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Schoolism Live San Francisco 2015 – Day 2

After an amazingly full day one at the Schoolism Live in San Francisco, day two began with me running behind. The BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, doesn’t run on its normal schedule on Sundays so I was late arriving at the conference. Instead of being 10 rows from the front I ended up being three rows from the back. Besides being in the back of the auditorium it looked to be a great day at the conference with some great presenters. The agenda for the day went as follows;

Day 2
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig

Wesley Burt (9:00am – 12:00am)

Day two began with Wesley Burt and for this workshop he focused on Drawing Characters. He began his talk about drawing characters by walking us through some of the projects he had work on and the characters he had designed for feature films. He showed us some of his character designs for Cobra Commander for the new G.I. Joe movie. He also helped design some of the new Transformers in the fourth installment of the movie franchise as well as many other images (Thor, Batman Arkham origins, and The Sims 4). His demo also walked us through his illustrative process. It was amazing to watch him draw characters. He did it so effortlessly it seem to flow so freely out of his hand. He did several rough sketches and finally settled on a anthropomorphic cat creature.

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He spent probably about half of his three hours getting the under drawing just right. He talked about using basic shapes to design his characters like circles, squares and triangles. Once he had his under drawing to a place that he liked, he quickly began coloring it by using the hue and saturation adjustment to swiftly color his drawing. While he was drawing, he also shared some of his process while working with clients. Normally the first round he sends the client is 4 to 6 rough sketches of the character followed by a round of revisions and his third round is normally a colored image. He continued to talk all the while finishing up his drawing. Check out the images below to see how it turned out.

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Image snagged from Wesley’s Tumblr

Karla Ortiz (1:00pm – 4:00pm)

After lunch was Karla Ortiz, concept artist for Marvel Film Studios and clients like Wizards of the Coast, Ace Books, and Tor Books. Her presentation on character illustration began with a PSA. She has a problem with cussing so “if you have a problem with that get the F*#! out”. I didn’t, so I stayed. Once she got into her presentation she had a lot of “Things to keep in mind” like when creating a character illustration remember; the Face, Posing, clothing, presentation and light and location. She had many slides with “Things to keep in mind”. One of my favorite things that she said was “Art is a puzzle”. Most people don’t think of it this way, but I do and it made me smile.  Other good tips included; when a person is viewing your artwork they will normally focus on the face and then the hands. So be sure to get those right.

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For her live demonstration she began with a mad libs that went something like “the blank huntress of the blank tribe is out hunting for food for her pet blank“. These blanks were filled in with Morgana, Mushroom and Bear cub respectively. She, unlike the other presenters, already had her under drawing completed so that we could see her coloring process and how she renders her image. She also used a lot of reference images but unlike the other artists she uses models for her illustrations. In this case she had a friend model the position she had in mind for this drawing and took several photographs of her standing in this pose. While she was rendering, she talked about the brushes that she uses in Photoshop. She uses a standard round brush, a round brush with texture and a square brush. While she was drawing she also played with the brush angle and roundness quite a bit.

Another thing that she talked about was artist injuries. Apparently she had been working herself too hard and hurt her wrist. The injury she suffered was a Repetitive strain injury (RSI). As she was drawing she had several warnings pop up on her screen telling her to stop and take a break. She gave us the names of this software – for Mac it’s call RSI Guard. Although she told us the name of the Windows equivalent, I don’t have it written down in my notes.

Iain McCaig (4:30pm – 6:30pm)

The final presenter of the day and conference was none other than Iain McCaig. He had quite possibly the best name for his presentation out of everybody with – TBA. I’m not sure why he named his presentation this but I’m pretty sure it’s because he wanted to keep it top secret. His workshop was probably the most lively and interactive of the bunch. Iain began by talking about his career and all the projects he’s worked on. The most interesting of all of these was his recollections of the Star Wars prequel movies. He talked about how he came up with the design for Darth Maul. George Lucas had challenged him with coming up with a new character like Darth Vader but not Darth Vader. Mr McCaig began designing new versions of the Sith Lord. He showed these ideas to George Lucas and none them stuck (Image below on the left). So he went back to the drawing board and thought about the most evil thing he could think of, a clown. He put a picture of a clown up on the screen. Everyone laughed. But then he explained how he took the face paint from a clown and instead of making it white he made a black and took the red cheeks and place them all around the face. The final design of Darth Maul is the image on the right.

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I really enjoyed this story because it set up everything he wanted to get across in his presentation. Take something that’s already established and turn it on its head. He gave several more instances where he had applied this in his own career. He was asked to redesign fairies for Peter Pan but didn’t want to use the insect like fairies that had already been established. So he used lionfish as an inspiration for his fairies in this version of the story. Which leads us into the interactive portion of his presentation. We were tasked with redesigning an established franchise. He gave us several options to choose from, the room voted on which one they wanted and the rest of the workshop was spent fleshing out this new idea. The old franchise we were tasked to redesign was Beauty and the Beast. The first thing we needed to do to reimagine this property was to change the genre it was in. The room voted again and we settled on a horror movie set at a high school. We would shout out ideas and he would quickly sketch them on an overhead projector. The final story went something like this; Beauty, a boy who was the lead singer in the high school band, goes passed a haunted house and hears beautiful singing. The boy goes in and the beast, a girl ghost, is sitting there singing. The young boy falls in love with the girl’s singing but she won’t let him leave unless she takes him to the prom. That’s all I can remember. It was quite funny. Iain McCaig didn’t grow up in the United States, so the crowd had to explain to him what prom was and most of the concept of high school. His talk went over it’s time by about 40 minutes but I don’t think anybody wanted to tell the guy who created Darth Maul to stop. His presentation ended in a rush with him selecting two people from the audience that best represented beauty and the beast and he quickly drew them.

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Main takeaways from this conference. Every single one of the presenters made it very clear that the foundation of your drawing is the most important thing and where you should spend the majority of your time. With out a good foundation you can paint like crazy, but you’ll still end up with a flawed illustration. Another thing I noticed is that every single one of the presenters did their paintings in Photoshop. Not that this is that’s strange it’s just I expected there to be a little bit of variety in the software used.

Overall this was a very good conference. Very inspiring and a lot of good information. I tried to share most of the memorable tips but there was definitely a lot more information given. I will definitely be attending next year.

Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    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.

Schoolism Live San Francisco 2015 – Day 1

Today, July 18th, I was able to head to downtown San Francisco to go to a live Schoolism event. This workshop featuring some pretty amazing artists. I got a two day pass for this conference so I was able to learn from some icons of the entertainment industry. The weekend agenda went as follows;

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Day 1
STORY ILLUSTRATION with Helen Mingjue Chen
COLOR AND LIGHTING FOR ILLUSTRATION with Ryan Lang
PICTORIAL COMPOSITION with Nathan Fowkes

Day 2
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig

The first day began at 9 o’clock and I walked in about 20 minutes early. I got checked in and picked up my swag bag which had a water bottle in it and a few other Schoolism items. The event was already starting to fill up, so I found a spot about 10 rows back and got ready for the first workshop – Story Illustration with Helen Mingjue Chen. Helen began her 3 hour lecture by walking us through her career so far. From her start at Disney, working on movies like Wreck-It Ralph, PaperMan and Big Hero 6, and into her current position, as an Art director at Paramount. From there, she walked us through a short presentation on what she thinks about when telling a story through illustration. It was a good talk with a lot of good information. My big take away from this workshop was that you need to think of your illustrations for movies as quick reads. The moment you’re depicting will only be seen for a few seconds so the viewer needs to get the information you’re trying to tell in a very quick amount of time. The example she used was if someone had just passed away and you wanted to show the loneliness that the person is feeling you would put them in a room by themselves with all the loved ones old possessions surrounding them. A spot light from the door would highlight the character casting everything else in shadow.

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Then she moved on to the live portion of her workshop where she did a live drawing of an environment scene that she came up with right on the spot. It was an image of two cities. One was upside down in the sky and the other was below. The city on the bottom was fairly normal but the upside down city in the sky had lots of Gothic cathedrals and felt much more old timeie. I thought for her just coming up with the image right off the top of her head it turned out well, but she didn’t seem to be particularly pleased with it. However, she did do a really cool trick when creating the lower city. When she created her perspective grid, the vanishing point was right in the middle of the image, and then she said she likes to “cheat”. Opening a new document she began drawing simple shapes that depict the city as if you were seeing it from the top down. These were just rough square shapes but when she put them back into her illustration she adjusted them to fit her perspective grid. It just gave her a starting point for her to quickly rough out the city. For me I’ve always had a hard time creating large cityscapes and this seems like a great way to get the illustration started quickly. I mentioned this to another attendee and they looked at me like “You don’t know that” so maybe I’m just a noob but, I thought it was a helpful tip.

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She began working on the top city looking up plenty of reference for different Gothic cathedrals. When that was done she quickly ruffed out a character for the foreground and began adding lighting.

Next up was an hour long break for lunch and after that we returned to hear Ryan Lang talk about Color and Lighting for Illustration. This talk was similar to the first, but Ryan began his talk with a short YouTube clip that he said describes his illustration process. Here’s the video.

Similar to the first presentation, Ryan walked us through his career taking a look at movies he’s worked on like Disney’s PaperMan, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. Then he began walking us through a short presentation about his thought process for creating an illustration. This presentation had several very solid tips. He didn’t want to go as far as calling these rules but more like guidelines that you should keep in mind. In his talk, he said that most illustrations he creates are done in five values of gray or less. The guideline he gave was; 0% black, 30% black, 60% of black, 80% black, and 100% black. Another good tip he gave was if you look at the Photoshop color picker the left side of it is all gray. The top starts at a pure white and the bottom left half is 100% black. Anyone can see this just by looking at it but what he talked about that I hadn’t heard was about the other three sides. The bottom half is 100% black but the top half runs from white being in the upper left-hand corner then moving to a 50% value in the upper right corner. Of course you can change the color of this but I didn’t realize that the top right-hand corner was essentially 50% of a value. Then moving down from the upper right corner down to the lower right the value turns to 100% black. I never thought of the top right hand corner as a percentage of grays because the color changes depending on what shade you want.

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Once his presentation ended he began showing us several images that he was going to use as reference for his live drawing demonstration. These images were of destroyed buildings which he was going to use as reference for a giant Mech standing on top of them.

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He began his image by finding the lightest light of his drawing and the darkest dark and began roughing in the rest of his shades of color. Ryan did his value studies in color which I hadn’t seen before. Most people I’ve seen do their value studies working only in grays and adding the color later but Ryan worked differently. Doing his value studies in color. He worked on the rough value study for the better half of two hours and then finally began refining the image for the last 60 minutes. The image turned out really well. Ryan seem to be a pretty funny genuine guy. He turned his robot into a turtle mech which got a pretty big laugh from the crowd.

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Snagged from Ryan Lang’s Instagram

The day began wrapping up with a half hour break and then the final presenter of the day was Nathan Fowkes. My mind was struggling to find room to hold any more information but Nathan had every intention of filling every last braincell I had. Which wasn’t a good thing, because I don’t know if any of you have ever heard Nathan Fowkes talk before, but this guy has a lot of knowledge to share. Which lead to a lecture that had a lot of information in a short amount of time. His lecture was about pictorial composition. He began this workshop more like an art history class and talked his way through old masters and how he applies what he learned from them to his own work doing visual development for movies. The majority of his talk was about unity with variety; big vs small, hard vs soft, dark vs light, active versus passive and saturated versus desaturated. Next he talked about how everything you see is made up of hue, saturation and value. The end of the presentation finished up with Nathan showing several videos about how you can take one illustration and change the mood of it just by changing the lighting. For instance he created a castle illustration and changed it to feel six different ways. The first was a very iconic lighting scheme with the light shining through the spires of the castle. Then he took the image in a different direction moving to something that was much more moody like a zombie film.

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He then reworked the image to have a storm blowing in. To accentuate this he added a lightning strike hitting one of the castle’s towers. Finally, he finished up with a bright sunny “my little pony” version of the castle. I wish I could remember more about this presentation but my mind was on overload at this point. Sadly my notes didn’t really help. My brain and my hand weren’t communicating anymore, so they were just illegible scribbles.

Day one wrapped up with a group photo and a whole lot of really crammed brains.

Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    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.

Part 2 with Susan Eaddy: Adventures in Hybrid Publishing

Let’s finish up our interview with clay illustrator Susan Eaddy as she discusses her current project and new opportunities in publishing.

Detail from My Love For You Is The Sun

Detail from My Love For You Is The Sun by Julie Hedlund, illustrated by Susan Eaddy

 

OUaS: You are in the middle of working on My Love For You Is the Sun, by Julie Hedlund, founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. The book will be published by Little Bahalia. Tell us how you first became involved with this project.

SE: I went to the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair in 2012. Sarah Towle, an amazing app expert & consultant gave Julie a consultation at the SCBWI booth. She told me, “Oh, you two MUST meet!” We had dinner together, and later met again at the LA conference where she bought Papa Fish’s Lullaby for her children. Julie had been in discussion with her publisher and her agent about this hybrid publishing model, and apparently her kids pressed her to ask if I would be the illustrator. I kept a blog about my Bologna experience; I think I may have mentioned dinner with Julie, but I had no idea where that introduction would lead. One truly never knows where an opportunity or collaboration will come from.

OUaS: The book is being published under the “hybrid” model of publishing. Most explanations of the hybrid model suggest that the risk is shared by the book’s creators and publisher – in this case that’s you, Julie, and Little Bahalia. Can you describe how the three of you shared the risk and how you will share the benefits once the book is successful?

SE: Yes, the advance payment is much smaller for this sort of project. ALL of us risk in putting a huge amount of work in the front end. I am madly working on the illustrations, Little Bahalia is designing and printing & positioning the book in the marketplace, Julie is not only the author, but the marketing guru, developing films, websites, and social media. It is a tremendous investment before the book is printed, but if the book sells well we will all do well.

OUaS: What has been your favorite part of working with this hybrid model? What would you do differently on your second hybrid venture?

SE: I have to say, working with Julie and Little Bahalia has been the best. We are all excited about the possibilities in this out of the box approach. And since it is a small group, we can brainstorm and be very creative in the process, without the sometimes kludgy experience of getting approvals from many people. Being small in this case equals being nimble, and we can publish more quickly. The whole process from contract to books in hand will take less than a year.

OUaS: What advice would you give a new illustrator who might be considering working with an author on a hybrid book?

SE: First, make sure you have a contract. Don’t just sign the first thing that appears to you, contracts are made to be negotiated, and make sure you feel good about your compensation, because once you have agreed to take it on you HAVE to do your best job. Secondly, if you plan to use Kickstarter or a similar crowd funding site, do your homework to figure out HOW to make it work for you. Julie has information about the process on her website. It really takes someone who is savvy with social media and networking to make a crowd funding project successful. I am naturally shy and am NOT good at that stuff. But Julie is great at it THANK goodness. So at least one of you in a hybrid project needs to be the designated marketing/social media guru. And of course, you have to have a project that you really believe in! Your passion will help you create work you can be really proud of!

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Interior illustration from My Love For You Is The Sun by Julie Hedlund, illustrated by Susan Eaddy

OUaS: My Love For You Is the Sun is not your only book in production right now. You also have Poppy’s Best Paper coming out from Charlesbridge in 2015. What can you tell us about Poppy? Originally you wrote and illustrated it but then you and your agent decided to submit with a different illustrator, what’s it like to be the “writer’s seat” as opposed to the “illustrators seat” 

SE: Poppy’s Best Paper came out of a Children’s Illustration class I took with Robert J. Blake. I polished the manuscript and created a sketch dummy in his class with a couple of sample clay illustrations. I started submitting it but I kept hearing the same thing over and over…the clay is not really a good fit for this story. I agonized & re-did illustrations for YEARS. Finally, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary asked me if I would be offended if they submitted my story with Rosalinde Bonnet’s illustrations. I looked at Rosalinde’s website, thought about it for about 30 seconds and said “Go for it!” Charlesbridge picked it up, and I have just seen the first round of sketches. I am THRILLED with her interpretation! I mean really, she has given Poppy a spirit and character that makes me laugh out loud. She TOTALLY gets her.  I know that Poppy is in good hands now, and and one of the best parts is that MY job is done! At least until the book is published, and then of course I’ll be working like crazy to promote it.

Thanks Susan for sharing your wisdom and beautiful artwork in both posts! Readers, take a look at Julie Hedlund’s video for the original Kickstart campaign below. You can also see the original campaign here and read Part One of Susan’s interview here as she describes working as a clay illustrator.

New Illustrator to the OUaS Family

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

Interview with Children’s illustrator/designer Merrill Rainey

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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.

Continue reading

Sculpting an Illustration with Clay Illustrator Susan Eaddy

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?

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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.

teddysofa Continue reading

Manage Your Business Better With Financial Foreplay

Here’s what my work to-do list looks like for this week:
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Aaah look at all that creativity, sketches due, finals to work on, a picture book idea to re-write… wait whats that at the bottom? Work on taxes?? (sound of needle screeching on record)

TAX stuff?? bluugh

 

Taxes are something that most people, but especially creative people, shudder about. When I polled several artist friends most admitted to just shoving a bag full of receipts at their accountant. Fellow Once Upon A Sketch contributor Kevin Cross put it bluntly “not everything in this job is butterflies and rainbows.” As a small studio owner you have to do it all, from creating the work to cleaning the coffee maker. Watching income and expenses is just another part of that job. Just like you wouldn’t clean the coffee maker once a year (well you shouldn’t do that,) you also shouldn’t wait til the end of the year to get a clear snapshot of your studio’s financial picture. But many creatives, especially those starting out, are not sure where to start or where to get answers. So I sat down with Laurel Green, principal at Greenbooks, a bookkeeping agency that works exclusively with visionary and creative small businesses, to ask a few questions about tax basics for creatives. She shared her answers below… and even made it sound fun with Financial Foreplay:
OUaS: What are the three absolute must-haves or must-dos that any creative should keep in mind when it comes to preparing for tax time? 

LG: First, find a knowledgeable and reliable CPA or Certified Tax Preparer who works with clients in your creative field. Do not use a preparer who is not registered with the IRS or received a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Ask friends and colleagues for referrals.

Second, maintain separate accounts. According to IRS Small Business officials, the tax agency is turning its attention to “flow-through entities,” which includes S corporations and sole proprietorships. This means they’ll be on the lookout for business owners who try to deduct the same expenses on different filings. If you haven’t done so already, get a business checking account to match your personal accounts and separate all transactions. It can reduce the chance of an audit.

Third, save every tax form that arrives in your mailbox. Being organized will reduce stress, save time and money, and ensure that you get all entitled deductions. 

OUaS: What is the biggest mistake you have seen or know of creative people making when preparing for taxes? How can it be rectified?

LG: Don’t wait until the last minute. Nothing is more frustrating than searching for everything you need when the tax return is due in a couple of days.

The biggest mistake a creative person (any person) can make is bringing a shoe box or manila envelope crammed with receipts to a CPA or Tax Preparer and paying them to organize it for you. 

Motivate yourself to sort through your receipts with what I call Financial Foreplay. Pour a glass of wine, light a candle, and dump those receipts on a bed. Organize your records by month, separating them into two categories: income and expenses. Then sort them by type. For example, under the expense category you might have advertising, office supplies, utilities, labor, and taxes to name a few. The more detailed your information is the less time your tax preparer will spend decoding information.  Continue reading

Kazu Kibuishi’s Interview with Bookish.com About New Harry Potter Covers

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By now I’m sure most of you have already read the Harry Potter books, but did you know that there being rereleased with new artwork from Eisner Award-nominated comic book artist and author Kazu Kibuishi? Well, Kazu Kibuishi is doing new artwork for the books and Scholastic is rereleasing them in a box set on August 27th in honor of the series’ 15th anniversary next year. Now that your up to date, he talked with Bookish about his experience with creating the new covers for the iconic series. In the interview he admits that he was “surprised” that Scholastic approached him about creating the covers for all seven Harry Potter books. In the interview he also talks about Mary GrandPré’s original artwork for the series and how he empathizes with J.K. Rowling. Here is an excerpt from Bookish’s conversation with Kazu Kibuishi. Continue reading

9 Animation Directors Talk About Their Careers

On Monday the SIGGRAPH Keynote was held and it featured nine distinguished animation directors Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up), Eric Goldberg (Pocahontas, Fantasia/2000), Kevin Lima (Tarzan), Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked), Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon), Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), David Silverman (The Simpsons Movie), Kirk Wise (Beauty and the Beast, Atlantis: The Lost Empire) and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin). The panel was moderated by Randy Haberkamp of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

If you were unable to attend the SIGGRAPH Keynote panel, you’re in for a treat. The whole 92-minute discussion is posted online for all to see. The Marc Davis Lecture Series presented this panel, entitled “Giants’ First Steps”, which explored the student works and early careers of the participating directors. They discussed how they got started in the industry how they work through creative blocks and some discussed their challenges with drawing. They also talked about what they look for in artists’ portfolios. The more I hear working professionals talk about portfolios the more I hear “it doesn’t matter how good you draw it’s all about telling” a story and they reiterated this in their discussion.

I found their discussion very interesting and since I’m a fan of most of these movies, some even lead me to become an artist, I was really interested to get their insight. Very inspiring.

How to contact an Art Director Part 2-Jon Schindehette

Hey folks! I ran across this series of four interviews with Art Directors(primarily from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre of Publishing) from Kiri Ostergaard Leonard. Where they go into some depth on the best way to approach them and your work and portfolios in general. We will be highlighting one article per week. Please find a snippet below from the article and then a link to the full post. Enjoy!

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To summarize from last post, this is a blog series to help art students as well as new artists familiarize themselves with the best ways to go about contacting art directors, when starting out as an illustrator. The goal is not to be a nuisance and make a good impression.

In order to give you a well rounded perspective I asked a handful of art directors to answer 10 questions on the topic. First was Marc Scheff from Tree House Brand Stores and next up we have highly regarded Wizards of the Coast Art Director Jon Schindehette. Enjoy!

1. What is your preferred method of communication if a new artist is looking to make contact and why? (ie. Postcards/email/phone/facebook/meeting in person)
ArtDrop(at)Wizards.com – send 3-4 jogs, and a link to online portfolio (message cannot exceed 6mb)
Also like postcards with contact info and url to portfolio.

2. Social media is becoming increasingly popular amongst artists as a tool for networking, how do you feel about artists befriending you on Facebook? Is there a right and a wrong way to go about it?
I don’t have an issue if their friend, prefer just subscribing though. And never, ever, contact me with a request for a portfolio or sample review.
Also, never tag me in any image that I didn’t directly take part in the development of.

3. Conventions are a great opportunity for networking, both for artists and Art Directors alike. However some new artists are nervous about approaching Art Directors in person just because they would like a job. What is your advice to this and how do you prefer that artists introduce themselves to you during conventions?
My advice – Get over it.
How to introduce yourself? Walk up, say “Hi” give a 10 second talk about who you are, and what you do. Hand them a card, and then step out. If they want to continue the conversation, they will.

Find the rest of the article here!

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