Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I HATE READING - Kickstarter project!

I just launched a new Kickstarter project called - "I HATE READING!" A humorous story of natural consequences, I HATE READING! teaches kids that reading is fun.

I've been working on this story on and off for many months but it wasn't working for the longest time. One day it just sort of clicked when I let the story play out the way it wanted to be told.

I'm going to be releasing it as an iOs app first (iPhone, iPad, iTouch) but if my kickstarter brings in enough money I'll be making a printed book as well. I'm having so much fun exploring the differences between print and digital development. I really like the idea of being able to tell the same story in both mediums but being able to go further with animation, sound, and the spoken word is just freakin cool!

For those of you who don't know what Kickstarter is allow me to do my best. Kickstarter wasn't the first "crowd funding" website but it is the only one (to my knowlege) that specializes in design, art, and publishing type projects. The idea is pretty simple. Instead of pitching an idea to a business or a business entity like a publisher - crowd funded sites allow you to pitch your idea to the public - online. The "pitcher" announces what he/she plans to produce and then through a series of rewards - invites "backers" to pledge money towards the products the "pitcher" is offering.

In my case I'm going to make an iOs app first (iPhone, iPad, iTouch) and a printed book second. In addition I'm offering small incentives like prints and drawings AND, other goodies to be announced along the way. And I'll let you guys know that I'm planning on giving away all of the additions to backers who pledge at the $65 mark for free. This is information that won't be found on Kickstarter right away.

This is an exciting way for me to fund my dream project which is what I HATE READING really is. It's my story because as many of you already know from reading this blog - I really suffered in school. I hated reading and school in general. If I were a kid now I would have no doubt been diagnosed with A.D.D and medicated. How many kids are suffering now because they're not being rewarded for the creativity they have waiting to be acknowledged?

If you have a minute you can check out my Kickstarter project here: click.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Miss Snow

Is there anything wrong with that? I realize that loving snow is probably politically incorrect...and I understand that by declaring my love for the cold I'm probably alienating myself from some of you. Just know that I won't judge you for hating the very thing that gets me going! I love the quite, the beauty it gives the landscape, the sound it makes under my feet as I hike, and the playground it provides.

I painted the penguin in Photoshop last night as I looked at the photos of melting snow I took yesterday. Only high level snow left for this year and it's getting harder to get to. I guess I'll have to wait for next year - score one for the snow haters -  but your days are numbered!

Below are a few of the photos I took this year on my daily hikes...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Too Much Frosting?

I've come to realize a few things about my illustration journey. Telling a visual story is number one and I've been way too busy working on number two- making it pretty. Don't get me wrong I love what I've been doing but what I'm talking about is having the sensibility to pull back sometimes and subjectively make logical decisions.

It began when I started seeing books from Mo Willems and how much attention they were getting 4-5 years ago. I have to be honest. I was trained in a more traditional illustration program so to put it bluntly I wasn't a fan- in fact I felt it didn't deserve all the hubbub. How could such simple primitive art be of equal or apparently greater value than mine? This is hard to admit because it more than suggests arrogance towards my art. I'm pointing the finger of shame at myself here.

Over time I've realized that I've had it totally backwards. It started by watching kids respond to books like: Don't let the pigeon drive the bus (which I had wrongly judged by the cover.) Kids love it! -but I was looking at the simple line work and primitive drawing with a critical eye. How could anyone fall for it? -but they were in droves! What I was missing is how well it communicates and draws kids in to Mo's magical world and now I realize - THIS IS OUR JOB!

The movie transformers also really helped change my mind. Sitting through 45 minutes of CGI had my skin crawling- it was over frosted! -too much of a good thing. Was I guilty of the same sin? And digesting Caldecott honor book "First The Egg" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger was enlightening. I had been basing my value judgements of children's books on small pieces of art taken out of context.  Now I've realized that the book IS the art and to take it apart and judge it is akin to rating a movie from a 5 minute section.

What really solidified my new found religion was getting a critique from David Small- Caldecott medal winner for "So You Want To Be President?" I asked his opinion and he kindly gave it. He said, "beautiful work but you don't give your reader any break from your full blown color!"..."it's like your trying to kill em with color!" Wow- how did he get it so right? I didn't want to kill em with color- I wanted to annihilate em with color!!! I used to think that if I crafted each image in my book better than the last- the viewer would love it too. Unconsciously I was creating my 45 min. of boring CGI. Frosting is great when applied judiciously...too much and you just want to scrape it off.

Now I look to illustrate the story first...if it calls for lots of color I'll use it but I'll also look to hold back at critical times so that the "frosting" tastes that much better!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do You Respect the Art of the Artist?

I suspect that most of us would never think of telling a neurosurgeon how and where to cut on a loved one. Instead we'd probably pray for and respect the expertise, professionalism, and yes, art of the physician. We want that same kind of respect with our own work. If your work is professional shouldn't you get that kind of respect? But how often do we boss the hair stylist? How overly involved do we get with cake decorators and interior designers? Do we respect the home plans that were designed by the architect? or do we ask the builder to take out this wall or change the size of that window? And what about the wedding photographer? Do we respect his/her ability to do what we saw in his/her portfolio? I guess what I'm saying is do we ask artists to do what they're good at or do we try to force them to do something they aren't comfortable with?

When I was illustrating for magazines and advertisements I was constantly amazed that there was often little or no respect given to my ability to create what the art director saw in my portfolio! I was so bothered by this lack of respect that I decided to try not to perpetuate this injustice. I found myself often telling the hairstylist, "Do what you think would look good on my head" (not that there was much hope anyway :) At nice restaurants I would ask the server to bring me what the chef was good at. Other times I've actually asked the chef to surprise me with what he/she would cook for him/herself.

 I guess I was rambling on in class one day about my thoughts on this subject and one of my very committed students took it to heart. Lee VanNoy Call who's work appears above and her husband Tyler found themselves at a Macaroni Grill one night. They asked to speak to the chef. A very worried looking culinary artist showed up and asked what they needed? Tyler spoke up and said, "I would like you to create whatever you like for me because I respect you as an artist and I'm confident that while I might not love what you come up with I'm sure it will be an enjoyable culinary journey apart from the normal path I usually take." (Or something pretty close)

The chef was dumbfounded. He couldn't speak. Finally he had to ask Tyler to repeat his request - after all he had grown accustomed to being treated like a drone, an order taker, a worker bee - certainly not as an artist and especially not like a surgeon. We profess to love art but how often do we allow artists to express their creativity? It's funny but when members of my family want to try my boxed leftovers from a restaurant they never ask what ingredients are in it - but when I cook for the family they always want to eliminate the very ingredients that were in my boxed leftovers. Have we become control freaks when it comes to art?

So the chef was overly careful to ask, "Are you sure you just want me to come up with something?" -and he did it repeatedly. Tyler met his concerns with multiple reassuring words - yes - yes and YES. So the dumbfounded chef retired to the kitchen. When their orders were brought they got a VIP treatment. (this, from a restaurant chain) The chef proceeded to explain what he had made. What ingredients were used. How they were used. Why they were chosen and so on. He was proud of what he had created and he wanted to share it. During the meal he re-appeared to find out if they were enjoying their meals - they were! It was a wonderful meal as they reported to me.

When they were finished he told them dessert was on the house - another off menu creation he made just for them! It too was amazing and a testament to the desire that artists have to give gifts to aficionados. The artist was surprised that his art was appreciated. The art appreciators were surprised at the overwhelming desire to please them by the artist. Why were two artists so surprised by something that should be very common?

If you give respect for artist's art - you might get respect for your art.  

Lee does some really cool DawgArt besides her illustration work - she was also accepted into the Society of Illustrators student show with the piece above!

Monday, May 7, 2012

SCBWI Chicago Conference Photos

I met so many wonderful and talented people at the conference - it was a real treat to be able to get to know them. I was inspired by their portfolios and enthusiasm for the craft of children's book making...a shout out to Tara Gartin for traveling 6 hours to get there - talk about commitment!

Martha Rago - associate creative director at Harper Collins was very gracious and open with sharing her knowledge of the business. She's the perfect spokes person for her company and the industry of children's books. I was honored to be able to get to know her and understand her thoughts combining art and words for children.

Janet and Terry organized a "first look" for illustrators. Each illustrator could submit one illustration before the conference to be critiqued by Martha and I in separate rooms. This was a great format in that neither of us had seen the art until is was flashed on the screen. We then had about 3 minutes to critique it. Nerve racking for me because I realized the impact this can have in someone's life and I wanted to make sure I didn't say anything that would be misunderstood or just plain wrong or unnecessary.

Janet McDonnell and Terry Murphy worked extremely hard at organizing and pulling off this event. My hat's off to them for their hard work - a dinner well deserved - OPAH!!!!

I got to go to Albert Whitman's offices and visit my editor and say high to the gang. When the secretary was in the bathroom I started answering the phones and pushing my books...that didn't last too long :)

They have funny cat's in Chicago - this one didn't like it when I grabbed his tail out side my hotel.