“What Is the 100-Day Project? It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.”
But better late than never (the overall project ends in two weeks),
“Note: If you’re just now finding us, you can still participate. You can choose to join in and catch up if possible or start at Day 1 and finish at your own pace.”
It’s totally an honor system challenge and I have the perfect challenge for myself.
I’ve been thinking about my own work and how it compares to that of other illustrators whom I admire. I personally feel there is a sort of lack of polish in my work, and often an overabundance of unnecessary detail. It may not be a failing but it is something I have identified as something I’d like to address in my illustration work to get it to the next level. The problem is that I’m not sure exactly what it is that I need to fix. Lack of polish is a very loose description of a vague problem. On the other hand, it never hurts to work on streamlining and economy of line.
There’s no such thing as a “word count” in illustration but the idea is similar to trying to condense the work from, say, 4 pages of prose to a haiku. The careful selection of words—I mean lines. The exact right shape of an eyeball, the fewest lines necessary to create a contour. This is definitely no easy task for me. And since I don’t make enough time for needed practice and exercise…
My project for the next 100 days (whether it’s executed effectively or not) is to work on drawing simple yet complete illustrations. You can follow my progress on Instagram at the hashtag, #100DaysofSimple.
It would appear that I’ve fallen into a hole the past couple of months since the February drawing challenge. I kind of did. I’ve been busy with odds and ends and little things here and there, work projects, the end of school… And I called up my website just now to see my last image posted was a snowman. Hmmm that won’t do for the first day of summer!
So, here’s a a nice summer image. I’m calling it, “Gold From the Breakfast Tray.” If you’re at all familiar with my artwork, you’ll know I’m often inspired by music. The inspiration here is a lyric from the 10,000 Maniacs song, “Verdi Cries“. I’ve loved this song since I first heard it in the late 1980’s.
Natalie Merchant’s choice of words feels so nostalgiac and other-timely. It’s not what I’d call a mood piece from the 1980’s. So I chose to set my piece in 1910 at a Victorian-era rooming house by the sea. I’ve always listened to this song from the perspective of a carefree girl (who I picture much younger than a 20 year old Natalie) just doing as she pleases, not caring so much why the melancholy man in room 119 sat alone, listening to opera every day.
It also seems to have made a good bedtime song for my 4 year old daughter, who has been asking me to sing it to her every night for the last month (and yes, she posed for me.)
My own experiences, of course, influenced the piece’s mood. I’ve spent various wanderings in my life and stays in various places by various seas, enjoying morning light on the beach, sunny days running in the surf, and cool, late afternoon baths ending in slightly sandy, sunburnt naps on crisp white linen. There were bright colors, bright days, cool porches and halls, and brilliant, restful nights of wild stars and storms far out at sea. “Holidays must end, as you know…”
My three girls are staying the summer at this rooming house. They’re equipped for their next grand adventure in the dunes, E. Nesbitt-style with nets, pails, buckets… The blonde girl can’t resist curiosity anymore. Every day she’s passed this breakfast tray returned to the hall with a napkin-covered basket left un-touched. She’s finally stopped and lifted the napkin to discover the delicious pastries left untouched by the man in room 119. “Waste-not, want, not,” she decides and puts them into her picnic basket, pausing to sample one as the other girls call from the porch steps for her to hurry along.
Some technical details… I submitted my first pencil sketch for review on Facebook’s “PB Illustrators Critique Group” Got some great feedback and did some updating, re-sketching, and noodling of layouts in Photoshop. I then printed out the blackline at 20% on watercolor paper and painted over it. I really did NOT intend to do so much of this piece in actual paint (oh heaven forfend! ha.). I did put the whole thing back into Photoshop and messed around with some clean-up and lighting (yes, you can tell). I’m generally pleased with the results, though I feel like I lost a bit of detail from the original sketches. This is probably a good thing because when I color on the computer, not matter how hard I try not to, I always zoom in too much and spend too much time noodling sharp detail in the backgorund. Anyway, I think I will continue to work with this technique. Thank you to Sylvia Liu and Tami Traylor for further critiques and advice.
This piece was created, predominantly, for Susanna Leonard Hill’s “2nd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Illustration Contest For Children’s Illustrators!!!” with the challenge prompt, “Discovery,” and secondarily for the SCBWI’s new monthly showcase (which is not a contest or competition so a few of us decided it would be ok to also submit to SCBWI) called, Draw This! with the challenge prompt “Adventure.” (I believe they change the content of that link on the first of the month so it’s showing last month’s “Bounce” showcase for the next week or so).
I’m also making this illustration available to purchase as a print (contact me for the details). I’m aiming to have a “Prints” section of my Etsy shop on line by the beginning of July.
Now I just want a mojito… Cheers to the beginning of summer.
I admit it was a bit of a struggle to find time and energy to draw something every day for 28 days but it was a fantastic exercise and I’m ending the month more energized (and exhausted) than I began it.
Balancing home and toddlers (the boy is almost 22 months, the girl is almost 4) with trying to make time to work, there were days (days? who am I kidding – I was doing this pretty late at night!) when I was had to push through a wall and one day where I was just not feeling well at all. I had drawn “something” earlier that day for my daughter’s “homework” so that P for Pig had to suffice for day 25. Hey, I drew something. It counted!
I wasn’t always able to stick 100% to my topic because sometimes I felt like drawing something else. But that’s ok too. My main goal was to explore and grow and exercise. And then learn to manage the floodgates in the time allotted. Sometimes (like last night on day 28!) I just plum ran out of time and I had that Project Runway choice of “make it work” or start over at 11:45pm. Meh. It’s not perfect but that’s why it’s a sketch!
“Every artist has thousands of bad drawings in them and the only way to get rid of them is to draw them out.”
— Chuck Jones
Here is a great post from Art Director and fellow Artist, Giuseppe Castellano on the subjects of time, self-editing and personal resource management. This could not have been a more timely read for me. An excellent post which reminds me it’s probably time to have another look at The War of Art.
I also used to be one of those artists who had to have a completely clean space before I could begin. That’s probably some sort of metaphor for how I live my life. Anyway…
Thank you to fellow Artist, Autumn Seybert for including “Day 23, Toad King Welcomes Spring” in your #ThinkSpringArt series.
A gallery of the second half of my (mostly) holiday-themed submissions are posted below the social links. But I’m going to to continue posting my sketchings on Twitter and Instagram with occasional updates here on my website as usual. Stay tuned for some COLOR!
KidLitArt28 Day 15 Bit of a stretch on my holiday theme but meant for Rosh Chodesh.
I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m drawing “something” every day for 28 days. I have never drawn “something” every day before, and I don’t remember drawing more than one day in a row. If I did at all, it was because I was working on a particular project. Or maybe it was back when I was in college and I had a “sketchbook project” but I’m pretty sure I cheated at that one. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever done it.
And do you know what the best advice given with regard to improving your drawing skills is? Yep, it’s DRAW MORE! In fact, DRAW EVERY DAY. Keep a sketchbook. And I have ALWAYS sucked at that because I self-edit. I want to get it right the first time or I don’t want to waste the paper. Yes, I realize the irony in this because you can’t improve if you don’t practice. So maybe I wasted the paper afterall?
These two bit are the most important part of this challenge to me:
The topic for the chat on January 22nd was all about finding your voice as an illustrator. Our idea is to give y’all a chance to springboard yourselves further into finding the answer to that question.
Draw something every day for the month of February. (Or really, as often as you can.) The medium is up to you: traditional, digital, combined mediums-whatever works.
Because I just have so much free time to work with, I was (am) terrified of this challenge (it’s Day 16 today so I’m writing from just past the mid-point). So I kicked myself – why am I terrified of doing the thing I tell everyone I do? Well that’s silly! I guess, as usual, I’m afraid to fail. Which is also silly. Fail at what, exactly? If I miss a day, nobody cares but me. So ok, I figured I’d better do this thing.
First of all, I had no idea how to approach it or what I wanted to do. So I was off to a shakey start and posted a coloring card that I’d finished that day. I think the original sketch for that card is actually cuter than the card. At least, it would have been more appropriate to post the sketch based on where this actually went.
The next day, February 2nd, I sketched a tired groundhog, snapped a photo of it with my phone, and posted it. Hey, that worked pretty well. On day 3, I did an almost complete sketch for Tu B’Shvat (something like arbor day). I decided my theme was going to be holidays.
But then it went a little downhill. The week was so busy that I couldn’t find time to draw until very late at night. On day 5, it was literally 11:55. I said to my husband, “I can’t do this. Forget it, I’ll just draw two tomorrow instead.” And his response was “Be honest with yourself.” So I quickly scribbled out “something” just before midnight. A quick sketch of a boy writing a note. I figured I’d still draw something better the next day, but it turned out by the end of that night I’d only had time to complete one drawing. But it was pretty good. So I ended up retro-actively posting the scribbled boy. And I kind of feel more honest about that, just like my husband had said. Take THAT internal self-editor!
By the end of the week, I was finding a groove. There was no way in heck I’d be able to make time to finish anything or even work on the computer so my sketches would “appear” more finished like some artists are able to do. I started to content myself with beginning a sketch sometime between 9:30 and 11:00 at night and posting a smartphone snapshot to Twitter before or around midnight.
I know I shouldn’t be terribly surprised but I already see an improvement in my sketching. And I’m also working out time management. I’m starting to learn how long my sketches will take if they don’t put up a fight. And also importantly… (read the ending paragraph of the challenge:)
Our hope is that at the end of this challenge you will be able to look back at these sketches and see the stories, themes, and characters that appeal to you the most. With a bank of beloved topics, who wouldn’t be inspired to then create a new picture book, comic, or novel? Wouldn’t you want to take at least one of those illustrations further and see where they take you?
… while I’m not finding stories to write, I’m certainly coming up with work I hope to take to the next step and finish. This is more or less the same idea. So thank you Diandra Mae and Sylvia Liu for this most recent kick in the butt in the right direction. And for helping me figure out how to actually fill a sketchbook.
A gallery of my (mostly) holiday-themed submissions is posted below the social links. Posting half today and half at the end of the month. But keeping up to date with posting them on Twitter tagged #KidLitArt28 (click there if you want to see what other folks are posting).
Making kid's Coloring Cards for V-Day (this week's theme?).
The Challenge: Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays! Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words.
I started this challenge two weeks late because I was so busy with November stuff (like hosting Thanksgiving) that I missed the announcement. Because of Susanna’s boisterous encouragement (no pressure!), I promised I’d have… something. I couldn’t let her down.
So here it is with a very quickly sketched-out illustration and some backstory notes beneath.
Sometimes, a Pigeon
Nobody felt festive that December, not even the weather. Only days before Christmas, it was unusually warm in the city that should have already seen its first snowfall.
Danny sat on the stoop in front of his building sourly watching the crowds bustle past, narrowly but deliberately avoiding one another as they hurried through last-minute holiday errands.
A pigeon tumbled by, flapping frantically to free itself from a plastic milk-bottle ring stuck around it’s neck. Perhaps because he had nothing better to do—he certainly wasn’t feeling benevolent toward anyone let alone pigeons—Danny decided to rescue it.
The proprietor of the Christmas tree lot next door watched as Danny chased the pigeon around a lamp post for half an hour to no avail. Mr. Douglas, finally resolved to help.
After more unsuccessful laps around the lamp, Danny and Mr. Douglas were joined by a woman with accidental pink hair. Dulce was delighted to take a break from waiting on short-tempered diners.
The ridiculous ruckus inspired each passerby to set aside bags and bundles and join in the Great Pigeon Rescue, lunging, tripping, and colliding, until half of them were knocked to the sidewalk in gleeful piles of laughter.
The chaos was glorious. And, with each new laugh, the temperature dropped another degree.
Clumsily bumping a stately, loudly perfumed lady sideways, Dulce finally seized the pigeon. Danny slipped the ring off, and they let the bird go. Up it flew into the shivering clouds while the stately lady landed on Mr. Douglas in a shower of parcels.
Everyone held their breath as the stately lady’s eyes widened and her cheeks reddened.
“Are you all right?” Dulce asked.
Mrs. Latke’s surprise melted into a broad smile.
And then it began to snow. Boisterous peals of snow.
As people helped each other up, Mrs. Latke linked elbows with Dulce and whispered into her ear.
Dulce beamed and called, “Everyone! Come into the diner for hot chocolate. Mrs. Latke’s treat!”
Mr. Douglas was first inside. Everyone enthusiastically followed.
Danny paused at the door, shaking his head at the mirthful sky, and grinned.
Fresh from PiBoIdMo, I’d already been thinking about fleshing out a story idea I’d had about Thanksgiving (and I will absolutely still write that one). But I was already in the mood to write something about being too busy or preoccpied to be thankful. And I’ve been thinking about what the “Christmas Spirit” is all about. This translated quite easily to not feeling ready for the December holidays.
The story I started to write needed more like 700 words. Or a lot of pictures. I guess so far as I can tell, I write like an illustrator. In my mind, I’d managed to concoct a full city block of an apartment building, Christmas tree stand in a vacant parking lot, a diner, a Chinese restaurant, a grocery store, and a department store. Not necessarily in that order.
My cast of characters also included Mr. Douglas’s young daughter, a Salvation Army bell ringer, a young mother pushing a stroller, and a doorman (just to name a few). And of course everyone is in a foul mood. I described scenerios in my head where people were just rotten to each other. And of course, one by one, they each join in chasing the pigeon. I’m sure Alice Schertle might be able to write all this in 350 words (I counted and there are only 363 words in Little Blue Truck!) But I couldn’t. So I limited the story to just 6 main characters including the weather and the bird. Which is still kind of a lot.
I also wanted to make the characters inaccessible (except Danny) until they started to get into the spirit which is why I described them before naming them. With the length of the story, I’m not sure that actually translated. It probably is most noticable with Mrs. Latke.
Also, just for fun, the adult characters have full names. Mr. Fraser Douglas, Ms. Dulce Horner and Mrs. Penelope Latke
So I had a setting and characters but I kind of needed a plot that would make a good turnaround. I needed to make the weather laugh so hard that it changed and got in the mood too. I needed something ridiculous. And this very thing happened to me 22 years ago.
Yes I, myself, ridiculously chased a pigeon around the statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park for a good long time trying to get a bottle ring off it’s neck. I was ultimately aided by an older gentleman and a woman in a house dress and what I truly still believe was accidentally pink hair. I wrote it down back then and that story also made it into this blog if you look for it. I’d started off pretty grumpy too, so I suppose that Danny is really me.
Sometimes the best projects begin as collaborations. In the past year, JaegerThing1 (now aged 3.5) has been asking me to draw cards for her so she can finish them. Mostly, we’ve put them on her friend’s birthday presents but we’ve also starting doing a few holiday cards, get well cards, and cards for friends who have moved away. She likes to finish them by doodling completely over the text with markers and putting as maky stickers on the front as she can fit. You might think I’d have taken a photo of these to post but I didn’t becaue I hadn’t had this brilliant idea yet. So stay tuned for a photo.
But now, to tell you about my brilliant idea. I had been trying to come up with a downloadable file project for my Etsy store that involved creative kid crafts. I’ve been making cards for my daughter. Hmmm. Why not make a bunch of half-finished cards to post for other kids to finish at home? Am I brilliant (don’t answer that)?
There are a lot of coloring pages and coloring books out there created with that comfortable and easy-to-do hard black outline. I didn’t want to do that for multiple reasons. Primarilly, I wanted the card to look kind of like the kid drew the entire thing themselves. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it looks a lot nicer to me than that hard black line. Second, when I was a kid, I HATED coloring inside the lines. Without that hard line, you can color right over the outline it you want. And you can change it’s color.
Yes, the other kids made fun of me because I wasn’t neat and pristine with my inside-line coloring. I still remember standing on a chair in the hall outside my second grade classroom to help color my team’s craft-paper Halloween pagent backdrop, and my classmates demanding I stop because I wasn’t doing the nice neat horizantal line coloring they all were doing. I was totally messing it up. Ok fellow classmates, lessons learned. I don’t always follow the rules. I still went on to get a degree in scenery design after that. But I digress.
Third, you gotta get a gimmick! So Coloring Cards were born. I’ve started with a couple of autumny cards and will be making more for the winter holidays. I’ll be doing these for a very long time. If nothing else, I’m getting the illustration practice and learning what you shouldn’t attempt to do with a crayon (I mean on PAPER! I didn’t put the crayon up my nose, that honor goes to my one-year-old). Look for birthday cards, Valentines that work with Avery tear-off’s, and Thank You notes among many others I plan to post in the coming year. I’m currently offering cards on the same one-time purchase with and without inside greetings in case you want it blank inside. And you can print out as many as you want.
If you have any ideas for cards you’d like me to start for you or your child (or cards for holidays that I might miss like a Diwali card), let me know. If I decide to make them, they’ll be added to my store at the same low price ($.85!) as all of my other cards. To make the card, simply download the file to your computerand print it out on a letter size sheet of plain 8.5 x 11 paper. Fold the printed page in half from top to bottom, and then again from side to side. Go!