Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to be taking a little holiday hiatus here at Erin Illustrates! until 2010, but before I do I wanted to wish you all the most colorful, energetic, and creative of holidays! Sorry I missed putting my dreidel drawing up earlier in the month for those who celebrate Hanukkah. It has been a whirlwind season and I'm sure many of you can relate.

One thing I find peaceful at this time of year is sitting in front of my Christmas tree. A cup of tea or cocoa and some time to just zone out on the lights, draw, cuddle with my kids, or read a book, always does me good. We're traveling this year and while I am away I hope to get some drawing done and put time into improving upon and expanding my illustration portfolio. I am slated to attend a "New Year's Resolution" Conference in January put on by my regional chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I also plan on getting my portfolio reviewed by some esteemed illustrator members who will be there. I'm excited, but also a bit nervous for that! I've had the many incarnations of my design portfolio reviewed hundreds of times by teachers, renowned designers, employers, and clients. No biggie. But this feels different and takes me back to my days of standing in line with tons of aspiring teenage artists to have my work reviewed by college admissions counselors.

During this time off, I'll try to draw those jitters out and remember that any feedback I get will undoubtedly be helpful in my quest for publication. I hope all of you have a delightful holiday season as well. And I promise, really promise myself, that next year's season will be calmer and filled with even more of the true meaning of Christmas. Thank you for starting this journey with me this year and following my progress. I'm so emboldened and inspired by your comments and I am humbled by the amount of support I've received from you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't wait to see where we're all at this time next year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Warm & Toasty

I'm thrilled to be part of the first installment of the PiBoIdMo Art Gallery on Tara Lazar's fabulous blog. I am in the process of learning a huge and overwhelming amount about the KidLit world each day, and Tara's blog and the PiBoIdMo contest has been a huge resource and inspiration. I am also honored to be featured with two fabulous artists (how funny is Courtney's body guard? And I love Bonnie's Piston Pete Robot), and I can't wait to read the other art gallery installment posts and see the drawings and sketches.

So now that they're up on Tara's blog you can meet Warm & Toasty. Two characters I've dreamed up who are always happily served side by side on snowy mornings. That is until the day they decide that being part of a team can't compare to being star of the show! As each parades what they believe to be their best and unique qualities about, the two realize that complimenting each other doesn't have to mean sacrificing their individuality. That might sound deep for a piece of toast and some hot cocoa but trust me, it is only through lots of silliness that they come to this realization. I've also had a lot of fun experimenting with words and rhyming for this particular story idea as you can see from my sketchbook pages. Go over to Tara's blog to check that out.

In the meantime, I've been messing with, adding to, and furthering this story every morning through discussions on the finer points of wheat bread with my 4 and 3 year old (they've got opinions!) and we do it over hot cocoa...of course.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cool Contest Alert!

I'm going to be unselfish here and share the news of Holiday Giveaway #4 - Otto Grows Down, on Suzie Townsend's blog Confessions of a Wandering Heart. I say unselfish becuase I'd LOVE to win a copy of Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman all for myself! Still I've got to share, since in the short time I've been lurking about and engaging with the online kid lit community I've come to see that it is filled with highly generous and enthusiastic individuals. Many have been extremely encouraging and they've also shared knowledge and invaluable insight. In fact, I've been meaning to check out Otto Grows Down and the work of illustrator Scott Magoon for a while now as I've read about both the book and the artist on several blogs.

Here's the gist of the story as found on Suzie's blog: Otto has just one birthday wish: that his new baby sister Anna had never been born. And it comes true when the days suddenly start moving in reverse. But now, instead of growing up, Otto's growing DOWN. He's getting younger every minute and in danger of disappearing entirely. Can he turn things around before it's too late—for Anna and himself?

I need to know what happens to Otto! If you do too enter by commenting on Suzie's blog and include your email address so she can contact you. Enter by midnight on December 20th and who knows maybe the winner will have it before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Morning Cuppa

I thought this one was a perfect post for this snowy, rainy, dreary morning. I really do love to sketch. Sometimes I get so caught up with designing, or creating "pictures that have a purpose" that I forget the joy of just sitting down and creating a quick sketch. I love the activity of "mark-making" as some of my Freshman Foundation professors called it. They encouraged us to focus on the drawing utensil hitting the paper and the way it feels to just make marks on the page, rather than focusing on creating the most perfect drawing of a human form, landscape, or in this case a tea cup. This way of drawing went fully against the way I drew for my entire life up to college. It truly expanded my technique as an artist and still influences me today...even if I was a little crabby about feeling forced to draw this way when I was 18. Sometimes, it's when we let go of the "thinking" that our true style and unique expression is most visible.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Miss SassyFrass

This is another illustration I originally worked up for my You Have a Voice manuscript. She was an alternative drawing to my loud and proud little girl in the header up there. Her gown is modeled after my all-time favorite nightgown when I was a little girl. The gloves are present, because as anyone who ever saw me at a prom knows I love any excuse to wear opera length gloves. She's completely imagined, but what amazes me is how her expression and attitude capture much of my daughters' personalities. I think it's the hands on the hips personally.

Lately in my sketching, I've been exploring body language and doing studies that show characters in deferent poses or positions to showcase a different mood or feeling. For one set of characters who I hope to share with you soon, I really couldn't decide if they should have arms or not. In the end I think I decided to keep the arms since they add a lot to the characters' expressions.

While I originally drew this for another piece, I think I'm going to work on some other ideas using this character. In the meantime I named her Miss SassyFrass. It's the first thing that came to me, and completely subject to change depending on what adventures she encounters or what sort of story develops. I look forward to seeing where she leads me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Time to Celebrate!

While illustrating for kids might be my passion, most of my experience illustrating is commercial for the retail and medical industries or higher education field. Just a little tidbit about me.

I need to get in the holiday spirit, so while drinking lots of hot cocoa with peppermint sticks, and listening to the Christmas station on Pandora, I started thinking about cookies and all the fun little holiday drawings I've done in the past few years for Sweet Talk Boutique. At Sweet Talk, baker Jen Comfort of She Takes The Cake serves up cookie cards and invitations with my little illustrations, along with a whole lot of cheer. Check 'em out. Yum! And back to our regularly scheduled programming with my next post. I've got some fun planned and new images to share.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Happy Machine

I owe this illustration to my four year old. A kid whose creative ideas honestly make my own seem pale and second-rate at times. Over the summer she drew me a picture of a "happy machine" that spit out hearts and suns, and that inspired me to create my own version (with her blessing of course). I added wheels, wings, and flower antennae. I ran it past my collaborator and she approved. She especially liked the addition of the stars and the machine's jaunty shoot, or snout, or whatever you want to call it. I like to think he might be an upcycled tennis ball machine.

I've had this drawing rolling around since then and just this past month I fleshed out story ideas based on this "character" for PiBoIdMo (see the link to the upper left for more info on Picture Book Idea Month). The story idea I've started to create around The Happy Machine, as well as 29 other ideas (some OK, some lame), are down on paper. What will become of them? Who knows? But they are there...and that's the first step right?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two great tastes that go great together!

Hopefully you're not too full from Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy some spaghetti and meatballs. Made with paper, colored pencil, and a little imagination, I guarantee that this version of my kids' favorite meal is relatively low in calories. Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Raising Voices

"And when you feel like your voice is away,
your throat may feel “froggy,”
you don’t know what to say...
Don’t be frightened, your voice is still there.
Waiting until you are ready to share."
-You Have a Voice

by Erin McKenna Nowak

Did you know that according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, it is estimated that speech, language, and hearing disorders affect one of every 10 people in the United States? It was that statistic, as well as personal experience, that moved me to write and illustrate a picture book that would encourage and inspire young children affected by communication disorders to use whatever language they may have. I also designed it to help children without communication disorders better express themselves and understand their friends and peers who are coping with language impairments, stuttering, or autism.

Now that I have my own children, I can see that every toddler and preschooler needs to be gently and consistently reminded that what they have to "say" matters, and that we, their parents, teachers, and friends, are listening. As I hope the little snippet of writing above shows, it is my intent to approach these needs of all young children in a unique way. Accented with bright and lively illustration, this book, currently titled You Have a Voice, focuses on how play and every day activities (like groaning to let mom know your tummy hurts) give all children a chance to use their voice, express themselves, and be heard. I believe there is a real and large audience for this book. Now, I need to find a way to reach it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

While we're on the subject...

I thought I'd stick with my beach theme, but get back to some illustration I did with children in mind. Behold, a surfer girl. I'm thinking she's a teen. Ever since I was a teen I've loved to draw "action-shots," mostly depicting dance or gymnastics. And I've learned that these are challenging subjects for an illustrator. You want the face and body to communicate feeling to the audience, but you also want it to look "realistic" to a point. Here I want to show how much fun my surfer chick is having, but I also want it to look like this girl is in motion, and balanced at the same time. I'm not sure I've achieved that, but it's on its way.

Since I've begun digging up old illustrations for stories I've written, as well as creating some new ones for this blog, I've learned a few things. Some areas I want to improve in are: perfecting skin tones, creating truly finished and polished works, and nailing down my style even further. I've been reading a lot of Tomie DePaola lately, and while I love him for a million reasons, I'm currently in awe of his consistency...even across story genres. I also want to spend more time practicing keeping characters looking consistent through a variety of situations. Now in the case of Jane Chapman's work with author Karma Wilson's delightful Bear series, we are talking about a cast of animal characters. Still, I admire how from book to book (and there are quite a few!) Bear and his friends look so familiar and uniform, yet are still rendered so artistically.

Sounds like I've created a few homework assignments for myself for the week. Better get cracking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunny day in Syracuse or precipitation on Peter Island?

I thought that a good question to ask myself today when I stumbled upon this little travel sketch I made while on my honeymoon. This month, my husband and I shared our my 6th wedding anniversary. Looking at this drawing I made while lolling around in the BVI, brought me right back to that November day by the pool. I looked out at the sea and mountains while it misted and rained...for a whole week. A whole week! And all in a place where it supposedly never rains two days in a row, let alone an entire week.

Needless to say, it was still a dream vacation, and I love how the colors of this quick, lively sketch capture the setting, weather, and my feelings at the moment I created it. I'll admit, all the rain made me a tad blue. So fellow travelers, artists and writers, do you sketch or journal to capture your feelings and experiences while on vacation or when you hit the road? What do you get out of it? One thing travel sketches always give me, no matter how much time has passed, is perspective. For example, six years later I experienced a brilliantly sunny fall day here in Syracuse, and while I may not have been sipping a BBC (oh, Bailey's, Banana & Coconut...I dream of you often!) on a private island in the BVI, it was still a GOOD day. And there wasn't a drop of rain...

Friday, November 13, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I know I said yesterday that I have a relatively well-formed illustration style, but every once in a while I like to try something different. Who doesn't right? Since I normally lean towards colorful brights, pattern, and ink outlines, this little drawing seems out of order for me. Yet these exercises in exploration always inspire me creatively and often help me narrow my focus when it comes to fleshing out story ideas. Here are two little winter cardinals cuddling in their tree hollow home. I am always mesmerized when I see a cardinal flitting amongst the snowy landscape and in this drawing I wanted to share the feelings I experience when I do magically catch a glimpse of one. So in an attempt to reflect the stillness, cold, and heavy quiet of that atmosphere, as well as the tiny yet powerful ray of delight and warmth the cardinals' red color adds to the equation, I came up with this. I'm also intrigued by the idea of the house off in the distance with it's warm golden color and plume of smoke. What are they cooking in there? Who is sitting in front of that hearth? Have they seen the birds? Do I need to add footprints in the snow?

And so the process begins...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stating my intention...loud and proud!

What's something I need like a hole in the head? That's right, another blog! It may be tough to believe, but in the process of streamlining and organizing my life, I've actually found that I need to add a bit more to certain areas. The trick is to let go of the extraneous stuff and only add the most important. In my case, the most important "stuff" are the things that support my goals and dreams.

One of those dreams has always been to write and illustrate a children's book. Somewhere out there is my 1st grade teacher Miss Rosen. I bet if you asked her (and she remembered me) she'd agree this is a goal I set for myself at age 6. Of course, a lot happened between 6 and now: the teen years (which I'll spare you), a BFA, a design career, a family, a business, and a whole lot of fun. Still, I never forgot this dream. I may have deferred it, but the entire time I was still drawing, journaling, scribbling, and plotting.

Now is the time to make it happen, and I hope this blog proves a useful tool in tracking and achieving my goal. Before I go, I need to introduce you to the spunky little character above. I haven't got a name for her just yet (perhaps that's something you can help with? Comment away), but she's the perfect mascot for my efforts. Her image exudes my illustrative style: a mix of watercolor, colored pencil and ink; wrapped in brights and reflecting a love of pattern. Her stance and body language speak volumes as well. I hope to bring a unique, strong, fun-loving, and enthusiastic voice to the world of children's writing and illustration. And just like this confident and hopeful little miss, I believe I can.