Monday, June 16, 2014

My Tomie dePaola Award Contest Entry

So! I just submitted my piece for the SCBWI Tomie dePaola Award contest. The Prompt this year instructed us to create a character for a comic strip of 4-6 panels. I knew the character I would use, but was stumped for so long (SO. LONG.) on what kind of shennanigans he'd be getting into. Finally, one of my ideas worked itself out (phew!) and I got to work very quickly because at that point the deadline was fast-approaching. It started with these drawings:

Oh, this poor, tortured cat.

At this point, I was very excited, but stuck for a while, because I did not know how this little story would progress, and, furthermore, end.

I decided to have this cat try to run away (understandably, might I add), but then have a change of heart. I also finally worked out the end scene, which was a lot of fun to draw.


After working out the drawings, I scanned them and made them work within the specs of the Prompt.

For the most part, I kept to this for the final, but made a few changes:

Yay! It's done!

Here are some close-ups:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I've taken a brief detour from my dummy to participate in a little contest, one which involves creating/expanding on a character. I brought back a familiar face, because I ALWAYS wanted to do something with this stinkin' cat ("What 'stinkin' cat'?" you might ask--just look to the right of your screen), but I continue to have a block! So maybe this contest is a sign that I should finally refocus my attention on this guy--who I STILL can't find a fitting name for, by the way!

More to come after the deadline, but here is a preliminary sketch to get the juices flowing…

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rediscovering Raritan Landing

Around this time two years ago, I was hired for a job by the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission to do a children's book. The book was to be paired with an exhibit they were putting together at the East Jersey Old Town Village in New Brunswick. The exhibit, which should be opening soon, was to be about Raritan Landing, an archaeological project that spanned decades and uncovered the remains of what once was a prosperous Colonial port on the Raritan River.

For months, I did research on the project. My main source was Rebecca Yamin's Book Rediscovering Raritan Landing: An Adventure in New Jersey Archaeology. You can view it here. I read it a few times, and really studied it for important details I would need for my illustrations later. With both the book and the [above linked] website, I was able to piece together the layout of the town and how it would have functioned. This map in the book was also a great help:
This is the image that greets you in Yamin's book in the Prologue

Later, I would also use the internet to search for smaller details (like what the uniform of a British soldier would look like if he was in the 35th Regiment of Foot).

About a year ago, once all the details about the project were approved, I began drawing. I won't release all the art until the exhibit is out, but I'll leave you with a few "thumbnail-to-sketch-to-finish" examples until then.
These are the thumbnails for the Tavern scene. I needed to get a lot of information in one illustration, and I wanted to make sure that it was accurate. I did a LOT of research to get this scene right.
This is the sketch we ended up going with. 
And the final! Ta-dahhhh!

More to come on this project!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Killing Your Darlings"- Picture Book Dummy Spreads Revisited

You know, my New Year's resolution was to drink one kale shake a day, but it SHOULD have been to get back to writing the blog I have so neglected (at least once a week!) for over a year. Especially since the kale shake thing didn't work out. But I digress!

Many things have changed in my life since my last blog. I became a proud SCBWI member, for one, and have loved the opportunities it has opened up for me and other fellow writers and illustrators. I very highly recommend it. So far, I have been to the Winter Conference, the New Jersey Chapter Annual Conference, and the Hawaii Chapter Annual Conference (more on Hawaii later). Not to mention the smaller seminars and workshops that were SO helpful, especially the one on picture book word count by Ame Dyckman. Incredible!

The other major thing that happened was that I got hitched and moved to Hawaii--hence the switch over from the New Jersey Chapter to the Hawaii Chapter. Remember that Sailor from my earlier posts? He put a ring on it. (YAY!) And he is stationed in Pearl Harbor, so the Aloha State is my happy home for the time being. I miss my family and friends back home, but I ALSO missed that nasty Polar Vortex, so everything worked out, I guess.

After all of the wedding planning and big move were over, I vowed to re-do a Picture Book Dummy and edit the text. The text is currently on it's third draft, so I won't include that, but I'll show you some of the "then" and "now" spreads.


As you can see, I left room for the text in both, but there is almost TOO much white space in this first one. Especially because the text is supposed to go into that oval, which I would never ever ever do again--unless I had a good reason for it, that is. Everything also seems jumbled together, like it's squeezing in to fit itself. Finally, the main character (Nina) is nowhere in sight, nor is the other character from the story(the Wolf). There is also a third element, a junkyard, that I did not show. (I know you guys don't know the story, so you don't know why I should even be including a junkyard, but just go with me on this).


 As you can see, there is still plenty of white space, except now, I hint at more information so that I don't need to explain with too much text. Usually, there are only 32 pages to work with in a picture book, and I needed to make them really count. Here, I have panned out, added the character, and added other elements of the story. I also changed the trees and vegetation as a stylistic choice.


This is the part of the story where the main character, Nina, discovers that the Wolf (who everyone is irrationally afraid of) is an artist, not a monster. He makes sculptures out of junk from the junkyard, which is what we see here. The problem is that the space I leave for the text seems forced, and not enough of the total picture is being revealed (though this was before I edited the story and that also changed things).


I changed quite a bit. Not only did I change the perspective and leave more natural text space, but I made the Wolf look more benign. I also changed the sculpture to have function and be a fountain, which actually hints at what will happen towards the end of the story (but I won't reveal that here!).

Overall, I learned one of the most important lessons in the editing process while re-doing this dummy project: Do not be afraid to "kill your darlings." Not only did I change most of the plot and cut the manuscript word count down by almost half, I was willing to re-design and re-draw the entire book. And you know what? I'll probably do it again with at least half of those spreads before I send it out to an agent. Because it is so much better now than it was 3 years ago.