Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rough Sketches for my Monster Children's Book

              These are three of the rough draft drawings for my new Illustrated children's book "Allegra, friend of all Monsters" . I usually try not to post more finished artwork from books this early on, but in this case I'm soo excited about how this book is turning out that I simply can't resist posting some samples. What's soo exciting about this is that these are what I would consider to be the least action packed scenes of the book and yet I feel even these have so much great detail for the kids to enjoy. I keep telling people that with every book I do I can see my art progressing by leaps and bounds and that certainly rings true for this book. Of course I still have  sooooooo much mroe to learn that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. 

God has been so great to me in allowing me to continue down this path over these past few years. I can't tell you how many times I've felt I might need to get a different job that pays more substantially and yet God keeps providing just when I've tried everything I know how to do on my own. The past month has been a bit of a roller coaster ride not knowing what was in store next and getting down to the last few dollars in my bank account for the first time in my life. I'm generally extremely good at saving money and not over indulging even when I have money. So for me to nearly run out of money is beyond rare.

     As Lent was just around the corner I knew I would have to make some tough decisions in regards to my time and money. Should I spend the day helping the Knights of Columbus with the fish fry?, should I go to stations of the cross and the Young adult Holy Hour?, should I spend the gas money to make it to Parish council meeting when surely they don't need me there anyway? In the end I decided that I needed to go to these things more than I needed to stay at home searching for my next gig. I had always heard that you put God first in all things and he will provide for you all that you need, for as the bible says " he knows all the hairs on your head" (Luke 12), "he cares enough to feed the birds in the sky and clothe the flowers of the field and so surely he will do the same for us" (Mat.6),

       Now once again I find myself overwhelmed with work and just baffled at how these new clients searched me out. This isn't something I did. So anyway, just feeling extra thankful to be a children's book illustrator at this time in my life. I've been thinking a lot lately about how I tend to delete more of what I write than what gets posted or saved or sent. I suppose this second part is something I would delete as it's getting late and I would deem that this isn't anything I set out to write in the first place. I also generally wouldn't necessarily think an art blog is the best place to write about my faith in any way. But for tonight I'm choosing not to delete this and just to proclaim How amazing God truly is for those who trust in him and allow him to be their all in all, king of kings and Lord of Lords. I may not always get to be a children's book illustrator but I'm certain that whatever I do, so long as it's in the name of our Lord, it will be a great and joyful thing to do. Thanks for reading. God bless!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My First Watercolor Video Tutorial !

Actually it's my first video tutorial of any kind but I wanted to put watercolor in there as I suspect it will draw more people from google searches. Basically I started recording videos of my art a few months back with oil paintings but most had my head in the shot for too long, so they never made the final cut,LOL. Then with my recent book I worked on small watercolor paintings and figured out a good method to avoid having the back of my head in the shot. Keeping my cats out of the shot is another story! (not this video but I may leave a cat in one of the others) Now after a lot of work I finally finished part one of the first video!

As this was my first video I tried to keep it rather simple and didn't get into too much explanation. However I do have another couple of images recorded from this book which I plan to try different ideas with. I also plan to eventually make more videos of various things as I progress in my career.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Website Design

A client recently went on vacation so I decided it would be the perfect time to finally fix up my website and work on various other neglected illustration related tasks. I'll tell you about some of those things separately as some aren't quit ready to reveal yet. But for this post I thought it would be neat to look back through the years at my website design. 
            This first image is from my website back in 2008 I think my first design was in about 2005 but for those first few years I kept to this basic design of having the resume on the home page. I have no idea what I was thinking,LOL. The "logo" had it's own issues as most people couldn't even figure out that it's supposed to be a birch tree.
my updated resume with a much cleaner design.

at some point along the way I decided it would be a good idea to throw a close cropped pic of myself up on the web header. Again, what was I thinking? LOL

finally I began to get the idea when I decided to put some close cropped illustration samples for the header.

Then I eventually decided to add one larger illustration to the home page to welcome guests. So the whole site and home page was black with these bright illustrations on it as I felt my illustrations looked good on black. It took me another year or so to realize that all of my favorite children's illustrators had very light themed websites. That realization then gave me the point of view to see my own website ina whole new light and realized it is waaaay too dark for a children's illustrator website.
This past week I did my most recent adjustments to my site and now have four buttons on the front page that link directly to various kinds of art in my portfolio. I may decide to change the images for those button over time but I have a feeling this concept will work the best to help folks get where they are going. I've also updated a number of other things to make navigation easier and have lots more in store to add interest to the site. This theme is still a bit dark but much better than before. I tried some lighter colors but realized it would take a complete redesign from scratch to get everything to look good on it.

When I say web design I should be clear that I am only using a template and uploading images and using apps. There are all kinds of things I would love to do but don't have the know how or money to do. One day if I ever get rich and famous I'll have lots of fun with the design.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monster book Cover Design

This week I finished off some thumbnail sketches for the cover design of my new book. Generally I wait till the other illustrations are underway before starting in on cover designs as it gives me more time to think it over. However this time I decided to try things a bit different so i can have the cover ready to promote the book earlier in the process.

                               click on the image and click a couple mroe times to enlarge to full size.
Basically the book is your typical (yet unique) monster book with a Little girl who's scared of monsters. By the end she is declared "Allegra, friend of all Monsters", which is the title of the book. I actually think a few of these could work well for the cover. I guess it just depends on what sort of interaction you want the characters to have. Allegra could still be scared of monsters to lead into the book, it could be just before she meets the monster, or it could be a scene that sort of represents the action in the book. The important thing is for it to be a strong, bold ,easily understood image that gets across the idea of the story immediately and will catch the eye of onlookers.

  I don't think the cover has to strictly abide to the connotations that come with the title. It is generally understood that the cover shows the overall feeling of the book. These are for the front cover but depending on what the client chooses, we may or may not decide to have part of the illustration lead to the back cover. Or we could do a solid color with spot illustration on the back.

At this point I've only laid in rough ideas for the title but will figure out if that will be designed as hand drawn type or computer. My last two book covers (above) had hand drawn type which I've come to enjoy a lot more. Particularly since my clients tend to not spend the extra money for a good graphic designer. It takes a LOT more work to do my own illustrated title but it is waay worth it when the alternative is someone calling themselves a graphic designer, but who would put text over the main characters faces if left on their own. 40hrs of work can be destroyed in an hour of bad type layout. I've also come to feel that hand drawn title's have a larger appeal for children's books and maybe even lets people see that we went the extra mile in designing the book as a whole. You always hear, "don't judge a book by it's cover" but the fact is that people generally don't have much else to go on. Particularly in a world where big brick and mortar books stores like Border's are going out of buisness and Amazon is growing.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Free Peter Newell Children's Books

One of the blogs I follow made mention of some free Newell books. I had never seen them before and enjoyed looking through th

em so figured others may as well. I have to say I'm slightly frustrated though because the book concepts are somewhat similar to one of the book ideas I've had for a couple years,LoL. Mine is different enough to be very unique though so maybe one day I'll have the luxury of illustrating my own ideas.
here's the link

you can click on the different books and click through the PDFs page by page. So much fun to look at and read! Enjoy!
To purchase the books on amazon

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Character Designs for New Children's Book

            Below I've posted a quick introduction to my two newest characters for my current book "Allegra, Friend to all Monsters". A ton of work went into the monster character in particular even if it's not necessarily evident from the final design. But collectively the client and I are happy with the final design.

I'm planning to post some of my process work for designing that character sometime to show how involved that process can be from the initial forty rough designs sketches up through the various fur patterns and appendages and body shapes .
I always wonder how different a given character would have turned out if I had the opportunity to design something completely on my own, without client guidance and having to stick to the words of a story. It's not that I feel I could necesarily do a better job on my own as I really do feel that client or art director input is vitally important to help me see things I can't see on my own. However I would be lying if I said I never wanted to chose other thumbnails or character designs over those chosen by clients. The important thing is that by the end of the book i usually agree full heartedly with the final product.
Other posts about these characters here

For a great book on character design check out the link below.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Artist Interview

I'm posting an interview below that I did for the facebook group "Facebook Author's and Illustrators".
Tell us a little about yourself.

I Graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2006 with a BFA in Illustration. In my short career I’ve won a number of first place awards ranging from pumpkin carving designs and cartoon contests and into a congressional art competition, a duck stamp contest and an international aviation art contest. I make the art and my cats try to destroy it. I’m a Vermonter, an Artist and a Catholic. These three things have defined a large part of who I am for the balance of my life and I suspect will continue to do so for many years to come.

What is your latest published work?

“The caterpillar and the Express Train” is my latest published work. “Spirit Driver” and “The little Boy Without a Name and Without a Birthday” will be published soon (possibly by the time this interview is published).

Where e do you get your ideas from?

There are three things you must do in order to successfully generate ideas for your art.

1)consume plenty of ginkoboloba

2) Stand on your head, count to ten while holding your breath and think happy thoughts.

3) Sit very still in a metal chair with a hat made of tin foil placed perfectly over the back of your skull.

If none of these work for you, continue reading.

In reality there are no sure fire ways to get great ideas. In a sense they come to you when you are ready to receive them and each person prepares themselves to receive ideas in different ways. Since I’m an artist I tend to think of things visually, so my thought process is mostly based on visual observation. Some methods for generating ideas include.

1)Mind/Idea Web- write a project related word on paper and build similar words around it.

2) Observation- Observe nature and real objects to build your own ideas off. The best artists I know create magical worlds, objects and creatures by starting from things in the real world.

3)Do something to it!- Take a drawing or idea and do something to it, add to it again, subtract from it, do something else to it. Don’t settle on your initial idea or drawing, keep changing it until you feel you have created something truly unique.

4)Images- I generally get ideas flowing by looking through tons of images done by other artists. The idea isn’t to copy other artists but just to flip through tons of images and sketch any idea that come to you. The other day I was stuck on a cover title design for a book and started looking through images. In that process I saw an illustration of a kid with his mouth wide open. I realized his head and mouth created an “O” shape. So from there the ideas started flowing for how I could incorporate the main character into the title of the book cover.

5) The Internet- This is a great way to generate ideas because it’s kind of like having an automatic mind idea web at your finger tips. You type in a word and click search to reveal all kinds of words, pictures and ideas that you may not otherwise think of. I go on forums, blogs, and art websites constantly in search of something to spark an idea in my mind.

6) friends/family- sometimes people are afraid to use a friends idea but friends are often hanging around suggesting solutions to our problems whether we ask them to or not. Generally they want us to use their idea. I say if you have their permission, then go ahead and use the idea, if it’s a good one. In fact none of my children’s books illustrations are done entirely on my own ideas. I send tons of sketches and versions of ideas to authors and work back and forth with them based on their feedback. So the end result is always meant to be something we can both (and hopefully all the readers as well) can relate to and enjoy.

7)Relax- Some of my best ideas come when I’m almost asleep or when I’m doing something mundane.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently finishing up a children’s book called “The little Boy Without a Name and Without a Birthday” and beginning work on a book called “Allegra, Friend of All Monsters”.

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring illustrators?

The number one thing I can suggest is to build a website or at least a blog to post your art. No one will hire you if they can’t see your work samples. I would also say it’s important to constantly promote yourself and search for your next gig while working on your current gig so you won’t be out of work for two months in between each project. Do your best in college or in your current state to make the best art you can, so that when you branch out into Illustration as a full time career, you will already have some great pieces to show to potential clients and not just some paintings of fruit and nudes. Learn character design and figure drawing while you have the time. Do your best on even the smallest things like logos as it may lead to more but don’t do work for free outside of competitions. Even most art competitions are debatable as many are just out to get your money. Winning competitions has kept me in business but I have also lost my fair share of money trying out some sketchy online art competitions.

Do you have a crazy story about an aspect of the illustrator’s life, perhaps from a school visit or event?

The first children’s book I ever worked on was with two guys who lived about an hour away from my apartment. I eventually moved closer to them but before the move they had already set me up inside an old convent which I used as my studio for about three months. There was a catholic school attached to the convent and a new church being built next door. The convent was on the third floor. I found myself trying to get into the building either before the kids and construction workers arrived or in between lunch breaks and recess as none of the teachers knew who I was. So for a couple of months I actually ended up sleeping in the old abandoned convent at nights and working all day throughout the day. There was a room filled with old children’s books which hadn’t yet been relocated to the school’s library. So some days I would sit up there and just read through this mound of books. Every now and then I would hear kids running around in the convent hallways unattended by teachers after school. So I eventually started keeping the door shut to the room I was in. I remember more than once one of the kids would get curious and try to open the door. One time I must have left it unlatched as a small boy lurched into the room saying “I wonder what’s in here”. Of course he had no idea I would be in there with my large headphones on, rubber gloves, a darth vadar respirator mask (I was using oil paints in an enclosed room), my crazy long hair sticking up everywhere and my ripped clothes covered in paint. All I remember is that I barely made a move and the boy nearly jumped out of his skin and went running back to his buddies. About a week later some boy scouts ran up the stairs and passed my “studio” as I heard one boy exclaim “that’s where I saw the ghost!”

Is there anything else you’d like to add, such as a website or blog?

First I want to sincerely thank you Simon for the work you do for this group and anyone who has taken the time to actually read about my life and passion of being an illustrator. My personal website is , book website- , blog- , zazzle store-*, youtube where I hope to post more art tutorial videos soon - google me and you’re sure to find me in a number of other places as well.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Have an Online Presence

          I'm taking the day off from illustrating books in order to catch up on a few neglected illustration business related tasks. Sooner or later you can expect to see an increase in blog posts, update my illustration website with recent work, my Etsy Shop with some of my landscape paintings, additions to my Zazzle Store and my number one goal is to finally edit some art tutorial videos I started a month ago to post on my YouTube Channel.
     Each of these things are great ways to alert your followers and fans to updates and to make a bit of extra income from your illustrations. None of them will generate a ton of income without putting a ton of work into them to begin with. Blogs can be monetized by becoming an amazon associate and things of that sort, websites can be used to sell your art and products and services, Etsy of course can be used for selling your original art products, zazzle is great for putting digital images of your art onto various products in a  POD format yet with a quality result for sale and youtube is a huge way to get people interested in your art and products. For me they all tend to take a back seat to actually creating the art but even just the little work I have put into them has brought some results. I just finished my previous book and am a ways into my current book so I'm hoping I will finally be able to steal a bit of time for such tasks as these. I'm on tons of other art websites but the above few are probably the most important for my promotional needs.

-One of my favorite children's digital artists, Dani Jones* launched a website called the illustrated section in which she sells the works of various artists in digital PDF format for e-readers.  (ipad, nook, kindle, computer, iPhone, or just about any other electronic device.)  She excepts most any art books from individual artists so long as it follows certain guidelines, which probably explains why she accepted My book The Caterpillar and the Express Train  there are also FREE books available on the site!

- I participated in an illustrator interview for the facebook group "facebook Author's and Illustrators". The interview was posted about a week ago at this link.

- The author of my caterpillar book discovered an interesting review of the book online on this blog in which our train character was compared to Thomas the train on acid.

*Dani Jones