Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Swinter in SoCal

Well I don't have a ton of time to be indulgent in a blog post. I am teaching three classes,which is one more than I normally do, and have WonderCon coming up that I'm drawing and painting for. Soooo... I went around the house last week and snapped photos of the amazingness that is our summer-winter here in SoCal. Don't think we're all not terrified that we have had NO rain at all. But it is awfully hard to complain about beautiful weather. Seems spoiled to whine when it's 78 and breezy in February. Since the bloom season hasn't stopped,  I thought I'd share the beauty. BTW if you are reading this from the East Coast I am totally sorry. Don't hate us.

Monday, May 6, 2013

On Keeping Control of your Creative Properties

Good morning! Let me tell you a tale... I am finally happy again, which means that at some point there was some unhappiness going on. It's strange how unhappiness, like pain, is an indicator. If you are running and you are in pain, you stop running. You figure out what is hurting. Physical therapy. Ice. Gradual work-back-up. It is much easier to be in physical pain with a clear cause. Unhappiness can be a little more subtle!

I have been on a long journey with my Surfside Girls project. There have been ups and downs. It is, however, my baby and it always makes me happy. Through a bizarre series of events I lost a little control of this project. I didn't realize it at first, but I started feeling anxious. The kind of anxious like when someone has your kid and they're late getting back and not answering their cell phone. It got worse and worse until I started getting depressed. Ooof! Not a good place to be! And so the lesson got learned and it got learned good. Stay in control of your creative properties.

Let me say before I go any further that this doesn't mean don't take editorial advice. If you are on a project and the art director points out that your composition is a bit lacking, take another look. It probably is, and why not improve your art? But I had the good fortune of going up to the CTN Roadshow a couple of weeks ago. CTN, the Creative Talent Network, is a collection of creatives who have mostly worked in animation. The Roadshow was kind of a farmer's market meets ComiCon. Totally fun. Anyhow, I ran into an old buddy Mike Kunkle who I have worked with on various animated films. He has been doing his own thing for a while- a company called The Astonish Factory. He does books and a comic called Herobear and the Kid. (http://theastonishfactory.com) I went to his booth because his artwork is great and always happy. I told him of my troubles and he had some great advice: when we work in entertainment, we are always working on someone else's thing. Making changes according to how they want. When we work on our own thing, therefore, it should only be for us.

So I made some tough decisions. I am going it alone on this project. It will be finished in a year and a half. I am painting four pages a week until it's done. I am not looking up. When it is done I may approach a graphic novel publisher like First Second, or I may not. I may self-publish. And then I will try to sell it. The process I have been through with children's publishing is slow and wearying. I have made the decision that done is infinitely better than not-done, or changed to the point of non-recognition. Wish me luck, people!

By the way, you may have encountered this kind of sadness when you have felt out of control on a project. I don't know what you did to get out of it. I put it in a box in my brain and did other stuff. I drew Lois, the fat dog. I distracted. It doesn't hurt that my yard was in full bloom, and my husband had gone abalone hunting and put on a great ab feed. I counted my blessings in other arenas. Once I got to the true source of the unhappiness, though, I knew what I had to do. I have been infinitely happier since.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The "I'll Wait for You 'Til You're Ready" project

Hi again.

So we creative types all know that to some extent we're a little ADD. Squirrel! Am I right? The trick is to harness all of that scattered energy. I am using that theory right now... I am at a bit of an impasse on one project, waiting for another project to come through, and trying to make myself useful in the downtime. Do you have that one project that you always come back to in your downtime? I have had this project sitting in its little shelf for FIVE YEARS. I love it desperately, but it is my back burner project. I'm beginning to feel a little guilty about that. I was raised Catholic, and I know how to infuse guilt into just about anything. But honestly, I kind of feel like it's that boy that you dated a couple of times in high school, who was nice and all, but you really only called him when you had your heart crushed by that other guy, and you needed to go hang out with someone nice and solid. And then, inevitably, someone else would come along who was a little wilder, sexier, more dangerous, insert your own adjective, and you'd be off. The nice guy would wait for you forever. Like a golden retriever.

This is what happens when a guilt-ridden writer starts anthropomorphizing a project.

This project is roughly titled Col. M. C. Chaucer Gets Invaded. It's a picture book. I adore Chaucer. He's a capybara- one of my favorite animals- and he's extremely British, and I am a total Anglophile. He is gruff, inflexible and self-righteous, at least at the start. It is my goal to have my dummy, or as my illustration group is now calling it, a b.i.p (book-in-progress... don't call me dummy!) ready for the SCBWI Summer Conference.

I have attached his model sheet, done in animation model sheet style. I will do one for Roselle, his wife, God rest her soul, and the invader.

I have waaaaaaay too many things I could talk about in this post, but if I don't get something out there now nothing's going to happen. It has turned into one of those days where I drive in circles. It's okay. It helps the... squirrel!

Have a lovely day.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Penelope and the Quilt Show

Well it's done. Penelope is unveiled! I spoke last post of playdates and how loosening up is so good for the art. It is not, however, good for the office. I tell you, people, if my normal process is messy, mixed media has taken the mess exponential. I am adrift in a sea of buttons, thread, fabric, metallic paint, water-based oil paint, scissors, newspaper, a drill (?!) and wood. Ouch. I SWEAR that after this blog post I will clean my office. I have no choice. I teach tomorrow, and if I don't I'll never be able to find my stuff!

So I also wanted to talk about being open, and how the universe- God- however you call that loud voice that directs you- puts you on a path when you're open that you never expected. For example, I went to a quilt show. Now, I have never been exactly the quilty type. Not that I don't appreciate quilts, they have just not really ever been on my radar. Then I experienced a really weird sequence of events that ended me up at the Road To California quilt show with some amazing women.

First signpost was Judy Coates- Perez's blog- www.judycoatesperez.com. Check out the Making of the Eight Cups. I was google-searching images about a year ago for an illustration I was working on and came upon this piece. I was blown away- I thought she was an illustrator but she is a quilter. The kind of work she does is the kind of work I see being done in Photoshop right now, lots of texture and layering. She does it in a tactile way though, and I was really intrigued. She paints, stamps metal, draws, layers and sews. I am not a good collager, so I have been looking at her work as a source of inspiration. Then...next signpost- I needed vacuum cleaner bags last week. I went to my local Sew-Vac store and went in the Sew side as opposed to the Vac side. Oooooh. Pretty fabric! I stopped to admire it, and was greeted by the sweetest quilt shop woman you will ever meet. By the time I had the vacuum bags I was signed up for a quilting class. Final signpost, I had to assist at a funeral at my church the next day, and one of the women who was helping me told me she was going to a quilt show. I found out that Judy Coates- Perez- this woman whose blog I've been following- was going to be there. It was settled. They let me tag along to Ontario.

I took a bunch of pictures because I was so blown away by what I saw. I love stories, and so many of these quilts told stories. There were also amazing quilts made the traditional way as well and the genius was in the color choices and the meticulous crafting. But the quilts I took pictures of were all different from this. The three quilts I am posting here are:

Midtown A by K. Velis Turan of Earlton, NY

Bird's Eye View: New York Avenue, Beach Haven, Long Island Beach by Sherry Davis Kleinman of Pacific Palisades, CA

Climbing to Higher Ground by Rodi S Ludlum of Oak Park, CA

I am really enjoying being back in touch with sewing skills, with fabric, with wood. I don't know where all of this will lead and I don't know if it matters anyway. Creativity flows where it's allowed to. Now to clean my office...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Success and What That Means

Welcome 2013! I'm back on the blog, after a bit of a hiatus. I have new thoughts and a new approach to this whole blogging thing. The economy as of late has been less that fabulous and I have noticed how much this has affected my creative friends. At first I was taken by surprise when my amazing friends, with many books published and giant fan followings, started calling and confiding how they were barely making money, how they weren't sure who they were anymore, how they were questioning themselves and what they were doing. First one, then two, then it seemed most of my creative friends were in this funk. From the outside, they appeared very successful. They had homes, they were published, they were in magazines, they lectured or taught. It occurred to me that this couldn't possibly be coincidence, and I don't believe in coincidence anyhow. I thought I should perk up and pay attention to this. Especially since I teach college, and it is my job to encourage brilliant young people to go out into the world and do this creative thing. How could I be responsible for sending them out into the universe knowing this climate?

So onto the new approach. I started to realize that we are delicate creatures by nature, and our egos, as my good friend Marilyn would say, could be held in a teaspoon. I think perhaps those decades of the 80s and 90s, where money was flowing, got us used to something that hadn't existed for a while if ever and that we needed to redefine what exactly success was.

I am going to attempt to encourage you the reader, if you have felt this funk, to have yourself a little paradigm shift with me. I have a good clue where this dialogue is going but not sure completely how it will unwind, so I am excited at the prospect of the journey. I just know that we creatives are certainly delicate, and if we have to measure our success by the amount of money we have brought in over the last year, we may teeter on the brink of giving it all up and getting a job at Home Depot. Not that that is a terrible option. I sometimes fantasize at the prospect of watering plants and ringing people up in the garden department, with no creative decisions to be made. Even Roark in The Fountainhead saw the sense in "a working man's job."

After my funk about a year ago, I started having Artist Playdates at my house. My amazingly talented friends came over, we ate and drank and drew on cardboard and wood and collaged and knitted and busted loose without editors or deadlines. I have emerged from these sessions a different person, and this is what I'm going to start blogging about. If I never made another dollar at this (no, universe, this is not what I want!) would I still be able to feel good about myself being in the presence of such wonderful people, creating art and having shows? What exactly is success?

The art I'm putting up today is for a show that will hang in the La Habra city gallery for the month of February with the OC Illustrator's Group. It is a direct result of the playdates. It isn't done and it's an experiment, so let's keep our fingers crossed that it works out. Next week I will blog about quilting, and how I am too dumb to take subtle hints on where my future lies. Until then, enjoy the process of Penelope and her butterflies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hunting for Inspiration

Here are some of my sketches from the last couple of weeks at the beach. Watching a bunch of Jr. Lifeguards hang out and wait for their parents to pick them up has provided me with a ton of material for Sam's Blogs (keep an eye out this Friday for a perfect example.) How awesome is being a twelve-year-old? I love to sit quietly and listen while I sketch them (my former students will remember I call this "hunting" and they are referred to as "victims.") They say the funniest things, and they say them with such authority! Wonderful age. I'm so totally excited for my own boy to go to Jr. High this year. He will only amuse me more, I'm sure.

I have six days until we leave for Maui, my lesson plans for this semester look pretty good, my husband bought me a new surfboard (9'0" Mike Dawson,) the water's warm and there's a little swell. Can't really complain...

Friday, July 27, 2012

On being perpetually twelve, and on losing a friend.

I've been negligent of the blog lately, there's posting to the Surfside Girls site, and the SSG facebook page, and the normal facebook page. Hard to keep up and keep the floors clean! Most of what I've been working on is Surfside Girls. I've had more inspiration than I could possibly ask for taking Ethan down to the beach every day for JGs. I haven't scanned them yet, but I've done some hysterical character studies in my sketchbook. You can't come up with fiction as good as what Junior High students can throw at you. Or maybe it's because the age I write from is 12 and they have a dear spot in my heart.

I lost a good friend last week, rather unexpectedly. She was a classmate, a colleague, a friend and a mentor. I can't say I've been in a great state of mind since. If you have a moment check out her website at www.patriciacantor.com. She was such an inspiration; her artwork is quiet and subtle and luminous. Kind of like Pat.

I'm teaching a class I've never taught before this Fall at CSUF, Sequential Art. It's going to be a hoot. So much cool reference, and so many cool exercises. I can't wait. The focus is primarily Graphic Novel. Yay! I always come away from a class knowing more than when I went in, which is a really exciting prospect. I'm also teaching Animation at CSULB. Equally fun. There's no one more awesome than a giddy college animation student. Probably because they are also 12 year olds at heart, with their Pokemon t-shirts and Captain America backpacks. LOVE them.

Have a good one, and hug your loved ones harder than normal today.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Short and sweet today. Lots going on in the little studio. Lots that involves thinking, and business sense stuff, and getting legal advice, and trying to read the US Patent and Trademark website info. Ouch! Can I just draw and paint already?

But I had an observation. Well, I have had several. But my dog is looking expectantly at me because the timer just went off. My first observation has to do with just that. My morning routine goes something like this. Wake up, drink coffee with husband. Fly into a panic, trying to get the world's slowest boy up and out the door to school. Come home. Deep breath. Into the studio, check in with the cyber world, email and facebook. Go set the timer. Sit at the animation desk and draw.

I set the timer because this is how I motivate my son, the aforementioned slowest human on the planet, to get homework done. We race the timer; it gives us a finish line. Everyone needs a finish line, especially when working on long and drawn out projects. So I set the timer for myself, and then I sit in the chair. Assglue. Pardon me, buttglue. The eleven-year-old has become extremely sensitive to any sort of bad word. So my question is this:

What does the dog think I do?

She knows that I will come home, sigh, set the timer, and sit in a chair. She doesn't know that work is actually being done, the way she can sense work getting done in the garden. I just sit in the chair, to her, inert, until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off she jumps all around because she knows this is when we go for a run. So in her mind, my day is dictated by timing myself to sit in a chair, and not to move until it goes off. It must seem very very strange.

So my timer has gone off. The dog waits with the pleading look in her eyes.

I have a couple more observations I'd like to blog about, but they can wait.

The photo is of my dog at my sister's baby shower over the weekend held in my backyard. She announced she was having a girl by texting, "it's bikinis and bows." We went with it and threw her a pink luau. The dog joined in, prancing around in her lei and feeling pleased with herself.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

head down and workin'

Not much to report around here, but I thought I'd check in anyway. My manuscript rewrite has been approved; Surfside Girls is lean and mean (and literally, you can check the SSG website, Sam has just blogged about how a surfer girl stays in shape.) Now I'm rebuilding a dummy, and I'm on page 45. Once I feel good about this flow, I'll start painting. I want the dummy to be tight, though. I'm going to try a new thing- popping my paper off my watercolor block and working over the dummy on the light table. Hopefully this will save some time as I'll have about 70 pages to paint before we send this out for some one to fall in love with and publish.

To shake it up, I made Sam in Spring paper dolls, and have all the seasons drawn out and ready to paint. I get the urge to noodle, and that need is not fulfilled by arranging and rearranging a dummy book. If you want some paper dolls of your own, you can download them for free off the Surfside Girls website. Look at me, learning to use the technology!

Did I mention a couple of posts ago how I singlehandedly saved the pelicans from the Endangered Species List? To reinforce their point, they nearly blocked out the sun on Easter! Well, not literally. But Ethan and I always make a point to count how many pelicans are flying in a line or a V formation; the most we've ever seen is about 20. We were driving home along PCH on Easter afternoon, coming from a lovely day spent in the tidepools in Laguna, when we saw a line- no kidding- over a hundred long. Ridiculous! They were headed to the Bolsa Chica wetlands. I had my phone out the window, trying to capture this. At stoplights I noticed other people doing the same. This many pelicans is simply unheard of! But awesome. And I am giving myself full credit, as their endangered status was a major plot point in an earlier draft of the book, and Murphy and his Law just looks for situations like that to exploit!

The only other (art) thing I have going is that I have agreed to paint a mural in my son's elementary school cafeteria as the 5th Grade Gift. I'm kind of excited; at first, I was miserable as I found out that in order to be on the necessary scaffolding, I had to do this after school hours. And in order to do that, the PTA had to hire a district employee at time-and-a-half to supervise me and make sure I didn't fall or perhaps use an offensive shade of green. The PTA would not have been able to afford this, so I offered to do it off-site (at home) on doorskin plywood, cut to shape! I'll post sketches next week.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

running and drawing and scouts

It's been an emotional week. I had two funerals and my Cub Scouts graduated to Boy Scouts. As crazy as those boys made me and as much of a disaster my house was after a meeting, I'm going to miss the heck out of those days- showing up on the playground in my uniform and having them all cluster around like (spastic, monkey-like) ducklings. At one point during the graduation ceremony at the Blue and Gold dinner, they all had to come up and receive their award. I had this moment... as they saluted me Scout style (my eyes were blurring here) they looked more like young men than they ever had. I was proud.

Also emotional was the shutting down of the LA Times Kids Reading Room. I did the final illustration for it, and it ran last week. I am so sad to see it go; it is hard to keep up with what's happening to print media right now. I wish Jennifer James, the editor, all the best in her new endeavors.

Then there's the state of my manuscript. In an incredible show of Murphy's Law at work in my life, and due to the importance of a certain endangered species in my manuscript, that species actually CAME OFF the endangered species list. YES! I singlehandedly, by relying on said species' endangered status for a most important plot point, saved this species. Not only is it not endangered, it is not even PROTECTED now. So after a goodly meltdown, I figured out that (a) meltdowns are necessary and galvanizing and (b) I am intelligent enough to write myself out of a corner. So I did.

Lastly, my clan ran the Los Alamitos Race on the Base for my dad's 65th birthday. Dad was supposed to join us, but he hurt his back so he was photographer. My son ran it, my mom placed first in her age group, and I took third! To top it all off, Johnny Rebb's catered pulled pork sandwiches after... mmmmm- mmm!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Farfaria.com and broccoli

Okay, so maybe the title is a little disjointed, but I am very excited about a couple of recent occurrences. First, I illustrated an ebook for a great little company called Intuary. If you're a mom friend of mine and have a little one who is versed in the iPad (aren't all kids?) you should check out their launch of a new website called Farfaria.com. For a small fee you get new ebooks weekly which are viewable on your iPad. I illustrated an updated fable called The Wizard's Test. It was a little complicated in that I painted it traditionally in watercolor and colored pencil, and then cut it all apart in Photoshop and put it on different levels which may be animated in the future. A good fun project for sure, and they were lovely to work with. They even came and visited the Surfside Girls booth at APE when I was there (they're San Francisco based, and very young-and-hip.)

Only slightly less exciting is the fact that for the first time ever, thanks to my amazing Urban Gardener Supermom friend Cassie a few doors down, I put in my first winter garden, and we're eating fresh broccoli! So awesome! I realize that I am enough of a suburban girl that I am thunderstruck-amazed at growing my own food. People from the midwest must be rolling their eyes at my giddiness. However, it is so much more fulfilling to eat fresh out of the garden than make the daily trek to the market. I hope I never lose this wonder for the little plants! Speaking of friend Cassie, please do check out her blog, where she teaches even the lamest of suburbanites not only how to grow the food, but how to cook it as well. All with stellar writing skills and an artist's eye for photography. I'm just a teeny bit jealous... her blog is www.pocketsquarefarm.bloglovin.com

Not wanting to steal the thunder of both of these events, I will post again soon as tomorrow I have an illo out in the LA Times that I'm really fond of, AND I ran a 5K this morning and actually took third in my age group. It's been a good week!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stand Up Paddle, asphalt style

Last summer I was driving back from Laguna along PCH. This drive always puts me in a creative mood. Driving, first of all, puts my brain in the proper level of distraction, kind of like gardening. Then of course is the fact that moving through Laguna, Newport Coast, Corona del Mar, Mariner's Mile, Huntington Beach, Bolsa Chica, Sunset, and then Seal Beach is just about the best coastline/ people watching you can hope for. I count on this drive to remind me why I pay ridiculous prices to live here.

Anyhow, I was in the inevitable traffic where PCH meets Huntington Beach Main Street, right at the pier. Surf City USA. Duke Kahanamoku statue with live leis around his neck on the corner. I live for this crosswalk; ALL TYPES move across it and it gives me endless character reference. Out of the corner of my eye I see a cute boy in the bike lane, probably 17 or 18 years old. Wearing striped beanie, tank top, backpack, low riding jeans and Rainbow sandals and PADDLING his way up the bike lane. Yes paddling. I fell hopelessly in love with this character (don't tell my husband) and needed to document the awesomeness of the embodiment of the surfer. Commuting down PCH on a longboard skateboard, with Stand Up Paddle (SUP) paddle fitted with a rubber tip on it. Total surfer ingenuity.

This painting is a nod to this unknown surfer boy- Sam and Jade cruise the bikelane on their own longboards.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Story Beat Boards

At my Illustrator Group meeting a couple of weeks ago, I explained how I was digging into some rewrite changes on Surfside Girls. I mentioned how I put all of my plot points on flashcards, numbered in pencil, and then made a story beat board to have a visual representation of my story. A lot of people there didn't know what I was talking about, and I realize it's something I picked up by spending my early formative artist years in an animation studio. So I figured I'd share how I did that, at the request of the Schmooze Group friends. This works for whatever kind of story you're writing.

We're all visual types, us arty types, right? If you're faced with restructuring a story, sometimes this can seem really daunting, especially because the words on the paper don't always accurately portray the timing of your story. Eventually this will be solved with the dummy book. Before that, however, you can see your emotional points clearly with this.

I took a large corkboard and stretched a piece of yarn across the middle, held on both ends by thumbtacks. Have a bunch of string and thumbtacks standing by.

Next, I went through my story and wrote all the major points on flash cards. For Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this maybe went something like, "Goldilocks wanders in the woods sad and lonely." "Goldilocks spies a cottage (exciting!) It's cute!" "Goldilocks peeks in the front window and sees no one home." "Goldilocks lets herself in the front door." "Goldilocks spies porridge." "Too hot!" etc. Try to figure out how your character is feeling during all of this. When Goldi starts out wandering in the woods, she is (for my demonstration purposes) sad and lonely. I would take that little card and pin it to the leftmost point on the board, slightly below the middle yarn line. That line is emotionally neutral. As Goldi encounters things, she could become scared, happy, etc. Negative emotions put her below the line, positive put her above the line. How far above or below depend on the depth of feeling. For instance, Goldi finding the porridge too cold is going to bum her out, but no where near how bummed out she's going to be when a giant Papa Bear discovers her in the bed.

Your story emotions should rise and fall, gaining momentum until the pivotal moment at the end, and then resolve. In a happy story, the character ends up emotionally above the emotion neutral line.

I have attached a photo of how I'm using this to keep track of stuff. It doesn't replace a dummy, but it can be a faster way to see which points could be punched up. More danger! More at stake!
Hopefully that helps if you, like me, are in the midst of reorganizing thoughts.

The other picture I posted is a poster I made for my church. The preschoolers picked a service project for their year, and brought in little fistfuls of change to buy a needy family a farm. Yes, a farm. Through the organization ELCA Good Gifts, $715 buys a cow, two goats, two pigs, a duck and ten chicks, along with a pitchfork and a hoe. The little kiddos came up a little short, and church members pitched in and provided the rest. I couldn't resist making the poster fun...

I just finished an illustration for the LA Times Kids Reading Room that I'm really happy with. It will probably be the last illustration as the paper is cancelling that section. Thanks, Jennifer James, for those great opportunities for both myself and the SCBWI group. I will post it after it's published.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How SoCal Goes Sledding and Artist Playdate results

It has been a most magical week... writing (rewriting) is going well, and I was able to finish up what I started at Marilyn Scott-Water's artist playdate last week. I am so hooked on this concept!
Free creating! Woo hoo! I told my illustrator group at our monthly meeting last week how much fun this is, and they convinced me to have an ARTIST PLAYDATE at my house. It is going to be one heck of an estrogen fest (although men are welcome, we were definitely women-heavy that meeting- especially since Jennifer Olsen brought her two-week old baby!) Probably twenty intensely talented illustrator ladies, some cardboard, bubble wrap, sparkly paint... I can't wait to see what magic this yields! I will have to post our group result.

So anyhow, this is my Elf and Ermine; I brought a National Geographic photo, as well as my boarding pass folder from Frontier Airlines, the cardboard from a Hickory Farms gift from best-friend Melissa (she wants to make sure my husband gets red meat at least once a year!), Sharpies and scrapbook paper. When I do this at my house in February my goal is to work BIG.

On a totally different note, our Long Beach schools get out early on Thursdays, and I decided to take my son and his buddy California Sledding. Seal Beach, my favorite little beach town on the planet, uses earth-mover machines every Fall to put up a big sand berm on the South side of the pier to protect the beachfront homes and boardwalk. We took skimboards and boogie boards and surfed the darn hill. Too much fun! I have cute photos and videos of the boy and his friend, but I have to admit I did rock the hill surfing as well, but photographers never get in the pictures...