The New Idea said, "You're gonna love this! Forget the last one - and the three before that - because this is it!"
WIP - Work In Progress. We all have them. If you are like me, you have STACKS of them. Once upon a time I took great care to keep all of these WIP ideas tucked away in a pocket folder. Now the ideas are tucked inside of various sketchbooks with thumbnails and notes and are over the place. The process has become messy and unorganized. Why? Because the ideas tumble out quicker than I can keep up! It's not a bad thing, but let's face it - some ideas are stupid and they steal time from the other stories that have potential.
Whipping the WIPs
Organize your ideas.
Take the time to wrangle the various scraps of paper, napkins, phone notes, sketchbooks...whatever you have recorded your ideas on...and get them together. In the end, it will get you together, too.
Store your notes and ideas in one place at home.
A bookcase, a file drawer, a cardboard box, a desk. For me, it's a plastic crate with hanging folders, in my studio.
Carry whatever WIPs you are currently working on with you.
Ideas for revisions happen at any time, so you might as well be prepared. It could make your wait at the DMV much more enjoyable.
Stay focused on what you can handle without getting overwhelmed.
This is a hard one. Personally, I am trying to get into the habit of immediately filing a new idea. Out of sight, out of mind, until I'm ready for a new potential project.
As one project slows, check your idea pile for the next great potential.
The idea that was filed earlier can be considered. If it doesn't have a viable story, does it have an illustration for your portfolio?
Unplug yourself and take breaks.
Writing or sketching every idea can make you nuts. Unplug yourself and go for a run, walk, bike ride...whatever it takes to disconnect and recharge.
In this creative industry we learn from others in our profession. These are my thoughts, but do you have a different experience to share? How do you tame your WIPs?
Usually, I am a focused person. I make lists before I start my day, tidy up my work area, and list everything I can for the rest of the work week. Usually....
This week not so much.
So, with a bunch of deadlines looming ahead, I needed a refresher crash course in HOW TO BE FOCUSED IN A WORLD FULL OF SQUIRRELS! (by the way, Those Darn Squirrels, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, is awesome...)
1. Set everything up the night before.
After making a list of all of the projects you have for the week (that you are aware of), break the list down into daily sized chunks. Remember getting your kids ready for school the night before? It works for us adults, too. Set out your clothes for the next day. Decide what you'll have for lunch - are you meeting someone or eating in? Get your work area ready to go by cleaning and straightening up your piles.
2. Get the hard stuff out of the way early.
When making your list, get the hard projects out of the way first. It will feel great to cross it off your list. Reward yourself with your favorite ________ (you fill in the blank). My blank is filled in with a coffee break tomorrow :D
3. Give yourself boundaries for distractions.
A big distraction is social media and answering email. Even the smallest glance can be a time thief that lasts for hours. Give yourself a social media/email break...with a timer. Stick to the boundaries you set. I use my hourly 10 minute stretch time to glance...not stare...GLANCE at social media and my email.
4. Take breaks during the day.
Sitting for hours hunched over your computer keyboard (Cintiq, or whatever) is not good on neck and shoulder muscles. Not to mention, lower back, hips, and knees. Set a timer (yes, another timer) to remind you to move every hour. As I mentioned above, this is the 10 minutes that I use to check email, etc.
5. Take inventory of your daily/weekly goals.
Refer to item 1. above. Check yourself - have you met your goals for the day/week? If not, shoo the squirrels out of your office and begin again.
6. Choose motivating background music, movies, podcasts, etc.
Self explanatory. Choose whatever pairs well with your current project and one that motivates you. Happy music creates happy work. (Caution: Don't play a movie that you have to stop and watch.)
7. Get enough rest.
Another self explanatory slice of advice. If you work until 2 AM and get up at 5 AM...you're a creative so you get the picture.
Get in the habit of doing this every night or early every morning and you'll be amazed at the difference!
Lastly, ask yourself what your long-term goals are and make a list of that, too. Hang it in a prominent place as a reminder on the tough days. And when you're having a tough day, remember to do the Hokey Pokey and put your whole self in, shake it off and pack it under! You've got this!
And now, I've got this! Time to make my list for tomorrow!
What do you do to stay focused? Share in the comments below :D
Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. ~ e. e. cummings
An experience that truly changes us is one that eventually becomes part of our DNA. We begin to believe what it is that we learned and start applying it to our life. More thought creates a greater purpose. There is purpose in what we create. Creating - writing and drawing - is where soul meets heart and from that we get an infinite sky of possibilities.
Such is the #LA17SCBWI experience for me. Weeks later and I am still being transformed by the people I met, the skills I learned, and the friendships made.
More takeaways to share with you!
Lucy Ruth Cummins - Art Director at Simon and Schuster and an author/illustrator of A Hungry Lion with more books on the horizon.
Notes from her workshop, Stealing Best Practices of Working Illustrators (that I steal, too)
It was this workshop that gave me the courage to share my book dummy with little Miss KK on the plane trip home. Read picture books aloud. Read your own picture book aloud. Let a child read your "heart, soul and infinite sky" aloud. I think you'll be surprised at what you hear. I know I was. And I will let that moment continue to change me.
Thanks for taking the time to read and, in the process, I hope you found a bit of inspiration to take with you throughout your week!
It's 907° outside today...hot enough to bake some chocolate chip cookies on the brick patio oven. And my grass is, well, sorta tall. Mowing around things that buzz, fly, and sting is not my idea of fun.
Is there a way to make it fun? You bet!
I started looking for some inspiration in the not-so-fun heat and mowing. We have several butterfly bushes so I stopped to take a picture of a beautiful black and blue butterfly. How far did it travel? What has it seen? (insert story) There was a rabbit in the yard - before I fired up the lawnmower - that disappeared under the bushes. Where did it go? (insert story). In the center of the backyard, where a tree stump once was, there are a bunch of chipmunk holes. What are they doing down there today? (insert story) Honestly, I think evil things with wings live down those holes...
The purpose of this post is to remember and look for the character and their story no matter what you're doing. It exercises your creative muscles and takes your mind off of something not-so-fun, like dodging flying things that sting!
I took some of the photos from today and just added some crazy stuff to them in Procreate. It felt good to do something off the wall!
How do you exercise your creative muscles in the July heat? Share in the comments below!
Listen to music while you draw or write for 5 minutes. Where is the music taking you? Draw that.
If the music is sad, draw that, too. (paraphrased comments from Vanessa Newton's workshops)
I need to work on adding more emotional pieces to my portfolio and this can only be accomplished with more practice. To be honest, I don't want to feel like this illustration "feels". It's heavy. But, this morning it's where the music met my heart and eventually worked it's way out of my pencil. I'm encouraged by the fact I have unconsciously created an opening for her. She's coming out from whatever weight she is carrying. I'm pretty sure that Jesus is reminding her to give it to Him. She - WE - are not meant to carry this life alone.
In every struggle there is hope.
#kidlitart #illustration #Ephesians320 #weightlifted #digitalart #struggle #hope #blessed #digitalwatercolor #kidlit #CompassionDanville
It's Part Two of the LA SCBWI Conference takeaways! I feel like I could spread this out one day, one sentence--one nugget--at a time because I'm encouraged each time I read my notes :D But ain't nobody got time for that, right? That's what bookmarks are for!
The rest of my conference takeaways will be shared in pictures and highlights; a few today and more a bit later. I hope those who were unable to attend will feel a part of what we all experienced. Although LA was a great adventure, the real magic happens in our regional chapters. The Carolinas is my home tribe!
Leuyen Pham is an author/illustrator who has illustrated over 90 books. She successfully works in different illustrative styles from picture books to middle grade and beyond. The following are highlights from her workshops, One Artist, DIfferent Styles and Creating Middle Grade Art. My personal favorites are in bold.
The following are highlights from her next workshop, Creating Middle Grade Art
Leuyen was part of the Illustrator Intensive faculty. She covered character design, including finding the balance in your character movement. She used my illustration sheet of a dancing pig as a good example of balanced movement (and she said she really loved the pigs!). That absolutely made my day!
Marvin Terban - Mr. English for Kids and Scholastic's Mr. Grammar
Notes from the PB Panel: LeuYen Pham, Tammi Sauer, Javaka Steptoe and Raul Colon:
EXERCISE for today: Pick something from the lists above and put it into action. Perhaps it's remembering to take your sketchbook with you (I love my @BaronFig sketchbooks!). Take time to observe people. Draw them. Be brave...keep it loose and don't use an eraser.
Be an ambassador of good vibes today!
Which tip inspires you? Share it in the comments below.
When I boarded my flight for the 2017 SCBWI Summer Conference, my prayer was that I would come back better than I left, loving my craft more, and be filled with...something...that would infuse my tired artwork. (I apologize, in advance, for any typo's, but not the ramblings of excitement!)
The conference was aahhhhmazing The Keynote speakers and breakout sessions were the best I have ever heard. I have pages and pages of written notes recording the gold nuggets of motivation that encouraged me. I am still experiencing "inspiration overdrive" with a promise it will stick around for a while.
Find Your Tribe
The journey of writing and illustrating for children is not meant to do alone. I connected with my original 2016 LA tribe and I saw our group grow this year. Being part of this community...this family...is everything. During our "rooftop" portfolio critique (this is a new yearly tradition!) I had the best review ever! And yes! I am absolutely gutting 90% of my portfolio and creating new art. Here's a piece of advice: Be brave! Be fearless and stretch yourself. Never stop learning, creating or dreaming BIG!
The Greatest Takeaway
I can't save this for the end because, for me, it's like a new beginning. My greatest takeaway was not received at the conference. It was given to me on the flight home, from Houston to Raleigh, by the 6 year old African American girl who sat by me on the plane. While she played her iPad games, squirmed, and covered up with her blanket to make a tent, I observed. I made notes, incorporating what I learned from my conference heroes, like Vanessa Newton, Leuyen Pham and Alexandra Penfold. This sweet little girl read my book dummy "Hoot!" TO ME and excitedly told her mom that I wrote the words and "did all the pictures" and "mom, she shared it with me!"
When we got up to exit the plane, "KK" gave me a big hug. I haven't been the same since. That moment was priceless and one I will never forget. God created all of us with a purpose and talents to make this earth a better place. Her unselfish gesture tells me I'm heading in the right direction.
The notes that follow, here and those to come, are my gift to you, because they were a gift to me.
Hokey Pokey Anonymous is a Place to Turn Yourself Around
Vanessa Newton started the conference off with an amazing keynote...and the hokey pokey! We are going to be faced with adversity in life, including running in to it with the work we create. So what do you do with faced with adversity? You put your whole self in, shake it off and pack it under! Lean in to it, learn from it and move on. Here are highlights from Vanessa's keynote and breakout sessions:
That's it for Part One of conference takeaways. Stay tuned for Part Two later this week when I share comments from LeuYen Pham. Until then, be an ambassador of good vibes!
When the faculty introduces themselves at the LA Conference, the are asked to say and inspiring ONE WORD. Here is (most of) the list from this year.
So many of these words were heard throughout the week at breakout sessions, keynotes, and in the conversations that took place in corridors and lounge areas. You might say it set the tone of the entire conference experience. I would like to encourage you to pick a word - or several words - each day and see what they inspire you to create. Share it on social media with the hashtags #LA17SCBWIoneword #SCBWIcarolinas.
Puddling jumping is super-fun when you're wearing your favorite orange and yellow polka dot rain boots!
My warm-up sketch this morning was inspired by a new song from Elevation Worship called "There is a Cloud" (listen to the "There is a Cloud" CD on Spotify).
Puddle Jump 1 - Permission to Play!
Play with no pressure. Try doodling without an eraser. Use a ballpoint pen and add some highlighter color. Use what you have at hand, where ever you are. The brushes I used in "Puddle Jump" are from the recent update to Kyle T. Websters MegaPack (find his brushes here: www.kyletwebster.com). It was fun to experiment with the different textures. (Note to self: Organize my favorite brushes!)
Puddle Jump 2 - Invent a Character
Invent a new...something...someone...hero perhaps? Place your character in a setting that gives you peace. I was inspired by the music I heard, but maybe you would like to be on the beach, in a cave exploring, or taking a hot air balloon ride.
I seem to draw this puddle jumping cutie alot and she didn't have a name yet. With the help of my awesome momma, meet Maddie Kate! You'll be seeing more of her in the coming months!
Have a creative and blessed day!
My ONE WORD for 2017 is #BEYOND. I want to go beyond my comfort zone and try new things; play with new ideas and develop stories. In one sitting I filled an entire sketch book page with goals. I gave each one a #hastag.
#PRACTICE and #PLAYMORE were my inspirations for this illustration. I want to get better at creating without a preconceived sketch and to be more comfortable with letting the "accidents" happen. I "built" this piece by painting the shapes before adding any line detail. Letting the feel of the brush lead the way is difficult for me. I am a perfectionist to the point of overworking my art to death. But I did it...and I like how it turned out :D
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
Deb Johnson is an illustrator and writer for the children's market. She loves character designing and story weaving...and is excited to see what God is knitting together in the process! She launched her dream in 2020 with her first self-published book and imprint Flannel Moose Books!