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Blog Post to Audio File

Yesterday, I found something great using my Mac. I normally find many great articles online about how to improve my art – Everything from how to better market myself to a new trick in Photoshop. The problem is I never find the time to actually read these articles. I always open the post in a new tab in Safari with the best of intentions of going back and reading the article, but I never seem to find the time. So yesterday I had about 15 of these tabs open and was just about ready to close them all because I knew I was never going to read them when I had a thought. What if there was a way to convert these articles into an audio file that I could just listen to. I love listening to audiobooks while I work so this seem like a great idea, but how to do it. It turns out it’s easy, if you’re on a Mac.
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On a Mac all you need to do is select the text you want read, using speech to text, and then click on the text holding the Control button. The normal control options show up and if you’re using OSX lion or higher in the dialog box will be a option called “Services” and under services will be another option that says “add to iTunes as a spoken track”. Click the option and another dialog box will pop-up asking you what you would like to save the file as, which voice you would like to use, and where you would like to save the file to. Click save and after a few seconds the text you had selected turns into a audio file inside iTunes for you to listen to at your leisure. I know the voices in OSX aren’t perfect to listen to, but it’s one way to get the information without having to sit down and find the time to read all these articles.

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A few things to keep in mind when trying this. It needs to be an Apple application. I’ve got this trick to work in Safari, Preview using a PDF and TextEdit. I’m sure there are many more ways to do this but these are the Applications I use in my own personal workflow. I haven’t been able to try it in all applications, but I did try in Google Chrome and this option was not available when I selected the text. There’s probably a PC way to do this as well but since I’m on a Mac I haven’t done the research. If anybody knows of a way please let me know in the comments or write you’re own post, it’s fun.

I personally will use this for all the art articles I want to read, but when I told my wife about it she was super excited about using the same trick for all of the sites she frequents as well. I guess the Internet is full of loads of other information besides artist blog articles, who knew.

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.

Amazon’s introduces the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator

On Sep 3, 2014 Amazon introduced Kindle Kids’ Book Creator. Amazon has offered tools for authors to publish their own books for a while but kids books are a completely different product. In the past making ebooks has been fairly simple because it’s just been flowing text into a e-book program (this is an over simplifyication), but tons of bright and colorful images as well as type that is a bit more playfully laid out, makes picture books completely different than a textbook. This is where Amazon’s new tool, the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator comes into play. It’s a free tool for authors and publishers to turn their children’s picture books into a digital version for use on the Amazon Kindle line of products. Which sounds great if you’re happy with only publishing on the Kindle store. “Kindle Kids’ Book Creator makes it easy for authors and publishers to import artwork, add text to pages, and preview how their book will look on Kindle devices.” says Amazons page for this product. Amazon’s new piece of software is available to download from their site and supports both Mac and PC. Chapter books can be imported using the following formats: Word’s doc/docx, HTML, Mobi, and of course ePub. Import formats available for Illustrated books are: PDF, PNG, JPG, TIFF, and PPM.

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“Authors want to focus on telling great stories and we want to help them do that. No one should have to be a computer programmer to create a beautiful, illustrated Kindle book for kids,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle.

Alongside this new piece of software Amazon also opened a new section in their Digital self publishing platform called Kindle Direct Publishing Kids. This new section was created to help authors prepare, publish and promote both illustrated and chapter books in Kindle Stores worldwide. KDP Kids also offers authors better age and grade recommendations so their customers can more easily choose the best books for their kids. You can read the full press release here.

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.

Helpful WordPress Plug-ins for your Portfolio Site

Now that you’ve got WordPress up and running on your site… you don’t? Well, this post assumes that you’ve read over our first post “Building a Portfolio Site using WordPress”. Now that you have read through that, let’s take a look at a few plug-ins that will help your site stay up and running. There’s a ton of WordPress plug-ins out there so I wanted to share the plug-ins that I use or have used on my own site to keep it running smoothly. It’s not good to use too many plugins for your blog and with there being so many plug-ins out there it can be hard to find the right one for you. There’s an amazing number of ways to add to your original WordPress installation so let’s take a look at them now.

If you’re not sure how to install a WordPress plug-in I found this helpful YouTube video to get you started.

Google Analytics – http://www.google.com/analytics/
While it’s not really a plug-in Google Analytics shows you the full customer picture across ads and videos, websites and social tools, tablets and smartphones. It lets you keep track of how many visitors are coming to your site and where they are coming from. This makes it easier to serve your current customers and win new ones. Once you’ve signed up for a Google analytics account there are many plug-ins that you can install to WordPress to give you a picture of the people who visit your site. One of these plug-ins that comes highly reviewed from other WordPress users is called Google Analytics by Yoast and you can find it here.

All in One SEO Packhttp://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/
All in One SEO Pack is a WordPress SEO plugin to automatically optimize your WordPress blog for Search Engines such as Google. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s natural or un-paid search results.

Shareaholichttp://wordpress.org/plugins/shareaholic/
Shareaholic adds an attractive social bookmarking menu and related content widget to your posts, pages, index, or any combination of the three. Shareaholic is a extremely useful and successful tool in getting your readers to actually discover and submit your articles to numerous social bookmarking sites. Full support for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and a shocking number of others.

Thank Me Laterhttp://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/thank-me-later/

Print Friendly and PDF Buttonhttps://wordpress.org/plugins/printfriendly/
The Print Friendly & PDF button automatically creates printer friendly and PDF versions of your pages without the hassle of having to create a print CSS file. No coding, hacking or programming required. Simply install the Print Friendly & PDF plugin, activate, and choose settings for full customization. It also gives your user the ability to remove images and paragraphs of text, so they really only have to print exactly what they want.

nRelate Related Contentwordpress.org/extend/plugins/nrelate-related-content/
The best way to display related content from your site, and/or your blogroll. This ultimately leads to higher page-views for your site, and a better user experience for your visitors.

BackUpWordPresshttps://wordpress.org/plugins/backupwordpress/
BackUpWordPress will back up your entire site including your database and all your files on a schedule that suits you.

MailChimp for WordPresshttps://wordpress.org/plugins/mailchimp-for-wp/
MailChimp for WordPress lets you create a highly customizable sign-up form which you can display wherever you want it to display using a simple shortcode, widget or template function. You can also add sign-up checkboxes to various forms on your site, like your comment or contact forms.

These are just a handful of the many plug-ins out there for WordPress. There’s a ton more to choose from and if you’d like to see some of WordPress’ is more popular’s plug-ins check out this link and if you use any other plug-ins that could be helpful to your fellow illustrators, leave them in the comments.

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.

Building a Portfolio Site using WordPress

When I first started my career I was working hard to manage extravagent websites to showcase my work. These sites were hard to maintain if you’re not a programmer, which I’m not. Luckily my brother is a web developer and is always happy to lend a hand but as his career has grown he has had less and less time to help out. I needed to find a new solution. So a few years ago I switched my portfolio site to a WordPress powered portfolio site. Now the WordPress content management system manages all my portfolio images, blog posts and my contact page saving me (and him) a lot of time and money.

For the most part WordPress (WP) is often thought of as just a blogging platform, but it can be used as a content management system. A content management system or CMS is a application that allows publishing, editing and modifying content, organizing, deleting as well as maintenance from a central interface. For me the WordPress CMS is easy to use, keep up to date and customize through themes.

Before we get to the WordPress side of things theres a few things we should go over to get your site up and running. First you’re going to need to get your self a domain name or URL. I recommend getting your own URL versus having a hosted site by say Blogspot. It looks a lot more professional and people notice if you don’t. For example my domain name is NormGrock.com. Having a domain name helps your customers remember where to find you on the Internet and gives your site a bit more credibility. You can grab yourself a custom URL at registrars like GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com. There are many others but these are the ones I have used. Before purchasing you should hunt around for promo codes to save a few bucks. These companies always seem to be running promotions.

Once you have your URL you will need a place for your files to live on the internet so you will need a host. Basically, a host is a company that has servers dedicated to sending your web files when someone visits your site. This is something you could do yourself, but it requires much more time and effort. I’ve used GoDaddy.com for hosting but as with registrars there are many to choose from. You will need to sign up for an account with a web host so that your website files have a home. If you choose to host your site and register your domain at the same company your domain should be linked to your host otherwise you will need to update your settings to make sure they are properly linked. Doing this varies depending on your host and registrar though they usually have directions somewhere on their site. To keep things simple I suggest buying both with the same company.

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Now that all of that is taken care of, you should install WordPress on to your site. Many web hosts now offer tools to automatically install WordPress for you. However, if you wish to install WordPress yourself, this guide will help. Once WP is on your site its now time to log in and choose a theme. To log in to the admin area of your new WordPress website place “wp-admin” after your domain name, for example http://example.com/wp-admin. Once you’re logged into the admin panel you can upload a theme you’ve downloaded or install a theme directly from WordPress to your blog by using the Add New Themes option in the Appearance sub-menu. In this menu you can manage your themes, new installs, preview your changes, delete themes, activate, and update themes. The current active theme always appears first in the upper left corner. When you first install WordPress the WordPress Twenty Fourteen theme is displayed as the active theme. If you roll over the image with your cursor, a “Theme Details” button appears. Click it to see, along with the name of the Theme, the Theme version, and the Theme author, there is a short description of the Theme. There are many themes out there to choose from. Some are free and others are for purchase. I personally decided to buy a pre made theme to save myself some time and programming heartaches. It may have cost a little bit more but it was worth it. The site I used to purchase my portfolio theme is called ThemeForest.com. Again, there are many sites out there where you can purchase themes from. A quick Internet search will reveal most of them to you and the same goes for free WordPress themes. Be sure to use the keywords “Portfolio” and “WordPress” in your search. This is a very important step so you’ll want to take the time and find a theme that fits your needs the best. This will be the foundation for your portfolio site.

Once you’ve selected the theme for your site this tutorial becomes a bit more difficult to continue because their are so many themes out there and all of them are different. The best way for this section to continue is for you to read the instructions that came with your chosen theme and follow them to a tee. Most themes will allow you to customize them like uploading a logo, changing the background color, and add additional pages. Be sure to include an about page, Portfolio page, Contact page and a blog if you so choose. Keep your information simple and only share your best pieces and you’re on your way to building a great portfolio site.
Now that you’re up and running with your WordPress Portfolio Site, what should you put in your portfolio? Well we have a post that’s ready to answer this question for you. Check out What to put in your Children’s Book Portfolio by Donald Wu.

If all of this sounds like too much work for you There are some other options you can choose from which are free. I personally enjoy the flexibility that WordPress gives you to customize your site but here are some additional options if you’re interested. Read Which Free Online Portfolio Websites is right for you? here.

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.

3 YouTube Drawing Channels You Should Check Out

The Internet has changed education so much since I was in school. It provides so many great resources for people to learn from.  Anything from home improvement to learning how to play the guitar can be learned. Almost anything is on the web. It can also help you become a better artist. One of the best places I have found to help me better my art skills is YouTube. There are so many channels out there dedicated to art it’s hard to find a good place to start. So here’s just a few of the YouTube channels I frequent to help better my art skills.

Proko TV – https://www.youtube.com/user/ProkoTV
We have talked about Proko on the site before but this content bears mentioning again. The site offers high-quality production and the amazing insight given by Stan Prokopenko, not to mention he takes art subjects and makes them pretty entertaining. Proko TV has instructional How to Draw videos. The drawing lessons are approachable enough for beginners and detailed enough for advanced artists.

CGMasterAcademy CGMA – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJKxFIEmsfDEs-B5F6IGoIg
CG Master Academy (CGMA) is an online community dedicated to helping artists develop and cultivate their creative talents. Filled with some of the best tutorials on YouTube, their online demonstrations will help aspiring artists in their goals of becoming industry artists.

FZD School – https://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOOL
And finally, I enjoy the FZD School channel.  This channel is made by the instructors at FZD School of Design which provides an education in entertainment design. Even though this is partially an advertisement for their school it is a great resource for learning tips and tricks for creating production artwork. They talk about how to be a professional, what to put in your portfolio and many many other topics in these almost hour long videos. It’s a good source of inspiration for me.

These are just a few of my favorite YouTube channels. If you have any that you think should be added to this list please leave them in the comments and we can continue to add to this Post.

PSA – Facebook Messenger App has Scary Terms of Service

Okay I know this subject doesn’t really concern becoming or being an artist but nevertheless Facebook has become integral in to being an artist these days. From communicating with potential clients to just talking with other artists I find myself on it almost every day. It’s actually one of the ways our team at Once Upon a Sketch stays in contact. We have a Group discussion where we keep everyone up-to-date and when we are just communicating person-to-person we use Facebook messaging. Which brings me to why I’m writing this post. Like most of you I probably use Facebook mostly on my phone and just a little while ago the Facebook app required me to install a additional app called Facebook Messenger if I wanted to continue messaging. Some people might say well Facebook just spent $19 billion to buy a company called What’s App. Facebook must just want to get their moneys worth. This statement may be true but there seems to be a lot more going on if you dig into the terms of service accompanying this application. You may have already read about this somewhere else on the Internet but it needs to be reiterated since Facebook has now made this application required to use their messaging service. Here are a few of the permissions you will be giving up if you use the new Facebook messaging app. These are word for word from the Facebook messaging app terms of service.

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“Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals.”
 
“Allows the app to access the phone features of the device. This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.”
 
“Allows the app to get a list of accounts known by the phone. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed.”
 
“Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.”
 
“Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.”
 
“Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.”
 

The list continues but this is just a handful of the choice quotes from the terms of service floating around the Internet these days. It’s worth pointing out that while these terms sound awful a lot of the permissions wording is taken straight from Android’s terms. FaceBook maybe just following the Android wording, just a bit of speculation to give Facebook some credit. Also, Apple iOS only asks for these permissions when a user tries to access one of these functions such as microphone access only being requested when a video/voice call happens. It still sounds like pretty scary permissions to give any app or company in my opinion. Especially a company who makes their money by learning everything they can about their users.

I had a friend over for dinner just the other day and she had unknowingly downloaded this app when her regular Facebook app prompted her to. I’m sure she blindly agreed to the terms of service like everyone does and didn’t even think about what she had agreed to. It so easy to do. It feels like you can’t do anything on the Internet these days without agreeing to something. So if your one of the one billion people who have downloaded this app please be careful. It may be nice to use a free application that lets you stay in contact with your friends but please remember the things you’re giving up by using it.

Source – Huffington Post

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.

Illustrator and Author Name pronunciations at Teachingbook.net

In the process of getting ready to interview varied artists within the Children’s Market I realized that many of you have some interesting names! Names that I sadly have no idea how to pronounce! I’m sure this is a problem that is common in a market that represents artists and writers from varied rich backgrounds and cultures all across the globe.

The last thing I wanted to do was get a chance to meet and speak with someone I respected and admired and get their name completely wrong when I spoke it. Luckily I found a solution that many of you will find useful, informative and fun.

TeachingBooks.Net has compiled a wonderful resource intended for teachers, but it can be used by fans and interested parties as well.

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