Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New Projects & Exciting News

Hello there! Checking in with a few exciting updates:

1. Just received some very exciting news about a book that I illustrated!!! They haven't publicly announced it yet so I can't say a peep, except for alluding to it like I am right stay tuned!

2. Just got a new book illustration assignment with Heinemann Publishers called My Pet Spider. It's a such a cute story with a great lesson about wild creatures.

3. I will be traveling soon on behalf of Ringling College to meet with Barbara Takamoto, the widow of Iwao Takamoto, who was a cartoon animator. He designed characters for some of the Walt Disney classics such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations! Then, he worked for Hanna-Barbera and developed characters for The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and Scooby Doo!!!

Iwao and his wife Barbara visited Ringling College a few years ago and fell in love with the campus and all the students. Barbara and Iwao are generously donating some of his work to our Illustration department for reference and teaching materials. What an awesome way to carry on Iwao's artistic legend!! I know students and faculty alike (myself definitely included) will cherish and study his works to glean inspiration and improve our craft.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Other Worlds Group Show at The Hive Gallery

Hello! Just a quick update here.

Last week I finished up a small pastel painting for a group show called "Other Worlds" at The Hive Gallery & Studios in Los Angeles. Here are some of my thumbnails and the final art. I'm excited to develop some of these other ideas into new work, too. As for my piece for the show, I titled it "My Friend Magic". I see it as a middle grade book cover, possibly about a boy who has a friend from another world, whether it be his imagination or an actual place...I don't know yet...but it's the starting point for a potential story!

Friday, January 23, 2015

SCBWI Miami Conference 2015

For the past 4 years I have attended the SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers & Illustrators) Regional conference in Miami. I absolutely love attending this conference for many reasons:

1. It's Miami in January
2. The people are amazing! Talented, friendly, prolific, successful, and creative!
3. It's a lot smaller than the LA conference (usually has 1200+ attendees, whereas Miami has 200+) so it's a heckuva lot easier to build friendships and get noticed by all the agents, art directors, editors, and fellow members.

This year, the chapter put on two new events: the Illustrator's Intensive and the Rising Kite Illustration Contest. I participated in both and I must say, the experience was rewarding.

Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon & Schuster Children's Trade Publishing was a speaker and critiquer for both events. The other guest speaker was the amazing Raul Colon, who works in traditional media and creates beautifully rendered books such as DRAW! On Friday, they spent the day with us, talking about the industry and critiquing our "best and worst" portfolio pieces. It is so enlightening to have an AD and fellow illustrator offer honest critique. I learned alot from them and what they had to say about my work, along with the 15 other artists in the room.

A couple highlights from the Friday Intensive:

  • Postcards are still the best way in! Laurent was adamant on this one. He says he hates email (they are zombies coming to eat his brains and he keeps killing them but they keep on coming back, lol). So the BEST way to get your work in front of him is through postcards. 
  • What does he look for in a great postcard sample? STORYTELLING & EMOTION. Granted, not all samples have to be some epic tale, but it needs to show more than a nice portrait of a girl, for example. There must be conflict, action, expression, good design.
  • The other thing he pointed out is that everything - EVERYTHING must BE a character. A picture book is theatre. The artist is the set designer, the lighting designer, the costume designer, the prop designer, the stage designer. Make it all unique and interesting!
On Saturday, the keynote speaker line up was excellent, beginning with the brilliant author Chris Grabenstein, Verla Kay, Raul Colon, Laurent Linn, and VP Publisher Justin Chanda. Here's a sneak peek from my sketchbook:

After all the keynotes, we had the paid critiques session. I was asked this year to critique four portfolios. I love seeing passion in someone's eyes when they talk about their ideas and work! Lots of talent! I also paid to have a critique with Laurent Linn. His 15 minutes of feedback was golden! I am excited to send him some new work in the near future!

This year's Saturday night gala was themed "Heroes and Villains Masquerade". One thing I LOVE about Miami is that the majority of attendees dress up. If you don't dress up, you actually look odd! Again, this chapter gives the LA conference a run for their money when it comes to partying! (one might think that children's book people don't let loose, but really it's a roomfull of 200+ writers and illustrators - we all have characters living in our imaginations - so it's actually not too surprising I guess to see things like this:

I dressed up this year as Mrs. Incredible, and my villainous friend here is Gaby Triana as Ursula. There are many many more wonderful costumes to be seen here at this SCBWI Miami slideshow on Youtube.

On Sunday, I attended Raul's workshop about Line and Color. He showed us how he creates the beautiful scratching technique that is his signature mark, and also what colors he uses to achieve his palettes. He brought in his sketchbook full of little painted studies with color notes everywhere - it was fascinating to see his process! I left that workshop feeling inspired and ready to make art!

I also attended Laurent Linn's workshop on the Trade, Mass, and Educational Markets and where your style fits. He totally shed light on the differences between the three. In a nutshell:

  • Educational - textbooks sold to schools and libraries, have shorter deadlines, less polished artwork, the style is often dictated and looks less distinctive, more "cartoony" or animation style, not a lot of feedback from art directors.
  • Mass - sometimes has a TV tie in like the muppets or Disney, usually lots of activity books, paperback, cartoon animation styles that are less distinct, sold at the drug store, Kmart, etc. 
  • Trade - classic hardcover picture book, usually considered fine literature, a huge investment on the publisher's end because it's more expensive to produce and buy, artist is hired for their unique vision and given free reign on ideas for illustrating the text. Lots of interaction afterwards with the art director, usually uses more "traditional" art. 

Laurent has worked in all three markets and says there is no shame in illustrating for any or all of them. He also made it clear that there is a lot of crossover between styles (sometimes trade books have cartoony animation styles while mass market books use refined traditional styles). 

Alright, moving on. Last but not least, they announced the Rising Kite Illustration contest winners, and I'm excited to say I received an honorable mention! For the contest, illustrator's had to work with this prompt: "Robin's gift was different from all the others". My focus right now is middle grade book covers, so I wanted to come up with an idea that was more conceptual that could serve as a cover. So, I submitted The Gift of Tears:

Robin's "gift" is the gift of crying (which at first looks like a curse...that's why it's different! Because it's not a curse, it's a gift). I felt I was taking a risk with such a weird concept, but I didn't want to do the first thing that popped in my head (birthday parties, Christmas presents, etc) because I had a feeling other people would create something along those themes (and they did...and they won first, second, and third place) so I was actually really surprised and pleased to have won an honorable mention!! Here's a pic of the winners!

And a few fangirl pictures of me with Raul Colon and Laurent Linn:

Like every other year before, I am once again inspired from a weekend of hanging out with my tribe of creative storytellers. I am so thankful for the SCBWI and all my Florida friends! It's always bittersweet leaving the conference, but it's exciting to know that we are all working on our projects together in spirit throughout the year. I look forward to the next one, and until then, let's make pictures and share our stories with the world! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on 2014 and Goals for 2015

It's New Years's Eve and I just finished up a new digital painting! Here's a photo of me blogging this blog (whoa trippy) from the awesome Molino's coffee shop in downtown Riverside, CA.

Looking back, 2014 was a very good year. I kept busy teaching at Ringling. I had opportunities to teach new courses, including the Advanced Illustration Portfolio class in the Spring and PreCollege painting and illustration over the summer.

Some exciting projects also came my way in 2014. Here are a few projects I illustrated:
  • I got to collaborate with my good friend, Jodi Kendall and editor Molly O'neil at Storybird to illustrate Jodi's debut chapter book, Some Pig in the City
  • a picture book titled I Forgive You, written by Nicole Lataif, 
  • a middle grade novel written by Kerry O'Malley Cerra titled Just a Drop of Water, 
  • an early reader titled No Cookies for You.

One of my goals for 2014 was to paint more personal work, in addition to new portfolio and commissioned work. I was able to get one done - yay! One is better than none, although I would like to be more prolific in this area. Here's the one I got's called Divine Dependency. I put it in the Ringling faculty show, so it did serve some sort of purpose besides just being therapeutic.  

I am very grateful for all the blessings and success in 2014. I'll definitely be spending time this evening to reflect more deeply and thank God for His provision and guidance. 

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year, too. I'll be attending the SCBWI Miami regional conference in January, and I'm going to be in a group show at The Hive gallery in LA. This show is a great opportunity for me to continue the goal of creating personal work. 
A few of my other goals for 2015 include:
  •  Looking for a literary agent or art rep for children's illustration (I've already queried a few this week...getting a head start!) 
  • Scheduling in spare time (not sure how this will work yet, but I'm determined) so that I have designated creative time to generate ideas and do skill building exercises, whether it be master copies, plein air studies, life drawing workshops, cafe drawing, etc. 
  • Be more consistent posting on social media. Even if it's just a few sketches, I hope to share something new weekly if not daily.

Overall, 2014 was full of good challenges and new growth. Here's to the upcoming year and a lot of new art! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Of Trees, Bees, and Poison

I've finished up a few new illustrations for story ideas that have been in my head. This one is for a middle grade novel idea tentatively titled Queen Dagmar and the Battle for Treethrone. I had developed this cover concept a while ago and actually had a critique on it at the last SCBWI conference I went to. It was decided that the main character needed to look less stylized, so I went back in and reworked her expression and redesigned the crown (my friend Kayla modeled for me - thanks, Kayla!) The finished result is a "tradigital" piece, combining an oil painting with digital touches. 

This next illustration evolved quite a bit. I'm calling it The Poison Gathering...that title will definitely change at some point! But for now...yeah. It's an idea about two chemists on a journey to find a "good poison". Inspiration unexpectedly came from George Macdonald's short story "The Golden Key". The final is digital.

I'm working on a couple more new illustrations for the upcoming SCBWI Miami conference. Hopefully someday soon I'll sit down and outline these pictures into books!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gift of Tears

The SCBWI Miami chapter recently held a Writing and Illustration contest for members. The prompt was "Robin's gift was different from all the others."

It took me a while to come up with an idea I liked because the imagery could literally go anywhere. I ultimately decided to put a spin on it by giving "Robin" the Gift of Tears. While at first it might seem like a curse more than a blessing, it is an actual spiritual gift according to Catholics, where one "weeps for the sins of the world". It is in essence, deep empathy for others that proceeds from a softened heart.

So, here is my contest submission! I began with an acrylic underpainting then went on top with oil, and finished with a few digital touches.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Signing!!

On Saturday, September 13th, I took a trip down to Coral Springs, Florida to celebrate the launch of Kerry O'Malley Cerra's debut middle grade novel, Just a Drop of Water, which I had the great privilege of illustrating the cover. Check out the book trailer:

The launch party was a huge success! Over 300+ people showed up and we signed books nonstop from 3pm to 6pm! Here are a few pics: