Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Personal Work: HAMILTON

Hamilton is one of the best things that has happened in my adult life, but none of my friends and family appreciate it. Sometimes I fangirl about it on Twitter but no one ever responds. My squealing echoes into the endless voids of the internet and is returned only with the chirping of e-crickets.

OR SO I THOUGHT. A while ago Arielle Jovellanos emailed me, asking if I'd like to participate in a fanmade Hamilton zine. "I am not throwing away my shot," I said to myself.

Somehow Arielle had scored not only a ticket to the show, but a backstage pass as well! Being the Queen of Productivity and Project Management that she is, Arielle wasn't just content to meet the cast of Hamilton and die a happy woman. Nooooooooo. She wanted to bring them a fully-illustrated anthology, with 46 artists illustrating the 46 songs from the show.

Each artist was assigned a song, and I got Farmer Refuted, which despite its short length is one of my favorite songs from the show. In this song, Samuel Seabury is reading a speech about why America should NOT go to war with England. Hamilton flips out and humiliates Seabury with his superior wordpower.

Tragically, I've never seen the show, but in this scene I imagined Hamilton taking Seabury's speech and ripping it to shreds - literally and figuratively. It turns out that many of the other artists used fluttering papers as a motif in their illustrations, so this worked out well.

I asked my husband to rip up some paper like the future of his country depended on it, and he did a great job.

I had no idea he was so patriotic!

I posed for Samuel Seabury myself.

Then I used photos of the actors who play Hamilton and Seabury to replace me and my husband's faces with theirs.

From here I started sketching out the drawing on top of the thumbnail.

At first I tried using a normal color scheme.

I decided that was boring and didn't capture the stylized look and feel of the show. So I played around with some textures and adjustment layers until something cool appeared. I was in the middle of a busy, busy month of commissions and didn't have a lot of time to second-guess myself. This piece was just gonna do what it was gonna do. Crazy orange and purple color scheme? Okay!

I kept the rendering simple, partly for the sake of time and partly so as not to lose the energy in the piece.

I have to admit I really like Seabury's expression back there.

Arielle put together the books...

...and gave copies to all the Hamilton cast members.

Be still my heart!

The Hamilton Pamphlet will not be printed or sold, however you can view it in it's entirety here. The illustrations are fantastic. Each piece really poignantly communicates the emotion of the songs. I am humbled to be among them, especially to share a spread with one of my idols, Claire Hummel.

Thank you Arielle for putting this whole project together. You are seriously one exceptional lady.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ranger in Time: Race to the South Pole! Interior Illustrations

For the book Ranger in Time: Race to the South Pole, I created 15 black-and-white chapter illustrations.

As I said in my last blog post about the cover illustration, this book is about the Scott Expedition, which took place during 1910-1913. The previous books in the Ranger series have been set further back in the past - from the mid-1800's to Ancient Rome - so this was the most modern of all Ranger's time traveling adventures.

Because of the relatively recent time period, and because the members of the Scott Expedition knew they were on an important mission, they took a lot of photographs. That meant I had a lot more photo references to work with than usual - which was helpful, but also a challenge because it meant that I had to pay more attention to details.

Everything, from the types of shoes they wore to the construction of their sleds needed to be double-checked with the photographic evidence.

Here is a scene from the chapter when the expedition is landing on the mainland of the south pole for the first time, and Ranger meets his first Adelie penguin. The author, Kate Messner, told me that this is her favorite illustration out of the entire Ranger series so far.

This scene in particular has some little details I'd like to point out, if you'll indulge me. All of the cans and crates are based on photos of supplies the Scott expedition actually used.

Note the boxes of Colman's corn flour in the back, and the cans of golden syrup in the front.

Perhaps one of the most interesting challenges was illustrating the scene when a small party set out to Cape Crozier to collect eggs from the emperor penguins for scientific study. They did so during the darkest, coldest time of the year. The three men (and, in our book, a boy and a golden retriever) spent several weeks pulling a sled and camping in the freezing darkness of the antarctic.

I had several questions about this. I sent an email to Scholastic who forwarded it to Kate Messner.
  1. Would the party be wearing skiis or not?
  2. They must have had a lantern with them, right? Would it be ok to show the main character holding a lantern?
  3. Why would any human being put themselves through this?
Kate got back to me quickly. She looked up the information in an autobiography written by Apsley Cherry-Gerard, one of the men on the expedition. As for question #1: skii poles but no skiis. As for question #2, it turns out they guided themselves by moonlight and by holding a single candle. (!!!!!!)

As for question #3, Cherry-Gerard named his memoir "The Worst Journey in the World" so that tells you how he felt about that.

I don't want to spoil any more of the book for you, but let me just say that it is packed with all sorts of cool stuff: killer whales! Ice cravasses! Storms at sea! You'll want to check it out. Ranger in Time: Race to the South Pole comes out on June 28.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ranger in Time: Race to the South Pole!

I'm excited to share another cover for the Ranger in Time series, written by Kate Messner and published by Scholastic. Book #4 is called Race to the South Pole, and it's about the Scott expedition, which took place during 1910-1913. Ranger joins a young stowaway on the ship, and together they face snowstorms, killer whales and ice crevasses.

 The art director, Ellen Duda, asked for "Ranger, on land, against an icy landscape with Captain Scott’s boat, the Terra Nova, in the background. Instead of dogs, Scott brought ponies with him, so one or more of them could be in the background, too. There were also issues with killer whales prowling around the ice if you want to show a fin or two in the water."

The Terra Nova (image source)

Captain Scott's Expedition Party (image source)

Here are some of my thumbnail sketches:

These are the roughs I sent in:

The team at Scholastic liked the second rough the best, but said that Ranger's pose was too similar to the first cover. So, they asked me to revise the pose.

The rough was approved. Next step was to create a color rough. Here I met a bit of a challenge. Scholastic likes their Ranger covers to be super colorful. But if I had a white and blue snowscape, and a white and blue sky, that would not be enough color. So, I suggested to the art director that we could have a sunset in the sky. She responded that since the sun only sets/rises once a year in the South Pole, showing a sunset would not be very accurate.

So I decided to exercise a little artistic license by adding an unexplained golden light behind Ranger. It's not exactly a sunset or sunrise, but it's enough to introduce some warmth into the color scheme. 

The color rough got the thumbs up! Time to go to final!

Here it is with the final text treatment, designed by Ellen Duda:

Ranger in Time: Race to the South Pole comes out on June 28. It is a fantastic book covering an unusual bit of history. For a while, Amazon was claiming that it was the #1 seller in the "Antarctic Travel Guides" category - which...I surely hope is a mistake. Please do not use this book as an Antarctic travel guide.

In my next blog post I will talk about the process behind the interior illustrations for the book.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The American Dream

Recently I was invited to participate in a group show at the Pony Club Gallery in Portland. The show is curated by my friend Johnny Acurso and the theme is "Food Fight." Opening night is NEXT THURSDAY (6/2) at 6 PM at the Pony Club PDX! You are invited!

I figured it was high time I painted a tribute to one of the great loves of my life: ice cream. I've always loved ice cream, but since moving to Portland and discovering the ice cream shop Salt & Straw, my love for ice cream has escalated to the level of sheer madness.

How could I convey the true greatness of ice cream in a single painting? I spent many minutes pondering this important question. For me, the idea of perfect ice cream is now forever linked to Oregon, so I thought I would start with that. Eventually the idea of a giant ice cream in the Oregon wilderness formed in my mind.

In order to make the ice cream as glorious as possible, I decided to add a splash of sunlight hitting the top, as though the ice cream is breaking through the clouds.

From there on the piece went very smoothly, as I piled more and more sweets onto the sundae while humming "How Great Thou Art" to myself.

Let me know if you're going to stop by the Food Fight show!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Honest in All Things

Last year I was approached by a new client: The Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They asked me to create an illustration for their magazine New Era.

The story was called "Honest in All Things," and it was about a girl who was considering taking more than one bag of free school supplies. No big deal, right? No one would know. But then she found someone's smart phone in the restroom, and realized that taking an extra bag of school supplies was stealing, just like taking the smart phone would be stealing.

The client asked me to depict the girl, holding the smart phone and a bag of school supplies on her school campus. They also asked to see the line where school supplies were being given out to kids.

Luckily this was an easy pose to take reference for. I grabbed a backpack, paper bag and my smartphone and voila.

Here's the rough I sent them:

"Looks great!" They said.

"No...no revisions?" I said.

"Nope! Go to final!" They said.

I stared dumbfounded at my computer screen. No revisions? None at all? They're not going to ask me to put a sweater on one of the kids in the back, or rearrange the formation of birds in the sky, or anything? I don't understand. *lapses into Shatner impression* I..........don't understand.

The illustration was in the April 2016 edition of New Era. I tried to get a copy, even went down to the local Mormon church, but I couldn't find one. I had to ask around to friends, and finally Miranda found a copy and took a photo for me. Thanks!

If you'd like to read the story, you can read it online.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Types of Illustration Careers

Recently an artist asked me to take a look at her portfolio. I asked her what I always ask people who request portfolio reviews: "What do you want to do with your art?" She responded, as many do, "I don't know."

I don't blame her, of course. Growing up, we don't tend to learn much about artistic careers, because society tends to view art as "not a real job." It's no wonder that people who want to become artists have only vague ideas of possible career paths. They just know they want to do art.

The reality is that, if you want a job, you can't simply "be an artist" and "do art," any more than you can just "be a scientist" and "do science." There are many, many different types of art careers along a broad spectrum of possibilities, and if you want a job, you need to build skills relevant to that job.

I wrote this blog post to give you some ideas of the possible illustration careers out there. Of course, there's no way I could list every possibility, so I tried to cover the major categories. There are also many careers which are tangential to illustration, for example: art directing, graphic design, agenting, teaching, etc. For the sake of time I limited this list to jobs that are directly creating illustrations.

These jobs can be divided into three basic types: employment, freelance and direct sales.

  • Employment - working full-time at a company. This means a "traditional" job at an office, with a boss, co-workers, a regular paycheck, and all that jazz. Art-related employment can include:
    • Concept art for video games/animation/tv/movies (this encompasses MANY different positions)
    • Asset creation for video games/mobile games
    • Marketing illustration for video games
    • 2D/3D animation (this encompasses MANY different positions)
    • Advertising at a design/ad agency
    • Medical illustration and animation
    • Architectural visualization
    • Technical illustration
    • Surface design for textiles, apparel, and home goods
    • Greeting cards
    • Storyboarding
    • Theme park design
    • Fashion illustration
    • Tattoos, when employed at a parlor
  • Freelance - doing commissions for clients. This means being paid by various clients to work on specific projects for them. Freelancers usually work from home.  Freelance illustration can include:
    • Books
    • Editorial/magazines
    • Religious illustrations
    • Advertising
    • Tarot decks and New Age art
    • Educational/textbook illustrations for children
    • Medical illustration and animation
    • Architectural visualization
    • Packaging illustration
    • Postage stamp illustration
    • Political cartoons
    • Illustrated logos
    • Courtroom sketch artist
    • Calligraphy/handlettering
    • Surface design for textiles, apparel, and home goods
    • Greeting cards
    • Comics
    • Storyboarding
    • Tabletop/card games
    • Murals
  • Direct sales - selling art directly to the public. This means creating a product from start to finish and selling it directly to consumers, either from a physical store/gallery/convention or an online store. You are working purely for yourself, not for clients.
    • Fine art* (i.e., original paintings and sculptures, or limited edition prints)
    • Custom portraits
    • Calligraphy/handlettering
    • Greeting cards and stationary
    • Self-published books and comics
    • Web comics
    • Kickstarters
    • Practically anything, really

*Arguably, fine art is it's own thing and not a subset of illustration. However since many illustrators also create fine art, I listed it here.

Note that not all of the freelance categories constitute full-time career paths by themselves. Most illustrators, especially freelancers, work in multiple categories. For example, I currently do book, magazine, educational and religious illustrations, and I do direct sales through my Etsy shop.

You may notice that some types of illustration - for example, greeting cards - appear in multiple categories. This is because some companies prefer to hire in-house illustrators, some prefer to commission freelancers, and some companies do both.


So that's quite a list. Where do you start figuring out what you want to do?

Step 1: Focus on one of the three job categories. Do you prefer to work in an office environment or does self-employment sound more appealing to you? You don't necessarily need to make a definite, forever decision on this, but give it some thought. We all know what employment is, but if you don't know much about freelancing, do some research and talk to freelancers.

Step 2: If any of the jobs on the list sound fun to you, research them. Don't go around asking people questions that a basic Google search could answer. Google is your friend. Search for "career in ____ illustration" and you will find things. Also look for books at the library.

Step 3: Look at the illustrations being used in that field, and compare them to your current artwork. How can you make your portfolio look like it belongs in that field?

Step 4: After you've done some basic research and analyzed your portfolio, talk to artists who are currently working in the field you're interested in. If you can, get a portfolio review at a convention. Otherwise, send an email with specific questions or a request for a portfolio review. Artists are generally very helpful, as long as you're polite and aren't asking questions a basic Google search could answer. If they take the time to respond, be sure to thank them.


So blog readers, did you find this helpful? Do you have any suggestions for jobs I can add to the list? If so, leave a comment!


EDIT: Scott Bakal has informed me that there is an ebook called 50 Markets of Illustration, which examines fifty different possible illustration careers in detail. If you're looking for direction in your career, this sounds like a great resource!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Original Sin

"Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid themselves...among the trees of the garden." - Genesis 3:8

It's not often that my assignments for Lifeway's Explore the Bible series give me a chance to draw naked people. In fact, my first rough sketch of this scene, according to the client, was too revealing!


They asked for more foliage to cover them up.

Whenever I start an illustration, I try to identify the main emotion I want to convey. In this case, that emotion was guilt. So, I used some composition and color tools to reinforce this emotion.

Zooming in on the couple helped focus on their facial expressions. The shadow cast over Adam and Eve is not only symbolic, but also helps make them look like they're hiding. Having Eve looking over her shoulder was not only convenient for modesty reasons, but also made her look furtive and evasive, like she can't even look Adam in the face.

But my favorite detail is the snake in the top corner. Did you catch it?
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