Sunday, May 29, 2011

Busy, busy, busy!

I hope everyone is enjoying their 3 day weekend. Since it looks like rain today, I plan on spending the day relaxing on the couch. Maybe I will do some sketching to get a head start on the week. My wife and I spent all day Saturday cleaning out our basement. We still had unpacked boxes from our move to Maine 3 years ago. It always feels good to get a major accomplishment done around the house.

©2011 Scott Pet|Smiling Otis Studio

Things are a bit hectic in the merry land of Otis. Last week was spent working on an animation for Scott Pet. They will be using the Flash animation on their new website. I cannot post the final animation just yet but here are some of the images that was used. I posted a sample of their character and the storyboard with the final artwork. The total animation last around 12 seconds. It was good to dust off the Flash cobwebs. I have second animated piece in the works for another client but it is still early in the storyboard stage.

While at the NESCBWI conference a few weekends ago, I received a phone call about illustrating a children's book. The call was from the author who really liked my work. She is working with a small publisher who gave her the go ahead and find an illustrator. The author is a very lovely person and I think we will work well together. I cannot give out any details on the book due to signing a NDA but hopefully can post things once the book is published. The real kicker is the deadline for all of the illustrations is at the end of July. Plus I have a vacation in there, YIKES! These next two months are going to be very busy so if my post are few and far between, I apologize. I will at least try to give a quick update.

I did some character develop this past week as well for a website. The client was very happy with the character I created and has more work for me. The "In" pile keeps growing which is a good thing and I will not complain. Especially since many in the field and in general are not working at all.

Last weekend I moved my office into another section of the house. I now have more sunlight, room, and air circulation. It feels good not to be so crowded even though there is something comforting and cozy about a small work area. I would like to get my easel in the new space but it might be too much. I still have a few things to move over but am in no rush at the moment since they are stored in the closet.

Well that is it for this week. I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day but try to remember and thank those who allow us to be free and feel protected.

"There is no must in art because art is free." ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tales from the NESCBWI Conference

©2011 Russ Cox/Smiling Otis Studio
Well I survived another children's book conference. Most of last week was spent prepping for Friday and Saturday. The NESCBWI conference started at noon on Friday. My good buddy Hazel Mitchell and I drove down to Fitchburg which is a 3 hours trip. Our journey was a tad bit longer due to Google map giving us the wrong info and it printed out in reverse order. After many wrong turns and circling around, we made it to the Marriott. We registered for the conference but could not check in to our rooms until 4. By the way, we got moved to another hotel due to some air conditioning issues. No big deal. They ran a shuttle for everyone who had to relocate.

My first session was a meet and great with several other illustrators hosted by Jennifer Morris. Jennifer is a wonderful illustrator who wrote and illustrated the Alfie the Alligator series. We chatted about portfolios and promoting ourselves plus the general state of the industry. Many of us brought portfolios to share. I had a printed and digital version which was on my iPad.

The second session was about ebooks. There were only 4 of us in the group but it had a lot of information. One of the people in the group is a web/app developer who was a wealth of knowledge. Cards were exchanged and then it was time for the welcoming address. Several speakers including Jane Yolen, Lin Oliver, and Tomie dePaola gave humorous talks about when the New England branch of SCBWI was formed.

In between breaks, I got to meet and chat with several illustrators, writers and editors. You can definitely tell the illustrators in the crowd. We are the rowdy bunch. Plus there were not many of us to begin with. Speaking of a small group, the men there were very few. You had a better chance to spot Bigfoot than see one of us. Some of the wonderful people who I got to hang out with through the whole conference was Jennifer from the meet and greet and Katia Wish, who won the Tomie dePaolo award for her Heidi illustration. Illustrator extraordinaire Robert Squire who won the poster showcase last year and was a speaker at one of the breakout sessions. Andy Smith is an illustrator and author who also gave a presentation with Robert on illustration styles. Andy's style is so much fun and full of life. Another member of the crew was Melinda Beavers who actually won the poster showcase (congrats to Melinda). I got to meet Hazel's friend Harold Underdown who is an editor and a lot of fun to be around. Got to know Ernie D'Elia and Meiera Stern who are aspiring illustrators like myself. Also met Jim Hill who told me his son loves my robot and girl piece. He goes to my website all of the time to look at it. I should send him a print but maybe there will be a drop off on hits if I do.

After heading back to the hotel for a quick shower and a change of clothes, it was back to the evening events. The first event was a cabaret act put on by an editor, illustrator, and a few other folks about the birth of a book. It was done quite well and very enjoyable. Next up was the "Silver Anniversary" party. Everyone was encouraged to wear some silver. I painted a bow tie silver and added a silver band to a top hat. Hazel decorated the hat with some silver stars. It was fun mixing with other creatives but the big thrill was hanging out at the bar with Tomie dePaola. He is such a lovely person and the few people with him were equally as nice. We all laughed and chatted. There were about 4 or 5 of us, not counting the drunk person who would staggered in and mumble something once in a while. We finished the evening with some night caps and then caught a ride with Jim back to the hotel.

The next morning started at 7:30 with registering our showcase posters. The theme was to take a classic children's book and redo the cover. I picked Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel because it fit my style. You can go over to Pixel Shavings to see how I worked up the concept. Everyone mingled for a bit and looked at the posters before the first workshop started. I signed up for Donna Gephart's (How To Survive Middle School) quirky characters workshop. Her lecture gave me a whole new insight and approach to the story I am developing. The tips and little things we can do to bring out the personality of the character was worth the price of the conference. My second workshop was with Robert, Andy, and two others who spoke on developing an illustration style. Another good lecture with insight since many of us artist struggle with whether we have one or not. We had a break and then it was time for Jane Yolen's keynote speech. Jane talked about being rejected but you must keep trying, never give up. Very inspirational. After Jane's speech it was time to announce the winners of the poster contest. Our new friend Melinda Beavers won a couple of awards for her beautiful interpretation of Aesop's Fables. Hazel and I did not win anything but that is okay. Just having people look at and comment on the posters was enough.

The final workshop was illustration perspective. It was good but I knew the material. I should have read the course details a bit more. I thought it was more of an insight look at illustration. It was still nice to get a bit of a refresher in perspective. After the workshop, it was time to say goodbye and head home. Before I left, I gave my print to a little boy who was waiting in line to get some books signed. It turned out that he loves Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel and it is his dad's favorite book. It was meant to be. That was better than any award.

Hazel and I made it home safe and sound. I already miss the new friends I made but look forward to seeing them next time, if not before.

Until next time.

"One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one's capacity." ~ Auguste Renoir

Monday, May 9, 2011

Conference Week

It has been a whirlwind week as I am getting ready for the NESCBWI conference that starts on the 13th. I had to finish up my book cover illustration for the poster contest. I will post the image next week along with notes from the conference. The print arrived today from Picture Salon and as always, they did a great job with it. Now I must mount it on foamcore and pack it up. I am not expecting to win anything but hope that someone likes it enough to want to chat about my work. My postcards were ordered and delivered so I will not go through the same mess that I had to deal with in New York. The other thing I need to do is update my portfolio. I have a couple of new pieces to add to it. The other thing I am doing portfolio wise is to add images to my iPad. There are several portfolio apps but after reading some reviews, I purchased Foliobook. It seemed to have gotten several recommendations from artist and photographers. The paper portfolio can be passed around but I wanted a backup in case something should happen to it or if I do not have it with me. My good friend Hazel Mitchell is riding down with me so the car ride in itself should be an experience and a hoot.

© 2011 McDonalds

© 2011 McDonalds

While prepping for the conference, I did several pieces for McDonald's FunTime booklets. I really enjoy not only illustrating the books but working with Ken at the agency who handles the account. He is so much fun and always like for the illustrator to add their own ideas to the artwork. The two above images are from the recent book. One is a spot about Greek actors playing both the male and female roles. The other is a coloring page on dinosaurs. A photo of Ronald will be placed into the illustration.

My children's story is coming along slowly. I have not looked at it in two weeks. During that time, it has been rolling around my head, working itself out. I think I finally have a something that may work and hold it together. The first draft was more a of a list and not having a common thread to hold it together. My writer friend, Laura, gave me some helpful feedback and made me rethink it a bit. I truly believe that she will get a publishing deal very soon. While writing at the library, a second story hit me so I switched gears and quickly wrote it so I could go back and review it at a later date.

Spring has finally arrived here in Maine. Winter really fought staying around for a few more weeks. It was enjoyable to get out this weekend and cut the grass for the first time this season. My wife and I had friends over for a cookout on Saturday. That was a blast and a half. I asked my wife what she wanted for Mother's Day and she said for us to clean out the garage. After breakfast (which I made for her), we spent all day cleaning and organizing. Today, we are both sore and realize that we are not spring chickens.

I met on Friday with a fine artist friend, Renate, regarding our upcoming July painting trip to Monhegan Island. It will consist of 16 artist who will spend a week on the island painting, drawing, and laughing the whole time. She filled me in on what I should pack and the best way to prep my art supplies before the trip. I am so looking forward just spending the week doing artwork for myself and plan on doing a lot of drawings and alla prima oil paintings. My portable easel just arrived so I will have something to use instead of my 30 year easel that will not stand up any more.

Songs/albums currently blaring from my speakers:
Elbow-Build A Rocket Boys!
The Decemberists-Hazards of Love
Matt Pond PA-Spring Fools EP
Soviet League-Soviet League
P.J. Harvey-Let England Shake

Until next time.
"The artist need not know very much; best of all let him work instinctively and paint as naturally as he breathes or walks." ~ Emil Nolde

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