Friday, February 25, 2011

Still Here

©2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

Sorry to the two week pause in posting on the blog. Time just got away from me with various projects and promotional stuff. I finally received postcards for mailing to art directors and a few agents. They turned out quite well. On Tuesday, I mailed out 60 to various places. My game plan is to do 20-30 a week until the cards are gone. Then it is time for a new image or two and a second mailing. And so the cycle goes on.

This past weekend I got together with several Bangor fine artist and my good friend The Wacky Brit to do some life drawings. We hired a model for the day. There were many really nice drawings. I like the above drawing which was done in 30 minutes. It was drawn on 18x24 newsprint with a pencil (I had to scan it in sections in order to get the whole image together). My favorite from the hour and a half session, I gave to the model. I used brown crafter paper, pencil, and white charcoal. The tone of the paper was lovely and helped the white charcoal pop. Hopefully everyone had a good time and learned a few things. Everyone was excited to do it again so this will be a bi-monthly event. We have several other models ready to go. I hope they are as good as Meghan. She has really raised the bar.

My new website seems to be a mild success. I have gotten lots of positive feedback on it and few inquiries about some possible jobs. Speaking of jobs, this month seems to be logo month for me. Lots of logos in the works. I really enjoy the challenge they bring. To brand someone's product or business properly can be stressful, but I welcome the challenge. I cannot post any sketches due to signing NDA's but will once they are launched.

I am also working on an app for the iPad and iPhone. That is another project that I cannot say anything about until it is launched. This will be first project for that format which I find very exciting. There is so much to learn with this new area of the graphic arts. Maybe this will lead to more and a few books. One can only hope and keep reaching towards it. Now I need to get an iPad which I will wait until the new one comes out.

Slowly I am making progress writing three book ideas that I have on the drawing table. I am finding it hard to focus on just one story at the moment. It is a bit intimidating since I never have written a book. The visuals are there in my head but I need to get the words onto some paper. Going to the library every Friday for an hour is a good break and provides me alone time to concentrate on the writing part of the stories. My goal is still to have one written and comped up by June. I think I need to have one completely written and fine tuned by the end of March so I can move forward on the visuals. Since I signed up for the NESCBWI conference in May, it may be of my best interest to have something to take with me. I am not going to rush anything for the conference, but it could help me move along a bit faster and get some things completed.

There is a really cool app for the iPhone called Hipstamatic. It allows you to create a vintage/retro look from those old toy cameras with your iPhone photos. I shot the above image very quickly this morning while it was snowing (and it still is!). There is also a website dedicated to Hipstamatic photos.

Tomorrow, I am off to see Flogging Molly with my wife and son. We are looking forward to heading to Portland for the evening. Flogging Molly is a great band live. Check out if you get a chance.

"I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music." ~ Joan Miro

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Website

©2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

Greetings on this chilly Friday morning. After many late nights since returning from New York, I would like to announce that my new website is now online. My goal was to make it friendlier than the previous one. I stripped it down to the bare essentials by reducing the color pallet and simplifying the navigation. The images are now larger and sprinkled throughout the site. I added a section for sketches plus a page for work that is a bit different from my usually style. Let me know what you think.

With the website now up and running, I can now send out postcards to art directors. This weekend will be spent revising my mailing list database. Once I receive my postcards, I will mail out 25 a week and then send a new card every couple of months.

Last Friday I went to the Pittsfield Library and did some writing. It did wonders for me to get out of the house to work on my stories. This will be a Friday event for the next several months, if not longer. My goal is to have a story written and the book dummied up by June 1st. From there, I will send it out for review. We shall what happens.

As far as current projects, I have some animations to work on, a few logos in the works, some character development, and there are rumblings regarding Molly Kite. Nothing to report just yet but hopefully something shakes out with her.

Have a lovely weekend and coming week.

"There is no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way." ~ Winslow Homer

Sunday, February 6, 2011

SCBWI New York Conference

Hello everyone! I am back from New York and have finally caught up on some much needed rest which is why my update is a bit late. The SCBWI Conference was a much needed experience. After 4 days with a group of creatives, I came away energized, excited, and determined to expand into the children's book market.
The trip did not start off very well with a delay in receiving my promo postcards (which never arrived) and my flight being cancelled early Wednesday morning due to the impending snow storm. I was traveling with my good buddy Hazel Mitchell, aka the Wacky Brit, who called me Tuesday night to inform me of the flight cancellation. We decided to take a train from Portland to New York on Thursday instead of flying in early Friday morning which is the first day of the conference. After some worries about getting into New York, we finally arrived after 14 hours and a few minor delays. Hazel checked into the hotel, I met up with my good friend Ilene Block and her family in Brooklyn where I spent the night. It was so much fun to spend some time with her. She is an amazing designer who I met while working on "World World" characters. Friday, I headed to the Grand Hyatt for day one and the "Illustrators Intensive". Immediately, I met some outstanding and inspiring illustrators who are the in book market or are inspiring to get into illustrating children's books. Dan Yaccarino gave a very funny but informational keynote. Dan has written and illustrated such books as Oswald, Go Go America, and Willa's Wild Life which is also a tv show. The main focus of Friday's intensive was talking about ebooks, enhanced books, apps, and the digital market. The various panel members stressed the need for an online presence by using blogs, social networks, and websites. My thinking is that my style might be a good fit.
Later in the evening there was a showcase for the illustrators to enter one piece, 14x18, along with cards, to display for agents, reps, art directors, etc. to walk through and pickup samples. Luckily I had some bookmarks that I could use. They did not match the print but it was better than nothing. I entered the girl and the robot. We got to walk through after the private viewing to pickup our pieces. I must say that the artwork was topnotch. One definitely got a sense on where they stood in relation to the other artist. Awards were presented on Sunday for Best of Show" and three "Honorable Mentions". And no, I did not win but did have a lot of cards picked up which made me very happy.
Saturday was spent in workshops which were in smaller groups. My focus was art directors and agents. After hearing advice from them, especially Lucy Cummins who LOVES illustrators, it made me refocus my efforts and rethink my approach. We were provided a lunch where I sat with a cool group of illustrators and writers. My weekend roommate, Josh Alves, joined us. He actually met an editorial director who is interested in his comic books. My fingers are crossed for him. R.L. Stine, Goosebumps, spoke during lunch. He was brilliant and very funny. His advice is "to always say YES". He wanted to write humorous books and magazines until some suggested he write a spooky story. So he said "YES". That was 350 million books ago. Yes, 350,000,000 books!!!! The evening was spent dining with new friends and then early to bed. Well, early meaning midnight.
Sunday was the last day of the conference. We heard talks from Mo Willems, Marvin Terbean, Lenore Look, and a beautiful speech by Sara Zarr. If someone posted that on Youtube, you must view it. It makes you say "I can do this". After goodbyes, exchanging of info, it was time to uptown to spend the evening with Eric Brown, a close friend from my art school days. Eric is an animator on "World Girl" and created "Shorties Watching Shorties". We had a ton of laughs and a few beers.
Monday I was back on train heading home. I felt more determined, focused, and ready for the next than ever before. I reviewed my notes on the train only to realize that I had ideas for 21 stories. Whether any of them are good or not, is irrelevant. It is that the ideas are flowing so I must stay on track. I am working on new website with hopes of getting it online this week.
Here are some of the cool people I met with a link to their work. Josh Alves a comic book artist; Debbie Ohi aka iPadgirl, a published book writer and illustrator; John Deininger, illustrator extraordinaire with a ebook coming out soon; Erik Brooks, established children's book illustrator and author; Jeremy Provost, another illustrator who did a beautiful piece for the show; Nancy Foulke, another illustrator and great person; Heidi Sheffield, aspiring illustrator who does a very cool collage style; and Laura Clement who is writing several children's books. There were many others and I hope to stay in touch with through the course of the year. I am looking forward to next year's conference.
"Just say YES." ~ R.L. Stine

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