Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Holiday Spirit

© 2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

As the holiday is upon us, I thought it was time to do a special illustration to get me into the holiday spirit. Of course, I wanted some humor in the piece so with paper in hand, this is what materialized. The idea behind it is the little boy getting a "special gift" he dreamt of the past year. The big questions are how did Santa get him into the small box and did the boy eat his Wheaties that morning in order to lift him. I think each of us would love to get a monster as gift. Well, if he/she was a nice one.
The entire illustration was created in Photoshop. After scanning in the sketch, I added a gray tone to the drawing in order to establish a light source which came from the top left. This allowed the boy's face to stand out.

I then duplicated the gray layer and used the saturation tool to change the tone to a color. The layer was made to "multiply" the previous layer which gave me a dark base to work the final color.

The next step in process was to block-in the color. I wanted the boy's pajamas to be a cool color against the warm tone of the monster. 

I continued to block in the color with the boy's face and the other features on the monster. 
This is the  final result. Keeping the cool colors mostly on the boy allowed him to stand out against the warm tones of the other parts of the illustration. Final touches were a wisps of hair, lines on the arms and legs of the monster, details on the box, and the highlights. i pulled a few dark blues into the shadows of the other components to pull everything together. The drop shadows need a touch of purple to add some pop.

After completing the piece, I realized that many of my pieces of late have been vignettes so I need to do a series of illustrations that have environments or situations. I like the direction the illustrations are heading by working in Photoshop so time to keep pushing forward.

Last weekend I wend to a workshop in New Hampshire sponsored by NESCBWI. Guest speakers were Sally Mavor who spent 5 years working on the illustrations for Pocketful of Posies. To see her fabric work up close was simply amazing. She hands stitch every piece. There was a giveaway so I won a signed book from her. Jennifer Morris and Carlyn Beccia did a digital workshop where they shared their tricks and tips. Carol Goldenberg shared her process of designing a children's book. Casey Girard and Anna Boll did a wonderful job putting the event together so a big THANK YOU to each of them.

Time to enjoy the weekend so I will leave you with this quote:
"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." ~ Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Been A Long Time

© 2011 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

I just realized that it has been 3 weeks since I last posted on my blog. Where did the time go? It really has gotten away from me lately. There is so much going on here in the merry land of Otis. Some things I can tell you about and others are under wraps for now. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag too early but 2012 could be a very exciting year.

First things first, I just did a new promo postcard that will be sent to various reps/agents, publishers, agencies, game developers, etc. The Pinocchio piece turned out quite well so I thought it would be a good sample and lead off for the second style I have been working on as of late. I have fallen in love with Photoshop! It is letting me get a traditional feel with this style. I have not abandoned Painter but Photoshop just has a familiar feel to it since I worked in Illustrator for many years. If you would like a postcard, send me an email to 100 of them just went out the door so fingers are crossed for a response.

Major Manners is moving forward pretty quickly now. All sketches have been approved so I have been working on the final art. The book should be out early next year. Molly Kite is also moving along and should be hitting the store shelves very soon. There are some big plans for both books but I must keep things under wrap for now.

I have been getting a lot of inquiries from self publishers these past two weeks. The advertising is really paying off as my name seems to be getting out there a bit more. Hopefully a more publishers will be calling. I am really enjoying venturing into picture books at this point of my career.

In January, I will be heading to New York for the winter SCBWI conference. Fred Koehler, Ward Jenkins (Chicks Run Wild), and I will be sharing a room. That should be interesting and a great time. I am looking forward to seeing many friends, old and new plus learning some things. Maybe you can teach an old dog a new trick.

This past weekend, I organized a figure drawing workshop with Isaac Peleko. He is a New York based artist that I knew from my PCA&D teaching days. We had 16 area artist take the workshop and I think each of us learned quite a bit from him. He is coming back to Maine in the spring aka Mud Season to teach a portraiture class.

On a personal note, my wife and I had a Halloween party. We have been talking about it for years but finally said "Enough talk, lets do it!" We had about 40 people in our little house. Everyone was dressed in wonderful, fun costumes. I was dressed as the tooth fairy and my wife one of my victims (see above photo). There was a ton of food. We provided a pulled pork and bar-b-que dish that we made look like a leg that a zombie was chewing on (see above). Everyone was telling us that this will be an annual event so we better start planning for next year!

The weather is rapidly changing up here in Maine even though today was a beautiful 60 degrees. Everyone is prepping for winter which is right around the corner. I hope it holds this weekend so I can button down the outside. 

Until next time (hopefully it will not be 3 weeks!), I leave you with this:
"I learned to draw everything except glamorous women. No matter how much I tried to make them look sexy, they always ended up looking silly... or like somebody's mother." ~ Norman Rockwell

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