All posts in Inspiration

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

Words Of Wisdom-Neil Gaiman-Be a Dandelion!

The publishing world has changes and there are now many ways to reach our audience and find success. We are no longer bound by older formats and structures that are familiar to us. It’s important to apply our creativity not only to our artwork but also to how we inform and inspire others.

This inspired video from Neil Gaiman showcases Neil at the London Book Fair addressing the Digital Minds Conference. In his keynote address he speaks on the imminent changes in the industry and the best way artists and creative thinkers can address it. Take 20 minutes to listen and be inspired.

Digital Painting with a Collage Base

I saw this video yesterday and thought that it was an interesting take on digital painting. The artist, Marco Bucci, starts with an old painting of his and then uses it as a collage base which he paints on top of. Although he starts with a collage background by the end of the painting it’s nothing more than texture in his Forest Village scene. He walks you through his thought process on composition and value. As well as a few thoughts on creating concept art for the entertainment industry.
This video was posted a few years back and he starts the video off by wishing you a happy 2011 but I still found a lot of good information in it. I only mention this because I almost skipped this video from the intro. I had never thought of starting a painting with a abstract background, but now I’m going to have to try it.

Guest Post-Tom Bancroft-Disney layoffs, 2D animation, and you


Recently many were worried for the future of hand drawn animation with the announcement that Disney had no plans for any hand drawn projects in the future. This made many feel that they were witnessing the final days of traditional animation. Things seemed to be cemented with the recent announcement that a number of traditional animators had been laid off by Disney. There was panic in the streets!

Many felt that with Disney backing away from this art form that their dreams of seeing non computer generated imagery onscreen had gone the way of vinyl and 8 track cassettes. Luckily we have industry veteran Tom Bancroft to come in and quell the fires and rage of our passion for a craft many artists love dearly.

Tom Bancroft has almost 25 years of experience in the animation industry, most of which was for Walt Disney Feature animation where he was an animator for 11 years. He is the author of several character design books and his most recent project is a graphic novel titled Opposing Forces.  So join us as Tom reacts to the news and helps to incite hope by giving his perspective of the issue. Enjoy.

A very nervous animation student (he didn’t say, but I assume he is studying 2D animation) asked me about my opinions on the state of animation these days.  What are the companies thinking with laying off all the employees, not doing 2D animation, canceling great TV series, etc.?  Are the business people just evil?  AND the even bigger question: Is John Lassiter a jerk (or worse) for letting all the 2D animators at Disney go yesterday?

MY ANSWER:  I have a slightly controversial (for an artist) perspective on businesses and business people.  Over all, I like them.  At times, I have even been grateful for them.  (Steady paychecks should never be taken for granted.  Wait till you don’t have one one day, then you’ll know!) Remember, we live in a world where businesses are expected to make money to stay alive.  It’s called capitalism. Others call it “business”. That means, the animation world isn’t any different from any other job/company. I see the other side of the equation since I owned my own company for about 8 years. It was a small studio, but until you work “out in the real world” away from mom and dad’s money and/or a companies’ steady paycheck, you have no idea how hard it is to stay afloat as an artist. I don’t suggest it to people right after art school by any means. That doesn’t mean I think that studios are run poorly at times.  They OFTEN are.  Its is near impossible to find a person that understands creative people AND knows business well enough to run a studio.  That person was NOT Walt Disney, as many of you think.  Walt had his brother Roy, to handle the money side of things and make sure Walt didn’t destroy the company.  And he would have.  Imagine a world where Disney animation only made “Snow White”.  That’s the Disney company with Walt as the sole head.  You need both sides and I admit, the Disney company of today (and for years now) is short sighted.  They want quick money and are not looking long term at investments and legacy, as they should.
They say they are, but its obvious they are not.

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Mickey new look


Since first appearing on our screens back in 1928, Mickey Mouse has had a lot of different looks. But this latest iteration might be my favorite. Designed by Paul Rudish of Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory fame, Paul has designed a character that feels classic but at the same time updated. There’s a distinctive 1930’s vibe to his new look but I couldn’t love it more. It’s not only the characters but also the world that these characters live in. I’m sure there will be a lot of people who don’t agree with me but what can you do. Mickey’s new-look will appear in 19 new adventures. The new series has a very classic 2D styled, animated look that merges “classic comedy” with “contemporary flair.” The cartoon shorts will have the mouse globetrotting to exotic locales like Paris and New York. I’m sure there will be a lot of other familiar faces as well. Disney Channel’s Worldwide president and chief creative officer Gary Marsh had this to say about the new look.

“By bringing Mickey’s comedic adventures to life with vitality, humor, inventiveness and charm, the entire Disney Television Animation team of artists, animators and directors have worked to capture the essence of what Walt Disney himself created 85 years ago.”

Disney also released a sneak peak at the new series. It’s called Croissant de Triomphe. You can view it below or follow the link here to watch the entire short on Disney’s website.

It’s crazy to think that Mickey Mouse has only been in three films since the 1980s. Hopefully, this new look will bring the mouse back to prominence.

Croissant de Triomphe on Disney Video

Words of Wisdom-Will Terry-Preparing To Become A Children’s Book Illustrator


Children’s Book Illustrator and educator Will Terry drops in with a new video where he discusses what it takes to make it as a Children’s Book Illustrator. Take notes folks!


In the video below I answer some questions from a fellow artist in Serbia who is trying to break into the children’s book market. I think many artists can relate to his frustrations and challenges so by answering his email hopefully I’m also speaking to a much broader audience. I know I get long winded but if you’re working on some art just let it play in the background and perhaps some of what I say will resonate with you. Also – feel free to disagree – I welcome differing opinions so others can have more to think about.

Original post is here.

Designing Characters with Shape


The last few weeks I have been doing a lot of character design for a personal project. One of the best ways I’ve found to design interesting characters quickly is by playing with simple shapes. An example I’ve found of this is on Luigi Lucarelli‘s Youtube channel.

He has three screen casts where he starts with a simple shape outline and then adds detail until he ends up with a finished line drawing. The first is four male characters of varying ages. The next two follow the same format but this time they are of female characters. His approach is the same one I’ve been using to design my own characters, so I’ve taken to watching these videos while I’m working for inspiration.

I hope you find watching Luigi’s process as inspirational and interesting as I do.

You can find the other 2 videos after the break. Continue reading

The Art of Asking-Amanda Palmer


Amanda Palmer is an American performer who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. She has had a successful solo career, is also one half of the duo Evelyn Evelyn, and most recently is the lead singer and songwriter of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.

This inspiring Ted talk from her asks us to examine the exchange of ideas and experience for commerce. As artists we continue to see what we do become more and more marginalized. We have to start thinking differently about our art and how we apply it and make it work to sustain us both spiritually and financially. There are some great theories that are thrown to the audience and it leaves you with a lot to ponder.

While the framework of this talk is based in music, can you see it’s potential application to Art? If so, how would you apply it, and if not, why not? We’d love to see your thought in our comments.

Future of 2D Animation with Disney’s Paperman

Sadly Disney has pulled the full Paperman short and has replaced it with this trailer.

If you’re like me when you first saw the Oscar winning animated short “Paperman” I thought I had seen the future of 2D animation. I watched it over and over again trying to figure out how they gave 3D models a hand-drawn look. Well, in this behind-the-scenes look the director, John Kahrs, demonstrates how they did this exact process. The technique used combines traditional hand drawn 2D animation and then translates the 2D information on to a 3D model. The program used is called “Meander” created by Eric Daniels. “It’s not like a texture map. It’s just like painting on the surface of the CG. It actually moves on a 2D layer that’s driven by the CG.” Thats how Kahrs described this process. He also talks about bringing the “Hand of the artist” into 3D features and if you ask me he accomplished the goal. John Kahrs believes this process is not ready for a feature length film, but that this technique has a bright future. Check out this clip about how they created this new 3D look.

I want to leave you with John Kahrs’s last thoughts from this inside look. Although he is talking about movies and I’m going to paraphrase him here, but I think it can be applied to things every artist is working on. He said “I wanted it to be a rich dimensional world that you could feel like you could reach into. I want the audience to trust that this world is out there.”

PBS Off Book: The Art of Illustration

PBS Digital studios discusses illustration and the different techniques and styles illustrators use to create their works. Featuring insight from Steven Guarnaccia, Yuko Shimisu, Sean Murphy, and Molly Crabapple. They discuss editorial illustration in magazines and newspapers, comic book art and activist media. They also talk about how the illustrators voice is becoming more important and one of the best ways to stand out from the pack. A good quick inspiring watch.

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