Thursday, September 22, 2011

Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference

For the first time ever at the 2011 Midsouth Fall Conference we held an Illustrator Intensive.

Here's how it worked:
Six weeks before the conference, Jim Hoover from Viking Children's Books sent 2 unpublished manuscripts and let the artists choose to illustrate the first spread from either one. Some liked bunnies, some liked fish.

Sketches were sent to Jim and he provided in-depth feedback to each artist with suggestions for improvement. He spent time reviewing each illustrator's website and offered specific changes and suggestions related to their style. Then he suggested that all sketches and comments be shared via email so we could all benefit from seeing each other's comments What a guy! The artists were thrilled to get that kind of expert knowledge in this "round-table" critique style.

The day of the Intensive, everyone brought their final illustrations; we propped them up and the discussions began! For 2 hours, Jim told us what worked, what didn't, and why, all interlaced with funny anecdotes and gentle honesty. We loved him.

Here are a few of the final illustrations from the Intensive.

Mary Uhles

Kris Sexton

Rebecca Rae Mudd
Meridth Gimbel

Susan Eaddy
Video for this Bad Bunny

Saturday, September 17, 2011

'Strangers in the Stable' ... my latest book illustration projet completed.

I don't post here often, because my schedule is filled with more than children's book illustration, however, my latest project was for a Christmas early reader, and now that the publisher has sent the files to the printer, now I can share.

This was my first kid's book illustrated purely digitally, so it was quite an experience. I normally only paint digitally for novels and some older kid's genres, like MG or YA (which are only sometimes illustrated).

Strangers in the Stable, by Jim Laughter and 4RV Publishing, is a charming twist to the traditional Christmas tale, which makes me doubly honored to have been the illustrator. Now, for a peek at the illos:

The stores and shops teemed with life,
and people lined up at tables in the marketsquare,
signed books, and paid money to
men in flowing red robes and shiny hats.
Finally, three more men entered from out
of the night. Kings, the people called them.
They carried gifts and laid them before the
child and his parents.
The kids got to know the young family,
and even Young Billy became friends with
If you're interested in seeing the original cover I created for this book, and read why I changed it at literally the last minute, check out my latest 4RV newsletter post.
If your thinking on buying a few copies for Christmas, pre-orders are being accepted now on the 4RV Publishing catalog site.

Until next time,

Aidana WillowRaven

Friday, July 1, 2011

Travel Story

This summer my husband and I got to spend some time in Italy. The trip was wonderful, but as in most travel, things don't always go as planned. Here is a journal excerpt from a day in the Naples/Pompeii area.
oh well. We still got to see wonderful things... and were glad we didn't spend the rainy day inside the hotel.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A moose in progress

Well, I'm thinking it's probably my turn to contribute to this blog. I have been working on a couple of educational books that will be used in the classroom, so I will show you some of what I have been doing. You can click on an image to see it larger.

There are 23 pages in each book, and the first thing I do is quickly sketch some thumbnails of what is in the book, just to get an idea of what I will be drawing. These are so rough that I am probably the only one who can tell what they are.

The two characters in the book are moose. I did lots of moose drawings with various items of clothing as suggested by the art director. I really thought the two legged moose was the way to go since they were anthropomorphized. This would allow them to fit into the various scenes in the book easily. The art director felt the same, but after much discussion the other powers insisted that they wanted four legged moose. I didn't think this would be nearly as fun looking as a two legged moose, so I had to keep reminding myself of the Golden Rule. "He who has the gold, makes the rules."

I go through SO many sheets of copy paper drawing things over and over till I work everything out. I am glad copy paper is so cheap and I do recycle it all at the end of the project. Here is the sketch for page three. During a phone conversation with the art director I was told to add a stream to the picture. There were lots of changes. It seems nothing is really nailed down in the story. Anything is subject to change if it would make the story better. I repeat the Golden Rule again as I add a stream.

I am a blend of old school and digital. I really like to draw with pencil on paper, and I really like the feel of inking. I put a sheet of vellum over my pencil sketch and ink it in using the old crow quill and india ink. The boo-boos I make in inking are easily cleaned up in Photoshop. I used to have a big jar of white out that I used all the time... but no more.

Here is the scan I made of the line art. This is scanned as black & white art at 300 dpi. Then it is converted to CMYK for coloring.

Here is the finished colored page. I like that I can color the black lines on some things like the mountains to push them back and leave them on the moose to make him pop out. They like the books to use lots of bright colors. I do a bit of tweaking to the color and make some soft clouds, but the coloring is pretty basic. Nothing too fancy here. After I had finished the color on the whole book, I received one more change to make throughout the book. The farmer hat needed to be changed to a plaid hunting hat. Fortunately, with Photoshop this was a fairly easy change. So that's it! This isn't rocket science, but maybe someone out there will find it interesting.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Portfolio Facelift

Here's a little of my work in progress.... I refer to it as a portfolio facelift, partly because portfolio tummy tuck doesn't sound as good. These were created with the goal of not only being new portfolio pieces but also mailers with an impact. I focused on dynamic points of view and expressions. Read on and enjoy.

Jack and the Beanstalk

The Princess and the Pea

Rainy Day

The Tea Party


Sunday, March 6, 2011

'Walking Through Walls' is a work in progress.

   Being a new contributor, as of today, I wanted to share my current WIP, Walking Through Walls, by Karen Cioffi (releasing May 2011 from 4RV Publishing). Most of the same post will be available on my own blog, directing them to here too, so that I can introduce my current readers to this blog, as well.

Walking Through Walls is an MG (middle grade), novel re-imagining an old Chinese folk tale. There are ten chapters, and I have finished  seven, so far (one illo for each chapter). Here, I share two completed illos (chapter one and chapter five), and the last illo, a rough from chapter nine. As a matter of fact, I had hoped on finishing these up prior to the release of the ARCs, but I just couldn't work that fast (only had a month to do the design layout, the research on Chinese period clothing and harvesting tools, the sketches, and completed illustrations). So the reviewers will see seven completed illos, and three roughs. Oh well. It's an ARC, so it's acceptable.

I do tend to gravitate toward high contrast looks, but in this instance, I am paying homage to the ancient oriental paintings. The one done in black ink with nothing more than a stiff brush. The style is mine, and more modern, but I wanted the feel of black on black, like those.

Cover blurb:
Wang longs to be rich…and powerful. At twelve-years-old, he already knows more about the Eternals and their way of life than many of the adults in his village. Learning about these mystics takes his thoughts away from the possibility of working in the wheat fields all his life, like his father.

Wang has far grander goals.

ISBN: 978-0-9826594-7-2
Available June of 2011 (ARCs available now, for book reviewers - contact author or publisher for more info)

Now, let's look at the illos...
In chapter 1, we see Wang working hard in the wheat fields, in the hot sun, with his father, loading bundles in a wagon.
In chapter 5, Wang comes face to face with the Master Eternal and two student mystics, after a long, arduous journey.

Now for the rough...

In chapter 9, Wang is scheming how to use the magic the Master taught him, to steal from a rich merchants house.
As you can tell, compared to the finished pieces above, I have a bit of refining to do. Plus, there are two more 'roughs' on my drawing table that need finished, as well. This one will be time consuming because of all the detailing that needs added in the wall and doors, and the tree leaves. But that's okay, I have a perverse attraction to intricate patterns ... lol.

Thanks for letting me share my current WIP. I welcome any and all constructive comments.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How To Illustrate A Puppet

Being asked by Robb Killen of Killen Creations to illustrate four children's books was not only flattering, but challenging as well. You see, Robb's main character Webster is a puppet in which he uses in the Nashville Public school system third and fourth grade classrooms to teach lessons on dignity. He also has a club titled the P.O.D. Squad (People Of Dignity). Webster also has a DVD series in which all of his co-stars are humans! Therefore, when sitting down with paper and pencil in hand, my little friend was easy enough to draw, but what about his human family and friends who were written into his books? After drawing them "human-like", Robb and I decided to "puppetize" them (if there is such a word)! Here are the sketches I came up with for the first book about "Feelings" where Webster goes on a camping trip with his Uncle Charley and his cousin Roy.