Showing posts with label Laura Zarrin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laura Zarrin. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Working outside the studio


As you can see from a complete lack of posts for months, we've all been pretty busy. While this is really good news for us, it also has a down side as you'll see in this post. It's led to some pretty odd working conditions. Sometimes deadlines and vacations and life clash. This is a post about how we work around that issue.

I recently agreed to take on a project while I was on vacation in my hometown of St. Louis. I ended up working in a variety of places, starting with sketching on the plane, sketching at my cousin's before the other dinner guests arrived, then painting on a road trip, and later ordering postcards from Starbucks. 

Backseat painting on a road trip

Working on a postcard at Starbucks

Recently, Renee was in Boston working on some black and white art for The Owls of Blossom Wood series (written by Catherine Coe, Scholastic UK). This photo was taken at a place called District Hall where she sometimes spends her days overhearing business-y conversations and drawing on her husband's Cintiq Companion.


And since summer around Christina's house inevitably means kids running around, she's been known to take her work station outside! Not sure how much work she's able to get done lately!



I think Tracy gets the grand prize for managing to work while on vacation. Here she is in line for a ride at Disneyland of all places!!!

Sketching for a project while in line at Disneyland!!!! 

More sketching at the Starbucks in Disneyland

More sketching at the airport

There you have it. The glamorous life of an illustrator. You're jealous right now, admit it.







Monday, March 16, 2015

What I'm working on…

Lots going on behind the scenes that I can't show, so here are some babies for your entertainment. I just love drawing babies!

Rub a dub, dub. Three men in a tub.

Monday, January 19, 2015

What I'm working on…



I've worked on a number of hidden picture pieces for Highlights Let's Play Hidden Pictures books over the last two years. They're challenging and fun. This is one of my favorites. Armadillos are so much fun to draw!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Project Management by James Burks



All of us here on the blog are big fans of illustrator/marathon runner extraordinaire, James Burks. When I saw him posting his progress screenshots, I had to ask him how he manages to keep track of and get through all of his projects. He was gracious enough to give me some thoughtful answers. He's a real class act!


We’re all impressed and frightened by your workload. Do you have a daily schedule that you stick to? What we really want to know is how you’re managing so much work and still managing to train for and run marathons?

I do have a daily schedule. It’s somewhat flexible since I’m working from home and have two kids who are in elementary school. My day usually starts at 7am. I get up and wrangle my kids into getting ready for school. I drop them off at 8:00am. Then I go out and run between 4 and 10 miles. Come home, eat some oatmeal, drink some coffee, and shower. Then around 10:00 or 10:30am I make the 12 stair commute to my upstairs office and sit down to work. I work until 12:30pm then stop for lunch. Lunch usually involves eating some kind of Mexican food since that’s my food of choice. I eat it so much that they know my order at my local Baja Fresh. I’m usually back to work between 1 and 1:30pm. Then I work until 3:00pm when I have to pick my kids up from school. Afterwards we return home and I try to work in-between helping them with school work, breaking up squabbles, having or taking them to playdates. Then it’s dinnertime around 7:30pm when my wife gets home from work. After a little family time it’s back to work around 9:00pm. How late I work usually depends on how tired I am and/or how much work I still have to do to meet my current deadlines. There may be somedays where I won’t work at all or I may spend hours playing Minecraft with son instead. 

As far as the marathons go I just made running and staying healthy a priority. I always make time for workouts even if I have lots of work to do. It’s just as important to me as eating, sleeping and family. It helps me manage stress. It allows me to get away from my desk and process any notes or problems I may be having with a story or with the art. Running has changed my life. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and in turn more creative. 

Current Book Schedule

What tools/programs are you using to keep track of your schedule and due dates?

To keep track of the different book projects I’m working on I created a color coded bar graph using the Apple program Numbers. That way I can see how my various projects overlap and there due dates. 

View of files in Adobe Bridge

For the work itself I work in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Bridge. I use Adobe Bridge to organize and keep track of the various pages for each project. This is something that I picked up while working in animation. Bridge makes it easy to scroll through the pages and to see how the book is turning out. To open a page I just hit enter and it automatically opens in Photoshop. While working in PS I’m constantly saving and it automatically updates the file in Bridge on my second monitor. This allows me to look at the same file from two slightly different view points. I find this helpful for spotting wonky drawings, things that I forgot to draw, or things that just aren’t working right. It’s my equivalent of standing back and looking at my work from a distance. When I’m done with a page I’ll hit [Command 6] in Bridge and it puts a little red bar below the thumbnail image. This allows me to see how much work I’ve completed and how much I still have to do. It’s my electronic version of a check mark. Bridge is also great for making PDFs, renaming files, duplicating files or rearranging the order of files.   

Here's a picture of my desk.

Here is how I have Bridge set up. Thumbnails of all my pages are on the left and it previews the selected thumbnail on the right. 


How do you keep track of changes and publisher notes as you go along? Do you 
create a checklist?

I usually print out the email from my editor or the art director so that I can see what changes I need to make. Then cross them off as they are completed. 


Are you working linearly or jumping from spread to spread or project to project? For instance, do you start with the more difficult spreads or the easiest?

If I’m roughing out a book I like to work linearly. If I’m outlining a story I’ll use note cards and jump around. Then once I have all my ideas jotted down on the cards I’ll start to organize them linearly into a story that makes sense. During the clean up phase of a book when I’m doing the final line work I’ll jump around from page to page. I usually do the easiest ones first so that I can get comfortable drawing the characters and their world. Then when I have a handle on it I’ll start doing some of the harder ones. On days where I’m not getting a lot done or not feeling it I’ll just do the easy ones. The only problem with this method is that I’m usually left with all the hard ones as my deadline approaches. On the latest Bird and Squirrel graphic novel I had set myself a goal of cleaning up 6 pages a day. In the beginning I think I managed 3 or 4 a day and on a really good day I might get 7 done. To get the seven done I’d pretty much have to work most of the day. 

Up until this last year I preferred to work on one project at a time. I have trouble switching gears and focus from one project to the next. That’s just how my brain works. But since I have multiple projects now, I had to come up with a new system. So what I try to do is break each project into pieces. For example: I’ll spend a week or two roughing out a picture book and then send it off to my editor. While I’m waiting on notes for that I’ll start roughing out the next book or writing the story depending on what stage I’m on and then send that off. Hopefully by the time I’m done with that I’ll have notes back on the picture book and will start on the revisions. Then I’ll do the revisions and send them off. Then jump onto the next stage of another project. I just keep doing this until they’re all done. 

It all comes down to time management and organization. As long as I know what needs to be done I can usually do it. When I start to get overwhelmed and want to pull my hair out I go for a run or take a break. Somehow in the end things always manage to get done. One of the many things I love about making books is that I get to set my own schedule. There aren’t too many jobs where you have that kind of flexibility. It also allows me to spend time with my kids. 


How the heck do you manage to be so awesome? I mean really? You must draw and paint as fast as you run!

Aww, Thanks. Can you stand behind me while I’m working and remind me of that? I think working in animation before working in books really helped me learn how to manage my time and to draw faster. The weekly deadlines and tight schedules probably had something to do with it. 



Unrelated question:

Has social media been a good tool for getting work? 


I think so. I’ve have received a few book offers from publishers through my website. I’ve also come up with some great ideas while participating in sketch dailies on Twitter. I recently sold two picture books to Disney Hyperion based on a sketch that I had done for the Dailydoodle on Twitter. I also think social media is a good way to stay connected with friends and whats happening in books and the world. One thing that helps me is chatting with my friends Dan Santat and Mike Boldt while we work through ichat. We’ll share what we’re working on with each other and offer advice if needed or we’ll just talk about whatever is happening that day. 


Thanks so much, James, we're cheering you on! 

To see more of James' work, visit his website at jamesburks.com.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Studio Tour — Laura Zarrin

I've been meaning to show you around the studio for awhile, but it's usually such a mess that I don't dare pull out the camera. I managed to dig out a few photos from the last time I cleaned. I included one honest picture, so you don't think I  actually live in this pristine environment. Creativity is messy, you know.

My drawing/painting area.


My kids' Woody and some friends.


Playing with Neocolors. I love lightening bugs!

Before:

I wish it always looked like this. 
After:

Mid deadline disaster, aka business as usual

Shelves with my collections. Yes, I keep the Santas out year round.

My studio assistant hard at work as usual.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. I need to get back to my deadlines now.

If you want to see what I do in here all day, you can visit my site.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Where do ideas come from?

I think we all get asked where our ideas come from as if there's a store you can go to and pick them out. Sadly, this is not the case. Ideas are everywhere. They're in every interaction, random thought, daily task, dog walk, the Olympics (here), and even the news.

Tracy and I went to a conference last Saturday (we'll give you the scoop in a future post). In the frenzied preparation to get my portfolio up to speed and create a new postcard, I was mining for ideas. Remember that not really true or maybe it is true story about knitting sweaters for penguins? Even Snopes isn't sure about that one. Well that gave me a great idea! I imagined a little girl knitting sweaters for penguins. Now to write a story to go along with it (which needs to include chickens).


First sketch on Instagram

Revised sketch

Finished piece.
I used this image as my postcard which is now en route to various publishers.

If you're an editor, art director, art buyer or anyone else at a publishing house and would like to receive one, let me know!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Experimenting with Gouache, a not quite tutorial

I've recently started using gouache. I'm still calling it experimental even though I've used it for client work. No matter what I do, I always end up using a variety of media. It's usually some combination of paint, acrylic inks, Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils, and Photoshop or Manga Studio, with a side of collage of some sort. In other words, I use whatever works to get the job done.

In this first photo I first printed out a colorized sketch onto my Fabriano hot press watercolor paper (reddish sketch). Then I painted in the shadows with a mix of blue gouache and purple acrylic ink.

Underpainting of acrylic ink mixed with gouache.

Here I've laid in the basic colors in gouache on the figures. There's not much detail, yet.

Basic colors laid in.

Now I'm starting to define details and add more modeling to the figures with color pencil. I use Caran d'ache Supracolor pencils.

Adding details with color pencil.

I decided the yellow background wasn't working so I took this old watercolor and salt painting into Photoshop to colorize and lighten it.

Watercolor with salt painting.

Colorizing the background.


I added a vignette border to the background for the final piece. At Renee's suggestion, I also painted some glare on the ice in Photoshop.
The final piece.


I hope you find this helpful. I'm still learning to use the gouache, but I'm loving it so far.

This piece came from my sketching while watching the Olympics. If you're following me on Instagram, you'll recognize them.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

We want to start off with a huge thank you to all of you who have embraced and spread the word about our little blog. It's become something so much bigger than we ever expected. Thank you and hugs!!!

As you might have noticed, we've been a bit MIA lately. It's all good. Everyone is busy illustrating. We hope to be back with a bang in the New Year. For now, here are some holiday illustrations for you.

Tracy Bishop


Laura Zarrin

Renee Kurilla


Monday, December 16, 2013

Get out of the studio!

Last week I was so happy to get out of the studio with a college friend of mine. We went up to San Francisco to the DeYoung Museum to see the David Hockney exhibit. I knew nothing of his work, but I've found that I can always find something inspiring to fuel my own creativity. (Forgive my fuzzy iPod photos.)



There were watercolors, oils, charcoal drawings (my favorite), as well as iPad created paintings. His paintings are huge! He paints them using multiple canvasses. In addition to the art, there were also videos of nature shown wall size across many monitors. I'd love a wall of monitors with snowy or spring scenes in my living room. They were so peaceful and beautiful.


 The most fascinating part of the show was the iPad paintings. There were 24x36 inch monitors with iPad art slide shows, including a video of a painting in progress. They also had iPad created art blown up and printed in huge installations. Some were full body portraits printed in about 6' panels. Others were huge images printed in multiple large panels.

To show the scale of one of the iPad paintings.

Detail of iPad painting

It was so nice to just get out and see something different! It's so important to fill the well, so get out of your studio and see something new.

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco



Monday, November 4, 2013

It's time to play


This is my favorite painting that I've made.

Play is important. Like REALLY important! I’ve forgotten that lately. In my push to improve my work, get more work, and life in general, I’ve let go of play. I think it shows up in my work. I keep thinking about all the preliminary play Melissa Sweet does in the beginning of her projects. I want some of that in my life.

Work in progress.
So with that in mind, I pulled out some old canvases that weren’t working and just started gluing on different papers, smearing paint around. When I paint for fun, I don’t worry about what the end result will be, I just start playing. The hardest part is making that next mark, unsure if it will make or break the painting. I have to remind myself that this is just for fun and if I hate it, I’ll just cover it all over. I have a few canvases with a lot of layers that didn't work under a painting that really works. I think all of those layers make the final piece just work even though you can’t see most of them. Painting like this requires a bit of bravery and a lot of letting go. I make a lot of bad paintings. It just doesn’t matter. Every once in awhile I fall in love with one of them and the process keeps me sane.

I've repainted this canvas several times.

Go out and paint! Here's some books that'll get you started:
Brave Intuitive Painting by Flora Bowley 
Painted Pages by Sarah Ahearn Bellemare 
Daring Adventures in Paint by Mati RoseMcDonough 
Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts 

Not sure about this one yet, but it's growing on me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why November is the best month of the year!


November is one of my favorite months because of Thanksgiving, of course, but it has some other amazing things going for it. One of them is Picture Book Idea Month (aka PiBoIdMo)!! I participated for the first time last year and I loved it!!! It's run by Tara Lazar and features lots of inspirational posts starting the last week of October. I wasn't writing at all last year when I joined, but since then I have one completed dummy, two more are in the works, and another one is brewing in my sketchbook. It's a really a low pressure thing to join. A lot of my ideas are just sparks or titles, not fleshed out stories. Don't worry about whether they're good or bad. The mere act of being open to ideas all month gets your brain working and open and receptive. Even if you don't intend to write, I guarantee it will improve your illustrations. You'll be so focused on story that your work will automatically be showing more story in it. Isn't that what children's illustration is all about? Check out Tara's blog, sign up, and start catching all of those ideas swirling around out there! There are prizes, people!

Our own Renee Kurilla will be a guest poster on the PiBoIdMo site on Tuesday, November 26th

I put all of my ideas in a cute little notebook by my bed I kept by my bed.


SkADaMo 2013 post monkey

As excited as I am about PiBoIdMo, I may be even more excited about SkADaMo started by one of my favorite illustrators, Linda Silvestri! I'm already sketching everyday, so this one's a given. I also don't beat myself up if I miss a day or two. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful!!!



Now if you're feeling really ambitious, do both, like me. Jenn Bower has a great little organizational tool for you here. She also has some great links to get you started on stories, too.

Remember to have fun! Play! Don't stress, it defeats the whole purpose. Nobody ever has to see what you're doing or not doing.

If I can keep on track I'll be posting my sketches on my personal blog.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Digital Collage Illustration in Photoshop Tutorial

After much trial and lots of error, I finally have some videos of my process. I made a three part tutorial of my entry for the Tomie dePaola Award. This was an experiment of a style I've wanted to try. I'm really happy with how it turned out and can't wait to do more like it.



Elements used in this tutorial
For this piece, I worked in Photoshop CS6. Most of the elements in it were scanned in textures, art, and collages. I only painted a little bit of it in Photoshop.

The first video focusses on the background elements.


In the second video, I did a little painting on the pig.


In the last video, I created the swirling leaves and petals out of a background painted on canvas paper.