Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thank You!

Words can't begin to describe the feelings I've had over the past few years since making my first video tutorial: "How To Illustrate Children's Books". I've recieved hundreds of letters, emails, Facebook messages, etc thanking me for making that video and the subsequent videos I made afterwards. I get to chat with people everyday about their enthusiasim and renewed energy for working on their art projects.

With permission from James Horvath I'm sharing his letter because it really touched me yesterday - I'm glad I was home alone so my kids didn't see me get all mushy. My emotions come from the leftover feelings I have growing up in the shadow of academic achievers in my family and thinking that I would never be able to do anything important with my life. There really isn't anything better in life than knowing you make a difference - so I thank all of you for the kind words you've sent me in the past few years!

Hey Will

It's been a while since I downloaded and watched your video series, "How to Illustrate Children's Books". I just wanted to write to you and let you know how well your course has worked for me. 

I've been a freelance children's illustrator for many years. I worked primarily in the education market doing work for Scholastic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a few others. And while I've enjoyed some modest success, I always wanted to write and illustrate my own children's picture books.

About a year and a half ago I decided to get off my butt and actually do it, instead of just dreaming about it. I found your video course online and decided to spring for the $29.99.

I developed my story, worked on some sketches and sample art, basically, followed your process and submitted my dummy (an email with a PDF) to one publisher. A test run so to speak. I braced myself for the almost inevitable rejection that I was sure would soon follow. 

Instead, within 24 hours, I received a response with a very enthusiastic reply. That was on a Tuesday. By the end of the week I had a 3-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers. My first book comes out on April 30th. And is up for pre-orders at practically all major on-line retailers.

I just wanted to send you this note and say, "Thanks". I really do credit you and your course with outlining a path for my success. I would, and often do, highly recommend your video series to anyone looking to break into the children's book market.

Thanks again!
James Horvath
Congratulations James - I can't wait to buy your books when they come out and to brag that I might have played a tiny part in their creation. It's been a crazy ride with our Folio Academy project. We've now sold our videos in about 40 countries and counting. Never in my wildest dream did I think this would happen when we uploaded our first video a few years ago!

Monday, January 28, 2013

New iPad APP Composer Tutorial - Demibooks!

Great News! Folio Academy just released a new tutorial that teaches how to produce a children's story app using the Demibooks Composer software. Here is a link to the TUTORIAL.

Heidi Berthiaume gives a very in depth and clear tutorial on how you can take your story and art work and use the Demi Books Composer to create your own iPad app. You use your own iPad to download the free software from Demibooks. You import images and assets to your iPad and actually create the app on your iPad for the iPad - how cool is that? No programmer necessary. After you're finished you have a few options: you can choose to publish to the Apple app store on your own and/or submit your book to Demibooks Storytime and become part of a growing library of books from other indie developers AND McGraw Hill and Kane Miller. DBS - is promoted by Usborne Books.

In the first option you pay Demibooks $249 to get the digital file to upload to Apple - then every sale you make apple will pay a royalty of 70% to you. So, if you priced your book at $1.99 Apple would pay you roughly $140/sale. In this option you would also need to set up a developer account with Apple for $99/year. The cool thing is that they will hold your hand and do the submitting on your behalf!

Personally I feel that this is really worth it. I've already made back the money I spent on I EAT YOU! and then some from Talespring and my royalty is 50% with them. I would advise that you do everything in your capability to make your app appealing emotionally i.e. amazingly funny, cute, sad, gross, offensive, touching, etc. The time for A is for Apple is over.

The second option is really a continuation of the first - I just wanted to make sure that we discussed it separately. If you go through the development and publishing process in the first option and Demibooks likes your book they may decide to include it in their Storytime library. This is especially exciting because it's hard enough to get attention for your digital book without any extra "love". Demibooks curates it's library for artistic quality, story, and overall product integrity. In some ways this feels like a higher form of indie publishing and what I have been predicting for many months - that there will be collections developing online to help consumers find higher quality digital story books.

Here is a little on Hedi - creator of "Develop A Children's Book iPad App"

Heidi Berthiaume loves to create stuff - from websites to iPad apps to written stories to fan music videos. She spent fifteen years as an information architect providing instructional documentation for programmers and designers so they could develop applications and websites for businesses such as 3M, Hilton, and American Airlines (which paid the mortgage but was less fun than writing a novel and developing her children's picture book Bud the Bunny into an iPad app). The portal to all of her stuff is

I'll be doing an update post on "I EAT YOU!" in the not too distant future...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fun With Pooch

I'm working on a bunch of freelance projects at the moment but I can't show any of them to you :(

So you get a cat with a red cape riding Pooch. Pooch is my dog. I go hiking with Pooch almost everyday...and snap action shots just for fun.

And I've played with a few of them in Photoshop. I know - it's weird - but I'm weird - so....

I don't know why I like to draw other animals riding on my dog's back...I think it's ok as long as she doesn't find out.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cool & Warm Colors

I painted this as a demo for my digital painting class this semester at UVU. I really wanted to play around with a dramatic lighting situation.

One of the reasons I'm a big advocate of getting out there and seeing the world with your own eyes is the feeling you get and the inspiration to find a place for it in your work. I woke up to this last year in Utah's Goblin Valley last year - my tent was about 5 feet to the right.

So this is how I begin my sketches on my iPad. I call this the ugly stage. I'm basically making a "map" for me to trace and perfect on another layer. At this point I don't care about detail - just the raw elements and proportions. It's sketchy and loose but it will serve as my guide.

I'm using "Procreate" now because I can have a much larger file size then "Brushes"  - AND - I can rotate the "paper". That's a huge improvement. Down side: (why is there always a downside?) It's much slower than brushes. I'll be making an update video for my "Painting on the iPad" video tutorial that demonstrates how you can use Procreate for your workflow.

And this is the perfected sketch. I probably used about three more layers to get to this point reducing the brush size and increasing the value of my lines.

I think it's really neat to look at this part of the painting because it looks so dark and different than the part in the sunlight...similar to the photo I took. I added the color in Photoshop CS5.

I love light and shadow. You really can't have one without the other can you? I really like exploring with cool colors vs warm colors to see what interesting blends happen and the mood it creates.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oil Start - Photoshop Finish

One of the problems with digital painting for a lot of artists is that it's often hard to get the subtleties and happy accidents that traditional mediums provide.

One of the problems with painting in traditional mediums - like oils for instance is the lack of control or the tedious nature of finishing details - not to mention the fact that you can't undo, adjust color, or zoom in.

Of course the solution won't work for gallery painters or people who enjoy having originals but I had fun painting on this little oil painting in Photoshop. Originally I painted it on a gessoed board in a few hours in my University painting class but never got around to finishing it. So yesterday I thought - why not scan it and spend an hour in photoshop?

This is the original oil painting that I never had time to finish

You can see the flat strokes I made in the oil painting and the gesso texture.

 I used one stock photoshop brush - the flat blunt (bristle tilt).

and here is the same oil painting with the digital strokes added in.

My process is far from perfect. I don't do this sort of thing every day but it can give you an idea of what is possible if you wanted to start your paintings in oil and finish them digitally.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Teacher In Me

The teacher in me is excited to teach the student in you.
The teacher in me wants you to find out what you can do.
The teacher in me knows what it's like to have dreams come true and wants yours to come true too.

The teacher in me is afraid you won't do what you need to do - but the teacher in me is still rooting for you.

The teacher in me lives through your triumphs.
The teacher in me knows you will fail again and again but prays you won't quit.

The teacher in me can't wait to see the teacher in you.
The teacher in me wants to be taught by the teacher in you.

Classes begin for me again today at UVU and I love it! I get so much out of teaching. Last semester in my children's book class I gave my students the option to work on story apps. A hand full went in that direction and it was really fun to see what they came up with. We didn't have time to work on their stories since it is an illustration class so they lack some of the polish that taking a children's writing class would provide - but they learned by doing and are that much further along.

Here are a few of the apps they created last semester...but one is missing :(   Alicia VanNoy Call had her (TOTALLY AMAZING) app rejected by Apple twice because it didn't have enough animation/interactivity. They wanted her to publish it as an iBook but she doesn't want to do that for various reasons - so it's in limbo at the moment.

I will really miss this group of kids - we really had a lot of fun!

Kitty Wants by Ginny Tilby (pink sweater) - check it out! 

Ricky the Fortune Cookie by Jared Salmond (second goof from the right) - check it out!

Jumping Jackie by Kari & Von Brimhall - check it out!

Jumping Jackie is from my long time college friends Kari & Von Brimhall - They did an amazing job animating their app using ...if you want to see what's possible at Talespring you should check out their app! I love their enthusiasim for creating ebooks and story apps. Kari is a homeschooler who's kids are flying the coop and doing very well at college and now she and Von are living out their dreams creating for the pure love of it. They are one step ahead of me in that they already created a website to showcase their titles called instant sunshine.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ask For An Honest Critique

Oh, and don't buy American.

What? Don't you care about your country?

Of course I do - but supporting manufacturers because of geographic location or membership in a group is devolutionary.  Good products come through trial and error and plenty of failure. Good companies too. Products are like living organisms and giving artificial unearned support will only weaken a product by providing positive feedback for poor performance and secure mediocrity. If you really want a company to evolve you should only support them when they have earned your business. In nature if an organism can't cut it - it get's replaced.

So shouldn't we want the same for our books, art, illustration, animation, ebooks, and story apps? Shouldn't we wish for an honest critique even thought what we hear or read might be very painful? Of course we want a 5 star review and a description that will send customers flocking to our _______, but what if it's undeserved? How do you feel when you watch, read, or use something you bought because of a good review - only to be disappointed later? We are fast becoming a society that relys on reviews more than ever. With more products and services available online we often buy items that we don't get to experience until they reach our doorstep or tablet.

If you and I want to survive and thrive we need to create - get good feedback - make changes and create again - repeating this process over and over. We shouldn't get caught up in trying to game the system with "like me" - "vote for me" - "give me a good review" or "give me a 5 star rating". This is time WELL wasted! If your product doesn't cause an emotional change in your target audience you failed - isn't it wonderful? Wonderful because you did it! Rather than trying to peddle a bike with flat tires make a new bike - one that's pumped up and ready to go. Ask for an honest critique so you can evolve and say "thank you."