Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tutorials in ImagineFX magazine!

A few months ago I emailed the editor at ImagineFX magazine. "Sir, I'd like to do some digital painting tutorials for you," I said. "I know I'm young and untested, but I've got it where it counts! Just give me a chance!"

The editor looked at me over his typewriter and eyed my portfolio skeptically. I held my breath, partially to avoid breathing in the clouds of smoke billowing from the thick cigar in his mouth. He squinted at me. "You gotta lot of noive comin in here," he said in a thick Brooklyn accent. "I like that in a youngstah. Give me two digital painting tutorials by the end of the day."

I beamed. "Gee, thanks sir! I promise I won't let you down!"

I walked through the streets of New York that day an inch taller. This city was mine.


The two topics the editor asked me to write about were:
  1. How to paint rimlight on a character's hair
  2. How to paint sheer, flowing fabric
He gave me the image dimensions and word count, and told me that they needed to be portraits of fantasy characters. But other than that, I was pretty much free to draw whatever I wanted. So here's what I drew:

I'm not going to go into the process behind these illustrations like I usually would on this blog, because that's why you should buy the magazine! The backlit hair one even comes with a video I made where I recorded my process from start to finish, something I've never done before.

You can find them in the Christmas 2016 issue, which you can order online or also find in Barnes & Noble stores in the US.

Thanks to editor Cliff Hope for the opportunity. Since ImagineFX is based in the UK, he probably doesn't really sound like the newspaper editor from Spiderman. I just made that up.

It's true that this city is mine, though.

This city is mine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wedding Portrait, featuring Basement Snek

This is a little portrait I drew as a wedding gift for my friends Aaron and Rebecca. It features their two babies: a very very large cat named Ivan, and a python who lives in their basement. I have never actually seen the python, but Rebecca insists he IS real and I'm sure not going to go rummaging around in her basement to check.

I drew a green dress for Rebecca just because I thought it fit well with the color scheme, but then it turned out that she actually wore a green wedding dress! (Although it was more of a forest green color.) So, go me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Recommendations for Beautiful Picture Books

There's a big, big picture book world outside of Cat in the Hat and Goodnight, Moon. If you have some kids on your Christmas gift list, why not buy them some unique books? Here are some beautifully illustrated picture books from some fresh illustrators.

If you like my art, you'll love Jim Madsen's art. This is the story of Sacajawea and the Lewis and Clark expedition, lushly illustrated in jewel tones.

A story about a boy who hugs people and things. Scott Campbell graduated from my alma mater, Academy of Art University, and he excels at simple, charming drawings with a sense of humor.

Ok, I wouldn't describe this book as "beautiful" so much as it is funny and weird. For those who like children's books with a bit of an edge.

Teagan White is one of my very favorite illustrators. Her woodland creatures are just so charming, stylish and fresh.

This book comes with a little plastic engine that somehow travels through the illustrated landscapes without coming detached from the book. I haven't seen this in person so I'm not sure how it works, but I'm sure it would be a hit with any child who loves trains.

A riff on the classic "Angelina Ballerina," this book is about a vampire who dreams of stardom. Perfect for the girly-girl who isn't afraid of something a little different.

A sweet and thoughtful story about an imaginary friend who can't find a child to adopt him. 

Instead of the word "Jacob," you order this book to be personalized for your child. The vehicles inside the book will spell out the letters of their name!

One of the few picture books I personally own, this story is about learning to get along with a new family member. The expressions on the dogs are so funny and charming. I love their little stick legs.

I hope this gives you some inspiration for your holiday shopping. If you're interested in more of my recommendations, I keep an updated Amazon Wish List of Beautifully Illustrated Children's Books here! If you have the opportunity, please buy books from your local bookstore. Even purchasing from your local branch of Barnes & Noble is helpful to the publishing industry.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Improving at Bible Stories

Here are two illustrations I did for Lifeway's Explore the Bible series. I was going through all my Bible story illustrations the other day when I noticed that these two illustrations were pretty similar and were done exactly a year apart.

I'd say that the biggest difference between the two is that I learned to rely much more on references for my drawings of people and faces. Secondly, I think the second illustration shows a better understanding of color and value.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Self-Portrait 2016

Today is International Self-portrait Day. I created this self-portrait using Kyle Webster's Photoshop brushes.

When we were first married, my husband told me that my jawline was slightly asymmetrical - or as he rather tactlessly put it, "your face is crooked." (He then quickly added "but you're still cute.") I didn't quite believe him because my face looked fine to me when I looked in the mirror.

As I was working on this self-portrait, I kept noticing that something seemed crooked about the drawing. When I tried to fix it, it just looked less and less like me. That's when I realized: it wasn't my drawing that was crooked - it's just my face. He was right. HE WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!!

If you'd like to see more self-portraits, I recommend that you check out the #selfportraitday hashtag on social media. Personally I think that self-portraits are super fascinating and I look forward to Self Portrait Day every year.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Treehouse Heart

I created this illustration for a show called "The Secrets of Hearts," which opened on September 30 in Taichung, Taiwan. That's right, my art is on display in Taiwan!! How did that happen?

During my studies at the Academy of Art University, I had a very thoughtful, very hardworking, very tall classmate named Shih-Fen. Here's a picture of us enjoying some pizza. Shih-Fen is on the far right. I'll let you guess which one is me.

Shih-Fen's thesis project was a children's book about different kinds of hearts: a beach heart, a flower heart, a castle heart. They were symbols for different types of personalities and relationships. But it was far from being saccharine or cliche. In fact, my classmates and I were kind of stunned when he explained the meanings of the hearts. For example, here's "The Gearwheel Hearts."

His description: "At the beginning, they try to adjust the gearwheels little by little. Hope that one day everything will run smoothly. Unfortunately, the friction is still there. One day, they lose their patience and point to each other. Everything is different from that day."

Dang, right?

Since graduating from art school, Shih-Fen has been busy teaching and illustrating in Taiwan. I'm not totally sure exactly what he does, because his Facebook updates are mostly in Chinese, but he definitely seems productive! A while back he contacted me about participating in a group show centered around his "Secrets of Hearts" theme. He asked me to come up with my own heart illustration.
Despite the fact that movies, tv shows and commercials consistently depict men as very simple creatures, I think I speak for a lot of women when I say: men can be pretty mysterious and baffling. (Ladies: back me up in the comments section, please.) I wanted to draw a man's heart, and a woman struggling to find a way in. 

I played with some ideas of "The Shuttered Heart" but just couldn't come up with something that worked visually. After setting the project aside for a few months (yes, a few months. I really had a tough time with this), I had the idea of a treehouse heart, and a little boy absorbed in his own boy world, ignoring the efforts of a little girl trying to interact with him.

The initial sketch came together easily enough, but from there on out I struggled with the direction for the color scheme and the lighting. The entire way through the piece I felt unsure of whether I was taking it in the right direction.

Although I do like the end result, whenever I look at this piece I still wonder if I should have done something differently. Perhaps it's because it's such a personal piece.

The wheelbarrow of girly things is my favorite detail.

Here are some pictures of the show in Taichung.

Thanks Shih-Fen for asking me to participate in your group show. Keep up the good work, and I hope we can meet again someday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

GeekGirlCon 2016 post-mortem

Last weekend I had an artist alley table at GeekGirlCon in Seattle. Last year GeekGirlCon was my best show and this year was no different.

GeekGirlCon is like a comic con with a feminist/progressive theme going on. But there's still plenty of men who attend the show - I'd say the crowd was about 30% men, while most comic cons, in my experience, seem to be about 50% men. It's a small show, but very well-organized. What everyone kept saying - both attendees and fellow exhibitors - was just how exceptionally nice everyone was.

There are also quite a few children who attend the show, and they are SO. CUTE. They're also remarkably well-behaved and intelligent. I had not one, but three little girls around the age of ten, who asked me if I work traditionally or digitally. When I said digitally, I was surprised when they asked for specifics about what programs and hardware I used. Then they told me about their projects and what programs and hardware they were using. Their dads would be standing nearby, smiling proudly.

These two prints - "Imagination" and "Busyness & Inspiration" - really struck a chord with the attendees, particularly writers. I had two different attendees visit my table and tell me that they had bought "Imagination" from me last year and proudly had it hanging right above their desks. One lady said that she had it hanging in her cubicle in the Washington State Department of Health.

One woman walked up to my table and completely froze when she saw "Imagination."

"Hi, how are you?" I said. She didn't move.

"How's your morning going?" I tried. Again, she didn't move. I noticed a tear going down her cheek.

"Uhhh are you ok?" I said.

"It's just....this is me!" She said. "This is my space. My special writing space. The place where my children aren't allowed to argue with each other."

She told me more about her special writing sanctuary, ended up buying both prints, and asked for a tissue.

I'm often surprised at which of my drawings resonate with people and which ones don't. "Imagination" and "Busyness & Inspiration" sold out by the end of the con.

I've decided that this con is going to be my last con - at least for a while. If all cons were as positive and profitable as GeekGirlCon, I'd happily exhibit at more. But too many of my con experiences have been disappointing. You never know if a show is going to be a good one or a bad one, and a bad show is really emotionally draining. It's hard to sit by and watch a steady stream of people ignore or reject your work for an entire weekend, knowing that you paid and prepped for weeks and mostly likely traveled for hours in order to do this.

For the past two years I've tried to crack the con code and figure out how to make them more profitable. But I realized that it was taking away too much time and attention from freelance, which is much more profitable for me anyway.

I will miss getting to meet fans and hang out with other artists after the show. I guess I'll need to find other ways of getting myself out of the house more often!

If you're interested in purchasing my art, I have some leftover prints, cards and postcards from the show in my Etsy shop. I also have prints in all sizes at my INPRNT shop.
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