Monday, February 28, 2011

Return to the Land of the Reject Sketches

I would say- my favorite thing to do is to make up characters. I love to "draw" out a personality. It's like acting for the way too introverted artists among us, like me who long to be on stage - but just can't do it.
I have been working on a book that takes place in a school cafeteria. The 2 leads - the cook and a boy about 7.

It was left wide open as to what they should look like. All I knew was the cook should be "mom" like. I just went where my brain took me. Usually I think of someone I know-or have seen- or I go through my sketchbooks to see my sketches from Starbucks and the horse stables... that's where I sketch people who strike me as fun looking.  Here are the rejects. Rejected drawings never die - they will show up somewhere else.. because you've brought these characters into being. They now need stories to inhabit.

the one with the glasses might resemble me a bit

the top one looks a bit like my personal trainer - but no poochy belly on Patty(trainer)
then I did a round Mama mia looking one 

The tired- worn out Mom face -I know it well
Ok- if the cook was gonna be frazzled- I thought of
someone's Mom I know. I hope she doesn't mind- cause it looks pretty dead on.
I also thought southern cook- I have wanted to do a New Orleans cook 
character for years. I find the story of Leah Chase fascinating- and
I volunteer for a picture book about her!

Mostly- I think of the kids in my daughters' school. She leaves elementary school this year.
What will I do?... Lots of awkward looking 11-13 year old kids next year.

These are the cleaned up designs- many scribbles and bad drawings were done - but even those still have some life in them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Somewhere, beyond the Sea....

I left it all behind. I went on a 5 day cruise, just me and the husband. We've done it before, three times over the last 5 years, cruising with the Barenaked Ladies. BUT- this was the first time- I left it all behind. No worries about the kid- she was safe and happy with the Grandparents- in good hands. No worries about work - I had turned in sketches for a book with realistic expectations for the feedback to come when I got back. I had an offer to work on an App, so I knew there were opportunities around the corner. And - the SCBWI conference was over and left me feeling secure that I am on the right track.

I relaxed- for real. Just fun with the husband and friends. It's a rare feeling in the life of this Mom/artist. Always running in 15 different directions with way too much dog hair to vacuum and Mount Laundrymore threatening to avalanche and swallow up the cat. It is as necessary as the new found exercise routine to ensure physical, emotional, mental and artistic health.  I draw a direct line from Sara Zarr's keynote at the SCBWI Winter conference to this feeling. She said she needed to give the speech she needed to hear -  and in doing that, gave the speech I needed to hear.(and I suspect we all felt in that room- she was speaking directly to each of us)

She said of "A fulfilling creative life": "It gives back. It gives back to you and to others. As you're engaged with your work and your world you'll be a better spouse, friends, sibling. You'll be more self-actualized."

Truer words were never spoken. We need to be a whole person to reach at least the point of tenuous balance. That balance you feel when doing yoga - you stick that foot up to the inside of your other knee in "Tree" pose... wobbily....wobbily..... Yessss!-Look at me! I'm a tree!....5,4,3,2,1.. WHOOPS!  But you were there- and you'll get back- it's all in the doing and trying and being. - let's all breathe and sigh, then next pose. (next job, next kid's class party, next holiday...) (you get it?)  

Sara's speech (which you can read a synopsis of all around the web like Here and here and here

Her speech was all about not getting caught up in the long look ahead to what you want and what might be. I do it. Always wondering when will "It" happen for me.. a big break, a big book - When will I break through into Kid Lit Wonderland?...  Instead of getting caught up in that long look ahead- look around you, be a part of your "now". If you can do that- you can enjoy the work, your family and yes- even the school trip you take where you are put in charge of 3 children to teach them book keeping.(I did this yesterday- never ask an artist to keep the books in an imaginary $250,000 enviromental non-profit. I have scarred these kids for life and they will never balance a check book)( I had fun in a weirdo, chicken with it's head cut off kinda way.) 

Basically- The secret of life is - enjoy the now and always try to get better at all aspects of who you are. That's it - and 42. That's what I think it means to be self-actualized.

I'd like to say to Sara Zarr :"Baby, you're the greatest"

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friday's Pages - More SCBWI Notes and night caps

I like revisiting my SCBWI notes- they are unintelligible to anyone but me. I scribble, I doodle- I write things I should never let anyone read. I jot down that I am bored- I may play fashion critic, caricaturist and curmudgeon - all on one page.

Dan Yaccarino's the future of books as E-books talk note page has many hearts on it and Oswald's dog Weenie. Written in my messy all caps handwriting is "It's really about STORY & CHARACTER and that will never go away. - I think I was too dazzled by the Yaccarino to write.

The Social Media Panel- A few take aways: see all of the real info on the official SCBWI blog and in depth notes on Leeza's blog

In no order with no attribution:
"This is a time of tremendous change. It is challenging, exhausting an exciting!"
"Social Media forces us to re-think "What is an audience?""
"Blogs- think how you can use them to get your audience to be consumers of you"

Here's an example. The Lawyer who spoke on Friday. He loved his work. You could tell- his hands were so animated. He said a few things I thought stood out. I wrote :
" Be the aggregator not the aggregatee" (aggregatee- is that a word- it made me think of an aggravated manatee - and then I want to draw that)
"Facebook and Twitter #'s - matter. (I don't want to believe this but I can see it happening)

Facebook and Twitter and blogs are ways for us to find out who the customer is and then we can establish relationships w/ those customers. (I feel weird calling them customers- rather than friends. Then - there are those "friends" we don't know right?- my brain hurts thinking about this stuff- I just want to create and hope people connect with it. -I do realize, of course that is short sighted. But I like things to happen organically- it makes me think it's due to the quality of what I do. I don't want to be the telemarketing equivalent of an illustrator calling you at dinner time. You will hang up on me.)

I had to leave before the amazing hands guy stopped talking. THE TAKE AWAY of the day- (my own) BUCKLE UP FOLKS!- We are looking down the barrel of a change not unlike the Gutenberg Bible. We must move with it, lest we get run over.

Like I said- below- I left the intensive. Leeza took such amazing notes- I'm reading them to fill myself in on what I missed.
I got back to NYC from my daughter's play at about 10:20 PM. I met my roommate Kathy Blackmore in the lobby- and we headed over to the KID LIT DRINK NIGHT.  

We had fun chatting with Leeza,  Brian Gerrity, my LA discovery of art joy: John Deininger, Lena Shiffman and a guy named Jim - who was very cool and if he reads this- please comment cause I would like to name you correctly! It was a room filled with energy- I wish I could have soaked it up and gotten there earlier.  It was off to the hotel and to bed - then we chatted til 2 Am and were a wreck the next morning. But it was fun! - more conference notes to come!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Check out all of the rabbits over @ The Sketchables!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I'm Super Bad -;)

Did I hear that right? Did they call my name? I thought I was in NYC... ya know the belly of the cute beast that is Kid's Publishing? 3 years ago - here, at this conference..... I almost packed it in. They couldn't give me an award....

But - THEY did.  SCBWI NYC 2011 Art Showcase Honor Award.

I am happy and thrilled and tickled and freaked out and pumped and dazzled and intimidated and humbled and validated and in need of a new website and challenged and invigorated and well- you get the picture up there. It's time to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight and sing a la Babs Streisand "Hey, Mr. Arnstein, here I am !!!!..." - just change "Mr. Arnstein" to "Publishers".

So much time has been spent being a "Wanna be" - I am now in that uncomfortable space between "Wanna be" and "Be". In art- uncomfortable is good. It means change and growth and new work and surprises. Bring it on. I've been training for it!! 

The Grand Prize Winner was Leeza Hernandez. 
I met Leeza in 2007 at the NYC conference. She was a force of nature then and now a force to be reckoned with! - She's a joyous spirit that sprinkles explosive pixie dust everywhere she goes.

The other winners were Greg Pizzoli  and Laurie Sharp. I didn't get to meet Greg- so Congrats Greg! I did meet Laurie- and I love her felted illustrations and love the idea of photographing sweet little hand made characters for books.

SCBWI has other "awards" - that may not bring one up on the stage- and on a giant scary video screen but, are ever more valuable. SCBWI sets the stage for special people to enter your life. Liked minded, supportive friends who give a pat on the back - a kick in the rump - and a shove when you need it. I have met people I admire, some I consider mentors and friends I cherish through SCBWI conferences. That is the best anyone can hope to win, right? My roommate Katherine Blackmore and I met at a Florida conference 3 years ago. She's my partner in crime and we take turns being each others' shrink.We had an awesome time together this past weekend.

I was at the grocery store yesterday and a little old lady yelled at me - "Your blocking the SAMPLES with your cart! Move!" I should have shook my fist at her and said "I am an award winning illustrator lady!" "Samples be damned!" BUT I realized this feeling will last and lift me up until I go down to the basement and see the Mount Laundrymore I have to wash. Life goes on- but the art side of my life has been turned up a notch. It's a nice, swift kick in the tuchus to do better work- to live up to getting something like this and the expectations it may create. Thank you SCBWI for kicking my tuchus back in 2008 - and again now. It's proven to make me better.

The conference as a whole had a very "Practical" feeling to it. I think the tone was set on Friday for me. The Illustrator's Intensive was all about the "APP" with a sprinkling of licensing.
Dan Yaccarino was the perfect guy to introduce the possibilities for the positive application of childrens' literature in the digital world. His talk took me from being one of the people - hugging, white knuckled, my actual paper books - to actually seeing it as an exciting avenue to take, if done thoughtfully.

He clearly laid out how digital books are just another step in the evolution of literacy.- makes sense. I have an art crush on Dan Yaccarino.

I, personally, see APPS as an after publication product. Book first. Then APP. There seems to be a rush to go straight to APP- with many excited to think about it as an easier way to break in to publishing- or to make money. All paths are valid if they feel right to you. My hesitation lies in keeping the line drawn between video game and digitally enhanced BOOK. Keeping the quality high.

I have no interest in  reading "Angry Birds and the Playground Pigs make friends"

I'd like to see some time taken to let quality books- that seem to lend themselves to the technology - be made into "E"-enhanced books. I think about it as a possibility to awaken my animator life that has been lying dormant for over a decade and a half. Somewhere in my brain is all of that knowledge waiting to be applied - and this could be just the ticket.

There was another session on APPS, then Licensing our work and an opportunity to go to the NYC Gift Show and a lawyer spoke- but I had to run. My daughter was in her school play back in Long Island. I would not, could not miss that- So I ran home!

I missed being at the Showcase. Maybe that's why winning feels a bit unreal. I love being inside "Thunder Dome" as I call it - seeing the best work from the huge talent pool that comes. Exciting to be an illustrating gladiator in there. - This time I escaped being thrown to the lions and got a thumbs up!

I have more thoughts on the conference- I hope to write in the next few days.

Watch me! I'm Super Bad! - I wanna jump back & kiss myself.   - funniest lyrics