Sunday, June 27, 2010

Get 'er done: Mural Edition

Scratch that one off the bucket list. Large-scale mural in public setting: CHECK. Dear readers, since we're good friends, I will tell you a secret. When the Portland Children's Museum asked me to paint a mural in their new Pet Hospital exhibit, at first I was afraid. I was petrified. I wondered how I'd ever paint a picture at that size. I had never a) painted such a large mural before in such a b) heavily-trafficked area, in c) the place where I work part-time and thus would have to face my co-workers and an ugly mural every day in the event that it sucked.

Dear readers, I will tell you another secret: I am really quite pleased with how it turned out.

That's the finished mural above- and here's how it all went down.

It started with a sketch, obviously. The new exhibit is a play veterinary clinic with stuffed animals the kids can take care of. The exhibit planners wanted a mural for the dog park section. 

I then drew a pretty lenient grid on the sketch for transferring to the Big Screen.

I learned a lot from doing this mural that I think will be muy helpful in my book illustrations. For one thing, the joy and pleasure that having a color sketch brings to me. Yes, YES, I know that painters have been making color sketches for CENTURIES, and I am a little late to this realization. That seems to be the story of my life: I am currently watching season 2 of Mad Men, and read my first Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the bus today. (*Side note: both totally amazing! FYI!)

Anyhoo, that part was easy peasy. Now on to the Uncharted Territory:

Luckily, I had The Grid to help me chart it. It really did help, but I used that grid fairly flexibly towards the end there. And YES, sharp-eyed readers, that IS a copy of The Curious Garden by Peter Brown for color reference!

All drawn in. Then on to COLOR! Just as in my normal illustrations I used acrylics, and I tried to get in all of the colors first before building up any one section.

I painted...
...and painted...
... and painted. It took a good two weeks, and frankly, it got so I dreamed about painting flower pots, and I didn't even want to look at a dog on the sidewalk.

And then it was done.

Some details:

Take that, Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Get 'er done

It IS graduation season, so how appropriate that I delayed the final installment of Illustration Correspondence Course until now! HA. Like I am that organized. But I figured I should wrap things up, because I gots pictures from Book Expo America to share, I gots a mural I'm working on to share... 

SO! Our final virtual class! I'll try not to get teary-eyed. This subject is always a crowd-pleaser, because it's the stuff that everyone REALLY wants to know... HOW TO GET YOUR STUFF PUBLISHED. I used to give this talk quite frequently at SCBWI conferences, and it's a talk I like to call:
I know as well as the next person that it is important to have a good ice breaker with these types of things. This is my ice breaker (note: I will likely use this ice breaker in my summer course in July- spoiler alert!). I've also showed these pictures on my blog before, but they're JUST SO GOOD I never get tired of them.

So, these are some scenes from the very short-lived television show The Something Something of Jezebel James, wherein Parker Posey played an editor at HarperCollins Children's Books. These offices look a lot more swank than my "office" when I worked at HarperCollins:
No window, and no frilly blouse for me, I can assure you.

Anyhoo, it was my job as the NKOTB in the design department to sort through the postcards we received from illustrators. I still recommend postcards to participants in my class- they're a relatively cheap way to promote yourself, and no one is annoyed by receiving a postcard. 

I highlighted some of the postcards that I discarded immediately:
Now, I don't think any of these illustrations are "bad", per se. In a clockwise manner, starting at the top left, I rejected these because they were a) too editorial, b) too "mass market", c) too editorial again (maybe for Money magazine, not for children's books), d) too sci-fi, e) too weird, and f) not telling a narrative story.

In the Yes bin went these postcards. First off, they all show KIDS (or kid-friendly subjects). Big plus! And besides being well-executed, I feel like all of these postcards tell a story, or evoke a narrative. I love the little girl hugging her grandpa, for example- it's such a simple, sweet, and universal moment and feeling. And those birds on a wire! How I love them! I like that many of the birds are angry. Children are often angry (as I can tell you from working at a children's museum), and it's nice to get a hint that this illustrator can represent a wide range of emotions.
Getting yourself in the "yes" bin does not mean you're going to get an illustration job, however. Oh, not by a long shot. After I pulled out some good postcards, the first thing I did was go to the illustrator's website or blog. No online portfolio= postcard goes into the recycling bin. It sounds harsh, but it really makes it so, so much easier to share your work with the publishing team if you have an online presence.

If the illustrator had a website with lots of cute illustrations appropriate for children's books, I'd print a few of my favorites and put them in a filing folder. If I REALLY liked the illustrator, I'd send a link around to some of the editorial & art deptartment members. 

Matching illustrators from these files to projects at hand could be a very difficult process, and a decision that most definitely was not left up to me. It was a decision reached by editorial, art, the publisher, and in some cases, sales, marketing, & the author. As a new illustrator, sometimes the cards are stacked against you. If the manuscript at hand is by a new author, the publisher likely won't pick a new illustrator to go with it. Either one or the other usually has some sort of track record & following. That's why I say- and I'm sticking to it!!- that it MAY be easier to get published if you write and illustrate your own books! I've heard others say different things... but I know that I saw many, many talented illustrators that I LOVED, and the chances of finding exactly the right manuscript at the right time, with the right subject matter and approved by the right people... well, it's a lot of hoops to jump through to become "the one".

And on that note! Well, that sounded like a real downer of an ending. I totally didn't mean it that way, and what's more, I don't think illustration in general has a downer of an ending! Sure, it can take a really, really, really, REALLY long time to get published, but it CAN and DOES happen! All the time. I cannot recommend highly enough the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They are an international organization and real-life resource to learn the ins and outs of writing, illustrating, and publishing.

Whew! Thanks for sticking around for the end of class! At my dad's great suggestion, I have a little something for you for completing this course:

I'm framing mine- it's going right next to the "Mousters" degree I earned from working at Disney World one summer. I chose not to pursue my Ducktorate that year.