Saturday, January 29, 2011
So anyway, I had such a great response to my "How to Illustrate Children's Books" video series that I decided to make another series that explains in detail how I paint in Photoshop. I've had many requests over the last few years to actually make a tutorial on painting in acrylic but I never got around to it. So about a year ago I was introduced to digital painting by Jed Henry - a young illustration graduate and promising new upstart (He's already sold two books to major New York Publishers. His generosity in helping me learn how to re-create my acrylic style digitally will never be forgotten! So I'm sorry to report that I probably won't be doing any tutorials in acrylic painting but you never know.
In these videos I go from sketch to finish describing processes like: making and importing a texture, under-painting, value, brushes, layering, design, and many other aspects of coming up with your own personal way of thinking and working. If you want to know how I paint from start to finish you might be interested in these videos.
Just to be clear - these videos are not a general "How To" in Photoshop but rather a "How Will Terry fumbles his way into a digital painting with a very limited knowledge of photoshop" In other words you could say these are photoshop videos for dummies like me. I try to use as few tools as possible because part of my philosophy is simplicity and reduction lead to purity and essence.
Above is the digital painting that I start and finish in the videos so if you hate that painting DON'T BUY THE VIDEOS! :) Click here to purchase the videos.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Ok, This is totally embarrassing but I'm putting it up here because it fits with the whole children's book theme of this blog. Be prepared - you're going to see some bad acting. Someone long ago should have told me to take acting courses because you almost need those skills to keep kids engaged...either that or just act stupid. My sister Ellen is a reading specialist in Maryland and she's always telling me how lame some peoples school visits are. In her words, "No, Will, you have no idea...the guy read in a monotone voice material that was way above grade level and had no pictures to show"..."Then he talked to 1st graders like they were adults...the kids were squirming almost as much as the teachers!"
So, enter my series, "Drawing For Kids". My idea was simple - use the fast evolving internet marketing idea of providing value and driving traffic to your website. Seems simple but in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "This is a lot of effort with no guaranteed return."
Earlier last year I had a conversation with myself and decided to agree on a mission statement for myself. What we came up with was less than earth shattering but satisfying for me and the voice inside: 1) Create the best art I can. 2) Be smart with my time. 3) Provide value to the world. 4) Help others to realize their dreams.
The rules are simple but not always that easy to follow. But making these videos clearly fit into number 4 so I decided to put them out there for free and hope that teachers could find them.
I'm not going to pretend that I'm not hopeful that by having my books and website in the background I sell more books and get more paying school visits - but the main purpose of these videos is to teach children. I've seen too many attempts to create value but then muck it up with a crass commercial interruption that leaves the viewer feeling like the whole thing was a waste of time. Anyway Making this took the better part of a weekend and now that they are finished I can sit back and smile every time a teacher sends me their students artwork - so far three different teachers have sent in their students work - that's a huge payoff!
You can view all 5 videos here: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=0455BA1360AC306D
Also I have a new teacher section on my website: http://www.willterry.com/kidscourse.html
Friday, January 14, 2011
Disclaimer: I'm no expert here - but I have to share what I've learned both as encouragement and as a warning. The encouragement is to help you find the motivation to start publishing your stories and illustrations digitally. The warning is that if you don't do it soon you might have regrets in a year or two or sooner.
I've been doing a lot of reading of various blogs and web pages about self publishing digitally and most agree that we are seeing a change in publishing the likes of which we haven't seen in our life times. Until now the gate keepers have been large traditional publishers. They held the keys because they could afford to put up the tens of thousands of dollars to print large runs of picturebooks. Also, they had established complicated distribution channels that an individual author/illustrator would be hard pressed to compete with. Most of this hasn't changed. The day of the large publisher is definitely NOT over and I'm glad - I like the publishers I work with and most of them have been very good to me.
What has changed is how inexpensive it is to publish your work which means that one of the two cards publishers held has evaporated. Now the only real advantage a large publisher has is a distribution channel. I'm not underestimating how important this channel is either. Large traditional publishers have relationships with stores that you and I do not. They have publicists working for them to promote our books and editors to polish the final products. They have customers that they've established long before you or I ever worked with them. They know the business better than us. They submit our books to all the major book awards and from what I've been told that list is well over 200. Imagine trying to research, compile, address, and pay for 200 give away books and shipping just to put them in the hands of jurors who probably won't pick your book anyway. And I'm sure there are a lot more things that they do that I'm overlooking.
Having Said all that - I still see a huge opportunity that isn't going to last forever. Like the Oklahoma pan handle rush of 1889 there was opportunity for a limited time and then it was OVER. For the first time in our lives a new platform is emerging that is giving the early birds a distinct advantage. I'm sure that you've all thought about ebooks - I have been for the past year or more. However, I never realized how important it is to be first to market until I started reading and researching. It only takes an hour or so poking around on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to see self published books doing extremely well. One in particular featuring a dragon has been flirting with number one in ebooks on B&N for the last month.
If you've been reading my blog you know that I just published my first ebook - Monkey & Croc and that it's doing pretty well on B&N. The only reason it's doing as well as it is - is because of the lack of competition. Right now there are a little over 500 ebooks for children ages 3-5 on B&N. Crazy right? Think of how many thousands of books there are in hard copy in that group. Look, I don't even own an ereader but you can't ignore this new format - it's coming on strong. Amazon says that for any particular book that they sell in physical format - they sell 48 digital copies of the same book. That number is growing every month.
Aside for being early to market you can afford to sell an ebook for only a few dollars because the only cost you have is your time. Right now the big publishers are selling their ebooks in most cases for about the same price as their hardbacks. This is another reason to get your book to market quickly. While they sell their books high - we can sell ours low and create an advantage for the buyer. Think about it...if you bought a new ereader or ipad and you wanted to load it with content wouldn't you gamble on a few unproven $2 and $3 books since the alternatives are $12.99 books that you might already own?
My belief is that if you can create a following due to timing - your book could gain the kind of momentum that could build a franchise. If this happens there's also a good chance that a traditional publisher would want to buy your book and print hard copies. Another option is that you incorporate a print on demand publisher and offer hard copies on your own. Either way the future is bright for self published books. I think that there will always be a place for large publishers but now there is a much larger place for self publishers.
Some drawbacks: You won't have the benefit of an editor and this places a great responsibility back on your shoulders. My suggestion is to acquire the help of a professional writer and/or join a critique group that can help you polish your story. Another obstacle is finding software that will easily let you turn your jpeg images into an ebook. This was a very frustrating process for me and without the help of my brother in law I don't think I would have been able to release Monkey & Croc. There has been talk about Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Itunes holding back publishing software and only releasing it to large publishers. Monkey & Croc suffered a bit with a few minor hiccups because we couldn't get that software. I think that this will soon change as open source programs become available. Where there is a need someone will fill it.
I published Monkey & Croc on Barnes and Noble's Pubit.com site. They take 35% of every sale but they give you an account for free and you can check your sales in your back office any time you like. It's neat to go in and check every day or so. My friend Julie Olsen and her husband Rhet are developing an app for Monkey & Croc for the itunes store.
Finally for those who don't think that parents won't turn their kids loose with an expensive ereader to beat up you're right. However think of the advantages - Carrying an unlimited amount of picturebooks on a plane, train, or automobile will keep kids passified much longer than the few books parents can carry in hard copy form. And how nice will it be for the parents who have long commutes with children in tow to and from day cares. How long do you think it will be before they develop the kid proof ereader? I suspect it's around the corner.
At the beginning of my illustration career I was asked to complete an illustration about email - I asked the art director, "What is email". It's happening now.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
I don't know if you can see it but that little boy has an artist trying to find it's way out. My parents should have known when I took apart my brand new transistor radio. My sisters should have known when I removed their barbie doll heads - it wasn't that I took pleasure in the removal of the heads. It was seeing how many different reactions I could create in their emotions. By the time my motor skills really developed I painted my masterpiece - Three barbie dolls owned by three different sisters all coming off at the same time. Magnifique!
Without boring you with all the details I had a pretty typical American exposure to art in junior high and high school. I was always pretty good but there were always those who were much better.
Making it into college was a challenge - I really didn't fit in the one size is supposed to fit all public school system. I had quite a bit of trouble with reading comprehension, science and history always netted below average grades and forget about math...that left art and music...the only two bright spots on my report card.
On the other hand the little girl in the picture was destined for academic honors...if you look close you can see that she knows it too. :) (Love you Beth- look what she does!)
So on to college and more bad grades in english, history, science, and math - what's new right? Art on the other hand was still keeping me in the game with my grades. Kind of like adding base to acid. (I did remember that from science class)
Then...upon applying for the BFA at BYU I distinctly remember hearing the earth crack as I was barely allowed in on probation. PROBATION???!!! in art??? but I'm supposed to be good at art - at least that's what everyone had been telling me. How could this be? If not art then what?
I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my past effort had taken me as far as I could coast. It was time to admit that I wasn't the savant I thought I was. That I had to get to work - that I had to humble myself and start listening and learning from my teachers - mainly Richard Hull and Bob Barrett - also Rob Colvin. If not for them I wouldn't be able to enjoy a successful illustration career. (Ironically I was later hired to teach part time at BYU by Richard Hull)
One of the reasons I wanted to release my "How To Illustrate Children's Books" video series is to help others learn those very important principles that can be the difference between success and failure. I know how frustrating it is to wallow in depression when a piece doesn't work out....when you spend a lot of time on an image and you wish you had never started it. I know what it's like to try to talk yourself into liking your own work. And I know what it feels like when you show a new piece to someone and their facial expressions just can't lie as good as their lips....and how when you work and re-work a piece and re-work it some more you want to smash it and scream. Been there. I'll admit it I've shed real tears over my art and I don't cry very often...although "Driving Miss Daisey" gets me every time.
I wanted to post this as encouragement to my fellow artists - and leave you with this: I've realized that all those frustrations, emotions, disappointments and tears have led to one happy camper. I love my job. :)
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I made these videos while my kids played xbox and my wife caught up on her reading. It was a choice between relaxing doing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and taking my turn cooking OR...Making a video series. It was a toss up - on one hand I'd get the satisfaction of cleaning and watching my kids mess it up again or creating something that I've been thinking about for quite some time.
I've put quite a bit of work into my college picture book class but I always thought I could do more with it. In class the images that I show are static and often leave me feeling that I could have done better. Video is a much better medium for showing someone exactly what you mean in many cases. Don't get me wrong - I demo in my classes but sometimes you just aren't prepared or equipped to do exactly what you want. I've tried to include just about every aspect of the children's book making process in this series to provide viewers with a basic knowledge of what they need to work on.
It's definitely not perfect but I'm proud of the work I put into it and hope that it brightens the lives of those who want to learn more about narrative illustration. Perhaps this isn't your cup of tea but if you know anyone who might appreciate it send them a link - I can't wait to get feedback!