Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Family Plot in my Book!

My new book Skeleton For Dinner by Margery Cuyler takes place in a graveyard. So I put tomb stones on most of the pages of art...and then an obvious problem hit me. There were no names on the head stones. So I placed a call to my editor - Nick Temersma at Albert Whitman and said, "ummmm...what should we put on the grave markers?"......."hello".....Then Nick said, "I don't know - what do you think?" Having been around this business for a while I've learned that it's better to have a solution that works for you when you call with a problem. So I suggested, "What if we put our family names on all the tombstones - I could put yours, mine, Margery's..." Eventually the answer came back, "Sure, sounds good". 

I had enough markers to put names from both sides of my family, my mom, my editors, and authors family names, and all the dogs I've had over the years - including pooch who is still very much alive but hey - never hurts to think ahead.

What better way to start October than with a cheesy pitch from Will Terry and a copy of Skeleton For Dinner? Click here for Amazon

Here's a review from Kirkus

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Teaching Has Given Me!

I've been teaching on and off now for the past 20 plus years. At first I was petrified. In fact I really feel sorry for the first students I had back in the early 90's at BYU - I wasn't very good at my craft which caused my teaching to suffer. I hadn't put in enough time to formulate my opinions about image creation.

Fast forward to today - boy am I glad I didn't quit after those first few teaching experiences! I strongly believe in exposure therapy. Afraid to skydive? Go skydiving a bunch of times. I really believe that if you're committed to helping your students learn it will improve your understanding of the subject 10 fold - especially in a subjective subject like art.

The process: You do something that's working in your painting. You have to explain it to someone else. You have to formulate words to describe your process. You hear your own words like you've never heard them before. You make a stronger connection. You make other connections to other principles. You now have to live by those principles for accountability to your students. Your art making improves. Rinse & repeat.

But is doesn't stop there. Because as you help someone else attain the satisfaction you have gained you are rewarded emotionally as well. The connections are so much a part of the teaching. Feeling like you can make a difference in the lives of others is priceless. I have made many friends over the years from some of my former students- and can you have too many friends?

And it doesn't stop there either because it has helped me heal. I've talked about my horrible public school experience as a child here on my blog in the past so I won't go into it again - but finding what you're good at and feeling valuable doing it has been very therapeutic.

I can't begin to tell you how rewarding it has been to teach at UVU and be able to start Folio Academy with Wayne Andreason and now SVS with Jake Parker. To be able to dream up a class and offer it online is such an amazing turn for me. When we get together the ideas just start flowing and we think of all kinds of classes. Early next year we plan to offer a  "Luminous Color & Light" class. You can check out our Digital Painting class here.

My suggestion to artists: Start by mentoring another artists or volunteer at a community art program. Donate your time at various art events and offer pointers. You'll be amazed at how it will inspire you to want to create more...and you might find yourself teaching at an institution or online sometime down the road. The world is getting connected and if you embrace it - it will embrace you.

The image above was created for both my UVU Children's book class & my SVS critique class. I gave both groups the same assignment and I decided to solve it as well - too much fun!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 5

 Adding color using Photoshop!

Making progress! I have the opening screen finished! I'm now adding color to all the pages. This step is going to take me a while so don't think that I've quit if you don't see step 6 for a few weeks. I had to make sure that every screen/page was working with the story and that the animations made sense. The last thing I want to do is start my finish work before the framework is in place. It's much easier to alter a sketch than a painting and if I were doing this 10 years ago (even though there was no such thing as an iPad) I would have most likely started on the color before I was ready.

So the way it will work is that the user will be prompted to touch Gary at which point he disappears into his hole and hopefully entices the user (kiddy) to want to know where he went and what it looks like down there.

If you're new to my blog you can scroll down to see my first steps on this journey - and I haven't forgotten that I plan to share all my stats with you when I put this baby in the app store. I'm always so curious to know how other peoples apps are doing - but nobody shares that info - like it's classified or something...think of me as your own personal Eric Snowden - I'm going to leak all the intel on my app - good or bad - we'll all see how it does.

I'll be making my app with Kwik - the DIY Photoshop plugin that allows a non-programer to create their own code behind the scenes of this wysiwyg. Our Kwik class starts tonight - can't wait!

Check out my first steps:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SVS - Painting in Photoshop POWER DAY!

I'm so excited to announce our
On Saturday, October 26, 2013 we will be offering an all day online live class taught by 4 different illustrators/animators. In addition the class can be picked up for half price in video recording version for those who couldn't get into the Complete class. We think this will be a really great way to get lots of ideas of how to use the tools in Photoshop since each artist will have a different approach.

I'll be teaching first and then co-teaching with the other 3 artists in their sessions. Then the following week I'll have a follow up one on one session with each person in the Complete class. We can use this time to paint on one of your paintings or drawings, critique, or talk shop - it's your time to decide how to use it.

For those who are brand new to photoshop the Complete class comes with my "Beginning Painting in Photoshop" video tutorial series at so you won't feel lost in the class.

Since there is NO assignment in the class you do not need to currently own photoshop to attend. Each artist will be presenting their methods of working as they demo in Photoshop. While they work I'll be fielding questions and working them into the conversation as we did in our "Illustration for Storytellers" class.

In all I chose each artist for their unique style and career success. Zac and Brooke are brand new in the children's book world and both are having great success in a short period of time. To me this is a huge benefit to be able to learn just how they did it! I often get asked for advice on breaking into this business but I'm an old guy - these guys have done it in today's ecomomy!

Zac Retz- was born in New York, in 1991. Zac works mostly digitally. Completed his BFA in illustration from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2012. Since then Zac has illustrated a best selling children's book, Too Much Glue. He now works full time at Workinman Interactive making Disney and Nickelodeon games. He continues to work on many concept art freelance projects,  illustrate children's books, and his own projects. 

Brooke Boynton Hughes- has a BFA in printmaking from Colorado State University and an MFA in figurative art from the New York Academy of Art.  She currently lives in Fort Collins, CO where she illustrates children's books, goes hiking with her husband, and wrangles two bouncy dogs and a chatty grey kitty.  Brooke's first book, Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan (published by Disney/Hyperion), will come out in the fall of 2014.  She also has two picture books coming out in 2015 (Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi, published by Beach Lane Books and MORE! by Linda Ashman, published by Random House).  Visit Brooke online at

Kevin Keele- has always enjoyed creating artwork in many forms: drawing, oil painting, digital painting, sculpture, even stained glass and pumpkin carving. His work has been featured in numerous picture books, magazines, board games, video games, and novel covers.
Kevin is currently an artist for Disney Interactive. He lives in Utah with his wife and two sons. They’re the caretakers of one cat, three chickens, and thousands of Italian honeybees.

To learn more about the class click here!

If you would like to be placed on our "advance notice" list for future classes please send me an email at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How To Make A Story App - Step 4

Step 4 - Work on character sketches, Interior sketches, and animations.

If you're new to my blog you might want to scroll down to see my first steps...and keep in mind that I'm making this up as I go - I really don't know what I'm doing but I'm going about this as systematically as possible. I'm using my experience from illustrating children's books to guide my process but apps are a whole new beast so we'll see if this works out. Right now I have the entire app sketched out and am now checking all of my animations to make sure they work and communicate.

The hard part was figuring out what to animate but more importantly what NOT to animate. I really want this app to be able to do more than a book but I don't want to get into full blown animation. I like the idea of page breaks to let the reader fill in the missing visuals with their mind - so not getting caught up in time consuming non-important animation is key to making my self imposed deadline and keeping my sanity.

PLUS! I'm NO animator - This is the first time I'm taking a serious crack at it so I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. The little guy above is my main character and I'll be able to re-use this animation over and over in my story. Of course I still have to paint him so my work isn't finished but you can see that even an old illustrator can learn new tricks - I made a video tutorial on how to prepare this kind of artwork for a story app here.

Alex Sousa is going to show us how to make these kinds of animations work in Kwik in our upcoming class that begins in a few weeks. We still have a handful of slots left for the live class but many are opting for the LITE video recordings of our class.

Check out my first 3 steps:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 5.5
Step 6
Step 7
Steps 8 & 9