Monthly Archives: May 2013

Guest Post-Dani Jones-Advice for New Illustrators and Art School Graduates


You just graduated from art school. Congratulations! Now what?

There is a lot of ambiguous advice out there like “get your name out there” and “create a portfolio” – but how exactly do you do it? Based on my experience, here are some essential and very specific things I think you should do.



1. Create at least five new portfolio pieces.

2. Keep going.

Start making new portfolio pieces right off the bat. No matter how good you think you are coming out of school, chances are you still need to go a bit further to reach pro level. New illustrators suffer from lack of experience and confidence in their art. The only way to get over it is mileage.

For my own portfolio, I had replaced it with almost entirely new work within my first year after graduation. Another year after that, I had done it again.

I haven’t rotated my portfolio as quickly in recent years as I’ve grown in confidence and skill, but I still consider personal projects and portfolio development one of my top priorities. As an illustrator, you will find that creating new work will always be a challenge. It is how you keep your art fresh and aim your future work in the direction you want it to go. It is especially crucial and important in the early stages of your career. Establish this habit now.


Make a website

1. Buy a domain name.

2. Buy hosting.

3. Design and launch your site.

Your website will be the cornerstone of all the marketing and networking you will do throughout the course of your career. It is the first thing a lot of art directors look for when they come across a piece of art that they like. It is the home of everything you make and do.

I recommend getting your own URL vs. having a blogspot/tumblr/wordpress/etc. address. You can use their services, but get your own name, at least for your main website. You are going to be using this domain throughout your career. Invest in something that is your own. Also, use your name, not some weird nickname or company name.

After you buy a name, you need a host. Think of the host as like the house your website resides, whereas the domain is just the address that directs you to it. You can either buy your own hosting space and upload your own site from scratch or use something like Blogspot or Tumblr that is already pre-made, and attach your domain to it.

Here’s some places you can buy domains and hosting:

(what I use)




(You could also use GoDaddy which is popular, but I dislike their commercials and service so much that I’m going to tell you not to.)

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Cartoon Facial Proportions With Peter Emslie


In these instructional videos Cartoonist Peter Emslie shares how he creates characters from simple shapes. Emslie teaches character design at Sheridan College and he has illustrated over 50 books for Disney licensees. In these two lessons (which each have two videos) Emslie demonstrates how he creates characters from shapes and gradually builds them up to a rough sketch. In the first video he takes a character that he has already designed and draws him in a new pose. He starts with a line of action and then roughs in the rest of the character, working from the basic and then refining down to a finished sketch.

Constructing a cartoon character, with Peter Emslie, part 1 of 2

Watch the second part to this video and the second lesson after the break.
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Spreading Your Wings with Ward Jenkins

Our Spreading Your Wings posts are about looking for other places in the industry that your children’s market style can find a home. Learning to not limit ourselves to thinking that the only place our style can find us work is strictly doing children’s books. That’s simply not true.

In this post award winning children’s book illustrator, Ward Jenkins drops in to shed some light adn show some sketches from his recent foray into co-directing an animated public service announcement for the NBA and NRDC  about going green and recycling. Ward storyboarded the commercial, did layouts, and illustrated some key frames while another studio used Flash to animate the commercial to completion.  I’ll let Ward explain it better.


NRDC NBA Adds Up PSA – Ward Jenkins/Paul Golden from FFAKE Animation on Vimeo.

It’s been a while since I’d directed anything lately, so it was a welcome pleasure for Paul Golden of Ffake to contact me about co-directing this fun public service announcement for the NBA and NRDC. That’s National Basketball Association (of course) and the National Resources Defense Council – they’re all about going green and recycling, etc. The PSA was a simple walk through of all the ways that the NBA has been working with the NRDC to make sure the league is going green – mostly through the basketball arenas and facilities.

Paul wanted to emulate the look and feel of M. Sasek and his “This Is…” children’s book series, and I – of course, couldn’t say no to that. It was quite a fun adventure working on this spot. Below are some of the first sketches I did of the NBA player and the NRDC scientist guy: Sketches 1 Sketches 2 Sketches 3

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Wacom Unveils Multi-Touch 22HD Drawing Tablet


Wacom produces several lines of tablets for digital artists, graphics designers and photographers and they are adding a new entry into there line up. The Wacom Cintiq 22HD tablet Touch. Like the Cintiq 24HD Touch the new 22HD introduces multi-touch functionality for gestures like rotating canvases, panning and zooming along side the great stylus-based drawing. The stylus retains its 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and the ExpressKeys return as well on either side of the drawing surface. The overall weight of the Cintiq 22HD has been reduced from 33.7 pounds to 18.5 pounds with the stand.

With touch comes added cost. The Cintiq 22HD touch costs $2,500 which is a $500 premium on the non-touch version. Wacom is releasing a new, improved version of the Cintiq 24HD Touch in may in the US.

Guest Post-Yvonne Herbst-How to Write a Children’s E-Book, Part 3


The road to publication had broadened for many writers and illustrators with the advent of e-books. But the process can be confusing to many. Where to start? What to do? How do you do it?

Well we feel the best way to learn is through the experiences of others. So join us as Writer/Illustrator Yvonne Herbst walks us through the third part of her journey to self publication! Learn from her journey and incorporate what you can into yours.

How to Write a Children’s E-book-Part 1
How to Write a Children’s E-book-Part 2



In part 2 of  describing my journey to publish my first children’s picture book  I submitted my book to Bookbaby to be published by them to iBooks. I did this largely because it was cheaper. It cost $125 for the required ISBN number for iBooks or I could get my book submitted and an ISBN number assigned by Bookbaby for $118.  Now I am waiting for it to be accepted by iBooks.

In the meantime I wanted to also get my book on Barns and Noble and Amazon. I found a lot of info on how others have done so but most of them were speaking about chapter books not picture books.

Julie Olson (found via Will Terry) described on her blog how she published to Amazon. She was successful and I really appreciate the time she took to describer her process. Unfortunately I do not have the programs that she used to publish to Amazon. She used programs like Adobe InDesign and Adobe Acrobat. Financially,  I needed to figure out how to do it on my own without spending a lot of money on additional programs.

I already have an .epub file and a .pdf file generated by the BookCreator app. (See part 1 and part 2 of my journey.) So I thought,  I’ll just fill out the applications on BN and Amazon and upload my .epub file and see what happens in the preview.

I did and my book did not read at all. Something was obviously not compatible with the kindle and the nook.

Next I opened a Microsoft Word document and added my pictures to create a .doc file. I did this  because Barnes and Nobles  said they accept and convert those. Well, that was a no go too in the preview.

On this site I found a program called Calibre. It is really nifty and converts ebook files into all sorts of readable formats including from a .doc into an .epub. I took my .doc and converted it into an .epub and uploaded it to BN and again, it was a no go. The file still did not read in the nook preview and the same happened on Amazon. I honestly was at a loss!

Then I came across a kindle ebook. It is called: Formatting Comics for Kindle and Nook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Images and Ebooks (Formatting Ebooks)

Hallelujah ! It comes with XHTML templates!! Because I realized no matter what you need to “futz” around with XTHML or it is a no go for your children’s picture book.

First I formatted my pictures to this size for the Nook, 768×1024 pixels. Luckily I did not have to adjust too much! Then I added the text into the layers of my images. (In Book Creator this is done separate within the app.  So I had to add this step.)

Next you open the template given for the BN Nook. On a MAC you have to edit the code in Text Edit.

I had to fix some things to be able to use my version of Text Edit. It was very frustrating. I had to figure out why, now that I had a template, I could still not edit it! Have I mentioned that I am NOT computer smart?
After a couple of angry and tearful outbursts, I found out that the files in the template were set to open in Safari only. So I right clicked on each file and set them to open in Text Edit. Finally, I was set to go!

Make totally sure you name your images the way the book tells you to or they won’t read. Just go slow and edit step by step, following the given instructions.

In the end you can go to the EPUB Validator and see if your .epub file has errors in it before you download your .epub to publishing sites. Very handy!
As it turned out, after all my work and using the template, my .epub file DID still have some errors. I seriously had lost 80% of my hair by then.
And guess what?  I actually found a MISTAKE in the template for BN Nook! It is in the toc.ncx file.


I fixed the mistake and my new .epub file for Nook was verified and it was successfully uploaded to BN.

Next, I started to work on my file for the Amazon  Kindle.

I should have used the template for Amazon Kindle first because that one was a piece of cake after working with the template for Nook. In the book they suggest you change the picture format to 525×649 pixels. But I used the same image size as suggested for Nook, 768×1024 and they read just fine. (all 72 dpi by the way. You don’t  need the images any larger and you don’t want your files to get too big.)

I know I got a bit long winded here with my 3 part account, but I wanted to show that this process was hard and frustrating for someone who had no idea  how to go about it. Many people on the internet make it sound so easy and it totally isn’t! Publishing a children’s picture book is much more difficult than publishing a text book and you honestly cannot find a simple way because there isn’t one.

So to sum it up, use the ebook I found! The templates saved my sanity in the end. Don’t give up when it get’s hard. If I can do it without any computer knowledge, you can too! Best of luck!

Find my book “Pigs Cannot Drive a Tractor!” on Amazon for Kindle (or the kindle app for ipad) and also on Barns and Noble, for NOOK readers!

How to Write a Children’s E-book-Part 1
How to Write a Children’s E-book-Part 2

Alternatives to Using the Adobe Creative Suite

There has been a lot of fire out there about Adobe changing their upgrade policy and some users feeling like Adobe is taking advantage of their monopoly on the design application market. So I thought I would go through and find a few alternatives to Adobe applications. I’m not saying that any of these are better than Adobe’s offerings I just wanted to put out a list of a few alternatives. I’m only going to focus on the major design (No web apps) applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. There are tons of alternatives out there but I decided to focus on a handful from each category. I did not have time to go through and write a description for each piece of software but I did grab their marketing description from their website to give you an idea of what the application is advertised to do. I personally work on a Mac, having that in mind I tried to find applications for all platforms not just focusing on my side of the computer world. I have not used all of the software, but I did go through and make sure that it was reviewed well and generally excepted to be a good product.

The price range on the software I’ve selected runs the gamut. Some are expensive, some are reasonable, some are free and most come with trial versions so the barrier to giving it a shot is only the time you have to invest.

So try these applications and decide whether any of this software will work in your creative process.

GIMP is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, and more.
Price: Free
Platforms: Mac, Windows and Linux
Pixelmator, the beautifully designed, easy-to-use, fast and powerful image editor for Mac OS X has everything you need to create, edit and enhance your images.
Price: $14.99
Platforms: Mac
Acorn is a photo editor built for the rest of us. With a simple interface and tools for adding everything from text, shapes, and effects, you can make the perfect picture in seconds and minutes, not hours and days.
Price: $49.99
Platforms: Mac
A simple but lovely natural media painting and sketching program. Art oriented, but capable of loading/saving photoshop files. A very cheap alternative to Painter, with a stripped down, elegant interface.
Price: $29.90 to $59.90
Platforms: Mac and Windows
Corel Painter
Corel Painter is a raster-based digital art application created to simulate as accurately as possible the appearance and behavior of traditional media associated with drawing, painting, and printmaking. It is intended to be used in real-time by professional digital artists as a functional creative tool.
Price: $429.00
Platforms: Mac and Windows
Autodesk Sketchbook Pro
Autodesk Sketchbook Pro drawing software features an artist-friendly, gesture-based user interface that is so fast and intuitive even new users can be productive within minutes.
 Price: $59.90

Platforms: Mac and Windows Continue reading

Adobe announces plan to switch to subscription service


Adobe has recently announced that it will be abandoning the Creative Suite structure and moving towards a subscription only service called CC (Creative Cloud). What does this mean exactly?

Previously Adobe sold their programs individually. You bought Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. separately. As Adobe moved forward and created newer applications that applied to the diversifying field of Creative arts they began to sell their programs in suites. Suites were package sets that combined the most useful programs based on the specific job or discipline of that user.  For example a web developer would generally use a different set of programs than a photographer might. The suites were set up and specialized for the needs of their individual fields. These suites could cost in the thousands of dollars depending on the number of programs included.

The programs were released in versions; 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, etc. Every couple of years the programs would update or change. These updates weren’t mandatory but if you did choose to update and had a previous version (within two generations) you could update at a discounted amount rather than having to completely rebuy the set of programs.  The upgrade cost was generally around $200-300. With the addition of the Creative Cloud, Adobe dropped the upgrade cheaper option in favor of customers being required to buy the suites at full price regardless of whether they had the previous version or not. Now even that model has been dropped in favor of a subscription only model.

With Adobe abandoning this system and going to a cloud format, you will essentially be renting the programs from now until perpetuity rather than being able to buy it outright.  The average cost being $30-$75 dollars per month. The advantage at this point will be that with this subscription you will have access to any and all programs that Adobe has to offer. (Depending on the model you choose.) You’ll also automatically get the latest versions of the programs immediately upon release. You also get 20 GB of storage space online for your files.  Please see payment formats below.

Upgrade to Creative Cloud Membership – save 40%

For existing CS3* or later customers

  • Full new versions of every Adobe creative desktop application
  • 20GB of cloud storage
  • Full access to services
  • Requires annual commitment and CS3 or later serial number*
US $29.99
per month
Complete — annual

For new Creative Cloud members

  • Full new versions of every Adobe creative desktop application
  • 20GB of cloud storage
  • Full access to services
  • Requires annual commitment; billed monthly
US $49.99
per month
Complete — month to month

Month-to-month membership to Creative Cloud

  • Full new versions of every Adobe creative desktop application
  • 20GB of cloud storage
  • Full access to services
  • Can be canceled at any time
US $74.99
per month
Single app — annual

Full version of one desktop application

  • Full new version of Photoshop CC
  • 20GB of cloud storage
  • Limited access to services
  • Requires annual commitment; billed monthly†
US $19.99
per month
Creative Cloud Student and Teacher Edition — save 60%

Special education pricing for individuals

  • Reduced price through June 25; normally US$29.99/month‡
  • Full new versions of every Adobe creative desktop application
  • 20GB of cloud storage
  • Full access to services
  • Requires institutional affiliation and annual commitment; billed monthly
US $19.99
per month

So why is Adobe doing this? They have stated that it’s to stay on the cusp of new technology and it’s evolving formats. They’ve also cited that it’s a way to help them counteract the high levels of piracy that occur with their products.  With the programs being required to check in monthly and confirm that the owner has a subscription, piracy would become a thing of the past.

This announcement has created a lot of controversy. Many artists don’t want to be forced into a system that forces them to rent the integral software they need to run their businesses from day to day. Especially without the option to buy the programs they need outright and only upgrade or change their software when it becomes necessary and affordable for them.  They also balk at paying for a large assortment of programs that they don’t need and would never use and being forced to pay for software updates that may not be relevant or impact-ful on their specific industry.

Others think the new format will be great. They feel that the cost of the package offered is comparable to what they would have paid had they purchased the full programs themselves. This tends to be the kind of professional though that updates with every new release and uses the majority if not all of the programs that Adobe offers.

So where do you stand? What concerns do you have if any?

Many are starting to look hard at alternative programs that can substitute for Adobe products. Many expect this move from Adobe to actually fuel their competition to come up with cheaper and more affordable alternatives for consumers. Others plan on buying the latest version of the Adobe programs that they use. (Adobe CS 6 is the latest version and it is still available to be bought outright. But future versions will not be.) And use it as long as they can until they have to buy into the system with the hope that better alternatives will surface in the meantime.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Some other articles on this subject;

Adobe is killing Creative Suites and here’s why

Some Photoshop CC Mathematics.

Frequently Asked Questions Adobe Page for more details regarding Creative Cloud.

Sesame’s Best Practices Guide for Children’s App Development


We all can see how touch screen devices are changing the landscape for so many things, phones, games and books. Interactive experiences are the new norm for our youngsters. They no longer need to use keyboards and mouses to experience computing. So who should we look to when creating interactive experiences for our Toddlers and Preschoolers? Why Sesame Street of course.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has released a PDF that offers their findings from touch screen studies and tips for designing and developing apps and ebooks for preschoolers.

Sesame Workshop Vice President of Education and Research, Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, had this to say about the best practices guide. “These best practices are a result of our research with preschoolers and their parents. We’ve developed highly effective methods and ways we can make apps and ebooks more engaging to help children learn”


This document contains research commissioned by Sesame Workshop (50 studies plus) and then they break down their approach to creating educational content for touch devices. The study also categorizes the most and least intuitive gestures for touch screens, tips for visual design and layout. The PDF also outlines features for creating book apps and ebooks. Should your e-book include reading options like narration? Where are the trouble areas that kids could accidentally touch? This document addresses these questions and so many more.

If you’re in the market to create an interactive experience for children this document is a good resource. You can download the PDF here.



How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors – Jane Friedman

I ran across this great list of resources for those interested in learning more about e-book publishing.

Jane Friedman has compiled an amazing list of resources that covers practically every aspect of e-book publishing that you can think of! Please run don’t walk over to her list and bookmark it as your go to resource for educating yourself about this aspect of our industry.

Please Note: This is just a snippet and not the full article. Be sure to follow the link at the bottom of the post to see the full list of resources.

About the only thing that remains constant in e-book publishing is that it changes—everything from the services to marketing strategies. Here, I’ve attempted to round-up all the good resources I know of related to (1) how to publish an e-book, (2) finding the right e-publishing services, and (3) staying on top of changes in the industry. If I’ve neglected to mention an important resource, please let me know in the comments.

Getting Started & Principles

Sales, Marketing, and Promotion



Once Upon a Sketch Podcast Episode 3 – Mike Maihack



After a long hiatus the Once Upon a Sketch podcast is back and this month we are talking with web comic creator Mike Maihack about what made him the artist that he is today. From his earlier works on Cow & Buffalo to his latest work  Cleopatra in Space that was recently signed to Scholastic! We discuss it all.

Audio Version of the podcast or listen on iTunes



To find out more about Mike’s work you can visit him in a number of places online.

Web site
Deviant Art

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