Tuesday, May 10

Promo Power

Pssst. Hey you. Guess what? I just won 'Best Promo' at the SCBWI-CenCal Artworks this last Saturday. 

Here's the mailer I created:

Kristine Brogno, Design Director from Chronicle Books and artist/writer Salina Yoon were the guest speakers. I'm still trying to digest everything. It was a pretty fab little conference. There were a lot of talented illustrators there too, so I was delighted to win. 

(There were tons of other fabulous postcards I didn't snag... because I was eating all the strawberries. Shhh!)
Anyway, thought I'd share. (Squee!) :)

Monday, April 11

Illustration Intensives: Intensely Beneficial

Lauren Rille 
Hi there creative friends! I was at an Illustration Intensive this last weekend, hosted by the SCBWI-San Diego Region, featuring the the insightful, and totally entertaining, Associate Art Director,  Lauren Rille, from Simon and Schuster.

(You can follow her on twitter, and if you would like a sneak peak at her design savvy, check out her blog.)

I love going to conferences, but I especially love going to illustration intensives. The purpose of an intensive is to bring you back to art school (only the knowledgeable professor is replaced with an insightful art director). The assignment is suppose to replicate what working with an art director is like.

Months before the intensive, Lauren sent us the text to a picture book. She asked us to create a thumbnail dummy  (or teeny tiny drawings that map out the pacing of the book). From those thumbnails she asked that we send her 2 roughs (or more finished drawings) of the spreads that we wanted to illustrate. Once we turned those in, she would email us a critique. We were to bring the revised thumbnails and 2 final spreads to the intensive, to be critiqued as a group.

The text we got was a sweet and very young picture book called Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by fellow Mentee Brooke Boynton Hughes. I'll be honest, I pulled a few hairs out trying to think how I could illustrate the text differently, especially since Brooke did such a gobsmacklingly wonderful job.

After drawing what seemed like a million and two families with babies, I finally decided to put this family in space... going on a spacewalk, with them bringing their baby home to sleep at their colony on Mars. (Everything is better in space, right?! ;)

Here's what I sent in:

Stick figures in.... SPAAAAACE!!!

This is one of the roughs I sent in. (I do my roughs... extra rough.)

Doesn't this sweet face make you weep?!

Lauren responded with a very helpful critique. She mentioned one reason she had prompted our group with this particular text was because babies are so hard to illustrate; people often get the proportions wrong. So I decided to do some more "research" on babies and ended up waxing nostalgic, thinking of my kid's infancy. Something that I noticed is the lack of neck and the adorable potbelly. Lauren also said babies barely have any eyebrows or eyelashes.

So armed with a refreshed knowledge that babies are not  just miniature adults, I went back to the drawing board and sketched another million babies. 

I redid my thumbnails and revised my roughs.

My sketches are starting to get tighter here. 

Next, I scanned my drawings in, printed them out on Arches 140lb, and painted with watercolor. 

Then I scanned the watercolor in and painted in some digital layers.

Finally, after all our blood, sweat, and tears, we went to the intensive, and had our illustrations critiqued. This is what I submitted:

(You can click on them, to see closer,  if you have ancient eyes like me.) 

If you are not already a believer, I strongly urge you to start doing illustration intensives. (You can check out if there are any intensives in your neck of the woods here.) I've been to many of them in different regions, and I've always learned something about myself as an artist, or about how art directors interact with illustrators, or even whether or not my style is right for that particular art director or publishing house. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Alrighty friends, thanks for dropping by and happy illustrating!

Monday, April 4

Pleased as punch...

If you were wondering why I've been staring off dreamily into space or why I've been looking at you with a placid grin on my face while we discuss the horrors of tax season...

It's because I am going to be represented by the fabulous Linda Pratt literary agent and Co-Owner of Wernick & Pratt Agency!! 

(I know, I know... I'm still pinching myself.)

Pssst! For the record, Linda reps some of my kidlit heroes, whose art and stories will make your heart melt because they are so lovely, and that also have won all sorts of fancy awards.

I'm delighted and honored (and a wee bit jittery.) Thanks for being amazing friends, colleagues, and supporting me in my crazy kidlit obsession.

Thursday, January 14

[Death], the love I bear thee can afford No better term than this: thou art a villain.

Thanks a lot universe for taking away one of my favorite actors who happened to play a large number of my favorite villains. I created this piece today in mopey memorandum. #RIPAlanRickman.

Monday, January 4

The eyebrows are the window to the soul. Quick tips for giving your characters emotion and expression.

I have warm fuzzy memories of when my babies first started looking into my eyes. We are hard-wired to connect to one another, to understand one another, by reading facial expressions. If we want children to connect to the illustrations in our stories, it's imperative that we create characters that clearly convey specific emotions. So here's a list of some tips to help give your characters that emotion and expression.

Keep an eye on the eyes.
The first place your eyes usually go to when looking at an illustration is... well, the eyes. So we really have to get them right. Avoid creating a character with dead eyes, or where your character's eyes stare straight into space. (Unless your character is a zombie, of course. Then I'd say a dead eye is apropos.) It's also important to make sure that both your character's eyeballs are pointing in the right direction. Unintentionally crossed eyes can be confusing.

Eyes both pointing in the same direction,
because Carson Ellis is a rock star.
-The Mysterious Benedict Society

The eyebrows have it. 
The emotion your character, expressed from their eyes, is continued and emphasized through the eyebrows. The closed eyes of the girl below, with her wide reaching smile shows us her happiness, but the raised eyebrows show a touch of surprise or delight. But do watch out for floating eyebrows, which can be distracting. It helps to draw a superhero-like mask on your character to see if the eyebrows appear connected to the eyes.

                        by Meridth Gimbel (that's me :)

Mind the mouth.

The mouth can be another way to emphasize or clarify the emotions your character is communicating. Below we see Merida's eyes and eyebrows are showing shock, and her mouth is small and reserved, showing fear. Her mouth is complimenting the emotions that we see with the rest of her features.

Brave Concept Art- Daniel Muñoz

But lets look at another example. Below we see the eyebrows of the little girl. When looking at just the eyes and the eyebrows, we might think she looks concerned, maybe scared? But when we also look at her smile, we see that she is trying to look sincere, sweet, and innocent. The eyebrows and the smile need each other to make this visual story work.

Dave McKean -
The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish

Pick the right nose.
The nose can occasionally stretch in extreme emotions and can be helpful in emphasizing an expression. Look at how King Fergus' nostril is flaring up. We can tell, with his eyebrows, that he is afraid. The flat line of the eye shows seriousness and the flared nose shows grit and determination.

Brave Concept Art- Daniel Muñoz

Yes, even a bushy eyebrow can show emotion.

The face is fleshy.
Its good to remember that the face can be flexible. Our faces are full of muscles, bones, and fat. Look at how high Norman's forehead is pushed from his eyebrows in his shocked expression (#2). His open mouth also lowers the jawline. In his bottom concerned/disappointed face (#3) there is a frown that moves the jaw up from the resting face (#1).

1.ParaNorman Concept Art-
Pete Oswald
(Resting face.)
2. (Shocked face.)

3. (Concerned/disappointed face)

Asymmetry is interesting. 
No face is perfectly symmetrical. I find it more interesting when a smile spreads halfway up one face, or you see one eyebrow rise higher. Asymmetry can add to a character's individuality. Just remember to keep it consistent. Typically a character will always favor the same side of the face.

Annette Marnat - Kat Incorrigible

Keep it simple.
Pat Cummings once said that when we create picture book illustrations we need to create them for three different audiences; kids that are sitting in the laps of their parents, kids reading on their own, and kids that are being read to in a classroom. When I say keep the emotion simple, this is for that kid in the classroom. Kids need to be able to read an expression from at least a few feet away from the illustration. Below we have a disgruntled mom. We can see her eyebrows raised in frustration and disappointment, and her angry, pursed lips. In the full illustration below, even though the expression is small compared to the rest of the image, we can still see the facial gesture because of the simplicity.

Mark Teague - How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight

Take mental notes. Observe from life.
So when my kids have a meltdown, I try to remember what their face is doing (without staring too much, because that does not help during a meltdown). Also, I always have a mirror or camera handy to see what my face would do when feeling mad, sad, glad, etc.

             This is what I look like having a meltdown ;)

Practice, practice, practice.
I'm hopeful that I'll be perfect in my next life, but for now I am content in working my little tail off so that I can continue to learn how to fully emote what my characters need to express. Emotion is key to storytelling, so this is something that I will always focus on.

Suggested tools:    

-Your face! (How very convenient.)
-Pinterest - This is a great place to find reference for facial expressions and all sorts of other fun scrap. 

So many gems on pinterest. But beware, it's a rabbit hole.
 -The Grimace Project - If you are not sure how you would like to draw a specific emotion, have fun playing around with the 'Grimace Project.' You can adjust the scales to make the face show different expressions. 

It's pretty fun. And helpful. 


What are some of your top tips for creating great facial expressions? I know you all are savvy illustrators, so please post if you'd like to share.

Thanks friends for dropping by and happy illustrating!

Thursday, November 12

...like a chicken with it's head cut off.

It's been awhile. I've been keeping my nose buried in books and pencil shavings. I'm currently working on my book dummy for The Messy Bed, and a stack of other projects. Busy busy and wishing that house elves would work on that pile of laundry already! Yay art. Boo housework!

Tuesday, September 29

I got interviewed by the lovely KidLit Artists blog!

...which, let's be honest, was really neat. Have you seen the artists on there? They are soooooo talented. And I am now a member of the kidlit club. Yippee!!! Anyhow, I was asked to share my experience  as a Mentorship Winner. If you are interested, you can click here to go to the post. But if you would like a summary, let me just say it was a brilliant experience. It was so validating to be among the talented few who were awarded the SCBWI LA Mentorship. And I feel like I am more confidently stepping towards my goals. Thanks so much to the mentors!! And thanks to you, friends, for supporting me. Life is so good. (Especially when it's sprinkled with chocolate.) And if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go and powder my octopus. ;)

Wednesday, August 5

What the what now?! I just won the SCBWI Los Angeles Portfolio Mentorship!!

Oh my goodness oh my goodness! I cannot believe that I am a mentee! For those of you who aren't sure exactly what this means (this includes you, Great Auntie Alma) I thought I'd share specifically how neat this is. (Pssst. It's pretty neat!)

So I went to the annual SCBWI LA conference. This is where over 1200 children's writers, illustrators, publishers, editors, agents, art directors meet. There were inspiring keynote speakers talking about the craft of writing/illustrating books, what goes on in the industry... but more on that in another post.

I submitted my portfolio to the annual portfolio showcase. I remember just before entering the showcase I saw the editors, agents, and art directors looking around at the portfolios on the patio. It was pretty intimidating. Somebody turned to me and told me they were nervous about the competition. I told them that I wasn't. I wasn't going to win. Last year there were two Disney concept artists at the showcase, whose work was salivatingly beautiful, and they didn't win. There were too many talented people this year to even think I would be in the running. So I was in complete shock when they called my name. To be honest, I'm still pretty shocked.

Lots and lots of portfolios - Photo taken by Laurent Linn

I believe there were around 175 brilliant portfolios submitted and I was one of the six hand selected as an "up and coming artist whose publishable work shows great promise and potential"  for the Mentorship program. Totally bonkers.

All the tiny people - Photo taken by Candace Camling

Here are my fellow Mentees and their websites. (Prepare to salivate.)

K-Fai Steel, Molly Ruttan, Nicholas Huong, Anne Berry, Me, & Kisoo Chai

(She also won an Honor Award for her Porfolio.)

The the best part of the award is that we got to be mentored by these industry giants:

Brenda Bowen - Agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Inc. She represents a lot of movers and shakers in the publishing world including Rosemary Wells and Hilary Knight.

Peter Brown - Author & Illustrator of 7 books that are loaded with awards including the Caldecott Honor he got for his illustrations for Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds.

Priscilla Burris - Author/Illustrator of some really sweet children's books she also is the National SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator.

Pat Cummings - Author/Illustrator of over 30 books that are smattered with a variety of awards. She is a professor at Parsons and Pratt and has so much insight in the craft and process of creating children's books.

Laurent Linn - Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. He started his career as a puppet designer/builder (pretty cool huh?!) and became the Creative Director for the Sesame Street Muppets winning an Emmy Award.

Paul O. Zelinsky - Author/Illustrator creating over 30 books, winning many awards including a Caldecott for his Rapunzel book, and has also received 3 Caldecott Honors.

So we had the privilege of being critiqued and to received personal career advice individually and as a group by our 6 mentors.  I basically wrote a novel of notes and have a big fat "To Do" list. I feel super blessed to have received such a wonderful opportunity. There have been several Mentees, from the past, that had careers launched from this award. So hopefully I can capitolize on the momentum of this. I feel like my compass is now pointing to true north, thanks to this lovely experience. 

Kisoo Chai, Nicholas Huong, Me, Molly Ruttan, Anne Berry, Priscilla Burris, Laurent Linn, K-Fai Steele, Pat Cummings, & Paul O. Zelinsky. (Peter Brown and Brenda Bowen were signing books.)

...and there was much rejoicing!

Yes that is Peter Brown right behind me (!!!!)