June: Adopt-A-Cat Month!

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Kids, (really) don’t try this at home.
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Fairy Season!

Fairy season is upon us again, and this year, The Pixie has decided to attract them with fairy-feeders. These are simple but elegant solutions to the fairy problem our farm is afflicted with every year. Also known as Fairy Arresters, they are designed to draw the fairies away to designated locations so that they may be enjoyed safely from a distance. Like lightning arrestors for the fey-folk.

Fairies are not particularly dangerous—okay, that was a lie, of course they are, as anyone who has read JONATHAN STRANGER AND MR. NORRELL can tell you—if they favor you. When that happens, and they are happily buzzing about you, then you can enjoy bursts of happy feelings and creativity. But if they are in a sour mood, they feel (and look) like black flies and angry mosquitos. The trick is to know the difference and DON’T SWAT THE FAIRIES!

 

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Step by Step Illustration

Here are some in-progress images from one illustration of my newest title, LITTLE LUCY.

The first sketches are fairly rough, as I am constantly making changes as I go. Eventually, I settle n this rough sketch. The text and layout are in place to guide me.

 

 

 

 

 

Still keeping the layout visible, I ghost the original sketch back and create a tighter version on top of it. This is the version the  client sees, and ultimately approves. Often there will be a few minor changes requested at this stage.

 

 

 

 

 

A monochromatic underpainting is created, on top of which color washes are laid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further refinement of the background details are usually settled before I begin the characters and foreground. I like to work back-to-front.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The foreground elements and Lucy are completed next. After a bit of touching up, the illustration is more or less finished. Though I only showed a few step, that was all in all a few good days’ work!

 

 

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I Am Featured This Day…

Today Kathy Temean has kindly posted an interview with yours truly on her blog at http://kathytemean.wordpress.com . You can find some fun images and work in progress details there, as well as some information about how I do what I do.

Kathy is Regional Advisor for SCBWI in new Jersey. She is also a web design and marketing consultant. Did I mention she is an award winning artist/author? When she has any time left, her blog does a real service to the creative community by sharing information about Writing and Illustrating for children to published and unpublished authors and illustrators. I am lucky to have been noticed by her, and I encourage EVERYONE to check it out!

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LITTLE LUCY is Published!

My latest title has just been released! LITTLE LUCY, written by Ilene Cooper and published by Random House is available now. It is part of their excellent Step Into Reading series, step three. The best part for me is that my exceptional preschool daughter is able to read it!

LITTLE LUCY (Random House 2011) ISBN 0375867600

Here are some interior pieces from LITTLE LUCY as well….

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New Year’s New Stuff

To help bring in the New Year, I have been trying some new things in digital painting. Here are some examples of paintings that use photographs as an early source. You may recognize the landscape from this post. Enjoy!

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The Best Idea EVER (Sorry, I can’t tell you about it.)

November 19, 2010

It’s a pretty cool idea, a story, actually. I just can’t tell you what it is, due to years of freelancer property-rights paranoia. However, I can say this: I was reading Terry Pratchett when it struck me, so that should give you some idea. I can also talk a little bit about the creative process, and how it arrives, and leaves, of its own mind.

My NaNoWriMo is critically stalled; 5,000 words in, 45,000 short. I have everything mapped out meticulously in a small binder, timelines, everything. Still doesn’t help in writing dialog. Fortunately, I remember the NaNoWriMo motto: “Quantity, not Quality”. It DOES help, believe me. Nevertheless, after a frustrating session with my li’l 1949 Smith Corona Skyriter (a classic ultra small typewriter- first year of production!), I have a scant few pages to show for my first ever novel.

So last night I fell asleep with a Terry Pratchett novel (a Discworld book, but that is all you’re getting out of me) and picked it up again before sunrise. Another few pages in, as I was reading a particular passage (stop asking now) my brain accidentally asked a “what if?” question. I asked my wife, and she didn’t have a ready answer (nobody COULD, really, it was a Conundrum), but then my gears were beginning to turn. Slowly at first, nothing to get off my seat for, but after a few minutes I decided I should Jot My Question Down.

I am on my second mug of coffee now. I find my 9X6 spiral pad and grab my Bic four color pen—I believe that this combination is one of the keys to my success as a human being, by the way—and write the question at the top of the page, in black, underlined.

An hour later I had densely filled five pages with cramped little notes concerning every aspect of this question, as it relates to a protagonist, subcharacters, plot outlines, backstory, schtick (oh the schtick) and I only stopped because there is a barn full of hungry sheep burning holes through house with their infrared impatience.

When stories collide.

So, what happened just then? I have always called it the Fevered Brow. There is a period, from  flash of insight to about forty eight hours later, during which anything meaningful about a story will be recorded. Afterwards I may as well just call myself an editor, sifting through dozens of crazy notes and doodles.  Or a sculptor chipping away at everything that will NOT be in the  final shape. The sparks cool to black after two days, and the clock is ticking.

I have been described as a Walking Idea on more than one occasion, but this first hour was pretty intense, even for me.  I wrote the question. I outlined what shape the story ought to take, just an intuitive feel: chapter book, first person POV. Now, reading Terry Pratchitt at the time, I was thinking that this time I should let character development guide the plot, dialog, everything. Make the character engaging, and the story will follow him like a shadow.

More questions, no answers: What brought him to this point? What kind of accessories would befit his endeavor? I will divulge that at this early stage I ruled out any kind of sorcery and witchcraft schtick. Though we’ll see. SO, at least it is not a wizard-y book. Next, like a  knock on the door, my secondary character arrived, steamer trunk dragging behind (literally!). That was unforeseen, but the entirety of page two consists of descriptions and backstory of this secondary character. I never could have started there, because the story premise had to lead me through first, via my main character. At this point I feel as though I am just taking dictation from an ether of ideas.

My main character can go one of two ways. My secondary character can go one of two ways. Ignoring that for now, I quickly write the bits and pieces that would develop from various permutations. There is some madness to my method, and it is lotsa fun to squiggle my notes in different colors, to express the relative merit of ideas,names and motivations. On page three I make a checklist that attempts to answer an early question “how did he get there?” Or is he a she? The thoughts come fast, but are essentially spotty. I am not writing an outline, I am writing the rules that govern where the outline can, and can’t go. “Think more on this”, I write at the bottom of the page, and move on.

Page four. I feel like I know the character and his situation now, in a suddenly intimate way, like he (she?) and I were both just on the world’s fastest roller coaster together, and are comfortable enough to high-five each other at the end. I feel as though we have something in common now. I write notes about the first defining moment in the plot. The one where the character usually realizes that he is not in Kansas anymore. I couldn’t have done without the previous three pages of free association. Never. But at the same time, it is merely an elaboration of that initial What If moment. But now it has real meat on its bones. oops, and here is my secondary character wrapping the chapter up neatly with one, two, three, four pithy comment. Which will I go with? My brain wants to go ‘splodey, just thinking about it.

I venture forth a bit and mention this all to my wife. She counters with a “Yes, But” off the top of her head and I scramble back to my pad and fill up all of page five. My writing reaches the bottom and wraps around the margins, up, up and over. I am writing upside down. I vow to stop now and feed the livestock. I know full well that when I get back in, the spark will have passed. Farming calls, though.

The first hour of this story has passed. I do not yet have an ending. I do have a framework. I have main characters, who have motivation. I have a huge door permanently open now into a loopy world that I will giddily careen through at my next available, and I feel pretty great about that. I am taking a story by the horns and letting it drag me through the mud, and it is an intoxicating feeling, mostly. I mean, I also get a lot of mud on my tongue this way, but that is what editing is for, isn’t it?

And while I should feel guilty for abandoning my NaNoWriMo novel, even temporarily, to chase this pixie in the park, I don’t.

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