry and a freaking day job. Techniques were what got me through, to where I am. And, I do paint what I see, I'm a realistic illustrator for Christ's sake! I closed my mouth as I started connecting the dots. Deep down I knew he had a point, and it was a damn good one.
EB: Do it again, and only paint what you see.
ME: (A bit deflated) Okay.
Second Submission: Paint what you see.It was hard at first as I went through the motions. I set up my pallet and sketched the image onto the paper, his words hanging over my head. I grabbed a new stiff brush, doused it with water and dipped it into my pigment. I studied my image and made the decision where to put my first mark. I drug the brush across the paper. It sucked up the paint as the brush released. Wow, the new brushes WERE wonderful. My anxiety gave way to curiosity. I started to have fun, playing with the colors, not thinking about techniques but what I saw. And, strangely enough even tho there were problems, I could see an improvement. Was it working? I completed the image and sent the file.
EB: Is that what the shadow looked like in the photo?
ME: I was being careful to make the eye...
EB: There's your problem right there. You just called it an eye. Once you do that, you lost it. They're just shapes, you're painting shapes."
EB: Do it again, painting shapes.
Third submission: Painting Shapes.I did my best to apply his suggestions. "More pigment, less water, no glazing, just paint [what you see]."
|I decided to redraw the image.|
|Laying in the shadows.|
|More pigment, less water.|
|Make every mark count.|
I smiled a little, but careful not to be overly excited. I hesitated in my response.
Me: So now what?
There was a long pause. I braced myself for the inevitable.
EB: The hands are wrong. The color is off. Do more.
ME: Same thing? Still only three colors?
EB: YUP. You have about 9500 more hours to go.
ME: Same photo?
EB: Same Photo.
ME: The whole thing or just the hands?
EB: 10,000 hours!
I sent the file and have spent the morning writing and editing this blog waiting for the call. I just got off the phone. I asked him what he thought.
'Dead on. You nailed it.'Me: YES!
I have my new assignment. It seems that the lesson will be in patience. "Okay," he explained, "this time it shouldn't take four tries to get it right." His word of caution: "You've raised your bar. I have new expectations." And the cool thing is, so do I.
Clock hours logged? I've lost track.