Read

Monday, December 29, 2008

Illustration For Christmas

A womens group that I am a part of, decided that we wanted to give an inexpensive gift to the ladies for Christmas. We were having a special Christmas program and the theme was "Wise Men Still Seek Him". Since I am the artsy one in the group, I got elected to make a bookmark with the theme on it for each of the gals. I went on line and looked at lots and lots of wise guys. The image that you see on my blog is what I came up with. My kids complained that the men didn't look more ethnic. They said one of the men should have looked way more Asian. Guess I missed that boat. On the other hand, the ladies in the group seemed to like them, so at least somebody was happy. Kids these days.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Book and Contest!

Anne Bradshaw has done a stellar review of Heather B. Moore's new book, Abinidi. To see this review and a contest which is closing on November 14th, go to Anne's website, Not Entirely British. The link is listed under blogs I like to visit.

Running Amok

I’m at a point in my life where I can paint what I want, when I want. So I painted a bat for Halloween. Actually, I painted a bat and a scairdy cat and a pumpkin. It was fun. Nobody told me what size it had to be or what medium. I just painted for fun. Sometimes I think it’s important to just have a little time to let go and paint for fun. As an illustrator, you are often given limitations as to what you can do with a story, so I think that it’s important to occasionally let your creative self run amok (and Halloween would definitely be the time for running amok). It’s kind of like escape literature, where you read to run away and enjoy yourself. Do the same thing with your paintbrush and revitalize your inner artist. Every once in a while, if you can, give yourself a break from the limitations and run amok with your imagination. You might find it fiendishly refreshing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Use a Character Chart?

Have you ever gone back and read a story you wrote and thought, I don't know these people. Not only that but I don't even care about them. Story killer. That's when it's time to get into the heads of your characters. If you don't care about your characters, your reader certainly won't. One thing that I have found to be helpful when writing about your characters is to do a write up about each one of them. Anita Stansfield makes a file about each character. She even picks a face from a magazine or a Hollywood icon to be the face she writes about. Now that's dedication. I have a chart that I can use to learn more about my characters. I may never use some of the information in the story, but it gives me a feel for who they are and what their motivation is.
Character chart
Name:
Date of birth:
Age:
Height:
Weight:
Color of hair:
Color of eyes:
Scars, handicaps:
Sense of humor and type:
Basic nature:
Ambitions:
Philosophy of life:
Hobbies:
Music, art, reading preferred:
Style of dressing:
Favorite colors:
What is in her purse or his wallet:
Educational background:
Work experience/occupation:
Best friend:
Men/women friends:
Enemies and why:
Family:
Description of home:
Strongest character trait:
Weakest character trait:
Sees self as:
Seen by others as:
Present problem:
How it will get worse:
Most important thing to know about character:
One-line characterization:
Character's paradox:
Character's deepest fear:
Character's goal:
Character's motivation:
Character's conflict:
How character will change:
Depending on what time period or setting your story is in, some of the questions may not apply, so adjust the chart according to your needs. This has been a useful tool for me, I hope that it can be beneficial for those of you who find yourself with a lifeless character in need of some animation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why join SCBWI?

Yesterday I joined SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Why did I take so long to do it? I guess because I never really felt like I was an illustrator before, and now that I am actually working as one every month, it fits.
What are the benefits of belonging to SCBWI? Well, there are many it seems. You should go to their website and take a gander, and it just so happens that there is a link on my blog, how handy. SCBWI has about 19,000 members worldwide and each of those members belongs to their own regional chapters, one of which is here in Utah. Our regional rep. is Sydney Husseman. Her e-mail address appears on the site if you would like to contact her about chapter information.
SCBWI holds two regional conferences per year, or you can attend the bigwig conferences in Los Angeles in August and New York in February if you have the time and the funds. All the conferences include great networking opportunities to meet with people in the children’s book industry. There are also in-depth classes taught on subjects that are well worth the time and the travel.
When you join SCBWI you will receive a bi- monthly newsletter with updates about the children’s book market, articles about writing and illustrating and a guide to SCBWI events.
Check out the Links section of the website and you will find Helpful Research Links, Industry Related Sites, Member Web Pages, and a site devoted to School Visits. Another website section informs you of awards and grants that are available to children’s writers and illustrators. There is even a section where you can log on for discussions with other SCBWI members.
Not only does SCBWI benefit its members, but it looks good on your cover letter. Apparently being a member means something. I think it means commitment to your craft. So go ahead, get committed. Join SCBWI and see what they can do for you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Writing Down the Bones

"It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice." This quote comes from Natalie Goldberg in her book 'Writing Down the Bones'. In this book, Ms. Goldberg stresses how writing practice helps writers to learn to 'trust their own minds and create confidence in their own experiences'. She talks about taking our experiences and composting them like we do garbage, turning them over until they turn into organic soil.
One of her goals was to write a notebook a month. She mentioned that she had a pile of notebooks five feet high, just from writing practice. "It is a good idea to have a page in your notebook where you jot down, as they come to you, ideas of topics to write about." She advised, in one of her chapters. In the same chapter, she also listed topic ideas.
Ms. Goldberg talks about discipline and tricks to help yourself do your practice writing. She also stressed that it is important that you put your heart and soul into it. If you find that you are bored, go away for awhile and come back. You have to put energy into it to make it worthwhile.
The use of original detail in writing is important. "Using details you actually know and have seen will give your writing believability and truthfulness." Be aware of the details around you and when you have a moment write them down. Care about them.
There is a chapter called 'Don't Marry the Fly' where the writer is warned about getting caught up in honing in on a specific detail at the expense of your story. This chick is sharp.
There is a chapter on the importance of listening, and one on the use of verbs. Writers are encouraged to be specific. To learn about the topic they are writing about and speak that way. Don't just say flower, say geranium and know what a geranium is.
Ms. Goldberg gives a lot of practical advice, mixed with some zen type philosophy about how writing can be improved. I enjoyed this book and found some helpful tips. It may not be every ones cup of tea, but if you read it, and like it, Ms. Goldberg has since written other writing books, including 'Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, and Thunder and Lightening: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft. These books can be purchased on Amazon, or I'm sure you can probably find them at the local library.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Prismacolor

For September's illustration for Stories for Children Magazine, I decided to try using prismacolor pencils. It didn't turn out too bad. They are much smoother to work with than regular pencil crayons and you can layer with them if you use them lightly. You can burnish them for kind of a polished effect at the end of your drawing if you wish. It depends on the strength of your paper, you don't want to burnish right through to the table. You'll want to seal your finished drawing with a fixative, the same as if you were drawing with charcoal or pastels. Prismacolor pencils can be pricey, but you can find them at a discount at places like Blick art supplies or CarpeDiemStore.com.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Writing Magic

This week I thought I would share one of my favorite books on writing with you. It also happens to be by one of my favorite children's writers. The book is called Writing Magic and is by Gail Carson Levine. She is the author of a ton of fun books including Ella Enchanted, The Princess tales and the Two Princesses of Bamarre. If you haven't read any of them, I strongly suggest you do. Gail has a sense of humor that pervades her writing and just makes her stories a lot of fun to read. But I digress, I want to tell you about her book on writing, it is written for young writers, but anyone can benefit from her wit and wisdom. Each chapter begins with an explanation and always end in a writing prompt and a challenge. If you follow the book the way it was meant, you won't only read, you'll do a whole lot of fun writing.
Gail discusses the importance of details, character development, point of view, voice, showing and not telling, dialogue, humor, writer's block, etc. I've given this book to several friends because to me it covers so many important aspects of writing, in a simple yet straightforward way. If you are interested in taking a look, you can click on Gail Carson Levine's link under Links for Children's writers to see the cover of the book and suggested places to purchase it. You may be able to get a copy at the local library, or if they don't have one, request that they get one in.
Writing should be a magic thing to those of us who enjoy it. Hopefully this book will be helpful to any newbies out there with basic questions and a desire to learn.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lookybook

Have you heard of Lookybook? Well now you have. Lookybook has been rated by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 new websites this year. It is a place that you can go and not only see the darling covers of children's picture books, but actually open the pages and read the darn things. Then after you read them, you can give them your rating, rant and rave about them, or tear them to bits, and build your personal library of children's books. Cool, eh. I would recommend this site to writers and illustrators alike. It's a great place to find awesome illustration and fun writing to boot. Books are new, new, new, and are what publishers are putting out right now. It's a great place for newbies to see what's out there. To find Lookybook, go to http://www.lookybook.com/ or click on Lookybook under Links For Children's Writers on my blog. Now go looky at some bookys.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What I Learned at the Writing For Charity Conference.

On Saturday July 19th I was able to attend a Writing for Charity Conference at the Salt Lake City Library. It was so good. Shannon Hale introduced a panel of other writers who were there to mentor all the wanna be's and she did a great job with her quick wit and her fun attitude. The best part was that my good friend Ali Cross was there and I got to go to lunch with her and another friend (Jennifer Wilks) from our Authors Incognito group. We met new friends there as well, which is always a bonus at a conference like this one.
Some of the new things that I picked up were:

- When you get in a writing slump - Go back and read amazing writing - give yourself a word buzz.

- Really do your homework - Make your cover letter to a publisher stellar.

- The website cbcbooks.org can help you find what publishers are publishing and what is out there right now. On this blog, under Links for Children's Writers, you can go directly to cbc books by clicking on Children's Book Council.

- A publisher should be asking himself who will I sell this to, and why will they buy it. You should be asking yourself those questions when you write it.

- Cover all of your bases. Be aggressive. Send your manuscripts all over. Don't necessarily be daunted by the words unsolicited manuscripts only.

- Check the readability level of your manuscript.

- If you are writing a children's picture book, ask yourself "How many times can a parent stand to read this to their child out loud?"

- Look for ly words - they will show you when you are telling and not showing.
ie) Jeff ran out angrily. Change to - Jeff stomped out and slammed the door.

So there you have it. My two cents from the conference. And it even rhymes if you say it right.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Story Teller

I just returned from Canada by way of the Black Hills. We stopped at Custer's Last Stand National Monument and heard the most informative, animated, storyteller. What an amazing account she told. She could have just read from a brochure or rattled off facts and figures, but she used her hands, her voice and her expressions to bring the telling of a great historic event to life. It was a good forty minutes long, but the time flew by. Her facial features were Native American and she used a good deal of Native American sign language to accentuate her story. Someone really got it right when they assigned her to be the message giver. She certainly got the message across. I guess there is more than one way to tell a story.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Way Cool Special Effects!

I just got my new copy of Photoshop Elements 6. It has the neatest stuff in it that I have no idea how to access. No problem, I have a thirteen year old. Are these kids just born with a computer link in their brains? It's a little frightening. I asked him if he learned to do this stuff at school and he says "No, it's just so easy, Mom. It kind of tells you what to do." Computer link - I'm sure of it.
Anyhow, I scanned my drawing of a toy store and then opened it onto photoshop. After fooling around with the pixels and getting it to the dimensions I wanted, I added colors, changing them numerous times. I found that I had to go back and use the brush tool occasionally to finish lines so that spaces were completely blocked in, or I had a problem with the paint bucket washing color into places that I just didn't want it to go. It was so convenient to be able to change my mind about a color at the click of a button.
Once I had the colors I wanted, I began to wonder if there was something fun I could do about the glass window. Shockingly enough, under the tool area marked filter and then under distort, there was an effect called glass. All I had to do was click on the wizard tool and isolate areas that I wanted the glass effect to cover and voila, the computer gave that area a wavy glass look. Unfortunately, it looks way better blown up. With the small picture size that you see, it doesn't make much of a difference.
I will continue to experiment with photo shop. I have heard lots of friends say that they like to scan their sketches and play with color to decide what they will use before they paint. I can see how this would be a great time saver. For example, the first time that I tried the glass effect, I realized that I wanted the colors to be more muted behind the glass. Without having to spend hours repainting, I simply clicked on colors and redid everything in way less time. I'm not saying that I like the look of this photoshop picture better than other methods I have tried, and I know I have a lot more to learn that can greatly improve what photoshop can do, but it's a lot of fun along the way, even if I wasn't born with that instant computer link thing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Know Nothing, But I've Heard It's Good Stuff.

Okay, here I am writing about something that I virtually know nothing about. We're all here to learn, right. Let us delve into the wonderful world of software together. In this month's Writer's Digest there is an article on Software for Writers. I read it and gleaned what I could that would apply to my computer. I have a PC. If you have a Mac, you may want to get a copy of the August 2008 Writer's Digest to analyze, because I didn't want to make this blog three yards long.

After looking through the article, I decided that a newbie such as my self would have to stick to the free or budget friendly software, so those are the ones I wrote about. I labeled them in the same format that the article did. First there is software that helps you tell your story. For about $55.00 smackers, New Novelist is a program that will help you develop your story by prompting you to track items such as character's physical and personality traits, as well as details of scenes.
Write It Now, for a similar price tag, includes a submissions log, and asks you to fill out details but in a more categorized manner.
Visually simple to use, YWriter is also free (bonus). This program helps you to structure your story by breaking it into chapters, with a word count for each. You can see whose viewpoint is used, the location, and a brief plot description. This makes reorganizing and editing easier.
If you have lots of random ideas floating hither and yon and you need a place to collect them all and organize them, that would be what an 'idea database' is for. Plotcraft was made for cataloguing ideas and best of all, it's free.
For character development check out Character Writer. It is based on a personality typing system and will cost you about $40.00.
Editing help can be pricey. Writer's Workbench at $100.00 or StyleWriter at $160.00 will analyze your work and and look for writing style problems. For a little less, Editor, at around $50.00 will help you learn good editing practices rather than finding them for you.
Can't be bothered with those outdated books, try Word Menu. For about $35.00 you can be the owner of a combination dictionary/thesaurus program filled with words you never knew you knew.
Write Track and Sonar are both free submission tracking programs, 'cause who has time to keep track of submissions, eh.
Last of all, don't forget to back up your baby. Syncback is a free program for backing up files. (the small print says SE version $30.00- sounds a bit cryptic). Norton Ghost will back you up for $70.00 or so. You can't see them, but they want to see some green.
Scott Rhodes has a great website with a section on writer's tools. I have put it under my Links for Children's Writers section. Under writer's tools you will find his list of free software. He has had much more experience than I have. Give his site a look it is a lot of fun, and good luck learning about how to use software for writers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's Wrong With My Painting?

What happens if you ask your family what they think of your art work? "It looks really good," is the reaction you'll probably get. Not helpful, right. But with an art critique group, you hear what you need to hear. "What planet is that child from? Because I don't think that human children have arms that can do that." Maybe a bit harsh, but you need to know if your anatomical proportions are off. Other artists will tell you where to make changes and even suggest things that can be done to improve your work. If you are a newbie like me, those suggestions may be things you never even thought of. It may take a while, but after a few critiques you may find yourself learning to spot things that will help out your fellow illustrators as well.
An important thing about critiquing is that you learn to take criticism as a series of helpful comments that are intended to improve your craft. Don't go home feeling like you'll never get any better, leave knowing that you have just seen through someone else's eyes and you have a chance to make changes that will help you to improve.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

If You Wish to be a Writer, Write

I went to Butler Middle School to watch my son sing with 'The Nerds and The Chosen One' in his Ninth Grade assembly this morning. It was awesome. The drummer totally rocked and the guitar solo was screamin'. They sang Don't Stop Believing which is Brighton High's theme song this year. They did a great job.
Okay, enough rambling about my darling son. By the way he is my third oldest, but my first born (figure that one out).
In the last blog I talked about illustrating, so this time I'll focus a bit on writing. One of my favorite quotes is "If you wish to be a writer, write." I guess I like it because it's a good reminder for me. It's a bit of a kick in the behind because I get so busy doing other things that writing often falls on the very end of my list a lot of days. It is one of those things that if you are going to perfect, you have to prioritize.
I have a friend who gets up early, before her husband and kids, just to write. Now that's dedication. Many conferences I have been to have all said the same thing, make a goal and write it down. Whether it's fifteen minutes a day, half a page or five hundred words, give yourself something to work toward and then do your best to achieve it. Make short term and long term goals and reward yourself when you accomplish something relevant, like actually submitting an article, poem, short story, etc.
There are contests that you can flex your writing muscles on and they are great for receiveing critique feedback even if you don't get any kind of an award. Hearing how you can improve your writing still makes you come out a winner. The League of Utah Writers has a great contest with many categories that runs every year. Other contests such as the Writer's Digest writing contest can be found on the web. The Science Fiction and Fantasy website -swfa, has a warning and caution page that talks about contests and vanity anthologies that ask you to pay them for further editing and publishing help. Improve your writing, but don't get scammed in the process.
Now get out there, make a few goals, and write!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Photoshop aargh!

The first time that I tried to shrink an illustration and send it to a magazine, I could not get photoshop to cooperate. I felt like a total idiot. I thought mabey it was all the brain cells I'd been doling out every time another adorable child came along. My illustration editor had previously told me that if I used the cropping tool I could plug in the pixel width, length and the right resolution and then the cropping tool would automatically give me the results I wanted. It took me forever to realize that the width and length were set at centimeters and inches and that is why the computer refused to respond to the settings I was trying to establish. Finally I tried putting in a setting of 600px (px refering to pixels) and it worked! Yeehaw! I'm not a cowgirl, but I play one on my blog.
The next issue I had was trying to send my editor the resized illustration. You're probably thinking, duh. I was thinking, huh. After many failed attempts, I finally found that with a right click on my mouse, the option of e-mailing directly out of photoshop came up and I was able to send the illustration straight to me editor.
The Illustration of the boy holding the owl is the one that I recently sent. It is a compilation of several photos. I went to the internet to find a good photo of a great horned owl. I went to our local elementary school to have a boy pose for me in front of a black board, and I used my son's face, although it didn't really turn out that way. I used watercolor and prismacolor pencil. I have found that when I scan pictures, I really have to go back and darken up light areas such as faces because they come across very dimly.
I had to blog this in hopes that it will help someone who has issues with photoshop, but mostly so that next month when I have to send in an illustration again I can look at my blog and see how I did it. Oh how soon we forget. Happy painting and or writing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What can I say?

Hello and welcome to day one, eh. My boys would appreciate that, being as we started out in the great white north. I chose the name Story Painter for my blog because I am an author and an illustrator. I can't write a story without seeing pictures running through my brain and I can't paint a picture without a story forming in my mind. Kind of schizophrenic in a way. I'm a bit new to the illustration part. I did have formal art foundations at BYU way back when, but I'm just starting to blow the dust off my brushes and try to remember how light and shadow can affect depth and all that technical stuff.

The best part about all of this is that I have two things that I absolutely love to do, and writing for children often brings them both together for me. I think there must be others out there who are wanting to write and illustrate, and I'd like to use this blog as a way to help them out as I learn things about illustration and writing.

Stick with me, I'll try to post at least weekly and do a little research along the way that might be of help to any newbies out there who are dying to learn how to write and paint for kids.
09 10