Friday, June 28, 2013

A Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Illustrators

I joined Twitter about four years ago when it was still rather new. I’ll admit that back then I had no idea how to use it! But now, four years later, I find it to be one of the most helpful  ways to socialize, learn and network with others in the children’s publishing world. Along the way, I've met some really great friends. I met my fellow bloggers here on Simply Messing About on Twitter! Here are some very basic steps to navigating your way through Twitter to get the most from it.

1.  Set up your account so it is most beneficial for you:
Make sure your twitter account name is the same as your working name. When I first signed up, I used a fake username because I wasn’t sure how I’d be using Twitter and to be honest, I was a little scared of the new platform. Problem is, nobody knew it was me! Now, however, I use my real name--it helps with visibility when it comes to networking and creating a consistent online presence.

If you are an illustrator, why not use an illustrated self-portrait as your avatar (profile picture)? Or crop a fun picture of one of your illustrations to use as your profile photo. Hands down, you will get more followers if you have a fun, illustration that represents you as well as your work!
Along those same lines, try to use your artwork as your Twitter banner and background! You can get really creative here and used them both in a fun way to show off your illustration and design skills.

2.  Connect with those in your Industry:
Twitter feels less personally intrusive than Facebook. With Facebook, people have to “accept” you as a friend before you can interact with them. With Twitter, you can follow people, read others’ Twitter statuses and write back to them freely (unless their profile is locked, which is pretty rare these days). That doesn’t however, mean that they will respond back to you! P.S. Don’t get your feelings hurt if you don’t always get a response! ;)

Following people is easy! Just search for a friends name and click “Follow”. When you find a friend, check out who they follow to find a whole gaggle of friends!

3.  Find topics you are interested in (i.e. HASHTAGS!)
It seems like so many people make fun of the very useful hashtag. Why??? They are invaluable and can be used in many different ways. The most useful way to use a hashtag is basically as a keyword to find people talking about one topic. Type the keyword with a hashtag (#) in front of it into the Twitter search bar and you will find everyone who used that keyword in a Twitter update. Try typing the broad term #illustration into the Twitter search bar and see what comes up!

Hashtags can also be used during a chat hour that groups of people hold to discuss particular topics. For example, every Thursday night, (mostly) illustrators from the children’s publishing world get together at 9pm (EST) to discuss a topic much like a meeting, using the hashtag #kidlitart. Type that into the Twitter search bar and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a children’s illustrator “meeting” hosted by our very own @ReneeKurilla as well as the wonderful @SmilingOtis and @DiandraMae! #fun!
Here are some popular hashtags for those of us in the children’s publishing world:


You can also use twitter hashtags to be silly and punctuate your tweet: “I am so happy! I just signed a contract with a major publisher! #millionaire" ;)

4. What Twitter is NOT good for:

Twitter is a great tool for promoting yourself, but over-promoting your latest book or project is a turn-off for your follwers. You’ll soon become the  “Telemarketer of Twitter” and that will quickly earn you a lot of unfollows. 

Twitter is NOT a place to badmouth former clients, previous clients, publishers, bosses, colleagues or anyone else, really! Twitter makes the world a lot smaller...word gets around!


Now that we’ve gone over some of the reasons I love twitter, here is a starter list of some of the people on Twitter who make it so great! These are all people to follow who are well-versed in the children’s publishing world and who consistently tweet lots of great info:

(There really are WAY too many to name, so here are a few of the original gang I started to follow.)


Art Directors:


All of this is really just the absolute tip of the Twitter iceberg. Go join Twitter and have fun! I’ve met tons of really great friends through Twitter and have gained valuable knowledge...go forth and tweet! It’s the best water cooler around for us creative types!

Until next time!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

My favorite podcasts

TracyBishop sketchUpdate: 4/25/2014
It's been almost a year since I've written this list. I thought it would be nice to add some new favorites. I still listen to everything listed last year so it's still a good list.

Here are new podcasts that I've discovered in 2014:

  • Let's Get Busy Podcast hosted by Matthew Winner (twitter @MatthewWinner) - This podcast should be mandatory listening to anyone who wants to write and illustrate picture books. Matthew Winner interviews authors and illustrators about the process of creating books. Matthew adds on his perspective as an elementary teacher librarian. THIS is what makes this podcast so unique and priceless to me. I listen to a ton of podcast where you hear artists talking to other artists or authors talking to industry people. It is such a nice change to hear what teachers and kids think about books. I feel like I'm getting a masters education on picture book making by listening to this podcast.

  • Home Work - A weekly podcast for people who work from home. A lot of practical advice about the practicalities of having a home office. 

The one thing that I have to have while working is something to listen to. I find that my mind wanders and it just gets lonely if I try to work in silence.

I have two listening modes:

Mode 1-- Thinking mode
If I have to really concentrate to sketch out ideas or to work out a layout of a book, I need music. Not only any kind of music, but something droning and repetitive that I will loop over and over again. These days, the opening theme for Game of Thrones is my preferred song that I play on repeat. (Because of this my kid hums the Game of Thrones song. I keep on telling people that I don't let him watch the show.)

Coffivity - Another thing I listen to when I have to think is the coffee shop noise from Coffivity. It sounds really silly but it really works to help you focus.

 Mode 2-- Production mode 
When I'm painting for looooong hours, I listen to podcasts. I love listening to conversation and the idea that I'm learning things while working. Over the years I've collected quite a few shows so here's my list:

Podcasts about Illustration/Comics:
Podcasts about Creativity/Productivity
Podcasts about Tech Stuff:
Podcasts about Stuff:
I'm always looking for new podcasts to listen to so please write down any suggestions you have in the comments!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Drawing Movement

 When I first start a drawing, I'm not thinking about how things look or where each element is placed. I think about how everything in the space moves and where they are going so I can tell the story.

A lot of times my initial drawings are unrecognizable squiggles and blobs. I'm trying to capture the motion and energy of the entire illustration.  I want to keep the initial sketch as loose and exaggerated as possible so a lot of the liveliness will carry through to the final painting.

To me, this messy stage is the most important. The temptation to just skip it and dive right into the fun details like the character's face is so tempting to me.  Experience has taught me that most of the time if I skip this stage, I pay for it later. It's too easy to end up with a painting that is just pretty but lifeless and stiff. Trying to get the life and energy back after this point is like wading through mud and just never happens most of the time.

Another reason why I want to keep the very start of the process looking like a mess is so I won't treat it like a precious thing. As long as it's just scribbles, I can make the marks quickly and throw them away if it's not working.
I try to keep on improving drawing motion by sketching from life whenever I can. I do quick gesture drawings of people to capture their movement and personality. A lot of time these gesture drawings are quick marks made in 15 seconds to a minute.

Doing a lot of these quick sketches make my sketchbook look like a mess. I keep on reminding myself that it's ok. As an illustrator, it's not good enough for my images to only be pretty -- they need to be alive.

Here are some resources for practicing gesture drawings:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Being an Open Book

Aside from client projects, in the past few months I've been taking a break from making "finished" personal art to concentrate more on my sketchbooks. Part of the reasoning behind this was to get away from the computer and the other part was to simply just get better at drawing.

Extremely inspired by children's illustrator, Renata Liwska, I have filled 4 and a half sketchbooks in the past few months. Here they are:

I'm sure that most of you have seen Renata's sky high sketchbook stacks:

A Quiet Look - How to become a children's book illustrator in one (not so easy) step from mike kerr on Vimeo.

Seeing this video and learning how Renata works reminded me of all the work I should be doing to achieve my goals.

Another artist I've been following for many years is Pascal Campion. This video, made by a friend of his, is about his "Sketch of the Day" emails:

Inspirational Artists: Pascal Campion from Onyx Cinema, Inc. on Vimeo.

This interview is from 2 years ago and, wouldn't you know, he still makes a new sketch every day. You can sign up to receive an email from him every day with a new sketch on the main page of his website.

Both Renata and Pascal's sketches look like finished art to me, but they are so practiced. What Pascal says in this interview really hit home for me. I feel that I need to not only keep sketchbooks, I want to show them to people. Therefor, just for funsies, I decided to step even further out of my comfort zone to make an uber-amateur video. :) Enjoy!

Flipping Through Sketchbooks from Renee Kurilla on Vimeo.

Thanks so much to everyone for your continued support on our blog!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

Movies can transform you. They can change the way you see yourself and the world. One of my favorite movies is We Bought a Zoo. I love this movie! There’s a scene where the son is afraid to tell a girl he likes her and the father tells him, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it”. So simple, so profound!

I’ve used this mantra at conferences and bookstore signings. It’s so difficult to approach art directors, editors, and successful illustrators at these events. You desperately want to talk to them, to connect in some small way, but the hurdle of shyness looms large. I literally have to recite this phrase to myself before I take the leap. It works! Anyone can muster 20 seconds of courage. Remember that those people you’re afraid to talk to are just people. Most of them are incredibly friendly and generous. They share your passion for children's books. I urge you to just go for it. You can’t make connections if you never try. Be brave! And for goodness sakes, please rent this movie!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Current "Art Crushes"...

Over the past year or so my artistic sensibilities have been slowly evolving. How I draw and paint is changing and so is the type of art that gets me excited.

Why this gravitation is happening is a mixture of a few different things. Mostly, I think it has to do with the fact that I've become very comfortable drawing the way I do, and after working consistently for a few years in the same style, I feel the need to break out of that mold to try something new and fresh.

Here are a few of the artists that I've had my eye on recently.  Perusing their art gets me really excited and inspired to paint! Their use of light, texture and great character design has me very intrigued. But after going back and looking at their art as I wrote this, the thing all of them have in common is that there's a level of RISK and TRUST you can see in their work. They let happy accidents happen. This risk and trust in their abilities and their media leads to a vivaciousness and energy in the work that I feel is missing in mine. I would love to be more free and less calculating.  My new mantra is: TAKE MORE RISK!

So take a gander at some of this gorgeous art by some talented artists! By the way, I've discovered a lot of these artists mostly via Twitter and Pinterest--two really useful ways to discover new artists and make new friends! You can follow me here on Twitter and here on Pinterest. Come join in the fun!

Júlia Sardá
Margaux Zinsner
Helen Hallows
Isabelle Arsenault
Martha Anne
Jamey Christoph
Gilbert Ford
Carson Ellis

I'll leave you with a little sketch for a personal piece I'm going to start painting soon...