March 28 - April 2: this week at Valdraws

I didn't do a ton of drawing this week, but I did change my little monster yet again to make him less eggplanty:

 Now he looks like a fat pickle.

Now he looks like a fat pickle.

I worked on the companion piece, which is three little spot illustrations:

I like the look of the unfinished monster with the pencil sketch showing, so I think going forward I'm going to experiment with leaving more of my initial sketch visible in the finished art.

I had planned to work more on these spots this weekend, but I got five orders in three days in my Etsy shop and got inspired to work on the notebooks I've had in the works for months. I got the covers printed and laminated and printed a bunch of lined paper for the insides. Hopefully, I will get the rest of the cutting and binding done next weekend, take photos the following weekend, and get the notebooks, and my mugs, listed the weekend after that.

I also signed up for a Dribbble account and uploaded a few "shots" as they call them. I've also been stalking my web stats obsessively since my postcards went out. Gotta stop that.

That was my week in a nutshell. See you next week!

March 21 - March 27: this week at Valdraws

This week I gave my little monster a bit of hair and some horns. He seemed like such an amorphous lump and I decided he needed a little more character. I had tried to keep him simple so his feet would stand out, but he needed more character so he didn't look like a green eggplant:

 Green eggplants.

Green eggplants.

 My monster looking slightly less like the aforementioned green eggplants.

My monster looking slightly less like the aforementioned green eggplants.

I also did a little more sculpting of models. I got some armature wire and built a simple armature for a revised monster sculpture:

and smooshed together six kneaded erasers and started a crude sculpture of my monkey knight:

 Messy, but considering my fingers were my only tools, not too bad.

Messy, but considering my fingers were my only tools, not too bad.

I also worked on adding value to this piece:

and I worked on another manuscript and dummy. I've got four different stories in various stages and I keep going back and forth trying to decide which I should give my time to right now. There just aren't enough hours in the day for everything I want to do. I seriously need a time machine.

I got my postcard on Friday, the one that was part of the mailing of 150+ cards I sent to the names on my mailing list. My fingers are crossed that that I get a little bit of traffic to my site from it. I'm not expecting to get work from one mailing, but I hope people like it enough to want to see more.

That's about it for this week. See you next week!

March 14 - 20: this week at valdraws

Here's what I did this week:

I finally sent my postcard out into the world; it drops tomorrow. I hope it gets a good reception. 

I also decided to revisit this piece:

I'm still working on it; I just wasn't satisfied with the monster, especially his mouth (his face felt really flat) and his feet. I wanted to change the position of this feet but I was having trouble visualizing them, so I got out a block of modeling clay I've had lying around for ages, and made this (don't laugh):

Okay, you can laugh. As rough as it is, it was still pretty helpful in getting the new position of the feet blocked in. I want to make more models in the future, so I ordered some armature wire in the hopes I can make some that are poseable. We'll see.

I also worked on sketches for Once Upon A Mixed-Up Time (I'm a very messy sketcher), and got the text all typed up and almost completely polished:

Last but not least, I bought a new book called The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books by  Linda Ashman. I haven't finished it yet, but it's very good so far. Very clear, with straightforward, actionable advice on writing and improving picture book manuscripts.

And that's it for this week!

March 7 - March 13: this week at valdraws.com

I don't have a lot to show this week, but I did get quite a bit done. I got my lightened postcards back and they look a lot better. I decided to change the image on the back, though, and spent some time pulling some characters out of a full illustration to make a spot illustration to put on the back:

Assuming the sample postcard looks good, I'll be ready to order postcards and send them to my mailing list by the end of the week.

I also started sketching 3 spots that will make up a companion piece to the sad monster piece I recently finished, and started to very, very roughly storyboard it. Here are the sketches; there's not enough to the storyboard yet to make it worth showing:

I waffled a bit about whether the girl should be knitting or crocheting, since I do both. I searched for "knitting and crocheting in picture books" and found a lot that showcase knitting, and none (so far) that showcase crochet, so I went with crochet. Why should knitters get all the love? It might also make a good hook (pun intended) to help sell the book to a publisher. I could see promoting it through crochet magazines, podcasts, etc., and given the shortage of crochet in picture books, I could see plenty of crocheters with little ones in their lives wanting a book like this on their bookshelves.

I also watched the new Business of Illustration class on SVSlearn.com, and started using the Pomodoro Technique. I've heard of it before, but never really succeeded in applying it, so I tried it again, and felt pretty productive. Even bought an app for $1.99 to help me track my progress.

On a less productive note, I was charged a renewal for 5 years of service by a webhosting provider I no longer use, Webhostingpad. When I contacted them and asked for a refund, they refused, so I've had to dispute the charge with my bank. They came back with "we'll win the dispute and send you to collections." Who does business that way?! Anyway, if you're looking for a web host, stay FAR, FAR away from Webhostingpad. There are numerous complaints against them with the BBB and lots of angry people venting all over the web about them. Hopefully my bank will reverse the charge, and if they send it to collections and it ends up on my credit report, I'll just dispute that too. Ugh, what a waste of time!

Anyway, on to happier things; I'm going to go work on polishing up these sketches and keep forging ahead! See you next week!

This week...

I finally finished this piece... I think...

The monster got a lot darker, so I may go back and brighten him up a bit.

I also got my sample postcard. It was WAY too dark, so I lightened the image and I'm trying again. Thank goodness you can buy single postcards from Amazing Mail for less than $1.50.

I finished cleaning up my existing mailing list and ended up with 158 names to send postcards to and another 10 or so to email. Once I get the postcard image printed the way I want, I'll send those out.

And I worked on really rough sketches for the mixed-up fairy tale that my daughter helped me storyboard:

And that's about it for this week. See you next week, same bat time, same bat channel!

Another week closer to death

Oh, alright, I did a little more than just get seven days older this week, but I'm feeling extra curmudgeonly today. Anyway, this week I didn't spend a ton of time on finished art, but I did work some more on this piece. Right now I hate the monster's feet, but I'll figure it out:

I did super rough sketches for the first couple spreads for one of my picture book dummies:

and I designed a monkey in shining armor for yet another picture book I've got in the works:

I also finished adding names to my mailing list so now I have to go back and try to figure out if there are any old ones that I need to get rid of. Also worked a bit on my postcard. Waffling on the logo/name/text right now, and of course agonizing over my choice of images:

 There's some weirdness going on around the image on the back, but I'll fix that before printing.

There's some weirdness going on around the image on the back, but I'll fix that before printing.

And now I have to go help save a child whose day is ruined because she spilled almond milk on her taco. See you next week!

This week at Valdraws.com

My daughter had Monday off from school and her afterschool daycare was closed so we stayed home together. I decided to sneak a little work in by getting her to help me with the storyboard for my latest picture book idea. I drew out the pages on a big sheet of paper, made some very rough sketches, and she colored them. It helped me work out the pacing and some story points I was having trouble with, and it was fun for my daughter. Here's what we've done so far:

I also worked some more on the illustration below. It's coming along, slowly but surely:

I also updated my mailing list with the latest Children's Writers' and Illustrators' Market and The Book from the SCBWI. I currently have about 180 names on my list and I plan to send out a postcard next month.

Oh, I also changed my Twitter profile to include the word "curmudgeon." I think it suits me:

That's it for now; see you next week!

That time I Googled "midlife bitterness"

I'm 50. There, I said it.

I've been keeping that a secret as I pursue my goal of being a professional illustrator. I wasn't lying about it, but I definitely wasn't sharing it.

I had this fantasy that after I became what I considered "successful," I would share the fact that I did it after age 50. But something changed.

This week I listened to Chris Oatley's Escape From Art Jail #9 and #10, How to Become a Competitive Professional, parts 1 and 2. I pondered how to be a purple cow, and really couldn't figure out what, if anything, made me purple. And then I felt sorry for myself; I felt bitter about the choices I've made, things I haven't done, like not going to art school, and about how far I am from where I want to be. I felt bitter about competing with so many incredibly skilled artists, many much younger than me, and many with the foundation of an art degree. Not being a total idiot, I also recognized that bitterness was only going to keep me stuck, so I Googled "midlife bitterness," hoping to find a way to put my regrets behind me and focus on the future. 

I ended up on a site called Life After Tampons (love that name!) where I read a piece entitled My Deepest Regret about how the author repeatedly gave up the pursuit of something she loved when success seemed just within her reach because she was scared. Oh, how familiar that sounded; when one of my promotional mailers finally brought major publishers to my website, I stopped sending mailers for almost 5 years; when one of my Etsy shop items was included in an Etsy Finds email, and visits to my shop and sales shot up, I let my shop languish. Seeing my own story of fear and regret in someone else's experience, and the comments from other women with similar experiences, made me realize that this journey I'm on is worth sharing, regardless of what my destination is, if there even is a destination.

So, taking some more advice from Escape From Art Jail (Episodes 8 - 10), and modifying it a bit, I've decided to make a weekly blog post where I gather together everything I've done in the previous week: social media posts, sketches, pieces I've finished, progress on WIP pieces, story ideas, podcasts I'm listening to, classes I'm taking, and anything else I can think of that is part of my journey toward my goal of being a professional illustrator.

I'm not quite sure that being 50 and a not-traditionally-schooled neophyte makes me purple (maybe a nice shade of lavender?) but it does make me different from all the young art school grads out there and when I decided to embrace that difference instead of hiding from it, my bitterness evaporated.

So without further ado, here's what I did this week:

The week started with a brand new idea for a PB that's a twist on the standard prince-rescues-princess fairytale, but since the self-rescuing princess idea has been handled quite nicely by many others before me, my focus is on the prince; what's a prince to do when princesses don't need to be saved anymore? I'm also having some fun with the picture book form and plan to have the characters physically interact with the text to change the story. Here are my rough ramblings:

I also finished these two pieces and added them to my portfolio:

And did some sketches of squirrels in preparation for designing the main character in the picture book I'm working on for the PBDummy Challenge:

And worked on this portfolio piece from yet another picture book idea about a monster with not-scary bunny feet and the knitting, crocheting new friend who helps him with his problem and who has a secret of her own (still very much a WIP):

And as I mentioned, I listened to two Escape From Art Jail podcasts, and finally posted in the SVS forums, although I still have yet to officially introduce myself there.

So that's my artistic week in a nutshell. I'll be back with a new post next week and in the meantime, you can find me on FB, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn (links are at the bottom of the page). Thanks for visiting!

Back to the blog

It's been a while since my last post. Since May, I've been spending a lot of time taking online art classes at SVSlearn.com, Oatley Academy, Schoolism, and studying the material on CtrlPaint.com. I'm revamping my portfolio with a totally new look which has been a bit of a slow process but I've finally put new work up; only four pieces so far, but I'll be adding at least one new piece a month until I have a decent sized portfolio.