Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sketchbook Project 2012—Title Page #sketchbookproject

The next page in my Sketchbook Project sketchbook is inside the front cover and the title page (you didn't think I wouldn't have a title page, did you?). And here's the post with the cover image (and an explanation about the Sketchbook Project, if you don't already know what it's about).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sketchbook Project 2012 #sketchbookproject

Next year (next month!) I'll be participating in the wildly successful Sketchbook Project, put together by the Art House Co-op and the Brooklyn Art Library. I know, I know, I sure waited a long time to jump on the wagon, but at least I'm not falling off of it. I posted my first sketch in an earlier post.

The Sketchbook Project works like this:
  1. I order a sketchbook from the Art House Co-op
  2. They send a sketchbook specifically for me, with a bar code on the back identifying me and my sketchbook
  3. I draw in said sketchbook (this seems to be the part that's taking the longest)
  4. I send the sketchbook back to the Art House Co-op
  5. They scan all the pages of my sketchbook and include them in their digital library and post them on their site
  6. They gather up all the sketchbooks from this collection (this collection being 2012) and take them on tour around the country starting in April
  7. After the tour, the sketchbooks are cataloged as a permanent fixture of the Brooklyn Art Library, available for patrons around the world to enjoy (hopefully)
  8. Every time someone "checks out" my sketchbook it will be logged through the bar code on the back, and I can check my stats in real time online or through text messages
  9. That's it
We had to pick "themes" for the sketchbooks, and the one I picked was Stitches and Folds. I thought I could do something cool with that idea. My first page from the sketchbook is actually the cover, and here it is (ta-da):

Each image will include some sort of stitch or fold (in the drawing of it, not an actual stitch or fold, which I played around with and discovered didn't work so well) opposite a page with a song lyric that I think goes well with the image.

I rebound (rebinded?) my sketchbook (you're allowed as long as you follow their rules) with some toothier paper (theirs was too smooth and too white), so the stitching on the spine is mine (and part of my theme).

Due Jan. 31, 2012.

What was I thinking?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

A Little Like Shaun Tan

A few weeks ago I finally made my way to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I wasn't there to visit the place, although we have plans of returning next year for actual Gettysburg reasons. So much history. I feel so attracted to something there.

But this post isn't supposed to be about Gettysburg.

I hauled my butt across half the state for an SCBWI conference, and yeah, I came home with lots of thoughts to think loudly about. But I'll attempt to narrow those thoughts down to just one: Jordan Brown.

I had a manuscript critique with Jordan, a Senior Editor at Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray, imprints of HarperCollins Children's Books. The story I had written was a short story I had finished for a fiction writing class I took about eight years ago (has it been that long?). My professor at the time loved it, and in his comments at the end wrote, "Get it published."

And yet.

The story wasn't long enough. I knew it wouldn't make a complete book. But, being an illustrator—and pictures are easier for me than words—I had the brilliant idea (I thought, at the time) to pad the short story with pictures to make it long enough. Maybe even convert it into a graphic novel (Mr. Punch-style). Yeah. A graphic novel. Then the words would be at a minimum, and I could tell a lot of the story just using images.

Yeah. Images.

But Jordan didn't really agree.

He was thinking more along the lines of, say, a novel.

"You mean those things with all the words?"

"Those things with all the words."

But there was something in the story he had latched onto. Something he didn't want me to lose as I was writing more. Something he likened to...

Shaun Tan.

Shaun Tan? Really? How could he know?

What he liked about what I had written was all the stuff I hadn't written. How you didn't know when or where the story was taking place. Was it in the past? Or the future? Or was it even on this planet?

He totally got it.

He said it seemed like I was working in the sort of space that Shaun Tan occupies (not bad company to be in), but a very difficult one to break into (not what I wanted to hear).

It wasn't until I read this article in the Guardian today (and written by Neil Gaiman, no less) that I realized how right Jordan was. The paring things down. The fictional landscape. The far future, the distant past.

I had decided before I left the conference to take Jordan's advice and write the whole thing as a novel. He even suggested I take a look at A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, not just for the loss of the protagonist's mother, but also (as I figured out when I got the book) for the illustrations. They're beautiful. I thought, yeah, writing all those words is going to take a while, but I can supplement all those words with some really cool pictures.

Pictures. My comfort food.

But as soon as I finished the book that little doubt devil started spewing into my brain again, and I started growing doubt shoots. Doubts about all those words. A Monster Calls was good. It was really, really good. And heavy (in a deep sense, not in a weight one). Can I really write something as relevant as that? Why am I doubting my writing? Why am I dragging my feet with this story?

What am I afraid of?

I won't be able to start writing for a few days anyway, so in the small spurts of time I have until then, I've decided to absorb a little Shaun Tan. The Rabbits. Tales from Outer Suburbia. The Lost Thing. I'm hoping in the time we spend together Shaun will help me find the confidence I'm thinking must be lurking around here somewhere.

And then after that, if I've been good, I can get back to the pictures.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Surviving a weekend

So I managed to survive the SCBWI conference in Gettysburg over the weekend. Gettysburg is such a fantastic place. I'd never been there, and can't wait to go back. The history is heart-wrenching. I went on a ghost tour. I bought a bullet. I found a picture book in the same shop as the bullet only to see that it had been illustrated by someone I've admired for years. And then I met that very illustrator at the conference (more on him in another post). I cried during E.B. Lewis' keynote speech. An agent saw my portfolio and asked to meet me. What a whirlwind. So many new people, so many new friends, so much to think about.

And so much more to do.

As you can probably tell, I survived my manuscript critique with Jordan Brown (see my misgivings here in an earlier post). He was, despite my fears, terribly helpful and encouraging. I only wish I could have had a recording of everything he said because, of course, I didn't take notes. He was excited and hopeful about my book idea, which made me excited and hopeful about my book idea.

Now the uphill climb begins.

Turns out I tend to make friends easier with editors at these conferences than I do art directors and agents. Not sure why that is. The problem with that is that editors want me to write stuff (ugh!). Pictures aren't good enough; they aren't happy until they've pushed me over that ugly, word-laden hill.

So I guess I'm heading toward the next step in my children's book career. Thanks to Jordan Brown, my next move will be at my computer keyboard writing a novel.

Yes, a novel.

Apparently short stories don't have enough words. Now I have even more of those steep, torturous word-hills to climb.

Did I mention "ugh!"?

I can do this. Nobody's ever croaked from writing a novel, have they?

Someone please tell me I can do this.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Vlad Hot Cocoa

In May I finished an illustration for a drink mix directory that was published by the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators in August. I called it Dancing in the Moonlight, and I had that old King Harvest song in my head the entire time.

(As an aside, just try and listen to that song and then get it out of your head. Not gonna happen. I had to download it.)

The illustration was part of the exhibit that PSI put together at Gallerie Chiz in Shadyside, and it will be in another exhibit starting in November at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

But I had an idea.

Next month I'm attending the Tri-Regional SCBWI conference in Gettysburg. They're going to do something called "First Looks" where illustrators send in three related images to possibly be included as part of a panel discussion. The images will be projected for everyone at the conference to see (no pressure there), and the panel (editors, agents and an art director) will offer their first responses to the images.

I really didn't have anything finished that I thought would be good enough, so I decided to create two new images to go with Dancing in the Moonlight. The images I've posted here are the sketches for those two images.

Due Nov. 1.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have some painting to do.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This should make me a happy camper

I have to admit, I haven't been creating much in the world of illustration lately. I've been focused pretty intently on getting my book out (in a few weeks, my pretties), painting a few Rots (just finished Buster on Wednesday) and getting organized for the fall SCBWI conference coming up next month in Gettysburg.

Yeah. About that conference. This year I decided to jump in the ring and get the text of a graphic novel idea I wrote a while back critiqued by one of the faculty. Our regional advisor is totally pushing me toward an editor named Jordan Brown. She says he would "love" the kind of stuff I do and she thinks we would get along "fabulously".

(By the way, where do periods fall in relation to quotation marks these days? Inside or outside?)

So I'm asking to be placed with Mr. Brown, and my fingers are kind of crossed.

Kind of.

I've been following along with Gris Grimly's blogging about the new three volume book he's been working on for the past few years. He's tackling Frankenstein and, as usual, his work is phenomenal. Beautiful. Inspiring.

Makes me want to crawl in a hole somewhere and start crocheting lap robes for a living.

His latest post isn't helping.

Turns out the editor for his Frankenstein books? Yeah. Jordan Brown. I'm torn between jumping for joy and crawling under a rock to take up residence with the isopods. If Jordan Brown has somebody like Gris Grimly in his back pocket, does somebody like me really have much of a chance?

I'm finding my rock as we speak.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

I finally saw North by Northwest

So I finally had a chance to see the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest a couple of nights ago, and I noticed some things. Not necessarily things that had anything to do with the plot or the directing or the acting.

Things I noticed:
  • People were skinnier in 1959. Or, Hitchcock only hired actors who were. I'm thinking a little of both.
  • Movies were longer in 1959. Over two hours for this one.
  • Martin Landau was very handsome when he was a young man. Martin Landau was once a young man. Martin Landau was skinny when he was a young man.
  • James Mason was young once but, apparently, he's always been classy. And skinny.
  • Now that we don't do it anymore, smoking in public looks really, really stupid.
  • Eva Marie Saint was young once, but at 35 could never pass for 26. Sorry.
  • They had bus stops in the middle of nowhere in 1959. How, exactly, was a rider expected to get to and from?
  • Cary Grant's character's initials are R.O.T., which I find amusing.
  • People were able to fall in love instantly in 1959, in spite of knowing nothing about each other. Or, people watching movies in 1959 were more ready to embrace the concept.
  • The kissing scene between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint would pass for a G rating today, but it still made my dad uncomfortable having to watch it in a room with me.
I have to admit, I wanted to see the movie mostly for the house at the end that looked an awful lot like Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (where I work), but is not, in fact, Fallingwater (see the article by Sandy McClendon on We've had rumors going around at work that Hitchcock wanted to use Fallingwater, but wasn't permitted to do so. I haven't found anything on the Internet to confirm or deny those rumors, but I have found where he wasn't allowed to film at the United Nations building so he used hidden cameras and filmed anyway.

Also, Fallingwater doesn't need steel beams to hold up its cantilevers. We use post-tensioning instead.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 has nothing to do with September 11

Ten years ago on September 11, 2001, my step daughter turned 21 years old. She was young. She was 21. She had planned on spending her birthday drinking with friends. But that evening the bars were closed, for reasons beyond any 21-year-old's control.

And suddenly it's ten years later. So much has happened.

And so much has changed.

This morning my husband and I will be heading to the cemetery. New York and D.C. and Shanksville will be crowded with people looking for...something. A little bit of comforting, maybe.

We'll be heading toward a small lake near a gazebo in Delmont, to a single plot of earth, far away from the crowds. And we'll have each other.

Happy birthday, Lauren.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

#SketchbookProject: Harley sketch

I signed up to participate in Art House Co-op's 2012 Sketchbook Project and picked the theme, "Stitches and folds." I've been sketching some of the pages while I'm at work, and here's the first sketch I decided to add color to. (I'll post the color version when it's finished.) I wanted to have some character sewing something, and I tried to come up with someone you would expect least. His name is Harley.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Starting From Chicken Scratch

So I've been contemplating lately what my next move will be regarding my illustration career. As I blogged earlier, I don't think the direction I was heading was quite the right direction I should be. It's kind of hard to keep doing what you're doing when what you're doing isn't doing anything. Isn't that the definition of madness? Spinning your wheels and expecting a different result?

My mailing list since 2005 has been directed toward picture book publishers, and there aren't too many No, Davids or Frog Belly Rat Bones out there. And you know what? That's fine. I'm not sure I'm understanding the logic, but I respect the decision, and I'm free to move on.

This morning I bought a Kindle copy of the 2011 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market book. It's been a while since I had a copy (looks like 2007 was the last), and I wanted to get a version that didn't leave me with a dead tree in a few years. So I'm Kindle-ing this one.

I've decided my mailing list is getting a do-over, and I'm starting with the Market book I bought this morning. When the 2012 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market book comes out in September, I'll sift through that one, too. I'm going to look for publishers for older kids this time, and book covers and maybe posters and agents and such.

I still love, love, love picture books, but I've resigned myself into accepting that if I ever get one published it will likely be independent of a major house. And I'm fine with that, too. I'll be doing it because I love creating and pulling ideas out of my butt, and that satisfaction can happen no matter who pays for the final outcome.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride (Rockwood, PA to Garrett, PA on the Great Allegheny Passage). I took a picture while I was riding, so I have an excuse for the blurry. Lots of thoughts in my head, including the one I shared above.

And here's another one:
You need to get out more.
You need to move more.
The more you move more,
the more oxygen gets sucked into your little brain,
and the more thoughts can get thought out of your butt.
Think your own thoughts. Paint your own pictures. Live your own life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Death of...@GrisGrimly?

If a major publisher can do this to Gris Grimly, what might a lesser publisher potentially do with someone like me?

If you know anything about Mr. Grimly's art (and if you don't, take a look:, you know his palette is muted, earthtoned and perfectly suited to his work.

I'm not sure of any details other than those relayed through the above blog post, but I'm wondering where the breakdown occurred. If someone had a problem with the color, why wasn't the artist approached and given the opportunity to make compromises and any color adjustments himself? Who did make the changes? Who O.K.'d them? And why would they think it was perfectly fine to do that?

I'm not sure what happens if I purchase this book. Am I supporting Gris Grimly? Or am I supporting the person at Random House who decided to "fix" his work without his input or acknowledgement?

As an artist, how do you handle a situation like this? Do you have any rights? Is this something that needs to be addressed in the contract? And if so, why is something like this even an issue that needs to be debated?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Dancing in the Moonlight: Complete

Here's the color version of the sketch I posted last week. I think he turned out pretty good, but I've been looking at him for so long I'm not sure anymore. He's getting some positive feedback, so I'm thinking he might be O.K.

He'll be heading for a drink mix directory which will go out to art directors later this year. Fingers crossed on this one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dancing in the Moonlight

So you remember that Frankenstein hot cocoa idea I was doing for the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators drink mix directory?

Yeah. It wasn't really working for me, so I canned the idea and started over. I dreaded having to sit down and work on it for some reason. I still might use it somewhere someday, but right now it just isn't happening.

I decided to stick with the hot cocoa idea though. I was thinking a lot of people drink hot chocolate in the evening before bed, and it would look pretty cool to have chocolate dripping off the teeth of a vampire, right? I also thought he should have some friends to enjoy it with.

But evening for a vampire is about the time when the party's just getting started, and I wanted to make sure I showed that. He'll be wearing printed pjs (not sure yet what the print will be) along with his bunny slippers, and everybody's dancing to that old King Harvest song. You know, the one I can't seem to get out of my head now that I've started this thing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Desperately Seeking Tim Burton

Dear Mr. Burton,

I've found myself in a desperate rut, the likes of which you've managed to retrieve me from in the past, and I'm hoping you will be available again sometime soon.

January a year ago, I made a trek to the Museum of Modern Art, specifically to view your work on display there. I bought a membership just so I wouldn't have to stand in line with all the other saps who had to wait to get in.

The rooms that housed your exhibit were terribly crowded; I'm sure we were well beyond the building's fire code. Sardines, as it were. But I managed to see everything, just to make sure I didn't miss anything that might later turn out to be something I would have liked to have seen.

After I squeezed my way through all the rooms I took a breather. I bought some stuff. I ate some stuff and, in spite of the sardine thing, I decided I needed to get myself back in the middle of that exhibit.

So I did.

This time I knew exactly what I needed to see again, so I jumped out of the line that snaked around the rooms and headed straight for the drawings.

The drawings, as you know, were watercolor outlined in pen, so there was really nothing out of the ordinary there. Using the media in that way was nothing new, and had never been a source of inspiration for me. So that couldn't really have been the attraction.

Why was I still there? Why couldn't I take my eyes off these images? Why were these images so much better than what I conjured in my own sketchbooks?

I think what sucked me back into those rooms and set my sparks flying was that unrestrained childlike imagination. How does an artist allow himself to let everything fly out the window like that? The caricatures were well beyond caricatures. Arms and legs and tails and horns and whatever other body parts that could conceivably be conceived as a body part were attached to shapes that weren't really bodies until simulated body parts had been attached.

But you knew that.

Stripes and checkerboards and spirals and dipping horizons added to my acute sense of instability, and all I could do was stand in front of them and try to soak in as much as my little brain could soak in, in the hopes that some day that freedom would spew out in my own work.

On the train ride home I drew. Over the next few months I drew some more. I was inspired and ready to take on my own sketchbook demons and wrestle them into something I could proudly show the world.

Things seep away over time, however. It's been another year, and I seem to have lost that thing. That permission you had given me to create outrageousnous. Those weird images that had been crisscrossing around in my head. And, ultimately, the hope that somewhere down the line it would all be worth it.

Dear Tim (do you mind if I call you Tim?), please send me a sign. Something. Anything. Something to get me back on track. Something to help me find my monsters. I'm afraid right now they're lost, and I'm also afraid they're scared. And hungry. I know I am. I desperately need to bring them home.

Please help me bring them back home.



P.S. Thank you kindly for allowing my family to give me your art book last Christmas, and I'm eagerly awaiting your and Danny's CD box set, as my Alice in Wonderland soundtrack is quite possibly wearing thin.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Frankenstein Hot Cocoa Steampunk Sketcheroo

I'll be participating in the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrator's mixed drink directory later this year, and I wanted to mash Frankenstein up with a little steampunk. My recipe will be for hot cocoa, and this is the sketch I came up with. Thanks once again to Harpers Ferry, WV, and their great collection of stone buildings and textures that have yet to let me down.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"The Lost Thing" or "How Shaun Tan Helped Me Find What Went Missing"

This is going to take a while, so I apologize right up front, and I thank you for seeing it through to the end, if you do. Let's start by stating the instigation for this post:

Shaun Tan is changing my career.

There. I said it, now it's out there, and now I have to find the nerve to follow it through.

This all started the day I bought Shaun Tan's book Tales from Outer Suburbia last year, mostly for the illustrations (as usual), but also because I'd been working on a book of short stories of my own, and I wanted to see how somebody else tackled that kind of project.

Having Suburbia and a library borrow of his The Arrival as my only Shaun Tan interactions, I dragged family to see the Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts at a local movie theater last month. The Lost Thing was one of the nominees (and eventual Oscar winner) and was based on Shaun's Australian-released children's* book of the same name. Shaun also worked for years on the movie.

*The word "children's" is a little dodgy here. The book will be forced into the children's section of bookstores because, cleary, no adult would be caught with a book filled with *gasp* pictures.

I bought the 15-minute short from iTunes within the week (sorry, no direct URL to the movie on iTunes). I pre-ordered his book Lost and Found which was released a few days later and included three of his early picture books, one of which was The Lost Thing.

I tweeted about our movie night. I tweeted about the Oscar win. I tweeted about iTunes. I tweeted about Lost and Found. Suffice it to say, the movie lingered in my little brain longer than expected. Evidently, something had happened over those few days that was making that little brain do some thinking.

I thought about my own career, and I thought about where I might have lost it.

My own Lost Thing.

I checked my checklist:
  • I work hard (kid's illustrationsThe Rots, one of many books in the works).
  • I brand each aspect of my professional life as professionally as I can (see the sites above and below).
  • I promote myself (this blog, The Rots' blog, my book blog, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter, I send out promotional postcards religiously).
  • I promote others.
  • I try to be a good little small-business marketer (see everything above).
  • I follow advice when it comes from multiple, knowledgable sources (art directors, editors and agents).
  • I make changes that those sources seem to think are necessary.
I've heard a lot of advice through the years about what editors and art directors are looking for in an illustrator. I'm a member of SCBWI, and I attend the local conferences. Before I go on, I just want to say that I know these are only opinions and guidelines, and if my work is good, it's just a matter of finding the right editor/art director/project that will take me on, regardless of whether the work followed the advice given. I know that. I understand that. But when the work isn't coming in and the same advice is (again and again), it may be time to think about making some changes.

This is Stanley. He is the image I used on the first postcard I sent out with the style I could finally call mine. My initial portfolio and book submissions were similar.

I was told by two editors that they were concerned my characters weren't cute enough.

I was told by a fellow illustrator that I needed to think along the lines of three-year-olds and clowns. "And smiles," he said. "Not creepy."

I was told by an art director that she could only use my work for scary stories.

I was told by another art director that he couldn't use my work, but to send him updates anyway because "you never know." (That publishing company released a book of poetry less than two years later using an illustrator who's work was very similar to mine, but who's pedigree included working for Disney.)

At a conference in NYC during an open question session with a couple of art directors, one answered the question, "What are you looking for in a submission?" with:
"Don't send me people with googly eyes, big heads, small bodies and little skinny legs."
Our portfolios had been open for preview earlier in the day. You can't make this stuff up.

I made the changes. I concentrated on cuter. My heads got smaller, along with my eyes, which also evened themselves out and eventually constricted to pupils. I drew clowns. I made new samples and avoided the scary. My people were smiling. I kept up with the promotions. I sent new samples every three months. I tried to keep my attitude positive.

And yet.

Why was I not getting the work?

I posed the question to an editor. "I love it!" she said. "But this would be a hard sell."

I posed the question to an agent. "It's the economy," he said. "Just keep doing what you're doing."

I posed the question to an art director that same day. "It's the economy," she repeated. "You're doing everything right."

I rewrote some of my "adult" short stories to make them more "accessible" to a younger audience, based on things I had read and heard at conferences:

  • I made my kids the protagonists.
  • I made my kids solve the problems.
  • I kept my picture book submissions to 32 printer-friendly pages.
  • I consciously made an effort to create unusual perspectives and action in my illustration samples.
  • I added pages to my Web site to show I knew how to develop a character and create sequential imagery.

But more than anything I took the edge off my illustrations.

And yet.

Enter Shaun Tan.

Lost and Found is just beautiful. It breaks the rules because it can. It breaks the rules because Hatchett Australia and Arthur A. Levine gave Shaun Tan a chance to break the rules. And Shaun Tan got the chance to break the rules because he created beautiful images and wrote from the heart.

I know. There's that other piece of advice that gets thrown around a lot. But what if beautiful images and writing from the heart stomps all over the other rules?

The Lost Thing actually shows men smoking! Not once, but three times! Smoking! The horror!

The first of the three stories is resolved by a tree, and the third story isn't really resolved at all. But the kids! Aren't the kids supposed to be who make everything alright?

All three stories in the Lost and Found collection have themes that would surely be considered adult-oriented. Right? Maybe older kids, but certainly not those three-year-old clown lovers. (How many kids would really understand the sign, "State-sponsored thought for the day: LET THE MARKET DECIDE"?)

And those illustrations? Where are all the action shots? Where are all the in-your-face pay-attention-to-me page compositions? What's to keep the attention of these attention-deficit children?

That's when I took a look back over the last few years to see what happened. When did I change? When did I stop illustrating for me?

I took a(nother) long, deep breath and asked, "Where did I go?"

I had lost my Me somewhere.

My funny. My style. My twisted sense of humor. The Me that made my illustrations mine. My ideas had been squashed by 32 pages of cute. Of action. Of advice. Of opinions.

Shaun Tan's advice to illustrators:
"Think about the things in yourself that are different to everybody else. And don’t think of those as a disability or something negative, but think of it as a positive attribute. Whatever it is that makes you unique, that’s what people are interested in." 
Really? I so need this to be true.

I want to make a beautiful book that happens to be loaded with illustrations. A book with pictures. Why are picture books only geared toward kids? I buy kid's books all the time. For me. I buy them for the pictures. My collection of picture books are alphabetized by illustrator.

I want to make the beautiful books I see in my head, the ones that most publishers won't touch, the ones that may or may not contain kids, where the kid may or may not be the protagonist, that may or may not be scary, that may or may not have an adult sneaking a smoke in somewhere. The ones that may or may not depict clowns as the creepy nightmares they really are.

So I guess at this point I'm on my own.

I'm going to revisit some old picture books I had given up on. They had been poked and prodded and reinvented to the point I didn't recognize them anymore. My original vision had been lost in my attempt to make them conform.

I'm going to continue with my Hairy Eyeballs project, but I'm not going to hold my breath for a publisher. I've submitted the book to an editor I met at a conference who definitely seems the type who would go for this sort of twisted idea of a thing, but I'll completely understand when she tells me she isn't interested. After the book is rejected in a few months, it will be my baby again, and I've no plans on submitting it elsewhere. I know people who will help me with the editing. I've already designed the book. I have a following of close to 3,800 people on Facebook as of this writing who think my twisted little characters really are cute (their word, not mine). But more than anything, I don't feel the need to be accepted by the mainstream publishing world anymore.

I'm ready to make the books I've always wanted to make.

It's time.

So it's very likely at this point I'm the only one still here. But that doesn't really matter right now, because this post was just for me.

And now, thanks to a lost thing, my creativity is again, too.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Robot guitar man

This was a drawing I made at work one day, and I wasn't really sure what to do with him at the time. Since then, I figured out a way to squeeze him into the book I've been working on, and here he is, "spruced up" a bit to fit with the other stories in the book.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spinach has as much iron as watermelon

Here's why you have to actually proofread (and don't assume spell check is good enough).

Whoever wrote out the results of an 1870 (or 1890, depending on where you get your information) German study misplaced a decimal point one spot to the right of where it was supposed to be and gave spinach ten times the iron than it actually had. It was written out by hand, so we can almost forgive the guy.

The bad part? It wasn't until 1937 that some other German dudes discovered the typo and fixed it. But even then, it wasn't really pointed out to the public until the British Medical Journal republished the study in 1981. Too late. Popeye debuted as a supporting character in Thimble Theatre in 1929, and has been hyping cans of spinach since. And actually, spinach eating jumped 33% between 1931 and 1936 in the U.S. which supposedly saved the spinach industry.

So all the kids who grew up being forced to eat their spinach can thank a cartoon and a typo.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Zombie tooth

I've had root canals before, so this one wasn't bothering me all that much. I never really understood what all the bad press was about. Yeah, it was inconvenient, expensive, took a long time (try holding your mouth open wide for an hour and see what I mean) and took more than one trip, but I never really experienced major pain or side effects or anything. I was a little cranky going in because all of the above, but still.

This time I had to go to a root canal specialist. I won't get into the whole story (short version: the dentist before mine didn't finish the original root canal in this tooth properly), but there was some curving going around in there, and my dentist shooed me on.

Let me back up and say that the only reason I found out that the first root canal wasn't finished properly was because the crown that other dentist had attached (also improperly) to the tooth came off.

Let me back up a wee bit further and say I had just finished a month-long root canal on a different tooth four days before said crown came off.

So I started out not a happy camper.

Anyway, my nubbins of a tooth looked zombie-ish to me. I even thought I could hear it's little voice yelling, "brrrraaaaaaaaiiiiiinnnnns," but I wasn't certain about that. I won't scare you with an actual photo (pretty gross in there), but I will show you the x-ray. I think you can figure out which one's the zombie.

And all that other work? Yeah, that's from grinding my teeth at night. But I digress...

By the way, it took a full week to recover from the first part of this root canal. First came the pain, which bypassed anything my pain prescription could handle. Then came the swelling. I already have a problem with the roots of my teeth pushing up into my sinuses on a normal day, but the swelling caused major allergy-type symptoms (obnoxious nose-running, sneezing, itching, you get the idea). Not only that, even when I wasn't trying to eat I kept biting the inside of my cheek.

I go back to get the root canal finished on Thursday. Then I get to go to a periodontist to get part of my gums removed. Then I get to go back to my regular dentist for the final tooth restoration.

Oh, and I'm paying for this without insurance on an illustrator's bank account.

I think this is what they mean by "root canal."

Other than that, everything's going just fine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

O.K. The snow can be done now

I'm finished with winter.

We've endured snow on the ground almost every day since the beginning of December, and the time I've set aside for winter months has officially run its course. The sunny days and beautiful blue skies will only dupe the senses for so long when the temperature refuses to go high enough to melt the white stuff.

I'm tired of running on a treadmill with my iPod staring at boxes in the basement.

I want to ride my bicycle. On a trail. Outside. In shorts.

I want to walk in the woods.

I want to eat ice cream.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Blogging combo

I've been trying to keep way, way too many blogs in the air at the same time, and for all the right reasons I'm in the process of combining as many as I can. So my graphic design/editorial illustration/fine art blog posts from a different blog are now integrated into and between the posts in this blog.

And you probably didn't even notice.

I hope things don't get too mushy, but if you're feeling they are, please let me know. I'm going to keep the old graphic design blog in place while I wait on feedback, so I can always separate everything again in the future.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what to call the blog and how to integrate my graphic design/fine art brands (somewhat serious) with my kid's illustration brand (not so much), which isn't the easiest thing to do. I might play around with a few ideas before something actually feels right for me so, you know, comments are always helpful.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Small violinist, big room

Meet Nick.

He's trying to be my next postcard image. We'll see how that goes after he gets some color.

P.S. The horn player's name is Clarice.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The gift of a Web site: Priceless

So for Christmas, the present I gave that made the biggest splash was a Web site I built for my husband. He's a potter, a sculptor and a painter, and the site was designed to showcase his work. The gift included a domain name and perpetual updates. He's never had a Web site before and was so impressed with the idea that I could have gotten anything I wanted for about a week.

In hindsight, I realize I should have taken more advantage.

He spent the next few days taking new photos of our studio space along with shots of some pottery he had been working on. He also spent a good bit of time looking up information including titles, sizes and exhibit information. Some of the portfolio pieces I had initially marked with dummy text like $priceless and with sizes like really"xbig" which didn't really fly.

I included a lot of dummy text all over the site. It was meant to be funny on Christmas morning, but then replaced with information my husband was supposed to give me later. And the idea did spur multiple readings and a lot of out-loud laughing, which was the whole point of not using "Lorem ipsum" everywhere.

What I wasn't ready for was how much he liked that silly dummy text. He liked it so much that he chose to keep the bulk of it on the site. As is. He said if people couldn't handle his sense of humor, that wasn't his problem. I protested at first, but eventually gave in, and we ended up keeping all the references to beer and how much his wife totally rocks.

Really, I'm just the designer. Who am I to argue?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Napkin doodles @ Leo's

This is Space Boy.

I drew him on my napkin at Leo's Pub & Grille, Mount Pleasant, PA.

He says not all space boys are from Mars.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Things I'm learning about myself while cleaning

I started a massive throwing out of (what is turning out to be) the junk in our office space, and I'm finding out some things about myself as I go.

First of all, until the last few years I didn't feel I had actually created an illustration until I held it in my hands, so I printed out everything I did, and sometimes in several copies. What, exactly, did I need those for anyway? Now I have a huge stack of illustration pages that are waiting to be recycled sitting illustration-side-down at my printer. The rest are in a box until there's room on the stack.

Second, my mother typically bought things in relative bulk just because it's cheaper, especially if whatever it is you're buying isn't going to go bad anytime soon (like in your lifetime). The problem I seem have with that theory is the "isn't going to go bad" part. I bought stuff that wouldn't go bad physically, but that went terribly bad personally, digitally, stylistically...
  • I went and got married in the middle of this career which, of course, is a good thing, except for all the business cards that state otherwise.
  • Shortly after I ordered a new batch of promo postcards—and shortly before I received the shipment—we changed from a street address to a post office box.
  • Somewhere in the middle of all these things I changed my illustration style.
  • And as if that weren't enough, I also updated both my graphic design and illustration branding.
So domain names and contact information all needed to be updated which now means, along with the old business cards, I need to throw out any old postcards that I could have used as handouts.

I also spent a good bit of money to participate in a directory that the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators sent out which included giving me a stack of 500 tear sheets of my page to use as self-promotional pieces. With my old name. And old contact information. And old style. Those pages were printed on glossy paper, so I can't even recycle the backs of them in our printer. Another stack for File 13.

And third, add to all of this the fact that computers and their programs have a half-life of around 13.7 days, so after they've sucked in their last breath, you're the one left holding the coasters. Yes, that says "Windows 95."

What a waste.

What have we learned?
  1. I don't need to print things out unless I need to.
  2. It isn't necessary to take advantage of printer deals that offer twice as many of something for just $3 more.
  3. My husband is stuck with me, if only for the sake of the environment.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Napkin doodles @ Dino's Part 2

This is Giant.

I drew him on my napkin at Dino's Restaurant in Latrobe, PA.

He doesn't like when you refer to him as "jolly."

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Napkin doodles @ Dino's

This is Ted.

I drew him on my napkin at Dino's Restaurant in Latrobe, PA.

He says "hi."