Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NYC SCBWI Winter Conference '14

Howdy folks!

In February, I visited NYC for the SCBWI Winter Conference. The line up of speakers was outstanding and I walked away from every session with helpful tips and new ideas.

Hearing Brett Helquist talk about his character development process was a huge highlight. I remember reading The Series of Unfortunate Events when I was young and being heavily influenced by his draftsmanship and style. So I was surprised and inspired to hear him say he continually reads "how-to books" on drawing and always sees room for improvement. Other highlights include hearing two of my favorite author/illustrators, Oliver Jeffers and Peter Brown, talk during a panel discussion on The Art of the Picture Book. Roxie Munro gave a talk on new media that was an insightful overview of both the technology and market trends of ebooks and apps. And Jack Ganto's keynote was a wild ruckus of exciting stories and helpful writing tips.

Another highlight, I was asked to be one of the illustrators for the conference blog. These two paintings were my contributions, check out the post here

During the conference, I had the chance to take a field trip to the The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter exhibit at the NYC Public Library, which I highly recommend. It's a well assembled survey of the history of children's books, beautifully designed and with an incredible array of artifacts (you can see the original Winnie the Pooh bear and the parrot-handled umbrella that inspired Mary Poppin's talking umbrella in the movie!).

Outside the NYC Public Library: Keika Yamaguchi, Linda Dorn, Corinna Luyken, Renee Spencer, Me, and Brook Boynton Hughes

Rodolfo Montalvo and I riding Milo's car into the Phantom Tollbooth

On my last day in NY, I visited the Society of Illustrators and attended their Illustrators 56 exhibition. It was inspiring to see so much wonderful and diverse illustration in one place. 

Attending this year's conference as gotten me thinking about how much the SCBWI has helped me improve as an artist and writer. Before 2013, I had only occasionally been active with the SCBWI and my career as a children's book writer/illustrator had stagnated. If you're new to the SCBWI, I want to encourage you to keep up your craft and keep attending conferences. To get back in the groove, I attended the Winter Conference last year, the program itself was wonderful and everyone was gracious, but I knew very few people and spent much of the time feeling awkward and self-conscious. But afterwards, I became involved in my local SCBWI chapter, attended two more SCBWI conferences, and worked steadily on sharpening my skills. As a result, this year I was much more comfortable at the conference, knew many more people, had improved my portfolio, and felt more optimistic about my career. It's exciting to look back and see how much progress is possible in a year.  So keep on trucking', I look forward to seeing you at conferences and cheering each other on as we both make progress!

I'm so thankful to have had to opportunity to attend the conference, see old friends, meet new ones and see so much inspiring artwork. Now I'm stoked up to get back in the studio! Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Snow White


Today I'd like to share a new illustration and a bit of my creative process. The illustration is for the story "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs" and was created as an assignment for the Illustrator's Intensive at the SCBWI Winter Conference that happened this past February in NYC (blog post about that to come soon).

Here are a few of my preliminary sketches, I started with character designs of Snow White and the dwarfs. At first, I was unsure of how to depict the dwarfs, my research uncovered many different interpretations in myths and folklore. From Tolkien to Norse mythology, I found the common threads were that dwarfs were short, homely, little men, who were exceptionally skilled at smithing. My jumping off point was a bucket of reference photos of miners, lumber jacks, and hipsters that I didn't use for another project, and that got me really stoked up to design their outfits.

Researching dwarfs also got me thinking about how sexist the story of "Snow White" is, all the females are either evil or helpless. So my solution was to make the dwarfs women and to show Snow White's mad carpentry skills. Ok, so maybe the Snow White in my illustration needs some practice with home repair, but my logic was that she had built some bird houses before and was slowly honing her craft. In any case, my intent was to show that she's not entirely helpless, and she's doing the dwarfs a favor by staying, not just mooching off them because she's a spoiled princess.

After I had my characters, scenic elements, and composition, I started refining my sketches. This was the final line drawing on watercolor paper before I started painting.

Then I did a small color study to determine my palette.

Here's the final illustration and close-up detail images. The medium is acrylics on watercolor paper.

Thanks for visiting!