Monday, October 24, 2016

Go Learn Something

There is an extreme benefit to continuous learning that I cannot stress enough. This isn't a pitch because I teach. I'm saying this because I consider myself a constant student. No matter where we are in life we can learn more.

The day to day routine can play havoc with the fluidity of creation. In the past I have explored numerous illustration events to learn how to interpret my position in the world of illustration. I've taken workshops, attended conferences and exhibited at conventions. Every situation informed my work in a positive way. Each experience shook the stagnant fog out of my head. Education, no matter how you get it, is the cornerstone of every new skill and technique. It is the foundation to a stronger body of work.

Honey Cargo wip.

One year ago I had a great opportunity to create The Nutcracker, a children's book. That experience opened up new doors that challenged my skill set and preliminary processes. After the completion of the project I started researching classes. I needed to be a student again and be immersed in the learning process. I needed answers to the questions I had recently discovered.

Sirens wip

Listening to Paper Wings, Stories Unbound and Escape from Art Jail podcasts by the Oatley Academy introduced me to new learning possibilities. There were a slew of classes available through the site so I dug in and found Painting Drama. Painting narrative scenes while focusing on creating drama in visual storytelling. Perfect!

During the summer the class met on Thursdays at Noon EST in a digital classroom. Chris Oatley guided the class with the assistance of the effervescent Erika Casab. As determined as I thought I was there were some mighty impressive dedication from my classmates. Several people were taking this class at 2am in Australia and a sprinkling of other times in Iceland, Israel, Mexico, Hungary, the UK and the list goes on. I was immediately impressed and humbled by my new colleagues and thier undying dedication.

Cutie Pie wip

The prompts were open and flexible and the studies were invaluable to the development of strong compositional skills. Abstract solutions to fine tuned values were part of the experience. Opening the doors between representational art and abstract art was one small sliver of the whole process.

Abstract studies to build exciting unexpected compositions. These were some of the 150 studies my partner, Rachel and I shared.

Chris offered refreshing approaches to shaking up the excitement of a composition while focusing on analytical compositional decisions. How revitalizing this was to me as both an artist and an instructor.

Black and White Master copies helped identify important compositional decisions

There were numerous things about this course that I found invaluable. I'm not going to give their secrets away so I'll leave it at this.... If your interested in learning the visual language of creating a strong narrative piece in a clear and concise manner with informed and analytical methods then this is the class you should consider. It's intense. It's inspiring. It's super fun.

Inner Beauty

Thanks to Chris and The Oatley Academy for the opportunity to learn from your expertise and thanks to my fellow classmates for the constant inspiration and dedication you all have. Being part of a like minded group striving to be the best they can be is a satisfaction that in incomparable.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Nutcracker

This is a mistake. 

That's what I kept saying throughout the creation of this book.  But when you give yourself no choice it's amazing what your able to accomplish.

Hardback copy. This was the first illustration completed for the book. Often publishers need the cover before the book is complete so they can feature it in their catalog.

It was March 2015 when I sat in The Palm with John discussing The Nutcracker. The more we spoke the more impossible it seemed. The more sips of wine I had the more I was talking myself out of it. The holiday release schedule coupled with my full freelance schedule was only one hurdle to consider. That alone was a very tall hurdle.

As I left the building the thought of attempting to complete this 64 page behemoth in the next nine months was terrifing. I'm a notoriously slow painter. I like creating detail and it doesn't matter if I'm working digitally or in oils. I'm simply ... just ... slow. 

The second completed illustration. This is a four page gatefold featured at the end of the book. This image alone took over 30 days to illustrate.

I wanted to do it. It was a perfect combination of narrative, history, fantasy, animals, humans and decorative elements. It was everything I loved to illustrate....and all the mice! Yes! 

However, I was afraid to commit.

Detail of mice coming out of the floorboards.

Maybe it was the crisp Spring air promising warmth or maybe it was the fog in my head from the last semester of an overloaded teaching schedule because I eventually said yes. Yes, I'll take on a 64 page children's book in 9 months. Yes, I'll complete over 35 under...nine...months.

I gave myself no choice. And I wasn't going to pass up a dream job because of fear and uncertainty.

I always wanted to paint a castle. Check!

I won't go into the angsty details of doubt, hair pulling and constant anxiety but I will say that it was a long several months. Although there were many all nighters and countless paint filled weekends I was covering new ground. I was finding inventive ways to tackle fresh challenges. This process was invigorating. I was riding the Yin Yang Rollercoaster that my colleagues know so well. (I know your nodding)

Queen Mouserinks makes her entrance.

Always seeking to educate myself and take away new information that I can add to my arsenal of skill sets this project quadrupled my abilities. Environments, text/design marriage, multiple figure scenes were some of the new elements I encountered. It wasn't a surprise that as a constant student I had more questions at the end of the project than I did at the beginning. But that explanation belongs in a separate post. ;)

Don't scare the children. My initial sketch was a bit scary so I redrew the mice eating sugar plums as they fought.

My original text placement was alright but Ali from Tango Media made it fantastic.

Big wooden castle was super fun to create.

Working on The Nutcracker catapulted me into another world of possibilities which focused my attention on new goals for the future. And I have new goals!

My final take on this project? Taking on this job was one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

* A super big thank you to John Whalen and Alexandra Lewis for being such great publishers at Cider Mill Press. And Ali Freile at Tango Media for being great to work with (as she always is) and doing a spectacular job on the design of the book.  

The End

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