menu
Monthly Archives: January 2014

2014 Caldecott Winners

Locomotive003On Monday the American Library Association announced its most esteemed literary prizes. The ALA hands out a lot of different awards, but since this is a site dedicated to illustration we are only going to focus on one, the Caldecott medals. The award was announced at the American Library Association’s winter meeting in Philadelphia and selected by a national judging committee of librarians and children’s literature experts. The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Locomotive001

This year’s award went to Locomotive by Brian Floca. The story about a family taking a trip across country in the summer of 1869 on one of the first passenger trains. Floca is the author and illustrator of Locomotive. He has also written and illustrated other books like Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, Lightship, and The Racecar Alphabet. Mr. Floca’s work is no stranger to awards. His books have received 3 Robert F. Sibert Honor awards, an Orbis Pictus Award, a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, and have twice been selected for The New York Times annual 10 Best Illustrated Books list. Check out more of Brian Flaca’s work on his website, brianfloca.com.

Locomotive002

The other contenders for this award were Journey by Aaron Becker; Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle; and Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner. Congratulations to all the nominees. It must have been a tough job to select just one.

As You Wish…

Happy 2014, everyone!  It’s that time of year again.  That time when we all resolve with great intention to organize the house/lose the weight/run that marathon/kick that bad habit/save up for that thing we’ve been wanting……and a few months later lose motivation because we just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.  The same can be said for the business of children’s illustration. An artist can jump into the industry with the best of hopes, but become discouraged when those hopes don’t become reality.

So, how can we illustrators push our art and our careers to the next level in ways that yield results?  It comes down to setting the right goals.  Goals such as “I will get published this year” or “I will get that trade book” or “I will win that award” aren’t goals that we can actually do anything about.  We can’t make our favorite publishers hire us, and we can’t make that committee give us that award.  However, we can set realistic goals for ourselves that can make our art more competitive in the marketplace.  I recommend identifying 2-3 goals for your ARTWORK, and 2-3 goals for your BUSINESS.

HowIHelp_24n25_Full

Your Artwork
We’ve all done it.  We’ve gone into libraries and book stores, browsed the shelves of new children’s books, and sighed, “I wish my art was as good as insert-name-of-fabulous-artist-here.”  In fact, most of us have several illustrators that we admire, usually for different reasons.  This is informative! We can look at the artists that inspire us, evaluate our own portfolios, and make a wish list. Continue reading

Adobe Adds New Features To Creative Cloud For 2014

Last week Adobe announced new features to its Creative Cloud subscription service. In mid 2012 Adobe launched Creative Cloud and has been releasing new features for it since it’s inception. In 2013 they released 50 new enhancements for the service and 2014 is looking like it is going to be no different. They’re kicking the year off with new additions to Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC and Indesign CC. The notable additions include Perspective Warp to Photoshop, Illustrator receives Live corners and Indesign gets some E-pub enhancements. Let’s talk about these and a few more features a little bit more in-depth.

Photoshop CC
When talking about Adobe products you always need to start with Photoshop. It’s the product that pretty much everyone uses and everyone knows about. For 2014 they’ve added three key features to this program. The first one that jumps out to me and looks to be the most important to illustrators is Perspective Warp. Adobe’s description of this tool is: Fluidly adjust the perspective of a specific part of your image without affecting the surrounding area. Change the viewpoint from which an object is seen.pscc_perspectivewarp

Another feature that they added is support for 3-D printers. Photoshop already has 3-D tools but now they’ve added the ability to easily create, refine, and preview your design, and then print models directly to a connected 3D printer or other online service. Also new to Photoshop is Linked Smart Objects. This could be a big deal to you depending on what kind of work you do in Photoshop. Photoshop already had smart objects but now it’s even smarter. When you link an image into your PSD, Photoshop can now tell if you’ve made a modification to it and automatically update that file inside your document. For example, if you’re working on a poster with the company logo on it and the company decides to change the color of the logo at the last minute you will just need to add the updated file to your workflow and it will update in your document. Sounds pretty nice. Read more about all of PhotoShop’s new features here.

Continue reading

Breaking into the Biz

For my first post for Once Upon a Sketch a couple months ago, I wrote about tips on how to build a solid portfolio (Here’s the link). With the relaunch of the site, I figured now would be a good time to continue that theme and so today’s topic will be “Breaking into the Biz”; what to do once you have that portfolio. Although, I think having a strong portfolio is still the most vital part in landing work, having the best portfolio won’t help you one bit, if your work never gets in the hands of the people who need to see it! So here is a list of ways to get your work out there and get your foot in the door:

Digitally – Your portfolio in digital format:

  • Website – In today’s world, it’s practically a requirement to have a website of some kind where you can showcase your work. Not only does a website serve as a digital representation of your physical portfolio, it’s also the most efficient way to reach the masses. Here are a few general ideas to keep in mind when designing your website:
  1. Remember your website is merely a means of highlighting your art, so like your physical portfolio, the art is what’s important! So your site must be clean and simple to navigate. It’s okay to have a few bells and whistles to spruce it up, but keep in mind that people generally have very short attention spans (for instance, mine is about 3 seconds), so if your site takes forever to load because of a fancy animation, it’s not doing you any favors. Also, a good rule of thumb is to make sure your artwork is accessible by no more than two clicks of a mouse.
  2. One of the benefits of having your own website is that you are not limited to 12-16 images. So you can be more liberal about what you want to include in your site. But keep in mind that you’ll want to make sure your best work gets seen, so make sure they are placed where people will see it first.
  3. The style of the site matters too. Meaning the overall look of your site should share a similar style to your art. Not only does it make for a more single, cohesive and harmonious package, you won’t confuse your viewers.
  4. Your work should be categorized appropriately. It seems pretty obvious, but you should definitely arrange your work in a logical and orderly fashion…I can definitely spend all day talking in detail with suggestions about grouping and organizing your artwork, but that could be a whole post in and of itself. Continue reading

Submit a Post to Once Upon a Sketch

At Once Upon A Sketch we are all about sharing knowledge with the art community. That’s what we strive for with every post we put on our site. With that said we know we can’t cover everything and stories are bound to fall through the cracks. If you have a news story we have missed, a blog post with insight into the illustration process or just general information you think the Once Upon a Sketch Community would be interested in please share it with us.

We appreciate all posts that are passed on to us and all the hard work that goes into each of them. However, all submissions are judged and published based on their own merits, so please don’t take offense if your story doesn’t make it to the site. We already get lots of emails about sharing particular posts and we comb through them to find the very best to share with you.

Sadly, there’s no money involved with this. Just the knowledge that you shared your talents with the art community and it’s another way to get your name out there and maybe get a few more eyeballs on your work that may not have seen it otherwise. Continue reading

How Manga Studio convinced me to draw digitally

Well, mostly. I still prefer to work on my rough concept and thumbnail sketches traditionally, but for refined sketches and final linework I find myself using Manga Studio more and more frequently. I’ve made numerous attempts to switch to drawing digitally using Photoshop, but for me, the drawing tools in Photoshop just don’t feel as smooth as they do in Manga Studio. Drawing in Manga Studio feels very natural and as close to traditional methods as I’ve experienced. In addition, there are a few very good pen tool options that make the drawing experience that much better. I’m going to talk about some of those options here.

Just a quick note: For the purposes of this overview I’m working with Manga Studio 4, and only talking about the pen and some related tools. The newest version (Manga Studio 5) looks like it has quite a few interface improvements and other new features (Tracy Bishop did a great video overview of Manga Studio 5 on the site in May last year), but for the tools I will be talking about, I do not believe a whole lot has changed.

Okay, here is an overview of some of the features and the drawing tools that really sold me on using Manga Studio:

Pen Tool Options

My first impression when using the pen tool was how nice and smooth it felt. The pen is very responsive and I was impressed with the line quality you can achieve. There are also some very interesting options and settings available for the pen tools:

Stroke-in and Stroke-out

On the pen tool options palette there are check boxes for stroke-in and stroke-out. Turning these on will taper your line at the beginning or end (or both) of your stroke. You can also use these stroke-in and stroke-out options in conjunction with your pen speed.

pen-tool-options-palette

This tapering of your line is applied in addition to the regular pen size tapering you would get with the reduced pen pressure as you finish or start a stroke, and will ensure your line starts and/or ends in a nice tapered point. The great thing is that you can turn this option on or off, and adjust the amount of tapering for either end of your stroke as needed when drawing.

stroke-shot

Correction

Another great pen tool option is “Correction”. With this turned on, Manga Studio will smooth out your pen stroke after you draw it. You can set the level of correction, so you can apply a very subtle correction or a lot of correction, depending on what you need. This option can be really useful if you are drawing some large round shapes or arced lines and want them to have a nice smooth feel.

correction-shot

In my experience, I’ve found that the smooth feel of the pen tool, in combination with these two options above can really help you achieve some great looking line work. Continue reading

Wacom Cintiq Companion Review

If you’ve been following Once Upon a Sketch for any amount of time you’ll know that I have been looking for a portable digital drawing solution. I’ve tried drawing on my iPad with expensive stylists and even tried Microsoft’s Surface tablet, but nothing I found ever made me feel like I was drawing on my Wacom Cintiq. Maybe I’m just spoiled but I wanted a product I could do professional grade work on, on the go.CintiqCompanion006 First off, I would like to mention that there are two different products in the Wacom Companion line. It can get a little confusing so let me explain. The Cintiq Companion is a drawing tablet running Windows 8. It’s pretty much a full-blown computer crammed into one of Wacom’s drawing displays. Since it’s running Windows you can use any of your favorite creative applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Indesign. While it’s brother the Cintiq Companion hybrid is an android-based drawing tablet. While on the go it acts like a normal Android-based tablet allowing you to use any of the Mobile versions of drawing software but when you plug it into your Computer it stops running Android and acts like any other Wacom Cintiq. To make it even more confusing both products look the same.

This post will be focusing on the Cintiq Companion running Windows 8.

More information about the Wacom Cintiq Companion.
Wacom is the leader in drawing tablets for graphics professionals. Wacom’s products have traditionally been desktop-based until they released the Cintiq Companion in August. The Companion is designed to be the first portable graphics workstation (Thanks Popular Mechanics, I could not have worded that better). It’s not an iPad or an android tablet it’s a full computer inside of a Wacom 13.3in Cintiq. The Companion runs 64bit Windows 8 and has a full HD display with a touchscreen stylus combo with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. Continue reading

Rutgers Conference Goes One on One With Industry Pros

Like many of us at the start of a year, I always take stock of the year before and the year to come. And like most professional artists part of that evaluation is examining how and where we presented our work. One of the best ways I’ve found to connect my work with potential clients is at conferences. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators I’ve attended SCBWI conferences for many years and can’t speak highly enough of them. However for a few years I’d been hearing about a conference called Rutgers One on One Plus. It’s put on by the Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature and it is what it says – one on one time with a professional from the publishing field.

Rutgers attendees wait to find how who their mentors for the day will be.

Rutgers attendees wait to find out who their mentors are.

The conference is held on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus in New Jersey and attendees must apply with their work to be accepted. It’s only a day long but they pack a lot into that day. In the morning mentors and mentees are paired up and then grouped together into 5 on 5 sessions .

These are groups of 5 attendees and 5 mentors in a round table discussion. Mentees have the chance to ask questions of and present work to any of the editors or art directors at their table.

A group of 5 mentors and 5 mentees get to know each other

A group of 5 mentors and 5 mentees get to know each other

Equally important, the industry professionals are seated at the same tables for lunch and attendees are encouraged to find art directors or editors they are not paired with and network, network, network. After lunch each mentor/mentee pair is given 45 minutes together. During this time the mentor reviews the materials submitted and the attendee has a chance to ask questions and pitch other projects. Each attendee is given submission information about every mentor for after the conference.

An illustrator mentor reviewing submitted work

An illustrator mentor reviewing submitted work

At less than $200 to attend, I found this conference to be a significant value. The submission process starts in the spring. There’s about 70 editors, agents, and art directors who agree to be mentors (with a handful of authors and illustrators agreeing as well) and only one attendee for each mentor. Visit the Rutgers Council On Children’s Literature to get submission information. I posted about my personal experience on my own blog here. Be aware that if your work is chosen it’s highly recommended to research every mentor prior to the conference. This is a hugely valuable but VERY time consuming process. It’s valuable because it makes it very easy to start up a conversation in the sandwich line. However having crammed it all into the 6 weeks between being accepted and attending the conference I highly recommend starting the research process soon after submission closes and Rutgers posts the list of mentors. Then you’ll want to recheck the list a few times as the names sometimes change. At the end of the day Rutgers is an easy train ride from Newark Airport or New York City. Taxis and hotels were very reasonable and you can usually hook up with other attendees before or after to share notes.

What we wish we knew before we started out as artists?

Welcome back Once upon a Sketch and happy 2014! It’s been a long break but now it’s time to start a new chapter in OUaS’s history. We have a lot of great new voices that will be working on the site and I can’t wait to hear what they have to share with you. Since we have a lot of new voices we thought it would be good to ask everyone a common question. Everyone gave great answers so without further adieu here is our teams answer to the question “What we wish we knew before we started out as artists?” Continue reading