Hello, faithful reader!
I was hoping to wait on this blog post until hearing back on three “in the works” projects, but everything has been postponed and I’m itching to put something on the blog. So here you go, and I’ll have an update on said projects in about 2 weeks.
After completing ABC Adventures, I decided to take a month-long hiatus from illustration to celebrate the holidays, be generally lazy, and catch up on video games. But for the past month, I’ve been hard at work with a brand new Winter 2018 Syllabus!
Yes, I’m still keeping up with my nerdy trend of making myself syllabi to stay on task, and it mostly works. I broke January up into a few tasks: marketing myself, generating more ideas and entering a competition.
First task? Send out a postcard.
First, I created a mailing list. This was a daunting task, but I just pulled names from plenty of websites and the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market.
I say “just,” but this task actually took me almost two weeks, and Excel spreadsheets are my JAM. I love organizing databases and researching, and I was still shocked how many nights I spent researching names, double-checking positions on Twitter or LinkedIn, and down-right SLEUTHING to get addresses to some of these places.
They do NOT want your mail. Nope.
Then I had to create my postcard. I chose this piece I created for an SCBWI assignment, the fox wedding:
I also had to design the back, which was a new challenge. FUN FACT: The post office only had seashell stamps even though my image is a forest wonderland and I was writing “Greetings from snowy Minnesota!” on all the postcards. THANKS A LOT, POST OFFICE!
I sent out about 250 cards, received 2 personalized email responses stating my illustration style didn’t fit the bill (“but thank you!”), and about 30 were returned.
I consider that a success! No, seriously, I do. Because that means about 220 cards were NOT returned, of those maybe 75 avoided the shredder, 30 of those were circulated, and 10 were pinned up on cork boards and may be considered for future projects. Success!! =
Second task? Send out my portfolio to publishers accepting online submissions.
This was easy enough. I created a PDF (three pages) of my work and emailed to the small amount of publishers that stated they accept digital portfolios on their website. I was able to target maybe 20 publishers this way. Another 15-20 say they accept physical portfolios or they need artist’s CVs/resumes, so that’s on my “to do” list for February, maybe. Also that sounds like a lotta work for probably 0.03% chance of response so probably not.
Third task? Storystorm.
This is a month-long event where you brainstorm a picture book idea every day during January.
Did I succeed? No. This sucked. I had absolutely awful ideas for about 90% of the days (my idea for January 14 is literally “ABC book about kitchen items.” WTF?)
I can safely say that Storystorm is way more stressful than helpful for me. I think I got about two good ideas, maybe, but overall this was too intense for my personality type. I’m a perfectionist and completionist so I felt a gnawing sense of anxiety when I couldn’t claw up an idea from the depths of my dry creativity well. It felt bad. FAIL.
Fourth task? Create an illustration for SCBWI’s annual banner competition!
This is my completed banner:
I think it turned out pretty well. I am definitely pleased with how my style has developed over the years — I can actually SAY I have a definitive style now.
I did struggle with color scheme on this bad boy. I did one color study and it just did NOT work. I got some feedback from illustrator friends that I had too many colors going on. Too many colors? Aren’t you supposed to use them all? Uh…no.
Remember, I didn’t take any formal illustration classes. I am self-taught. And one thing I never taught myself was COLORS. To tackle this, I spent a week in January diving into color classes on SVS and browsed color palettes on Pinterest and www.color.adobe.com. I came up with this color scheme and tried to stick to it:
This is super counter-intuitive to me, because Kindergartners don’t call each other and say “Okay, we’re only wearing avocado green, butter yellow, and raspberry colors today, but we also need to wear completely different clothes so it looks natural.”
It was difficult and weird, but I did it. And I think it produced a much more cohesive image than some of my other illustrations. The deadline for this contest was pushed out, so I’ll find out in February if my banner wins the contest.
Fifth and final January task?
This one was a surprise. I was contacted by a self-publishing author in Wisconsin regarding a children’s book manuscript he’s written about a walleye character!
Did I want to submit character sketches and try to get the job? Heck yes! Underwater scenes are something I’ve always wanted to try — AWESOME! I created the following character studies and a few rough page sketches, and sent them off:
Again, this is another project that I won’t know if I’ve landed until mid-February. Normally, I wouldn’t post anything before knowing about a job, but this guy is too cute NOT to share. And even if I don’t land the gig, it’s all good, because I can always work on my personal PB dummies and a few manuscripts I’ve got simmering on the back burner.
And those were all my January illustration tasks — DONE, BABY.
Soooo….I realized this past October was also my FIVE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of becoming a children’s illustrator, WHAT??
I’ve met so many of my goals, but it’s been an uphill journey at times. It’s a very competitive field. Work is difficult to find. There are a lot of failures and rejected postcards.
But I have more time than ever to devote to illustrating now, and I’ve already got three books I’ve completed which I think makes me pretty LEGIT. I’ve built my portfolio to a solid place where I feel confident sending it to traditional publishers. And I’m very, very happy spending my time drawing, painting and hunched over my Cintiq tablet.
And on a more personal note, I’ve fallen completely, head-over-heels in love with ROLLER SKATING!
I’ve been going to a local rink every week for about eight months, where I do couples skating! That means I’m basically doing ballroom dancing or swing dance moves, but on roller-skates with a partner — and it’s EXHILARATING. There are tons of regulars I dance with — including a figure skating gold medalist!! — and it’s a party every single Friday.
I also recently joined the training league for the Minnesota Rollergirls (Debu-Taunts)!
I had my roller derby skills testing just this past Sunday. I think I did pretty well, but I don’t find out for another week if I’m in Level 1 or Level 2. I’m crossing my fingers for Level 2, but obviously I’ve never skated derby and Level 1 would be totally fine. I just need to polish up some derby-specific skills. Either way, I am completely SMITTEN with roller skating and feel completely exhilarated and joyous while on wheels 🙂
Thanks for reading my blog and keeping up with my illustrative career (and occasional personal gushes involving roller skates and derby). It means a lot to me! Stay tuned for my update in a few weeks about the banner, walleye book, and skating level 😉