Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas/Slash/Bah Humbug!

No no, I am definitely in the "Merry Christmas" camp, not the "Bah Humbug" camp... EXCEPT when I'm under a tight deadline!! Then I fall into what I call my Bob Cratchit/Uncle Scrooge complex, wherein the two sides of my personality fight for supremacy.

(not shown: the Peruvian blanket on my lap, because like Scrooge I am stingy with the central heating)

My inner dialogue has gone something like this:

U.S.: "I expect you'll want the entire day of Christmas off!"
B.C.: "It's only one day a year, sir."
U.S.: "A fine excuse for robbing a man's pocket every 25th of December! Besides, you have a deadline to meet!"
B.C.: "But sir... it's Christmas!"

My split personality has found a compromise with itself, wherein I let myself work (including writing this) until the afternoon when my wonderful husband is done cooking dinner. Then, it's rest and relaxation!

One of the hardest parts of working for myself has been drawing those boundaries. Working at home, it's easy for me to work work work all the time. But it's important to carve out time for life, like the few days Herm and I took to visit the family in Florida a few weeks ago.

(my beautiful and talented niece- future figure skater and/or star roller derby player!)

Because part of the joy of this lifestyle is supposed to be the opportunity to relax and enjoy life more, right?! So, my best wishes to everyone in this holiday season. May you find time to relax and spend quality time with your loved ones.

And I'll expect you at work all the earlier the next morning! Ha ha.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Athletics and Me: A History

Guess what time it is?

Roller Derby tryouts time! For those of you keeping track, this will be my third time trying out (once in New York, once in Portland), as chronicled here and here.

It strikes me as funny sometimes that I am involved in something so physical, and also that I'm currently writing and illustrating a book about athletics, since I was anything but athletic as a kid.

I was always gangly & uncoordinated, and just as kids pigeonhole themselves early on as "bad at math" or "bad at art", I always thought I was "bad at sports". I always came in last in the 50-yard dash, and I had a mean PE teacher who clearly favored the boys & naturally athletic girls. No big deal, I thought- I was good at reading and drawing, I did not have to be good at sports.

Appropriately enough, it may very well have been the Olympics that kept me somewhat interested in the world of sports. My mom is a highly creative woman (as evidenced by my homemade costume above), and she was very involved in giving me and my two brothers creative and unique experiences as kids. This includes, but is not limited to, the famed 1984 Block Party Olympics organized by my mother and her best friend, Mrs. C. I wish I had some pictures from this extraordinary event! Staged during our street's summer block party, all of the neighborhood kids competed in events like the marathon (run around the entire block), gymnastics, and a dress-up relay race. We also copied world flags from the encyclopedia with construction paper & staged an Opening and Closing Ceremony parade. The Gymnastics Controversy of 1984 is a story for another day, but I will say this experience influenced me for life. I may not have been naturally gifted at sports, but an athletic competition where we could make flags and have a parade? This was the sporting event for me!

I hope with Olympig (and the accompanying website & additional resources I have planned) that I can help introduce a love of sport to those kids who might not come by it naturally. I know I would be missing a lot by not being involved with roller derby now. Several times a week, I get to hang out with a group of inspirational, strong women- many of whom also never thought of themselves as athletes. Long live sports for the un-athletic!

Oh, and wish me luck at tryouts tonight!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Long Time, No Write!

Well hey there! Guess what I've been doing besides not writing on my blog? I'll give you one hint:


When you're a children's book author/illustrator, I'll admit it: there are days when my job is prett-ty laid back. I'll watch "Fame" for inspiration, do a little doodling, take a nap & call it a day. And don't get me wrong, I AM working on those days- I fully believe you need to daydream and doodle and spend quality time with your characters.

THEN there is the other part of my job. The dummy is done, art is due in 2 months, and I am painting. ALL. THE. TIME. It's quite different from the sketching in the park part of my job, but you know what? I really like this part, too. It's comforting to know what I'll be doing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. The irony in all of this is that with all these hours spent at my drawing board, I have plenty of time to think up new blog topics, but no time to write them! Here are some recent topics I've thought of in my piggy solitude:

* Top 10 Things about Working From Home (I got as far as "Leggings" and "Glee" before deciding this might be too damaging to my image)

* A Salute To Creative Parents

* My Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde Complex: or more appropriately, Mr. Scrooge/Bob Cratchett Complex

* My Imaginary Interview with Ellen (DeGeneres. Wherein I talk about how I am COMPLETELY taken aback by the runaway success of Olympig, and how my good friend JK is helping me deal with the sudden fame. C'mon, hasn't every author had this dream?!?)

So, look forward to some of these topics in the future! Yes, I WILL find the time to write them, because talking to myself on a blog seems less creepy than just normal talking to myself. Have I mentioned I've been spending a LOT of time alone lately??

On to today's topic:

*Finally using images I took for class like 2 months ago!

So, I always like to know how other illustrators work. Here, for example, is how I set prepare my paper for my illustrations. It takes a while, but I enjoy the process- I like to imagine I'm one of Michelangelo's little helpers. Preparing my paper with care always feels very artisan to me.

I use acrylics on paper, and the first thing I do with my paper is wet it. Wet it good!

Then I flatten out the paper on a nice thick board. I have several of these boards so I can do a few pages at the same time.

Then, with the paper as flat as I can get it, I take out Bessie the Staple Gun and staple all around the edges.

Since the fibers of the paper are nice and wet you can literally stretch the paper, and that's what I do as I go around the edges. When it dries, I want it to be tight as a drum.

Then I take out my gesso.

It's taken me a while to find just the balance that I like, but I've found that a thin layer of gesso with a spongy brush,

followed by a smoothing with the flat smoothy thing I found in the hardware store

... generally does the trick. I let it dry, sand it down, and repeat the process twice more.

Two things to beware of:

1) Sometimes after wetting & stapling, the paper still looks warped!

Don't panic! I've found it usually smoothes out overnight.

2) Beware of angry cats trying to sabotage your career:

And the last thing about my process that I'll talk about tonight is mixing paint. I'm trying a new thing, which I am really loving- mixing all my colors in advance! It is a wonder! Illustrator extraordinaire Johanna Wright spoke to my illustration class at PNCA this summer, and she said this is how she works, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. And it has changed my life!

So I made color copies of the color studies I did, and mixed my paints to match the colors I already liked. My big question was, How do I know how much color to mix?! My answer: Who knows? For colors I knew I'd use frequently (like "Pig"), I went with "A lot".

I now have tupperware containers labeled "Pig Skin" around my studio, which adds a level of Hannibal Lecter creepiness to my existing "talking to myself" creepiness.

Goodnight, everybody!