Monday, April 13, 2015

Even More Great Tools!

Hi friends!

I wanted to share some more great information and tools that I have found helpful for my work.

The first tool I'd like to share is Cofftivity.




Coffivitity brings the sounds and ambience of a local coffee shop wherever you are.  It is a quiet hum of changing noise that makes you feel like you're in a coffee shop.  This is great to listen to while you work because it gives you some background noise without being distracting.

This small amount of ambient noise is great because ambient noise has been scientifically proven to help with the creative process.  You can read more on the New York Times Blog.



Another great tool I use is Tweetdeck.



Tweetdeck is an downloadable application for your computer that helps organize everything on Twitter.  You can make your own columns based on your feed, specific hashtags, your notifications, activity, messages, and more.  The application is customizable and makes using Twitter feel less overwhelming.


One reason I use Tweetdeck is for the weekly #kidlitart chats.  They occur every Thursday at 9PM EST with a new topic every week.  More information about the history of the chats can be found here.


To join in the chat check out the official Twitter account for the weekly topic.  Just use the hashtag #kidlitart in all your posts to join in on the conversation.  I have found these chats very useful.  Topics have included promotional materials, websites, conferences, color, and more!  It's a great way to connect with other people in the Kid Lit industry.


The last tool I want to share today is called f.lux.  While it is not necessarily for art and design, I can see how this tool would be especially helpful for writers.




f.lux has your computer follow a more natural light pattern.  During the times when the sun is down, or partially down, the program changes your computer to emit less blue light.  This is to replicate the natural light pattern of the sun and regulate your melatonin levels, which is supposed to help with sleep.

Some of you might be wondering if you create digital art that this will mess up your color.  While this can be the case, you can turn off the program for any specific application.  If I am working in Photoshop late at night I can turn f.lux off for just Photoshop so my color is true.  Whenever I click on any other application the orange glow will return.

I have found using f.lux has helped me feel less awake and have less strain on my eyes late at night.  While I can't say it will work for you it's worth a try.


I hope you find these tools helpful!  If you have any great tools to share please feel free to leave a comment.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

SCBWI New York Conference 2015 Recap

This past weekend I attended the SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators) New York 2015 conference.  It was a great experience and I want to share some highlights.

My portfolio, postcards, and notebook ready for the conference!

My name tag. I added my Twitter picture and name to help people recognize me.

Let's get this conference started!

I started my conference with the optional Illustrator Intensive on Friday.  It was an informative day filled with lectures, an in-class assignment, panels with publishers and editors, and meeting other fellow illustrators. This also was when illustrators dropped off portfolios for the SCBWI Portfolio Award. Art directors, agents, and publishers to looked at our work too.

At the end of the Illustrator Intensive there was a raffle and I won 'Louise Loves Art' by Kelly Light. I had been wanting this book for a while. I tweeted the author/illustrator that I won and she happened to be in the hotel. We met up and she signed my book. I couldn't be happier!

The industry portfolio review ended Friday evening. 
Most people stayed around to look at other portfolios before leaving with their work.
It was so great to see such a wide range of techniques and incredible talent.

My awesome SCBWI folder. It had important handouts and my schedule.


Saturday the conference really began.  It was a mixture of inspiring lectures from authors and illustrators, panels with agents, publishers and editors, workshops, and more!

Some of the topics of the workshops I went to were "Creating Picture Book Art" and "Developing Your Illustration Style and Career Path."I took many notes and learned much that will help me.

I also met some wonderful writers and illustrators.  There was an informal art browse where illustrators could show their portfolio again. The evening ended with a social that included a mashed potato bar in martini glasses with various toppings!

The above photo shows the largest conference room with 1200 attendees listening to one of the lectures.

Sunday started with the announcement of awards. 
I'm so happy that my talented friend Mika Song won the SCBWI Portfolio Award!  
Check out her wonderful website here.

Sunday also included more panels, lectures, and keynotes. The final keynote was from Kwame Alexander who had just won the Newbery Award. His speech and all the others were incredible and were each so unique!

At the conference there was a bookstore where books from presenting authors and illustrators could be bought. There was an autograph party as well, where these books could be signed.

My postcard collection from the various illustrators! Such talent!

The overall conference was great and I left feeling very inspired! I'm so happy to have connected with so many other writers and illustrators and have the opportunity to show my work. I also learned much from the various events.

Top Takeaways and Tips:
  • If you can afford it and have the time take the Illustrator Intensive. It's a great way to hone your skills and get your work in front of so many people in the industry (through the Friday portfolio review).
  • Talk to the people next to you while waiting for a lecture to start.  It's a good way to connect with people and make new friends. 
  • Ask questions during the workshops. It is helpful to think of with questions before the workshop starts too.
  • Have a business card or postcard ready to share.  Also make sure you order and carry enough! I ran out of postcards during the Saturday art browse.
  • Dress in layers! The hallways were really warm, but the conference rooms were very cold.
  • If you are participating in the Saturday art browse stand next to your portfolio. People love talking to the artist and you never know who you'll meet.
  • There is a food court in Grand Central and you don't even have to leave the building.  It's great for those cold New York City days! They also have a great variety of options.
  • Bring cash to buy books.  The bookstore offered a discount if you bought your items with cash instead of a credit card.
  • Connect and use social media.  I met some of my social media friends in real life and people recognized me and my work from Tweeting, Instagramming, etc...


SCBWI did a great job of putting together a streamlined and informative conference. Bravo!

A more detailed list of events, workshops, panels, photos, and more can be found on the Official SCBWI Conference Blog.

I hope I can go to more SCBWI conferences in the future.  I really enjoyed the New Jersey conference last June. Maybe I'll try the Los Angeles conference?

Did you attend the conference? What was your favorite part?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review of Moleskine's Smart Notebook

For Christmas I received a wonderful gift!  I received a special Moleskine called Moleskine's Smart Notebook.  It is connected with Adobe Creative Cloud and turns your sketches into editable SVG files! I had no idea that such a product existed! All you need is your notebook, a smartphone with the Moleskine Creative Cloud Connected app, and an Adobe account.

The process is pretty simple.

I decided to make some Valentine's designs with my first test of this cool notebook.

The beautiful notebook has a fun cover with wavy lines and the Adobe Creative Cloud logo.
The paper inside is nice and not too thick, which is my usual complaint with Moleskines.

You start with a sketch within the squares in the journal 
(black and white line art works best, no shading).  
The next step in the process is to take the picture in some good light.

The app then notices the squares on the notebook paper and crops the image accordingly.


Unfortunately, even though all my designs were in that box the image was cropped even more.

The image is then converted to black and white.

Then you can send it to the Creative Cloud.

Here are my designs on the Creative Cloud website.  It saves the original photo and the SVG file. 
From here you can download the files.


I was worried this page wouldn't convert to a SVG due to the smudges/pencil lines 
(I was experimenting with different pens), but it converted just fine! It ignored the smudges.


A complaint I have of the process is that it converts my sketches not as smooth as I'd like it. 
I should probably also work on making my linework more smooth, now that I know it accentuates jagged lines.
The Original Sketch
The converted SVG file.

I took the pencil smoothing tool in Illustrator and fixed it though.


Here I am working on a Valentine's design using graphics from this process.

Overall, I think the Moleskine Smart Notebook is a great product.  

The pros are: 
  • Great way to bring my sketches into more of my designs.  
  • Makes my designs look less "digital". 
  • Overall smooth process
  • I can edit my sketches
  • A great way to design on the go 

The cons are: 
  • Some of the shape conversions are a bit jagged and not as smooth as I'd like. 
  • The image is cropped too much.  Staying inside the squares isn't enough. This makes the drawing area in the notebook even smaller.
I'm really excited to use this notebook! I think it will help me make some great patterns and hand lettering that I can edit in Illustrator.

Do you have a Moleskine Smart Notebook? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments.




Monday, December 15, 2014

BLIN's Journey - Illustration created for Tomie dePaola Award

I'm excited to show the piece I created for the SCBWI Tomie dePaola Award.  I was one of fifteen artists chosen as a semi-finalist.  For our final piece we were given a piece of text and told to illustrate it however we would like.  The text was very open-ended.

Below I show my process.
I started by brainstorming different compositions.


Then I refined the composition I chose.


After that I did a few color studies.

I blocked in  the basic shapes.

I added the details and text.

Finally, I added textures to the different objects.  Finished!

Tomie is going to announce the winner later this month.  I'm really pleased with my piece and hope he picks me!



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Even more useful tools and podcasts!

I have even more useful tools and podcasts I'd like to share with you!

Tools and Resources:

nuSchool - Form to help you price your work.
I have used this tool to help me price my work for clients.  I have found it to be accurate and very helpful.




KidLit411 - A resource for everything children's book related
The creators of KidLit411 have taken so many resources about children's books and have put them on one website.  It is a great website that covers everything from contests, to tips, to marketing, and social media.  Think of it as like a home base for kidlit.



Will Terry is a successful children's book illustrator (he also has worked in other markets).  His YouTube channel has some great information for freelance illustrators.  He also is a teacher so he explains things very well.  I find it a useful tool to listen to while I work.  I have learned quite a few things from his videos.



Podcasts:

Chris Oatley is a former Disney animation artist.  He shares wonderful interviews and tips through his podcast and on his website.  He also shares great storytelling advice.




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Completed PiBoIdMo, More useful tools and another neat podcast!

I'm excited to announce that I have completed PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).  During the month of November I came up with one picture book idea every day.  Some ideas were bad, and some ideas were great!  I'm going to expand on some of my new ideas to create more books.


I have a few fun, useful tools that I want to share.

The Storymatic is a fun brainstorming tool I use for helping to create stories and illustrations.  You pick one card that is a subject, then two cards that are situation based.  Then you combine the cards together to create one story - it's really fun!  I've gotten some great ideas from using this tool.


Kyle T Webster Photoshop Brushes.  These photoshop brushes are absolutely amazing.  They are so fun to use.  These brushes have also increased my productivity and can help make digital art look very traditional. 


I also have another favorite podcast to share:

The Picturebooking Podcast is a great, fun, and informative podcast about everything picture book related.  Nick Patton, the host of the podcast, is an author-illustrator and brings a unique view to the podcast. iTunes link here.




Thursday, November 6, 2014

Licensing Deal with Create Ur Plate!

Hi Everyone!

I've been super busy lately working on all exciting things!

One of my recent licensing deals includes Create Ur Plate.  It is a site where you can buy reusable decals for plates - perfect for parties!



Below are just a few of some of my designs.  
Most designs are customizable with the ability to change photos or text.


More designs coming soon!









Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Licensing Deal with Felt!

I am recently licensed with Felt! Felt is an app for your iPad where you can handwrite a card using your tablet and the card will be sent to your recipient on beautiful Mohawk paper.


Here is a sample - your handwriting on the inside and on the envelope.


One of my designs - many more coming soon!


Friday, October 31, 2014

PiBoIdMo - Picture Book Idea Month!

I just signed up for Picture Book Idea Month (or PiBoIdMo for short).

PiBoIdMo is where you brainstorm an idea for a picture book every day for 30 days in November.  
All the information is found on Tara Lazar's Blog .

The challenge is really easy and is based on the honor system.  It is completely free and there are wonderful prizes and daily guest bloggers from amazing people in the picture book industry.

Registration closes November 7th 2014 - so sign up today!
I'm excited to brainstorm new ideas for more picture books!  I hope you will join me!

If you listen to Katie Davis' podcast (previously mentioned here) on 10/31/2014 (episode 201) you can hear an interview about how PiBoIdMo got started. You can check out Katie's blog post about this podcast episode here.

New Tool and More New Podcasts!

Hi Everyone!
A while ago I recently shared my favorite tools and podcasts, but recently I have found some more!


I have a new tool to share that I have found very helpful for creating photo collages for Twitter and Facebook headers (and more!).

The tool is called PicMonkey.  It is a very easy tool to use and you can set up photo collages in any dimension with ease.  PicMonkey also has other great photo editing tools - most of which are free!!


I also have a few new favorite podcasts to share:

I know I have already shared the Fresh Rag Show as one of my favorite podcasts, but the URL and subscription link has recently changed.  Here is the new link!



Another favorite podcast is Adventures in Design.  Which is NSFW due to language - but it is very entertaining and filled with great information about design and how designers work.  The show is daily- which is crazy considering how much time and effort is put into the show.  


My most recent podcast find is the Children's Book Podcast made by The Guardian.  It is based in the UK and is very short, usually giving snippets of particular books.  It is always a very interesting, quick listening experience. 


Do you have any other favorite tools or podcasts?  I'd love to hear about them!