Here at Once Upon a Sketch, we are delighted to welcome our new contributor, the super talented Macky Pamintuan to the family. Along with multiple picture books, you might be familiar with his work such as the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew and the Flat Stanley series. I had the pleasure of interviewing Macky and he offered some insight into his career and background.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? School?
I’m originally from the Philippines and moved to San Francisco when I turned 21. There, I studied at the Academy of Art University and initially majored in 2D animation but soon switched to Traditional Illustration after realizing that I enjoyed that craft more.
I’m glad I did. I was always that one kid in class who did nothing but draw, but the 5 years learning the proper discipline of approaching an illustration (photo refs! thumbnails! commitment!)really helped me.
Shortly after graduating, I was at a fork on the road career wise. Not sure whether to seek stable employment under an art related company or try to go on my own and freelance. I gave myself 6 months to see if I could do the latter. Luckily, it all panned out and here I am.
How long have you been illustrating?
As a working (translation: starving) art student, I’d pick up freelancing projects like an illustrated poetry book, theater posters, logos and even as a caricaturist for private parties. Around 2004, a few months after signing with my rep, I quit my job as an after school art teacher and began illustrating full time.
I’m still amazed that I’ve been doing this professionally for over decade now.
What do you consider was your big break?
That’s a tough question. I think my opportunities came in increments, most of them unexpected. For example, a small baseball portfolio piece that I did opened doors for me to do a lot of baseball artwork including three picture books (one of them for my beloved SF Giants).
Come to think of it, there was no singular “big break” for me. Slowly building working relationships with publishers and art directors no matter how big or small the project may be helped me get considered for future work.
Sometimes, It’s hard to tell which piece leads you to more projects. One of my earliest picture books, “I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track” (2006), still gets me work inquiries to this day. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell when it will happen. I was backpacking in Europe when I got offered to do the relaunched “Nancy Drew & The Clue Crew” series.
We are both represented by MBArtists, can you tell us how you came to sign with them?
Yes, we are! In 2004, when I resolved to see if I can pursue a career as a freelance illustrator, I contacted a long list of art reps to inquire if they’d be interested in representing me.
After more than a few “No’s,” I found two reps who were interested. A Chicago based advertising rep and Mela Bolinao from MB Artists. The Chicago guy was talking big numbers, but I went with my gut and signed with Mela. I enjoyed the energy she brought and I foresaw a valuable partnership and friendship in the years to come. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve made. Continue reading
For those artists on Twitter you may have started seeing the hashtag #sketch_dailies popping up in your feed along side a doodle. Sketch Dailies is a community of artists that do daily sketches based on a common theme. Sketch Dailies began as a warm up for Isaac Orloff and his fellow coworkers at the game company Storm8. Isaac would send a group email with a theme and they would share their sketches. As this idea continued to grow they created a sketch_dailies Twitter account and within 24 hours had 200 new participants. It’s popularity continues to grow adding 1,000 new sketchers each day. There has been a wide range of topics so far from who’s your favorite Muppet to Harold Ramis to Thor. These topics are posted as inspiration and the idea behind it is to just get you sketching. Sketch Dailies is open to anyone no matter their background or skill level. Topics are posted on the Sketch Dailies social network pages like Twitter and Facebook, Monday through Friday at 11am PST. Saturday and Sunday are catch up days where artists can catch up on themes they may have missed throughout the week. There are no time constraints or limitations on topics. Artists are encouraged to work at their own pace but the Sketch Dailies site will try to keep the work they share as up-to-date as possible with the most current theme. A handful of images will be featured on their homepage.
If you’d like to learn how to share your artwork with Sketch Dailies or find out more about this new social media phenomenon check out the Sketch Dailies FAQs page.
If you’re looking for something to sketch and can’t come up with an idea head over to Sketch Dailies and see what the theme is and get drawing. Adding the hashtag Sketch Dailies to your artwork on your favorite social media sites might get you some new people looking at your work.
Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.
I recently had the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented Merrill Rainey (www.littlerainey.com). Merrill has been working as a professional illustrator and graphic designer for over 10 years. He has a very unique graphic look to his work, and I wanted to find out how he got into children’s illustration and how he developed his unique style, so let’s dive right in…
You are a graphic designer and illustrator – Can you tell us how you started out and how you ended up working in both illustration and design?
During spring semester of my senior year in high school, I headed to Kent State University in Ohio to meet with an advisor to schedule for fall classes. At that time, I was asked whether or not I wanted to be a painting or an illustration major. Not knowing what the real difference was, the advisor sent me down to the art building to look at the senior art show being displayed at the art building. While perusing the student work, I came across a series of of books with a familiar title; “Super Fudge”. I took note that this series of books had been redesigned and illustrated by a graduating student for their senior thesis. I was in awe of the work, and at that moment, I decided that illustration is what I wanted to do. I eagerly headed back to my advisor to tell her my decision. She then proceeded to enroll me into the illustration program. What I didn’t know until the following Fall, was that the program was actually called Visual Communications Design (aka VCD). Over the summer, my college class schedule showed up with a course called Basic Studio Skills. I couldn’t wait to start this class, and started thinking about what skills I would be learning. Would it be figure drawing, water colors, pen & ink…? The list of possibilities just went on and on, and I couldn’t wait to start.
Last week on a whim I threw away all my Photoshop brushes. Lately I’ve been feeling like my work has been missing some texture. I have a few brushes that I had been waiting to try and never did because I was stuck in my ways. I know that it’s not the brushes that make a good artist but I feel like I needed to change something and the brushes were the quickest and easiest thing I could think of.
By the way PLEASE don’t throw away your brushes without backing them up first.
This impulsive move has led me to several great places to find new Photoshop brushes. I thought I’d share some of these sites with you. Please be sure to download these brushes as soon as possible. They are free from each of these artists and they could remove the links at anytime.
First let me explain how you install new brushes into Photoshop.
Before you install make sure that the brushes you’re about to use are compatible with the version of Photoshop you’re using.
Next download the brushes. You may have to unzip the file so be sure to do that as well. The brush files extension should be .abr
Now open PhotoShop.
Once Photoshop is open click “Window” menu in the tool bar and select brushes Presets.
Now select the drop down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the brush palette and open that menu. Once the drop-down menu is open select “load brushes”.
Now find your saved .abr brush file and open it.
The brushes you added should show up in the brushes palette near the bottom.
Now onto the brushes. Please know that all the links below go to the creator of these brushes website and you will be going to outside pages to download these brushes. Continue reading
Let’s meet clay sculpting illustrator Susan Eaddy in the first of a two part interview about her process, children’s book illustration, and licensing artwork. Susan’s illustrations are fabulously detailed clay reliefs. Each form is designed, sculpted and attached – each part becoming a facet of the whole glorious piece. But even better than me trying to describe it, watch this short time lapse video as she creates colorful tide pool creatures for a Click Magazine illustration.
OUaS: How did you get the impetus to begin making the videos of your clay process? How have they worked as a self promo tool?
SE: I took a Make your own Book Trailer breakout from Chris Cheng at the 2011 LA Conference. It was so empowering that it basically gave me the confidence to tackle iMovie. I had to keep telling myself not to get perfectionistic, that this was supposed to fun, and I should totally revel in my amateur status. So I have! And that has released me to just play with the medium. The clay is so perfect for video-ing the process, and it has been a great self promotional tool. I started out videoing with my still camera and when I saw how fun, I finally bought a video cam.
OUaS: Susan is being completely humble when she describes these as a great promo tool… in fact her videos have been shown all over the world and even landed her a feature on the Parent’s Choice blog and a TV interview with Tennessee Crossroads.
In this world where everything is more an more digital what challenges do you find working in a most non-digital medium? What benefits?
Final tide pool illustration
SE: Well, there are so many steps in my process and digital certainly plays a part. I start with drawing, then composing, then coloring, either with pencil or on the computer, to figure out my palette. Then I do the clay. The clay is the most joyful part of the process for me! By the time I start the clay, I have figured out composition and palette, and I can get my hands dirty and figure out how to construct my reliefs. I’ve said it before, but it is this discovery process that I love the most. I don’t know HOW to make things until I just get in there and play. I often redo pieces and parts of the clay as I go along. Because you don’t really know if something is working until it is made. After the illustration is done, I photograph… again playing with light and angle until I like what I see. When I put the digital files in the computer, THEN I can see how it translates to 2D and I notice things that I didn’t see before. So I usually shoot things anywhere from 5 to 15 times. I finalize all of my files in Photoshop and send digital files to my clients. Without Photoshop, I could not do my job.
OUaS: How do art directors/buyers react when you tell them about your process?
SE: Actually, it’s been a bit of a hard sell. Even the very visually oriented are often uncomfortable with a medium that is so different, and many are afraid to take a chance. Before digital was so common, art directors were confused about HOW they would get final files. But the digital age has streamlined that so easily that there is not so much confusion.
I was an art director myself for 15 years and I KNOW how tight and important deadlines can be. If an art director perceives that a process will take longer than normal they tend to shy away. When they look at my very detailed illustrations they assume that it takes me longer than other people to do an illustration. But that is just not the case. I have worked in ALL mediums through the years and the clay doesn’t take any longer than other mediums I have used.
When I was in college taking illustration classes my instructor, John, had us sifting through old magazines looking for examples of illustrations. Once we found those images he would have us tear them out and put them into a three ring binder alphabetically by the subject that the illustration pertained to. At the end of each term he would have us turn in the binder and it was a percentage of our grade for that class. I still have those binders in my closet collecting dust because it was so much work to put them together, hours and hours of time spent. Most of the artists I know have done this same thing in their careers. It could be that you have a drawer in a filing cabinet, a three-ring binder or pile on your desk dedicated to cool magazine clippings, photocopies of an interesting image you saw or some other inspirational materials. Well no more, let the clutter stop.
Well John we have something so much better to organize our inspiration now. Pinterest. In case you don’t know what Pinterest is it is a visual social discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. I’ve read a lot of articles about how to market yourself or sell your artwork on Pinterest. These are all great posts about how to get your work out there, but don’t forget to use Pinterest for what it was made for. If you’re not already using Pinterest, now is a great time to start. If you’re just starting out with Pinterest, and even if you’re not, let me make a suggestion to you right now. Create very specific “boards”. When I first started making “boards” I would just name them any old thing like “character design” and before I knew it I had 200 plus pins in my character design board. Everything from facial expressions to hand gestures were in my character design board. Yes, technically all these things would go into a character design folder, but it made it really hard to find it easily when I needed it. I found this out the hard way a few weeks ago and had to go back and re-organize all my boards so I can find my inspiration easier. Now I have boards dedicated to all types of art related inspiration. I have a board for color theory, backgrounds and settings, tutorials, facial expressions, hand gestures and many more. It’s a fast and easy way for me to get to my reference materials.
Now that you have a nice organized Pinterest account you can go out and find inspiring artwork, follow other artists with the same taste as you, market your illustrations and sell your work on Pinterest, but always remember the power of Pinterest is great and with great power comes greater need for organization.
How we choose to light our scenes is just as important as how we compose them. Lighting sets the mood. A harsh red concentrated spot light can make even a sweet painting of a toddler girl feel spooky, and cheerful sunny ambient lighting makes monsters seems friendly. It directs the viewers eye around the page, emphasizing details or hiding secretive elements. In short, great lighting makes for great visual storytelling. By being deliberate about how we choose to light our scenes, we can give our artwork added dimension and drama. For this post, I would like to share some of my favorite lighting tutorials and resources for artists.
Cyril Rolando is a gifted digital artist whose entire portfolio focuses on high-drama dramatic lighting of surreal fantasy scenes. He has graciously made many tutorials to share his technique and artistic process with others. He gives great tips and tricks for digital art in general, and his instructional gallery is well worth browsing thoroughly. However, I would like to draw attention to Rolando’s tutorial on using adjustment layers in Photoshop to quickly change lighting hues and temperatures to affect the mood of a piece. Click on the image below to find the full tutorial.
Aja drops by today to let us know how she creates one of her more popular promotional items, a magnet that features her artwork. So dig in and learn her technique and find ways to incorporate it into your own marketing plans for the future. To see more of Aja’s work follow this link to her website.
When I prepared to attend my first SCBWI conference a few years back, I wanted to leave a take-away item that was more inspired than a postcard. While browsing my local craft store, I found some printable magnet paper. Excited, I bought a few pieces and made a print.
However, I quickly discovered that the actual paper quality was roughly equivalent to regular printer paper, and so the magnets looked dull and very home made. So, I returned to my local craft store and I found this:
Adhesive backed magnet! For a 13 by 24 sheet of rolled adhesive magnet, the general cost is about 9 dollars, but can be found cheaper online. Now all you need to do, is lay out your design on a 13 by 19 inch (or a few 8 1/2 by 11 sheets) high quality paper. I prefer using luster paper, but for this project I used professional quality matte paper. Be sure to put your designs close together to maximize the amount of magnets you can produce. Continue reading
1. Write. Then rewrite. Then rewrite again. Etcetera…
After you’ve figured out who your main character is and what genre your story will fall in to, write a rough outline. Don’t worry about how it looks or if there are tons of misspellings. The outline is for you to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks while figuring out the beginning, middle, and end of your story. When you are satisfied with your rough outline, write another more detailed outline. Then write the first draft of your script. Put it away for a few days. I guarantee that you’ll find flaws with your first draft after you come back to it with fresh eyes, so write a second draft. Once the second draft is finished, if possible, show it to someone whose opinion you trust. Show it to someone who can be honest with you. Don’t get butt hurt and remember to say thank you! If you can’t show it to anyone… you guessed it… put it away for a few days. In my experience, no script is ready to go until at least the third draft is written, so get cracking on your next draft. Put it away again, but let it sit for a month or two while you work on something else. Use this time to nail down your character designs or design the environments your story takes place in, for example. After some time has elapsed, pull out that third draft. See if the story feels finished. You may want to show it to someone again or maybe you find more flaws or have ideas to make it better. You might need to do more drafts or less if you are a brilliant genius. Make sure that you know exactly what the story is, in and out, before you draw one line. It’ll save you headaches in the long run.
Read stories without pictures. Don’t just read comics in your genre, and for goodness sake, don’t just read comics. Doing so can make your comic come off as derivative. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read those comics at all. They can help you learn the language of comic storytelling, but please, vary your diet to see what works and what doesn’t work from storytellers that have come before you. Study that sh*t! I know its cliche, but reading does make you a better writer.
3. Keep It Simple Stupid!
Comics are about communication. Get rid of superfluous details! They can be distracting and take you out of the story. Simplify and go for clarity in your storytelling.