Monday, March 31, 2008
Today I begin the second phase of illustrating Ron, a picture book for Dutton. In the first phase, I worked completely monochromatic, using Payne's Gray watercolor. The second phase will involve overlaying transparent oil colors, and then topping off with opaque highlights.
Actually, I began the second phase last week, but realized I wasn't ready. My images were too heavy on the middle tones, with not enough contrast. So I sealed the watercolor base and worked out the contrast issues with Titanium White and Mars Black acrylic paint.
I spent the weekend adding subtle details, correcting some inconsistencies, and then, with a clothes iron, I ironed the paintings flat. Even with the heavier paper, my paintings were warped. I had planned to take a few more days to refine the underpaintings but, honestly, I'd only be procrastinating. As I said before, this is a new technique for me, so I'm very nervous. At this point, there's no turning back. There's not enough time to start over and return to my more familiar technique, where I create a very loose Burnt Sienna underpainting (to use as a guide only), and then paint over it with opaque acrylics.
Today I take the plunge. I'll be buried for the next month, or so. I'll try to post some in-progress shots later.
Side note: The book, on my table, peeking in from the left, it's Probuditi by Chris Van Allsburg. Inspiration. Chris is a master at creating monochromatic images.
In other news: My baby daughter graduates this month. She'll have a degree in medical assisting. And she's already found a job with a medical clinic! I was upset with her when she graduated from high school, and took out a loan for a brand new car. But she worked full-time, paid for her car, and studied hard for her classes. And she likes giving people shots.
My son received his report card. Straight A's!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Recently, my wife and I were watching CNN. They were discussing the so-called recession. I turned to my wife and asked, “What recession? Other than the high price of gas, I haven’t noticed any downturn in our family economy.”
My wife cut her eyes at me and said, “You haven’t noticed a downturn in the economy because I handle the family finances. We are in a recession.”
I still wasn’t convinced. Long as I got a roof over my head, food on the table, and shoes on my feet, I don’t complain. But today I went to the art supply store to restock my supply of oil paint. Now I’m complaining!
A normal tube of oil paint costs in the neighborhood $8.99, depending upon the color and brand. And I buy the cheap stuff. The prices are now about $3.00 more. The old prices were scratched out and the new, more expensive, prices were scribbled in with a Sharpie. A sales associate saw the expression on my face and asked if I needed any help. I said, “Yes, you could help me to mark these prices back to where they should be. Why are they so expensive?”
“The cost of oil is $107.00 per barrel,” he said. “More expensive oil, more expensive oil paint.”
Ouch! I never considered that. I guess we are in a recession.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
What surprised me the most about this story, is how similar the premise is to a picture picture book that I wrote. In my story, it's not a pen that catches on, it's something else. And my story ends differently, so I think I'm OK. But wow!
Great minds think alike? Well, that's a stretch. Andrew Clements has a great mind, mine tends to be frazzled.
In other book news: I bought a copy of Richard Wright's A Father's Law. I returned it immediately when I learned about the ending: There ain't none!
I am a huge fan of Richard Wright. I've read most of his books and they are all great. But it turns out A Father's Law is a published but unfinished work that, according to reviews, ends at the height of the story. That would be too much of a disappointment for me. So I returned the book and swapped it out for a . . . um . . . cheap bottle of wine.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Last week was a blur. In addition to applying the first layers of color on Ron, a picture book, I also squeezed in a rather large assignment for Read & Rise Magazine (a portion of an illustration above).
I like this style because it is quick and allows me to work very small details without . . . well, without too much detail, if you know what I mean. I painted these (8 spots) in acrylic on Canson paper.
In other news: When it comes to political news coverage, I'm on overload. Politically, I tend to think conservatively. However, when it comes to my vote for President, I'm voting for Obama. As my Book Quiz from yesterday suggested, I'm a conflicted brotha.
I love following the political news coverage, but for the sake of my sanity, I've decided to stop watching. I'm finding myself getting angry. Even depressed.
About a month ago, on the day of the Texas primary, a white coworker pulled me aside and told me of her decision to vote for Obama. "He's not really a black man anyway," she said, referencing his white mother and African father.
Her comment confused me. Unless I misunderstood, was she was open to casting her vote for Obama, as long as she could view him as non-black? I guess. Maybe I read too much into her comment?
As she spoke, I had one of Oprah's ah-ha moments. I figured, the grits are gonna hit the fan — big time — when folks wake up and realize that Obama really is a black man.
I think that happened this past week.
Friday, March 21, 2008
by Hermann Hesse
You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in ferries.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.Hmm. This little test is amazingly
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Writer's First Aid by Kristi Holl
Making the Most of Your Writing Group by Jo Knowles
Revision notes by Darcy Pattison
Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb by Brian Clark (proceed at your own risk, this link sometimes crashes my computer)
Picture Books – Plan, Polish, and Publish
What I'm Reading - On voice
the reading (mostly) journal of Linda Sue Park
I haven't kept this blog updated as much as I'd planned, and I have a few bad links that need to be deleted, too.
Monday, March 17, 2008
For one, I rewrote the opening. The conflict needed more definition. This worked out great because it allowed me to return to my original first sentence — the clever line that initially sparked this story, but I'd cut long ago. I loved that line, but I've also learned not to fall in love with clever (ingenious, cool) passages.
Also, as per my writing group, I had a few confusing verb tense issues. To be quite honest, I'd never even heard the term verb tense. After a quick Google search, I figured it out, and rechecked the story for consistency. Not to sound completely stupid, but I do know about tense. So, is tense and verb tense the same thing? I'll ask my first-grader later this evening.
In a couple of places, I fleshed out the story line. Things were happening too easy for my characters. At the first sign of failure, they turned things around too quickly. Success doesn't always happen after one try. Heck, sometimes it doesn't happen after 70. So, I fixed that problem too.
My agent will soon begin shopping Doog and Grass, and I am fully confident in both stories, even though they each top out at over 1000 words. At a conference recently, an editor spoke about the word count of picture books, stating that, in today's market, word-counts are less than ever before. But in each case, I really do need about 1000 words to tell the story.
In other news: My back hurts.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I'm hot because our central air conditioning unit broke down yesterday, and a service man is here fixing it right now. When he leaves, he's gonna take $820.00 of my Effa/HarperCollins advance, money I'd planned to use on...anything but my air conditioner.
On the bright side, I guess I should be thankful that I can afford to get the unit fixed at all. Had it broke down a month ago, we'd be sitting in this house sweating like pigs, not smelling right.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Not too long ago, I complained about having to hand transfer my images to watercolor paper because my art supply store suddenly decided that 140-pound watercolor paper was too thick for their machines. I didn't want to paint on 90-pound watercolor paper. But now that I've finished the first phase of under painting, I can clearly see a difference between the machine transfered images and my freshly drawn line work. The original line work contains a certain energy, a desired randomness, lacking in the transferred images. Besides that, with this transparent technique, some of the pencil lines will show through in the final art, so the clarity of my pencil lines are preferred.
With this book, I'm experimenting with something new (for me), a modified Flemish technique. Modified, because I'm not following all the various stages, or else I'd end up painting on this book for the next year. This technique of creating a grey-scale or "grisailles" underpainting dates back as far as the 15th century.
The next step is to seal my underpainting with a coat of varnish, tinted with a warm color, such as burnt sienna. I haven't decided if I'm going to use a tint yet. I'm going for that black and white, colorized look, from the 1950s, which has a colder feel. Think: The Andy Griffith Show in Technicolor.
In the end, probably a couple weeks from now, I'll begin add transparent layers of color, and then finish it off with opaque highlights. I'm crossing my fingers.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
A few weeks ago, I presented at SCBWI Houston, where I preached the importance of artists promoting their services. Hypocrite, I am. In the last ten years or so, I haven't done much self promotion at all, other than my website and this blog.
So yesterday, I created the flyer above. My art agent will use it in a spring mailing to educational publishers. Go ahead, download it if you'd like. Once I receive approval on the layout, I'll upload the flyer to 24hourprint.com. They have a great deal going: 500 prints for $199.00*. And they'll mail the prints directly to my art agent.
I was advised to use only one or two images on the flyer, just enough to draw publishers to my or my agents website. Instead, I used 6. I'm a cheapskate. If I'm going to spend almost $200 on promotion, I wanna squish as many images on one page as possible.
FYI: Tugeau2 now has a blog! It hasn't launched yet, but will soon. Tune in.
*I just noticed, 24hourprint.com, in the last 24 hours, has completely redesigned their website (for the worse), and raised their prices. Disregard the price I listed above.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Other recent interviews include Nancy Miles of the Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency; Leonard S. Marcus, Author-Historian-Critic; and Katherine Halligan, Editorial Director of Scholastic UK.
Cynthia's blog is an amazing contribution to children's literature.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
D: "Well, we have 90."
K: "I forgot, we have 100."
D: "Actually, we have 200, my dad added more."
K: "Well my mom has a friend at church who has 500!"
D: "We've got 1000!"
K: "You do not! You're just saying that. Whatever I say I have, you think you have to have more."
D: (pause) "Do you like cheese pizza?..."
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
At the same time, looks like, I'll be illustrating Duke, too, for Charlesbridge. I plan to sketch both books, back to back, and then paint both books at the same time, providing they share the same color pallet.
So, what about Bill? Well, we are still discussing the illustrator for this project. No, I won't be the illustrator on this. I don't think. Not unless my publisher is willing to wait for Duke and Effa, which I'd rather not happen. I'm anxious for this book to publish as soon as possible.
On the writing front, my agent is actively finding a home for...I don't feel comfortable revealing the title. I'll refer to this book as Henry. And recently, I sent her a copy of Doog. I really love both these stories, and hope she can find a home soon. And yes, I'm open to other artists illustrating these, too. Hey, I'm an author and illustrator, not an author/illustrator.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
"It's not fair!" he protested loudly. "I don't want to stand in Obama's line. I want to stand in Hillary's!"
On several occasions, when caucus organizers asked if anyone else wanted to stand in Hillary's line, my son yelled out, "I do! I wanna vote for Hillary!" Everyone had a good laugh, but I don't think it's very funny.
I don't mind that my son wants to vote for Ms. Clinton. In fact, I'm happy that his mind is open to the idea of a female president. My problem is with his reasoning. The other day, during a conversation he had with another 6-year-old kid, he said, "I don't want a Black man to be president." To which the other kid said, "But, K, you're Black, too."
Sunday, March 02, 2008
I can talk like Donald Duck. Come on now, try it: Begin by forcing air through the back of your tongue, between your upper and lower molars. Then move your lips.
When I was a kid, there was a bully in our neighborhood who'd steal everyone's lunch money (he's in prison now). He was older than us, and had the bad reputation of beating people to a pulp, so we were afraid of him. My lunch money was spared, however. He thought I was cool because I could talk like Donald Duck. On our way to school, he'd walk up to my friends and rob them of their lunch money. Then he'd turn to me and say, "Talk like Donald Duck." So I would and everyone would laugh. "Ha, ha, ha! You're so cool, Donny. Do it again," he'd say.
I can also make great underarm fart noises
My first job out of college, I worked for a print shop. The receptionist there, I think, had a thing for me. She was one of those types of people who, when she talked, would invade my personal space. If someone is close enough to lick my nose, as far as I'm concerned, their just plain too close. She was constantly right up in my face, while I was constantly backing away. She was about 20 years my senior, divorced, and not very attractive. While she talked, she would touch my hands, which freaked me out because she had a wart on her finger. I was afraid she'd pass it along to me. And guess what? She did! Not too long after I started working there, I grew a wart on my left index finger. My hairs are standing on end as I recall this experience. I snipped the wart off with an Exacto blade, and did my best to keep that woman at arms length. Without touching her.
I can twitch my nose like a rabbit, by flexing my nostril muscles
I hate to dance, and last night my wife took me (cursing and screaming) to a 50th birthday party, given for one of her church friends. I was glad that I went after all, because my wife had such a good time. But I was extremely uncomfortable. This was not the kind of party where people stand around and chat while eating hors d'oeuvres from the tips of toothpicks. These folks threw on some old-school funk music and danced, danced, danced the night away! You should have seen one older guy, 70-ish in age, mopping up the dance floor with a Funky Chicken dance step. He got down! My wife practically begged me to do The Electric slide, but I refused — these were church folk, Baptists, so I hadn't had a drink all night.
The Electric slide is fairly simple: Four steps to the right, four steps to the left, four steps backward, skip to the side, repeat. But I always do this dance like I got a broomstick stuck up my butt — stiff as a scarecrow and off beat. So I watched my wife, and about 30 other partygoers get their slide on, while I nibbled on cake. And luckily, I managed to exclude myself from the Soul Train line, The Macarena, and some other unfamiliar step-and-kick line dance. Ug. I did give in to a romantic slow dance, to which I loved.
I hate DVD movies, preferring VHS. Play the movie, please! I hate clicking through the myriad of options DVDs offer.
My hair has always served as creative self expression. In junior high school, I wore a long afro with a fire-orange spot bleached into the side. In high school, I wore a style in which my friends named 'the school boy.' It was completely straightened and lay sprawled every which-a-way on top of my head. In college, I wore a style that I called The Elvis, a modified high-top fade, heavily relaxed so that a tuft of hair in the front dangled down between my eyes, like Elvis Presley's hair. At one point, I wore a high-top fade with a braided rat-tail at the nape of my neck that was about six-inches long. More recently — and less drastic than my earlier years — dreadlocks and then a fro-hawk.
I'd love to get myself back into shape, and compete one more time in a natural bodybuilding competition, the submaster's category (approx. age 40 through 50).
So, who do I tag? Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama. John McCain. Huckabee (what's his first name?). Ron Paul.