October 9: the last few weeks at Val Draws

Well, I've been a lazy blogger, haven't I? But I haven't been a lazy illustrator; I've been plugging away at my mini-book, as well as beginning sketches for other portfolio pieces, which may also find their way into mini-books of their own. Here's where drawings stand for the mini-book:

I also finally drew my wolf-girl in an all-fours running pose that I'm happy with. It was harder than I expected.

I also signed up for an online Chinese Brush Painting course, which is pretty cool. And now I'm tired of typing, so that's all for now!

September 11: This week at Val Draws

This needs more cleanup, but this is the mini-book sketch I worked on this week:

I also spent a fair amount of time working on character designs for my squirrel and crow story, but everything is pretty messy right now, so I'll hold off on posting for now... okay, maybe just one:

I just learned that red squirrels can't digest the tannins in acorns; they prefer pine nuts. Yet another squirrel myth exploded!

I just learned that red squirrels can't digest the tannins in acorns; they prefer pine nuts. Yet another squirrel myth exploded!

Or two:

This is almost a straight up copy of the photo below.

This is almost a straight up copy of the photo below.

Is he the perfect chubby squirrel, or what?

Is he the perfect chubby squirrel, or what?

I also came down with a cold on Friday, so I've been pretty loopy all weekend, so I think that's it for now! 8-)

September 5: This week at Val Draws

This week I cleaned up another sketch for my mini book:

I also worked on some cartooning exercises from Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice by Ivan Brunetti (bad drawing alert!):

The assignment was to do a daily four-panel comic inspired by something from daily life. Most of these I drew very quickly with no preliminary sketching or reference, so they're pretty sloppy. I'd like to spend more time, but I'm also trying to finish other projects while working full-time and trying not to be a totally crappy mom to my six-year-old daughter. So for now, scribbly cartoons it is!

I moved on to week four's exercises which begin with sketching a character. I hated most of what I drew on this page, so this is what was left:

but I ended up not using this for the next exercise, because while doing my morning pages, inspired by Lynda Barry and the idea of not knowing what comes next, I started writing a story about two squirrels and a crow, which grew out of the fact that my husband thought that the guy with the beard stealing the bike in the second strip above was a bird (he does look like a bird, doesn't he?). I thought a bird stealing a bike was WAY more interesting than a dude with a beard stealing a bike, so I thought about writing a story about a crow that steals shiny things, but it turns out crows are no more attracted to shiny things than any other animals, according to corvid experts, but they DO steal things that squirrels hide, so I just started writing and this story started to form, which lead to this (second bad drawing alert!):

I do kind of like that last drawing of the crow.

I do kind of like that last drawing of the crow.

I want to develop this story further, so I know I need to practice drawing squirrels and crows and oak trees and acorns and shovels, and a lot of other things, which brings me back to the first week of Cartooning and spontaneous drawing AND to a video by Will Terrell, How to Draw from Reference, that I stumbled across recently, which caused me to have a forehead-slapping lightbulb duh moment, all of which is to say that I will be drawing these items from reference to build an internal visual language/library, and then once it is all inside me, I will draw it again, exhaling the air that is already inside me, as Will Terrell put it.

So that's this week in a big, fat nutshell. Later!

August 28: this week at ValDraws

Cleaned up this sketch:

I also did quite a bit of work with the Ivan Brunetti cartooning exercises, as well as with Lynda Barry's book, Syllabus. The two work well together and Barry uses some of the Brunetti exercises in her teaching, so it's easy to use them together. I'll upload some of the work I've done when I have a little more time, and I'm feeling a little less self-conscious.

That's it for now!

August 21 - the last few weeks at Val Draws

Now where was I... I missed a few weeks of blogging, but I have been consistently working on refining the art for my mini book promo:

Weird cropping and borders aside, I'm happy with how things are coming along. 

I also got a new book called Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice by Ivan Brunetti. It's pretty amazing. It's based on a college course he teaches and is structured by weeks, with exercises and assignments. I just finished the first week (and read ahead a bit) and things are already making sense to me in a way that they never did before, and ideas are flowing probably better than they ever have. I don't think I'm articulating very well how good and special this book is, so just go buy a copy, okay? 

June 20 - June 26

This week I ordered a couple sample postcards which should arrive by the end of the week. Hopefully one will look good and I can get the mailing sent out next week.

I also did these sketches for the dummy:

I'm not satisfied with these, so I'll be revisiting them, but I want to keep moving forward and then go back and look at the dummy as a whole before I make corrections.

As usual, I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I'm slowly making progress.

That's it for now. Until next week.

This week at Valdraws: June 13 - June 19

I spent a lot of time just staring at things this week and I felt pretty frustrated at times. I didn't get a ton done, but I feel pretty good about the way I resolved some of the problems I was having. I made some changes to my mini book promo, and finished several pages of sketches for the dummy:

The first two images were too similar, so I combined them, and also changed the composition for page six.

The first two images were too similar, so I combined them, and also changed the composition for page six.

After finishing sketches for pages 10 and 11, I can now say I've completed one third of the sketches. They will probably need another pass of refinement when I'm done, but it feels good to get this far!

After finishing sketches for pages 10 and 11, I can now say I've completed one third of the sketches. They will probably need another pass of refinement when I'm done, but it feels good to get this far!

I'm really starting to love my dummy. Sending it out is going to be scary, because I'm becoming very attached! 

I slacked on getting my next postcard out this week because I really wanted to spend my time on my dummy. I WILL finish the postcard layout this coming week, though, and get a sample printed.

That's it for now. Until next time...

This week at Valdraws: June 6 - June 12

I see the dates on my weeks have shifted from Sunday through Saturday to Monday through Sunday... oh well, that's not really important... okay, on to this week's work: 

That's what I've done so far on my mini book promo piece. I'm a little concerned that the first three images might be too similar; maybe in the second image she should be setting her bag down and reaching for yarn. I'm going to have to think about that a little more. Overall, though, I'm pleased with what I have. I think it's best to set it aside for a bit and let my subconscious work on it while I turn my focus back to my dummy:

Played with a watercolor effect on this sketch

Played with a watercolor effect on this sketch

I had hoped to get a bit further on the dummy this week, but I'm glad I started the mini book. It helps to have a second project to switch to when one of them starts to make my brain hurt.

So that's it for now. Until next week...

This week at Valdraws: May 30 - June 4

Most of my time this week went to working on sketches for my dummy. I'm a bit slow, but it's coming along. I did these this week:

I also got inspired by this mini portfolio by illustrator Stephanie Graegin, and I think I'm going to make a mini story to send out as a promo piece. It will take awhile since I'm determined to stayed focused on this dummy until it's done, and I'll need about eight pieces for the mini story, so I'm tentatively planning it for December's mailing; it's about knitting and crocheting, so it seems like a good time of year for that. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to send single image postcards with existing work from my portfolio; I'm scheduled to send one out in a couple of weeks. I think this time I will just put contact info on the back, including social media links, and not do a second image.

That's it for now. Until next time...

This (two) week(s) at Valdraws : May 15 - May 28

I totally spaced on posting last week. I've been working on my dummy every day, but so much of what I've been doing has been planning, which involves a lot of thinking and scribbly sketches, but not much that's worth showing. I will show another sketch of my main character and the first finished sketch for the dummy:

I've been experimenting with some free 3D posing software and a posing app for my phone to help me sketch characters. It's easier than getting my six year old to stand still long enough to take a picture!

Anyway, this book is my main focus right now, so although I don't have a lot to post, there's plenty going on behind the blogging scenes.

I'll keep plugging away, and try to stick to my weekly posting schedule going forward. Until next time...


May 8 - May 14: this week at Valdraws

I only did one very ugly master study this week, which I won't post here, but not because I was being a slacker; I spent a lot of time working on my Butterfly Girl book dummy and I feel good about how much I got done. It's all still quite rough and some pages only have a faint scribble to describe what will be on the page, but I currently have a stack of 28 individual sheets that constitutes almost the entire book, so I have a pretty good idea of what the final dummy will look like.

I also bought a couple of new figure drawing books after struggling more than I should have with drawing my main character; sometimes it feels like I've forgotten everything I ever learned about making art and I need a refresher. My favorite of the new books is Drawing the Head and Figure, by Jack Hamm. It's clear and to-the-point and has a lot of simplified step-by-step instructions for drawing various body parts, facial features, hair, and even clothing. I've only had it three days and it's already been tremendously helpful; I used some of the instructions to help draw this sketch of my book's main character:

I also checked out a couple more wordless picture books from the library, The Red Book and The Only Child, which is longer and almost more of a graphic novel, and listened to most of It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now, by Barbara Sher, to help me stay inspired, as well as watching a video on gouache by James Gurney, which I bought on Gumroad.

I also found an artist I had never heard of, James Tissot, who did a lot of gouache over graphite, so I saved a bunch of images for inspiration. I'm not too fond of the religious content in the paintings, but the technique is really nice.

It felt like a pretty productive week, but scanning all my rough dummy sketches would be pretty tedious, so I'll just leave it at that! Until next time!

May 1 - May 7: this week at Valdraws

This week's Art Camp lesson includes sketching from imagination. This isn't very good, but I like the feeling:

I'm looking forward to doing more sketches from imagination; it will give me a chance to experiment with ideas for my picture books.

I'm looking forward to doing more sketches from imagination; it will give me a chance to experiment with ideas for my picture books.

The lesson also includes more master studies; I had some fun with my new gouache paints and did this one of a Kate Greenaway illustration:

I had forgotten how much fun working with real paint is!

I had forgotten how much fun working with real paint is!

And here's another digital study:

I also did a gouache color study of an Edmund Dulac illustration, and pencil sketches for two images for Butterfly Girl, but OneDrive isn't syncing my scans, so I'll have to post those another time.

My plan for the week is to do one master study and one color sketch from imagination each day to finish this week's Art Camp lesson (and catch up on what I didn't finish in the first lesson) in the next ten days, and to also work on sketches for my dummy for Butterfly Girl on the weekends.

And that is my incompletely synced week in a nutshell. Until next time...

April 24 - April 30: this week at Valdraws

I finished my value studies for Art Camp week 1, and started on the color studies. Unfortunately, I saved over one of the files with three of my value studies so I can't post them, but the important thing is that I did them.

I decided I'm going to give myself two weeks to finish each week of Art Camp so that I have time to work on other things too. I still want to do Illustration Friday, but I'm going to let myself submit a sketch, rather than trying to do a finished piece, and I'm also going to work on the dummy for my picture book. Here's the rough sketch for IF and my very rough storyboard that I did this week:

Lots of scribbly notes

Lots of scribbly notes

I also filled a few more orders in my Etsy shop, and thought about getting those other items listed, but there just aren't enough hours in the day for all of it, so I'm focusing on my picture book and Art Camp right now.

So, that's it for this week; until next time!


April 17 - April 23: this week at Valdraws

This week I took Giuseppe Castellano's Business of Illustration seminar that he offers through his Illustration Department website. It left me with a lot to think about, mostly "who am I as an illustrator." I think I've been asking myself the wrong questions lately: "how do I get noticed?" and "how do I get work?" when I should be asking "how do I differentiate myself as an illustrator?" I realized that my work, while reasonably proficient, isn't terribly special and doesn't really set me apart in any way.

After the class, I went on a book buying binge (picture books and collections of illustrations by illustrators from the "golden age") and signed up for Noah Bradley's Art Camp 1. I'd been on the fence about Art Camp for a long time, but I decided the structure and focus on fundamentals will be good for me. 

One of the books I bought was The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit. One of the things that Giuseppe talked about was that books and art for children don't have to be cute and happy, and he reminded us that The Tale of Peter Rabbit was not all sweetness and light: in the third paragraph, Peter's mother matter-of-factly reminds the children not to go into Mr. McGregor's garden because their father "had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor." (Accident my foot!) When I reread it, I remembered just how scary it was to me as a child knowing that Peter would end up as DINNER if he was caught.

All of this has led me back to my Butterfly Girl picture book; I had set it aside thinking it was a bit bleak to be a picture book, but I now realize that it's probably the strongest book idea I've had, the one that I feel the most passionate about, and likely my best opportunity to show who I am as an illustrator.

My goal for the coming week is to finish the first week's assignments for Art Camp, as well as work on the storyboard for Butterfly girl. Here are a few of the master studies I've done so far (don't laugh):

Okay, you can laugh.

Okay, you can laugh.

I did a color sketch for Illustration Friday too, but I'm not that into finishing it, so I may or may not end up submitting it like this:

It's messy, but although I enjoyed working out the composition and color, I really have no desire to take it any further.

I shipped a few more Etsy orders this week; this may turn out to be my best month yet. I REALLY need to get my new products listed.

That's this week in a nutshell. See you next week!


April 10 - April 16: this week at Valdraws

This week I watched a couple of Periscopes by Holli Conger. She's kind of a marketing genius, so I'm getting back to following her advice: I added some more connections on Linkedin this week and decided to get back to doing Illustration Friday. 

This week's word is "wood" so naturally, I came up with this:

It's still a work in progress, but I'm pretty happy with the progress I've made since Friday. I decided to try a slightly different approach with this piece; I rewatched the Digital Pencil class on SVS learn and did most of this with hatching with a tiny digital pencil/brush.

Working like this feels very natural to me and I'm working much more quickly than I do when I "paint" with larger brushes. It doesn't make a lot of sense that using a smaller brush would make things go faster, but I think it's because I've done a lot more traditional drawing than traditional painting, so I don't have to think too hard about what to do, my hand just seems to know what needs to be done.

I'll wrap this piece up by Tuesday and post the final for Illustration Friday, and then get back to finishing up my second monster slippers piece.

I also discovered that my zodiac fabric is being used for these cute project bags for sale on the Jimmy Beans Wool site.

Click the image to see the bag at Jimmy Beans Wool

Click the image to see the bag at Jimmy Beans Wool

They're made by Chicken Boots, a local company here in Chico. It's cool to see the fabric in action; I hope they sell well!

That's my week in a nutshell. Until next time!

April 3 - April 9: this week at Valdraws

The flu! Yes, the entire family had it, so I haven't done much this week. I did get shipping supplies for the notebooks I'm making for my Etsy shop, but I thought it best not to do any cutting/punching/binding in my flu-induced stupor, so I haven't made the notebooks yet.

I worked on this series of spots a little bit:

and decided to revisit some of the SVS lessons I haven't looked at in a while. Sometimes I feel like I'm regressing, so I think it's a good idea to review and brush up by working through some of the workbook assignments that go with the lessons.

Not a terribly productive week, but I'm sure once the flu-fog clears, things will improve! See you next week!