Thursday, December 12, 2013

I write, therefore I am

Do you have any idea how hard it is to write? I'm sure some of you do. The ideas are playing out like a movie in my head. I can see them very well. They're there, it's just so hard to abstract them into words and sentences in the right order.

So I write Christmas cards. I answer email.

I blog.

Wait. Blogging is like writing, huh. Something like writing. Yeah. So is answering email. And writing Christmas cards.

It's like it's hunting me down.

We've got a fire in the fireplace tonight, and I'm not in the room where it's blazing. I'm here, sitting at my computer, typing in more words.

That's it. Wall has been hit.

Pajamas await.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Colorizing the Graphite

I've gotten a bit of feedback about my portfolio, and more than one person has suggested I run with my graphite drawings. One of those people (an art director) said if I could figure out a way of colorizing those drawings, it would be awesome. An agent pointed out one particular graphite drawing and said, "I'd like to see this in color."


Here you go.

The original drawing:

The colorized drawing (click to see biggie-sized):

Me likey.

Monday, December 02, 2013

That sleep thing again...

Please forgive me. I may ramble on here for a little while, not having had enough sleep again.

Sometimes I wonder why I have so much trouble sleeping. I read a lot of articles and hear a lot of news stories that this is a common problem. I wish being "part of the gang" made me feel better, but it doesn't.

And then two nights ago, I got scared.

A little bit of history (short, trust me). I haven't slept well since 1998. That's a long time. Mostly I can get to sleep, but then wake up somewhere in the middle of the night and can't get back at it. Then, the alarm goes off just as I feel like I could possibly drift back. The time I'm awake in the middle of the night varies; maybe anywhere from two to four hours. By the end of the day, I can barely keep my eyes open. When 10 p.m. rolls around, I'm headed for the next erratic sleep cycle. Usually, the only thing that makes me sleep is a few days of not getting any. Then, I sleep.

I had an OMT (osteopathic manipulation treatment) a little over a week ago, in the hopes of some relief. In the spirit of the hunt, I drew up a chart and started keeping track of my sleeping habits that night so the doctor could see how I was doing. I experienced my usual pattern the first couple of nights (6 ½ and 5 ½ hours of sleep, respectively), and then something weird happened. The next night I wasn't able to fall asleep until 1:30 a.m. and only slept 3 ¾
hours, and no more than a couple of hours at a time. I started having trouble getting to sleep most every night after that, and kept waking up in the middle anyway.

Four nights ago I got desperate and took a Melatonin, even though they don't really do anything for me. I took one again the next night, and then again the next night.

On the last day I took the melatonin, two nights ago, I got a total, a total, of two hours and fifteen minutes of sleep. During the five and a half-hour gap between 1 a.m. when I woke up and 6:15 when I fell back to sleep (but only for 45 minutes), I realized the problem was that I had stopped being sleepy. Usually I'm dead tired; when I'm awake in the middle of the night, when I'm struggling to make it through the dreaded 3:00 in the afternoon and when I'm forcing myself to stay awake until 10.

The sleepiness just stopped. Gone. No more sleepy.

I had read an article in National Geographic about people who can't sleep. Here's the thing: they die.

Last night I laid awake until 2:30, not the least bit sleepy even though I hadn't slept the night before. As I lay there, I thought about those people in the National Geographic article, and I suddenly realized that this was it.

This was how I die.

But not before I go back for my second OMT this Friday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Monsters at the book store

Let's set the stage here. I've been receiving a lot of feedback about my illustration portfolio, mostly in that it will likely scare the children. (As an aside, I'm in the process of completely overhauling the lot of it to eliminate those things that I've been told make it scary.)

The other day I went shopping at Barnes & Noble. I had a 20% off coupon. It was mandatory.

I saw a bit of a trend in the picture book department, and I decided to take a few photos. See if you see a pattern.

And I bought this one (isn't the lighting on the cover fantastic?):

For the record, Halloween is very much over, and the Christmas books were everywhere. Most of the books (all but two, if I remember correctly) were face forward rather than lined on the shelves.

I have to say, I had a discussion with a children's book editor over the weekend (who I won't identify here) who, when I told her most of the feedback I've been getting about my portfolio is that it's too scary, said, "Creepy is in."

I totally love that editor.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Things are not as they seem

I've decided to put an all-out effort over the next few months into illustrating promo pieces for my portfolio based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. When I thought of it, it seemed like a good idea. It meant the onus was on Lewis Carroll to tell me what my next promo illustration would be, not me.

The bigger reason I decided to do it, though, was because of all the feedback I've been getting about my illustrations.

I'd rather not elaborate.

Last night I read the first chapter ("Down the Rabbit-Hole") and came up with quite a few ideas. The problem was, I had to do some character development first, so those ideas had to wait.

The other problem was, my character development has turned out pretty sanitized. Vanilla. 50% gray.

Alice lacks that Rotty flavor that my illustrations from yesterday had. She lacks any flavor at all, to be honest. I'm afraid I'm trying to draw what I think somebody else wants, not what I want. Of course, that's entirely the case, but if I want to get work (and I do) I need to give them what they want.

But I'm sure sanitization isn't it.

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ralph Steadman at the bar

It's hard to look away from a Ralph Steadman piece of work. Not only his illustrations, but also his lettering.

I love how Flying Dog Brewery just lets him have at it. I'd love to have a book of his entire collection of beer labels.

I found these Steadmans at The Headkeeper in Greensburg.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Curly cues

Look what this rubber band did for me. It's like wrought rubber maybe. Isn't it lovely? This little guy might find himself hiding in an illustration someday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Zombie finger

This was just lying on the ground for anybody to find. It's totally a zombie finger, right? I mean, what else could it possibly be?

Proof. They do exist.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Typos in public. Sometimes they're good for a laugh. Sometimes, when they're kinda more permanent, you wonder how many eyes O.K.'d them before they went to print. Turn Handel?

Poor George.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm seeing things

I'm seeing faces in things again. This time it was a vampire in the shower curtain. Just in time for Halloween.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Of all the silly things...

I guess the best way to explain some of the silly photos I take is that I see things in things. Usually it's faces, like the ones I posted here. This time it was a bird. He was in the maple seeds and stuff that fell onto the porch from the bushes beside. The photo above was how everything was just scattered there. The photo below is what I found in the middle of it all.

I seriously didn't arrange this myself. I probably wouldn't have even thought to do that. He was just sitting there, waiting for somebody to find him. Isn't he perfect?

I'll call him "Bird Seed."

Monday, September 23, 2013

My figure drawings finally found a home

Remember back in March when I wrote about reacquainting myself with figure drawing? Well, it's gotten even better since.

The short version of the story is, a handful of my old figure drawings from ten years ago are now hanging in my gynecologist's office. Have a look:

The photos above were taken in the waiting room and just back the hallway a little. Another drawing hangs in the next hallway back and a fourth one in a little room off from the waiting area. Two exam rooms each have a drawing as well.

The paint colors my doctor chose for the walls are, first of all amazing, and second, perfect for the off white paper and Sanguine conté colors I used for the drawings. All the walls are painted with muted earth-toney colors, with different colors in different rooms, and the drawings look like they were made for the spots where they were hung.

The plan for now is that we swap the drawings out each year to keep them fresh. Swapping out will also (in theory) give me incentive to get more drawn. For some reason I'm just assuming I'll be able to jump right back in and still be able to draw the figure. I'm not sure why I assume that.

Here are the ones we've hung:

This one is just inside the front door. She's going to be a hard one to replace later.

She's the one hanging back that first hallway.

This one is in a little room off from the waiting area.

One of the first figures I drew. She's back the next hallway.

I called this one "Pretzel" a while back. She's in the first exam room.

This one is hanging in the second exam room.

We only hung the ladies, and only the ones that might cause the least amount of controversy (as in, for example, nothing full frontal). I have more figure drawings on my fine art website: Some of the ladies we didn't include are there along with some men and the only baby I've done so far.

I'm chomping at the bit to draw more, but I have too many things on my plate right now to dig that old paper out and get started. I'm also a little nervous about getting back in the groove. These drawings were all done in a few months' time, and I was definitely in the zone. But that was ten years ago. I hope I still have them in me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Branding: Now I have to update everything I own

It was a good idea at the time. Really, it was.

It started with creating a font. That was simple enough. I've wanted to design one for so long...

Then the font ended up on my website. Wasn't that just the coolest thing?

Then I started thinking about how I've always wanted the font of my logo to be something I created by hand. Not a problem.

The problem didn't happen until the reality set in that I was going to have to update absolutely everything in my marketing arsenal.

My new business card
So I ordered new business cards yesterday; I updated my studio invoice with the last commission; I updated the pages that will go into my portfolio, and the file is waiting on a USB drive to take to the printer; the ID stickers I have on my portfolio are updated and waiting to be printed out...Unfortunately, I had a load of postcards printed months ago, and they're all with the old branding. I'm going to have to use them anyway; I don't have a lot of choice.

I love the new look, but the new look means a lot more work than just designing a new logo.

It was totally worth it.

Monday, September 09, 2013


Got a commission for the cover of the fall The Link magazine, the magazine for Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science alumni. The story is about how Comp Sci students don't just code anymore; they have to build things by hand, too. For example, they build prototypes of the things they are working on like touch screens and robots.

My idea was of creating a robot, Frankenstein-style. I wanted it to have really dramatic lighting, and I wanted to see if I could pull off a colorized pencil drawing. I hope it worked.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

My first agent submission

I finally went and did it. My first submission to an agent.


You never forget your first.

This also meant I wrote my first query letter, which seems to always want to be spelled "queary" when I type it out. I think it has something to do with the word "queasy," but I'm not sure.

Oh, and my first synopsis.

(Why do you people keep making me write more words?)

Bones are crossed.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Skydiving School

Well, I shuffled off my latest postcard, and it's already generated a few hits on the site (at least, the timing is right for all the extra hits). Always exciting to see. I'm calling the illustration "Skydiving School" for (I hope) obvious reasons.

The image is over there, on the left, and here's the page I put together for the people who want to go green and see it electronically:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Font is Born

Last year I sketched out the idea for a typeface that I wanted to make into a font (the first photo here). I did it while I was on breaks at work, so it took a while to finish. I've kept "Make that typeface into a font already" on my To-Do list for a long, long time.

Well, yesterday was the day.

I finished up the punctuation (the second photo here) and uploaded everything to Your Fonts (love those guys), and had my very own font within a matter of minutes.

As a type geek, I can't begin to tell you the amount of dancing that's been done in the last 24 hours.

I've also uploaded that little guy to Font Squirrel, downloaded their Web Kit, tweaked the CSS on my site so the font fits, and now Quirkish is sitting happily as the headline font there for everybody to see.

Love, love, love type.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Domicile inspiration in Wellsboro

I ran across a photo I took a few months back (O.K. it was nine months ago), and I still love the look of it. This was a house in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. They have a bunch of old houses that they use as Bed & Breakfasts, but it's been so long I don't remember if this is a B&B or somebody's house. (Sorry if it's your house. I don't mean to be creeping.) So many nooks and crannies. So much personality. I'm keeping this filed to use as a starting reference point for an illustration some day.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Girls v. Boys

This bothers me.

I received an ad in the mail the other day, and was a little disappointed with the back page. That page was for kid's clothes, and at first glance I doubt most people would see anything wrong with it.

I did.

This is what I've had to contend with my entire life. I wanted to go outside and get dirty and play baseball but, since I was a girl, I was expected to be satisfied with skirts and Barbies and waiting to be rescued by somebody's idea of Prince Charming. It wasn't my parents so much as the Powers That Be. There were no Little Leagues for girls (or any boy's ones that would accept us). We had a seventh and eighth grade basketball team for boys, but none for girls, and I wasn't allowed to play on the boy's team. I know. The 12-year-old me got up the nerve and asked the coach personally. And you might as well forget about organized football. That's why they invented cheerleading.

Here's another gag-me moment I had a couple of months ago: Princess Camp. No joke.

Because, really, what little girl wouldn't want to be a princess? "This camp has everything little girls love..."

Not really, no.

I wanted to spend my money and time going to Pirates games, not farting around at the mall or playing dress-up. I felt (and feel) like that little girl in the toy store.

Thankfully I'm married to somebody who knows how to show a girl a good time, who buys me the kind of shoes (and boots) I really want (running and hiking) and gives me the remote during the game.

That's what I'm talking about.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My love letter to Spammers

I seem to be attracting spammers with the update of my website, so I've gone through it page by page and separated all my email references from the mailto links that made them so convenient.

Every. Single. Page.

Spammers suck. And, they think I'm stupid.

So, to try to avoid further junk clogging my inbox, I've changed every email address from @ to (at) and . to (dot) in the hopes that my future contacts will be living, breathing human beings rather than the internet freeloaders I seem to be attracting. It's unfortunate, because the people I want on my site won't have the convenience of messaging me with a simple click of an email link anymore.

My love letter to my most faithful spammers:
Dear Lovely Spammer You,

I'm not interested in your services. If I were, I would have looked you up already. Sorry.

I'm not interested in your selling my email address to your friends as viable and working, and I refuse to open your email alerting you that it is, enticing as the subject line may be. (As an aside, maybe you should find new friends. They're dragging you down.)

I'm also not interested in waking the virus that you've painstakingly taken the time to write and spread. I just don't have a block of time big enough where I can pencil that in. Sorry you did all that for nothing.

I work for a living. Maybe you should look into it.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Baughman Trail hike

Rule #1: Get away from work once in a while to keep the creative juices moving.

Rule #2: See Rule #1.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I guess Adobe didn't like my business

It's hard to verbalize the disappointment I'm feeling from yesterday's announcement from Adobe.

The company has decided that, starting with their latest release in June, their programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Acrobat to name a few) will be rent-only. Meaning, you pay the rental fee every month ($49.99 if you pay for an entire year up front), and as soon as you stop paying, the program goes bye-bye. No more holding on to your old physical version for a couple of years because you can't afford to buy the new one just yet.

So those of us who make too little money in our freelance designer and illustrator jobs already, who go broke splurging for the latest Creative Suite package when ours has aged so ripely for two years? We are the ones who will be left in the dust.

Ashes to ashes, I suppose.

I've spent money on Adobe products for years. I bought them separately before they were packaged in a "Creative Suite." I bought them when they were Aldus and Macromedia. I bought CS1, CS3, CS5 and, last December, CS6. On all my sites I've added a colophon singing the praises of the Adobe products I love and use so much.

CS6 will be my last software purchase from the Adobe line.

I'm not a developer. Coding is still a relatively foreign language to a designer. This morning I started my search for alternative WYSIWYG HTML editors to replace the Dreamweaver that made my website designing so much easier.

I think I'll leave the colophons on my sites, but add a strikethrough over the Adobe titles until I've found, purchased, learned and begin using alternatives.

Adios, Adobe amigos. You used to be very good to me.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Reacquainting myself with figure drawing

It's been about ten years since I did some serious figure drawing, and I've been inspired lately to reacquaint myself with the whole process.

This drawing was one I had started all those years ago and never finished. It's hard pastel on pastel paper. I like the light color on the darker paper, but I'm not sure so much about hard pastels in general. This particular drawing was smallish, 9"x12", and I felt I needed a sharper edged detail in some areas than I was able to get with worn-down pastels. Also, when I sprayed the fixative, I'm pretty sure I lost some of the detail.

If I work with these pastels again I'll be prepared for less detail since I'm kind of married to the paper size (I have a couple tablets full of it).

It's a learning process. If you aren't learning, you're not moving forward.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Creatures & Such

It looks like I'm sort of continuing on with my monsters/robots/creatures doodles, so here's the next page. It doesn't feel like I'm finished with it yet, but I think the more I work on it, the worse I make it.

Maybe it needs to be finished now whether I like it or not.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Robots and Monsters

Another page from my visual journal.

I started with the idea of robots and robot parts, and it quickly evolved into funky creatures in general. I like the idea of robots and monsters as subjects because anything goes. That might be the same reason they're so hard for me. Too many possibilities for my little brain to sift through. That's the challenge I decided to give myself with these little doodle dudes.

I think I'll call them The Juxtapositioning of Disparate Elements. At least the title sounds classy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Monster Under My Bed

I figure the first step in making friends with the monster under my bed is to identify it. I'm still trying to figure out what it looks like, but here's a page I drew of ideas a couple of nights ago.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I finally met #ShaunTan (happy, happy dance)

In case you're new here, the one thing I can tell you about me is, I can't get enough of Shaun Tan.

I had never been to a national SCBWI conference before the one that just happened in New York, and all it took for me to get there was to see Shaun Tan's name on the keynote speaker list. I swear I was the first one in line.

My first meeting with Shaun went pretty much like this: On Friday, the first day of the conference, I was on the elevator by myself heading up to my hotel room on the 30th floor. When the elevator stopped, the doors opened and there waiting to get on, by himself, was Shaun Tan. I sucked in a breath, but somehow nothing came out. We stepped aside for each other to enter and exit. The doors closed between us

I spent Saturday morning waiting for a moment (and finding the nerve for) when he wasn't busy talking to somebody else. When I finally caught him waiting for the elevator yet again, I introduced myself and told him he was the reason I was at the conference. The elevator opened, we stepped in and joined a couple of other people already inside. I had barely started talking again when the nice lady beside me reached out her hand to Shaun and said, "Hi. I'm Jane Yolen. We've actually met before."

Not kidding.
Then the other lady in the elevator said, "Shaun Tan and Jane Yolen in the same elevator together. What are the chances!"

Yes. What are the chances.

We didn't have a chance to say any more before the elevator stopped at his floor (our floor), and he got out.

I did not.

Finally, on the last day of the conference just before our train left the station (literally; we rode the train to NY), I was working the autograph party as an SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator and waited for my opportunity. Shaun signed books for three hours straight (an hour longer than he was scheduled), and after the line disappeared, I finally (finally) got my photo op.

As you can see, he signed all his books for me, even though he had been sitting there for three hours. He was kind, patient and unassuming, and if his two had been the only talks I had heard all weekend, I would have left completely satisfied.

First Neil Gaiman last November, and now Shaun Tan. That's it. Is there really anybody else?

I guess I can die happy.