Friday, August 30, 2013

Creating a Photoshop Brush Using Scanned Textures (Video)

I originally began painting with Photoshop about seven years ago. Back then, I really tried to mimic the look of painting with oils (my true art love), but lately I feel my work has gotten away from that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I have a newer style I really love, but I do miss creating work that looks and feels more traditional.

I recently discovered an artist named Paolo Domeniconi while scrolling through Pinterest. I was blown away to discover that his work is created in Photoshop! His textures are beautiful and painterly and it’s hard to believe they are painted digitally.

After seeing Paolo’s work, I was inspired to take another stab at making my own texture brushes.  When I first began figuring out how to paint using Photoshop (back in 2006), I found this tutorial by Scott E. Franson. The artwork resulting from his custom brushes is gorgeous. I've kept his blog post bookmarked and his method has always stuck with me. As I went back to experiment with my own texture brushes a few weeks ago, I referred back to his post for help. I’m happy that after lots of experimentation, I finally figured out a great method for painting in Photoshop with results I really love.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to download the gesso texture file and the chalk brush for you to get started creating your own gesso texture brushes! Feel free to download and experiment!

Gesso Texture

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Illustration Project Management with Evernote

This summer was a doozy, I'm SO GLAD that it's almost over.
My son was on summer vacation and work poured in. I had to figure out how to get super-organized with my projects really fast.

After some trial and error I figured out that I needed a system where:

  • I could easily see all of my deadlines for all the stages of my projects in one place
  • I could get a pop-up or email notification about the deadlines
  • I could gather all of the little bits and pieces of information and feedback about projects in one easily accessible and organized place
  • The project information can be synced between my computer and phone 
I played with a few todo apps and calendars and in the end what worked the best for me was Evernote.
Evernote is a free software/service where you can gather and organize all of your notes. The great thing about this service is it's available on the web, Mac or PC, and all mobile devices. And did I mention that it's free???

Here's how I have my projects set up in Evernote:

As you can see, it's fairly simple. I have an overall notebook that contains all of the individual illustration projects that I have going. I did this mainly to keep work stuff away from all of my other notes (recipes, inspiration, etc.) and to have my work deadlines displayed only within this folder.

Now, on to the features that I use for managing my illustration projects:

E-mail Project Notes to Evernote
This feature is a crucial part of what makes this service work for my projects. Since all of the information for my projects come to me through e-mails from clients, it saves a lot of time to just forward them to Evernote rather than typing the information out.

Adding Checkboxes:

Once the email shows up in Evernote, I like to convert the various items into clickable checkboxes boxes just so it's easier to see what I need to do. You can find the check-box feature in the formatting bar.


The Reminders feature was added to Evernote this summer. It's this feature that turned Evernote from a "meh" program to the most useful thing in the world to me.

Reminders displays what's due within the folder you created it in. I like this since it keeps everything organized within the project folder. I have all of my projects contained within an overall "Illustration Projects" folder so I can see all of the Reminders for all of my projects displayed at once. This way I can see which deadlines for which project will come first.

Another thing I like about Reminders is that it can send notification pop-ups or e-mails to you.


It's so helpful that all of my notes and reminders sync across various computers and devices. I was out and about a lot this summer with my son so it was nice to have all of my information on hand all the time.

So far I'm really pleased about how simple and flexible Evernote is. I've tried other "to do" apps in the past and I've always fallen out of the habit of using them over time.  I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to stick with this system because of it's simplicity. 

To find out a little bit more about Evernote, take a look at these videos and see if it might work to manage your  projects:


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SCBWI LA 2013: Notes, Recommended Reading and Oh Yeah--Don't Be A Chicken

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since the SCBWI summer conference ended! I’ve finally recovered from the sublime exhaustion the summer conference brings. Yes, it’s taken me this long to feel normal again. Well, really, it took me about a week to recover. Too many late-night fireside chats!

Four days of learning, insight and fun is over, but I feel like I came home with a jar full stars. Shimmering bits of motivation that continue to swirl, glow and inspire even two weeks later.

This year was my fifth or sixth time attending the summer conference, so I knew what I was in for: friends (new and old), inspiration, laughter, a few tears from emotional keynotes, and even that pesky ounce or two of self-doubt which usually manages to creep in. (The friends and laughter usually suffocate the self-doubt though!) 

Speaking of friends, one of the best parts of the conference is getting to meet and hang out with my peeps, both new and old. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by people who “get” me.  My tribe. There was time with my fellow Mentees, my home-base buds (OC Illustrators) and I finally got to meet and hang out with my fellow Simply Messing About teammates Laura Zarrin and Tracy Bishop! (Renee, where were youuuuu?!?) We spent one night hanging out super-late with Diandra Mae talking about everything under the sun--from our careers, to our kids, to...lots of other stuff. So. Much. Fun.

Laura Zarrin (Simply Messing About), Me, Eliza Wheeler (fellow Mentee) and Kimberly Gee (Fellow Mentee)

I usually take pages and page of notes, but this time, I kept it to a minimum. I tried to be as present as possible during each session and really only write down things that really packed a power punch regarding where I'm at and where I'm going on my journey.

Here are some quotes from the weekend that really hit home for me:

Jon Scieszka (author)
  • “Be subversive!”
  • “You don’t want to put kids to sleep--wake them up!”
Mac Barnett (author)
  • “Write books with new rules!”
  • “Wonder is the place where truth and lies meet." (paraphrased)
Richard Peck (author)
  • “No one young will pay money to hear an adult.”
  • “Writing is the act of getting your brain to bleed directly onto the blank page.”
Joanne Rocklin (author)
  • “You have to know the rules in order to break them and then do something powerful with that.”
Jarrett Krosozcka (author/illustrator)
  • “Create mini cliffhangers on each page.”
Dan Santat (author/illustrator)
  • “Illustration is 80% design and 20% ability.”

Among my notes, are titles of books various presenters suggested based on their keynote/workshop subject matter. It’s pretty amazing to be able to refer to and study the books which influenced the conference faculty/speakers.

Mentioned by Jon Sciezka during his keynote, “The Importance of Being Subversive in Writing for Kids: Not Every Book Should Put You to Sleep"
Mentioned by Kristin Venuti (author) during her workshop, “Funny You Should Ask”
Mentioned by Arthur Levine (publisher/author) and Mike Jung (author) during their “Imagining Ethnicity” workshop
Mentioned during the “What Makes an Evergreen, What makes a Hit” Editors Panel
Mentioned by Richard Peck during his “Shaping Story from the Opening Line” workshop:
  • Feed by M.T. Anderson, 
Mentioned by Steven Malk (agent at Writer's House) during the Illustrators Intensive 
Mentioned by Carson Ellis (author/illustrator) during the Illustrators Intensive

*Note: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster was mentioned about eleventy-hundred times throughout this year’s as well as last year’s conference. It’s first on my To Be Read list. Maybe it should rank high on your list too?

Though the conference leaves me on a high for quite some time afterwards, I always leave with a small nagging feeling of “shoulda, coulda, woulda”:

Here are some things I’ve promised myself to do more of next year. And if you’re going to be a first-timer at a conference maybe you can prime yourself to be better than I was at these things:

  • Meet and talk to more people
  • Take more pictures, so I wouldn’t have to borrow everyone else’s for blog posts!
  • Hand out more business cards
  • Take at least one nap, so it wouldn’t take me a week to recover from so much excitement
  • Actually submit my assignment for the Illustrator Intensive
  • Ask more questions during the breakout sessions
By the way, most of the list above is due to ME BEING A CHICKEN during certain circumstances. When are they going to start offering a pre-conference conference about how to not be a wallflower???

Anyhow...the SCBWI 2013 Summer Conference was amazing as usual. If you can swing it at least once in your career, go! And DON’T BE A CHICKEN when you get there! You never know how good a friend that guy behind you in the Starbucks line might become.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Christina Forshay, Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop

I still can’t believe I got to go to the annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) LA International Summer Conference. It was a huge opportunity for me and I wanted to get the most out of it. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I was frantically shoving postcards into the hands of every art director or editor begging for work. Believe me, that’s no fun for anyone, so I decided to set an intention for the conference. Something I could focus on and act upon that would take the pressure off. I chose ‘connection’. 

I wanted to connect with all of my wonderful Twitter peeps, illustrators and writers I admire, and, of course, the art directors and editors. Setting an intention allowed me to relax and enjoy the experience. It would have been completely stressful to go in expecting to come out with a book contract. That’s unrealistic. It is really helpful for art directors and editors to get to know the faces behind the postcards and for us to get to know who it is we're submitting to. It makes the whole experience feel more friendly.

Priscilla Burris and Bonnie Adamson

As Tracy said in her post, being at the conference is like being in a real live Twitter feed free from hashtags and 140 character limits. It was mind blowing and so, so wonderful! I loved meeting my fellow SMA member, Christina Forshay. I had a list in my head of whom I wanted to meet in person and more often than not, one of those people would just magically be passing by when I thought of them. Weird, but true. There are a few that I didn’t manage to meet, but I trust I will someday. I just kept my intention in mind, stayed present in the moment, and it all happened organically. I didn’t have to scheme, contrive, or be obnoxiously aggressive. I was relaxed and enjoying myself.

Diandre Mae, Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop

I like to be in bed by 10pm. I love to snuggle in with a good book, but I didn’t pay an arm and a leg to read a book, so I stayed up late, hanging out in the lobby/bar or out by the fire with the other conferees. I pushed myself to talk to people I didn’t know. I’m very grateful to
Diandre Mae (aka The Energizer Bunny) for setting such a good example. She always outlasted me by a long shot then popped out of bed all bright and shiny the next morning while I was dragging my sorry self out of bed. I’m still not buying her introvert story, by the way. I was pretty sleep deprived by the end, but it was well worth it.
Laurent Linn
Giuseppe Castellano and Jarrett J. Krosoczka
I also got a chance to personally thank some of the creators of books that touched and entertained my reluctant readers. A highlight of that was talking to Jon Scieszka who created to encourage more boys to read. It was an invaluable resource for my oldest son. I also thanked Jarrett Krosoczka for creating the Lunch Lady series, one of only a handful of books my youngest would willingly read. It felt so much more real to talk to them from this perspective than to just fawn over them and their talent.
E.B. Lewis and Laura Zarrin (Cecelia Yung on the right)

Tom Lichtenheld and Jannie Ho

I like to sit in the front row. Not a popular choice, I’m finding, but it gave me the opportunity to hang out with artist rep, Mela Bolinao of MB Artists (Tracy’s rep) and just talk about our kids.

I so thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience! I made so many connections just by being open to the idea. I didn’t have to force anything; I just let it happen. If I hadn’t set that intention, I think I would have missed out on so much.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The SCBWI LA Conference: Experience of a First-Timer

SimplyMessingAbout SCBWILA2013

This year I was finally able to attend the annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) LA International Summer Conference. It's a gigantic event where people from all aspects of the children's publishing industry converge in one place for 4 days. If that sounds overwhelming, exhausting, and heavenly, you have exactly the right idea.

The strangest thing about attending this conference for the first time was I didn't feel like a newbie at all. I have to say this is all because of Twitter. Throughout the entire event I bumped into friends that I've made over the years on Twitter. Standing in the lobby of the hotel was like a bizarre real-life version of a Twitter stream. People who I usually only see online were walking right in front of me! There wasn't a moment where I felt alone or out of place.

An awesome thing that happened was 3/4 of the Simply Messing About crew attended the conference! Renée couldn't attend in person but she was definitely there in spirit. Her work was mentioned twice during the breakout sessions. Laura, Christina, and I were so proud of her and cheered.

Another unexpected thing that was so rewarding about the conference was it gave me the opportunity to say "thank you" to so many of the people who helped me out over the years. I was able to grow because other people were kind enough to answer my newbie questions, gave me honest critiques, and encouraged me when I was just starting out. There was nothing like being able to express my appreciation in person.

Things that helped make the conference a success for me:
  • Have your Twitter/Facebook profile pic on your name card! Having my profile picture on my name card made all the difference in the world. So many of the interactions started with people recognizing my avatar.

  • Don't be shy. Speak up during workshops and ask questions. This is your  chance to get information that you will probably never find on the internet from experts/heroes.

  • Sit back and enjoy. Don't stress about getting "discovered". You are there to learn and make friends.

Revelations from the conference:
  • It takes a looooong time to come up with ideas.
    So many of the books you think just came about overnight lived in sketchbooks for years and years. This was a common theme mentioned by many of the presenters.

  • Veteran illustrators go through tons of revisions to get characters just right -- it's not just you!
    This particular observation made me feel better. It's not just me that can't get a character right on the first try.
  • Learn from each other.
    It's easy to forget that you can learn a whole lot from your fellow conference attendees. A whole lot of them are experts too. What I learned just from talking with other attendees is just as valuable as the official workshops.
  • I'm part of the right tribe.
    I thought I would be exhausted being immersed in the children's book world day and night for four days! That was not the case for me at all. I loved every minute of it and can't wait to contribute to this world.

The biggest takeaway for me was that I was SO GLAD that I signed up for this conference. This summer has been nutty with my workload on top of having my son home from school. I was this close to canceling the trip because I thought I couldn't take the time away. But forcing myself to attend the SCBWI LA Conference ended up giving me the golden opportunity to take a step away from the daily life to be more thoughtful, get feedback, and recharge myself on why I wanted to be an illustrator. And sometimes taking the time away no matter how busy you are is exactly what you need to grow.

Friday, August 9, 2013

SMA Interview Series: Art Resource Coordinator, Anne Moore

Although I am the Art Resource Coordinator for Candlewick Press, I call myself a treasure hunter because I am always searching & discovering new talent or new art that illustrators who are already published or seasoned. The illustrators we publish are certainly treasures, and we love showcasing their work. 

I support the creative director along with the art directors and editors who are acquiring new texts that need visuals. That includes picture books, illustrated middle-grade novels, poetry collections, biographies and young adult novel covers. I keep a visual archive and also share incoming samples and submissions with the art and editorial departments.


Q: How and when did you start working at Candlewick Press?

I came to Candlewick in 1995 from Little, Brown and Company where I was a senior book designer. Candlewick was "the new light in publishing" and was much smaller; there were only 3 of us in the art department at that time. We were just beginning to originate Candlewick titles. I designed picture books, young adult novels and poetry collections.

Q: What is your work day like?

My day consists of researching on the web, contacting agents and illustrators about their work or sending a new text and making an initial offer for the project. I also facilitate a weekly meeting with editors and art directors to suggest ideas for new projects needing illustrators.

Q: Besides having some of the most gorgeously designed books in publishing, the Candlewick office is a really fun and well-designed workspace! Can we maybe, just maybe have a tour?

Bigbear is always snuggling up to friends in the office.

Award winning books welcome visitor in our lobby.

We love to surround ourselves with art.

Jon Klassen's prints are proudly exhibited in our gallery.

Everyone loves printing at Candlewick.

Q: Do you have any career moments that you're particularly fond of? 

Meeting and working directly with the illustrators has been a joy. I've worked with some amazing ones including Marc Brown, Ed Emberley, Jane Dyer, Melissa Sweet, Scott Nash and Christine Davenier

One interesting moment I remember was when I visited Melissa Sweet's studio years ago in Maine, and as I walked through her kitchen I was stunned to see she had illustrated her kitchen cabinets ~ they were just enchanting. 

I think a highlight of my career was finding and sharing Jon Klassen's work when we were looking for an illustrator for House Held Up By Trees. That began quite a love affair for us all.

House Held Up by Trees: written by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Always such a treat when original art is delivered for an entire picture book. 
These color saturated pieces are Timothy Ering's from The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger.

Q: There's a lot of talented folks out there! What's your favorite way to discover new talent? 

I find blogs are a gold mine. An illustrator not only shares process and things they love [or hate], but they usually share other artists' work whether it be on their links page or just in a post. That has been an amazing source of discovery.

Q: Do you write and illustrate as well? 

Over the years I've had ideas for picture books, but I only began to take time to write stories about 2 years ago. I met with a friend monthly to share and cheer each other on. I am excited to send my little babies out into the publishing world soon to see if they'll fly. I now am much more empathetic with people who have shared their work online or through submissions. It's certainly a vulnerable step into the unknown. It certainly is a step of faith.

Q: How do you get inspired? 

Nature is my first inspiration ~  I always look up! The sky is an ever amazing palette of shadow, light and color. I also look down too… especially on the ground. I love textures and earthy gritty, not-so-perfect things that are worn or cracked or faded. I collect textiles and vintage objects that are rusted or discarded. Color and music are also amazing avenues of inspiration that I pursue, whether I gaze at a beautiful watercolor or I get lost in a voluminous cavern of sounds. Taking walks or sitting by moving water tends to energize and inspire me most.

Q: Any tips for picture book illustrators or authors looking to work with Candlewick Press?

Follow what you love. Soak up and surround yourself with things that bring you life. The more we can see that someone loves what they're doing or is passionate about a certain subject, the more your work will be memorable and draw us in.

And, as a practical exercise, kids books need emotion, interaction with friends and the world, and the ability to carry a character through time and space from various perspectives and with varying degrees of emotion. So, just don't show one rhino, show a rhino dancing or pouting or singing. This gives the editor and art director the information they need to feel confident to hire you for a project.

They need to see that you can create a memorable character that connects with the reader and you're not just illustrating the words, but you are interpreting the story in such a way that you add to its meaning.

Follow Anne on Twitter: @childbookart



It's such a special job you have, Anne, and I think I speak for every illustrator when I say, "thank you." There are so many great reminders here that I'm sure will inspire illustrators and writers alike. 
I also hope that everybody who reads this never forgets to look up, down, and all around!

Thank you, as well, for the tour around your super fun office space!

I don't know about you guys, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing Anne's stories soaring around the kidlitosphere!!