Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The problem with improving

     Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for the rest of my life. I do a piece of art, or a page spread as the case may be. I feel like I've done my best and I move on. Then, one day I have another look and see all kinds of ways that my illustration could be improved. Where does it end?!
      Above is a new version, I'm working on, of a specific page spread that I hope is evolving in a positive direction.
   
Here's the first rough version done almost 3 years ago:

It was done as a small acrylic 5.5" x 8.5"

I decided I wanted to do a polished version, the way I imagined it would look published. 
Here's that one, done over 2 years ago:

Now, discontent, I've pulled this apart and I currently have what you see at the top of the page. I'm looking for a sense of more energy and chaos.

Still a long way to go. Didn't I just have that rock pushed up to the top of the mountain?

     Today begins November also known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I've pulled out a chapter book that I got a good start on this summer and then put away a few months ago. I've set a goal of 10,000 new words by the end of the month. Inktober was fun but November goes further in helping me focus on my stories. 
    
     I'm happy to say that I've done very well with my goal of posting a blog every Wednesday this year. From now to the end of the year, however, I may not be posting that much. I want to concentrate on my writing, work out new illustration ideas for "Serenity" (the above story) and of course . . . enjoy the holidays. I'll continue to post, but the entries may be fewer and more random. I can assure you that one of my primary 2018 goals will be posting every Wednesday once again. Thanks so much for stopping by! 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Inktober - 7 Word Combo


     The cook was blind in the darkness, but able to hear the individual squeak of each rat as it climbed the walls searching a trail to salvation.
     "You won't find it this time, friends," he whispered.
     The ship gave a last, violent shudder as the sea bludgeoned it with her waves. She grew furious at his cowardice. He was the last man. She wanted them all.
     She poured down the galley steps in a rage and found him trembling beneath the table - her last juicy morsel.

     I had so much fun with this one! My daughter took a photo of me modeling the sea's rage. So, I guess that is what I look like when I'm angry. Scary. I also had fun creating the narrative and getting all seven of the last week's words in there.
     I'll probably do one more Inktober piece before the end of the month. Check back next Wednesday! Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Inktober - Cloud and Deep

 If it makes you feel better, I'll tell you that this little boy was ornery today. 
   
     I don't advise teasing children, unless they're your own and you don't mind if they grow up and pick on you. Yes, sometimes my grown children pick on me. :) For the record, I also pick on my mother. It's a circle. Haha!

The day I did this, I felt like drawing a portrait and the prompt word of the day was "deep." I googled "girl with deep set eyes" and got a photo to work from.

     Inktober has been fun and it's not over yet, but I'm going to be busy for the next couple of weeks and won't get as many done. The next seven word prompts are Furious, Trail, Juicy, Blind, Ship, Squeak, and Climb. I've already combined them into a short writing sample and I'm working on one illustration for that narrative. Check back on Friday for that piece. Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Inktober - Fat


We grew "fat on Grandma's secret ingredient . . . love.

     I've slowed down a little on Inktober. I have a new dummy book that I really need to concentrate on. But, Inktober is such a fun thing to participate in! It's hard not to keep going with at least a couple a week. This is a redo of a piece I did in color back in 2012. 



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Inktober - Shattered and Mysterious


It was so cold, the leaves fell and "shattered" like glass on the ground.
Well, maybe not this year. Where the heck is autumn?



There's a house that sits back from the road, on 127 in Eaton, that I noticed for the first time about a year ago. Half of it is built like a castle. It's beautiful and fascinating and I would love to know its story. I'm pretty sure it's abandoned. "Mysterious" indeed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Inktober - Gigantic and Run


The smallest member of the choir had the most "gigantic" voice.



After a quick "run" out to the store for bread. 



Monday, October 9, 2017

The Chandelier - Vegas

This piece done in Procreate on the iPad pro. 

    Never will I see such a beautiful lounge as the one at The Cosmopolitan in Vegas called The Chandelier. That's exactly where it feels like you are seated, inside a three story chandelier. Our kids in Vegas took us here to the mixology bar. We ordered a drink very similar to a margarita on ice but, instead of a salted rim, it is served with a flower bud that you chew on first. The bud makes your mouth tingle and as you sip the drink the taste of salt kicks in. Amazing! My daughter then ordered a drink that was served with a fresh bouquet of flowers over dry ice whose fog carried the sweet smell up to her nose as she sipped. Lovely! Quite a wonderful experience! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Inktober - Shy and Crooked


Here is my Inktober contribution for the word prompt - SHY.
This little guy is so sweet! How could anyone reject him?!




This one is for the word prompt - Crooked. I'm pretty sure my ears are crooked. 
Glasses always tend to sit this way on my face. 

     I skipped a couple of days because I was so darned excited about my dummy books for "The First Pearl". There's always questions about how one should do a dummy book. I am not at all sure myself, but because I am always curious about how others are putting theirs together, I'd like to share my process. I've done a dummy for this story before only to receive a comment that it was too digital looking. Well, it was a dummy. It was not the way I envisioned the final book, rather an example of page layout, character ideas, text placement etc. There does not seem to room in query letters, since they are to be relatively short, to explain myself in this regard. As I am not (yet) an established author/illustrator I thought that this time I would work on it as though I had a signed contract asking for the finished product. I did each of the page spreads in oil paints exactly how I would work if/when fate (or an awesome publisher) smiles on my efforts and wants to launch me into picture-book history. I then photographed the pages, did some digital touch-ups, and added the type. I had the spreads run off at a print shop where I got 100% better looking copies than those on my home printer. Then, I cut the pages in half and with rubber cement glued each on the back of its appropriate partner. I punched two small holes through the book and tied them (very loosely so that the pages turn well) together. I am going to make clear in my query that I am open to editing and art direction. I want them to know I'm flexible, just leading with my best foot forward.
     The discouraging thing is that in reading through the "Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market" book, I find that many of the publishers are saying to not bother sending a self addressed stamped envelope because they recycle and don't return anything. What?!?! These babies weren't cheap! Haha! I guess I have to suck it up and send them anyway.  There's also many publishers who want the submissions emailed. Much cheaper and much greener, which I like, but nothing like holding a miniature book in one's hands.
     So there's my current experience for what its worth and I would like to dedicate these 5 little gems to my wonderful husband who spent time in my studio with me, helping me put these together.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Inktober 2,3, and 4

Inktober Day #2 - DIVIDED
No one is happy until the candy has been equally divided.

Inktober Day #3 - POISON


Inktober Day#4 Underwater

I made the mistake of starting this one on copy paper. (Why oh why did I do that?!) So, I couldn't add any inky washes. Lesson learned.




Sunday, October 1, 2017

Inktober is Here!!!


Inktober is here and I plan to enjoy it! The challenge is to do one ink drawing a day, and although I'm going to try for that, I'll be happy to get 4 or 5 done each week. I'll post on Sundays and Wednesdays to share what I've been coming up with. There are daily word prompts that go along with the challenge and I will probably use those prompts for most of my pieces.

Thank you, Jake Parker and
Happy Inktober everyone!


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Walk




An iPad Pro purchase on Saturday, a beautiful day spent walking in the woods on Sunday, and a free day on Tuesday to view tutorials and play with the Procreate App. I'm loving it! 

Inktober starts on Sunday, so for the month of October I'll be sharing ink drawings twice a week, on Sundays and Wednesdays. (At least, that's my plan). They will be actual ink on paper, not ink brush on iPad, but as I can't stay off my iPad right now, there could be some bonus posts throughout the week as well.

I finished my "First Pearl" dummy book on Monday! WAHOO!!  I am currently going through it carefully to make edits and touch-ups before submitting it to publishers.  By the end of this week I will have my next dummy book, "Serenity" in production.

October (my favorite month of the year) is going to be wonderfully busy! 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Inktober is Coming


John Cougar - My first big celebrity crush. 
Done with a simple black medium point Bic pen and a brush pen.

     Inktober is right around the corner. Last year I did two ink drawings a week, this year I'm going to aim for the one-a-day for the whole darn month. I'm pretty sure I won't get 31 drawings done, but by the first of October my dummy book for "The First Pearl" will be complete, and Inktober will be a nice exercise, not only in pen and ink, but in coming up with ideas for the daily word prompts.


Always nice to have a brush pen that's going dry. It worked great for creating texture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Illustration Friday - RECIPE


     A little early for this but I get so darned excited about autumn in general. Also, my next dummy book, once I'm done with "The First Pearl," is about a little witch named Serenity and this image kind of helps me along with one of her pages.  

Here's the original sketch.



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Peek-a-boo



At the beginning of August I started painting the third version (dummy book) of my story, "The First Pearl".  My goal was to have all the pages laid out by August 31. Unfortunately, there are three page spreads I have yet to do (the most challenging ones), but I have taken the rest of the book so much further than I had planned that I consider it a win. My new goal is to be completely finished with this dummy by September 15. And then on to the next!!!

When I did the first dummy, a few years ago, it was miniature with each 2 page spread measuring 6" tall x 9" wide.
Here's an example from that first dummy:


And here's what it has become:


The newest version is an 8 1/2" x 22" oil painting. It shows more clearly what I hope the finished book might look like, giving any art director, agent, or editor a better idea of my capabilities.

Here's one more before and after spread:

Before

After

So there you have a look, and probably the last look, at this project before it hits bookshelves, nationwide in 20__? (Fingers crossed) :)

Since I want to concentrate on this story and don't want to give away any more peeks inside, I may not be posting again for a few weeks.  I may do something random for fun but please check back, I'll have something new by September 20th, maybe a peek into my next story "Serenity" as I begin a 
re-do of that dummy.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Illustration Friday - MAIL


     Remember when the mail used to bring more than flyers and ads?
     Email is great. It's efficient. It doesn't waste paper. But, I remember how exciting it was to wait for my college acceptance envelope (they mostly come via email these days), for birthday cards (which have become a short happy-birthday-post on Facebook), for letters (yes, actual letters because it was too expensive to call long distance) from friends and family. Those days aren't totally gone but the joy of mail has diminished somewhat. This illustration is a shout out to all those loyal, and faithful mailboxes (and of course the mailmen and mailwomen) who carry on.

     Here is a sketch that I did about 5 and a half years ago, when the Illustration Friday prompt word of the week was FORWARD. The idea is along the same lines.


     I feel like my illustration skills have improved.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dr. Dolittle and the Horse


This piece is for a notecard contest for the SCBWI of Central/Southern Ohio. 

In this scene, Dr. Dolittle's parrot, Polynesia, has already taught him how to speak to animals and this horse was able to explain that he simply needed glasses. It is done in oils but I went in afterwards (side note: afterward and afterwards are both correct as far as Webster dictionary is concerned, in case you wondered about that, which I did) and made a few adjustments digitally. I made the dog a little bigger, the parrot a little smaller, added the light beam pouring out of the lamp, and a few other minor, nit-picky things 'cause that's how I am - nit-picky. 

I have to share a moment of shock I experienced as I was reading "The Story of Dr. Dolittle." There is a scene where the doctor and several of his animal companions are crossing the ocean to Africa where a terrible illness has befallen the monkeys living there. One of his companions, Dub-Dub the duck to be exact, dives into the water, behind the ship, in search of herrings for food so that there BEEF supply will last longer. WHAT!?!? Does Dr. Dolittle eat animals he can talk to?!?! I am a vegan, so, of course these words are going to jump out at me and freak me out. I just wonder what the rest of the population thinks. 

And then there's Prince Bumpo - an African prince who wishes he was white to gain the affections of Sleeping Beauty. What!?!? I'm imagining this book would not make it to print in this century .(Thank goodness). To the doctor's credit, he felt that Prince Bumpo looked fine just the way he was, but . . . wow. 

The Dr. Dolittle I've painted is a vegetarian. He loves and respects all animals and people and doesn't eat or bother any of them.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A peek into my studio


     I don't have a completed piece to share with you this week but I have been hard at work on a couple of projects.
     The upper piece-in-progress is a scene from "The Story of Dr. Dolittle." I'm doing it for a notecard contest for the Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI. I think I'm going to work on two or three more compositions for the same book as portfolio pieces.
     The bottom piece-in-progress is page 11 of "The First Pearl". With the exception of the Dr. Dolittle side project I have done a good job of staying focused on this dummy book.
     Below is the view from my art table with the pages I've done so far. This is keeping me motivated. I want to see the whole thing come together!!!


    Have a great week!


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Seahorse

   
     Here's a close up of what will eventually be page 10 of my picture book. Originally his name was Quin. It was suggested to me that the names be dropped out of the manuscript so now he's just Seahorse. Poor guy. In my heart he'll always be Quin.
     Last week my husband put up an 8'x4'  styrofoam wall so that I could pin up the story pages as I go. I now have a chance to study them at once, look for inconsistencies and come up with more ideas and improvements. It made all the difference in the world. Also, seeing my page spreads go up one by one is motivating. My goal is to have all the layouts and first coats of paint done by the end of August. We'll see. There are some pages coming up that are going to be a challenge.
     I hope to have another detail to share next Wednesday. Have a good week!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

First page First Pearl


     The little guy in this painting is Nac. He's an oyster and he's being awakened by the moon. I've known him for about 18 years now, so he's well overdue for the work I'm about to put into him. He has been patient.
      With my art studio back together after a refreshing paint job, I am able to use my oil paints again and spread my work area out a bit more. I think oils are my thing. I've said that before but then get distracted with digital work and play around with other media. That's all fine, but I lose focus. Focus, Tracy! Focus!
   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Celebrate


     I did this for the monthly SCBWI bulletin contest with the word prompt - Celebrate.
     I started digitally, which you can check out 2 posts ago, then decided I wanted switch to a loose pen and ink with some watercolor washes. I am so used to being able to paint over a mistake or hit the "undo" button, (how did humanity exist before there were undo buttons?) that it's very stressful to work on paper like that. When I had the pencil drawing done I was so terrified to mess up the ink, my hand trembled at times. While I applied the first layer of watercolors over the ink drawing, which was not messed up yet, I provided myself a steady stream of pep talk, a few coffee breaks, (decaf) and some yoga stretches. 
     The trouble is, I'm out of practice with that kind of thing. I've been an artist for many years but I've become too reliant on "undo".  Does anyone else out there ever expect autocorrect to help you out with spelling when you're writing with pen and paper? Is it just me? 
     

Monday, July 17, 2017

Illustration Friday - Ice Cream


     This one is thrown in just for fun. On Friday I was under doctor's orders to lay on the couch!!! I had two wisdom teeth removed so nothing serious, but when a doctor tells me to stay on the couch, on the couch I stay. Yay!!!! I sat there with a book to read, my sketchbook and my ipad and it was pretty heavenly. I thought it would be a good day to purchase the Procreate App and view some tutorials on how it works and do some playing. The Illustration Friday word prompt this week is ice cream so here's some ice cream done on my ipad with Procreate. (I'm a vegan so this ice cream is almond based, or coconut, or cashew).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Celebration - work in progress


     This is not done, but this version may be as done as it ever gets. Yesterday, using this digital version as reference, I started over on bristol paper. I'm going to try to do it in pencil and pen with some watercolors thrown in to liven it up. I have the habit of getting things to tightly rendered and losing some of the image's energy. Case in point, the little girl in the pink dress in the center of the drawing (she's looks like she's made of plastic). Also, because I'm drawing on a bamboo tablet while looking at my computer screen, I'm losing that flow of drawing directly on my image. I'm not complaining (too loudly), but a Cintiq tablet is going on my Christmas list this year.
     Check back with me next Wednesday. I'm hoping to have a finished version of "CELEBRATION".
    Also, before I go, I want to tell you that I reached 10,000 hits to this blog. I know it's not 10,000 followers, and I know it's not 10,000 hits to one image. But, I also know my mom has not viewed my blog 10,000 times. It's so nice to have a place to share my works and talk about them a little. Thank you to everyone who has taken an interest!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Puppies! - etc.


    As Jake Parker over at SVS Learn says, the important thing is that it is: "finished, not perfect." I'll put this aside and maybe revisit it down the road. I'd like to add more puppies and make them more stylized (more like cartoons in this case).
     I am a creature of habit. The more routine my life, the more creative I seem to be. These last few weeks have upset my applecart and I won't get them all picked up and put back in the cart for a couple weeks more. There's been some household renovations, including an art studio fix-up that's still in progress, a mild mid-life questioning of what the heck I'm doing with my life, a garage sale over the next couple of days, and wisdom tooth removal next week. That'll be fun. The important thing is that even though I've been distracted I've still managed to draw a little bit every day.
   
    Last week the elementary school I attended was demolished and it made me a little melancholy.
I did this drawing:


It kind of made me feel worse. Haha! When I drew the eyes I made myself cry. I'm ridiculous sometimes. 



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Creative slumps - they happen




     These are taken from my sketchbook. I'm at day number 13 of my sketch-a-day. I have a couple of large projects I should be working on but I'm experiencing a bit of a creative burnout and just wanted to enjoy drawing for a while. 
     Yesterday, I started sketching puppies. Let me tell you, if you're feeling a little down, spend some time looking at puppy photos. I decided to create more of a composition than just the random sketches so I put them together and started this:


This could turn out looking a lot different when it's done but now you've had a glimpse at the initial idea. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Original Claw-Foot Bath


8 x 10 acrylic on canvas

     This began as a scribble in one of my sketchbooks - a child in a claw foot tub with way more of the lion present than just its feet. Here it is, innocent enough: 


     I worked on a better rendering and ended up with a disturbing image of a lion with a giant hole carved into his back so that a child could bathe there. Ugh! Who wants to see that? Maybe you did, so I apologize. It was digital and I tossed it into cyber trash. I ended up changing it to a WHOLE lion who simply allows a child, a cave-child, to bathe upon him. (Lions were much more docile thousands of years ago.)
     Also, originally, the child's head was just tipped back with a look of bliss. That changed too. Six days ago I started, as I had done in 2012, to do a sketch-a-day. I am going to do a small sketch each morning while I have my coffee. I own a book full of nothing but facial expressions, so for the time being, I'm practicing from that. Here's the first 4 days: 


And there it was on June 19th! The expression I wanted on the kid taking his bath.  Isn't it awesome how things just fall into place once in a while?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Magic Bookcase


     This is an idea that started to form about 5 years ago in my sketch-a-day book. I was participating in Illustration Friday and the word prompt for the week was EXPLORE.
     In the image below, the top drawing is that first idea and the sketch underneath it is from my current sketchbook and was done just a couple of weeks ago:


I then did a more finished drawing and scanned it into the computer to do a value study:
From there I did a watercolor:

      and then scanned this into the computer and did all the digital enhancements that you see at the top of the page.

     The image at the top is really only half way there. I'd like to expand the bookcase to the 3 sections that you see in my sketchbook drawing and then do the whole thing as an oil painting. Could be a while so I don't want anyone out there holding their breath or anything. It's taken 5 years just to get this far! Have a great week!