Monday, August 25, 2014

Publishing with Heart: An Exciting New Children's Anthology from Reflection Press

Click image to magnify

I've been blogging about my first illustration project, a poem I wrote called "Grannie's Coal Pot" that I'm illustrating to appear in an international anthology of writing and art for children.

I'm happy to be able to share a little more about this anthology. The anthology (title pending) grew out of the dynamic and powerful online course, "The Heart of It: Creating Children's Books That Matter" that I took with The School of the Free Mind earlier this year. It will be published by visionary Indie publisher Reflection Press and promises to be a wonderful and meaningful treasure for sharing with children and with our diverse communities.

All of us contributing to the anthology are graduates of the course and we all have a heart for sharing stories and art with children that support and affirm a conscious, inclusive, socially aware vision of the world. We are about reclaiming and building a heritage of storytelling that respects and values children, multiculturalism, first voices, nature, gender diversity and the magic of the human heart. We are being guided on our Heartful publishing journey by Maya Gonzalez, our course instructor, Editor, and Heartful award-winning author-artist. I can vouch for both the heart and talent of the author-artists whose voices and art will commune on the pages of this book.

Please help us spread the word about this revolutionary anthology (How is it revolutionary? Read this post over on the School of the Free Mind's blog to find out) by sharing the beautiful flyer above.

And in case you're wondering about the "Heart of It" course, it runs again this October and you can find out more information about it and how to register here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Grannie's Coal Pot: Final Drawing Revision and Art/Color Sample

I drew this draft of a coal pot
for a spot illustration

Stage Four: Final Drawing Revision

Things are moving along steadily with 'Grannie's Coal Pot', my very first illustration project. The last time I blogged about this project, I'd just submitted the final drawing to the Artistic Director at Reflection Press.

A week later I got an email requesting that changes be made to that drawing. I also received a mock-up of my double-page spread with the poem on one page and the illustration on the other so I could see how my spread would look as pages of a book.

The changes I was asked to make were minimal and that was a relief. I'm not going to post the revised drawing here on the blog (or the final art either); the final art will be a surprise for people who buy the book.

I shared in my last post how I ended up making changes to the illustration during the process of converting the final thumbnail to the final drawing. I should mention now that when working with a traditional publisher, it's very unlikely that changes between the final thumbnail stage and the final drawing stage would be approved unless they had been discussed beforehand. The point of the thumbnail stage is for all the details to be worked out and finalized. This is what the publisher is counting on.

So during the thumbnail creation stage it's very important to spend a lot of time fully exploring all the options until you settle on your final choice. Since I'm a newbie to illustrating children's books and this particular project grew out of a class environment, my publisher gave me some leeway, but again, the standard procedure is that your final drawing should be the same as the final thumbnail, just with more resolution and detail.

Stage Five: Art/Color Sample

Once the revised final drawing was submitted, it was time to move on to the sample art, also known as the 'color sample'. Illustrating is not a wholly linear process and so I started working on the sample at the same time I was doing the final drawing revision.

The art sample is meant to show the publisher what materials/media you're using and how. I say "how" because there are a million ways to use acrylics and then there is your unique way of using acrylics, which is what the publisher wants to see. So the sample art, along with the final drawing, lets the publisher know what to expect from the final art; it helps the publisher understand the palette (i.e., the range of colors you'll be working with) and the style of your artwork so they can visualize and design the book.

The sample art can be a trial run of the illustration or a part of the illustration. It can be a character study using your medium of choice, or a landscape, or even a detail like a hand. For my sample art I zoned in on a section of the illustration.

Clearly, the sample art stage is very important. You want to take time to really play with the materials you'll be using to illustrate the book. Because this is my first illustration project and I'm not quite ready to send my hand-painting out into the world as yet, I've decided to color my final art digitally and so my sample is colored digitally. I'm only just teaching myself digital illustration and I wish I knew more, but I'm working with what I've got. I'm hoping I can produce cleaner, sharper images when it comes to the final artwork. Believe it or not, I did 13 different versions of this illustration before picking 5 to submit. Here are two of them.

I submitted the art sample today and now I await feedback. The next steps are revisions to the art sample (if required) and then it's on to the final art, yikes!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Grannie's Coal Pot: Making Progress

Stage Three: The Final Drawing

I'm currently working on my first children's illustration project and blogging about it as I go along. I recently submitted the final drawing for 'Grannie's Coal Pot' to the book's Artistic Director for review. 'Final drawing' is actually a misnomer because the illustration is still subject to change at this stage of the review process. So the final drawing is more like a proposal for what the final art that will appear in the book will look like.

Drawing, like writing, is a process of discovery. If you saw the thumbnails for this illustration that I posted before you'll notice some changes were made from what I'd originally intended. The plan was to have the child be a girl but as I was drawing, my pencil kept insisting it was a boy I wanted to draw.

I remember when I was a child how much it irked me that my brother often got a free pass from helping out in the kitchen or doing chores around the house. Many boys and men actually do like to cook, and it's an invaluable skill for people of any gender to learn. Besides, why should boys miss out on the joys and pleasures of cooking? A boy in a cooking scene challenges the stereotype that only girls belong in the kitchen and sending that message felt true and right for this piece.

I realized I also wanted to affirm the specialness and value of the relationship between a boy and his grandmother. I don't have a good camera but here is a picture I took with my cell phone.

The final drawing. Let's hope it gets approved!
Another thing that happened organically as I was drawing was the change to the coal pot. I'd originally planned to draw a regular pot on a stove-top, but a sudden memory of the old-fashioned coal pots of Caribbean folkways came flashing back.

Street vendors in the Caribbean use these traditional coal pots a lot; in fact, coal pot cooking is something of a cultural institution in the islands. In Trinidad, there was even a soca song written about coal pots. People will often use them to cook outdoors in their yards because outdoor cooking is also a Caribbean thing. A grandmother would likely own such a coal pot, and cultural authenticity in children's illustrations is so important, so I gladly gave up the stove-top idea in exchange for the traditional Caribbean coal pot.

Now that I've submitted the final drawing, I'm waiting for feedback from the Artistic Director. Depending on what she says, I may have to make changes to the drawing and re-submit. More 'Grannie's Coal Pot' updates to come.