I just heard the great news that my Squid Attack on the Nautilus got accepted to the Comics, Anime, Cartoons, and Fantasy Exhibition at the Las Lagunas Gallery Laguna Beach California! This is the first time I’ll be showing and selling my work in a international curated / juried exhibition. Pretty cool.
My family’s been saving up frequent flier miles, so I’ll even be able to attend the Artists’ Reception on April 5th. The exhibition will be open from April 5-27th. The opening also takes place on Laguna Beach’s First Thursday Artwalk. Say hello if you can make it!
I just turned in this illustration last week for Illustrating Literature class. It continues some ideas I have about Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea with Animals. I learned a lot more about painting water, textures, and lighting on this one and this week I’m working on more sequential illustrations from the story.
It’s been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to post to the blog, but I had an incredible time at #CTNexpo2017. I’ll have to follow up in other posts, but one of the sessions I went to was on publishing. Many of the artists at this expo were involved at least some point in huge animations studios like Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, Blue Sky. Greg Manchess and Armand Baltzar talked about how they had a dream of getting their artwork and stories into book form, although they didn’t clearly fit into either picture books or graphic novels. The result is Greg’s Above the Timberline and Armand’s Timeless.
Here’s an example from Greg’s book. The inset is a personalized inscription he gave me.
This past week, we were studying wordless picture books. Here is my discussion post answering questions such as some favorite wordless picture books and whether we thought wordless picture books could be improved with words or vice-versa, whether there were picture books with words that could published as wordless.
A prime contender for my favorite wordless picture book is Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It tells a metaphorical story about the immigrant experience, with a poor man leaving home on a steamship in order to support his family, and finding himself in a bizarre new world. Many aspects of immigration are reflected: confusion, frustration, tedious manual labor, and the dangers of war, but also the joys of making new friends, discovering new experiences, and finding ways to support the people you love. The world of The Arrival is visually set in the early 20th century, and the art style is modeled after the sepia photographs of those periods, making the strange creatures and environments feel all the more otherworldly. The lack of words helps to make the reader’s connection with the immigrant protagonist all the more direct, as he struggles to figure out an often difficult to comprehend new environment. In Tan’s own words, “Words have a remarkable magnetic pull on our attention, and how we interpret attendant images: in their absence, an image can often have more conceptual space around it, and invite a more lingering attention from a reader who might otherwise reach for the nearest convenient caption, and let that rule their imagination.”
A wordless picture book that I haven’t read in its entirety, but is pretty good from what I’ve seen, is Journey by Aaron Becker. I like it because of its sense of wonder, and its simple, positive message about creative works can break boundaries and reach out to other people. The lack of words in this book, again, helps to place the reader in the protagonist’s place, as they discover the possibilities of their creativity over the story’s course.
I kind of can’t name any wordless books that I think would be improved by words. Wordless picture books have their own strengths as a format; they have a certain element of discovery to them, as the reader pieces together events without the aid of a narrative text. There are some books could be adapted pretty simply, if not necessarily improved, into effective wordless books. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are comes to mind, as do some of Beatrix Potter’s works.
I’m starting my picture book dummy based on the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. I could tell the gist of the plot of the story without words, but I feel like some nuances, such as the point the Skin Horse makes about toys becoming real, would be at least partially lost.
I just had my first week of Children’s Book Illustration 1 at RMCAD and the first assignment was to develop a few several concept sketch comics in 3 panels on the theme of: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
It was a nice first assignment to ease into thinking about sketching from a visual storytelling perspective vs. drawing single sketches.
The last one was probably my favorite. This week we’re drawing a mini book dummy for an Aesop’s fable.
This week’s assignment are gestures of bears, wolves, and dogs. Using a envelope for the animals and simplifying geometric shapes helps with simplifying. The class is setting into a routine of drawing gestures with a little value added in some, skeleton and ecorche version, and discussion post which looks at different rendering of animals characters and how they can be portrayed as protagonists or antagonists in a story. It’s fun seeing the examples that my classmates come up with.
I’m finding I really like drawing with the Procreate app on the iPad pro and Apple pencil. It’s close to drawing with a real pencil. When I want this soft effect with pencil, I usually prefer to use mylar (Dura-lar) which comes in huge rolls from Dick Blick and erases cleanly.
My discussion post:
There’s some amount of range when it comes to how sympathetically bear characters are portrayed. On the sympathetic side, there are characters such as teddy bears, and related characters such as the Care Bears and Winnie the Pooh, which are modeled more on the stuffed animal than the actual animal.
More realistic sympathetic bears include Baloo from any of the multiple adaptations of The Jungle Book, Smokey the Bear, and the bear family of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear.
On the more antipathetic side, there are characters such as the bear in the film version of The Fox and the Hound, and the grizzly bear from the film Balto, which are portrayed as bestial, inhuman predators.
When wolves are portrayed positively, they tend to come off as majestic, intelligent, loyal, embodying the nobility of nature; the wolf family in The Jungle Book, Moro in Princess Mononoke.
Negatively, wolves are portrayed as crafty predators, as with the classical fairytale archetype of the Big Bad Wolf.
The main example I can think of when it comes to neutral/background characters is how, in Donald Duck etc. comics, otherwise “human” side/background characters tend to be given dog noses, and occasionally ears. Here, the use of animal characteristics basically just signifies that these stories take place in a completely unreal fantasy world.
In general, I would say that completely realistic renderings of animals, as you might find in an educational book, often have less strong emotional expressivity, and are less immediately emotionally accessible as a result. Even mostly realistic designs often “cheat” when it comes to faces, adding human elements such as humanoid scleras, eyebrow muscles, and mouth expressions.
I had a great time at our Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Spring Conference. It was neat to be with such an enthusiastic group that were all interested in children’s books. I liked all of the speakers, but especially David Small and Kazu Kibuishi who shared a lot of their personal stories about how they came to be motivated to do the work they do. David Small is Caldecott winner and Kazu is a writer and illustrator of graphic novels like the Amulet and Explorer.
This was the first time I put together a portfolio. I searched on the web for examples of how to set one up. I use an inexpensive photo album on Amazon that had a window in the cover.
I liked being able to present my work in the portfolio evening, but I also liked seeing everyone else’s work. I’m thinking about doing more drawing with ferrets especially since my visit to the ferret rescue in Kirkland. Their fur is very soft. There were a lot of illustrators I also had a chance to discover. I especially liked Heidi Aubrey‘s mice.
After a week off, I’ll be starting animal anatomy and drawing (yay). I’m also a few weeks into volunteer orientation to work in wild bird rehabilitation – skills training starts in May.
I’m signed up for the Illustrator Intensive “Hard Things to Draw” with David Small (see some of his covers below) as well as participating in the Juried Portfolio show. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of portfolios and hearing from other illustrators and writers, art directors, and agents. I’ve heard these conferences are great for networking and getting started in children’s books.
Here’s my design for a business card:
I’m also doing film class this RMCAD quarter, so I’m putting together a short film discussion of the movie, Vertigo.
I had a great chance to interview author and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet and attorney and film lecturer Robert Cumbow, in addition to my family. I even attended a 6-hour Cinema Dissection of Vertigo at the Seattle International Film Festival Center which gave me an even deeper understanding of the film.