Yes yes I know, I didn’t exactly adhere to the rules but I DID start and finished with Copic Multiliner black and Dr. Ph. Martin white. And then I colored them all in with colored pencils.
The point really was to challenge myself. I decided to work on storytelling by aligning the Inktober prompt words with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Limiting the space to 2 x 3 inches helped me to work on improving perspectives, angles, and framing without feeling overwhelmed by a big blank piece of paper. I was also able to gauge how long a full color illustration this size took to finish. A few risks – as in “stop thinking about it and just go for it!” payed off and my confidence level improved. I think I still need to simplify a little, fine-tune my color choices and keep practicing techniques. I also noticed my character’s eyeballs are not consistent from piece to piece but seem to work with the mood of what I was drawing. I did manage 31 drawings in 31 days so I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.
I also learned a bit about words and Shakespeare. Many of the prompt words were not common vernacular in Shakespeare’s time, only dating back to the early 1800’s. Some words were in use but meant something completely different, and Shakespeare actually invented one of the words!
All of my Inktober illustrations are in the gallery below, but I’m arguing with the technology trying to caption them. For now, I can have a slideshow or I can have captions. So I gave up and just went with slideshow, although hovering over the thumbnails will show you the keywords and quotes. If you’d like to learn more about the individual illustrations, each of my Instagram posts contains the Inktober prompt word, the name of the play and quote that I illustrated and some other microbloggy details on the hashtag, #inktobershakespeare.
As always, all of my pieces are available for purchase as originals, prints, or greeting cards. Just ask me!
You are unique and you have a voice – Sarah Davies
Let’s talk about the VOICE (not the TV show, although it’s probably relevant, I just don’t watch it so I wouldn’t know). I’ve been pondering this topic long before it was on the roster at the 2017 SCBWI Mid-Atlantic conference this past autumn. Here’s a brief synopsis of two presentations, one geared towards illustrators and one towards writers. I believe both presenters assumed that we are already vocalizing and seeking to fine tune our voices.
Mr. Castellano began by discussing style (he hates that word) as “informed interpretation” and what that means in an illustration — how do we use our experience of [what we are attempting to illustrate] towards successful execution. We talked about finding the concept behind the illustration and did a few exercises to work on finding the base concepts. These exercises reminded me of a game we used to play back in college that we called “Metaphysical Win, Lose, or Draw!” If you’re familiar with the original home game, it’s basically the same except that the concepts we had to successfully convey couldn’t be nouns. Essentially you have to figure out how to draw “cold,” or “abundance,” or “spiritual,” (you get the idea).
Mr. Castellano also showcased examples of successful illustrations that represented both a focus on the concept, as well as successful crafting techniques. He explained that skill in drawing is the foundation of illustration, but the choices you make in conceptualizing your illustration with regard to the structure and layout, and the techniques you chose to employ will ultimately determine how effective your final work will be. He discussed conveying a message using clean techniques in gesture, directional stroke dynamics, and line weights; positive and negative spaces (particularly negative); choice of color palette; and how “pops of color” stand out from a limited color palette.
Final words of wisdom: Draw with conviction. Have faith in your abilities and your work. Don’t worry about what you think something is “supposed” to look like or let self-doubt show. The simplest decisions ultimately tell the best stories.
I really wish I could have recorded Sarah Davies’ presentation on Saturday morning because I wasn’t fully awake. I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s because I’m still halfway still in dream territory – but I find that whomever gets that 8:45am slot at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference always delivers the most fascinating presentation. Anyway I really hope Ms. Davies gets tapped for a TED talk because her presentation would just be so perfect for it!
Ms. Davies jumped right into the use of voice with comparisons to (and demonstrations of!) her own experience as a singer to illustrate how an author can find their narrative voices as well as those of their characters. She gave well-structured point-by-point suggestions so I’m going to bullet some of them.
“Develop your ear,” by reading outside your comfort zone – including and especially genres you wouldn’t necessarily personally like.
Really listen to the artistic choices other authors make in their choices of words such as using repeats for emphasis, cadence, and phrasing.
Think about how you can effectively bend or break rules, for example using double negatives to define a character’s voice.
Teach yourself to listen to your characters’ voices by telling (not reading) your stories out loud, acting out the parts using different voices for and from your characters.
Get to know your characters well enough to be able to speak with their voices.
Consider how different characters, for example a child and an adult, speak about the same thing from different points of view?
Ms. Davies also showcased examples of successful writing and discussed techniques for crafting an effective finished piece. One example was a flow of abstract to concrete concepts in entering a narrative which, to me, is exactly like a gradient of negative to positive space shown in abstract to concrete terminology! Other techniques Ms. Davies discussed were in finding the silence between words (hmm negative space again!); being concise and clear with word choices to convey a sensory or emotional experience; finding different ways to show and not tell – to paint a picture with words; adding rhythm; and sharing the storytelling with other voices.
Ms. Davies also gave the usual recommendation of daily practice – she called it playing or sketching – for 20 minutes each day. But specifically in order to help find and fine-tune our voices, she suggested experimenting in writing everything from every conceivable genre and from every conceivable perspective in order to explore what approach we would take to it.
Final words of wisdom: Write without restraint. Take Risks. Give yourself permission to fail. Write with passion. “A strong voice helps you stand out in a snot green ocean of boring”
So What is Voice? How do I want to use my voice? What do I want to say and how do I say it? How can you tell that voice is mine?
In my last post I’d said that VOICE was going to be a blog post unto itself. What I really meant was that I’ll have to kick it off in a blog post unto itself but as it’s my creative word of this year, I’m going to talk about finding my own voice in my own art frequently throughout 2018. I think that in order to find and fine-tune my voice, I’m going to have to snap my perspective and approaches like a glow-stick – to break out of what it’s SUPPOSED to look like, sound like, be like – shake things up a bit and see what shines #snapshakeshine.
About the illustration. Originally posted December 14th 2017 on Instagram: Sketching before coffee today. No graphite. I envy folks who can make the time and have the focus to draw everyday. 🎨 My work is good but it’s not where I want it to be yet. Still, I’m always learning and growing, and hoping to push that snowball to the next level in 2018. #snapshakeshine
For Artomatic, we’re reviving the Artist Interviews. These are written interviews that will appear only on our Facebook Page. Please keep your responses in the question & answer format.
1) Who are you and how long have you been an artist?
Mishka Jaeger: I’ve been an artist since I could finger-paint with my mashed peas and pureed chicken. I love creating and I’m scatter-brained. I’m not sure if that’s a bug or a feature because my media are inconsistent. In general, I like telling stories through my art. My focuses are children’s’ book illustration, women, food, music, and spirituality.
2) What medium(s) do you work in & why?
Right now it’s colored pencil. I didn’t realize I liked it until fairly recently. I’d been struggling with mixing watercolor and digital art with moderate success but I’m not really a watercolorist. In 2015, I began a series of illustration challenges where I needed to work faster and be more portable so I thought I’d give the pencils a try. Turns out they’re awesome!
3) What is your creative process like?
See “scatterbrained.” I tend to have too many ideas at once and many projects in the works at one time. I’m working on dialing in the focus and boiling everything down so I can be a bit more prolific. But I don’t really rough sketch. What purport to be my sketches tend to be more polished (which is why I’m showing some of them in my AoM display), and my sketchbook tends to look more like a journal. I often write out what I intend to draw instead of rough sketching because with rough sketching, I can’t always read my own visual handwriting later on. Once I’ve got a sketch that I like, I usually put it on the computer and noodle the layout around until I like it. A varying process of printing, light-boxing, inking, and re-digitizing are involved to clean up the lines. I use colored pencil over a 10% K-tone printout. I outlined this process in a little more detail while creating Art Deco Cinderella on my website blog in September 2015 (“Enchanted: A 1920’s Cinderella”).
4) What is the best art-related advice you’ve received?
Really it’s from Jane Yolen who is an inspirational master of organization, focus and creation, and a phenomenal human being and author. Her main thing is “butt-in-chair.” That is to say, you need to do the work. You can’t do anything if you don’t do the work. After that, it’s that art is a business and if you want to succeed at it, you need to treat it as such.
5) What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
I still have small children at home, so actually finding the time, energy, and focus to do the work is a challenge. Apart from that, my challenge is to generate a following and then monetize my work (you wanted honesty, right?). I need to tell a better story so that people want to hear more from me. And then I need to tell it louder.
6) Choose one piece that you currently have on display at Artomatic and tell the story of that piece:
I’d been working through the 100 Days project when I had the privilege of attending a workshop with yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch who turns 99 years old this August. She told us many stories about her childhood in India between the wars. One of her more popular stories was that she’d lie on the ground and listen to the grass grow. She said she could really hear it. That story inspired the first of my Little Yogi illustrations, and I drew my version of a young Tao lying and listening to the grass. Later that week while cleaning out my 20 years of magpie-collected papers, I turned up a bookmark that read, “I breathe in and out and my whole body calms down.” It was fortuitous. Now there are two things I strongly believe we need to do to live happier, healthier lives. The first is to get a good night’s sleep (and I’m still not so good at that). The second is pausing to breathe mindfully. It gives you time to think before you act, and deep, slow breaths do calm you down. So “Breathe” became my next Little Yogi. Now you can have a card to remind you to breathe too. Pick one up in my AoM space #3402 behind the theater.
7) What is your favorite part of the Artomatic experience so far?
It is always meeting new local artists, seeing what they’re working on, seeing what we have in common, and learning from their work and creative processes.
This year I swore I wasn’t going to enter the Tomi Depaola competition again. It was too much aggravation and hassle the last couple of times. I’d put it off until the last minute because it wasn’t a priority – until, of course, it suddenly was. Like many of my peers, I also got the distinct impression that “Tomie just doesn’t like my work” (don’t ask why we all feel that way – chalk it up to artist’s insecurities). Lastly, Mr. Depaola has been frustratingly less than punctual on his end of the deadlines as the quality of the work always makes it hard to pick a winner. It’s his competition. *shrug* So I wasn’t going to do it.
And then I read the prompt:
One of the biggest and most important challenges the Children’s Book Illustrator faces, over and over again, is the UNIQUE VISUALIZATION of the MAIN CHARACTER.
So often, I have seen illustrators resort to generic depictions of the star of the story–too “designed,” too ordinary, too much like characters already seen in media, especially on TV and video games.
The assignment is simply to illustrate a moment from the following passage from Philip Pullman’s version of “Little Red Riding Hood” from FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM (Viking, 2012). (You may want to read the entire story. It is an excellent book.)
And immediately sketched a rough draft inspired by:
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was so sweet and kind that everyone loved her. Her grandmother, who loved her more than anyone, gave her a little cap made of red velvet, which suited her so well that she wanted to wear it all the time. Because of that everyone took to calling her Little Red Riding Hood.
One day her mother said to her: ‘Little Red Riding Hood, I’ve got a job for you. Your grandmother isn’t very well, and I want you to take her this cake and a bottle of wine. They’ll make her feel a lot better.
My rough draft inspired my last couple of fairy tale illustrations set in the 1920’s/’30’s. This time I tried not to leave it until the last minute, but life interfered and my idea of what I wanted to draw wasn’t jibing with how the characters wanted to be drawn. After a bit of arguing, I gave in (the characters usually know best anyways).
My setting is 1920’s northern England, though the cottage is much older. I wanted Red to look a little more modern as she wants to someday become a “woman of the world,” while her mother is comfortable wearing the older, rustic fashion. Red’s world is comfortable, happy, and cosy. The world beyond the gate begins the misty, ominous forest.
Mr. Depaola has an excellent point… we all think of Red Riding Hood looking the same way in an 18th century travelling cape, no matter what time or place she’s set. The last time I drew Red back in 2008, this is what she looked like, captioned, “This is my rather standard treatment of Red Riding Hood.”
So far, a number of my colleagues have shared their entries to the competition in the PB critiquie group on Facebook. All I can say is that once again, Mr. Depaola is going to have a seriously hard time picking a winner. I’m personally blown away by my competition. Winning would be nice, but I really entered because the topic was inspiring. And I think I produced a pretty darn good illustration.
A little about the piece:
This piece is “Snow White and the Queen.” I’m continuing on my theme of fairy tales set in the early-ish 1900’s with a more theatrical Art Deco, old Hollywood setting.
I wanted to keep a little of the light = good/dark = evil symbolism as well as the hints of Snow White with a cobalt blue “Depression-Era” pitcher containing… something unknown and possibly vile, and of course the apple on the newell post.
I am not sure where the idea of the talking face in the mirror came from in the traditional Snow White depictions – possibly Disney? But my molded face atop the glass worked perfectly with the Art Deco design.
This mirrored dressing table is based on the silhouette of a piece I found on Google images but I changed the design to gold hard-edged roses. I also used this design on the Queen’s dress and the bannister.
Today is the deadline for SCBWI’s November Draw This! showcase. As I’m still easing into colored pencil techniques, I decided to try mixing it up a little bit and combined regular pencils with some blue Derwent ink pencil and regular Derwent watercolor pencil (which I also just discovered I own – it would seem I’m an art supply hoarder). I also got a water brush. What a concept! I’m still undecided on the paper. I used Strathmore Bristol 400 which seems to have a bit more tooth than I’d like.
Because I was trying some new things, I dragged my feet a little. I didn’t want to screw up what I’d already done by failing at new techniques. Also, I still haven’t really pushed my contrast as much as I could. I realize I’m being timid about it and I see a couple of things I could have done better to add a bit more drama.
Tonight, after we got the kids to bed, I figured I’d put the finishing touches on the piece before submitting it and decided the wall behind Snow looked a little bare. So I drew in some stones. Being tired from Jaegerling2 being up part of the night (he’s 2… maybe he’s teething those last molars?) I drew the stones rather ham-handed and a bit too dark.
Oh fudge. That’s it. Time’s up. Pencils down.
Luckily, it was a fairly straighforward clean-up in Photoshop. But I’m annoyed about it because I deliberately used gold opaque watercolor on the “wallpaper” pattern because I wanted the original to look really cool and shiney. I knew full well the gold would scan in umber tones (I’ve at least done THAT before). So the original looks really bright and colorful — the digital reproductions never really capture the depth of the color we achieve on paper — except for those dang stones.
Oh well. Call it “done” and move on.
All in all, I do like how it turned out. Though it probably could use a cat. There was a cat in my original sketch but he seems to have wandered off.
Sometimes when you’re tired, you do and say dumb things and then you *facepalm* and groan and hope you didn’t screw up too badly. I really need to get the littlest Jaegerling’s sleep schedule and my own to be better aligned (he’s two. what can I say?).
Anyway, Penguin childrens’ book art director and mentor Giuseppe Castellano hosted a #twitterclass where he gave some really great twitter critiques of every illustration submission he received between 9 and 10pm. I was tired and had found out about the “class” 5 minutes before it began so I was more focused on quickly finding something recent and remotely critique-worthy to post than editing my tweet to say exactly what I meant. I wrote “Still working towards style.” By “style” I really meant a flow, an ease of technique and process. I didn’t mean my own personal voice. It was a poor choice of word. *Facepalm.* Mr. Castellano referred me to his blog post on style (which I had already read) that’s pretty much about why he dislikes the word.
After I got over feeling stupid, I read the rest of the critique tweet. Mr. Castellano also mentioned that my drawing looked too outlined and that the colored pencil wasn’t working well with the paper. True and true. I have been using cheaper materials, working on the theory that if I could make something nice with cheaper materials, I should be able to make something even better with GOOD materials. I also wanted to make sure I even wanted to continue with pencils and explore the feel of other brands before I invested a hundred or so dollars in a standard Prismacolor set.
I do have other materials in my cabinets, though. So I dug out some Bristol and unearthed a set of Mitsubishi colored pencils that someone (probably my artist aunt) had given me years ago, grabbed a sketchbook, and set to work on a pice for the SCBWI “Draw This” monthly challenge for October.
I only left myself 2 days to produce something so I challenged myself Project Runway style. Make something work. The challenge word is “Enchanted.” Go.
Because I’ve been focusing on my process (and not because this is a masterpiece by any stretch), I’m going to step through what I did to create this piece. I welcome any professional advice on the media and my process because I’m still learning by doing (and probably always will be). This piece reflects some of the skills I’ve been working on in my #100DaysOfSimple project. I’m working faster, a little looser, and with a little more line efficiency than I had been previously.
I don’t remember why but I had been looking at some Erte prints recently so I felt a little deco-inspired. Not sure why I picked Cinderella but that’s what came to mind. I deemed my third sketch satisfactory. The rest of my procedual notes are in the captions of the slideshow below.
Original messy pencil sketch.
Conceptually, I also wanted to give a nod to the “Upstairs/Downstairs” theme of Cinderella’s story. So the prince is above and Cinder is below running past the servant’s entrance.
“Inked” over the background in Adobe Flash to help keep it simple.
Light-table hand-inked the characters and composited them in Photoshop. I had wanted to keep the inks and color beneath them but printing back to Bristol didn’t keep the sharpness of the line. I was losing too much detail on Cinder. I later discovered that it was the scanner, not the printer where I was losing quality. Lesson learned.
So I gave up on keeping the inks and instead, printed them at 10% opacity on Bristol to color over them.
The finished, uncropped, version. No ink lines at all. Still learning. I think I still need to push lights and darks a little more and work on shadows. But all in all, not bad. I decided to call it “done” before I overworked it trying to “fix” things. Though in the age of digital, everything can be revisited.