Saturday, November 18, 2017

Age-Old Pitfalls

I am guilty of succumbing to the syndrome most new bloggers fall victim to: loss of momentum. No posts in, like, forever, right? Well, I became overly concerned with following a preset narrative, one I decided upon myself. I want to describe a narrative of progress and overcoming barriers, not of back-sliding and difficulty, creative blocks and overwhelm.

If you go and read the previous post back in (Holy crap! Just checked!) late July (this is mid-November), you may have gleaned that I was reeling pretty good from a meeting we had. That meeting left us unclear on our path to completion, but I realized (and was told) I had a lot of reworking too do. A lot of art was inconsistent in character depictions and I needed to fix that. This didn't feel like a simple, straight-ahead task. The challenge of it made me very uncomfortable, raising too many questions in my head – about the quality of my work, stylistically how the characters should look – would I have to draw everything over again? – do I have the grit, the stick-to-it-iveness to finish this book?

I have been working on correcting the drawings and straightening out the inconsistencies but it has been slow going. Some weeks - no progress is made, no action taken. In truth, this post itself is a breakthrough. There is a certain shame in having a calling that you are having trouble rising to meet and writing about it helps ease that.

So, yeah. Stay with me. Keep coming back. This is going somewhere. I promise.


The ongoing struggle.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Uniformity Required

We had a meeting earlier in the month. Everyone was present; Chad, Steven, Keith, and I. This meeting started with me previewing for the others a digital mock up of the book. All the images that we felt the book required were used in the PDF I shared. There are a lot of new images and this was the first time the rest of the group had seem many of them. They were well received, some with great enthusiasm. However, there was a general problem with the images.
I've had my nose to the grindstone so closely - had my blinders fixed to block out extra work until I finished all the "pages" - that I was taken aback when it was brought up and discussed how the Toddler's appearance has not been consistent throughout the book. I had been keenly aware of this but had accidentally erased it from my mind. You see, his face and head was much more rounded when I began drawing him and had acquired a block structure somewhere along the way. And his nose became bigger and more block like. I simply forgot this looming issue, how fixing it was a necessity.


As you see in the top image, created a few years ago, the Toddler's face is quite rounded and his nose is smaller and less square. The second image has a completely different color palette, too, but that was just an experiment and final coloring is a later step. But yes, the difference is clear and there were other less obvious features that changed like the teeth (the gap developed later), and rounded hair ends. 
Don't expect a highly uniform appearance with any of the characters in the book, but Toddler is such a central one that special attention will be given to him by the reader and so I must get it right. Nevertheless, I enjoy giving his face some flexibility based on its expression and forces acting on it such as his own nubby little hands.

———

It is always difficult to take criticism, artist or not, and this meeting was no exception, but I have some new tools to deal with this difficulty.

(Continued in the next post...)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Four Heads/Are Better Than One

I've been playing around with a bunch of head drawings I did in the last couple weeks of the Toddler and his Companion. This is one configuration I particularly liked. Remember!.. Color will come later/next.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

That Thing I've Avoided Sharing (Until Now)

This is a post that I have repeatedly thought about writing but have questioned the wisdom of sharing each time. Sure, I have alluded to it, mentioned it in passing, but never directly, and never with the weight it deserves. The post I'd like to write is about self-doubt. Often times I feel like it's the elephant in the room. It seems to be too important a factor in the process of making this book to give short shrift. If I am going to share this creative process withheld all of you, and I really want to because it is something of great importance to me, it's import should be expressed in a forthright way. To convey the story behind the storybook, and more specifically my story as the illustrator, all the relevant and interesting bits should be included even if some of those things feel quite personal.


...Isn't this the new way? -Marketing (believe it or not, Drawing A Conclusion me marketing this book-to-be) should be thought of as sharing and with a kind of informality and transparency that allows for connection, trust. I don't have any training in marketing, I don't know about clicks or eyes or interest, how to attract them. For sure I've been doing it wrong because – too shy on social media, too hesitant; too few posts, not enough about me, my opinions, my life. Too infrequently have I commented on others posts, started a conversation that bonds and brings together. I have my habitual behavior of being reclusive , staying insular, not reaching out to others. But I very much want to reach out and connect with you. I want to create something that for you is joyful and meaningful. You being able to see what me and my friends have created and sharing it with the young people in your life would be a very special connection!

Of course the fear in sharing what is a surely a weakness is that you are painting yourself in a negative light for others. Many would say, "Don't do it. You are giving yourself a reputation". Honestly, I can't see how that wouldn't be true, but, taken as a whole, revealing your weakness need not be a negative thing. By revealing my difficulties, I hope to help the reader identify with me and my journey. The self-doubt feels like a unique and personal debilitation,but, in my more grounded moments, I can see it as a quite universal and common affliction. If it were not so, there would be a heck of a lot more people going after their dreams. This seems like common sense.

To put this into less wordy, more every day language:
Guys, making the pictures for this book is really challenging me and making me confront my insecurities and reckon with my negative habits. In my core, I sense this will be a pretty awesome book that has the potential to get a lot of attention that could translate into sales. I've never had anything resembling that kind of success and the possibility of it is causing me to subtly drag my heels — put off completion. Even if the only success this achieves is the completion of a project that took years, I am daunted!
When I have attempted to support myself through my craft it has been a losing proposition, I just couldn't sustain it, not enough gigs, under-estimating how long it would take me to complete and therefore under-bidding. It was a couple years of being broke and going further into the hole due to the interest on my credit card debt. It was a couple years of struggle. I lacked the inner strength to self-promote, to network, to push forward with confidence.

All I could see were my negatives, how I could only barely work on my portfolio and add pieces. It seemed I didn't have the resolve or discipline to put in as much work as animators that were having success and believed that if I did the same as they, I too would have success and my work might even be of superior quality. This may be true, but it is a sort of excuse. It is part of perfectionist's dilemma; too self-critical to create, never having to see if your work measures up to your high standards. Never trying, never failing. The solution being: to do the thing, to take action, to risk failing, give myself the only chance of succeeding.

The bottom line, thankfully, is that here I am...doing it. Not just to make a living, but to take full control of my success and consequently my life. Not creating for a client, but for myself, for everyone. I'm proud to be inching toward a goal that I have worked very hard on and represents my best work to date.

Thank you if you read to the end! I'll try to keep future posts shorter.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Best Thing

I have learned something invaluable from doing this book project with Keith, Steven and Chad. From the start it has been absolutely stimulating and challenging in really terrific ways. It has shown me that this is what I want to be doing with my life.
I will pursue creating kids books with others and alone; sometimes reworking those books into interactive apps. It's something I could imagine doing for many years and I'm quite excited to find a new book project as this one comes to completion.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sister's Lab - WIP page

Here is a work-in-progress image from the book. I have just started playing with some digital color on the butterfly shadowbox and space poster but I am sharing my drawing pre-coloring to show my process.
The girl on the stool is composited on top of the room. They were separate drawings aligned using a light box. All the perspective and straight lines were a little time consuming but I had fun putting this one together.

This is the protagonist's older sister who is a budding (or perhaps a full-fledged) scientist and inventor. Let's just say that her alibi has something to do with her regimented lifestyle.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Drawings Complete; Meeting Summary

I've collected my thoughts about the meeting we had Wednesday night and I'll summarize them the best I can.  We almost didn't have the meeting. Keith wasn't able to make it but we went ahead as we mostly have details to work on and Keith doesn't have much to manage or direct at this step in our process.
The three of us (Chad, Steven and I) had a relaxed and playful chat as we caught up while kicking back in Chad's backyard work studio. I haven't seen these fellows since last year and it was excellent to have some laughs with them over some brews.
After settling in, I shared a few bullet points from the notes I brought. I related that I had signed up for a membership with the Seattle branch of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators or SCBWI, a great organization that supports and builds community in it's eighty-some chapters around the world. Also, I shared that I put a large part of my tax return aside for getting this book out there. That means everything from getting a website up, to getting an agent for our team, to doing a short run printing. Lastly, I let them know that there is a SCBWI event at the UW Bookstore on May 9th called Inside Story where previously published members get to share new works in 2-3 minute presentations. I'm definitely interested and the other guys seemed interested after learning of it.

And the rest of the meeting...well, I shared the new pages that I have drawn. Now we have begun to see what the book will look like. I put all my pages in a pdf document with the lines of story text on the appropriate pages. After we all three ran through it together we saw some changes that should be made in those pairings, how it's broken up, so we have a better flow. Also, there are 4 more drawings I need to do; two for the sister character, a transition image for Dash and Scout, and a close-up image of Dash thinking about the case. With those completed, and everyone happy with the text to image pairings, I will commence to coloring. That should be fun! Coloring just feels like messing around and learning at the same time.

It was a good meeting, I felt more sober and grounded about my work that I was presenting and the work that lay ahead. Sober and grounded may not sound very exciting but it is much more sustainable if you keep enough determination to keep going.  Yay for balance!

Thanks for reading this far! [END OF POST]

Here is a sketch of one of the new pages I'm working on:



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Drawings Complete; Looking at the Book

I'm writing the first part of this 2 part entry the night before a meeting with the rest of the "Toddler Guys". This meeting has been arranged to show them my work thus far which is all the drawings for all the pages. This is a bit relative as we are still editing and drawings can change; might need different, more, or possibly less drawings. This feels quite momentous though. We began this book so many years ago and it has gone though rough drawings and different styles. For gods-sake, I have my own toddler now!

As slowly as this project has gone, it was always close to my heart and something I was very excited about when I thought about. I wish that I could have gone quicker but I have to believe it will gain something that it may have lacked if I had. Certainly, I have gained skill in the interim. Also, I have increased and deepened my influences. Most importantly, I have gained more confidence and clarity in my style.

Well... It's not done yet. And I feel fairly certain that some important changes are forthcoming in the illustrations. I want this book to be magical and amazing. I want it to be a work of art with cinematic qualities. A Hitchcock film in a storybook. To achieve this, I must follow my artistic instincts even if it means some pages need to be redrawn and finishing postponed.

After the drawing are nailed down, I begin the coloring process. I have made a decision to work in Photoshop with watercolor brushes I bought from kylebrushes.com . With a little practice (basically diving in) I think they will do the trick in giving me the look I want and allowing quick iterations so I can figure out the best color scheme and palette for my drawings.

I'm very excited for the meeting and imagine it will be a bit of a celebration!

Rough sketch of image on last page

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thumbnail sketch and confessional

I'm back from a vacation in NE Tennessee seeing my lady's family. Feeling reinvigorated and focused to finish the book!

My new self-determined deadline (I'm a few months late of my last one) is mid-Spring of this year. In case it isn't clear, I have big barriers to break through to finish this. I have a new family and free undisturbed time is sparse. Also, not to be understated, I have never finished a project this big before that has as much potential as this one and it will be very damaging to my low self-esteem. Ha ha! Therefore, resistance! That takes the form of anxiety and procrastination and other self-defeating habits.

I'm being honest and somewhat transparent on this blog because I think other artists need to see this. It's real and it is what so many of us struggle with. Growth is not always easy. I am growing tremendously as an artist in this process, and developing my own character. I think I have been averse to hard things all my life. (Not entirely true, of course!)




While on vacation, I did some sketching for the book, including this thumbnail showing our hero self-satisfied with his conclusion and about to learn the actual truth. Separately, there was a little messing around with watercolor which I will need to improve skill with for the coloring of the final drawings - the final art!

Thanks for reading! Comments are appreciated. I'd love to have a dialogue!