Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Temporarily on hold



I'm working under a heavy deadline, so I'll have to rejoin the blog world later this weekend. In the meantime, I leave you with a piece of my art. I call it, "shirt off my back" because that's exactly what it is. I just took my shirt off, laid it on the scanner and — Wa!-La — instant gallery quality artwork.

When my deadlines are tight, I'm not my usual vainglorious self. I get kinda dirty. There's no time for washing oil paints off my hands, or using paper towels to blot acrylics out of my brushes. I just wipe my hands on my clothes like a 9-month old toddler eating pureed peas. But it's all good.

After visiting an art gallery this weekend, and seeing how one artist is creating paintings with the remains of unclaimed, cremated dead bodies, I figure, all's good in love and art.

And I do accept all major credit cards.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Running on empty



The wife couldn't sleep last night. She had insomnia, or something. It must have been around 3 a.m. when she woke up. I had stayed up reading and writing until about 1 a.m., myself. Since she couldn't get back to sleep, she decided to get up, check her email and write some notes for a class she's been teaching. She didn't come back to bed till it was practically time to wake up.

The thing is, I can't sleep when she ain't in the bedroom with me. That's a lie, but I thought it might sound romantic-like. Normally, I sleep like a log in spite of the conditions around me. But last night, her stirring around kept me awake. So in terms of sleep, today, I'm running on empty. I have 10 paintings to finish this week. I have one sketch due to Rosa Wesely, and one last design to render for DT. But, I'm going back to bed. I'll try this again tomorrow.

Good night...er, good morning.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

SOS

Today is the last full day that I have to work on these 10 paintings. My goal is to finish them by the end of the week, but working a fulltime job, I can only get a few hours in each day on these paintings.

My wife just left for a few hours to teach a Sunday school class, and my son is taking a nap. If he wakes up, I won’t get any more work done until my wife gets home.

There’s a kid outside my window loudly bouncing a basketball. Any second, he’s gonna walk past Ks bedroom and possibly wake him up.

Is it against the law to break the fingers of a kid, even if the kid don’t belong to you?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I can't stop thinking, either

Cartoonist, Scott McCloud, offers some tips and suggestions for artist looking to post comics on the web. He inspired me with this piece of advice:

Value your freedom. No one can stop you from expressing yourself on the Web -- No one but YOU YOURSELF!

Don't bother trying to please potential editors.

Don't bother trying to fit into the market. There is no market. (at least, not yet)

I think what he is saying here is to develop your voice without worrying about what others might think, especially when you haven't established a market. I probably worry too much about what others will think of me. His advice particularly spoke to me because when it comes to posting my cartoons on the internet, I feel like I've been trying to hide. I've been trying to remain invisible to those who know me, or know of me — artists, authors, editors, agents— and might find my sense of humor offending, or inappropriate. How am I going to successfully develop a webcomic strip and keep it hidden from the world?

Scott's advice opened my eyes. But it’s my resolution that may complicate things further. I just purchased a new internet domain. There, I will create a webcomic strip and publish the cartoons that I have already been publishing on my "super secret blog."

To start off, I just plan to experiment with humor and storytelling in my own offbeat, edgy, corny, and sometimes offensive way (my mom says I have an insulting Don Rickles sense of humor). My focus will not be on creating cool looking art, though I know I’ll need to polish it up a bit. I've seen so many comics where the art is eye-candy cool, but the script left me scratching my head. I think doing an online comic strip, or a graphic novella will be like blogging — it will appeal to some, it won’t to others.

I've discovered a whole community of webcomic/cartoon artist (I think Varian first turned me onto them), many of whom have published graphic novels. Hopefully, I can learn, network, generate some attention, and see where this endeavor takes me. As an off-color joke, I even considered posing as a white guy, and writing under a pseudonym, at least for awhile. That might sound crazy, but you should have seen how Xxxx Xxxxx dissed me when I introduced myself to him at XXX. I know the look, I’ve been black long enough to recognize it. The look that says, "go away black guy, I'm too busy trying to deal with real people."

Ok, I could never do that. Besides, my casts of characters are black. But, dang, I'm just not in the mood for the race thing as I approach this new endeavor.

Friday, February 24, 2006

K loves books



What's wrong with this picture? Well, to the casual observer, nothing. As my son sits on the bathroom floor, he is reading "Where the Wild Things Are." Actually, he doesn't read, yet, so he's just studying the pictures. The problem is, when I took this photo, we were late for school. Before scrambling out the door to start our day, I called him into the bathroom to brush his teeth (yes, I still do that for him). He enters the bathroom with this book welded into his fingers. As I'm loading up his toothbrush, he cops a squat on the floor and decides he ain't relinquishin’ his last minute reading materials.

After I snapped this picture, I brushed his teeth, "Wild Things" still in his hands.

My oldest daughter is impressed with my son, her baby brother. She wants her 8-month-old son to have a love for books like K does. She's impressed with how well K speaks. But, she doesn't read to her son, and isn't really interested in starting anytime soon. "My baby is too young for books, he’ll just try to eat them," she says.

I don't think a kid can be too young to be read to. I probably could have done a better job of inspiring my daughter’s reading interest when she was a young child. But, my wife and I have been reading to K every since he entered the world, and, I'm assuming, that is why to this day he has a love for books.

My daughter has decided to buy her son some subliminal tapes which, if they are played everyday, guarantee that your child will be reading soon after they walk.

Don't laugh at my daughter, you was 23-years-old once.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

No need for layers!

Excuse my esoteric thoughts here. Sometimes I need to express myself even when nobody knows what I'm talking about. But, why would anyone using Adobe Illustrator, or any vector based program, want to work in layers? I know, it's a cool little...thing. At least it was back when they first introduced them. And, they are a necessity when using Photoshop. But, in Illustrator, if you organize your illustration efficiently in the first place, by grouping elements, you'd never have to complicate your illustration experience with layers upon layers. I won't even mention the layers in Freehand — just forget about them. And now, as I just learned the hard way, you can work with layers, upon layers, within layers. And some do. I now have a headache.

I really needed to blog that. Beats talking to myself.

The good, the bad and the benefit of having a good licensing agent

The bad news is that Lowes cancelled my bed and bath collection after only one year of stocking it.

The good news is that WM has picked up a variation of the design.

The bad news is that WM only chose one.

The good news is that in addition to picking up the one design, they also picked up four other designs, for a total of five.

The bad news is that the art has to be adjusted immediately, and I lost one somewhere on my computer, which means I'll have to put my paintings on hold to adjust the art, and recreate one.

The good news is I'll have 5 new children's textile designs available at WM, and specialty fabric stores toward the end of the year.

The bad news is...well, this post doesn't end with any bad news.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Squeezing in some father/son writing time



I don't think I've ever mentioned before that I've been working on a manuscript of father and son poems and vignettes. Maybe "I've been working" is a bit strong. I've sat down twice, for a total of about three hours to work on the idea. But I have a year of first draft material on my blogs in which to review, and revise, and build upon. I tend to write about my son quite a bit.

After looking over my old stuff, boy, I've realized, I've gotten better. Not great. Not even good. Just better. But after a year of writing, I've learned that it's the revisions that make mediocre writing good, better, and then best.

Oh, and, uh, excuse the crooked teeth.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Because I'm overdue for a rant

For every one company that employs my freelance art services, I have about three personalities that I'll need to transact with. Each new project brings a mixed-bag of personality types. I'm a pretty laid back person, so I do well with just about everyone this business throws at me. I've been doing it long enough to know when I need to bite my tongue, shut up, and keep my eyes on the final prize: successful art, and a final paycheck.

There's one personality type that I just don't mix well with. I can't deal with someone who talks down to me and treats me like they think I'm stupid. It makes me even angrier when I know I got more going on than they do. Not that I'm all that, because I'm not. But some people just plain ain't all that, and it don't take but one conversation with them to figure it out.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Devas T, you'd better be careful because the person might read your blog." Thing is, these types of people don't see their personality flaws; their egos are so puffed up, or maybe disguised, they wouldn't recognize themselves if they came across this post anyway.

When it comes to the computer graphics programs that I use on a daily basis, I am very proficient. Because I know my programs, it doesn't take but a short chat with someone before their mutual knowledge, or ignorance, becomes transparent.

How come certain people can't accept that they don't know everything, and that not knowing everything is ok? Why can't these personalities open their minds to learning something new from someone who might know more, on a particular subject, than they do? Why, instead, must they attempt to belittle me? Once I sign the work order, contract, or license, I'm on their team. It's in my best interest to make them look good. And if they simply be quiet, and let me do what I do best, I will.

I'm afraid that my patience is wearing thin. My self respect can't be bought. Being nice just ain't worth it when someone is stepping on your toes. And jumpin' up and down. I'm afraid I am about to go off on some folks.

Rant finished.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"You are awesome!"

The headline is a quote. The statement came from a San Antonio student who I presented to earlier this week. She had such a big smile, and displayed such sincerity that I was almost knocked me off my feet. Later, when I ran into her again in the library, she repeated her compliment. "You are awesome," she said. "I just had to tell you that again."

That made me feel great. What a testament to having affected the kids in a positive way. My goal was to inspire the kids. For kids who aren’t the least bit interested in art, I wanted to give them a reason to give the art in their books a second look. For the kids who have artistic talents, I wanted to offer them a picture of where their artistic talents could take them.

So, if I was "awesome" to this one kid, hopefully that means that I’ve positively influenced her attitude about books and reading and authors and illustrators in a way that will last far into her future.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Judson Montessori School, a successful visit

I had a school visit today, my first one of the year. It was a very successful visit. Probably one of the most successful visits I've ever had in terms of the enthusiasm the kids had for my presentation.

They treated me like a rock star. I signed my autograph on books, and little torn pieces of paper. That doesn’t include the little pieces of paper that was sent home for me to sign and mail back for the kids who weren’t able to buy books.

I sold many books. More books than any other school visit I’ve ever participated in. Heck, I earned more in book sales than I did in honorarium.

So, what the deal with my lack of enthusiam in this post? I typed up a full report of my day, leaving out no detail, including the chocolate cake I had for lunch (I don't like chocolate cake). I included an agenda of my typical school visit with my tips for a successful visit. Between Blogger, and my G-5's dual-processor, my computer crashed, and I lost the post. And I'm not in the mood for retyping it. But you get the idea.

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In other news: While in San Antonio, I also visited the folks at Hampton-Brown. I worked with this educational publishing company on many projects years ago when I was still living in Iowa. At the time, Texas was a faraway fantasyland somewhere in the lower central hemisphere. Someplace I had only visited once, but never figured I'd actually live. It was cool to finally put a face with a name, and show off my portfolio, New York-style, by just walking in off the street with an armful of original art and 6 printed trade books with my byline on the cover.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Aimless Sunday thoughts

Maintaining a blog is a lot of work. They need to be updated fairly frequently to retain relevancy. My interest level in this blog is beginning to wan because it lacks the fun factor in which I originally started blogging. My other two blogs serve as a quencher for my need to express myself creatively, and to have fun doing it. Hope my boredom isn’t showing. I don't like to quit things that I start, but I also don't like doing things halfway either.

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I need to spend some time this evening preparing for my first school visit of the year. Tomorrow night, after work, I'm heading down to San Antonio. I'm going to spend the night, then present at Judson Montessori School first thing Tuesday morning. I have really grown to love doing these school visits. Presenting to the kids reminds me of why I do kid's books in the first place. Yes, it's about deadlines, and art directors. It's about editors and conferences and authors and awards list. But most importantly, it's about kids and doing what I can to uplift their interest in reading. And getting paid to do it.

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I need to get back to revising Bill. I've been so busy painting Justin that I've completely ignored a manuscript that is so close to being acquired. Truth be told, I'm horrified to even touch it. I mean, I put many hours into writing and revising what I believe is truly a good story. The manuscript has been recognized as such by the editors at Lee & Low Books, so I’m afraid I might mess things up. I do have a list of suggestions from the editor, and I probably should approach this while our conversation is fresh in my mind, but, Jeez, what if they don't like my revisions, or what if they just plain change their minds? (Congratz also to Zetta Elliot, too)

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I've been on a straight path my entire career. But, seems like, once I turned 40, my straight path forked off into several directions to resemble a tree. I have all these idea about things I want to do, and not much time to do them. A few years ago, I took an infographics course at Poynter where I met Paige Braddock. At the time, she was working for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. What I didn't know was that she was developing ideas for a cartoon series. Since then, she has gone on to publish her ideas as series of graphic novels. And to think, she started doing exactly what I'm doing now, publishing her cartoons on the internet. Of course, I'm going to spend the next week trying to contact her.

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A few weeks ago, I blogged about anatomy drawing. I've discovered is that anatomy drawing is extremely relaxing. I know this may sound crazy, but it's almost like yoga. When I practice yoga, my goal it to block out every extraneous thought, and think only about my breathing, and the pose at hand. It's like meditation. Anatomy drawing works the same way. I suppose that you'd get the same effect from drawing anything from life, not just the human body. But, I’d also assume that drawing the body is more relaxing than drawing, say, a coffee mug. I've noticed that whenever my hands start to hurt, if I sit down for an anatomy drawing session, my hands stop hurting. For awhile.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ode to ruined paint brushes

I still can't believe—
well...yes, I can believe—
that I've ruined each and every
brand new, expensive
Windsor & Newton paintbrush
that I purchased in the last month.

I figured, expensive meant better.

Four brushes, I left out to dry.
Two brushes formed a white goo
after I left them submerged overnight in turpentine.
I used one brush to dye my white beard hairs
'cause the brush that comes
in the kit got ruined
when I forgot to rinse it out.
Another brush was ruined
when I used it to apply liquid frisket
to one of my paintings.

I'm no good with poems

And, not any better with paint brushes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Have you checked out Cynthia Leitich Smith?


My friend, award-winning author, Cynthia Leitich Smith has recently announced the redesign of her website. It is a virtual treasure trove of resources for anyone interested in anything having to do with children's literature. Cynthia has the largest, and busiest site of this kind on the net, and I forgot to make that announcement here on my blog. Duh!— no brainer. I mean, you just don't know how much Cyn has enriched my walk in the field of children's literature.

This site, recognized among the "Great Web Sites For Kids" by the American Library Association, is packed full with children's and YA resources. Included are bibliographies, author interviews, other children's resources on the web, and more information than I could possibly list in one blog post. So, when you get a second, enrich your walk, and check out this great resource. I promise, it will become one of your favorite places to visit.

Also, be sure to check out my interview on her site.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sick day (written yesterday, Blogger problems)

I'm sick. Ug. I don't know if it's the flu, or side effects from the medication I use for the pain in my hands. The wife thinks that maybe I poisoned myself from the turpentine fumes (used to thin my oil paints). I don't think so. Artist drink turpentine for breakfast, not a biggie. Whatever it is, I'm hot and sweaty, dizzy and nauseous, and my energy…well, I have no energy. Ug. After taking the son to school, I came right home and went back to sleep. Ug. Well, I didn't really go to sleep, I just stared at the ceiling. Spinning. Slowly. Finally, I did get up and paint. I don't mind illustrating at home when I'm sick. But, for reasons I won't go into, I don't like being sick at work. Ug. I'm going to sleep now, and it's not even 10 p.m. I never do that. Ug.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blogger frustrations

Just a short post today. My hands really hurt, and typing seems to further aggravate them. Sigh. (Please, Mz. Gig, don't barage my phone with calls, I'm fine.) Anyway, I am considering a move to maybe Typad or LJ or someplace. I haven't been able to get into Blogger for the past 24 hours, and comments seem to disappear, and reappear, and make folks think I'm deleting them. Guys, I'm not deleting comments. Double sigh.

Any thoughts on Typepad , Live Journal or another service would be helpful.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Justin has invaded!



Justin, as in Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World has invaded my studio! Finally, I got word to start final art. I transferred my sketches to Canson paper. I mounted the transferred drawings to foam board. And after finishing ten raw sienna/burnt umber oil underpaintings, I looked up and realized that Justin had moved in, and he won't be going anywhere for the next three weeks, or so. The challenge: there's ten paintings here, all due by March 1. It takes me anywhere from 3 to 6 months to paint 18 spreads, about what's necessary for a 32 page picture book. You do the math.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Congratz to a special librarian!

Congratulations to my librarian friend Sandra Morrow! She is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Citation from Abilene Christian University. Morrow, who is a librarian at Brentwood Christian School in Austin, Texas, was given this award for her role in establishing church libraries throughout the world. In addition to helping charter the National Christian Librarian's Association, Sandra also founded the Children's Crown Awards in 1992. My books, Summer Sun Risin' (2005-2006 Nominee List) and Black All Around (2005-2006 Nominee List) are included on those list!

Sandra once invited me to speak to a group of librarians at a mid-winter meeting, which resulted in my receiving many requests for paid school visits.

Congratz Sandra.